Sunday, October 7, 2007



THIS novel, known as one of the masterpieces of
Russian Literature, under the title "A Hero
of our Time," and already translated into at least
nine European languages, is now for the first time
placed before the general English Reader.
The work is of exceptional interest to the
student of English Literature, written as it was
under the profound influence of Byron and being
itself a study of the Byronic type of character.
The Translators have taken especial care to
preserve both the atmosphere of the story and the
poetic beauty with which the Poet-novelist imbued
his pages.
I was travelling post from Tiflis.
All the luggage I had in my cart consisted of
one small portmanteau half filled with travellingnotes
on Georgia; of these the greater part has
been lost, fortunately for you; but the portmanteau
itself and the rest of its contents have
remained intact, fortunately for me.
As I entered the Koishaur Valley the sun was
disappearing behind the snow-clad ridge of the
mountains. In order to accomplish the ascent
of Mount Koishaur by nightfall, my driver, an
Ossete, urged on the horses indefatigably, singing
zealously the while at the top of his voice.
What a glorious place that valley is! On every
hand are inaccessible mountains, steep, yellow
slopes scored by water-channels, and reddish
rocks draped with green ivy and crowned with
clusters of plane-trees. Yonder, at an immense
height, is the golden fringe of the snow. Down
below rolls the River Aragva, which, after bursting
noisily forth from the dark and misty depths of
the gorge, with an unnamed stream clasped in its
embrace, stretches out like a thread of silver, its
waters glistening like a snake with flashing
Arrived at the foot of Mount Koishaur, we
stopped at a dukhan.[1] About a score of Georgians
and mountaineers were gathered there in a noisy
crowd, and, close by, a caravan of camels had
halted for the night. I was obliged to hire oxen
to drag my cart up that accursed mountain, as
it was now autumn and the roads were slippery
with ice. Besides, the mountain is about two
versts[2] in length.
[1] A retail shop and tavern combined.
[2] A verst is a measure of length, about 3500 English feet.
There was no help for it, so I hired six oxen and
a few Ossetes. One of the latter shouldered my
portmanteau, and the rest, shouting almost with
one voice, proceeded to help the oxen.
Following mine there came another cart, which
I was surprised to see four oxen pulling with the
greatest ease, notwithstanding that it was loaded
to the top. Behind it walked the owner, smoking
a little, silver-mounted Kabardian pipe. He was
wearing a shaggy Circassian cap and an officer's
overcoat without epaulettes, and he seemed to
be about fifty years of age. The swarthiness of
his complexion showed that his face had long
been acquainted with Transcaucasian suns, and
the premature greyness of his moustache was
out of keeping with his firm gait and robust
appearance. I went up to him and saluted. He
silently returned my greeting and emitted an
immense cloud of smoke.
"We are fellow-travellers, it appears."
Again he bowed silently.
"I suppose you are going to Stavropol?"
"Yes, sir, exactly -- with Government things."
"Can you tell me how it is that that heavilyladen
cart of yours is being drawn without any
difficulty by four oxen, whilst six cattle are
scarcely able to move mine, empty though it is,
and with all those Ossetes helping?"
He smiled slyly and threw me a meaning
"You have not been in the Caucasus long, I
should say?"
"About a year," I answered.
He smiled a second time.
"Just so, sir," he answered. "They're terrible
beasts, these Asiatics! You think that all that
shouting means that they are helping the oxen?
Why, the devil alone can make out what it is
they do shout. The oxen understand, though;
and if you were to yoke as many as twenty they
still wouldn't budge so long as the Ossetes
shouted in that way of theirs. . . . Awful
scoundrels! But what can you make of them?
They love extorting money from people who
happen to be travelling through here. The
rogues have been spoiled! You wait and see:
they will get a tip out of you as well as their hire.
I know them of old, they can't get round
"You have been serving here a long time?"
"Yes, I was here under Aleksei Petrovich,"[1]
he answered, assuming an air of dignity. "I was
a sub-lieutenant when he came to the Line; and
I was promoted twice, during his command, on
account of actions against the mountaineers."
[1] Ermolov, i.e. General Ermolov. Russians have three
names -- Christian name, patronymic and surname. They are
addressed by the first two only. The surname of Maksim
Maksimych (colloquial for Maksimovich) is not mentioned.
"And now --?"
"Now I'm in the third battalion of the Line.
And you yourself?"
I told him.
With this the conversation ended, and we continued
to walk in silence, side by side. On the
summit of the mountain we found snow. The
sun set, and -- as usually is the case in the south --
night followed upon the day without any
interval of twilight. Thanks, however, to the
sheen of the snow, we were able easily to distinguish
the road, which still went up the mountain-
side, though not so steeply as before. I
ordered the Ossetes to put my portmanteau into
the cart, and to replace the oxen by horses. Then
for the last time I gazed down upon the valley;
but the thick mist which had gushed in billows
from the gorges veiled it completely, and not a
single sound now floated up to our ears from
below. The Ossetes surrounded me clamorously
and demanded tips; but the staff-captain
shouted so menacingly at them that they dispersed
in a moment.
"What a people they are!" he said. "They
don't even know the Russian for 'bread,' but they
have mastered the phrase 'Officer, give us a tip!'
In my opinion, the very Tartars are better,
they are no drunkards, anyhow." . . .
We were now within a verst or so of the
Station. Around us all was still, so still, indeed,
that it was possible to follow the flight of a gnat
by the buzzing of its wings. On our left loomed
the gorge, deep and black. Behind it and in
front of us rose the dark-blue summits of the
mountains, all trenched with furrows and covered
with layers of snow, and standing out against the
pale horizon, which still retained the last reflections
of the evening glow. The stars twinkled
out in the dark sky, and in some strange way it
seemed to me that they were much higher than
in our own north country. On both sides of the
road bare, black rocks jutted out; here and there
shrubs peeped forth from under the snow; but
not a single withered leaf stirred, and amid that
dead sleep of nature it was cheering to hear the
snorting of the three tired post-horses and the
irregular tinkling of the Russian bell.[1]
[1] The bell on the duga, a wooden arch joining the
shafts of a Russian conveyance over the horse's neck.
"We will have glorious weather to-morrow,"
I said.
The staff-captain answered not a word, but
pointed with his finger to a lofty mountain which
rose directly opposite us.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Mount Gut."
"Well, what then?"
"Don't you see how it is smoking?"
True enough, smoke was rising from Mount
Gut. Over its sides gentle cloud-currents were
creeping, and on the summit rested one cloud of
such dense blackness that it appeared like a blot
upon the dark sky.
By this time we were able to make out the Post
Station and the roofs of the huts surrounding it;
the welcoming lights were twinkling before us,
when suddenly a damp and chilly wind arose, the
gorge rumbled, and a drizzling rain fell. I had
scarcely time to throw my felt cloak round me
when down came the snow. I looked at the
staff-captain with profound respect.
"We shall have to pass the night here," he
said, vexation in his tone. "There's no crossing
the mountains in such a blizzard. -- I say, have
there been any avalanches on Mount Krestov?"
he inquired of the driver.
"No, sir," the Ossete answered; "but there
are a great many threatening to fall -- a great
Owing to the lack of a travellers' room in the
Station, we were assigned a night's lodging in a
smoky hut. I invited my fellow-traveller to
drink a tumbler of tea with me, as I had brought
my cast-iron teapot -- my only solace during my
travels in the Caucasus.
One side of the hut was stuck against the cliff,
and three wet and slippery steps led up to the
door. I groped my way in and stumbled up
against a cow (with these people the cow-house
supplies the place of a servant's room). I did not
know which way to turn -- sheep were bleating
on the one hand and a dog growling on the other.
Fortunately, however, I perceived on one side a
faint glimmer of light, and by its aid I was able
to find another opening by way of a door. And
here a by no means uninteresting picture was
revealed. The wide hut, the roof of which
rested on two smoke-grimed pillars, was full of
people. In the centre of the floor a small fire was
crackling, and the smoke, driven back by the wind
from an opening in the roof, was spreading
around in so thick a shroud that for a long time I
was unable to see about me. Seated by the fire
were two old women, a number of children and a
lank Georgian -- all of them in tatters. There
was no help for it! We took refuge by the fire
and lighted our pipes; and soon the teapot was
singing invitingly.
"Wretched people, these!" I said to the
staff-captain, indicating our dirty hosts, who were
silently gazing at us in a kind of torpor.
"And an utterly stupid people too!" he
replied. "Would you believe it, they are
absolutely ignorant and incapable of the slightest
civilisation! Why even our Kabardians or
Chechenes, robbers and ragamuffins though they
be, are regular dare-devils for all that. Whereas
these others have no liking for arms, and you'll
never see a decent dagger on one of them!
Ossetes all over!"
"You have been a long time in the Chechenes'
"Yes, I was quartered there for about ten
years along with my company in a fortress,
near Kamennyi Brod.[1] Do you know the
[1] Rocky Ford.
"I have heard the name."
"I can tell you, my boy, we had quite enough
of those dare-devil Chechenes. At the present
time, thank goodness, things are quieter; but in
the old days you had only to put a hundred
paces between you and the rampart and wherever
you went you would be sure to find a shaggy devil
lurking in wait for you. You had just to let your
thoughts wander and at any moment a lasso
would be round your neck or a bullet in the back
of your head! Brave fellows, though!" . . .
"You used to have many an adventure, I
dare say?" I said, spurred by curiosity.
"Of course! Many a one." . . .
Hereupon he began to tug at his left moustache,
let his head sink on to his breast, and became lost
in thought. I had a very great mind to extract
some little anecdote out of him -- a desire natural
to all who travel and make notes.
Meanwhile, tea was ready. I took two travelling-
tumblers out of my portmanteau, and,
filling one of them, set it before the staff-captain.
He sipped his tea and said, as if speaking to
himself, "Yes, many a one!" This exclamation
gave me great hopes. Your old Caucasian officer
loves, I know, to talk and yarn a bit; he so
rarely succeeds in getting a chance to do so. It
may be his fate to be quartered five years or so
with his company in some out-of-the-way place,
and during the whole of that time he will not
hear "good morning" from a soul (because the
sergeant says "good health"). And, indeed, he
would have good cause to wax loquacious --
with a wild and interesting people all around
him, danger to be faced every day, and many a
marvellous incident happening. It is in circumstances
like this that we involuntarily complain
that so few of our countrymen take notes.
"Would you care to put some rum in your
tea?" I said to my companion. "I have some
white rum with me -- from Tiflis; and the
weather is cold now."
"No, thank you, sir; I don't drink."
"Just so. I have sworn off drinking. Once,
you know, when I was a sub-lieutenant, some of
us had a drop too much. That very night there
was an alarm, and out we went to the front,
half seas over! We did catch it, I can tell you,
when Aleksei Petrovich came to hear about us!
Heaven save us, what a rage he was in! He was
within an ace of having us court-martialled.
That's just how things happen! You might
easily spend a whole year without seeing a soul;
but just go and have a drop and you're a lost
On hearing this I almost lost hope.
"Take the Circassians, now," he continued;
"once let them drink their fill of buza[1] at a
wedding or a funeral, and out will come their
knives. On one occasion I had some difficulty in
getting away with a whole skin, and yet it was at
the house of a 'friendly'[2] prince, where I was
a guest, that the affair happened."
[1] A kind of beer made from millet.
[2] i.e. acknowledging Russian supremacy.
"How was that?" I asked.
"Here, I'll tell you." . . .
He filled his pipe, drew in the smoke, and began
his story.
"YOU see, sir," said the staff-captain, "I
was quartered, at the time, with a company
in a fortress beyond the Terek -- getting on
for five years ago now. One autumn day, a
transport arrived with provisions, in charge of
an officer, a young man of about twenty-five.
He reported himself to me in full uniform, and
announced that he had been ordered to remain
in the fortress with me. He was so very elegant,
his complexion so nice and white, his uniform so
brand new, that I immediately guessed that he
had not been long with our army in the Caucasus.
"'I suppose you have been transferred from
Russia?' I asked.
"'Exactly, captain,' he answered.
"I took him by the hand and said:
"'I'm delighted to see you -- delighted! It
will be a bit dull for you . . . but there, we will
live together like a couple of friends. But, please,
call me simply "Maksim Maksimych"; and, tell
me, what is this full uniform for? Just wear your
forage-cap whenever you come to me!'
"Quarters were assigned to him and he settled
down in the fortress."
"What was his name?" I asked Maksim
"His name was Grigori Aleksandrovich Pechorin.
He was a splendid fellow, I can assure
you, but a little peculiar. Why, to give you an
instance, one time he would stay out hunting
the whole day, in the rain and cold; the others
would all be frozen through and tired out, but he
wouldn't mind either cold or fatigue. Then,
another time, he would be sitting in his own
room, and, if there was a breath of wind, he would
declare that he had caught cold; if the shutters
rattled against the window he would start and
turn pale: yet I myself have seen him attack a
boar single-handed. Often enough you couldn't
drag a word out of him for hours together; but
then, on the other hand, sometimes, when he
started telling stories, you would split your sides
with laughing. Yes, sir, a very eccentric man;
and he must have been wealthy too. What a
lot of expensive trinkets he had!" . . .
"Did he stay there long with you?" I went
on to ask.
"Yes, about a year. And, for that very reason,
it was a memorable year to me. He gave me a
great deal of trouble -- but there, let bygones be
bygones! . . . You see, it is true enough, there
are people like that, fated from birth to have all
sorts of strange things happening to them!"
"Strange?" I exclaimed, with an air of
curiosity, as I poured out some tea.
"WELL, then, I'll tell you," said Maksim
Maksimych. "About six versts from the
fortress there lived a certain 'friendly' prince.
His son, a brat of about fifteen, was accustomed
to ride over to visit us. Not a day passed but
he would come, now for one thing, now for
another. And, indeed, Grigori Aleksandrovich
and I spoiled him. What a dare-devil the boy
was! Up to anything, picking up a cap at full
gallop, or bringing things down with his gun!
He had one bad quality; he was terribly greedy
for money. Once, for the fun of the thing,
Grigori Aleksandrovich promised to give him a
ducat if he would steal the best he-goat from his
father's herd for him; and, what do you think?
The very next night he came lugging it in by the
horns! At times we used to take it into our heads
to tease him, and then his eyes would become
bloodshot and his hand would fly to his dagger
"'You'll be losing your life if you are not
careful, Azamat,' I would say to him. 'That hot
head of yours will get you into trouble.'
"On one occasion, the old prince himself
came to invite us to the wedding of his eldest
daughter; and, as we were guest-friends with
him, it was impossible to decline, Tartar though
he was. We set off. In the village we were met
by a number of dogs, all barking loudly. The
women, when they saw us coming, hid themselves,
but those whose faces we were able to
get a view of were far from being beauties.
"'I had a much better opinion of the Circassian
women,' remarked Grigori Aleksandrovich.
"'Wait a bit!' I answered, with a smile; I
had my own views on the subject.
"A number of people had already gathered at
the prince's hut. It is the custom of the Asiatics,
you know, to invite all and sundry to a wedding.
We were received with every mark of honour
and conducted to the guest-chamber. All the
same, I did not forget quietly to mark where
our horses were put, in case anything unforeseen
should happen."
"How are weddings celebrated amongst
them?" I asked the staff-captain.
"Oh, in the usual way. First of all, the
Mullah reads them something out of the Koran;
then gifts are bestowed upon the young couple
and all their relations; the next thing is eating
and drinking of buza, then the dance on horseback;
and there is always some ragamuffin,
bedaubed with grease, bestriding a wretched,
lame jade, and grimacing, buffooning, and making
the worshipful company laugh. Finally, when
darkness falls, they proceed to hold what we
should call a ball in the guest-chamber. A poor,
old greybeard strums on a three-stringed instrument
-- I forget what they call it, but
anyhow, it is something in the nature of our
balalaika.[1] The girls and young children set
themselves in two ranks, one opposite the other,
and clap their hands and sing. Then a girl and
a man come out into the centre and begin to
chant verses to each other -- whatever comes into
their heads -- and the rest join in as a chorus.
Pechorin and I sat in the place of honour. All
at once up came our host's youngest daughter,
a girl of about sixteen, and chanted to Pechorin
-- how shall I put it? -- something in the nature
of a compliment." . . .
[1] A kind of two-stringed or three-stringed guitar.
"What was it she sang -- do you remember?"
"It went like this, I fancy: 'Handsome, they
say, are our young horsemen, and the tunics they
wear are garnished with silver; but handsomer still
is the young Russian officer, and the lace on his
tunic is wrought of gold. Like a poplar amongst
them he stands, but in gardens of ours such trees
will grow not nor bloom!'
"Pechorin rose, bowed to her, put his hand
to his forehead and heart, and asked me to
answer her. I know their language well, and I
translated his reply.
"When she had left us I whispered to Grigori
"'Well, now, what do you think of her?'
"'Charming!' he replied. 'What is her
"'Her name is Bela,' I answered.
"And a beautiful girl she was indeed; her
figure was tall and slender, her eyes black as those
of a mountain chamois, and they fairly looked
into your soul. Pechorin, deep in thought, kept
his gaze fixed upon her, and she, for her part, stole
glances at him often enough from under her
lashes. Pechorin, however, was not the only
one who was admiring the pretty princess;
another pair of eyes, fixed and fiery, were gazing
at her from the corner of the room. I took
a good look at their owner, and recognised my
old acquaintance Kazbich, who, you must know,
was neither exactly 'friendly' nor yet the other
thing. He was an object of much suspicion,
although he had never actually been caught at
any knavery. He used to bring rams to our
fortress and sell them cheaply; only he never
would haggle; whatever he demanded at first
you had to give. He would have his throat cut
rather than come down in price. He had the
reputation of being fond of roaming on the far
side of the Kuban with the Abreks; and, to tell
the truth, he had a regular thief's visage. A
little, wizened, broad-shouldered fellow he was --
but smart, I can tell you, smart as the very
devil! His tunic was always worn out and
patched, but his weapons were mounted in silver.
His horse was renowned throughout Kabardia --
and, indeed, a better one it would be impossible
to imagine! Not without good reason did all
the other horsemen envy Kazbich, and on more
than one occasion they had attempted to steal
the horse, but they had never succeeded. I
seem to see the animal before me now -- black as
coal, with legs like bow-strings and eyes as fine
as Bela's! How strong he was too! He would
gallop as much as fifty versts at a stretch! And
he was well trained besides -- he would trot
behind his master like a dog, and actually knew
his voice! Kazbich never used to tether him
either -- just the very horse for a robber! . . .
"On that evening Kazbich was more sullen
than ever, and I noticed that he was wearing a
coat of mail under his tunic. 'He hasn't got
that coat of mail on for nothing,' I thought.
'He has some plot in his head, I'll be bound!'
"It grew oppressively hot in the hut, and I
went out into the air to cool myself. Night had
fallen upon the mountains, and a mist was
beginning to creep along the gorges.
"It occurred to me to pop in under the shed
where our horses were standing, to see whether
they had their fodder; and, besides, it is never
any harm to take precautions. My horse was
a splendid one too, and more than one Kabardian
had already cast fond glances at it, repeating at
the same time: 'Yakshi tkhe chok yakshi.'[1]
[1] "Good -- very good."
"I stole along the fence. Suddenly I heard
voices, one of which I immediately recognised.
It was that of the young pickle, Azamat, our
host's son. The other person spoke less and in a
quieter tone.
"'What are they discussing there?' I wondered.
'Surely it can't be my horse!' I
squatted down beside the fence and proceeded
to play the eavesdropper, trying not to let slip a
single word. At times the noise of songs and the
buzz of voices, escaping from the hut, drowned
the conversation which I was finding interesting.
"'That's a splendid horse of yours,' Azamat
was saying. 'If I were master of a house of my
own and had a stud of three hundred mares, I
would give half of it for your galloper,
"'Aha! Kazbich!' I said to myself, and I
called to mind the coat of mail.
"'Yes,' replied Kazbich, after an interval of
silence. 'There is not such another to be found
in all Kabardia. Once -- it was on the other side
of the Terek -- I had ridden with the Abreks to
seize the Russian herds. We had no luck, so we
scattered in different directions. Four Cossacks
dashed after me. I could actually hear the cries
of the giaours behind me, and in front of me
there was a dense forest. I crouched down in the
saddle, committed myself to Allah, and, for
the first time in my life, insulted my horse with
a blow of the whip. Like a bird, he plunged
among the branches; the sharp thorns tore my
clothing, the dead boughs of the cork-elms struck
against my face! My horse leaped over treetrunks
and burst his way through bushes with his
chest! It would have been better for me to
have abandoned him at the outskirts of the
forest and concealed myself in it afoot, but it
was a pity to part with him -- and the Prophet
rewarded me. A few bullets whistled over my
head. I could now hear the Cossacks, who had
dismounted, running upon my tracks. Suddenly
a deep gully opened before me. My galloper
took thought -- and leaped. His hind hoofs
slipped back off the opposite bank, and he remained
hanging by his fore-feet. I dropped
the bridle and threw myself into the hollow,
thereby saving my horse, which jumped out.
The Cossacks saw the whole scene, only not one
of them got down to search for me, thinking
probably that I had mortally injured myself;
and I heard them rushing to catch my horse. My
heart bled within me. I crept along the hollow
through the thick grass -- then I looked around:
it was the end of the forest. A few Cossacks were
riding out from it on to the clearing, and there
was my Karagyoz[1] galloping straight towards
them. With a shout they all dashed forward.
For a long, long time they pursued him, and one
of them, in particular, was once or twice almost
successful in throwing a lasso over his neck.
[1] Turkish for "Black-eye."
I trembled, dropped my eyes, and began to pray.
After a few moments I looked up again, and there
was my Karagyoz flying along, his tail waving --
free as the wind; and the giaours, on their jaded
horses, were trailing along far behind, one after
another, across the steppe. Wallah! It is true --
really true! Till late at night I lay in the hollow.
Suddenly -- what do you think, Azamat? I heard
in the darkness a horse trotting along the bank
of the hollow, snorting, neighing, and beating
the ground with his hoofs. I recognised my
Karagyoz's voice; 'twas he, my comrade!" . . .
Since that time we have never been parted!'
"And I could hear him patting his galloper's
sleek neck with his hand, as he called him various
fond names.
"'If I had a stud of a thousand mares,' said
Azamat, 'I would give it all for your Karagyoz!'
"'Yok![1] I would not take it!' said Kazbich
[1] "No!"
"'Listen, Kazbich,' said Azamat, trying to
ingratiate himself with him. 'You are a kindhearted
man, you are a brave horseman, but my
father is afraid of the Russians and will not
allow me to go on the mountains. Give me
your horse, and I will do anything you wish. I
will steal my father's best rifle for you, or his
sabre -- just as you like -- and his sabre is a genuine
Gurda;[1] you have only to lay the edge against
your hand, and it will cut you; a coat of mail
like yours is nothing against it.'
[1] A particular kind of ancient and valued sabre.
"Kazbich remained silent.
"'The first time I saw your horse,' continued
Azamat, 'when he was wheeling and leaping
under you, his nostrils distended, and the flints
flying in showers from under his hoofs, something
I could not understand took place within my
soul; and since that time I have been weary of
everything. I have looked with disdain on my
father's best gallopers; I have been ashamed
to be seen on them, and yearning has taken possession
of me. In my anguish I have spent whole
days on the cliffs, and, every minute, my thoughts
have kept turning to your black galloper with his
graceful gait and his sleek back, straight as an
arrow. With his keen, bright eyes he has looked
into mine as if about to speak! . . . I shall die,
Kazbich, if you will not sell him to me!' said
Azamat, with trembling voice.
"I could hear him burst out weeping, and I
must tell you that Azamat was a very stubborn
lad, and that not for anything could tears be
wrung from him, even when he was a little
"In answer to his tears, I could hear something
like a laugh.
"'Listen,' said Azamat in a firm voice.
'You see, I am making up my mind for anything.
If you like, I will steal my sister for you! How
she dances! How she sings! And the way she
embroiders with gold -- marvellous! Not even a
Turkish Padishah[1] has had a wife like her! . . .
Shall I? Wait for me to-morrow night, yonder,
in the gorge where the torrent flows; I will go
by with her to the neighbouring village -- and she
is yours. Surely Bela is worth your galloper!'
[1] King -- a title of the Sultan of Turkey.
"Kazbich remained silent for a long, long
time. At length, instead of answering, he struck
up in an undertone the ancient song:
"Many a beauty among us dwells
From whose eyes' dark depths the starlight wells,
'Tis an envied lot and sweet, to hold
Their love; but brighter is freedom bold.
Four wives are yours if you pay the gold;
But a mettlesome steed is of price untold;
The whirlwind itself on the steppe is less fleet;
He knows no treachery -- no deceit."[2]
[2] I beg my readers' pardon for having versified Kazbich's
song, which, of course, as I heard it, was in prose; but habit is
second nature. (Author's note.)
"In vain Azamat entreated him to consent.
He wept, coaxed, and swore to him. Finally,
Kazbich interrupted him impatiently:
"'Begone, you crazy brat! How should
you think to ride on my horse? In three steps
you would be thrown and your neck broken on
the stones!'
"'I?' cried Azamat in a fury, and the blade
of the child's dagger rang against the coat of
mail. A powerful arm thrust him away, and he
struck the wattle fence with such violence that
it rocked.
"'Now we'll see some fun!' I thought to
"I rushed into the stable, bridled our horses
and led them out into the back courtyard. In
a couple of minutes there was a terrible uproar
in the hut. What had happened was this:
Azamat had rushed in, with his tunic torn,
saying that Kazbich was going to murder him. All
sprang out, seized their guns, and the fun began!
Noise -- shouts -- shots! But by this time Kazbich
was in the saddle, and, wheeling among the crowd
along the street, defended himself like a madman,
brandishing his sabre.
"'It is a bad thing to interfere in other
people's quarrels,' I said to Grigori Aleksandrovich,
taking him by the arm. 'Wouldn't it be
better for us to clear off without loss of time?'
"'Wait, though, and see how it will end!'
"'Oh, as to that, it will be sure enough to
end badly; it is always so with these Asiatics.
Once let them get drunk on buza, and there's
certain to be bloodshed.'
"We mounted and galloped home."
"TELL me, what became of Kazbich?"
I asked the staff-captain impatiently.
"Why, what can happen to that sort of a
fellow?" he answered, finishing his tumbler of
tea. "He slipped away, of course."
"And wasn't he wounded?" I asked.
"Goodness only knows! Those scoundrels take
a lot of killing! In action, for instance, I've seen
many a one, sir, stuck all over with bayonets like
a sieve, and still brandishing his sabre."
After an interval of silence the staff-captain
continued, tapping the ground with his foot:
"One thing I'll never forgive myself for.
On our arrival at the fortress the devil put it into
my head to repeat to Grigori Aleksandrovich all
that I had heard when I was eavesdropping
behind the fence. He laughed -- cunning fellow!
-- and thought out a little plan of his own."
"What was that? Tell me, please."
"Well, there's no help for it now, I suppose.
I've begun the story, and so I must continue.
"In about four days' time Azamat rode over
to the fortress. As his usual custom was, he went
to see Grigori Aleksandrovich, who always used
to give him sweetmeats to eat. I was present.
The conversation was on the subject of horses,
and Pechorin began to sound the praises of
Kazbich's Karagyoz. What a mettlesome horse
it was, and how handsome! A perfect chamois!
In fact, judging by his account, there simply
wasn't another like it in the whole world!
"The young Tartar's beady eyes began to
sparkle, but Pechorin didn't seem to notice the
fact. I started to talk about something else,
but immediately, mark you, Pechorin caused the
conversation to strike off on to Kazbich's horse.
Every time that Azamat came it was the same
story. After about three weeks, I began to
observe that Azamat was growing pale and
wasted, just as people in novels do from love,
sir. What wonder either! . . .
"Well, you see, it was not until afterwards
that I learned the whole trick -- Grigori Aleksandrovich
exasperated Azamat to such an extent
with his teasing that the boy was ready even to
drown himself. One day Pechorin suddenly
broke out with:
"'I see, Azamat, that you have taken a
desperate fancy to that horse of Kazbich's, but
you'll no more see him than you will the back
of your neck! Come, tell me, what would you
give if somebody made you a present of him?'
"'Anything he wanted,' answered Azamat.
"'In that case I will get the horse for you,
only on one condition . . . Swear that you will
fulfil it?'
"'I swear. You swear too!'
"'Very well! I swear that the horse shall
be yours. But, in return, you must deliver your
sister Bela into my hands. Karagyoz shall be her
bridegroom's gift. I hope the transaction will
be a profitable one for you.'
"Azamat remained silent.
"'Won't you? Well, just as you like! I
thought you were a man, but it seems you are
still a child; it is early for you to be riding on
"Azamat fired up.
"'But my father --' he said.
"'Does he never go away, then?'
"'You agree?'
"'I agree,' whispered Azamat, pale as death.
'But when?'
"'The first time Kazbich rides over here.
He has promised to drive in half a score of rams;
the rest is my affair. Look out, then, Azamat!'
"And so they settled the business -- a bad
business, to tell the truth! I said as much to
Pechorin afterwards, but he only answered that
a wild Circassian girl ought to consider herself
fortunate in having such a charming husband as
himself -- because, according to their ideas, he
really was her husband -- and that Kazbich was a
scoundrel, and ought to be punished. Judge for
yourself, what could I say to that? . . . At the
time, however, I knew nothing of their conspiracy.
Well, one day Kazbich rode up and
asked whether we needed any rams and honey;
and I ordered him to bring some the next
"'Azamat!' said Grigori Aleksandrovich;
'to-morrow Karagyoz will be in my hands; if
Bela is not here to-night you will never see the
horse.' . .
"'Very well,' said Azamat, and galloped to
the village.
"In the evening Grigori Aleksandrovich armed
himself and rode out of the fortress. How they
settled the business I don't know, but at night
they both returned, and the sentry saw that
across Azamat's saddle a woman was lying, bound
hand and foot and with her head wrapped in a
"And the horse?" I asked the staff-captain.
"One minute! One minute! Early next
morning Kazbich rode over, driving in half a
score of rams for sale. Tethering his horse by
the fence, he came in to see me, and I regaled
him with tea, for, robber though he was, he was
none the less my guest-friend.
"We began to chat about one thing and
another. . . Suddenly I saw Kazbich start,
change countenance, and dart to the window;
but unfortunately the window looked on to the
back courtyard.
"'What is the matter with you?' I asked.
"'My horse! . . . My horse!' he cried, all
of a tremble.
"As a matter of fact I heard the clattering of
"'It is probably some Cossack who has
ridden up.'
"'No! Urus -- yaman, yaman!'[1] he roared,
and rushed headlong away like a wild panther.
In two bounds he was in the courtyard; at the
gate of the fortress the sentry barred the way
with his gun; Kazbich jumped over the gun
and dashed off at a run along the road. . .
Dust was whirling in the distance -- Azamat was
galloping away on the mettlesome Karagyoz.
Kazbich, as he ran, tore his gun out of its cover
and fired. For a moment he remained motionless,
until he had assured himself that he had
missed. Then he uttered a shrill cry, knocked
the gun against a rock, smashed it to splinters,
fell to the ground, and burst out sobbing like
a child. . . The people from the fortress
gathered round him, but he took no notice of
anyone. They stood there talking awhile and
then went back. I ordered the money for the
rams to be placed beside him. He didn't touch
it, but lay with his face to the ground like a
dead man. Would you believe it? He remained
lying like that throughout the rest of
that day and the following night! It was only
on the next morning that he came to the fortress
and proceeded to ask that the name of the thief
should be told him. The sentry who had observed
Azamat untying the horse and galloping
away on him did not see any necessity for concealment.
At the name of Azamat, Kazbich's
eyes flashed, and he set off to the village where
Azamat's father lived."
[1] "No! Russian -- bad, bad!"
"And what about the father?"
"Ah, that was where the trick came in!
Kazbich could not find him; he had gone away
somewhere for five or six days; otherwise, how
could Azamat have succeeded in carrying off
"And, when the father returned, there was
neither daughter nor son to be found. A wily
rogue, Azamat! He understood, you see, that
he would lose his life if he was caught. So, from
that time, he was never seen again; probably
he joined some gang of Abreks and laid down
his turbulent life on the other side of the
Terek or the Kuban. It would have served him
right!" . . .
"I CONFESS that, for my part, I had trouble
enough over the business. So soon as ever
I learned that the Circassian girl was with Grigori
Aleksandrovich, I put on my epaulettes and sword
and went to see him.
"He was lying on the bed in the outer room,
with one hand under his head and the other
holding a pipe which had gone out. The door
leading to the inner room was locked, and there
was no key in the lock. I observed all that in
a moment. . . I coughed and rapped my heels
against the threshold, but he pretended not to
"'Ensign!' I said, as sternly as I could. 'Do
you not see that I have come to you?'
"'Ah, good morning, Maksim Maksimych!
Won't you have a pipe?' he answered, without
"'Excuse me, I am not Maksim Maksimych.
I am the staff-captain.'
"'It's all the same! Won't you have some
tea? If you only knew how I am being tortured
with anxiety.'
"'I know all,' I answered, going up to the
"'So much the better,' he said. 'I am not
in a narrative mood.'
"'Ensign, you have committed an offence for
which I may have to answer as well as you.'
"'Oh, that'll do. What's the harm? You
know, we've gone halves in everything.'
"'What sort of a joke do you think you are
playing? Your sword, please!' . . .
"'Mitka, my sword!'
"'Mitka brought the sword. My duty discharged,
I sat down on the bed, facing Pechorin,
and said: 'Listen here, Grigori Aleksandrovich,
you must admit that this is a bad business.'
"'What is?'
"'Why, that you have carried off Bela. . .
Ah, it is that beast Azamat! . . . Come, confess!'
I said.
"'But, supposing I am fond of her?' . . .
"Well, what could I say to that? . . . I was
nonplussed. After a short interval of silence,
however, I told him that if Bela's father were
to claim her he would have to give her up.
"'Not at all!'
"'But he will get to know that she is
"Again I was nonplussed.
"'Listen, Maksim Maksimych,' said Pechorin,
rising to his feet. 'You're a kind-hearted man,
you know; but, if we give that savage back his
daughter, he will cut her throat or sell her. The
deed is done, and the only thing we can do now
is not to go out of our way to spoil matters.
Leave Bela with me and keep my sword!'
"'Show her to me, though,' I said.
"'She is behind that door. Only I wanted,
myself, to see her to-day and wasn't able to.
She sits in the corner, muffled in her veil, and
neither speaks nor looks up -- timid as a wild
chamois! I have hired the wife of our dukhankeeper:
she knows the Tartar language, and will
look after Bela and accustom her to the idea
that she belongs to me -- for she shall belong to
no one else!' he added, banging his fist on the
"I assented to that too. . . What could I
do? There are some people with whom you
absolutely have to agree."
"Well?" I asked Maksim Maksimych. "Did
he really succeed in making her grow accustomed
to him, or did she pine away in captivity from
"Good gracious! how could she pine away
from home-sickness? From the fortress she
could see the very same hills as she could from
the village -- and these savages require nothing
more. Besides, Grigori Aleksandrovich used to
give her a present of some kind every day. At
first she didn't utter a word, but haughtily
thrust away the gifts, which then fell to the lot
of the dukhan-keeper's wife and aroused her
eloquence. Ah, presents! What won't a woman
do for a coloured rag! . . . But that is by the
way. . . For a long time Grigori Aleksandrovich
persevered with her, and meanwhile he
studied the Tartar language and she began to
understand ours. Little by little she grew
accustomed to looking at him, at first furtively,
askance; but she still pined and crooned her
songs in an undertone, so that even I would feel
heavy at heart when I heard her from the next
room. One scene I shall never forget: I was
walking past, and I looked in at the window;
Bela was sitting on the stove-couch, her head
sunk on her breast, and Grigori Aleksandrovich
was standing, facing her.
"'Listen, my Peri,' he was saying. 'Surely
you know that you will have to be mine sooner
or later -- why, then, do you but torture me?
Is it that you are in love with some Chechene?
If so, I will let you go home at once.'
"She gave a scarcely perceptible start and
shook her head.
"'Or is it,' he continued, 'that I am utterly
hateful to you?'
"She heaved a sigh.
"'Or that your faith prohibits you from
giving me a little of your love?'
"She turned pale and remained silent.
"'Believe me, Allah is one and the same for
all races; and, if he permits me to love you,
why, then, should he prohibit you from requiting
me by returning my love?'
"She gazed fixedly into his face, as though
struck by that new idea. Distrust and a desire to
be convinced were expressed in her eyes. What
eyes they were! They sparkled just like two
glowing coals.
"'Listen, my dear, good Bela!' continued
Pechorin. 'You see how I love you. I am ready
to give up everything to make you cheerful once
more. I want you to be happy, and, if you are
going to be sad again, I shall die. Tell me, you
will be more cheerful?'
"She fell into thought, her black eyes still
fixed upon him. Then she smiled graciously and
nodded her head in token of acquiescence.
"He took her by the hand and tried to induce
her to kiss him. She defended herself feebly, and
only repeated: 'Please! Please! You mustn't,
you mustn't!'
"He went on to insist; she began to tremble
and weep.
"'I am your captive,' she said, 'your slave;
of course, you can compel me.'
"And then, again -- tears.
"Grigori Aleksandrovich struck his forehead
with his fist and sprang into the other room. I
went in to see him, and found him walking
moodily backwards and forwards with folded
"'Well, old man?' I said to him.
"'She is a devil -- not a woman!' he answered.
'But I give you my word of honour that she
shall be mine!'
"I shook my head.
"'Will you bet with me?' he said. 'In a
week's time?'
"'Very well,' I answered.
"We shook hands on it and separated.
"The next day he immediately despatched an
express messenger to Kizlyar to purchase some
things for him. The messenger brought back a
quite innumerable quantity of various Persian
"'What think you, Maksim Maksimych?' he
said to me, showing the presents. 'Will our
Asiatic beauty hold out against such a battery
as this?'
"'You don't know the Circassian women,' I
answered. 'They are not at all the same as the
Georgian or the Transcaucasian Tartar women --
not at all! They have their own principles, they
are brought up differently.'
"Grigori Aleksandrovich smiled and began to
whistle a march to himself."
"AS things fell out, however," continued
Maksim Maksimych, "I was right, you
see. The presents produced only half an effect.
She became more gracious more trustful -- but
that was all. Pechorin accordingly determined
upon a last expedient. One morning he ordered
his horse to be saddled, dressed himself as a Circassian,
armed himself, and went into her room.
"'Bela,' he said. 'You know how I love
you. I decided to carry you off, thinking that
when you grew to know me you would give me
your love. I was mistaken. Farewell! Remain
absolute mistress of all I possess. Return
to your father if you like -- you are free. I have
acted wrongfully towards you, and I must punish
myself. Farewell! I am going. Whither? --
How should I know? Perchance I shall not
have long to court the bullet or the sabre-stroke.
Then remember me and forgive.'
"He turned away, and stretched out his hand
to her in farewell. She did not take his hand,
but remained silent. But I, standing there
behind the door, was able through a chink to
observe her countenance, and I felt sorry for
her -- such a deathly pallor shrouded that charming
little face! Hearing no answer, Pechorin took
a few steps towards the door. He was trembling,
and -- shall I tell you? -- I think that he was in a
state to perform in very fact what he had been
saying in jest! He was just that sort of man,
Heaven knows!
"He had scarcely touched the door, however,
when Bela sprang to her feet, burst out sobbing,
and threw herself on his neck! Would you believe
it? I, standing there behind the door, fell to
weeping too, that is to say, you know, not exactly
weeping -- but just -- well, something foolish!"
The staff-captain became silent.
"Yes, I confess," he said after a while, tugging
at his moustache, "I felt hurt that not one
woman had ever loved me like that."
"Was their happiness lasting?" I asked.
"Yes, she admitted that, from the day she had
first cast eyes on Pechorin, she had often dreamed
of him, and that no other man had ever produced
such an impression upon her. Yes, they
were happy!"
"How tiresome!" I exclaimed, involuntarily.
In point of fact, I had been expecting a tragic
ending -- when, lo! he must needs disappoint my
hopes in such an unexpected manner! . . .
"Is it possible, though," I continued, "that
her father did not guess that she was with you
in the fortress?"
"Well, you must know, he seems to have had
his suspicions. After a few days, we learned that
the old man had been murdered. This is how
it happened." . . .
My attention was aroused anew.
"I must tell you that Kazbich imagined that
the horse had been stolen by Azamat with his
father's consent; at any rate, that is what I
suppose. So, one day, Kazbich went and waited
by the roadside, about three versts beyond the
village. The old man was returning from one
of his futile searches for his daughter; his retainers
were lagging behind. It was dusk.
Deep in thought, he was riding at a walking
pace when, suddenly, Kazbich darted out like a
cat from behind a bush, sprang up behind him
on the horse, flung him to the ground with a
thrust of his dagger, seized the bridle and was
off. A few of the retainers saw the whole affair
from the hill; they dashed off in pursuit of
Kazbich, but failed to overtake him."
"He requited himself for the loss of his
horse, and took his revenge at the same time," I
said, with a view to evoking my companion's
"Of course, from their point of view," said
the staff-captain, "he was perfectly right."
I was involuntarily struck by the aptitude
which the Russian displays for accommodating
himself to the customs of the people in whose
midst he happens to be living. I know not
whether this mental quality is deserving of
censure or commendation, but it proves the
incredible pliancy of his mind and the presence
of that clear common sense which pardons evil
wherever it sees that evil is inevitable or impossible
of annihilation.
IN the meantime we had finished our tea.
The horses, which had been put to long
before, were freezing in the snow. In the west
the moon was growing pale, and was just on the
point of plunging into the black clouds which
were hanging over the distant summits like the
shreds of a torn curtain. We went out of the
hut. Contrary to my fellow-traveller's prediction,
the weather had cleared up, and there
was a promise of a calm morning. The dancing
choirs of the stars were interwoven in wondrous
patterns on the distant horizon, and, one after
another, they flickered out as the wan resplendence
of the east suffused the dark, lilac vault of heaven,
gradually illumining the steep mountain slopes,
covered with the virgin snows. To right and
left loomed grim and mysterious chasms, and
masses of mist, eddying and coiling like snakes,
were creeping thither along the furrows of the
neighbouring cliffs, as though sentient and fearful
of the approach of day.
All was calm in heaven and on earth, calm as
within the heart of a man at the moment of
morning prayer; only at intervals a cool wind
rushed in from the east, lifting the horses' manes
which were covered with hoar-frost. We started
off. The five lean jades dragged our wagons
with difficulty along the tortuous road up Mount
Get. We ourselves walked behind, placing stones
under the wheels whenever the horses were spent.
The road seemed to lead into the sky, for, so far
as the eye could discern, it still mounted up and
up, until finally it was lost in the cloud which,
since early evening, had been resting on the summit
of Mount Get, like a kite awaiting its prey.
The snow crunched under our feet. The atmosphere
grew so rarefied that to breathe was painful;
ever and anon the blood rushed to my head,
but withal a certain rapturous sensation was
diffused throughout my veins and I felt a species
of delight at being so high up above the world.
A childish feeling, I admit, but, when we retire
from the conventions of society and draw close
to nature, we involuntarily become as children:
each attribute acquired by experience falls away
from the soul, which becomes anew such as it was
once and will surely be again. He whose lot it
has been, as mine has been, to wander over the
desolate mountains, long, long to observe their
fantastic shapes, greedily to gulp down the lifegiving
air diffused through their ravines -- he, of
course, will understand my desire to communicate,
to narrate, to sketch those magic pictures.
Well, at length we reached the summit of
Mount Gut and, halting, looked around us.
Upon the mountain a grey cloud was hanging,
and its cold breath threatened the approach of
a storm; but in the east everything was so clear
and golden that we -- that is, the staff-captain
and I -- forgot all about the cloud. . . Yes, the
staff-captain too; in simple hearts the feeling
for the beauty and grandeur of nature is a
hundred-fold stronger and more vivid than in
us, ecstatic composers of narratives in words and
on paper.
"You have grown accustomed, I suppose, to
these magnificent pictures!" I said.
"Yes, sir, you can even grow accustomed to
the whistling of a bullet, that is to say, accustomed
to concealing the involuntary thumping
of your heart."
"I have heard, on the contrary, that many an
old warrior actually finds that music agreeable."
"Of course, if it comes to that, it is agreeable;
but only just because the heart beats
more violently. Look!" he added, pointing
towards the east. "What a country!"
And, indeed, such a panorama I can hardly
hope to see elsewhere. Beneath us lay the
Koishaur Valley, intersected by the Aragva and
another stream as if by two silver threads; a
bluish mist was gliding along the valley, fleeing
into the neighbouring defiles from the warm
rays of the morning. To right and left the
mountain crests, towering higher and higher,
intersected each other and stretched out, covered
with snows and thickets; in the distance were
the same mountains, which now, however, had
the appearance of two cliffs, one like to the
other. And all these snows were burning in the
crimson glow so merrily and so brightly that it
seemed as though one could live in such a place
for ever. The sun was scarcely visible behind the
dark-blue mountain, which only a practised eye
could distinguish from a thunder-cloud; but
above the sun was a blood-red streak to which
my companion directed particular attention.
"I told you," he exclaimed, "that there
would be dirty weather to-day! We must make
haste, or perhaps it will catch us on Mount
Krestov. -- Get on!" he shouted to the drivers.
Chains were put under the wheels in place of
drags, so that they should not slide, the drivers
took the horses by the reins, and the descent
began. On the right was a cliff, on the left a
precipice, so deep that an entire village of
Ossetes at the bottom looked like a swallow's
nest. I shuddered, as the thought occurred to
me that often in the depth of night, on that
very road, where two wagons could not pass,
a courier drives some ten times a year without
climbing down from his rickety vehicle. One
of our drivers was a Russian peasant from Yaroslavl,
the other, an Ossete. The latter took out
the leaders in good time and led the shaft-horse
by the reins, using every possible precaution --
but our heedless compatriot did not even climb
down from his box! When I remarked to him
that he might put himself out a bit, at least in
the interests of my portmanteau, for which I
had not the slightest desire to clamber down into
the abyss, he answered:
"Eh, master, with the help of Heaven we
shall arrive as safe and sound as the others; it's
not our first time, you know."
And he was right. We might just as easily
have failed to arrive at all; but arrive we did,
for all that. And if people would only reason
a little more they would be convinced that life
is not worth taking such a deal of trouble
Perhaps, however, you would like to know the
conclusion of the story of Bela? In the first
place, this is not a novel, but a collection of
travelling-notes, and, consequently, I cannot make
the staff-captain tell the story sooner than he
actually proceeded to tell it. Therefore, you
must wait a bit, or, if you like, turn over a few
pages. Though I do not advise you to do the
latter, because the crossing of Mount Krestov
(or, as the erudite Gamba calls it, le mont St.
Christophe[1]) is worthy of your curiosity.
[1] Krestov is an adjective meaning "of the cross"
(Krest=cross); and, of course, is not the Russian for
Well, then, we descended Mount Gut into the
Chertov Valley. . . There's a romantic designation
for you! Already you have a vision of
the evil spirit's nest amid the inaccessible cliffs --
but you are out of your reckoning there. The
name "Chertov" is derived from the word
cherta (boundary-line) and not from chort (devil),
because, at one time, the valley marked the
boundary of Georgia. We found it choked with
snow-drifts, which reminded us rather vividly
of Saratov, Tambov, and other charming localities
of our fatherland.
"Look, there is Krestov!" said the staffcaptain,
when we had descended into the Chertov
Valley, as he pointed out a hill covered with a
shroud of snow. Upon the summit stood out
the black outline of a stone cross, and past it led
an all but imperceptible road which travellers
use only when the side-road is obstructed with
snow. Our drivers, declaring that no avalanches
had yet fallen, spared the horses by conducting
us round the mountain. At a turning we met
four or five Ossetes, who offered us their services;
and, catching hold of the wheels, proceeded, with
a shout, to drag and hold up our cart. And, indeed,
it is a dangerous road; on the right were
masses of snow hanging above us, and ready, it
seemed, at the first squall of wind to break off
and drop into the ravine; the narrow road was
partly covered with snow, which, in many places,
gave way under our feet and, in others, was
converted into ice by the action of the sun by
day and the frosts by night, so that the horses
kept falling, and it was with difficulty that we
ourselves made our way. On the left yawned a
deep chasm, through which rolled a torrent, now
hiding beneath a crust of ice, now leaping and
foaming over the black rocks. In two hours we
were barely able to double Mount Krestov -- two
versts in two hours! Meanwhile the clouds had
descended, hail and snow fell; the wind, bursting
into the ravines, howled and whistled like
Nightingale the Robber.[1] Soon the stone cross
was hidden in the mist, the billows of which, in
ever denser and more compact masses, rushed in
from the east. . .
[1] A legendary Russian hero whose whistling knocked people
Concerning that stone cross, by the way,
there exists the strange, but widespread, tradition
that it had been set up by the Emperor Peter
the First when travelling through the Caucasus.
In the first place, however, the Emperor went no
farther than Daghestan; and, in the second
place, there is an inscription in large letters on the
cross itself, to the effect that it had been erected
by order of General Ermolov, and that too in the
year 1824. Nevertheless, the tradition has taken
such firm root, in spite of the inscription, that
really you do not know what to believe; the more
so, as it is not the custom to believe inscriptions.
To reach the station Kobi, we still had to
descend about five versts, across ice-covered rocks
and plashy snow. The horses were exhausted; we
were freezing; the snowstorm droned with everincreasing
violence, exactly like the storms of
our own northern land, only its wild melodies
were sadder and more melancholy.
"O Exile," I thought, "thou art weeping
for thy wide, free steppes! There mayest thou
unfold thy cold wings, but here thou art stifled
and confined, like an eagle beating his wings, with
a shriek, against the grating of his iron cage!"
"A bad look out," said the staff-captain.
"Look! There's nothing to be seen all round
but mist and snow. At any moment we may
tumble into an abyss or stick fast in a cleft; and
a little lower down, I dare say, the Baidara has
risen so high that there is no getting across it.
Oh, this Asia, I know it! Like people, like
rivers! There's no trusting them at all!"
The drivers, shouting and cursing, belaboured
the horses, which snorted, resisted obstinately,
and refused to budge on any account, notwithstanding
the eloquence of the whips.
"Your honour," one of the drivers said to me
at length, "you see, we will never reach Kobi
to-day. Won't you give orders to turn to the
left while we can? There is something black
yonder on the slope -- probably huts. Travellers
always stop there in bad weather, sir. They
say," he added, pointing to the Ossetes, "that they
will lead us there if you will give them a tip."
"I know that, my friend, I know that without
your telling me," said the staff-captain. "Oh,
these beasts! They are delighted to seize any
pretext for extorting a tip!"
"You must confess, however," I said, "that
we should be worse off without them."
"Just so, just so," he growled to himself. "I
know them well -- these guides! They scent out
by instinct a chance of taking advantage of
people. As if it was impossible to find the way
without them!"
Accordingly we turned aside to the left, and,
somehow or other, after a good deal of trouble,
made our way to the wretched shelter, which
consisted of two huts built of stone slabs and
rubble, surrounded by a wall of the same
material. Our ragged hosts received us with
alacrity. I learned afterwards that the Government
supplies them with money and food upon
condition that they put up travellers who are
overtaken by storm.
"ALL is for the best," I said, sitting down
close by the fire. "Now you will finish
telling me your story about Bela. I am certain
that what you have already told me was not the
end of it."
"Why are you so certain?" answered the
staff-captain, winking and smiling slyly.
"Because things don't happen like that. A
story with such an unusual beginning must also
have an unusual ending."
"You have guessed, of course" . . .
"I am very glad to hear it."
"It is all very well for you to be glad, but,
indeed, it makes me sad when I think of it.
Bela was a splendid girl. In the end I grew
accustomed to her just as if she had been my
own daughter, and she loved me. I must tell
you that I have no family. I have had no news
of my father and mother for twelve years or so,
and, in my earlier days, I never thought of
providing myself with a wife -- and now, you
know, it wouldn't do. So I was glad to have
found someone to spoil. She used to sing to us
or dance the Lezginka.[1] . . And what a dancer
she was! I have seen our own ladies in provincial
society; and on one occasion, sir, about twenty
years ago, I was even in the Nobles' Club at
Moscow -- but was there a woman to be compared
with her? Not one! Grigori Aleksandrovich
dressed her up like a doll, petted and
pampered her, and it was simply astonishing to
see how pretty she grew while she lived with us.
The sunburn disappeared from her face and
hands, and a rosy colour came into her cheeks. . .
What a merry girl she was! Always making
fun of me, the little rogue! . . . Heaven forgive
[1] Lezghian dance.
"And when you told her of her father's
"We kept it a secret from her for a long time,
until she had grown accustomed to her position;
and then, when she was told, she cried for a day
or two and forgot all about it.
"For four months or so everything went on
as well as it possibly could. Grigori Aleksandrovich,
as I think I have already mentioned, was
passionately fond of hunting; he was always
craving to be off into the forest after boars or
wild goats -- but now it would be as much as he
would do to go beyond the fortress rampart.
All at once, however, I saw that he was beginning
again to have fits of abstraction, walking about
his room with his hands clasped behind his back.
One day after that, without telling anyone, he
set off shooting. During the whole morning he
was not to be seen; then the same thing
happened another time, and so on -- oftener and
oftener. . .
"'This looks bad!' I said to myself. 'Something
must have come between them!'
"One morning I paid them a visit -- I can
see it all in my mind's eye, as if it was happening
now. Bela was sitting on the bed, wearing a
black silk jacket, and looking rather pale and
so sad that I was alarmed.
"'Where is Pechorin?' I asked.
"'When did he go -- to-day?'
"'She was silent, as if she found a difficulty in
"'No, he has been gone since yesterday,' she
said at length, with a heavy sigh.
"'Surely nothing has happened to him!'
"'Yesterday I thought and thought the whole
day,' she answered through her tears; 'I
imagined all sorts of misfortunes. At one time
I fancied that he had been wounded by a wild
boar, at another time, that he had been carried
off by a Chechene into the mountains. . . But,
now, I have come to think that he no longer
loves me.'
"'In truth, my dear girl, you could not have
imagined anything worse!'
"She burst out crying; then, proudly raising
her head, she wiped away the tears and continued:
"'If he does not love me, then who prevents
him sending me home? I am not putting any
constraint on him. But, if things go on like this,
I will go away myself -- I am not a slave, I am
a prince's daughter!' . . .
"I tried to talk her over.
"'Listen, Bela. You see it is impossible for him
to stop in here with you for ever, as if he was
sewn on to your petticoat. He is a young man
and fond of hunting. Off he'll go, but you will
find that he will come back; and, if you are
going to be unhappy, you will soon make him
tired of you.'
"'True, true!' she said. 'I will be
"And with a burst of laughter, she seized her
tambourine, began to sing, dance, and gambol
around me. But that did not last long either;
she fell upon the bed again and buried her face
in her hands.
"What could I do with her? You know I
have never been accustomed to the society of
women. I thought and thought how to cheer
her up, but couldn't hit on anything. For some
time both of us remained silent. . . A most
unpleasant situation, sir!
"At length I said to her:
"'Would you like us to go and take a walk on
the rampart? The weather is splendid.'
"This was in September, and indeed it was a
wonderful day, bright and not too hot. The
mountains could be seen as clearly as though
they were but a hand's-breadth away. We went,
and walked in silence to and fro along the
rampart of the fortress. At length she sat down
on the sward, and I sat beside her. In truth, now,
it is funny to think of it all! I used to run after
her just like a kind of children's nurse!
"Our fortress was situated in a lofty position,
and the view from the rampart was superb. On
one side, the wide clearing, seamed by a few
clefts, was bounded by the forest which stretched
out to the very ridge of the mountains. Here
and there, on the clearing, villages were to be
seen sending forth their smoke, and there were
droves of horses roaming about. On the other
side flowed a tiny stream, and close to its banks
came the dense undergrowth which covered the
flinty heights joining the principal chain of the
Caucasus. We sat in a corner of the bastion, so
that we could see everything on both sides.
Suddenly I perceived someone on a grey horse
riding out of the forest; nearer and nearer he
approached until finally he stopped on the far
side of the river, about a hundred fathoms from
us, and began to wheel his horse round and round
like one possessed. 'Strange!' I thought.
"'Look, look, Bela,' I said, 'you've got young
eyes -- what sort of a horseman is that? Who is
it he has come to amuse?' . . .
"'It is Kazbich!' she exclaimed after a
"'Ah, the robber! Come to laugh at us,
has he?'
"I looked closely, and sure enough it was
Kazbich, with his swarthy face, and as ragged
and dirty as ever.
"'It is my father's horse!' said Bela, seizing
my arm.
"She was trembling like a leaf and her eyes
were sparkling.
"'Aha!' I said to myself. 'There is robber's
blood in your veins still, my dear!'
"'Come here,' I said to the sentry. 'Look to
your gun and unhorse that gallant for me -- and
you shall have a silver ruble.'
"'Very well, your honour, only he won't keep
"'Tell him to!' I said, with a laugh.
"'Hey, friend!' cried the sentry, waving
his hand. 'Wait a bit. What are you spinning
round like a humming-top for?'
"Kazbich halted and gave ear to the sentry --
probably thinking that we were going to parley
with him. Quite the contrary! . . . My grenadier
took aim. . . Bang! . . . Missed! . . .
Just as the powder flashed in the pan Kazbich
jogged his horse, which gave a bound to one side.
He stood up in his stirrups, shouted something
in his own language, made a threatening gesture
with his whip -- and was off.
"'Aren't you ashamed of yourself?' I said
to the sentry.
"'He has gone away to die, your honour,' he
answered. 'There's no killing a man of that
cursed race at one stroke.'
"A quarter of an hour later Pechorin returned
from hunting. Bela threw herself on his neck
without a single complaint, without a single
reproach for his lengthy absence! . . . Even I
was angry with him by this time!
"'Good heavens!' I said; 'why, I tell you,
Kazbich was here on the other side of the river
just a moment ago, and we shot at him. How
easily you might have run up against him, you
know! These mountaineers are a vindictive
race! Do you suppose he does not guess that you
gave Azamat some help? And I wager that he
recognised Bela to-day! I know he was desperately
fond of her a year ago -- he told me so
himself -- and, if he had had any hope of getting
together a proper bridegroom's gift, he would
certainly have sought her in marriage.'
"At this Pechorin became thoughtful.
"'Yes,' he answered. 'We must be more
cautious -- Bela, from this day forth you mustn't
walk on the rampart any more.'
"In the evening I had a lengthy explanation
with him. I was vexed that his feelings towards
the poor girl had changed; to say nothing of his
spending half the day hunting, his manner
towards her had become cold. He rarely caressed
her, and she was beginning perceptibly to pine
away; her little face was becoming drawn,
her large eyes growing dim.
"'What are you sighing for, Bela?' I would
ask her. 'Are you sad?'
"'Do you want anything?'
"'You are pining for your kinsfolk?'
"'I have none!'
"Sometimes for whole days not a word could
be drawn from her but 'Yes' and 'No.'
"So I straightway proceeded to talk to
Pechorin about her."
"'LISTEN, Maksim Maksimych,' said Pechorin.
'Mine is an unfortunate disposition;
whether it is the result of my upbringing
or whether it is innate -- I know not.
I only know this, that if I am the cause of unhappiness
in others I myself am no less unhappy.
Of course, that is a poor consolation to them --
only the fact remains that such is the case.
In my early youth, from the moment I ceased
to be under the guardianship of my relations, I
began madly to enjoy all the pleasures which
money could buy -- and, of course, such pleasures
became irksome to me. Then I launched out
into the world of fashion -- and that, too, soon
palled upon me. I fell in love with fashionable
beauties and was loved by them, but my imagination
and egoism alone were aroused; my heart
remained empty. . . I began to read, to study --
but sciences also became utterly wearisome to me.
I saw that neither fame nor happiness depends
on them in the least, because the happiest
people are the uneducated, and fame is good
fortune, to attain which you have only to be
smart. Then I grew bored. . . Soon afterwards
I was transferred to the Caucasus; and
that was the happiest time of my life. I hoped
that under the bullets of the Chechenes boredom
could not exist -- a vain hope! In a month I
grew so accustomed to the buzzing of the bullets
and to the proximity of death that, to tell the
truth, I paid more attention to the gnats -- and
I became more bored than ever, because I had
lost what was almost my last hope. When I saw
Bela in my own house; when, for the first time,
I held her on my knee and kissed her black locks, I,
fool that I was, thought that she was an angel
sent to me by sympathetic fate. . . Again
I was mistaken; the love of a savage is little
better than that of your lady of quality, the
barbaric ignorance and simplicity of the one
weary you as much as the coquetry of the other.
I am not saying that I do not love her still; I
am grateful to her for a few fairly sweet moments;
I would give my life for her -- only I am bored
with her. . . Whether I am a fool or a villain
I know not; but this is certain, I am also most
deserving of pity -- perhaps more than she. My
soul has been spoiled by the world, my imagination
is unquiet, my heart insatiate. To me everything
is of little moment. I become as easily accustomed
to grief as to joy, and my life grows emptier
day by day. One expedient only is left to me --
"'As soon as I can, I shall set off -- but not to
Europe. Heaven forfend! I shall go to America,
to Arabia, to India -- perchance I shall die somewhere
on the way. At any rate, I am convinced
that, thanks to storms and bad roads, that last
consolation will not quickly be exhausted!'
"For a long time he went on speaking thus,
and his words have remained stamped upon my
memory, because it was the first time that I had
heard such things from a man of five-and-twenty
-- and Heaven grant it may be the last. Isn't it
astonishing? Tell me, please," continued the
staff-captain, appealing to me. "You used to
live in the Capital, I think, and that not so very
long ago. Is it possible that the young men there
are all like that?"
I replied that there were a good many people
who used the same sort of language, that, probably,
there might even be some who spoke in all
sincerity; that disillusionment, moreover, like
all other vogues, having had its beginning in the
higher strata of society, had descended to the
lower, where it was being worn threadbare,
and that, now, those who were really and truly
bored strove to conceal their misfortune as if it
were a vice. The staff-captain did not understand
these subtleties, shook his head, and smiled
"Anyhow, I suppose it was the French who
introduced the fashion?"
"No, the English."
"Aha, there you are!" he answered. "They
always have been arrant drunkards, you know!"
Involuntarily I recalled to mind a certain lady,
living in Moscow, who used to maintain that
Byron was nothing more nor less than a drunkard.
However, the staff-captain's observation was
more excusable; in order to abstain from strong
drink, he naturally endeavoured to convince
himself that all the misfortunes in the world are
the result of drunkenness.
MEANWHILE the staff-captain continued
his story.
"Kazbich never put in an appearance again;
but somehow -- I don't know why -- I could not
get the idea out of my head that he had had a
reason for coming, and that some mischievous
scheme was in his mind.
"Well, one day Pechorin tried to persuade
me to go boar-hunting with him. For a long
time I refused. What novelty was a wild boar
to me?
"However, off he dragged me, all the same.
We took four or five soldiers and set out early
in the morning. Up till ten o'clock we scurried
about the reeds and the forest -- there wasn't a
wild beast to be found!
"'I say, oughtn't we to be going back?' I
said. 'What's the use of sticking at it? It is
evident enough that we have happened on an
unlucky day!'
"But, in spite of heat and fatigue, Pechorin
didn't like to return empty-handed. . . That
is just the kind of man he was; whatever he set
his heart on he had to have -- evidently, in his
childhood, he had been spoiled by an indulgent
mother. At last, at midday, we discovered one
of those cursed wild boars -- Bang! Bang! -- No
good! -- Off it went into the reeds. That was
an unlucky day, to be sure! . . . So, after a
short rest, we set off homeward. . .
"We rode in silence, side by side, giving the
horses their head. We had almost reached the
fortress, and only the brushwood concealed it
from view. Suddenly a shot rang out. . . We
glanced at each other, both struck with the selfsame
suspicion. . . We galloped headlong in
the direction of the shot, looked, and saw the
soldiers clustered together on the rampart and
pointing towards a field, along which a rider was
flying at full speed, holding something white
across his saddle. Grigori Aleksandrovich yelled
like any Chechene, whipped his gun from its
cover, and gave chase -- I after him.
"Luckily, thanks to our unsuccessful hunt,
our horses were not jaded; they strained under
the saddle, and with every moment we drew
nearer and nearer. . . At length I recognised
Kazbich, only I could not make out what it was
that he was holding in front of him.
"Then I drew level with Pechorin and shouted
to him:
"'It is Kazbich!'
"He looked at me, nodded, and struck his
horse with his whip.
"At last we were within gunshot of Kazbich.
Whether it was that his horse was jaded or
not so good as ours, I don't know, but, in
spite of all his efforts, it did not get along very
fast. I fancy at that moment he remembered his
"I looked at Pechorin. He was taking aim
as he galloped. . .
"'Don't shoot,' I cried. 'Save the shot!
We will catch up with him as it is.'
"Oh, these young men! Always taking fire
at the wrong moment! The shot rang out and
the bullet broke one of the horse's hind legs. It
gave a few fiery leaps forward, stumbled, and
fell to its knees. Kazbich sprang off, and then
we perceived that it was a woman he was holding
in his arms -- a woman wrapped in a veil. It
was Bela -- poor Bela! He shouted something
to us in his own language and raised his dagger
over her. . . Delay was useless; I fired in my
turn, at haphazard. Probably the bullet struck
him in the shoulder, because he dropped his
hand suddenly. When the smoke cleared off, we
could see the wounded horse lying on the ground
and Bela beside it; but Kazbich, his gun flung
away, was clambering like a cat up the cliff,
through the brushwood. I should have liked
to have brought him down from there -- but I
hadn't a charge ready. We jumped off our
horses and rushed to Bela. Poor girl! She was
lying motionless, and the blood was pouring in
streams from her wound. The villain! If he
had struck her to the heart -- well and good,
everything would at least have been finished there
and then; but to stab her in the back like
that -- the scoundrel! She was unconscious. We
tore the veil into strips and bound up the
wound as tightly as we could. In vain Pechorin
kissed her cold lips -- it was impossible to bring
her to.
"Pechorin mounted; I lifted Bela from the
ground and somehow managed to place her
before him on his saddle; he put his arm round
her and we rode back.
"'Look here, Maksim Maksimych,' said
Grigori Aleksandrovich, after a few moments of
silence. 'We will never bring her in alive like this.'
"'True!' I said, and we put our horses to a
full gallop.
"A CROWD was awaiting us at the fortress
gate. Carefully we carried the wounded
girl to Pechorin's quarters, and then we sent for
the doctor. The latter was drunk, but he came,
examined the wound, and announced that she
could not live more than a day. He was mistaken,
"She recovered?" I asked the staff-captain,
seizing him by the arm, and involuntarily rejoicing.
"No," he replied, "but the doctor was so far
mistaken that she lived two days longer."
"Explain, though, how Kazbich made off
with her!"
"It was like this: in spite of Pechorin's prohibition,
she went out of the fortress and down
to the river. It was a very hot day, you know,
and she sat on a rock and dipped her feet in
the water. Up crept Kazbich, pounced upon her,
silenced her, and dragged her into the bushes.
Then he sprang on his horse and made off.
In the meantime she succeeded in crying out,
the sentries took the alarm, fired, but wide of the
mark; and thereupon we arrived on the scene."
"But what did Kazbich want to carry her off
"Good gracious! Why, everyone knows these
Circassians are a race of thieves; they can't keep
their hands off anything that is left lying about!
They may not want a thing, but they will steal
it, for all that. Still, you mustn't be too hard on
them. And, besides, he had been in love with
her for a long time."
"And Bela died?"
"Yes, she died, but she suffered for a long time,
and we were fairly knocked up with her, I can
tell you. About ten o'clock in the evening she
came to herself. We were sitting by her bed.
As soon as ever she opened her eyes she began to
call Pechorin.
"'I am here beside you, my janechka' (that is,
'my darling'), he answered, taking her by the
"'I shall die,' she said.
"We began to comfort her, telling her that
the doctor had promised infallibly to cure her.
She shook her little head and turned to the wall --
she did not want to die! . . .
"At night she became delirious, her head
burned, at times a feverish paroxysm convulsed
her whole body. She talked incoherently about
her father, her brother; she yearned for the
mountains, for her home. . . Then she spoke
of Pechorin also, called him various fond names,
or reproached him for having ceased to love his
He listened to her in silence, his head sunk
in his hands; but yet, during the whole time, I
did not notice a single tear-drop on his lashes. I
do not know whether he was actually unable to
weep or was mastering himself; but for my
part I have never seen anything more pitiful.
"Towards morning the delirium passed off.
For an hour or so she lay motionless, pale, and so
weak that it was hardly possible to observe that
she was breathing. After that she grew better
and began to talk: only about what, think you?
Such thoughts come only to the dying! . . .
She lamented that she was not a Christian,
that in the other world her soul would
never meet the soul of Grigori Aleksandrovich,
and that in Paradise another woman would be
his companion. The thought occurred to me
to baptize her before her death. I told her my
idea; she looked at me undecidedly, and for a
long time was unable to utter a word. Finally
she answered that she would die in the faith
in which she had been born. A whole day passed
thus. What a change that day made in her!
Her pale cheeks fell in, her eyes grew ever so
large, her lips burned. She felt a consuming
heat within her, as though a red-hot blade was
piercing her breast.
"The second night came on. We did not
close our eyes or leave the bedside. She
suffered terribly, and groaned; and directly the
pain began to abate she endeavoured to assure
Grigori Aleksandrovich that she felt better,
tried to persuade him to go to bed, kissed his
hand and would not let it out of hers. Before
the morning she began to feel the death agony
and to toss about. She knocked the bandage off,
and the blood flowed afresh. When the wound
was bound up again she grew quiet for a moment
and begged Pechorin to kiss her. He fell on his
knees beside the bed, raised her head from the
pillow, and pressed his lips to hers -- which were
growing cold. She threw her trembling arms
closely round his neck, as if with that kiss she
wished to yield up her soul to him. -- No, she
did well to die! Why, what would have become
of her if Grigori Aleksandrovich had abandoned
her? And that is what would have happened,
sooner or later.
"During half the following day she was calm,
silent and docile, however much the doctor
tortured her with his fomentations and mixtures.
"'Good heavens!' I said to him, 'you know
you said yourself that she was certain to die,
so what is the good of all these preparations of
"'Even so, it is better to do all this,' he replied,
'so that I may have an easy conscience.'
"A pretty conscience, forsooth!
"After midday Bela began to suffer from
thirst. We opened the windows, but it was
hotter outside than in the room; we placed
ice round the bed -- all to no purpose. I knew
that that intolerable thirst was a sign of the
approaching end, and I told Pechorin so.
"'Water, water!' she said in a hoarse voice,
raising herself up from the bed.
"Pechorin turned pale as a sheet, seized a
glass, filled it, and gave it to her. I covered my
eyes with my hands and began to say a prayer --
I can't remember what. . . Yes, my friend,
many a time have I seen people die in hospitals
or on the field of battle, but this was something
altogether different! Still, this one thing grieves
me, I must confess: she died without even once
calling me to mind. Yet I loved her, I should
think, like a father! . . . Well, God forgive
her! . . . And, to tell the truth, what am I
that she should have remembered me when she
was dying? . . .
"As soon as she had drunk the water, she grew
easier -- but in about three minutes she breathed
her last! We put a looking-glass to her lips -- it
was undimmed!
"I led Pechorin from the room, and we went
on to the fortress rampart. For a long time we
walked side by side, to and fro, speaking not a
word and with our hands clasped behind our
backs. His face expressed nothing out of the
common -- and that vexed me. Had I been in his
place, I should have died of grief. At length he
sat down on the ground in the shade and began
to draw something in the sand with his stick.
More for form's sake than anything, you know,
I tried to console him and began to talk. He
raised his head and burst into a laugh! At that
laugh a cold shudder ran through me. . . I
went away to order a coffin.
"I confess it was partly to distract my thoughts
that I busied myself in that way. I possessed a
little piece of Circassian stuff, and I covered the
coffin with it, and decked it with some Circassian
silver lace which Grigori Aleksandrovich had
bought for Bela herself.
"Early next morning we buried her behind the
fortress, by the river, beside the spot where she
had sat for the last time. Around her little
grave white acacia shrubs and elder-trees have
now grown up. I should have liked to erect a
cross, but that would not have done, you know --
after all, she was not a Christian."
"And what of Pechorin?" I asked.
"Pechorin was ill for a long time, and grew
thin, poor fellow; but we never spoke of Bela
from that time forth. I saw that it would be disagreeable
to him, so what would have been the
use? About three months later he was appointed
to the E---- Regiment, and departed for
Georgia. We have never met since. Yet, when
I come to think of it, somebody told me not long
ago that he had returned to Russia -- but it was
not in the general orders for the corps. Besides,
to the like of us news is late in coming."
Hereupon -- probably to drown sad memories --
he launched forth into a lengthy dissertation
on the unpleasantness of learning news a year
I did not interrupt him, nor did I listen.
In an hour's time a chance of proceeding on
our journey presented itself. The snowstorm
subsided, the sky became clear, and we set off.
On the way I involuntarily let the conversation
turn on Bela and Pechorin.
"You have not heard what became of Kazbich?"
I asked.
"Kazbich? In truth, I don't know. I have
heard that with the Shapsugs, on our right flank,
there is a certain Kazbich, a dare-devil fellow
who rides about at a walking pace, in a red tunic,
under our bullets, and bows politely whenever
one hums near him -- but it can scarcely be the
same person!" . . .
In Kobi, Maksim Maksimych and I parted
company. I posted on, and he, on account of
his heavy luggage, was unable to follow me.
We had no expectation of ever meeting again,
but meet we did, and, if you like, I will tell you
how -- it is quite a history. . . You must
acknowledge, though, that Maksim Maksimych
is a man worthy of all respect. . . If you
admit that, I shall be fully rewarded for my,
perhaps, too lengthy story.
AFTER parting with Maksim Maksimych, I
galloped briskly through the gorges of the
Terek and Darial, breakfasted in Kazbek, drank
tea in Lars, and arrived at Vladikavkaz in time
for supper. I spare you a description of the
mountains, as well as exclamations which convey
no meaning, and word-paintings which convey
no image -- especially to those who have never
been in the Caucasus. I also omit statistical
observations, which I am quite sure nobody
would read.
I put up at the inn which is frequented by all
who travel in those parts, and where, by the way,
there is no one you can order to roast your
pheasant and cook your cabbage-soup, because
the three veterans who have charge of the inn
are either so stupid, or so drunk, that it is
impossible to knock any sense at all out of
I was informed that I should have to stay
there three days longer, because the "Adventure"
had not yet arrived from Ekaterinograd and
consequently could not start on the return
journey. What a misadventure![1] . . . But a
bad pun is no consolation to a Russian, and, for
the sake of something to occupy my thoughts,
I took it into my head to write down the story
about Bela, which I had heard from Maksim
Maksimych -- never imagining that it would be
the first link in a long chain of novels: you see
how an insignificant event has sometimes dire
results! . . . Perhaps, however, you do not
know what the "Adventure" is? It is a convoy
-- composed of half a company of infantry, with
a cannon -- which escorts baggage-trains through
Kabardia from Vladikavkaz to Ekaterinograd.
[1] In Russian -- okaziya=occasion, adventure, etc.; chto za
okaziya=how unfortunate!
The first day I found the time hang on my
hands dreadfully. Early next morning a vehicle
drove into the courtyard. . . Aha! Maksim
Maksimych! . . . We met like a couple of old
friends. I offered to share my own room with
him, and he accepted my hospitality without
standing upon ceremony; he even clapped me
on the shoulder and puckered up his mouth by
way of a smile -- a queer fellow, that! . . .
Maksim Maksimych was profoundly versed in
the culinary art. He roasted the pheasant
astonishingly well and basted it successfully with
cucumber sauce. I was obliged to acknowledge
that, but for him, I should have had to remain on
a dry-food diet. A bottle of Kakhetian wine
helped us to forget the modest number of dishes
-- of which there was one, all told. Then we lit
our pipes, took our chairs, and sat down -- I by
the window, and he by the stove, in which a fire
had been lighted because the day was damp and
cold. We remained silent. What had we to
talk about? He had already told me all that
was of interest about himself and I had nothing
to relate. I looked out of the window. Here
and there, behind the trees, I caught glimpses of
a number of poor, low houses straggling along
the bank of the Terek, which flowed seaward in
an ever-widening stream; farther off rose the
dark-blue, jagged wall of the mountains, behind
which Mount Kazbek gazed forth in his highpriest's
hat of white. I took a mental farewell
of them; I felt sorry to leave them. . .
Thus we sat for a considerable time. The sun
was sinking behind the cold summits and a
whitish mist was beginning to spread over the
valleys, when the silence was broken by the
jingling of the bell of a travelling-carriage and
the shouting of drivers in the street. A few
vehicles, accompanied by dirty Armenians, drove
into the courtyard of the inn, and behind them
came an empty travelling-carriage. Its light
movement, comfortable arrangement, and elegant
appearance gave it a kind of foreign stamp. Behind
it walked a man with large moustaches. He
was wearing a Hungarian jacket and was rather
well dressed for a manservant. From the bold
manner in which he shook the ashes out of his pipe
and shouted at the coachman it was impossible to
mistake his calling. He was obviously the spoiled
servant of an indolent master -- something in the
nature of a Russian Figaro.
"Tell me, my good man," I called to him out
of the window. "What is it? -- Has the 'Adventure'
arrived, eh?"
He gave me a rather insolent glance, straightened
his cravat, and turned away. An Armenian,
who was walking near him, smiled and answered
for him that the "Adventure" had, in fact,
arrived, and would start on the return journey
the following morning.
"Thank heavens!" said Maksim Maksimych,
who had come up to the window at that moment.
"What a wonderful carriage!" he added;
"probably it belongs to some official who is
going to Tiflis for a judicial inquiry. You can
see that he is unacquainted with our little
mountains! No, my friend, you're not serious!
They are not for the like of you; why, they
would shake even an English carriage to bits! --
But who could it be? Let us go and find
We went out into the corridor, at the end of
which there was an open door leading into a
side room. The manservant and a driver were
dragging portmanteaux into the room.
"I say, my man!" the staff-captain asked him:
"Whose is that marvellous carriage? -- Eh? --
A beautiful carriage!"
Without turning round the manservant
growled something to himself as he undid a
portmanteau. Maksim Maksimych grew angry.
"I am speaking to you, my friend!"
he said, touching the uncivil fellow on the
"Whose carriage? -- My master's."
"And who is your master?"
"Pechorin --"
"What did you say? What? Pechorin? --
Great Heavens! . . . Did he not serve in the
Caucasus?" exclaimed Maksim Maksimych,
plucking me by the sleeve. His eyes were
sparkling with joy.
"Yes, he served there, I think -- but I have not
been with him long."
"Well! Just so! . . . Just so! . . . Grigori
Aleksandrovich? . . . that is his name, of
course? Your master and I were friends," he
added, giving the manservant a friendly clap on
the shoulder with such force as to cause him to
"Excuse me, sir, you are hindering me," said
the latter, frowning.
"What a fellow you are, my friend! Why,
don't you know, your master and I were bosom
friends, and lived together? . . . But where has
he put up?"
The servant intimated that Pechorin had
stayed to take supper and pass the night at
Colonel N----'s.
"But won't he be looking in here in the
evening?" said Maksim Maksimych. "Or, you,
my man, won't you be going over to him for
something? . . . If you do, tell him that
Maksim Maksimych is here; just say that -- he'll
know! -- I'll give you half a ruble for a tip!"
The manservant made a scornful face on
hearing such a modest promise, but he assured
Maksim Maksimych that he would execute his
"He'll be sure to come running up directly!"
said Maksim Maksimych, with an air of triumph.
"I will go outside the gate and wait for him!
Ah, it's a pity I am not acquainted with
Colonel N----!"
Maksim Maksimych sat down on a little bench
outside the gate, and I went to my room. I
confess that I also was awaiting this Pechorin's
appearance with a certain amount of impatience
-- although, from the staff-captain's story, I had
formed a by no means favourable idea of him.
Still, certain traits in his character struck me as
remarkable. In an hour's time one of the
old soldiers brought a steaming samovar and a
"Won't you have some tea, Maksim Maksimych?"
I called out of the window.
"Thank you. I am not thirsty, somehow."
"Oh, do have some! It is late, you know,
and cold!"
"No, thank you" . . .
"Well, just as you like!"
I began my tea alone. About ten minutes
afterwards my old captain came in.
"You are right, you know; it would be better
to have a drop of tea -- but I was waiting for
Pechorin. His man has been gone a long time
now, but evidently something has detained
The staff-captain hurriedly sipped a cup of
tea, refused a second, and went off again outside
the gate -- not without a certain amount of disquietude.
It was obvious that the old man was
mortified by Pechorin's neglect, the more so
because a short time previously he had been
telling me of their friendship, and up to an hour
ago had been convinced that Pechorin would
come running up immediately on hearing his
It was already late and dark when I opened
the window again and began to call Maksim
Maksimych, saying that it was time to go to
bed. He muttered something through his
teeth. I repeated my invitation -- he made no
I left a candle on the stove-seat, and, wrapping
myself up in my cloak, I lay down on the couch
and soon fell into slumber; and I would have
slept on quietly had not Maksim Maksimych
awakened me as he came into the room. It was
then very late. He threw his pipe on the table,
began to walk up and down the room, and to
rattle about at the stove. At last he lay down,
but for a long time he kept coughing, spitting,
and tossing about.
"The bugs are biting you, are they not?"
I asked.
"Yes, that is it," he answered, with a heavy
I woke early the next morning, but Maksim
Maksimych had anticipated me. I found him
sitting on the little bench at the gate.
"I have to go to the Commandant," he
said, "so, if Pechorin comes, please send for
me." . . .
I gave my promise. He ran off as if his limbs
had regained their youthful strength and suppleness.
The morning was fresh and lovely. Golden
clouds had massed themselves on the mountaintops
like a new range of aerial mountains. Before
the gate a wide square spread out; behind it the
bazaar was seething with people, the day being
Sunday. Barefooted Ossete boys, carrying
wallets of honeycomb on their shoulders, were
hovering around me. I cursed them; I had
other things to think of -- I was beginning to
share the worthy staff-captain's uneasiness.
Before ten minutes had passed the man we
were awaiting appeared at the end of the square.
He was walking with Colonel N., who accompanied
him as far as the inn, said good-bye to him,
and then turned back to the fortress. I immediately
despatched one of the old soldiers for
Maksim Maksimych.
Pechorin's manservant went out to meet him
and informed him that they were going to put to
at once; he handed him a box of cigars, received
a few orders, and went off about his business. His
master lit a cigar, yawned once or twice, and sat
down on the bench on the other side of the gate.
I must now draw his portrait for you.
He was of medium height. His shapely, slim
figure and broad shoulders gave evidence of a
strong constitution, capable of enduring all the
hardships of a nomad life and changes of climates,
and of resisting with success both the demoralising
effects of life in the Capital and the
tempests of the soul. His velvet overcoat, which
was covered with dust, was fastened by the
two lower buttons only, and exposed to view
linen of dazzling whiteness, which proved that
he had the habits of a gentleman. His gloves,
soiled by travel, seemed as though made expressly
for his small, aristocratic hand, and when
he took one glove off I was astonished at the
thinness of his pale fingers. His gait was careless
and indolent, but I noticed that he did not
swing his arms -- a sure sign of a certain secretiveness
of character. These remarks, however, are
the result of my own observations, and I have not
the least desire to make you blindly believe in
them. When he was in the act of seating himself
on the bench his upright figure bent as if there
was not a single bone in his back. The attitude
of his whole body was expressive of a certain
nervous weakness; he looked, as he sat, like one
of Balzac's thirty-year-old coquettes resting in
her downy arm-chair after a fatiguing ball.
From my first glance at his face I should not
have supposed his age to be more than twentythree,
though afterwards I should have put it
down as thirty. His smile had something of a
child-like quality. His skin possessed a kind of
feminine delicacy. His fair hair, naturally curly,
most picturesquely outlined his pale and noble
brow, on which it was only after lengthy observation
that traces could be noticed of wrinkles,
intersecting each other: probably they showed
up more distinctly in moments of anger or
mental disturbance. Notwithstanding the light
colour of his hair, his moustaches and eyebrows
were black -- a sign of breeding in a man, just as
a black mane and a black tail in a white horse.
To complete the portrait, I will add that he had
a slightly turned-up nose, teeth of dazzling
whiteness, and brown eyes -- I must say a few
words more about his eyes.
In the first place, they never laughed when he
laughed. Have you not happened, yourself, to
notice the same peculiarity in certain people? . . .
It is a sign either of an evil disposition or of deep
and constant grief. From behind his halflowered
eyelashes they shone with a kind of
phosphorescent gleam -- if I may so express myself
-- which was not the reflection of a fervid
soul or of a playful fancy, but a glitter like to
that of smooth steel, blinding but cold. His
glance -- brief, but piercing and heavy -- left the
unpleasant impression of an indiscreet question
and might have seemed insolent had it not been
so unconcernedly tranquil.
It may be that all these remarks came into my
mind only after I had known some details of his
life, and it may be, too, that his appearance
would have produced an entirely different impression
upon another; but, as you will not hear
of him from anyone except myself, you will have
to rest content, nolens volens, with the description
I have given. In conclusion, I will say that,
speaking generally, he was a very good-looking
man, and had one of those original types of
countenance which are particularly pleasing to
The horses were already put to; now and then
the bell jingled on the shaft-bow;[1] and the
manservant had twice gone up to Pechorin with
the announcement that everything was ready,
but still there was no sign of Maksim Maksimych.
Fortunately Pechorin was sunk in thought as he
gazed at the jagged, blue peaks of the Caucasus,
and was apparently by no means in a hurry for
the road.
[1] The duga.
I went up to him.
"If you care to wait a little longer," I said,
"you will have the pleasure of meeting an old
"Oh, exactly!" he answered quickly. "They
told me so yesterday. Where is he, though?"
I looked in the direction of the square and
there I descried Maksim Maksimych running as
hard as he could. In a few moments he was
beside us. He was scarcely able to breathe;
perspiration was rolling in large drops from his
face; wet tufts of grey hair, escaping from
under his cap, were glued to his forehead; his
knees were shaking. . . He was about to throw
himself on Pechorin's neck, but the latter, rather
coldly, though with a smile of welcome, stretched
out his hand to him. For a moment the staffcaptain
was petrified, but then eagerly seized
Pechorin's hand in both his own. He was still
unable to speak.
"How glad I am to see you, my dear Maksim
Maksimych! Well, how are you?" said
"And . . . thou . . . you?"[1] murmured
the old man, with tears in his eyes. "What an
age it is since I have seen you! . . . But where
are you off to?" . . .
[1] "Thou" is the form of address used in speaking to
an intimate friend, etc. Pechorin had used the more formal
"I am going to Persia -- and farther." . . .
"But surely not immediately? . . . Wait a
little, my dear fellow! . . . Surely we are not
going to part at once? . . . What a long time
it is since we have seen each other!" . . .
"It is time for me to go, Maksim Maksimych,"
was the reply.
"Good heavens, good heavens! But where
are you going to in such a hurry? There was so
much I should have liked to tell you! So much
to question you about! . . . Well, what of yourself?
Have you retired? . . . What? . . .
How have you been getting along?"
"Getting bored!" answered Pechorin,
"You remember the life we led in the fortress?
A splendid country for hunting! You were
awfully fond of shooting, you know! . . . And
Bela?" . . .
Pechorin turned just the slightest bit pale and
averted his head.
"Yes, I remember!" he said, almost immediately
forcing a yawn.
Maksim Maksimych began to beg him to stay
with him for a couple of hours or so longer.
"We will have a splendid dinner," he said.
"I have two pheasants; and the Kakhetian wine
is excellent here . . . not what it is in Georgia,
of course, but still of the best sort. . . We will
have a talk. . . You will tell me about your
life in Petersburg. . . Eh?" . . .
"In truth, there's nothing for me to tell, dear
Maksim Maksimych. . . However, good-bye,
it is time for me to be off. . . I am in a hurry. . .
I thank you for not having forgotten me," he
added, taking him by the hand.
The old man knit his brows. He was
grieved and angry, although he tried to hide
his feelings.
"Forget!" he growled. "I have not forgotten
anything. . . Well, God be with you! . . .
It is not like this that I thought we should meet."
"Come! That will do, that will do!" said
Pechorin, giving him a friendly embrace. "Is
it possible that I am not the same as I used to
be? . . . What can we do? Everyone must
go his own way. . . Are we ever going to
meet again? -- God only knows!"
While saying this he had taken his seat in the
carriage, and the coachman was already gathering
up the reins.
"Wait, wait!" cried Maksim Maksimych
suddenly, holding on to the carriage door. "I
was nearly forgetting altogether. Your papers
were left with me, Grigori Aleksandrovich. . .
I drag them about everywhere I go. . . I
thought I should find you in Georgia, but this
is where it has pleased Heaven that we should
meet. What's to be done with them?" . . .
"Whatever you like!" answered Pechorin.
"Good-bye." . . .
"So you are off to Persia? . . . But when will
you return?" Maksim Maksimych cried after
By this time the carriage was a long way off,
but Pechorin made a sign with his hand which
might be interpreted as meaning:
"It is doubtful whether I shall return, and
there is no reason, either, why I should!"
The jingle of the bell and the clatter of the
wheels along the flinty road had long ceased to
be audible, but the poor old man still remained
standing in the same place, deep in thought.
"Yes," he said at length, endeavouring to
assume an air of indifference, although from
time to time a tear of vexation glistened on his
eyelashes. "Of course we were friends -- well,
but what are friends nowadays? . . . What
could I be to him? I'm not rich; I've no rank;
and, moreover, I'm not at all his match in years! --
See what a dandy he has become since he has
been staying in Petersburg again! . . . What a
carriage! . . . What a quantity of luggage! . . .
And such a haughty manservant too!" . . .
These words were pronounced with an ironical
"Tell me," he continued, turning to me,
"what do you think of it? Come, what the
devil is he off to Persia for now? . . . Good
Lord, it is ridiculous -- ridiculous! . . . But I
always knew that he was a fickle man, and one
you could never rely on! . . . But, indeed, it
is a pity that he should come to a bad end . . .
yet it can't be otherwise! . . . I always did say
that there is no good to be got out of a man who
forgets his old friends!" . . .
Hereupon he turned away in order to hide his
agitation and proceeded to walk about the courtyard,
around his cart, pretending to be examining
the wheels, whilst his eyes kept filling with tears
every moment.
"Maksim Maksimych," I said, going up to
him, "what papers are these that Pechorin left
"Goodness knows! Notes of some sort" . . .
"What will you do with them?"
"What? I'll have cartridges made of them."
"Hand them over to me instead."
He looked at me in surprise, growled something
through his teeth, and began to rummage
in his portmanteau. Out he drew a writing-book
and threw it contemptuously on the ground;
then a second -- a third -- a tenth shared the same
fate. There was something childish in his
vexation, and it struck me as ridiculous and
pitiable. . .
"Here they are," he said. "I congratulate
you on your find!" . . .
"And I may do anything I like with them?"
"Yes, print them in the newspapers, if you like.
What is it to me? Am I a friend or relation of
his? It is true that for a long time we lived
under one roof . . . but aren't there plenty of
people with whom I have lived?" . . .
I seized the papers and lost no time in carrying
them away, fearing that the staff-captain
might repent his action. Soon somebody came
to tell us that the "Adventure" would set off in
an hour's time. I ordered the horses to be
put to.
I had already put my cap on when the staffcaptain
entered the room. Apparently he had
not got ready for departure. His manner was
somewhat cold and constrained.
"You are not going, then, Maksim Maksimych?"
"No, sir!"
"But why not?"
"Well, I have not seen the Commandant yet,
and I have to deliver some Government things."
"But you did go, you know."
"I did, of course," he stammered, "but he
was not at home . . . and I did not wait."
I understood. For the first time in his life,
probably, the poor old man had, to speak by the
book, thrown aside official business 'for the sake
of his personal requirements' . . . and how he
had been rewarded!
"I am very sorry, Maksim Maksimych, very
sorry indeed," I said, "that we must part sooner
than necessary."
"What should we rough old men be thinking
of to run after you? You young men are
fashionable and proud: under the Circassian
bullets you are friendly enough with us . . . but
when you meet us afterwards you are ashamed
even to give us your hand!"
"I have not deserved these reproaches, Maksim
"Well, but you know I'm quite right. However,
I wish you all good luck and a pleasant
We took a rather cold farewell of each other.
The kind-hearted Maksim Maksimych had become
the obstinate, cantankerous staff-captain!
And why? Because Pechorin, through absent-
mindedness or from some other cause,
had extended his hand to him when Maksim
Maksimych was going to throw himself on his
neck! Sad it is to see when a young man loses
his best hopes and dreams, when from before
his eyes is withdrawn the rose-hued veil through
which he has looked upon the deeds and feelings
of mankind; although there is the hope that
the old illusions will be replaced by new ones,
none the less evanescent, but, on the other hand,
none the less sweet. But wherewith can they be
replaced when one is at the age of Maksim
Maksimych? Do what you will, the heart
hardens and the soul shrinks in upon itself.
I departed -- alone.
I LEARNED not long ago that Pechorin had
died on his way back from Persia. The news
afforded me great delight; it gave me the right
to print these notes; and I have taken advantage
of the opportunity of putting my name at the
head of another person's productions. Heaven
grant that my readers may not punish me for
such an innocent deception!
I must now give some explanation of the
reasons which have induced me to betray to the
public the inmost secrets of a man whom I never
knew. If I had even been his friend, well and
good: the artful indiscretion of the true friend
is intelligible to everybody; but I only saw
Pechorin once in my life -- on the high-road --
and, consequently, I cannot cherish towards him
that inexplicable hatred, which, hiding its face
under the mask of friendship, awaits but the
death or misfortune of the beloved object to
burst over its head in a storm of reproaches,
admonitions, scoffs and regrets.
On reading over these notes, I have become
convinced of the sincerity of the man who has so
unsparingly exposed to view his own weaknesses
and vices. The history of a man's soul, even the
pettiest soul, is hardly less interesting and
useful than the history of a whole people;
especially when the former is the result of the
observations of a mature mind upon itself, and
has been written without any egoistical desire
of arousing sympathy or astonishment. Rousseau's
Confessions has precisely this defect -- he
read it to his friends.
And, so, it is nothing but the desire to be useful
that has constrained me to print fragments of
this diary which fell into my hands by chance.
Although I have altered all the proper names,
those who are mentioned in it will probably recognise
themselves, and, it may be, will find some
justification for actions for which they have
hitherto blamed a man who has ceased henceforth
to have anything in common with this world.
We almost always excuse that which we understand.
I have inserted in this book only those portions
of the diary which refer to Pechorin's sojourn in
the Caucasus. There still remains in my hands
a thick writing-book in which he tells the story
of his whole life. Some time or other that, too,
will present itself before the tribunal of the
world, but, for many and weighty reasons, I do
not venture to take such a responsibility upon
myself now.
Possibly some readers would like to know my
own opinion of Pechorin's character. My answer
is: the title of this book. "But that is malicious
irony!" they will say. . . I know not.
TAMAN is the nastiest little hole of all the
seaports of Russia. I was all but starved
there, to say nothing of having a narrow escape
of being drowned.
I arrived late at night by the post-car. The
driver stopped the tired troika[1] at the gate of the
only stone-built house that stood at the entrance
to the town. The sentry, a Cossack from the
Black Sea, hearing the jingle of the bell, cried out,
sleepily, in his barbarous voice, "Who goes there?"
An under-officer of Cossacks and a headborough[2]
came out. I explained that I was an officer
bound for the active-service detachment on
Government business, and I proceeded to demand
official quarters. The headborough conducted us
round the town. Whatever hut we drove up to
we found to be occupied. The weather was cold;
I had not slept for three nights; I was tired
out, and I began to lose my temper.
[1] Team of three horses abreast.
[2] Desyatnik, a superintendent of ten (men or
huts), i.e. an officer like the old English tithing-man or
"Take me somewhere or other, you
scoundrel!" I cried; "to the devil himself, so
long as there's a place to put up at!"
"There is one other lodging," answered the
headborough, scratching his head. "Only you
won't like it, sir. It is uncanny!"
Failing to grasp the exact signification of the
last phrase, I ordered him to go on, and, after a
lengthy peregrination through muddy byways,
at the sides of which I could see nothing but old
fences, we drove up to a small cabin, right on the
shore of the sea.
The full moon was shining on the little reedthatched
roof and the white walls of my new
dwelling. In the courtyard, which was surrounded
by a wall of rubble-stone, there stood
another miserable hovel, smaller and older than
the first and all askew. The shore descended
precipitously to the sea, almost from its very
walls, and down below, with incessant murmur,
plashed the dark-blue waves. The moon gazed
softly upon the watery element, restless but
obedient to it, and I was able by its light to
distinguish two ships lying at some distance
from the shore, their black rigging motionless
and standing out, like cobwebs, against the pale
line of the horizon.
"There are vessels in the harbour," I said to
myself. "To-morrow I will set out for Gelenjik."
I had with me, in the capacity of soldierservant,
a Cossack of the frontier army. Ordering
him to take down the portmanteau and dismiss
the driver, I began to call the master of the
house. No answer! I knocked -- all was silent
within! . . . What could it mean? At length
a boy of about fourteen crept out from the hall.
"Where is the master?"
"There isn't one."
"What! No master?"
"And the mistress?"
"She has gone off to the village."
"Who will open the door for me, then?" I
said, giving it a kick.
The door opened of its own accord, and a
breath of moisture-laden air was wafted from
the hut. I struck a lucifer match and held it
to the boy's face. It lit up two white eyes.
He was totally blind, obviously so from birth.
He stood stock-still before me, and I began to
examine his features.
I confess that I have a violent prejudice against
all blind, one-eyed, deaf, dumb, legless, armless,
hunchbacked, and such-like people. I have
observed that there is always a certain strange
connection between a man's exterior and his
soul; as, if when the body loses a limb, the soul
also loses some power of feeling.
And so I began to examine the blind boy's
face. But what could be read upon a face
from which the eyes are missing?. . . For a
long time I gazed at him with involuntary
compassion, when suddenly a scarcely perceptible
smile flitted over his thin lips, producing, I
know not why, a most unpleasant impression
upon me. I began to feel a suspicion that the
blind boy was not so blind as he appeared to be.
In vain I endeavoured to convince myself that
it was impossible to counterfeit cataracts; and
besides, what reason could there be for doing
such a thing? But I could not help my suspicions.
I am easily swayed by prejudice. . .
"You are the master's son?" I asked at
"Who are you, then?"
"An orphan -- a poor boy."
"Has the mistress any children?"
"No, her daughter ran away and crossed the
sea with a Tartar."
"What sort of a Tartar?"
"The devil only knows! A Crimean Tartar, a
boatman from Kerch."
I entered the hut. Its whole furniture consisted
of two benches and a table, together with
an enormous chest beside the stove. There was
not a single ikon to be seen on the wall -- a bad
sign! The sea-wind burst in through the broken
window-pane. I drew a wax candle-end from my
portmanteau, lit it, and began to put my things
out. My sabre and gun I placed in a corner, my
pistols I laid on the table. I spread my felt cloak
out on one bench, and the Cossack his on the
other. In ten minutes the latter was snoring,
but I could not go to sleep -- the image of the
boy with the white eyes kept hovering before me
in the dark.
About an hour passed thus. The moon shone
in at the window and its rays played along the
earthen floor of the hut. Suddenly a shadow
flitted across the bright strip of moonshine which
intersected the floor. I raised myself up a little
and glanced out of the window. Again somebody
ran by it and disappeared -- goodness knows
where! It seemed impossible for anyone to
descend the steep cliff overhanging the shore,
but that was the only thing that could have
happened. I rose, threw on my tunic, girded on a
dagger, and with the utmost quietness went out
of the hut. The blind boy was coming towards
me. I hid by the fence, and he passed by me
with a sure but cautious step. He was carrying a
parcel under his arm. He turned towards the
harbour and began to descend a steep and narrow
"On that day the dumb will cry out and the
blind will see," I said to myself, following him
just close enough to keep him in sight.
Meanwhile the moon was becoming overcast
by clouds and a mist had risen upon the sea. The
lantern alight in the stern of a ship close at hand
was scarcely visible through the mist, and by
the shore there glimmered the foam of the waves,
which every moment threatened to submerge it.
Descending with difficulty, I stole along the
steep declivity, and all at once I saw the blind
boy come to a standstill and then turn down to
the right. He walked so close to the water's
edge that it seemed as if the waves would straightway
seize him and carry him off. But, judging
by the confidence with which he stepped from
rock to rock and avoided the water-channels,
this was evidently not the first time that he had
made that journey. Finally he stopped, as
though listening for something, squatted down
upon the ground, and laid the parcel beside him.
Concealing myself behind a projecting rock on
the shore, I kept watch on his movements.
After a few minutes a white figure made its
appearance from the opposite direction. It came
up to the blind boy and sat down beside him.
At times the wind wafted their conversation to me.
"Well?" said a woman's voice. "The storm
is violent; Yanko will not be here."
"Yanko is not afraid of the storm!" the other
"The mist is thickening," rejoined the woman's
voice, sadness in its tone.
"In the mist it is all the easier to slip past the
guardships," was the answer.
"And if he is drowned?"
"Well, what then? On Sunday you won't
have a new ribbon to go to church in."
An interval of silence followed. One thing,
however, struck me -- in talking to me the blind
boy spoke in the Little Russian dialect, but now
he was expressing himself in pure Russian.
"You see, I am right!" the blind boy went on,
clapping his hands. "Yanko is not afraid of sea,
nor winds, nor mist, nor coastguards! Just
listen! That is not the water plashing, you
can't deceive me -- it is his long oars."
The woman sprang up and began anxiously to
gaze into the distance.
"You are raving!" she said. "I cannot see
I confess that, much as I tried to make out in
the distance something resembling a boat, my
efforts were unsuccessful. About ten minutes
passed thus, when a black speck appeared between
the mountains of the waves! At one time it
grew larger, at another smaller. Slowly rising
upon the crests of the waves and swiftly descending
from them, the boat drew near to the
"He must be a brave sailor," I thought,
"to have determined to cross the twenty versts
of strait on a night like this, and he must have
had a weighty reason for doing so."
Reflecting thus, I gazed with an involuntary
beating of the heart at the poor boat. It dived
like a duck, and then, with rapidly swinging oars --
like wings -- it sprang forth from the abyss amid
the splashes of the foam. "Ah!" I thought,
"it will be dashed against the shore with all its
force and broken to pieces!" But it turned
aside adroitly and leaped unharmed into a little
creek. Out of it stepped a man of medium height,
wearing a Tartar sheepskin cap. He waved his
hand, and all three set to work to drag something
out of the boat. The cargo was so large that, to
this day, I cannot understand how it was that the
boat did not sink.
Each of them shouldered a bundle, and they
set off along the shore, and I soon lost sight
of them. I had to return home; but I confess
I was rendered uneasy by all these strange
happenings, and I found it hard to await the
My Cossack was very much astonished when,
on waking up, he saw me fully dressed. I did
not, however, tell him the reason. For some time
I stood at the window, gazing admiringly at
the blue sky all studded with wisps of cloud,
and at the distant shore of the Crimea, stretching
out in a lilac-coloured streak and ending in a
cliff, on the summit of which the white tower
of the lighthouse was gleaming. Then I betook
myself to the fortress, Phanagoriya, in order to
ascertain from the Commandant at what hour
I should depart for Gelenjik.
But the Commandant, alas! could not give
me any definite information. The vessels lying
in the harbour were all either guard-ships or
merchant-vessels which had not yet even begun
to take in lading.
"Maybe in about three or four days' time a
mail-boat will come in," said the Commandant,
"and then we shall see."
I returned home sulky and wrathful. My
Cossack met me at the door with a frightened
"Things are looking bad, sir!" he said.
"Yes, my friend; goodness only knows when
we shall get away!"
Hereupon he became still more uneasy, and,
bending towards me, he said in a whisper:
"It is uncanny here! I met an under-officer
from the Black Sea to-day -- he's an acquaintance
of mine -- he was in my detachment last year.
When I told him where we were staying, he said,
'That place is uncanny, old fellow; they're
wicked people there!' . . . And, indeed, what
sort of a blind boy is that? He goes everywhere
alone, to fetch water and to buy bread at the
bazaar. It is evident they have become accustomed
to that sort of thing here."
"Well, what then? Tell me, though, has
the mistress of the place put in an appearance?"
"During your absence to-day, an old woman
and her daughter arrived."
"What daughter? She has no daughter!"
"Goodness knows who it can be if it isn't her
daughter; but the old woman is sitting over
there in the hut now."
I entered the hovel. A blazing fire was burning
in the stove, and they were cooking a dinner
which struck me as being a rather luxurious one
for poor people. To all my questions the old
woman replied that she was deaf and could not
hear me. There was nothing to be got out of
her. I turned to the blind boy who was sitting
in front of the stove, putting twigs into the
"Now, then, you little blind devil," I said,
taking him by the ear. "Tell me, where were
you roaming with the bundle last night, eh?"
The blind boy suddenly burst out weeping,
shrieking and wailing.
"Where did I go? I did not go anywhere. . .
With the bundle?. . . What bundle?"
This time the old woman heard, and she began
to mutter:
"Hark at them plotting, and against a poor
boy too! What are you touching him for?
What has he done to you?"
I had enough of it, and went out, firmly
resolved to find the key to the riddle.
I wrapped myself up in my felt cloak and,
sitting down on a rock by the fence, gazed into
the distance. Before me stretched the sea,
agitated by the storm of the previous night, and
its monotonous roar, like the murmur of a town
over which slumber is beginning to creep,
recalled bygone years to my mind, and transported
my thoughts northward to our cold
Capital. Agitated by my recollections, I became
oblivious of my surroundings.
About an hour passed thus, perhaps even
longer. Suddenly something resembling a song
struck upon my ear. It was a song, and the
voice was a woman's, young and fresh -- but,
where was it coming from?. . . I listened;
it was a harmonious melody -- now long-drawnout
and plaintive, now swift and lively. I looked
around me -- there was nobody to be seen. I
listened again -- the sounds seemed to be falling
from the sky. I raised my eyes. On the roof of
my cabin was standing a young girl in a striped
dress and with her hair hanging loose -- a regular
water-nymph. Shading her eyes from the sun's
rays with the palm of her hand, she was gazing
intently into the distance. At one time, she would
laugh and talk to herself, at another, she would
strike up her song anew.
I have retained that song in my memory,
word for word:
At their own free will
They seem to wander
O'er the green sea yonder,
Those ships, as still
They are onward going,
With white sails flowing.
And among those ships
My eye can mark
My own dear barque:
By two oars guided
(All unprovided
With sails) it slips.
The storm-wind raves:
And the old ships -- see!
With wings spread free,
Over the waves
They scatter and flee!
The sea I will hail
With obeisance deep:
"Thou base one, hark!
Thou must not fail
My little barque
From harm to keep!"
For lo! 'tis bearing
Most precious gear,
And brave and daring
The arms that steer
Within the dark
My little barque.
Involuntarily the thought occurred to me
that I had heard the same voice the night before.
I reflected for a moment, and when I looked up
at the roof again there was no girl to be seen.
Suddenly she darted past me, with another song
on her lips, and, snapping her fingers, she ran
up to the old woman. Thereupon a quarrel
arose between them. The old woman grew
angry, and the girl laughed loudly. And then I
saw my Undine running and gambolling again.
She came up to where I was, stopped, and gazed
fixedly into my face as if surprised at my presence.
Then she turned carelessly away and went
quietly towards the harbour. But this was not
all. The whole day she kept hovering around
my lodging, singing and gambolling without a
moment's interruption. Strange creature! There
was not the slightest sign of insanity in her face;
on the contrary, her eyes, which were continually
resting upon me, were bright and piercing.
Moreover, they seemed to be endowed with a
certain magnetic power, and each time they looked
at me they appeared to be expecting a question.
But I had only to open my lips to speak, and away
she would run, with a sly smile.
Certainly never before had I seen a woman
like her. She was by no means beautiful; but,
as in other matters, I have my own prepossessions
on the subject of beauty. There was a good
deal of breeding in her. . . Breeding in women,
as in horses, is a great thing: a discovery, the
credit of which belongs to young France. It --
that is to say, breeding, not young France --
is chiefly to be detected in the gait, in the hands
and feet; the nose, in particular, is of the greatest
significance. In Russia a straight nose is rarer
than a small foot.
My songstress appeared to be not more than
eighteen years of age. The unusual suppleness of
her figure, the characteristic and original way she
had of inclining her head, her long, light-brown
hair, the golden sheen of her slightly sunburnt
neck and shoulders, and especially her straight
nose -- all these held me fascinated. Although
in her sidelong glances I could read a certain
wildness and disdain, although in her smile there
was a certain vagueness, yet -- such is the force
of predilections -- that straight nose of hers
drove me crazy. I fancied that I had found
Goethe's Mignon -- that queer creature of his
German imagination. And, indeed, there was a
good deal of similarity between them; the same
rapid transitions from the utmost restlessness to
complete immobility, the same enigmatical
speeches, the same gambols, the same strange
Towards evening I stopped her at the door
and entered into the following conversation
with her.
"Tell me, my beauty," I asked, "what were
you doing on the roof to-day?"
"I was looking to see from what direction the
wind was blowing."
"What did you want to know for?"
"Whence the wind blows comes happiness."
"Well? Were you invoking happiness with
your song?"
"Where there is singing there is also happiness."
"But what if your song were to bring you
"Well, what then? Where things won't be
better, they will be worse; and from bad to good
again is not far."
"And who taught you that song?"
"Nobody taught me; it comes into my head
and I sing; whoever is to hear it, he will hear it,
and whoever ought not to hear it, he will not
understand it."
"What is your name, my songstress?"
"He who baptized me knows."
"And who baptized you?"
"How should I know?"
"What a secretive girl you are! But look here,
I have learned something about you" -- she
neither changed countenance nor moved her lips,
as though my discovery was of no concern to her --
"I have learned that you went to the shore
last night."
And, thereupon, I very gravely retailed to her all
that I had seen, thinking that I should embarrass
her. Not a bit of it! She burst out laughing
"You have seen much, but know little; and
what you do know, see that you keep it under lock
and key."
"But supposing, now, I was to take it into my
head to inform the Commandant?" and here I
assumed a very serious, not to say stern, demeanour.
She gave a sudden spring, began to sing, and
hid herself like a bird frightened out of a thicket.
My last words were altogether out of place.
I had no suspicion then how momentous they
were, but afterwards I had occasion to rue
As soon as the dusk of evening fell, I ordered
the Cossack to heat the teapot, campaign fashion.
I lighted a candle and sat down by the table,
smoking my travelling-pipe. I was just about to
finish my second tumbler of tea when suddenly
the door creaked and I heard behind me the
sound of footsteps and the light rustle of a dress.
I started and turned round.
It was she -- my Undine. Softly and without
saying a word she sat down opposite to me and
fixed her eyes upon me. Her glance seemed
wondrously tender, I know not why; it reminded
me of one of those glances which, in
years gone by, so despotically played with my
life. She seemed to be waiting for a question,
but I kept silence, filled with an inexplicable
sense of embarrassment. Mental agitation was
evinced by the dull pallor which overspread
her countenance; her hand, which I noticed
was trembling slightly, moved aimlessly about
the table. At one time her breast heaved, and
at another she seemed to be holding her breath.
This little comedy was beginning to pall upon
me, and I was about to break the silence in a
most prosaic manner, that is, by offering her a
glass of tea; when suddenly, springing up, she
threw her arms around my neck, and I felt her
moist, fiery lips pressed upon mine. Darkness
came before my eyes, my head began to swim.
I embraced her with the whole strength of
youthful passion. But, like a snake, she glided
from between my arms, whispering in my ear
as she did so:
"To-night, when everyone is asleep, go out
to the shore."
Like an arrow she sprang from the room.
In the hall she upset the teapot and a candle
which was standing on the floor.
"Little devil!" cried the Cossack, who
had taken up his position on the straw and had
contemplated warming himself with the remains
of the tea.
It was only then that I recovered my senses.
In about two hours' time, when all had grown
silent in the harbour, I awakened my Cossack.
"If I fire a pistol," I said, "run to the
He stared open-eyed and answered mechanically:
"Very well, sir."
I stuffed a pistol in my belt and went out. She
was waiting for me at the edge of the cliff. Her
attire was more than light, and a small kerchief
girded her supple waist.
"Follow me!" she said, taking me by the
hand, and we began to descend.
I cannot understand how it was that I did not
break my neck. Down below we turned to the
right and proceeded to take the path along which
I had followed the blind boy the evening before.
The moon had not yet risen, and only two little
stars, like two guardian lighthouses, were twinkling
in the dark-blue vault of heaven. The heavy
waves, with measured and even motion, rolled
one after the other, scarcely lifting the solitary
boat which was moored to the shore.
"Let us get into the boat," said my companion.
I hesitated. I am no lover of sentimental
trips on the sea; but this was not the time to
draw back. She leaped into the boat, and I
after her; and I had not time to recover my
wits before I observed that we were adrift.
"What is the meaning of this?" I said angrily.
"It means," she answered, seating me on the
bench and throwing her arms around my waist,
"it means that I love you!" . . .
Her cheek was pressed close to mine. and I felt
her burning breath upon my face. Suddenly
something fell noisily into the water. I clutched
at my belt -- my pistol was gone! Ah, now a
terrible suspicion crept into my soul, and the
blood rushed to my head! I looked round. We
were about fifty fathoms from the shore, and
I could not swim a stroke! I tried to thrust
her away from me, but she clung like a cat to
my clothes, and suddenly a violent wrench all but
threw me into the sea. The boat rocked, but I
righted myself, and a desperate struggle began.
Fury lent me strength, but I soon found that
I was no match for my opponent in point of
agility. . .
"What do you want?" I cried, firmly
squeezing her little hands.
Her fingers crunched, but her serpent-like
nature bore up against the torture, and she did
not utter a cry.
"You saw us," she answered. "You will tell
on us."
And, with a supernatural effort, she flung me
on to the side of the boat; we both hung half
overboard; her hair touched the water. The
decisive moment had come. I planted my knee
against the bottom of the boat, caught her by
the tresses with one hand and by the throat
with the other; she let go my clothes, and, in
an instant, I had thrown her into the waves.
It was now rather dark; once or twice her head
appeared for an instant amidst the sea foam,
and I saw no more of her.
I found the half of an old oar at the bottom of
the boat, and somehow or other, after lengthy
efforts, I made fast to the harbour. Making my
way along the shore towards my hut, I involuntarily
gazed in the direction of the spot where,
on the previous night, the blind boy had awaited
the nocturnal mariner. The moon was already
rolling through the sky, and it seemed to me
that somebody in white was sitting on the shore.
Spurred by curiosity, I crept up and crouched
down in the grass on the top of the cliff. By
thrusting my head out a little way I was able
to get a good view of everything that was happening
down below, and I was not very much astonished,
but almost rejoiced, when I recognised
my water-nymph. She was wringing the seafoam
from her long hair. Her wet garment outlined
her supple figure and her high bosom.
Soon a boat appeared in the distance; it drew
near rapidly; and, as on the night before, a
man in a Tartar cap stepped out of it, but he
now had his hair cropped round in the Cossack
fashion, and a large knife was sticking out behind
his leather belt.
"Yanko," the girl said, "all is lost!"
Then their conversation continued, but so
softly that I could not catch a word of it.
"But where is the blind boy?" said Yanko at
last, raising his voice.
"I have told him to come," was the reply.
After a few minutes the blind boy appeared,
dragging on his back a sack, which they placed
in the boat.
"Listen!" said Yanko to the blind boy.
"Guard that place! You know where I mean?
There are valuable goods there. Tell" -- I
could not catch the name -- "that I am no longer
his servant. Things have gone badly. He will
see me no more. It is dangerous now. I will
go seek work in another place, and he will never be
able to find another dare-devil like me. Tell
him also that if he had paid me a little better
for my labours, I would not have forsaken him.
For me there is a way anywhere, if only the
wind blows and the sea roars."
After a short silence Yanko continued.
"She is coming with me. It is impossible for
her to remain here. Tell the old woman that
it is time for her to die; she has been here a
long time, and the line must be drawn somewhere.
As for us, she will never see us any more."
"And I?" said the blind boy in a plaintive
"What use have I for you?" was the answer.
In the meantime my Undine had sprung
into the boat. She beckoned to her companion
with her hand. He placed something in the
blind boy's hand and added:
"There, buy yourself some gingerbreads."
"Is this all?" said the blind boy.
"Well, here is some more."
The money fell and jingled as it struck the
The blind boy did not pick it up. Yanko took
his seat in the boat; the wind was blowing from
the shore; they hoisted the little sail and sped
rapidly away. For a long time the white sail
gleamed in the moonlight amid the dark waves.
Still the blind boy remained seated upon the
shore, and then I heard something which sounded
like sobbing. The blind boy was, in fact, weeping,
and for a long, long time his tears flowed. . .
I grew heavy-hearted. For what reason should
fate have thrown me into the peaceful circle of
honourable smugglers? Like a stone cast into a
smooth well, I had disturbed their quietude,
and I barely escaped going to the bottom like a
I returned home. In the hall the burnt-out
candle was spluttering on a wooden platter, and
my Cossack, contrary to orders, was fast asleep,
with his gun held in both hands. I left him at
rest, took the candle, and entered the hut.
Alas! my cashbox, my sabre with the silver
chasing, my Daghestan dagger -- the gift of a
friend -- all had vanished! It was then that I
guessed what articles the cursed blind boy had
been dragging along. Roughly shaking the
Cossack, I woke him up, rated him, and lost my
temper. But what was the good of that?
And would it not have been ridiculous to complain
to the authorities that I had been robbed
by a blind boy and all but drowned by an
eighteen-year-old girl?
Thank heaven an opportunity of getting away
presented itself in the morning, and I left
What became of the old woman and the poor
blind boy I know not. And, besides, what are the
joys and sorrows of mankind to me -- me, a
travelling officer, and one, moreover, with an
order for post-horses on Government business?
I ONCE happened to spend a couple of weeks
in a Cossack village on our left flank. A
battalion of infantry was stationed there; and
it was the custom of the officers to meet at each
other's quarters in turn and play cards in the
On one occasion -- it was at Major S----'s --
finding our game of Boston not sufficiently absorbing,
we threw the cards under the table
and sat on for a long time, talking. The conversation,
for once in a way, was interesting.
The subject was the Mussulman tradition that
a man's fate is written in heaven, and we discussed
the fact that it was gaining many votaries,
even amongst our own countrymen. Each of us
related various extraordinary occurrences, pro or
"What you have been saying, gentlemen,
proves nothing," said the old major. "I presume
there is not one of you who has actually been a
witness of the strange events which you are citing
in support of your opinions?"
"Not one, of course," said many of the guests.
"But we have heard of them from trustworthy
people." . . .
"It is all nonsense!" someone said. "Where
are the trustworthy people who have seen the
Register in which the appointed hour of our
death is recorded? . . . And if predestination
really exists, why are free will and reason granted
us? Why are we obliged to render an account
of our actions?"
At that moment an officer who was sitting in a
corner of the room stood up, and, coming slowly
to the table, surveyed us all with a quiet and
solemn glance. He was a native of Servia, as was
evident from his name.
The outward appearance of Lieutenant Vulich
was quite in keeping with his character. His
height, swarthy complexion, black hair, piercing
black eyes, large but straight nose -- an attribute of
his nation -- and the cold and melancholy smile
which ever hovered around his lips, all seemed to
concur in lending him the appearance of a man
apart, incapable of reciprocating the thoughts
and passions of those whom fate gave him for
He was brave; talked little, but sharply;
confided his thoughts and family secrets to no
one; drank hardly a drop of wine; and never
dangled after the young Cossack girls, whose
charm it is difficult to realise without having
seen them. It was said, however, that the
colonel's wife was not indifferent to those expressive
eyes of his; but he was seriously angry
if any hint on the subject was made.
There was only one passion which he did not
conceal -- the passion for gambling. At the green
table he would become oblivious of everything.
He usually lost, but his constant ill success only
aroused his obstinacy. It was related that, on one
occasion, during a nocturnal expedition, he was
keeping the bank on a pillow, and had a terrific run
of luck. Suddenly shots rang out. The alarm was
sounded; all but Vulich jumped up and rushed
to arms.
"Stake, va banque!" he cried to one of the
most ardent gamblers.
"Seven," the latter answered as he hurried
Notwithstanding the general confusion, Vulich
calmly finished the deal -- seven was the card.
By the time he reached the cordon a violent
fusillade was in progress. Vulich did not trouble
himself about the bullets or the sabres of the
Chechenes, but sought for the lucky gambler.
"Seven it was!" he cried out, as at length he
perceived him in the cordon of skirmishers who
were beginning to dislodge the enemy from the
wood; and going up to him, he drew out his
purse and pocket-book and handed them to the
winner, notwithstanding the latter's objections
on the score of the inconvenience of the payment.
That unpleasant duty discharged, Vulich dashed
forward, carried the soldiers along after him,
and, to the very end of the affair, fought the
Chechenes with the utmost coolness.
When Lieutenant Vulich came up to the table,
we all became silent, expecting to hear, as usual,
something original.
"Gentlemen!" he said -- and his voice was
quiet though lower in tone than usual -- "gentlemen,
what is the good of futile discussions?
You wish for proofs? I propose that we try the
experiment on ourselves: whether a man can of
his own accord dispose of his life, or whether the
fateful moment is appointed beforehand for each
of us. Who is agreeable?"
"Not I. Not I," came from all sides.
"There's a queer fellow for you! He does get
strange ideas into his head!"
"I propose a wager," I said in jest.
"What sort of wager?"
"I maintain that there is no such thing as
predestination," I said, scattering on the table a
score or so of ducats -- all I had in my pocket.
"Done," answered Vulich in a hollow voice.
"Major, you will be judge. Here are fifteen
ducats, the remaining five you owe me, kindly
add them to the others."
"Very well," said the major; "though,
indeed, I do not understand what is the question
at issue and how you will decide it!"
Without a word Vulich went into the major's
bedroom, and we followed him. He went up to
the wall on which the major's weapons were hanging,
and took down at random one of the pistols
-- of which there were several of different calibres.
We were still in the dark as to what he
meant to do. But, when he cocked the pistol
and sprinkled powder in the pan, several of the
officers, crying out in spite of themselves, seized
him by the arms.
"What are you going to do?" they exclaimed.
"This is madness!"
"Gentlemen!" he said slowly, disengaging
his arm. "Who would like to pay twenty ducats
for me?"
They were silent and drew away.
Vulich went into the other room and sat by
the table; we all followed him. With a sign
he invited us to sit round him. We obeyed in
silence -- at that moment he had acquired a
certain mysterious authority over us. I stared
fixedly into his face; but he met my scrutinising
gaze with a quiet and steady glance, and his
pallid lips smiled. But, notwithstanding his
composure, it seemed to me that I could read the
stamp of death upon his pale countenance. I
have noticed -- and many old soldiers have corroborated
my observation -- that a man who is
to die in a few hours frequently bears on his
face a certain strange stamp of inevitable fate,
so that it is difficult for practised eyes to be
"You will die to-day!" I said to Vulich.
He turned towards me rapidly, but answered
slowly and quietly:
"May be so, may be not." . . .
Then, addressing himself to the major, he asked:
"Is the pistol loaded?"
The major, in the confusion, could not quite
"There, that will do, Vulich!" exclaimed
somebody. "Of course it must be loaded, if it
was one of those hanging on the wall there over
our heads. What a man you are for joking!"
"A silly joke, too!" struck in another.
"I wager fifty rubles to five that the pistol is
not loaded!" cried a third.
A new bet was made.
I was beginning to get tired of it all.
"Listen," I said, "either shoot yourself, or
hang up the pistol in its place and let us go to bed."
"Yes, of course!" many exclaimed. "Let
us go to bed."
"Gentlemen, I beg of you not to move," said
Vulich, putting the muzzle of the pistol to his
We were all petrified.
"Mr. Pechorin," he added, "take a card and
throw it up in the air."
I took, as I remember now, an ace of hearts off
the table and threw it into the air. All held their
breath. With eyes full of terror and a certain
vague curiosity they glanced rapidly from the
pistol to the fateful ace, which slowly descended,
quivering in the air. At the moment it touched
the table Vulich pulled the trigger . . . a flash
in the pan!
"Thank God!" many exclaimed. "It wasn't
"Let us see, though," said Vulich.
He cocked the pistol again, and took aim at a
forage-cap which was hanging above the window.
A shot rang out. Smoke filled the room; when
it cleared away, the forage-cap was taken down.
It had been shot right through the centre,
and the bullet was deeply embedded in the
For two or three minutes no one was able to
utter a word. Very quietly Vulich poured my
ducats from the major's purse into his own.
Discussions arose as to why the pistol had not
gone off the first time. Some maintained that
probably the pan had been obstructed; others
whispered that the powder had been damp the
first time, and that, afterwards, Vulich had
sprinkled some fresh powder on it; but I
maintained that the last supposition was wrong,
because I had not once taken my eyes off the
"You are lucky at play!" I said to Vulich. . .
"For the first time in my life!" he answered,
with a complacent smile. "It is better than
'bank' and 'shtoss.'"[1]
[1] Card-games.
"But, on the other hand, slightly more
"Well? Have you begun to believe in predestination?
"I do believe in it; only I cannot understand
now why it appeared to me that you must
inevitably die to-day!"
And this same man, who, such a short time
before, had with the greatest calmness aimed
a pistol at his own forehead, now suddenly fired
up and became embarrassed.
"That will do, though!" he said, rising to his
feet. "Our wager is finished, and now your
observations, it seems to me, are out of place."
He took up his cap and departed. The whole
affair struck me as being strange -- and not
without reason. Shortly after that, all the officers
broke up and went home, discussing Vulich's
freaks from different points of view, and, doubtless,
with one voice calling me an egoist for having
taken up a wager against a man who wanted to
shoot himself, as if he could not have found a
convenient opportunity without my intervention.
I returned home by the deserted byways of the
village. The moon, full and red like the glow of
a conflagration, was beginning to make its appearance
from behind the jagged horizon of the
house-tops; the stars were shining tranquilly in
the deep, blue vault of the sky; and I was struck by
the absurdity of the idea when I recalled to mind
that once upon a time there were some exceedingly
wise people who thought that the stars of
heaven participated in our insignificant squabbles
for a slice of ground, or some other imaginary
rights. And what then? These lamps, lighted,
so they fancied, only to illuminate their battles
and triumphs, are burning with all their former
brilliance, whilst the wiseacres themselves, together
with their hopes and passions, have long
been extinguished, like a little fire kindled at the
edge of a forest by a careless wayfarer! But, on the
other hand, what strength of will was lent them
by the conviction that the entire heavens, with
their innumerable habitants, were looking at them
with a sympathy, unalterable, though mute! . . .
And we, their miserable descendants, roaming
over the earth, without faith, without pride,
without enjoyment, and without terror -- except
that involuntary awe which makes the heart shrink
at the thought of the inevitable end -- we are no
longer capable of great sacrifices, either for the
good of mankind or even for our own happiness,
because we know the impossibility of such
happiness; and, just as our ancestors used to
fling themselves from one delusion to another,
we pass indifferently from doubt to doubt,
without possessing, as they did, either hope or
even that vague though, at the same time, keen
enjoyment which the soul encounters at every
struggle with mankind or with destiny.
These and many other similar thoughts passed
through my mind, but I did not follow them up,
because I do not like to dwell upon abstract
ideas -- for what do they lead to? In my early
youth I was a dreamer; I loved to hug to my
bosom the images -- now gloomy, now rainbowhued
-- which my restless and eager imagination
drew for me. And what is there left to me of all
these? Only such weariness as might be felt after
a battle by night with a phantom -- only a confused
memory full of regrets. In that vain
contest I have exhausted the warmth of soul and
firmness of will indispensable to an active life. I
have entered upon that life after having already
lived through it in thought, and it has become
wearisome and nauseous to me, as the reading of
a bad imitation of a book is to one who has long
been familiar with the original.
The events of that evening produced a somewhat
deep impression upon me and excited my
nerves. I do not know for certain whether I now
believe in predestination or not, but on that
evening I believed in it firmly. The proof was
startling, and I, notwithstanding that I had
laughed at our forefathers and their obliging
astrology, fell involuntarily into their way of
thinking. However, I stopped myself in time
from following that dangerous road, and, as I have
made it a rule not to reject anything decisively
and not to trust anything blindly, I cast metaphysics
aside and began to look at what was
beneath my feet. The precaution was well-timed.
I only just escaped stumbling over something
thick and soft, but, to all appearance, inanimate.
I bent down to see what it was, and, by the light
of the moon, which now shone right upon the
road, I perceived that it was a pig which had
been cut in two with a sabre. . . I had hardly
time to examine it before I heard the sound of
steps, and two Cossacks came running out of a
byway. One of them came up to me and
enquired whether I had seen a drunken Cossack
chasing a pig. I informed him that I had not met
the Cossack and pointed to the unhappy
victim of his rabid bravery.
"The scoundrel!" said the second Cossack.
"No sooner does he drink his fill of chikhir[1]
than off he goes and cuts up anything that comes in
his way. Let us be after him, Eremeich, we
must tie him up or else" . . .
[1] A Caucasian wine.
They took themselves off, and I continued my
way with greater caution, and at length arrived at
my lodgings without mishap.
I was living with a certain old Cossack underofficer
whom I loved, not only on account of his
kindly disposition, but also, and more especially,
on account of his pretty daughter, Nastya.
Wrapped up in a sheepskin coat she was
waiting for me, as usual, by the wicket gate.
The moon illumined her charming little lips, now
turned blue by the cold of the night. Recognizing
me she smiled; but I was in no mood to linger
with her.
"Good night, Nastya!" I said, and passed on.
She was about to make some answer, but only
I fastened the door of my room after me,
lighted a candle, and threw myself on the bed;
but, on that occasion, slumber caused its presence
to be awaited longer than usual. By the time I
fell asleep the east was beginning to grow pale,
but I was evidently predestined not to have my
sleep out. At four o'clock in the morning two
fists knocked at my window. I sprang up.
"What is the matter?"
"Get up -- dress yourself!"
I dressed hurriedly and went out.
"Do you know what has happened?" said three
officers who had come for me, speaking all in one
They were deadly pale.
"No, what is it?"
"Vulich has been murdered!"
I was petrified.
"Yes, murdered!" they continued. "Let us
lose no time and go!"
"But where to?"
"You will learn as we go."
We set off. They told me all that had happened,
supplementing their story with a variety
of observations on the subject of the strange
predestination which had saved Vulich from
imminent death half an hour before he actually
met his end.
Vulich had been walking alone along a dark
street, and the drunken Cossack who had cut up
the pig had sprung out upon him, and perhaps
would have passed him by without noticing
him, had not Vulich stopped suddenly and
"Whom are you looking for, my man?"
"You!" answered the Cossack, striking him
with his sabre; and he cleft him from the
shoulder almost to the heart. . .
The two Cossacks who had met me and
followed the murderer had arrived on the scene
and raised the wounded man from the ground.
But he was already as his last gasp and said these
three words only -- "he was right!"
I alone understood the dark significance of
those words: they referred to me. I had
involuntarily foretold his fate to poor Vulich.
My instinct had not deceived me; I had indeed
read on his changed countenance the signs of
approaching death.
The murderer had locked himself up in an
empty hut at the end of the village; and thither
we went. A number of women, all of them
weeping, were running in the same direction; at
times a belated Cossack, hastily buckling on his
dagger, sprang out into the street and overtook
us at a run. The tumult was dreadful.
At length we arrived on the scene and found a
crowd standing around the hut, the door and
shutters of which were locked on the inside.
Groups of officers and Cossacks were engaged in
heated discussions; the women were shrieking,
wailing and talking all in one breath. One of the
old women struck my attention by her meaning
looks and the frantic despair expressed upon her
face. She was sitting on a thick plank, leaning
her elbows on her knees and supporting her head
with her hands. It was the mother of the
murderer. At times her lips moved. . . Was
it a prayer they were whispering, or a curse?
Meanwhile it was necessary to decide upon
some course of action and to seize the criminal.
Nobody, however, made bold to be the first to
rush forward.
I went up to the window and looked in through
a chink in the shutter. The criminal, pale of
face, was lying on the floor, holding a pistol in his
right hand. The blood-stained sabre was beside
him. His expressive eyes were rolling in terror;
at times he shuddered and clutched at his head,
as if indistinctly recalling the events of yesterday.
I could not read any sign of great determination
in that uneasy glance of his, and I told the major
that it would be better at once to give orders to
the Cossacks to burst open the door and rush in,
than to wait until the murderer had quite
recovered his senses.
At that moment the old captain of the Cossacks
went up to the door and called the murderer by
name. The latter answered back.
"You have committed a sin, brother Ephimych!"
said the captain, "so all you can do now
is to submit."
"I will not submit!" answered the Cossack.
"Have you no fear of God! You see, you
are not one of those cursed Chechenes, but an
honest Christian! Come, if you have done it in
an unguarded moment there is no help for it!
You cannot escape your fate!"
"I will not submit!" exclaimed the Cossack
menacingly, and we could hear the snap of the
cocked trigger.
"Hey, my good woman!" said the Cossack
captain to the old woman. "Say a word to your
son -- perhaps he will lend an ear to you. . .
You see, to go on like this is only to make God
angry. And look, the gentlemen here have
already been waiting two hours."
The old woman gazed fixedly at him and shook
her head.
"Vasili Petrovich," said the captain, going up
to the major; "he will not surrender. I know
him! If it comes to smashing in the door he will
strike down several of our men. Would it not be
better if you ordered him to be shot? There is
a wide chink in the shutter."
At that moment a strange idea flashed through
my head -- like Vulich I proposed to put fate to
the test.
"Wait," I said to the major, "I will take
him alive."
Bidding the captain enter into a conversation
with the murderer and setting three Cossacks at
the door ready to force it open and rush to my
aid at a given signal, I walked round the hut and
approached the fatal window. My heart was
beating violently.
"Aha, you cursed wretch!" cried the captain.
"Are you laughing at us, eh? Or do you think
that we won't be able to get the better of you?"
He began to knock at the door with all his
might. Putting my eye to the chink, I followed
the movements of the Cossack, who was not
expecting an attack from that direction. I
pulled the shutter away suddenly and threw
myself in at the window, head foremost. A shot
rang out right over my ear, and the bullet tore off
one of my epaulettes. But the smoke which filled
the room prevented my adversary from finding
the sabre which was lying beside him. I seized
him by the arms; the Cossacks burst in; and
three minutes had not elapsed before they had
the criminal bound and led off under escort.
The people dispersed, the officers congratulated
me -- and indeed there was cause for congratulation.
After all that, it would hardly seem possible
to avoid becoming a fatalist? But who knows
for certain whether he is convinced of anything
or not? And how often is a deception of the
senses or an error of the reason accepted as a
conviction! . . . I prefer to doubt everything.
Such a disposition is no bar to decision of
character; on the contrary, so far as I am
concerned, I always advance more boldly when I
do not know what is awaiting me. You see,
nothing can happen worse than death -- and from
death there is no escape.
On my return to the fortress I related to
Maksim Maksimych all that I had seen and
experienced; and I sought to learn his opinion
on the subject of predestination.
At first he did not understand the word. I
explained it to him as well as I could, and then he
said, with a significant shake of the head:
"Yes, sir, of course! It was a very ingenious
trick! However, these Asiatic pistols often
miss fire if they are badly oiled or if you don't
press hard enough on the trigger. I confess I
don't like the Circassian carbines either. Somehow
or other they don't suit the like of us: the
butt end is so small, and any minute you may
get your nose burnt! On the other hand, their
sabres, now -- well, all I need say is, my best
respects to them!"
Afterwards he said, on reflecting a little:
"Yes, it is a pity about the poor fellow! The
devil must have put it into his head to start a
conversation with a drunken man at night!
However, it is evident that fate had written it
so at his birth!"
I could not get anything more out of Maksim
Maksimych; generally speaking, he had no
liking for metaphysical disputations.
11th May.
YESTERDAY I arrived at Pyatigorsk.
I have engaged lodgings at the extreme
end of the town, the highest part, at the foot of
Mount Mashuk: during a storm the clouds will
descend on to the roof of my dwelling.
This morning at five o'clock, when I opened
my window, the room was filled with the fragrance
of the flowers growing in the modest little
front-garden. Branches of bloom-laden birdcherry
trees peep in at my window, and now and
again the breeze bestrews my writing-table with
their white petals. The view which meets my
gaze on three sides is wonderful: westward
towers five-peaked Beshtau, blue as "the last
cloud of a dispersed storm,"[1] and northward rises
Mashuk, like a shaggy Persian cap, shutting in
the whole of that quarter of the horizon. Eastward
the outlook is more cheery: down below are displayed
the varied hues of the brand-new, spotlessly
clean, little town, with its murmuring, healthgiving
springs and its babbling, many-tongued
throng. Yonder, further away, the mountains
tower up in an amphitheatre, ever bluer and
mistier; and, at the edge of the horizon, stretches
the silver chain of snow-clad summits, beginning
with Kazbek and ending with two-peaked
Elbruz. . . Blithe is life in such a land! A feeling
akin to rapture is diffused through all my veins.
The air is pure and fresh, like the kiss of a child;
the sun is bright, the sky is blue -- what more could
one possibly wish for? What need, in such a place
as this, of passions, desires, regrets?
[1] Pushkin. Compare Shelley's Adonais, xxxi. 3: "as the
last cloud of an expiring storm."
However, it is time to be stirring. I will go to
the Elizaveta spring -- I am told that the whole
society of the watering-place assembles there in
the morning.
. . . . .
Descending into the middle of the town, I
walked along the boulevard, on which I met a few
melancholy groups slowly ascending the mountain.
These, for the most part, were the families
of landed-gentry from the steppes -- as could be
guessed at once from the threadbare, oldfashioned
frock-coats of the husbands and the
exquisite attire of the wives and daughters.
Evidently they already had all the young men of
the watering-place at their fingers' ends, because
they looked at me with a tender curiosity. The
Petersburg cut of my coat misled them; but they
soon recognised the military epaulettes, and
turned away with indignation.
The wives of the local authorities -- the hostesses,
so to speak, of the waters -- were more
graciously inclined. They carry lorgnettes, and
they pay less attention to a uniform -- they have
grown accustomed in the Caucasus to meeting a
fervid heart beneath a numbered button and a
cultured intellect beneath a white forage-cap.
These ladies are very charming, and long continue
to be charming. Each year their adorers are
exchanged for new ones, and in that very fact, it
may be, lies the secret of their unwearying
Ascending by the narrow path to the Elizaveta
spring, I overtook a crowd of officials and military
men, who, as I subsequently learned, compose a
class apart amongst those who place their hopes
in the medicinal waters. They drink -- but not
water -- take but few walks, indulge in only mild
flirtations, gamble, and complain of boredom.
They are dandies. In letting their wickersheathed
tumblers down into the well of sulphurous
water they assume academical poses. The
officials wear bright blue cravats; the military men
have ruffs sticking out above their collars. They
affect a profound contempt for provincial ladies,
and sigh for the aristocratic drawing-rooms of the
capitals -- to which they are not admitted.
Here is the well at last! . . . Upon the small
square adjoining it a little house with a red roof
over the bath is erected, and somewhat further
on there is a gallery in which the people
walk when it rains. Some wounded officers
were sitting -- pale and melancholy -- on a bench,
with their crutches drawn up. A few ladies,
their tumbler of water finished, were walking
with rapid steps to and fro about the square.
There were two or three pretty faces amongst
them. Beneath the avenues of the vines with
which the slope of Mashuk is covered, occasional
glimpses could be caught of the gay-coloured hat
of a lover of solitude for two -- for beside that hat
I always noticed either a military forage-cap or
the ugly round hat of a civilian. Upon the steep
cliff, where the pavilion called "The Aeolian
Harp" is erected, figured the lovers of scenery,
directing their telescopes upon Elbruz. Amongst
them were a couple of tutors, with their pupils
who had come to be cured of scrofula.
Out of breath, I came to a standstill at the
edge of the mountain, and, leaning against the
corner of a little house, I began to examine the
picturesque surroundings, when suddenly I heard
behind me a familiar voice.
"Pechorin! Have you been here long?"
I turned round. Grushnitski! We embraced.
I had made his acquaintance in the active service
detachment. He had been wounded in the foot by
a bullet and had come to the waters a week or so
before me.
Grushnitski is a cadet; he has only been a year
in the service. From a kind of foppery peculiar
to himself, he wears the thick cloak of a common
soldier. He has also the soldier's cross of St.
George. He is well built, swarthy and blackhaired.
To look at him, you might say he was
a man of twenty-five, although he is scarcely
twenty-one. He tosses his head when he speaks,
and keeps continually twirling his moustache
with his left hand, his right hand being occupied
with the crutch on which he leans. He speaks
rapidly and affectedly; he is one of those people
who have a high-sounding phrase ready for every
occasion in life, who remain untouched by simple
beauty, and who drape themselves majestically
in extraordinary sentiments, exalted passions
and exceptional sufferings. To produce an effect
is their delight; they have an almost insensate
fondness for romantic provincial ladies. When
old age approaches they become either peaceful
landed-gentry or drunkards -- sometimes both.
Frequently they have many good qualities, but
they have not a grain of poetry in their composition.
Grushnitski's passion was declamation.
He would deluge you with words so soon as the
conversation went beyond the sphere of ordinary
ideas. I have never been able to dispute with him.
He neither answers your questions nor listens to
you. So soon as you stop, he begins a lengthy
tirade, which has the appearance of being in some
sort connected with what you have been saying,
but which is, in fact, only a continuation of his
own harangue.
He is witty enough; his epigrams are frequently
amusing, but never malicious, nor to the
point. He slays nobody with a single word; he
has no knowledge of men and of their foibles,
because all his life he has been interested in
nobody but himself. His aim is to make himself
the hero of a novel. He has so often endeavoured
to convince others that he is a being created not
for this world and doomed to certain mysterious
sufferings, that he has almost convinced himself
that such he is in reality. Hence the pride with
which he wears his thick soldier's cloak. I have
seen through him, and he dislikes me for that
reason, although to outward appearance we are
on the friendliest of terms. Grushnitski is looked
upon as a man of distinguished courage. I
have seen him in action. He waves his sabre,
shouts, and hurls himself forward with his eyes
shut. That is not what I should call Russian
courage! . . .
I reciprocate Grushnitski's dislike. I feel
that some time or other we shall come into
collision upon a narrow road, and that one of us
will fare badly.
His arrival in the Caucasus is also the result
of his romantic fanaticism. I am convinced
that on the eve of his departure from his paternal
village he said with an air of gloom to some pretty
neighbour that he was going away, not so much
for the simple purpose of serving in the army as of
seeking death, because . . . and hereupon, I am
sure, he covered his eyes with his hand and
continued thus, "No, you -- or thou -- must not
know! Your pure soul would shudder! And
what would be the good? What am I to
you? Could you understand me?" . . . and
so on.
He has himself told me that the motive which
induced him to enter the K---- regiment must
remain an everlasting secret between him and
However, in moments when he casts aside the
tragic mantle, Grushnitski is charming and
entertaining enough. I am always interested
to see him with women -- it is then that he puts
forth his finest efforts, I think!
We met like a couple of old friends. I began
to question him about the personages of note and
as to the sort of life which was led at the waters.
"It is a rather prosaic life," he said, with a
sigh. "Those who drink the waters in the
morning are inert -- like all invalids, and those who
drink the wines in the evening are unendurable --
like all healthy people! There are ladies who
entertain, but there is no great amusement to be
obtained from them. They play whist, they
dress badly and speak French dreadfully! The
only Moscow people here this year are Princess
Ligovski and her daughter -- but I am not
acquainted with them. My soldier's cloak is like
a seal of renunciation. The sympathy which it
arouses is as painful as charity."
At that moment two ladies walked past us in
the direction of the well; one elderly, the other
youthful and slender. I could not obtain a good
view of their faces on account of their hats, but
they were dressed in accordance with the strict
rules of the best taste -- nothing superfluous.
The second lady was wearing a high-necked dress
of pearl-grey, and a light silk kerchief was wound
round her supple neck. Puce-coloured boots
clasped her slim little ankle so charmingly, that
even those uninitiated into the mysteries of
beauty would infallibly have sighed, if only from
wonder. There was something maidenly in her
easy, but aristocratic gait, something eluding
definition yet intelligible to the glance. As she
walked past us an indefinable perfume, like that
which sometimes breathes from the note of a
charming woman, was wafted from her.
"Look!" said Grushnitski, "there is Princess
Ligovski with her daughter Mary, as she calls her
after the English manner. They have been here
only three days."
"You already know her name, though?"
"Yes, I heard it by chance," he answered, with
a blush. "I confess I do not desire to make their
acquaintance. These haughty aristocrats look
upon us army men just as they would upon
savages. What care they if there is an intellect
beneath a numbered forage-cap, and a heart
beneath a thick cloak?"
"Poor cloak!" I said, with a laugh. "But who
is the gentleman who is just going up to them
and handing them a tumbler so officiously?"
"Oh, that is Raevich, the Moscow dandy. He
is a gambler; you can see as much at once from
that immense gold chain coiling across his skyblue
waistcoat. And what a thick cane he has!
Just like Robinson Crusoe's -- and so is his beard
too, and his hair is done like a peasant's."
"You are embittered against the whole human
"And I have cause to be" . . .
"Oh, really?"
At that moment the ladies left the well and
came up to where we were. Grushnitski succeeded
in assuming a dramatic pose with the aid
of his crutch, and in a loud tone of voice answered
me in French:
"Mon cher, je hais les hommes pour ne pas les
mepriser, car autrement la vie serait une farce
trop degoutante."
The pretty Princess Mary turned round and
favoured the orator with a long and curious
glance. Her expression was quite indefinite, but
it was not contemptuous, a fact on which I
inwardly congratulated Grushnitski from my
"She is an extremely pretty girl," I said. "She
has such velvet eyes -- yes, velvet is the word. I
should advise you to appropriate the expression
when speaking of her eyes. The lower and upper
lashes are so long that the sunbeams are not
reflected in her pupils. I love those eyes without
a glitter, they are so soft that they appear to
caress you. However, her eyes seem to be her
only good feature. . . Tell me, are her teeth
white? That is most important! It is a pity
that she did not smile at that high-sounding
phrase of yours."
"You are speaking of a pretty woman just as
you might of an English horse," said Grushnitski
"Mon cher," I answered, trying to mimic his
tone, "je meprise les femmes, pour ne pas les
aimer, car autrement la vie serait un melodrame
trop ridicule."
I turned and left him. For half an hour or so
I walked about the avenues of the vines, the
limestone cliffs and the bushes hanging between
them. The day grew hot, and I hurried homewards.
Passing the sulphur spring, I stopped at
the covered gallery in order to regain my breath
under its shade, and by so doing I was afforded the
opportunity of witnessing a rather interesting
scene. This is the position in which the dramatis
personae were disposed: Princess Ligovski and
the Moscow dandy were sitting on a bench
in the covered gallery -- apparently engaged in
serious conversation. Princess Mary, who had
doubtless by this time finished her last tumbler,
was walking pensively to and fro by the well.
Grushnitski was standing by the well itself;
there was nobody else on the square.
I went up closer and concealed myself behind
a corner of the gallery. At that moment Grushnitski
let his tumbler fall on the sand and made
strenuous efforts to stoop in order to pick it up;
but his injured foot prevented him. Poor
fellow! How he tried all kinds of artifices, as he
leaned on his crutch, and all in vain! His
expressive countenance was, in fact, a picture of
Princess Mary saw the whole scene better
than I.
Lighter than a bird she sprang towards him,
stooped, picked up the tumbler, and handed it to
him with a gesture full of ineffable charm. Then
she blushed furiously, glanced round at the
gallery, and, having assured herself that her
mother apparently had not seen anything, immediately
regained her composure. By the time
Grushnitski had opened his mouth to thank her
she was a long way off. A moment after, she came
out of the gallery with her mother and the dandy,
but, in passing by Grushnitski, she assumed a most
decorous and serious air. She did not even turn
round, she did not even observe the passionate
gaze which he kept fixed upon her for a long time
until she had descended the mountain and was
hidden behind the lime trees of the boulevard. . .
Presently I caught glimpses of her hat as she
walked along the street. She hurried through
the gate of one of the best houses in Pyatigorsk;
her mother walked behind her and bowed adieu to
Raevich at the gate.
It was only then that the poor, passionate
cadet noticed my presence.
"Did you see?" he said, pressing my hand
vigorously. "She is an angel, simply an angel!"
"Why?" I inquired, with an air of the purest
"Did you not see, then?"
"No. I saw her picking up your tumbler. If
there had been an attendant there he would have
done the same thing -- and quicker too, in the hope
of receiving a tip. It is quite easy, however, to
understand that she pitied you; you made such a
terrible grimace when you walked on the wounded
"And can it be that seeing her, as you did,
at that moment when her soul was shining in her
eyes, you were not in the least affected?"
I was lying, but I wanted to exasperate him. I
have an innate passion for contradiction -- my
whole life has been nothing but a series of melancholy
and vain contradictions of heart or reason.
The presence of an enthusiast chills me with a
twelfth-night cold, and I believe that constant
association with a person of a flaccid and phlegmatic
temperament would have turned me into
an impassioned visionary. I confess, too, that
an unpleasant but familiar sensation was coursing
lightly through my heart at that moment. It
was -- envy. I say "envy" boldly, because I am
accustomed to acknowledge everything to myself.
It would be hard to find a young man who, if his
idle fancy had been attracted by a pretty woman
and he had suddenly found her openly singling
out before his eyes another man equally unknown
to her -- it would be hard, I say, to find such a
young man (living, of course, in the great world
and accustomed to indulge his self-love) who
would not have been unpleasantly taken aback
in such a case.
In silence Grushnitski and I descended the
mountain and walked along the boulevard, past
the windows of the house where our beauty had
hidden herself. She was sitting by the window.
Grushnitski, plucking me by the arm, cast upon
her one of those gloomily tender glances which
have so little effect upon women. I directed my
lorgnette at her, and observed that she smiled at
his glance and that my insolent lorgnette made
her downright angry. And how, indeed, should
a Caucasian military man presume to direct his
eyeglass at a princess from Moscow? . . .
13th May.
THIS morning the doctor came to see me.
His name is Werner, but he is a Russian.
What is there surprising in that? I have known
a man named Ivanov, who was a German.
Werner is a remarkable man, and that for many
reasons. Like almost all medical men he is a
sceptic and a materialist, but, at the same time,
he is a genuine poet -- a poet always in deeds and
often in words, although he has never written
two verses in his life. He has mastered all the
living chords of the human heart, just as one
learns the veins of a corpse, but he has never
known how to avail himself of his knowledge. In
like manner, it sometimes happens that an
excellent anatomist does not know how to cure a
fever. Werner usually made fun of his patients
in private; but once I saw him weeping over a
dying soldier. . . He was poor, and dreamed
of millions, but he would not take a single step
out of his way for the sake of money. He once
told me that he would rather do a favour to an
enemy than to a friend, because, in the latter
case, it would mean selling his beneficence, whilst
hatred only increases proportionately to the
magnanimity of the adversary. He had a
malicious tongue; and more than one good,
simple soul has acquired the reputation of a
vulgar fool through being labelled with one of his
epigrams. His rivals, envious medical men of the
watering-place, spread the report that he was in
the habit of drawing caricatures of his patients.
The patients were incensed, and almost all of
them discarded him. His friends, that is to
say all the genuinely well-bred people who were
serving in the Caucasus, vainly endeavoured to
restore his fallen credit.
His outward appearance was of the type which,
at the first glance, creates an unpleasant impression,
but which you get to like in course of
time, when the eye learns to read in the irregular
features the stamp of a tried and lofty
soul. Instances have been known of women
falling madly in love with men of that sort, and
having no desire to exchange their ugliness for the
beauty of the freshest and rosiest of Endymions.
We must give women their due: they possess an
instinct for spiritual beauty, for which reason,
possibly, men such as Werner love women so
Werner was small and lean and as weak as a
baby. One of his legs was shorter than the other,
as was the case with Byron. In comparison with
his body, his head seemed enormous. His hair was
cropped close, and the unevennesses of his cranium,
thus laid bare, would have struck a phrenologist
by reason of the strange intertexture of contradictory
propensities. His little, ever restless,
black eyes seemed as if they were endeavouring
to fathom your thoughts. Taste and neatness
were to be observed in his dress. His small, lean,
sinewy hands flaunted themselves in bright-yellow
gloves. His frock-coat, cravat and waistcoat were
invariably of black. The young men dubbed him
Mephistopheles; he pretended to be angry at the
nickname, but in reality it flattered his vanity.
Werner and I soon understood each other and
became friends, because I, for my part, am illadapted
for friendship. Of two friends, one is
always the slave of the other, although frequently
neither acknowledges the fact to himself. Now,
the slave I could not be; and to be the master
would be a wearisome trouble, because, at the
same time, deception would be required. Besides,
I have servants and money!
Our friendship originated in the following
circumstances. I met Werner at S----, in the
midst of a numerous and noisy circle of young
people. Towards the end of the evening the
conversation took a philosophico-metaphysical
turn. We discussed the subject of convictions,
and each of us had some different conviction to
"So far as I am concerned," said the doctor,
"I am convinced of one thing only" . . .
"And that is --?" I asked, desirous of
learning the opinion of a man who had been silent
till then.
"Of the fact," he answered, "that sooner or
later, one fine morning, I shall die."
"I am better off than you," I said. "In addition
to that, I have a further conviction, namely,
that, one very nasty evening, I had the misfortune
to be born."
All the others considered that we were talking
nonsense, but indeed not one of them said anything
more sensible. From that moment we
singled each other out amongst the crowd. We
used frequently to meet and discuss abstract
subjects in a very serious manner, until each
observed that the other was throwing dust in his
eyes. Then, looking significantly at each other --
as, according to Cicero, the Roman augurs used
to do -- we would burst out laughing heartily and,
having had our laugh, we would separate, well
content with our evening.
I was lying on a couch, my eyes fixed upon the
ceiling and my hands clasped behind my head,
when Werner entered my room. He sat down in
an easy chair, placed his cane in a corner, yawned,
and announced that it was getting hot out of
doors. I replied that the flies were bothering
me -- and we both fell silent.
"Observe, my dear doctor," I said, "that, but
for fools, the world would be a very dull place.
Look! Here are you and I, both sensible men!
We know beforehand that it is possible to dispute
ad infinitum about everything -- and so we do not
dispute. Each of us knows almost all the other's
secret thoughts: to us a single word is a whole
history; we see the grain of every one of our
feelings through a threefold husk. What is sad,
we laugh at; what is laughable, we grieve at;
but, to tell the truth, we are fairly indifferent,
generally speaking, to everything except ourselves.
Consequently, there can be no interchange
of feelings and thoughts between us;
each of us knows all he cares to know about the
other, and that knowledge is all he wants. One
expedient remains -- to tell the news. So tell me
some news."
Fatigued by this lengthy speech, I closed my
eyes and yawned. The doctor answered after
thinking awhile:
"There is an idea, all the same, in that nonsense
of yours."
"Two," I replied.
"Tell me one, and I will tell you the other."
"Very well, begin!" I said, continuing to
examine the ceiling and smiling inwardly.
"You are anxious for information about some
of the new-comers here, and I can guess who it is,
because they, for their part, have already been
inquiring about you."
"Doctor! Decidedly it is impossible for us to
hold a conversation! We read into each other's
"Now the other idea?" . . .
"Here it is: I wanted to make you relate
something, for the following reasons: firstly,
listening is less fatiguing than talking; secondly,
the listener cannot commit himself; thirdly, he
can learn another's secret; fourthly, sensible
people, such as you, prefer listeners to speakers.
Now to business; what did Princess Ligovski tell
you about me?"
"You are quite sure that it was Princess
Ligovski . . . and not Princess Mary?" . . .
"Quite sure."
"Because Princess Mary inquired about Grushnitski."
"You are gifted with a fine imagination!
Princess Mary said that she was convinced that
the young man in the soldier's cloak had been
reduced to the ranks on account of a duel" . . .
"I hope you left her cherishing that pleasant
delusion" . . .
"Of course" . . .
"A plot!" I exclaimed in rapture. "We will
make it our business to see to the denouement of
this little comedy. It is obvious that fate is
taking care that I shall not be bored!"
"I have a presentiment," said the doctor,
"that poor Grushnitski will be your victim."
"Proceed, doctor."
"Princess Ligovski said that your face was
familiar to her. I observed that she had probably
met you in Petersburg -- somewhere in society. . .
I told her your name. She knew it well. It appears
that your history created a great stir there. . .
She began to tell us of your adventures, most
likely supplementing the gossip of society with
observations of her own. . . Her daughter listened
with curiosity. In her imagination you have become
the hero of a novel in a new style. . . I
did not contradict Princess Ligovski, although
I knew that she was talking nonsense."
"Worthy friend!" I said, extending my hand
to him.
The doctor pressed it feelingly and continued:
"If you like I will present you" . . .
"Good heavens!" I said, clapping my hands.
"Are heroes ever presented? In no other way do
they make the acquaintance of their beloved than
by saving her from certain death!" . . .
"And you really wish to court Princess Mary?"
"Not at all, far from it! . . . Doctor, I triumph
at last! You do not understand me! . . .
It vexes me, however," I continued after a
moment's silence. "I never reveal my secrets
myself, but I am exceedingly fond of their being
guessed, because in that way I can always disavow
them upon occasion. However, you must describe
both mother and daughter to me. What sort of
people are they?"
"In the first place, Princess Ligovski is a
woman of forty-five," answered Werner. "She
has a splendid digestion, but her blood is out of
order -- there are red spots on her cheeks. She
has spent the latter half of her life in Moscow,
and has grown stout from leading an inactive life
there. She loves spicy stories, and sometimes
says improper things herself when her daughter is
out of the room. She has declared to me that her
daughter is as innocent as a dove. What does
that matter to me? . . . I was going to answer
that she might be at her ease, because I would
never tell anyone. Princess Ligovski is taking the
cure for her rheumatism, and the daughter, for
goodness knows what. I have ordered each of
them to drink two tumblers a day of sulphurous
water, and to bathe twice a week in the diluted
bath. Princess Ligovski is apparently unaccustomed
to giving orders. She cherishes respect
for the intelligence and attainments of her
daughter, who has read Byron in English and
knows algebra: in Moscow, evidently, the ladies
have entered upon the paths of erudition -- and
a good thing, too! The men here are generally so
unamiable, that, for a clever woman, it must be
intolerable to flirt with them. Princess Ligovski
is very fond of young people; Princess Mary looks
on them with a certain contempt -- a Moscow
habit! In Moscow they cherish only wits of
not less than forty."
"You have been in Moscow, doctor?"
"Yes, I had a practice there."
"But I think I have told everything. . .
No, there is something else: Princess Mary, it
seems, loves to discuss emotions, passions, etcetera.
She was in Petersburg for one winter, and disliked
it -- especially the society: no doubt she was
coldly received."
"You have not seen anyone with them today?"
"On the contrary, there was an aide-de-camp,
a stiff guardsman, and a lady -- one of the latest
arrivals, a relation of Princess Ligovski on the
husband's side -- very pretty, but apparently
very ill. . . Have you not met her at the well?
She is of medium height, fair, with regular
features; she has the complexion of a consumptive,
and there is a little black mole on her
right cheek. I was struck by the expressiveness
of her face."
"A mole!" I muttered through my teeth.
"Is it possible?"
The doctor looked at me, and, laying his hand
on my heart, said triumphantly:
"You know her!"
My heart was, in fact, beating more violently
than usual.
"It is your turn, now, to triumph," I said.
"But I rely on you: you will not betray me.
I have not seen her yet, but I am convinced that
I recognise from your portrait a woman whom I
loved in the old days. . . Do not speak a word
to her about me; if she asks any questions, give
a bad report of me."
"Be it so!" said Werner, shrugging his
When he had departed, my heart was compressed
with terrible grief. Has destiny brought
us together again in the Caucasus, or has she come
hither on purpose, knowing that she would meet
me? . . . And how shall we meet? . . . And
then, is it she? . . . My presentiments have
never deceived me. There is not a man in the
world over whom the past has acquired such a
power as over me. Every recollection of bygone
grief or joy strikes my soul with morbid effect,
and draws forth ever the same sounds. . . I
am stupidly constituted: I forget nothing -- nothing!
After dinner, about six o'clock, I went on to the
boulevard. It was crowded. The two princesses
were sitting on a bench, surrounded by young
men, who were vying with each other in paying
them attention. I took up my position on another
bench at a little distance off, stopped two Dragoon
officers whom I knew, and proceeded to tell them
something. Evidently it was amusing, because
they began to laugh loudly like a couple of madmen.
Some of those who were surrounding
Princess Mary were attracted to my side by
curiosity, and gradually all of them left her and
joined my circle. I did not stop talking; my
anecdotes were clever to the point of absurdity,
my jests at the expense of the queer people
passing by, malicious to the point of frenzy. I
continued to entertain the public till sunset.
Princess Mary passed by me a few times, arm-inarm
with her mother, and accompanied by a
certain lame old man. A few times her glance
as it fell upon me expressed vexation, while endeavouring
to express indifference. . .
"What has he been telling you?" she inquired
of one of the young men, who had gone
back to her out of politeness. "No doubt
a most interesting story -- his own exploits in
battle?" . . .
This was said rather loudly, and probably with
the intention of stinging me.
"Aha!" I thought to myself. "You are
downright angry, my dear Princess. Wait awhile,
there is more to follow."
Grushnitski kept following her like a beast of
prey, and would not let her out of his sight. I
wager that to-morrow he will ask somebody to
present him to Princess Ligovski. She will be
glad, because she is bored.
16th May.
IN the course of two days my affairs have
gained ground tremendously. Princess Mary
positively hates me. Already I have had repeated
to me two or three epigrams on the subject of
myself -- rather caustic, but at the same time
very flattering. She finds it exceedingly strange
that I, who am accustomed to good society, and
am so intimate with her Petersburg cousins and
aunts, do not try to make her acquaintance.
Every day we meet at the well and on the boulevard.
I exert all my powers to entice away her
adorers, glittering aides-de-camp, pale-faced
visitors from Moscow, and others -- and I almost
always succeed. I have always hated entertaining
guests: now my house is full every day; they
dine, sup, gamble, and alas! my champagne
triumphs over the might of Princess Mary's
magnetic eyes!
I met her yesterday in Chelakhov's shop. She
was bargaining for a marvellous Persian rug, and
implored her mother not to be niggardly: the
rug would be such an ornament to her boudoir. . .
I outbid her by forty rubles, and bought it over
her head. I was rewarded with a glance in which
the most delightful fury sparkled. About dinnertime,
I ordered my Circassian horse, covered with
that very rug, purposely to be led past her
windows. Werner was with the princesses at the
time, and told me that the effect of the scene
was most dramatic. Princess Mary wishes to
preach a crusade against me, and I have even
noticed that, already, two of the aides-de-camp
salute me very coldly, when they are in her presence
-- they dine with me every day, however.
Grushnitski has assumed an air of mystery; he
walks with his arms folded behind his back and
does not recognise anyone. His foot has got well
all at once, and there is hardly a sign of a limp.
He has found an opportunity of entering into
conversation with Princess Ligovski and of
paying Princess Mary some kind of a compliment.
The latter is evidently not very fastidious, for,
ever since, she answers his bow with a most
charming smile.
"Are you sure you do not wish to make the
Ligovskis' acquaintance?" he said to me yesterday.
"Good gracious! The pleasantest house at the
waters! All the best society of Pyatigorsk is to
be found there" . . .
"My friend, I am terribly tired of even other
society than that of Pyatigorsk. So you visit the
"Not yet. I have spoken to Princess Mary
once or twice, but that is all. You know it is
rather awkward to go and visit them without
being invited, although that is the custom here. . .
It would be a different matter if I was wearing
epaulettes" . . .
"Good heavens! Why, you are much more
interesting as it is! You simply do not know how
to avail yourself of your advantageous position. . .
Why, that soldier's cloak makes a hero and a
martyr of you in the eyes of any lady of sentiment!"
Grushnitski smiled complacently.
"What nonsense!" he said.
"I am convinced," I continued, "that Princess
Mary is in love with you already."
He blushed up to the ears and looked big.
Oh, vanity! Thou art the lever with which
Archimedes was to lift the earthly sphere! . . .
"You are always jesting!" he said, pretending
to be angry. "In the first place, she knows so
little of me as yet" . . .
"Women love only those whom they do not
"But I have no pretensions whatsoever to
pleasing her. I simply wish to make the acquaintance
of an agreeable household; and it
would be extremely ridiculous if I were to cherish
the slightest hope. . . With you, now, for instance,
it is a different matter! You Petersburg conquerors!
You have but to look -- and women
melt. . . But do you know, Pechorin, what
Princess Mary said of you?" . . .
"What? She has spoken to you already
about me?" . . .
"Do not rejoice too soon, though. The other
day, by chance, I entered into conversation with
her at the well; her third word was, 'Who is that
gentleman with such an unpleasant, heavy
glance? He was with you when' . . . she
blushed, and did not like to mention the day,
remembering her own delightful little exploit.
'You need not tell me what day it was,' I
answered; 'it will ever be present to my
memory!' . . . Pechorin, my friend, I cannot
congratulate you, you are in her black books. . .
And, indeed, it is a pity, because Mary is a
charming girl!" . . .
It must be observed that Grushnitski is one of
those men who, in speaking of a woman with
whom they are barely acquainted, call her my
Mary, my Sophie, if she has had the good fortune
to please them.
I assumed a serious air and answered:
"Yes, she is good-looking. . . Only be careful,
Grushnitski! Russian ladies, for the most
part, cherish only Platonic love, without mingling
any thought of matrimony with it; and Platonic
love is exceedingly embarrassing. Princess Mary
seems to be one of those women who want to be
amused. If she is bored in your company for two
minutes on end -- you are lost irrevocably. Your
silence ought to excite her curiosity, your conversation
ought never to satisfy it completely;
you should alarm her every minute; ten times, in
public, she will slight people's opinion for you and
will call that a sacrifice, and, in order to requite
herself for it, she will torment you. Afterwards
she will simply say that she cannot endure you.
If you do not acquire authority over her, even her
first kiss will not give you the right to a second.
She will flirt with you to her heart's content, and,
in two years' time, she will marry a monster, in
obedience to her mother, and will assure herself
that she is unhappy, that she has loved only one
man -- that is to say, you -- but that Heaven was
not willing to unite her to him because he wore a
soldier's cloak, although beneath that thick, grey
cloak beat a heart, passionate and noble" . . .
Grushnitski smote the table with his fist
and fell to walking to and fro across the
I laughed inwardly and even smiled once or
twice, but fortunately he did not notice. It is
evident that he is in love, because he has grown
even more confiding than heretofore. Moreover,
a ring has made its appearance on his finger, a
silver ring with black enamel of local workmanship.
It struck me as suspicious. . . I began
to examine it, and what do you think I saw? The
name Mary was engraved on the inside in small
letters, and in a line with the name was the date
on which she had picked up the famous tumbler.
I kept my discovery a secret. I do not want to
force confessions from him, I want him, of his
own accord, to choose me as his confidant -- and
then I will enjoy myself! . . .
. . . . .
To-day I rose late. I went to the well. I
found nobody there. The day grew hot. White,
shaggy cloudlets were flitting rapidly from the
snow-clad mountains, giving promise of a thunderstorm;
the summit of Mount Mashuk was
smoking like a just extinguished torch; grey
wisps of cloud were coiling and creeping like
snakes around it, arrested in their rapid sweep
and, as it were, hooked to its prickly brushwood.
The atmosphere was charged with electricity. I
plunged into the avenue of the vines leading to
the grotto.
I felt low-spirited. I was thinking of the lady
with the little mole on her cheek, of whom the
doctor had spoken to me. . . "Why is she
here?" I thought. "And is it she? And what
reason have I for thinking it is? And why am I
so certain of it? Is there not many a woman
with a mole on her cheek?" Reflecting in such
wise I came right up to the grotto. I looked in
and I saw that a woman, wearing a straw hat and
wrapped in a black shawl, was sitting on a stone
seat in the cold shade of the arch. Her head was
sunk upon her breast, and the hat covered her face.
I was just about to turn back, in order not
to disturb her meditations, when she glanced
at me.
"Vera!" I exclaimed involuntarily.
She started and turned pale.
"I knew that you were here," she said.
I sat down beside her and took her hand. A
long-forgotten tremor ran through my veins at
the sound of that dear voice. She gazed into my
face with her deep, calm eyes. Mistrust and
something in the nature of reproach were expressed
in her glance.
"We have not seen each other for a long time,"
I said.
"A long time, and we have both changed in
many ways."
"Consequently you love me no longer?" . . .
"I am married!" . . . she said.
"Again? A few years ago, however, that
reason also existed, but, nevertheless" . . .
She plucked her hand away from mine and her
cheeks flamed.
"Perhaps you love your second husband?" . . .
She made no answer and turned her head
"Or is he very jealous?"
She remained silent.
"What then? He is young, handsome and,
I suppose, rich -- which is the chief thing -- and
you are afraid?" . . .
I glanced at her and was alarmed. Profound
despair was depicted upon her countenance;
tears were glistening in her eyes.
"Tell me," she whispered at length, "do you
find it very amusing to torture me? I ought to
hate you. Since we have known each other, you
have given me naught but suffering" . . .
Her voice shook; she leaned over to me, and
let her head sink upon my breast.
"Perhaps," I reflected, "it is for that very
reason that you have loved me; joys are forgotten,
but sorrows never" . . .
I clasped her closely to my breast, and so we
remained for a long time. At length our lips drew
closer and became blent in a fervent, intoxicating
kiss. Her hands were cold as ice; her head was
And hereupon we embarked upon one of those
conversations which, on paper, have no sense,
which it is impossible to repeat, and impossible
even to retain in memory. The meaning of the
sounds replaces and completes the meaning of the
words, as in Italian opera.
She is decidedly averse to my making the
acquaintance of her husband, the lame old man
of whom I had caught a glimpse on the boulevard.
She married him for the sake of her son. He is
rich, and suffers from attacks of rheumatism. I
did not allow myself even a single scoff at his
expense. She respects him as a father, and will
deceive him as a husband. . . A strange thing,
the human heart in general, and woman's heart
in particular.
Vera's husband, Semyon Vasilevich G----v,
is a distant relation of Princess Ligovski. He
lives next door to her. Vera frequently visits the
Princess. I have given her my promise to make
the Ligovskis' acquaintance, and to pay court to
Princess Mary in order to distract attention from
Vera. In such way, my plans have been not a little
deranged, but it will be amusing for me. . .
Amusing! . . . Yes, I have already passed
that period of spiritual life when happiness alone
is sought, when the heart feels the urgent
necessity of violently and passionately loving
somebody. Now my only wish is to be loved, and
that by very few. I even think that I would be
content with one constant attachment. A
wretched habit of the heart! . . .
One thing has always struck me as strange. I
have never made myself the slave of the woman
I have loved. On the contrary, I have always
acquired an invincible power over her will and
heart, without in the least endeavouring to do so.
Why is this? Is it because I never esteem anything
highly, and she has been continually afraid
to let me out of her hands? Or is it the magnetic
influence of a powerful organism? Or is it,
simply, that I have never succeeded in meeting a
woman of stubborn character?
I must confess that, in fact, I do not love
women who possess strength of character. What
business have they with such a thing?
Indeed, I remember now. Once and once only
did I love a woman who had a firm will which I
was never able to vanquish. . . We parted as
enemies -- and then, perhaps, if I had met her
five years later we would have parted otherwise.
. .
Vera is ill, very ill, although she does not
admit it. I fear she has consumption, or that
disease which is called "fievre lente" -- a quite un-
Russian disease, and one for which there is no
name in our language.
The storm overtook us while in the grotto and
detained us half an hour longer. Vera did not
make me swear fidelity, or ask whether I had
loved others since we had parted. . . She trusted
in me anew with all her former unconcern, and I
will not deceive her: she is the only woman in the
world whom it would never be within my power
to deceive. I know that we shall soon have to
part again, and perchance for ever. We will both
go by different ways to the grave, but her memory
will remain inviolable within my soul. I have
always repeated this to her, and she believes me,
although she says she does not.
At length we separated. For a long time I
followed her with my eyes, until her hat was
hidden behind the shrubs and rocks. My heart
was painfully contracted, just as after our first
parting. Oh, how I rejoiced in that emotion!
Can it be that youth is about to come back to me,
with its salutary tempests, or is this only the farewell
glance, the last gift -- in memory of itself? . . .
And to think that, in appearance, I am still a
boy! My face, though pale, is still fresh;
my limbs are supple and slender; my hair is thick
and curly, my eyes sparkle, my blood boils. . .
Returning home, I mounted on horseback and
galloped to the steppe. I love to gallop on a fiery
horse through the tall grass, in the face of the
desert wind; greedily I gulp down the fragrant
air and fix my gaze upon the blue distance,
endeavouring to seize the misty outlines of
objects which every minute grow clearer and
clearer. Whatever griefs oppress my heart,
whatever disquietudes torture my thoughts -- all
are dispersed in a moment; my soul becomes at
ease; the fatigue of the body vanquishes the
disturbance of the mind. There is not a woman's
glance which I would not forget at the sight of
the tufted mountains, illumined by the southern
sun; at the sight of the dark-blue sky, or in
hearkening to the roar of the torrent as it falls
from cliff to cliff.
I believe that the Cossacks, yawning on their
watch-towers, when they saw me galloping thus
needlessly and aimlessly, were long tormented by
that enigma, because from my dress, I am sure,
they took me to be a Circassian. I have, in fact,
been told that when riding on horseback, in my
Circassian costume, I resemble a Kabardian more
than many a Kabardian himself. And, indeed,
so far as regards that noble, warlike garb, I am a
perfect dandy. I have not a single piece of gold
lace too much; my weapon is costly, but simply
wrought; the fur on my cap is neither too long
nor too short; my leggings and shoes are matched
with all possible accuracy; my tunic is white;
my Circassian jacket, dark-brown. I have long
studied the mountaineer seat on horseback, and
in no way is it possible to flatter my vanity so much
as by acknowledging my skill in horsemanship in
the Cossack mode. I keep four horses -- one for
myself and three for my friends, so that I may
not be bored by having to roam about the fields
all alone; they take my horses with pleasure, and
never ride with me.
It was already six o'clock in the evening, when I
remembered that it was time to dine. My horse
was jaded. I rode out on to the road leading from
Pyatigorsk to the German colony, to which the
society of the watering-place frequently rides
en piquenique. The road meanders between
bushes and descends into little ravines, through
which flow noisy brooks beneath the shade of tall
grasses. All around, in an amphitheatre, rise the
blue masses of Mount Beshtau and the Zmeiny,
Zhelezny and Lysy Mountains.[1] Descending
into one of those ravines, I halted to water my
horse. At that moment a noisy and glittering
cavalcade made its appearance upon the road --
the ladies in black and dark-blue riding habits, the
cavaliers in costumes which formed a medley of
the Circassian and Nizhegorodian.[2] In front
rode Grushnitski with Princess Mary.
[1] The Snake, the Iron and the Bald Mountains.
[2] Nizhegorod is the "government" of which Nizhniy-
Novgorod is the capital.
The ladies at the watering-place still believe in
attacks by Circassians in broad daylight; for that
reason, doubtless, Grushnitski had slung a sabre
and a pair of pistols over his soldier's cloak. He
looked ridiculous enough in that heroic attire.
I was concealed from their sight by a tall bush,
but I was able to see everything through the
leaves, and to guess from the expression of their
faces that the conversation was of a sentimental
turn. At length they approached the slope;
Grushnitski took hold of the bridle of the
Princess's horse, and then I heard the conclusion
of their conversation:
"And you wish to remain all your life in the
Caucasus?" said Princess Mary.
"What is Russia to me?" answered her
cavalier. "A country in which thousands of
people, because they are richer than I, will look
upon me with contempt, whilst here -- here this
thick cloak has not prevented my acquaintance
with you" . . .
"On the contrary" . . . said Princess Mary,
Grushnitski's face was a picture of delight. He
"Here, my life will flow along noisily, unobserved,
and rapidly, under the bullets of the
savages, and if Heaven were every year to send me
a single bright glance from a woman's eyes --
like that which --"
At that moment they came up to where I was.
I struck my horse with the whip and rode out
from behind the bush. . .
"Mon Dieu, un circassien!" . . . exclaimed
Princess Mary in terror.
In order completely to undeceive her, I
replied in French, with a slight bow:
"Ne craignez rien, madame, je ne suis pas plus
dangereux que votre cavalier" . . .
She grew embarrassed -- but at what? At her
own mistake, or because my answer struck her as
insolent? I should like the latter hypothesis to
be correct. Grushnitski cast a discontented
glance at me.
Late in the evening, that is to say, about eleven
o'clock, I went for a walk in the lilac avenue of the
boulevard. The town was sleeping; lights were
gleaming in only a few windows. On three sides
loomed the black ridges of the cliffs, the spurs of
Mount Mashuk, upon the summit of which an
ominous cloud was lying. The moon was rising
in the east; in the distance, the snow-clad mountains
glistened like a fringe of silver. The calls
of the sentries mingled at intervals with the roar
of the hot springs let flow for the night. At
times the loud clattering of a horse rang out
along the street, accompanied by the creaking
of a Nagai wagon and the plaintive burden of a
Tartar song.
I sat down upon a bench and fell into a
reverie. . . I felt the necessity of pouring forth
my thoughts in friendly conversation. . . But
with whom? . . .
"What is Vera doing now?" I wondered.
I would have given much to press her hand at
that moment.
All at once I heard rapid and irregular
steps. . . Grushnitski, no doubt! . . . So it
"Where have you come from?"
"From Princess Ligovski's," he said very
importantly. "How well Mary does sing!" . . .
"Do you know?" I said to him. "I wager
that she does not know that you are a cadet. She
thinks you are an officer reduced to the ranks" . . .
"Maybe so. What is that to me!" . . . he
said absently.
"No, I am only saying so" . . .
"But, do you know that you have made her
terribly angry to-day? She considered it an unheard-
of piece of insolence. It was only with
difficulty that I was able to convince her that you
are so well bred and know society so well that you
could not have had any intention of insulting her.
She says that you have an impudent glance, and
that you have certainly a very high opinion of
"She is not mistaken. . . But do you not
want to defend her?"
"I am sorry I have not yet the right to do
so" . . .
"Oho!" I said to myself, "evidently he has
hopes already."
"However, it is the worse for you," continued
Grushnitski; "it will be difficult for
you to make their acquaintance now, and what
a pity! It is one of the most agreeable houses
I know" . . .
I smiled inwardly.
"The most agreeable house to me now is my
own," I said, with a yawn, and I got up
to go.
"Confess, though, you repent?" . . .
"What nonsense! If I like I will be at
Princess Ligovski's to-morrow evening!" . . .
"We shall see" . . .
"I will even begin to pay my addresses to
Princess Mary, if you would like me to" . . .
"Yes, if she is willing to speak to you" . . .
"I am only awaiting the moment when she will
be bored by your conversation. . . Goodbye"
. . .
"Well, I am going for a stroll; I could not go
to sleep now for anything. . . Look here, let
us go to the restaurant instead, there is cardplaying
going on there. . . What I need now
is violent sensations" . . .
"I hope you will lose" . . .
I went home.
21st May.
NEARLY a week has passed, and I have not
yet made the Ligovskis' acquaintance. I am
awaiting a convenient opportunity. Grushnitski
follows Princess Mary everywhere like a shadow.
Their conversations are interminable; but,
when will she be tired of him? . . . Her
mother pays no attention, because he is not
a man who is in a position to marry. Behold
the logic of mothers! I have caught two
or three tender glances -- this must be put a
stop to.
Yesterday, for the first time, Vera made
her appearance at the well. . . She has never
gone out of doors since we met in the
grotto. We let down our tumblers at the same
time, and as she bent forward she whispered
to me:
"You are not going to make the Ligovskis'
acquaintance? . . . It is only there that we can
meet" . . .
A reproach! . . . How tiresome! But I have
deserved it. . .
By the way, there is a subscription ball tomorrow
in the saloon of the restaurant, and I will
dance the mazurka with Princess Mary.
29th May.
THE saloon of the restaurant was converted
into the assembly room of a Nobles' Club.
The company met at nine o'clock. Princess
Ligovski and her daughter were amongst the
latest to make their appearance. Several of the
ladies looked at Princess Mary with envy and
malevolence, because she dresses with taste.
Those who look upon themselves as the aristocracy
of the place concealed their envy and
attached themselves to her train. What else
could be expected? Wherever there is a gathering
of women, the company is immediately divided
into a higher and a lower circle.
Beneath the window, amongst a crowd of
people, stood Grushnitski, pressing his face to the
pane and never taking his eyes off his divinity.
As she passed by, she gave him a hardly perceptible
nod. He beamed like the sun. . .
The first dance was a polonaise, after which the
musicians struck up a waltz. Spurs began to
jingle, and skirts to rise and whirl.
I was standing behind a certain stout lady who
was overshadowed by rose-coloured feathers.
The magnificence of her dress reminded me of
the times of the farthingale, and the motley hue
of her by no means smooth skin, of the happy
epoch of the black taffeta patch. An immense
wart on her neck was covered by a clasp. She was
saying to her cavalier, a captain of dragoons:
"That young Princess Ligovski is a most
intolerable creature! Just fancy, she jostled
against me and did not apologise, but even turned
round and stared at me through her lorgnette!
. . . C'est impayable! . . . And what
has she to be proud of? It is time somebody
gave her a lesson" . . .
"That will be easy enough," replied the
obliging captain, and he directed his steps to the
other room.
I went up to Princess Mary immediately, and,
availing myself of the local customs which allowed
one to dance with a stranger, I invited her to
waltz with me.
She was scarcely able to keep from smiling and
letting her triumph be seen; but quickly enough
she succeeded in assuming an air of perfect
indifference and even severity. Carelessly she let
her hand fall upon my shoulder, inclined her head
slightly to one side, and we began to dance. I have
never known a waist more voluptuous and supple!
Her fresh breath touched my face; at times a
lock of hair, becoming separated from its companions
in the eddy of the waltz, glided over my
burning cheek. . .
I made three turns of the ballroom (she
waltzes surprisingly well). She was out of breath,
her eyes were dulled, her half-open lips were
scarcely able to whisper the indispensable:
"merci, monsieur."
After a few moments' silence I said to her,
assuming a very humble air:
"I have heard, Princess, that although quite
unacquainted with you, I have already had the
misfortune to incur your displeasure . . . that
you have considered me insolent. Can that
possibly true?"
"Would you like to confirm me in that
opinion now?" she answered, with an ironical
little grimace -- very becoming, however, to her
mobile countenance.
"If I had the audacity to insult you in any way,
then allow me to have the still greater audacity to
beg your pardon. . . And, indeed, I should
very much like to prove to you that you are
mistaken in regard to me" . . .
"You will find that a rather difficult task" . . .
"But why?" . . .
"Because you never visit us and, most
likely, there will not be many more of these
"That means," I thought, "that their doors
are closed to me for ever."
"You know, Princess," I said to her, with a
certain amount of vexation, "one should never
spurn a penitent criminal: in his despair he may
become twice as much a criminal as before . . .
and then" . . .
Sudden laughter and whispering from the
people around us caused me to turn my head and
to interrupt my phrase. A few paces away from
me stood a group of men, amongst them the
captain of dragoons, who had manifested intentions
hostile to the charming Princess. He was
particularly well pleased with something or other,
and was rubbing his hands, laughing and exchanging
meaning glances with his companions.
All at once a gentleman in an evening-dress coat
and with long moustaches and a red face separated
himself from the crowd and directed his uncertain
steps straight towards Princess Mary. He was
drunk. Coming to a halt opposite the embarrassed
Princess and placing his hands behind
his back, he fixed his dull grey eyes upon her, and
said in a hoarse treble:
"Permettez . . . but what is the good of that
sort of thing here. . . All I need say is: I engage
you for the mazurka" . . .
"Very well!" she replied in a trembling voice,
throwing a beseeching glance around. Alas! Her
mother was a long way off, and not one of the
cavaliers of her acquaintance was near. A certain
aide-de-camp apparently saw the whole scene,
but he concealed himself behind the crowd in
order not to be mixed up in the affair.
"What?" said the drunken gentleman, winking
to the captain of dragoons, who was encouraging
him by signs. "Do you not wish to dance
then? . . . All the same I again have the honour
to engage you for the mazurka. . . You think,
perhaps, that I am drunk! That is all right! . . .
I can dance all the easier, I assure you" . . .
I saw that she was on the point of fainting with
fright and indignation.
I went up to the drunken gentleman, caught
him none too gently by the arm, and, looking
him fixedly in the face, requested him to retire.
"Because," I added, "the Princess promised
long ago to dance the mazurka with me."
"Well, then, there's nothing to be done!
Another time!" he said, bursting out laughing,
and he retired to his abashed companions, who
immediately conducted him into another room.
I was rewarded by a deep, wondrous glance.
The Princess went up to her mother and told
her the whole story. The latter sought me out
among the crowd and thanked me. She informed
me that she knew my mother and was on terms of
friendship with half a dozen of my aunts.
"I do not know how it has happened that we
have not made your acquaintance up to now," she
added; "but confess, you alone are to blame for
that. You fight shy of everyone in a positively
unseemly way. I hope the air of my drawingroom
will dispel your spleen. . . Do you not
think so?"
I uttered one of the phrases which everybody
must have ready for such an occasion.
The quadrilles dragged on a dreadfully long
At last the music struck up from the gallery,
Princess Mary and I took up our places.
I did not once allude to the drunken gentleman,
or to my previous behaviour, or to Grushnitski.
The impression produced upon her by the
unpleasant scene was gradually dispelled; her
face brightened up; she jested very charmingly;
her conversation was witty, without pretensions to
wit, vivacious and spontaneous; her observations
were sometimes profound. . . In a very involved
sentence I gave her to understand that I had
liked her for a long time. She bent her head and
blushed slightly.
"You are a strange man!" she said, with a
forced laugh, lifting her velvet eyes upon me.
"I did not wish to make your acquaintance," I
continued, "because you are surrounded by too
dense a throng of adorers, in which I was afraid
of being lost to sight altogether."
"You need not have been afraid; they are all
very tiresome" . . .
"All? Not all, surely?"
She looked fixedly at me as if endeavouring to
recollect something, then blushed slightly again
and finally pronounced with decision:
"Even my friend, Grushnitski?"
"But is he your friend?" she said, manifesting
some doubt.
"He, of course, does not come into the category
of the tiresome" . . .
"But into that of the unfortunate!" I said,
"Of course! But do you consider that
funny? I should like you to be in his place" . . .
"Well? I was once a cadet myself, and, in
truth, it was the best time of my life!"
"Is he a cadet, then?" . . . she said rapidly,
and then added: "But I thought" . . .
"What did you think?" . . .
"Nothing! Who is that lady?"
Thereupon the conversation took a different
direction, and it did not return to the former
And now the mazurka came to an end and we
separated -- until we should meet again. The
ladies drove off in different directions. I went to
get some supper, and met Werner.
"Aha!" he said: "so it is you! And yet you
did not wish to make the acquaintance of Princess
Mary otherwise than by saving her from certain
"I have done better," I replied. "I have
saved her from fainting at the ball" . . .
"How was that? Tell me."
"No, guess! -- O, you who guess everything in
the world!"
30th May.
ABOUT seven o'clock in the evening, I was
walking on the boulevard. Grushnitski
perceived me a long way off, and came up to me.
A sort of ridiculous rapture was shining in his
eyes. He pressed my hand warmly, and said in a
tragic voice:
"I thank you, Pechorin. . . You understand
"No; but in any case it is not worth gratitude,"
I answered, not having, in fact, any good
deed upon my conscience.
"What? But yesterday! Have you forgotten?
. . . Mary has told me everything" . . .
"Why! Have you everything in common so
soon as this? Even gratitude?" . . .
"Listen," said Grushnitski very earnestly;
"pray do not make fun of my love, if you wish to
remain my friend. . . You see, I love her to
the point of madness . . . and I think -- I
hope -- she loves me too. . . I have a request to
make of you. You will be at their house this evening;
promise me to observe everything. I know
you are experienced in these matters, you know
women better than I. . . Women! Women!
Who can understand them? Their smiles contradict
their glances, their words promise and allure,
but the tone of their voice repels. . . At one
time they grasp and divine in a moment our most
secret thoughts, at another they cannot understand
the clearest hints. . . Take Princess
Mary, now: yesterday her eyes, as they rested
upon me, were blazing with passion; to-day
they are dull and cold" . . .
"That is possibly the result of the waters," I
"You see the bad side of everything . . .
materialist," he added contemptuously. "However,
let us talk of other matters."
And, satisfied with his bad pun, he cheered
At nine o'clock we went to Princess Ligovski's
Passing by Vera's windows, I saw her looking
out. We threw a fleeting glance at each other.
She entered the Ligovskis' drawing-room soon
after us. Princess Ligovski presented me to her,
as a relation of her own. Tea was served. The
guests were numerous, and the conversation was
general. I endeavoured to please the Princess,
jested, and made her laugh heartily a few times.
Princess Mary, also, was more than once on the
point of bursting out laughing, but she restrained
herself in order not to depart from the role she
had assumed. She finds languor becoming to her,
and perhaps she is not mistaken. Grushnitski
appears to be very glad that she is not infected by
my gaiety.
After tea we all went into the drawingroom.
"Are you satisfied with my obedience, Vera?"
I said as I was passing her.
She threw me a glance full of love and gratitude.
I have grown accustomed to such glances;
but at one time they constituted my felicity.
The Princess seated her daughter at the pianoforte,
and all the company begged her to sing.
I kept silence, and, taking advantage of the
hubbub, I went aside to the window with Vera,
who wished to say something of great importance
to both of us. . . It turned out to be --
nonsense. . .
Meanwhile my indifference was vexing Princess
Mary, as I was able to make out from a single
angry, gleaming glance which she cast at me. . .
Oh! I understand the method of conversation
wonderfully well: mute but expressive, brief but
forceful! . . .
She began to sing. She has a good voice, but
she sings badly. . . However, I was not listening.
Grushnitski, on the contrary, leaning his elbows
on the grand piano, facing her, was devouring
her with his eyes and saying in an undertone
every minute: "Charmant! Delicieux!"
"Listen," said Vera to me, "I do not wish you
to make my husband's acquaintance, but you
must, without fail, make yourself agreeable to
the Princess; that will be an easy task for you:
you can do anything you wish. It is only here that
we shall see each other" . . .
"Only here?" . . .
She blushed and continued:
"You know that I am your slave: I have never
been able to resist you . . . and I shall be punished
for it, you will cease to love me! At least, I want
to preserve my reputation . . . not for myself --
that you know very well! . . . Oh! I beseech
you: do not torture me, as before, with idle
doubts and feigned coldness! It may be that I
shall die soon; I feel that I am growing weaker
from day to day. . . And, yet, I cannot think
of the future life, I think only of you. . . You
men do not understand the delights of a glance,
of a pressure of the hand . . . but as for me, I
swear to you that, when I listen to your voice,
I feel such a deep, strange bliss that the most
passionate kisses could not take its place."
Meanwhile, Princess Mary had finished her
song. Murmurs of praise were to be heard all
around. I went up to her after all the other
guests, and said something rather carelessly to
her on the subject of her voice.
She made a little grimace, pouting her lower
lip, and dropped a very sarcastic curtsey.
"That is all the more flattering," she said,
"because you have not been listening to me at
all; but perhaps you do not like music?" . . .
"On the contrary, I do . . . After dinner,
"Grushnitski is right in saying that you have
very prosaic tastes . . . and I see that you like
music in a gastronomic respect."
"You are mistaken again: I am by no means an
epicure. I have a most wretched digestion. But
music after dinner puts one to sleep, and to sleep
after dinner is healthful; consequently I like
music in a medicinal respect. In the evening,
on the contrary, it excites my nerves too much:
I become either too melancholy or too gay. Both
are fatiguing, where there is no positive reason
for being either sorrowful or glad. And, moreover,
melancholy in society is ridiculous, and too
great gaiety is unbecoming" . . .
She did not hear me to the end, but went away
and sat beside Grushnitski, and they entered
into a sort of sentimental conversation. Apparently
the Princess answered his sage phrases
rather absent-mindedly and inconsequently,
although endeavouring to show that she was
listening to him with attention, because sometimes
he looked at her in astonishment, trying to divine
the cause of the inward agitation which was
expressed at times in her restless glance . . .
But I have found you out, my dear Princess!
Have a care! You want to pay me back in the
same coin, to wound my vanity -- you will not
succeed! And if you declare war on me, I will
be merciless!
In the course of the evening, I purposely tried
a few times to join in their conversation, but she
met my remarks rather coldly, and, at last, I
retired in pretended vexation. Princess Mary
was triumphant, Grushnitski likewise. Triumph,
my friends, and be quick about it! . . . You will
not have long to triumph! . . . It cannot be
otherwise. I have a presentiment. . . On making
a woman's acquaintance I have always unerringly
guessed whether she would fall in love with me
or not.
The remaining part of the evening I spent at
Vera's side, and talked to the full about the
old days. . . Why does she love me so much?
In truth, I am unable to say, all the more so
because she is the only woman who has understood
me perfectly, with all my petty weaknesses and
evil passions. . . Can it be that wickedness is
so attractive? . . .
Grushnitski and I left the house together. In
the street he took my arm, and, after a long
silence, said:
"You are a fool," I should have liked to answer.
But I restrained myself and only shrugged my
6th June.
ALL these days I have not once departed from
my system. Princess Mary has come to like
talking to me; I have told her a few of the
strange events of my life, and she is beginning to
look on me as an extraordinary man. I mock at
everything in the world, especially feelings; and
she is taking alarm. When I am present, she does
not dare to embark upon sentimental discussions
with Grushnitski, and already, on a few occasions,
she has answered his sallies with a mocking smile.
But every time that Grushnitski comes up to her
I assume an air of meekness and leave the two of
them together. On the first occasion, she was
glad, or tried to make it appear so; on the
second, she was angry with me; on the third --
with Grushnitski.
"You have very little vanity!" she said to me
yesterday. "What makes you think that I find
Grushnitski the more entertaining?"
I answered that I was sacrificing my own
pleasure for the sake of the happiness of a friend.
"And my pleasure, too," she added.
I looked at her intently and assumed a serious
air. After that for the whole day I did not speak
a single word to her. . . In the evening, she was
pensive; this morning, at the well, more pensive
still. When I went up to her, she was listening
absent-mindedly to Grushnitski, who was apparently
falling into raptures about Nature, but,
so soon as she perceived me, she began to laugh --
at a most inopportune moment -- pretending not
to notice me. I went on a little further and
began stealthily to observe her. She turned
away from her companion and yawned twice.
Decidedly she had grown tired of Grushnitski -- I
will not talk to her for another two days.
11th June.
I OFTEN ask myself why I am so obstinately
endeavouring to win the love of a young girl
whom I do not wish to deceive, and whom I will
never marry. Why this woman-like coquetry?
Vera loves me more than Princess Mary ever will.
Had I regarded the latter as an invincible beauty, I
should perhaps have been allured by the difficulty
of the undertaking. . .
However, there is no such difficulty in this
case! Consequently, my present feeling is not
that restless craving for love which torments us
in the early days of our youth, flinging us from
one woman to another until we find one who cannot
endure us. And then begins our constancy --
that sincere, unending passion which may be
expressed mathematically by a line falling from
a point into space -- the secret of that endlessness
lying only in the impossibility of attaining the
aim, that is to say, the end.
From what motive, then, am I taking all this
trouble? -- Envy of Grushnitski? Poor fellow!
He is quite undeserving of it. Or, is it the result
of that ugly, but invincible, feeling which causes
us to destroy the sweet illusions of our neighbour
in order to have the petty satisfaction of saying
to him, when, in despair, he asks what he is to
"My friend, the same thing happened to me,
and you see, nevertheless, that I dine, sup, and
sleep very peacefully, and I shall, I hope, know
how to die without tears and lamentations."
There is, in sooth, a boundless enjoyment in the
possession of a young, scarce-budded soul! It is
like a floweret which exhales its best perfume at
the kiss of the first ray of the sun. You should
pluck the flower at that moment, and, breathing
its fragrance to the full, cast it upon the road:
perchance someone will pick it up! I feel
within me that insatiate hunger which devours
everything it meets upon the way; I look upon
the sufferings and joys of others only from the
point of view of their relation to myself, regarding
them as the nutriment which sustains my
spiritual forces. I myself am no longer capable
of committing follies under the influence of
passion; with me, ambition has been repressed
by circumstances, but it has emerged in another
form, because ambition is nothing more nor less
than a thirst for power, and my chief pleasure is
to make everything that surrounds me subject to
my will. To arouse the feeling of love, devotion
and awe towards oneself -- is not that the first sign,
and the greatest triumph, of power? To be the
cause of suffering and joy to another -- without
in the least possessing any definite right to be
so -- is not that the sweetest food for our pride?
And what is happiness? -- Satisfied pride. Were
I to consider myself the best, the most powerful
man in the world, I should be happy; were all to
love me, I should find within me inexhaustible
springs of love. Evil begets evil; the first
suffering gives us the conception of the satisfaction
of torturing another. The idea of evil
cannot enter the mind without arousing a desire
to put it actually into practice. "Ideas are
organic entities," someone has said. The very
fact of their birth endows them with form, and
that form is action. He in whose brain the most
ideas are born accomplishes the most. From
that cause a genius, chained to an official desk,
must die or go mad, just as it often happens that
a man of powerful constitution, and at the same
time of sedentary life and simple habits, dies of
an apoplectic stroke.
Passions are naught but ideas in their first
development; they are an attribute of the youth
of the heart, and foolish is he who thinks that he
will be agitated by them all his life. Many quiet
rivers begin their course as noisy waterfalls, and
there is not a single stream which will leap or
foam throughout its way to the sea. That quietness,
however, is frequently the sign of great,
though latent, strength. The fulness and depth
of feelings and thoughts do not admit of frenzied
outbursts. In suffering and in enjoyment the soul
renders itself a strict account of all it experiences
and convinces itself that such things must be. It
knows that, but for storms, the constant heat of
the sun would dry it up! It imbues itself with
its own life -- pets and punishes itself like a
favourite child. It is only in that highest state
of self-knowledge that a man can appreciate the
divine justice.
On reading over this page, I observe that I have
made a wide digression from my subject. . .
But what matter? . . . You see, it is for myself
that I am writing this diary, and, consequently
anything that I jot down in it will in time be a
valuable reminiscence for me.
. . . . .
Grushnitski has called to see me to-day. He
flung himself upon my neck; he has been promoted
to be an officer. We drank champagne.
Doctor Werner came in after him.
"I do not congratulate you," he said to
"Why not?"
"Because the soldier's cloak suits you very well,
and you must confess that an infantry uniform,
made by one of the local tailors, will not add
anything of interest to you. . . Do you not
see? Hitherto, you have been an exception,
but now you will come under the general
"Talk away, doctor, talk away! You will not
prevent me from rejoicing. He does not know,"
added Grushnitski in a whisper to me, "how
many hopes these epaulettes have lent me. . .
Oh! . . . Epaulettes, epaulettes! Your little
stars are guiding stars! No! I am perfectly
happy now!"
"Are you coming with us on our walk to the
hollow?" I asked him.
"I? Not on any account will I show myself to
Princess Mary until my uniform is finished."
"Would you like me to inform her of your
"No, please, not a word. . . I want to give
her a surprise" . . .
"Tell me, though, how are you getting on
with her?"
He became embarrassed, and fell into thought;
he would gladly have bragged and told lies, but
his conscience would not let him; and, at the
same time, he was ashamed to confess the
"What do you think? Does she love
you?" . . .
"Love me? Good gracious, Pechorin, what
ideas you do have! . . . How could she possibly
love me so soon? . . . And a well-bred woman,
even if she is in love, will never say so" . . .
"Very well! And, I suppose, in your opinion,
a well-bred man should also keep silence in regard
to his passion?" . . .
"Ah, my dear fellow! There are ways of
doing everything; often things may remain
unspoken, but yet may be guessed" . . .
"That is true. . . But the love which we
read in the eyes does not pledge a woman to anything,
whilst words. . . Have a care, Grushnitski,
she is befooling you!"
"She?" he answered, raising his eyes heavenward
and smiling complacently. "I am sorry for
you, Pechorin!" . . .
He took his departure.
In the evening, a numerous company set off to
walk to the hollow.
In the opinion of the learned of Pyatigorsk, the
hollow in question is nothing more nor less than
an extinct crater. It is situated on a slope of
Mount Mashuk, at the distance of a verst from
the town, and is approached by a narrow path
between brushwood and rocks. In climbing up
the hill, I gave Princess Mary my arm, and
she did not leave it during the whole excursion.
Our conversation commenced with slander; I
proceeded to pass in review our present and
absent acquaintances; at first I exposed their
ridiculous, and then their bad, sides. My choler
rose. I began in jest, and ended in genuine
malice. At first she was amused, but afterwards
"You are a dangerous man!" she said. "I
would rather perish in the woods under the knife
of an assassin than under your tongue. . . In all
earnestness I beg of you: when it comes into
your mind to speak evil of me, take a knife instead
and cut my throat. I think you would not find
that a very difficult matter."
"Am I like an assassin, then?" . . .
"You are worse" . . .
I fell into thought for a moment; then,
assuming a deeply moved air, I said:
"Yes, such has been my lot from very childhood!
All have read upon my countenance the
marks of bad qualities, which were not existent;
but they were assumed to exist -- and they were
born. I was modest -- I was accused of slyness: I
grew secretive. I profoundly felt both good and
evil -- no one caressed me, all insulted me: I
grew vindictive. I was gloomy -- other children
merry and talkative; I felt myself higher than
they -- I was rated lower: I grew envious. I
was prepared to love the whole world -- no one
understood me: I learned to hate. My colourless
youth flowed by in conflict with myself and
the world; fearing ridicule, I buried my best
feelings in the depths of my heart, and there they
died. I spoke the truth -- I was not believed: I
began to deceive. Having acquired a thorough
knowledge of the world and the springs of
society, I grew skilled in the science of life; and I
saw how others without skill were happy, enjoying
gratuitously the advantages which I so
unweariedly sought. Then despair was born
within my breast -- not that despair which is cured
at the muzzle of a pistol, but the cold, powerless
despair concealed beneath the mask of amiability
and a good-natured smile. I became a moral
cripple. One half of my soul ceased to exist; it
dried up, evaporated, died, and I cut it off and
cast it from me. The other half moved and
lived -- at the service of all; but it remained unobserved,
because no one knew that the half
which had perished had ever existed. But, now,
the memory of it has been awakened within me
by you, and I have read you its epitaph. To
many, epitaphs in general seem ridiculous, but
to me they do not; especially when I remember
what reposes beneath them. I will not, however,
ask you to share my opinion. If this outburst
seems absurd to you, I pray you, laugh! I forewarn
you that your laughter will not cause me the
least chagrin."
At that moment I met her eyes: tears were
welling in them. Her arm, as it leaned upon
mine, was trembling; her cheeks were aflame;
she pitied me! Sympathy -- a feeling to which
all women yield so easily, had dug its talons into
her inexperienced heart. During the whole
excursion she was preoccupied, and did not flirt
with anyone -- and that is a great sign!
We arrived at the hollow; the ladies left their
cavaliers, but she did not let go my arm. The
witticisms of the local dandies failed to make
her laugh; the steepness of the declivity beside
which she was standing caused her no alarm,
although the other ladies uttered shrill cries and
shut their eyes.
On the way back, I did not renew our melancholy
conversation, but to my idle questions
and jests she gave short and absent-minded
"Have you ever been in love?" I asked her at
She looked at me intently, shook her head and
again fell into a reverie. It was evident that she
was wishing to say something, but did not know
how to begin. Her breast heaved. . . And,
indeed, that was but natural! A muslin sleeve is
a weak protection, and an electric spark was
running from my arm to hers. Almost all passions
have their beginning in that way, and frequently
we are very much deceived in thinking that a
woman loves us for our moral and physical merits;
of course, these prepare and predispose the heart
for the reception of the holy flame, but for all that
it is the first touch that decides the matter.
"I have been very amiable to-day, have I
not?" Princess Mary said to me, with a forced
smile, when we had returned from the walk.
We separated.
She is dissatisfied with herself. She accuses
herself of coldness. . . Oh, that is the first, the
chief triumph!
To-morrow, she will be feeling a desire to
recompense me. I know the whole proceeding
by heart already -- that is what is so tiresome!
12th June.
I HAVE seen Vera to-day. She has begun to
plague me with her jealousy. Princess Mary
has taken it into her head, it seems, to confide
the secrets of her heart to Vera: a happy choice,
it must be confessed!
"I can guess what all this is leading to," said
Vera to me. "You had better simply tell me at
once that you are in love with her."
"But supposing I am not in love with
"Then why run after her, disturb her, agitate
her imagination! . . . Oh, I know you well!
Listen -- if you wish me to believe you, come to
Kislovodsk in a week's time; we shall be moving
thither the day after to-morrow. Princess Mary
will remain here longer. Engage lodgings next
door to us. We shall be living in the large house
near the spring, on the mezzanine floor. Princess
Ligovski will be below us, and next door there
is a house belonging to the same landlord,
which has not yet been taken. . . Will you
come?" . . .
I gave my promise, and this very same day I
have sent to engage the lodgings.
Grushnitski came to me at six o'clock and
announced that his uniform would be ready
to-morrow, just in time for him to go to the
ball in it.
"At last I shall dance with her the whole
evening through. . . And then I shall talk to
my heart's content," he added.
"When is the ball?"
"Why, to-morrow! Do you not know, then?
A great festival -- and the local authorities have
undertaken to organize it" . . .
"Let us go to the boulevard" . . .
"Not on any account, in this nasty cloak" . . .
"What! Have you ceased to love it?" . . .
I went out alone, and, meeting Princess
Mary I asked her to keep the mazurka for me.
She seemed surprised and delighted.
"I thought that you would only dance from
necessity as on the last occasion," she said, with a
very charming smile. . .
She does not seem to notice Grushnitski's
absence at all.
"You will be agreeably surprised to-morrow,"
I said to her.
"At what?"
"That is a secret. . . You will find it out
yourself, at the ball."
I finished up the evening at Princess Ligovski's;
there were no other guests present except Vera
and a certain very amusing, little old gentleman.
I was in good spirits, and improvised various
extraordinary stories. Princess Mary sat opposite
me and listened to my nonsense with such deep,
strained, and even tender attention that I grew
ashamed of myself. What had become of her
vivacity, her coquetry, her caprices, her haughty
mien, her contemptuous smile, her absentminded
glance? . . .
Vera noticed everything, and her sickly countenance
was a picture of profound grief. She was
sitting in the shadow by the window, buried in
a wide arm-chair. . . I pitied her.
Then I related the whole dramatic story of our
acquaintanceship, our love -- concealing it all, of
course, under fictitious names.
So vividly did I portray my tenderness, my
anxieties, my raptures; in so favourable a light
did I exhibit her actions and her character, that
involuntarily she had to forgive me for my
flirtation with Princess Mary.
She rose, sat down beside us, and brightened
up . . . and it was only at two o'clock in the
morning that we remembered that the doctors
had ordered her to go to bed at eleven.
13th June.
HALF an hour before the ball, Grushnitski
presented himself to me in the full splendour
of the uniform of the Line infantry. Attached
to his third button was a little bronze chain, on
which hung a double lorgnette. Epaulettes of
incredible size were bent backwards and upwards
in the shape of a cupid's wings; his boots
creaked; in his left hand he held cinnamoncoloured
kid gloves and a forage-cap, and with
his right he kept every moment twisting his
frizzled tuft of hair up into tiny curls. Complacency
and at the same time a certain diffidence
were depicted upon his face. His festal
appearance and proud gait would have made me
burst out laughing, if such a proceeding had
been in accordance with my intentions.
He threw his cap and gloves on the table and
began to pull down the skirts of his coat and to
put himself to rights before the looking-glass. An
enormous black handkerchief, which was twisted
into a very high stiffener for his cravat, and the
bristles of which supported his chin, stuck out an
inch over his collar. It seemed to him to be
rather small, and he drew it up as far as his ears.
As a result of that hard work -- the collar of his
uniform being very tight and uncomfortable --
he grew red in the face.
"They say you have been courting my princess
terribly these last few days?" he said, rather
carelessly and without looking at me.
"'Where are we fools to drink tea!'"[1] I
answered, repeating a pet phrase of one of the
cleverest rogues of past times, once celebrated in
song by Pushkin.
[1] A popular phrase, equivalent to: "How should I think
of doing such a thing?"
"Tell me, does my uniform fit me well? . . .
Oh, the cursed Jew! . . . How it cuts me
under the armpits! . . . Have you got any
"Good gracious, what more do you want?
You are reeking of rose pomade as it is."
"Never mind. Give me some" . . .
He poured half a phial over his cravat, his
pocket-handkerchief, his sleeves.
"You are going to dance?" he asked.
"I think not."
"I am afraid I shall have to lead off the
mazurka with Princess Mary, and I scarcely know
a single figure" . . .
"Have you asked her to dance the mazurka
with you?"
"Not yet" . . .
"Mind you are not forestalled" . . .
"Just so, indeed!" he said, striking his forehead.
"Good-bye. . . I will go and wait for
her at the entrance."
He seized his forage-cap and ran.
Half an hour later I also set off. The street
was dark and deserted. Around the assembly
rooms, or inn -- whichever you prefer -- people
were thronging. The windows were lighted up,
the strains of the regimental band were borne to
me on the evening breeze. I walked slowly; I
felt melancholy.
"Can it be possible," I thought, "that my sole
mission on earth is to destroy the hopes of others?
Ever since I began to live and to act, it seems
always to have been my fate to play a part in the
ending of other people's dramas, as if, but for me,
no one could either die or fall into despair! I
have been the indispensable person of the fifth
act; unwillingly I have played the pitiful part of
an executioner or a traitor. What object has fate
had in this? . . . Surely, I have not been
appointed by destiny to be an author of middleclass
tragedies and family romances, or to be a
collaborator with the purveyor of stories -- for the
'Reader's Library,'[1] for example? . . . How
can I tell? . . . Are there not many people who,
in beginning life, think to end it like Lord Byron
or Alexander the Great, and, nevertheless,
remain Titular Councillors[2] all their days?"
[1] Published by Senkovski, and under the censorship of the
[2] Civil servants of the ninth (the lowest) class.
Entering the saloon, I concealed myself in a
crowd of men, and began to make my observations.
Grushnitski was standing beside Princess Mary
and saying something with great warmth. She
was listening to him absent-mindedly and looking
about her, her fan laid to her lips. Impatience
was depicted upon her face, her eyes were
searching all around for somebody. I went
softly behind them in order to listen to their
"You torture me, Princess!" Grushnitski
was saying. "You have changed dreadfully since
I saw you last" . . .
"You, too, have changed," she answered, casting
a rapid glance at him, in which he was unable to
detect the latent sneer.
"I! Changed? . . . Oh, never! You know
that such a thing is impossible! Whoever has
seen you once will bear your divine image with
him for ever."
"Stop" . . .
"But why will you not let me say to-night
what you have so often listened to with condescension
-- and just recently, too?" . . .
"Because I do not like repetitions," she
answered, laughing.
"Oh! I have been bitterly mistaken! . . .
I thought, fool that I was, that these epaulettes,
at least, would give me the right to hope. . .
No, it would have been better for me to have
remained for ever in that contemptible soldier's
cloak, to which, probably, I was indebted for your
attention" . . .
"As a matter of fact, the cloak is much more
becoming to you" . . .
At that moment I went up and bowed to
Princess Mary. She blushed a little, and went on
"Is it not true, Monsieur Pechorin, that the
grey cloak suits Monsieur Grushnitski much
better?" . . .
"I do not agree with you," I answered:
"he is more youthful-looking still in his
That was a blow which Grushnitski could not
bear: like all boys, he has pretensions to being an
old man; he thinks that the deep traces of
passions upon his countenance take the place of
the lines scored by Time. He cast a furious
glance at me, stamped his foot, and took himself
"Confess now," I said to Princess Mary: "that
although he has always been most ridiculous, yet
not so long ago he seemed to you to be interesting
. . . in the grey cloak?" . . .
She cast her eyes down and made no reply.
Grushnitski followed the Princess about during
the whole evening and danced either with her or
vis-a-vis. He devoured her with his eyes, sighed,
and wearied her with prayers and reproaches.
After the third quadrille she had begun to hate
"I did not expect this from you," he said,
coming up to me and taking my arm.
"You are going to dance the mazurka with
her?" he asked in a solemn tone. "She admitted
it" . . .
"Well, what then? It is not a secret,
is it"?*
"Of course not. . . I ought to have expected
such a thing from that chit -- that flirt. . . I
will have my revenge, though!"
"You should lay the blame on your cloak, or
your epaulettes, but why accuse her? What
fault is it of hers that she does not like you any
longer?" . . .
"But why give me hopes?"
"Why did you hope? To desire and to strive
after something -- that I can understand! But
who ever hopes?"
"You have won the wager, but not quite," he
said, with a malignant smile.
The mazurka began. Grushnitski chose no one
but the Princess, other cavaliers chose her every
minute: obviously a conspiracy against me --
all the better! She wants to talk to me, they are
preventing her -- she will want to twice as
I squeezed her hand once or twice; the
second time she drew it away without saying a
"I shall sleep badly to-night," she said to me
when the mazurka was over.
"Grushnitski is to blame for that."
"Oh, no!"
And her face became so pensive, so sad, that I
promised myself that I would not fail to kiss her
hand that evening.
The guests began to disperse. As I was handing
Princess Mary into her carriage, I rapidly pressed
her little hand to my lips. The night was dark
and nobody could see.
I returned to the saloon very well satisfied
with myself.
The young men, Grushnitski amongst them,
were having supper at the large table. As
I came in, they all fell silent: evidently they
had been talking about me. Since the last
ball many of them have been sulky with me,
especially the captain of dragoons; and now,
it seems, a hostile gang is actually being
formed against me, under the command of
Grushnitski. He wears such a proud and
courageous air. . .
I am very glad; I love enemies, though not in
the Christian sense. They amuse me, stir my
blood. To be always on one's guard, to catch
every glance, the meaning of every word, to guess
intentions, to crush conspiracies, to pretend to be
deceived and suddenly with one blow to overthrow
the whole immense and laboriously constructed
edifice of cunning and design -- that is
what I call life.
During supper Grushnitski kept whispering
and exchanging winks with the captain of
14th June.
VERA and her husband left this morning for
Kislovodsk. I met their carriage as I was
walking to Princess Ligovski's. Vera nodded to
me: reproach was in her glance.
Who is to blame, then? Why will she not give
me an opportunity of seeing her alone? Love is
like fire -- if not fed it dies out. Perchance,
jealousy will accomplish what my entreaties have
failed to do.
I stayed a whole hour at Princess Ligovski's.
Mary has not been out, she is ill. In the evening
she was not on the boulevard. The newly formed
gang, armed with lorgnettes, has in very fact
assumed a menacing aspect. I am glad that
Princess Mary is ill; they might be guilty of
some impertinence towards her. Grushnitski
goes about with dishevelled locks, and wears an
appearance of despair: he is evidently afflicted,
as a matter of fact; his vanity especially
has been injured. But, you see, there are
some people in whom even despair is diverting!
. . .
On my way home I noticed that something was
lacking. I have not seen her! She is ill! Surely
I have not fallen in love with her in real
earnest? . . . What nonsense!
15th June.
AT eleven o'clock in the morning -- the hour at
which Princess Ligovski is usually perspiring
in the Ermolov baths -- I walked past her house.
Princess Mary was sitting pensively at the window;
on seeing me she sprang up.
I entered the ante-room, there was nobody
there, and, availing myself of the freedom afforded
by the local customs, I made my way, unannounced,
into the drawing-room.
Princess Mary's charming countenance was
shrouded with a dull pallor. She was standing
by the pianoforte, leaning one hand on the back
of an arm-chair; her hand was very faintly
trembling. I went up to her softly and
"You are angry with me?" . . .
She lifted a deep, languid glance upon me and
shook her head. Her lips were about to utter
something, but failed; her eyes filled with tears;
she sank into the arm-chair and buried her face in
her hands.
"What is the matter with you?" I said, taking
her hand.
"You do not respect me! . . . Oh, leave me!" . . .
I took a few steps. . . She drew herself up in
the chair, her eyes sparkled.
I stopped still, took hold of the handle of the
door, and said:
"Forgive me, Princess. I have acted like a
madman. . . It will not happen another time;
I shall see to that. . . But how can you know
what has been taking place hitherto within my
soul? That you will never learn, and so much
the better for you. Farewell."
As I was going out, I seemed to hear her
I wandered on foot about the environs of
Mount Mashuk till evening, fatigued myself
terribly and, on arriving home, flung myself on
my bed, utterly exhausted.
Werner came to see me.
"Is it true," he asked, "that you are going to
marry Princess Mary?"
"The whole town is saying so. All my
patients are occupied with that important piece
of news; but you know what these patients are:
they know everything."
"This is one of Grushnitski's tricks," I said to
"To prove the falsity of these rumours, doctor,
I may mention, as a secret, that I am moving to
Kislovodsk to-morrow" . . .
"And Princess Mary, too?"
"No, she remains here another week" . . .
"So you are not going to get married?" . . .
"Doctor, doctor! Look at me! Am I in the
least like a bridegroom, or any such thing?"
"I am not saying so. . . But you know there
are occasions . . ." he added, with a crafty
smile -- "in which an honourable man is obliged
to marry, and there are mothers who, to say the
least, do not prevent such occasions. . . And so,
as a friend, I should advise you to be more
cautious. The air of these parts is very dangerous.
How many handsome young men, worthy of a
better fate, have I not seen departing from here
straight to the altar! . . . Would you believe
me, they were even going to find a wife for me!
That is to say, one person was -- a lady belonging to
this district, who had a very pale daughter. I had
the misfortune to tell her that the latter's colour
would be restored after wedlock, and then with
tears of gratitude she offered me her daughter's
hand and the whole of her own fortune -- fifty souls,[1] I think.
But I replied that I was unfit for such an honour."
[1] i.e. serfs.
Werner left, fully convinced that he had put
me on my guard.
I gathered from his words that various ugly
rumours were already being spread about the
town on the subject of Princess Mary and myself:
Grushnitski shall smart for this!
18th June.
I HAVE been in Kislovodsk three days now.
Every day I see Vera at the well and out
walking. In the morning, when I awake, I sit
by my window and direct my lorgnette at her
balcony. She has already been dressed long ago,
and is waiting for the signal agreed upon.
We meet, as though unexpectedly, in the garden
which slopes down from our houses to the well.
The life-giving mountain air has brought back
her colour and her strength. Not for nothing is
Narzan called the "Spring of Heroes." The
inhabitants aver that the air of Kislovodsk predisposes
the heart to love and that all the romances
which have had their beginning at the foot of
Mount Mashuk find their consummation here.
And, in very fact, everything here breathes of
solitude; everything has an air of secrecy -- the
thick shadows of the linden avenues, bending over
the torrent which falls, noisy and foaming, from
flag to flag and cleaves itself a way between the
mountains now becoming clad with verdure --
the mist-filled, silent ravines, with their ramifications
straggling away in all directions -- the
freshness of the aromatic air, laden with the
fragrance of the tall southern grasses and the
white acacia -- the never-ceasing, sweetly-slumberous
babble of the cool brooks, which, meeting at
the end of the valley, flow along in friendly
emulation, and finally fling themselves into the
Podkumok. On this side, the ravine is wider
and becomes converted into a verdant dell,
through which winds the dusty road. Every
time I look at it, I seem to see a carriage coming
along and a rosy little face looking out of the
carriage-window. Many carriages have already
driven by -- but still there is no sign of that
particular one. The village which lies behind the
fortress has become populous. In the restaurant,
built upon a hill a few paces distant from my
lodgings, lights are beginning to flash in the
evening through the double row of poplars;
noise and the jingling of glasses resound till late
at night.
In no place are such quantities of Kakhetian
wine and mineral waters drunk as here.
"And many are willing to mix the two,
But that is a thing I never do."
Every day Grushnitski and his gang are to be
found brawling in the inn, and he has almost
ceased to greet me.
He only arrived yesterday, and has already
succeeded in quarrelling with three old men who
were going to take their places in the baths before
Decidedly, his misfortunes are developing a
warlike spirit within him.
22nd June.
AT last they have arrived. I was sitting by
the window when I heard the clattering of
their carriage. My heart throbbed. . . What does
it mean? Can it be that I am in love? . . .
I am so stupidly constituted that such a thing
might be expected of me.
I dined at their house. Princess Ligovski
looked at me with much tenderness, and did
not leave her daughter's side . . . a bad sign!
On the other hand, Vera is jealous of me in regard
to Princess Mary -- however, I have been
striving for that good fortune. What will not a
woman do in order to chagrin her rival? I remember
that once a woman loved me simply
because I was in love with another woman.
There is nothing more paradoxical than the female
mind; it is difficult to convince a woman
of anything; they have to be led into convincing
themselves. The order of the proofs by which
they demolish their prejudices is most original;
to learn their dialectic it is necessary to overthrow
in your own mind every scholastic rule of
logic. For example, the usual way:
"This man loves me; but I am married:
therefore I must not love him."
The woman's way:
"I must not love him, because I am married;
but he loves me -- therefore" . . .
A few dots here, because reason has no more
to say. But, generally, there is something to be
said by the tongue, and the eyes, and, after these,
the heart -- if there is such a thing.
What if these notes should one day meet a
woman's eye?
"Slander!" she will exclaim indignantly.
Ever since poets have written and women have
read them (for which the poets should be most
deeply grateful) women have been called angels
so many times that, in very truth, in their simplicity
of soul, they have believed the compliment,
forgetting that, for money, the same poets
have glorified Nero as a demigod. . .
It would be unreasonable were I to speak of
women with such malignity -- I who have loved
nothing else in the world -- I who have always
been ready to sacrifice for their sake ease, ambition,
life itself. . . But, you see, I am not
endeavouring, in a fit of vexation and injured
vanity, to pluck from them the magic veil through
which only an accustomed glance can penetrate.
No, all that I say about them is but the result of
"A mind which coldly hath observed,
A heart which bears the stamp of woe."[1]
[1] Pushkin: Eugene Onyegin.
Women ought to wish that all men knew them
as well as I because I have loved them a hundred
times better since I have ceased to be afraid of them
and have comprehended their little weaknesses.
By the way: the other day, Werner compared
women to the enchanted forest of which Tasso
tells in his "Jerusalem Delivered."[2]
"So soon as you approach," he said, "from all
directions terrors, such as I pray Heaven may
preserve us from, will take wing at you: duty,
pride, decorum, public opinion, ridicule, contempt.
. . You must simply go straight on
without looking at them; gradually the monsters
disappear, and, before you, opens a bright and
quiet glade, in the midst of which blooms the
green myrtle. On the other hand, woe to you if,
at the first steps, your heart trembles and you
turn back!"
[2] Canto XVIII, 10:
"Quinci al bosco t' invia, dove cotanti
Son fantasmi inganne vole e bugiardi" . . .
24th June.
THIS evening has been fertile in events.
About three versts from Kislovodsk, in the
gorge through which the Podkumok flows, there
is a cliff called the Ring. It is a naturally formed
gate, rising upon a lofty hill, and through it the
setting sun throws its last flaming glance upon
the world. A numerous cavalcade set off thither
to gaze at the sunset through the rock-window.
To tell the truth, not one of them was thinking
about the sun. I rode beside Princess Mary. On
the way home, we had to ford the Podkumok.
Mountain streams, even the smallest, are dangerous;
especially so, because the bottom is a perfect
kaleidoscope: it changes every day owing to the
pressure of the current; where yesterday there
was a rock, to-day there is a cavity. I took Princess
Mary's horse by the bridle and led it into the
water, which came no higher than its knees. We
began to move slowly in a slanting direction
against the current. It is a well-known fact that,
in crossing rapid streamlets, you should never look
at the water, because, if you do, your head begins
to whirl directly. I forgot to warn Princess Mary
of that.
We had reached the middle and were right in
the vortex, when suddenly she reeled in her
"I feel ill!" she said in a faint voice.
I bent over to her rapidly and threw my arm
around her supple waist.
"Look up!" I whispered. "It is nothing;
just be brave! I am with you."
She grew better; she was about to disengage
herself from my arm, but I clasped her tender,
soft figure in a still closer embrace; my cheek
almost touched hers, from which was wafted
"What are you doing to me? . . . Oh,
Heaven!" . . .
I paid no attention to her alarm and confusion,
and my lips touched her tender cheek. She shuddered,
but said nothing. We were riding behind
the others: nobody saw us.
When we made our way out on the bank, the
horses were all put to the trot. Princess Mary
kept hers back; I remained beside her. It was
evident that my silence was making her uneasy,
but I swore to myself that I would not speak a
single word -- out of curiosity. I wanted to see
how she would extricate herself from that embarrassing
"Either you despise me, or you love me very
much!" she said at length, and there were tears
in her voice. "Perhaps you want to laugh at me,
to excite my soul and then to abandon me. . .
That would be so base, so vile, that the mere
supposition . . . Oh, no!" she added, in a voice
of tender trustfulness; "there is nothing in me
which would preclude respect; is it not so?
Your presumptuous action . . . I must, I must
forgive you for it, because I permitted it. . .
Answer, speak, I want to hear your voice!" . . .
There was such womanly impatience in her last
words that, involuntarily, I smiled; happily it
was beginning to grow dusk. . . I made no
"You are silent!" she continued; "you wish,
perhaps, that I should be the first to tell you that
I love you." . . .
I remained silent.
"Is that what you wish?" she continued,
turning rapidly towards me. . . . There was
something terrible in the determination of her
glance and voice.
"Why?" I answered, shrugging my shoulders.
She struck her horse with her riding-whip and
set off at full gallop along the narrow, dangerous
road. It all happened so quickly that I was
scarcely able to overtake her, and then only by
the time she had joined the rest of the company.
All the way home she was continually talking
and laughing. There was something feverish
in her movements; not once did she look in
my direction. Everybody observed her unusual
gaiety. Princess Ligovski rejoiced inwardly as she
looked at her daughter. However, the latter
simply has a fit of nerves: she will spend a sleepless
night, and will weep.
This thought affords me measureless delight:
there are moments when I understand the Vampire.
. . And yet I am reputed to be a good
fellow, and I strive to earn that designation!
On dismounting, the ladies went into Princess
Ligovski's house. I was excited, and I galloped
to the mountains in order to dispel the thoughts
which had thronged into my head. The dewy
evening breathed an intoxicating coolness. The
moon was rising from behind the dark summits.
Each step of my unshod horse resounded hollowly
in the silence of the gorges. I watered the horse
at the waterfall, and then, after greedily inhaling
once or twice the fresh air of the southern night,
I set off on my way back. I rode through the
village. The lights in the windows were beginning
to go out; the sentries on the fortressrampart
and the Cossacks in the surrounding
pickets were calling out in drawling tones to one
In one of the village houses, built at the edge
of a ravine, I noticed an extraordinary illumination.
At times, discordant murmurs and shouting
could be heard, proving that a military carouse
was in full swing. I dismounted and crept up to
the window. The shutter had not been made
fast, and I could see the banqueters and catch
what they were saying. They were talking about
The captain of dragoons, flushed with wine,
struck the table with his fist, demanding attention.
"Gentlemen!" he said, "this won't do!
Pechorin must be taught a lesson! These Petersburg
fledglings always carry their heads high until
they get a slap in the face! He thinks that because
he always wears clean gloves and polished
boots he is the only one who has ever lived in
society. And what a haughty smile! All the
same, I am convinced that he is a coward -- yes, a
"I think so too," said Grushnitski. "He is
fond of getting himself out of trouble by pretending
to be only having a joke. I once gave him
such a talking to that anyone else in his place
would have cut me to pieces on the spot. But
Pechorin turned it all to the ridiculous side. I,
of course, did not call him out because that was
his business, but he did not care to have anything
more to do with it."
"Grushnitski is angry with him for having
captured Princess Mary from him," somebody
"That's a new idea! It is true I did run after
Princess Mary a little, but I left off at once because
I do not want to get married; and it is
against my rules to compromise a girl."
"Yes, I assure you that he is a coward of the
first water, I mean Pechorin, not Grushnitski --
but Grushnitski is a fine fellow, and, besides, he
is my true friend!" the captain of dragoons
went on.
"Gentlemen! Nobody here stands up for
him? Nobody? So much the better! Would
you like to put his courage to the test? It would
be amusing" . . .
"We would; but how?"
"Listen here, then: Grushnitski in particular
is angry with him -- therefore to Grushnitski falls
the chief part. He will pick a quarrel over
some silly trifle or other, and will challenge
Pechorin to a duel. . . Wait a bit; here is
where the joke comes in. . . He will challenge
him to a duel; very well! The whole proceeding
-- challenge, preparations, conditions -- will be
as solemn and awe-inspiring as possible -- I will
see to that. I will be your second, my poor
friend! Very well! Only here is the rub; we
will put no bullets in the pistols. I can answer
for it that Pechorin will turn coward -- I will
place them six paces apart, devil take it! Are
you agreed, gentlemen?"
"Splendid idea! . . . Agreed! . . . And why
not?" . . . came from all sides.
"And you, Grushnitski?"
Tremblingly I awaited Grushnitski's answer. I
was filled with cold rage at the thought that, but
for an accident, I might have made myself the
laughing-stock of those fools. If Grushnitski had
not agreed, I should have thrown myself upon his
neck; but, after an interval of silence, he rose
from his place, extended his hand to the captain,
and said very gravely:
"Very well, I agree!"
It would be difficult to describe the enthusiasm
of that honourable company.
I returned home, agitated by two different feelings.
The first was sorrow.
"Why do they all hate me?" I thought --
"why? Have I affronted anyone? No. Can it
be that I am one of those men the mere sight of
whom is enough to create animosity?"
And I felt a venomous rage gradually filling my
"Have a care, Mr. Grushnitski!" I said, walking
up and down the room: "I am not to be
jested with like this! You may pay dearly for the
approbation of your foolish comrades. I am not
your toy!" . . .
I got no sleep that night. By daybreak I was
as yellow as an orange.
In the morning I met Princess Mary at the
"You are ill?" she said, looking intently at me.
"I did not sleep last night."
"Nor I either. . . I was accusing you . . .
perhaps groundlessly. But explain yourself, I
can forgive you everything" . . .
"Everything?" . . .
"Everything . . . only speak the truth . . .
and be quick. . . You see, I have been thinking
a good deal, trying to explain, to justify, your behaviour.
Perhaps you are afraid of opposition on
the part of my relations . . . that will not
matter. When they learn" . . .
Her voice shook.
"I will win them over by entreaties. Or, is it
your own position? . . . But you know that I
can sacrifice everything for the sake of the man I
love. . . Oh, answer quickly -- have pity. . .
You do not despise me -- do you?"
She seized my hand.
Princess Ligovski was walking in front of us
with Vera's husband, and had not seen anything;
but we might have been observed by some of the
invalids who were strolling about -- the most inquisitive
gossips of all inquisitive folk -- and I
rapidly disengaged my hand from her passionate
"I will tell you the whole truth," I answered.
"I will not justify myself, nor explain my actions:
I do not love you."
Her lips grew slightly pale.
"Leave me," she said, in a scarcely audible
I shrugged my shoulders, turned round, and
walked away.
25th June.
I SOMETIMES despise myself. . . Is not that
the reason why I despise others also? . . .
I have grown incapable of noble impulses; I
am afraid of appearing ridiculous to myself. In
my place, another would have offered Princess
Mary son coeur et sa fortune; but over me the
word "marry" has a kind of magical power.
However passionately I love a woman, if she only
gives me to feel that I have to marry her -- then
farewell, love! My heart is turned to stone, and
nothing will warm it anew. I am prepared for
any other sacrifice but that; my life twenty times
over, nay, my honour I would stake on the fortune
of a card . . . but my freedom I will never
sell. Why do I prize it so highly? What is there
in it to me? For what am I preparing myself?
What do I hope for from the future? . . . In
truth, absolutely nothing. It is a kind of innate
dread, an inexplicable prejudice. . . There are
people, you know, who have an unaccountable
dread of spiders, beetles, mice. . . Shall I confess
it? When I was but a child, a certain old
woman told my fortune to my mother. She predicted
for me death from a wicked wife. I was
profoundly struck by her words at the time: an
irresistible repugnance to marriage was born within
my soul. . . Meanwhile, something tells me
that her prediction will be realized; I will try, at
all events, to arrange that it shall be realized as
late in life as possible.
26th June.
YESTERDAY, the conjurer Apfelbaum arrived
here. A long placard made its appearance
on the door of the restaurant, informing the
most respected public that the above-mentioned
marvellous conjurer, acrobat, chemist, and optician
would have the honour to give a magnificent
performance on the present day at eight o'clock
in the evening, in the saloon of the Nobles' Club
(in other words, the restaurant); tickets -- two
rubles and a half each.
Everyone intends to go and see the marvellous
conjurer; even Princess Ligovski has taken a
ticket for herself, in spite of her daughter being
After dinner to-day, I walked past Vera's windows;
she was sitting by herself on the balcony.
A note fell at my feet:
"Come to me at ten o'clock this evening by the
large staircase. My husband has gone to Pyatigorsk
and will not return before to-morrow morning.
My servants and maids will not be at home;
I have distributed tickets to all of them, and to
the princess's servants as well. I await you; come
without fail."
"Aha!" I said to myself, "so then it has
turned out at last as I thought it would."
At eight o'clock I went to see the conjurer.
The public assembled before the stroke of nine.
The performance began. On the back rows of
chairs I recognized Vera's and Princess Ligovski's
menservants and maids. They were all there,
every single one. Grushnitski, with his lorgnette,
was sitting in the front row, and the conjurer
had recourse to him every time he needed a handkerchief,
a watch, a ring and so forth.
For some time past, Grushnitski has ceased to
bow to me, and to-day he has looked at me rather
insolently once or twice. It will all be remembered
to him when we come to settle our scores.
Before ten o'clock had struck, I stood up and
went out.
It was dark outside, pitch dark. Cold, heavy
clouds were lying on the summit of the surrounding
mountains, and only at rare intervals did the
dying breeze rustle the tops of the poplars which
surrounded the restaurant. People were crowding
at the windows. I went down the mountain
and, turning in under the gate, I hastened my
pace. Suddenly it seemed to me that somebody
was following my steps. I stopped and looked
round. It was impossible to make out anything
in the darkness. However, out of caution, I
walked round the house, as if taking a stroll.
Passing Princess Mary's windows, I again heard
steps behind me; a man wrapped in a cloak ran
by me. That rendered me uneasy, but I crept
up to the flight of steps, and hastily mounted the
dark staircase. A door opened, and a little hand
seized mine. . .
"Nobody has seen you?" said Vera in a
whisper, clinging to me.
"Now do you believe that I love you? Oh!
I have long hesitated, long tortured myself. . .
But you can do anything you like with me."
Her heart was beating violently, her hands were
cold as ice. She broke out into complaints and
jealous reproaches. She demanded that I should
confess everything to her, saying that she would
bear my faithlessness with submission, because
her sole desire was that I should be happy. I did
not quite believe that, but I calmed her with
oaths, promises and so on.
"So you will not marry Mary? You do not
love her? . . . But she thinks. . . Do you
know, she is madly in love with you, poor
girl!" . . .
. . . . .
About two o'clock in the morning I opened the
window and, tying two shawls together, I let myself
down from the upper balcony to the lower,
holding on by the pillar. A light was still burning
in Princess Mary's room. Something drew
me towards that window. The curtain was not
quite drawn, and I was able to cast a curious
glance into the interior of the room. Mary was
sitting on her bed, her hands crossed upon her
knees; her thick hair was gathered up under a
lace-frilled nightcap; her white shoulders were
covered by a large crimson kerchief, and her little
feet were hidden in a pair of many-coloured
Persian slippers. She was sitting quite still, her
head sunk upon her breast; on a little table in
front of her was an open book; but her eyes,
fixed and full of inexpressible grief, seemed for
the hundredth time to be skimming the same
page whilst her thoughts were far away.
At that moment somebody stirred behind a
shrub. I leaped from the balcony on to the
sward. An invisible hand seized me by the
"Aha!" said a rough voice: "caught! . . .
I'll teach you to be entering princesses' rooms at
"Hold him fast!" exclaimed another, springing
out from a corner.
It was Grushnitski and the captain of dragoons.
I struck the latter on the head with my fist,
knocked him off his feet, and darted into the
bushes. All the paths of the garden which covered
the slope opposite our houses were known to me.
"Thieves, guard!" . . . they cried.
A gunshot rang out; a smoking wad fell almost
at my feet.
Within a minute I was in my own room,
undressed and in bed. My manservant had only
just locked the door when Grushnitski and the
captain began knocking for admission.
"Pechorin! Are you asleep? Are you
there?" . . . cried the captain.
"I am in bed," I answered angrily.
"Get up! Thieves! . . . Circassians!" . . .
"I have a cold," I answered. "I am afraid of
catching a chill."
They went away. I had gained no useful purpose
by answering them: they would have been
looking for me in the garden for another hour
or so.
Meanwhile the alarm became terrific. A
Cossack galloped up from the fortress. The commotion
was general; Circassians were looked for
in every shrub -- and of course none were found.
Probably, however, a good many people were left
with the firm conviction that, if only more
courage and despatch had been shown by the
garrison, at least a score of brigands would have
failed to get away with their lives.
27th June.
THIS morning, at the well, the sole topic of
conversation was the nocturnal attack by
the Circassians. I drank the appointed number
of glasses of Narzan water, and, after sauntering
a few times about the long linden avenue, I met
Vera's husband, who had just arrived from Pyatigorsk.
He took my arm and we went to the
restaurant for breakfast. He was dreadfully uneasy
about his wife.
"What a terrible fright she had last night,"
he said. "Of course, it was bound to happen
just at the very time when I was absent."
We sat down to breakfast near the door leading
into a corner-room in which about a dozen young
men were sitting. Grushnitski was amongst them.
For the second time destiny provided me with
the opportunity of overhearing a conversation
which was to decide his fate. He did not see me,
and, consequently, it was impossible for me to
suspect him of design; but that only magnified
his fault in my eyes.
"Is it possible, though, that they were really
Circassians?" somebody said. "Did anyone see
"I will tell you the whole truth," answered
Grushnitski: "only please do not betray me. This
is how it was: yesterday, a certain man, whose
name I will not tell you, came up to me and told
me that, at ten o'clock in the evening, he had seen
somebody creeping into the Ligovskis' house. I
must observe that Princess Ligovski was here, and
Princess Mary at home. So he and I set off to
wait beneath the windows and waylay the lucky
I confess I was frightened, although my companion
was very busily engaged with his breakfast:
he might have heard things which he would
have found rather displeasing, if Grushnitski had
happened to guess the truth; but, blinded by
jealousy, the latter did not even suspect it.
"So, do you see?" Grushnitski continued.
"We set off, taking with us a gun, loaded with
blank cartridge, so as just to give him a fright.
We waited in the garden till two o'clock. At
length -- goodness knows, indeed, where he appeared
from, but he must have come out by the
glass door which is behind the pillar; it was not
out of the window that he came, because the
window had remained unopened -- at length, I
say, we saw someone getting down from the
balcony. . . What do you think of Princess
Mary -- eh? Well, I admit, it is hardly what you
might expect from Moscow ladies! After that
what can you believe? We were going to seize
him, but he broke away and darted like a hare
into the shrubs. Thereupon I fired at him."
There was a general murmur of incredulity.
"You do not believe it?" he continued. "I
give you my word of honour as a gentleman that
it is all perfectly true, and, in proof, I will tell
you the man's name if you like."
"Tell us, tell us, who was he?" came from
all sides.
"Pechorin," answered Grushnitski.
At that moment he raised his eyes -- I was standing
in the doorway opposite to him. He grew
terribly red. I went up to him and said, slowly
and distinctly:
"I am very sorry that I did not come in before
you had given your word of honour in confirmation
of a most abominable calumny: my presence
would have saved you from that further act of
Grushnitski jumped up from his seat and
seemed about to fly into a passion.
"I beg you," I continued in the same tone:
"I beg you at once to retract what you have
said; you know very well that it is all an invention.
I do not think that a woman's indifference
to your brilliant merits should deserve so terrible
a revenge. Bethink you well: if you maintain
your present attitude, you will lose the right to
the name of gentleman and will risk your
Grushnitski stood before me in violent agitation,
his eyes cast down. But the struggle between
his conscience and his vanity was of short
duration. The captain of dragoons, who was sitting
beside him, nudged him with his elbow.
Grushnitski started, and answered rapidly, without
raising his eyes:
"My dear sir, what I say, I mean, and I am
prepared to repeat. . . I am not afraid of your
menaces and am ready for anything."
"The latter you have already proved," I answered
coldly; and, taking the captain of dragoons
by the arm, I left the room.
"What do you want?" asked the captain.
"You are Grushnitski's friend and will no
doubt be his second?"
The captain bowed very gravely.
"You have guessed rightly," he answered.
"Moreover, I am bound to be his second, because
the insult offered to him touches myself also. I
was with him last night," he added, straightening
up his stooping figure.
"Ah! So it was you whose head I struck so
clumsily?" . . .
He turned yellow in the face, then blue; suppressed
rage was portrayed upon his countenance.
"I shall have the honour to send my second to
you to-day," I added, bowing adieu to him very
politely, without appearing to have noticed his
On the restaurant-steps I met Vera's husband.
Apparently he had been waiting for me.
He seized my hand with a feeling akin to
"Noble young man!" he said, with tears in his
eyes. "I have heard everything. What a scoundrel!
Ingrate! . . . Just fancy such people
being admitted into a decent household after
this! Thank God I have no daughters! But she
for whom you are risking your life will reward
you. Be assured of my constant discretion," he
continued. "I have been young myself and
have served in the army: I know that these
affairs must take their course. Good-bye."
Poor fellow! He is glad that he has no
daughters! . . .
I went straight to Werner, found him at home,
and told him the whole story -- my relations with
Vera and Princess Mary, and the conversation
which I had overheard and from which I had
learned the intention of these gentlemen to make
a fool of me by causing me to fight a duel with
blank cartridges. But, now, the affair had gone
beyond the bounds of jest; they probably had
not expected that it would turn out like this.
The doctor consented to be my second; I gave
him a few directions with regard to the conditions
of the duel. He was to insist upon the
affair being managed with all possible secrecy, because,
although I am prepared, at any moment,
to face death, I am not in the least disposed to
spoil for all time my future in this world.
After that I went home. In an hour's time the
doctor returned from his expedition.
"There is indeed a conspiracy against you," he
said. "I found the captain of dragoons at Grushnitski's,
together with another gentleman whose
surname I do not remember. I stopped a moment
in the ante-room, in order to take off my goloshes.
They were squabbling and making a terrible uproar.
'On no account will I agree,' Grushnitski
was saying: 'he has insulted me publicly; it was
quite a different thing before' . . .
"'What does it matter to you?' answered the
captain. 'I will take it all upon myself. I have
been second in five duels, and I should think I
know how to arrange the affair. I have thought
it all out. Just let me alone, please. It is not a
bad thing to give people a bit of a fright. And
why expose yourself to danger if it is possible to
avoid it?' . . .
"At that moment I entered the room. They
suddenly fell silent. Our negotiations were somewhat
protracted. At length we decided the
matter as follows: about five versts from here
there is a hollow gorge; they will ride thither tomorrow
at four o'clock in the morning, and we
shall leave half an hour later. You will fire at six
paces -- Grushnitski himself demanded that condition.
Whichever of you is killed -- his death
will be put down to the account of the Circassians.
And now I must tell you what I suspect:
they, that is to say the seconds, may have made
some change in their former plan and may want
to load only Grushnitski's pistol. That is something
like murder, but in time of war, and especially
in Asiatic warfare, such tricks are allowed.
Grushnitski, however, seems to be a little more
magnanimous than his companions. What do you
think? Ought we not to let them see that we
have guessed their plan?"
"Not on any account, doctor! Make your
mind easy; I will not give in to them."
"But what are you going to do, then?"
"That is my secret."
"Mind you are not caught . . . six paces, you
"Doctor, I shall expect you to-morrow at four
o'clock. The horses will be ready . . . Goodbye."
I remained in the house until the evening, with
my door locked. A manservant came to invite me
to Princess Ligovski's -- I bade him say that I
was ill.
. . . . .
Two o'clock in the morning. . . I cannot
sleep. . . Yet sleep is what I need, if I am to
have a steady hand to-morrow. However, at six
paces it is difficult to miss. Aha! Mr. Grushnitski,
your wiles will not succeed! . . . We shall
exchange roles: now it is I who shall have to
seek the signs of latent terror upon your pallid
countenance. Why have you yourself appointed
these fatal six paces? Think you that I will
tamely expose my forehead to your aim? . . .
No, we shall cast lots. . . And then -- then --
what if his luck should prevail? If my star at
length should betray me? . . . And little wonder
if it did: it has so long and faithfully served
my caprices.
Well? If I must die, I must! The loss to the
world will not be great; and I myself am already
downright weary of everything. I am like a guest
at a ball, who yawns but does not go home to bed,
simply because his carriage has not come for him.
But now the carriage is here. . . Good-bye! . . .
My whole past life I live again in memory, and,
involuntarily, I ask myself: 'why have I lived --
for what purpose was I born?' . . . A purpose
there must have been, and, surely, mine was an
exalted destiny, because I feel that within my
soul are powers immeasurable. . . But I was
not able to discover that destiny, I allowed myself
to be carried away by the allurements of passions,
inane and ignoble. From their crucible I issued
hard and cold as iron, but gone for ever was the
glow of noble aspirations -- the fairest flower of
life. And, from that time forth, how often have
I not played the part of an axe in the hands of
fate! Like an implement of punishment, I have
fallen upon the head of doomed victims, often
without malice, always without pity. . . To none
has my love brought happiness, because I have
never sacrificed anything for the sake of those
I have loved: for myself alone I have loved --
for my own pleasure. I have only satisfied the
strange craving of my heart, greedily draining
their feelings, their tenderness, their joys, their
sufferings -- and I have never been able to sate
myself. I am like one who, spent with hunger,
falls asleep in exhaustion and sees before him
sumptuous viands and sparkling wines; he devours
with rapture the aerial gifts of the imagination,
and his pains seem somewhat assuaged. Let
him but awake: the vision vanishes -- twofold
hunger and despair remain!
And to-morrow, it may be, I shall die! . . .
And there will not be left on earth one being who
has understood me completely. Some will consider
me worse, others, better, than I have been
in reality. . . Some will say: 'he was a good
fellow'; others: 'a villain.' And both epithets
will be false. After all this, is life worth the
trouble? And yet we live -- out of curiosity!
We expect something new. . . How absurd,
and yet how vexatious!
IT is now a month and a half since I have
been in the N---- Fortress.
Maksim Maksimych is out hunting. . . I am
alone. I am sitting by the window. Grey clouds
have covered the mountains to the foot; the sun
appears through the mist as a yellow spot. It
is cold; the wind is whistling and rocking the
shutters. . . I am bored! . . . I will continue
my diary which has been interrupted by so many
strange events.
I read the last page over: how ridiculous it
seems! . . . I thought to die; it was not to be.
I have not yet drained the cup of suffering, and
now I feel that I still have long to live.
How clearly and how sharply have all these
bygone events been stamped upon my memory!
Time has not effaced a single line, a single
I remember that during the night preceding
the duel I did not sleep a single moment. I was
not able to write for long: a secret uneasiness
took possession of me. For about an hour I paced
the room, then I sat down and opened a novel by
Walter Scott which was lying on my table. It
was "The Scottish Puritans."[1] At first I read
with an effort; then, carried away by the
magical fiction, I became oblivious of everything
[1] None of the Waverley novels, of course, bears this title.
The novel referred to is doubtless "Old Mortality," on which
Bellini's opera, "I Puritani di Scozia," is founded.
At last day broke. My nerves became composed.
I looked in the glass: a dull pallor covered
my face, which preserved the traces of harassing
sleeplessness; but my eyes, although encircled
by a brownish shadow, glittered proudly and
inexorably. I was satisfied with myself.
I ordered the horses to be saddled, dressed myself,
and ran down to the baths. Plunging into
the cold, sparkling water of the Narzan Spring, I
felt my bodily and mental powers returning. I
left the baths as fresh and hearty as if I was off
to a ball. After that, who shall say that the
soul is not dependent upon the body! . . .
On my return, I found the doctor at my rooms.
He was wearing grey riding-breeches, a jacket
and a Circassian cap. I burst out laughing when
I saw that little figure under the enormous shaggy
cap. Werner has a by no means warlike countenance,
and on that occasion it was even longer
than usual.
"Why so sad, doctor?" I said to him. "Have
you not a hundred times, with the greatest
indifference, escorted people to the other world?
Imagine that I have a bilious fever: I may get
well; also, I may die; both are in the usual
course of things. Try to look on me as a patient,
afflicted with an illness with which you are still
unfamiliar -- and then your curiosity will be
aroused in the highest degree. You can now make
a few important physiological observations upon
me. . . Is not the expectation of a violent death
itself a real illness?"
The doctor was struck by that idea, and he
brightened up.
We mounted our horses. Werner clung on to
his bridle with both hands, and we set off. In a
trice we had galloped past the fortress, through
the village, and had ridden into the gorge. Our
winding road was half-overgrown with tall grass
and was intersected every moment by a noisy
brook, which we had to ford, to the great despair
of the doctor, because each time his horse would
stop in the water.
A morning more fresh and blue I cannot
remember! The sun had scarce shown his face
from behind the green summits, and the blending
of the first warmth of his rays with the dying
coolness of the night produced on all my feelings
a sort of sweet languor. The joyous beam of the
young day had not yet penetrated the gorge; it
gilded only the tops of the cliffs which overhung
us on both sides. The tufted shrubs, growing in
the deep crevices of the cliffs, besprinkled us with
a silver shower at the least breath of wind. I
remember that on that occasion I loved Nature
more than ever before. With what curiosity did
I examine every dewdrop trembling upon the
broad vine leaf and reflecting millions of rainbowhued
rays! How eagerly did my glance endeavour
to penetrate the smoky distance! There
the road grew narrower and narrower, the cliffs
bluer and more dreadful, and at last they met, it
seemed, in an impenetrable wall.
We rode in silence.
"Have you made your will?" Werner suddenly
"And if you are killed?"
"My heirs will be found of themselves."
"Is it possible that you have no friends, to
whom you would like to send a last farewell?" . . .
I shook my head.
"Is there, really, not one woman in the world
to whom you would like to leave some token
in remembrance?" . . .
"Do you want me to reveal my soul to you,
doctor?" I answered. . . "You see, I have
outlived the years when people die with the name
of the beloved on their lips and bequeathing to a
friend a lock of pomaded -- or unpomaded -- hair.
When I think that death may be near, I think of
myself alone; others do not even do as much.
The friends who to-morrow will forget me or,
worse, will utter goodness knows what falsehoods
about me; the women who, while embracing
another, will laugh at me in order not to arouse
his jealousy of the deceased -- let them go! Out
of the storm of life I have borne away only a
few ideas -- and not one feeling. For a long time
now I have been living, not with my heart, but
with my head. I weigh, analyse my own passions
and actions with severe curiosity, but without
sympathy. There are two personalities within
me: one lives -- in the complete sense of the
word -- the other reflects and judges him; the
first, it may be, in an hour's time, will take farewell
of you and the world for ever, and the second
-- the second? . . . Look, doctor, do you see those
three black figures on the cliff, to the right?
They are our antagonists, I suppose?" . . .
We pushed on.
In the bushes at the foot of the cliff three
horses were tethered; we tethered ours there
too, and then we clambered up the narrow path
to the ledge on which Grushnitski was awaiting
us in company with the captain of dragoons and
his other second, whom they called Ivan Ignatevich.
His surname I never heard.
"We have been expecting you for quite a long
time," said the captain of dragoons, with an
ironical smile.
I drew out my watch and showed him the
He apologized, saying that his watch was
There was an embarrassing silence for a
few moments. At length the doctor interrupted
"It seems to me," he said, turning to Grushnitski,
"that as you have both shown your readiness
to fight, and thereby paid the debt due to
the conditions of honour, you might be able to
come to an explanation and finish the affair
"I am ready," I said.
The captain winked to Grushnitski, and the
latter, thinking that I was losing courage, assumed
a haughty air, although, until that moment, his
cheeks had been covered with a dull pallor. For
the first time since our arrival he lifted his eyes
on me; but in his glance there was a certain
disquietude which evinced an inward struggle.
"Declare your conditions," he said, "and
anything I can do for you, be assured" . . .
"These are my conditions: you will this very
day publicly recant your slander and beg my
pardon" . . .
"My dear sir, I wonder how you dare make such
a proposal to me?"
"What else could I propose?" . . .
"We will fight."
I shrugged my shoulders.
"Be it so; only, bethink you that one of us
will infallibly be killed."
"I hope it will be you" . . .
"And I am so convinced of the contrary" . . .
He became confused, turned red, and then
burst out into a forced laugh.
The captain took his arm and led him aside;
they whispered together for a long time. I had
arrived in a fairly pacific frame of mind, but all
this was beginning to drive me furious.
The doctor came up to me.
"Listen," he said, with manifest uneasiness,
"you have surely forgotten their conspiracy! . . .
I do not know how to load a pistol, but in
this case. . . You are a strange man! Tell
them that you know their intention -- and they
will not dare. . . What sport! To shoot you
like a bird" . . .
"Please do not be uneasy, doctor, and wait
awhile. . . I shall arrange everything in such a
way that there will be no advantage on their side.
Let them whisper" . . .
"Gentlemen, this is becoming tedious," I said
to them loudly: "if we are to fight, let us fight;
you had time yesterday to talk as much as you
wanted to."
"We are ready," answered the captain. "Take
your places, gentlemen! Doctor, be good enough
to measure six paces" . . .
"Take your places!" repeated Ivan Ignatevich,
in a squeaky voice.
"Excuse me!" I said. "One further condition.
As we are going to fight to the death, we
are bound to do everything possible in order that
the affair may remain a secret, and that our
seconds may incur no responsibility. Do you
agree?" . . .
"Well, then, this is my idea. Do you see that
narrow ledge on the top of the perpendicular
cliff on the right? It must be thirty fathoms, if
not more, from there to the bottom; and, down
below, there are sharp rocks. Each of us will
stand right at the extremity of the ledge -- in such
manner even a slight wound will be mortal: that
ought to be in accordance with your desire, as
you yourselves have fixed upon six paces. Whichever
of us is wounded will be certain to fall
down and be dashed to pieces; the doctor
will extract the bullet, and, then, it will be
possible very easily to account for that sudden
death by saying it was the result of a fall. Let
us cast lots to decide who shall fire first. In
conclusion, I declare that I will not fight on any
other terms."
"Be it so!" said the captain after an expressive
glance at Grushnitski, who nodded his head
in token of assent. Every moment he was
changing countenance. I had placed him in an
embarrassing position. Had the duel been fought
upon the usual conditions, he could have aimed
at my leg, wounded me slightly, and in such wise
gratified his vengeance without overburdening
his conscience. But now he was obliged to fire in
the air, or to make himself an assassin, or, finally,
to abandon his base plan and to expose himself to
equal danger with me. I should not have liked
to be in his place at that moment. He took the
captain aside and said something to him with
great warmth. His lips were blue, and I saw
them trembling; but the captain turned away
from him with a contemptuous smile.
"You are a fool," he said to Grushnitski rather
loudly. "You can't understand a thing! . . .
Let us be off, then, gentlemen!"
The precipice was approached by a narrow
path between bushes, and fragments of rock
formed the precarious steps of that natural staircase.
Clinging to the bushes we proceeded to
clamber up. Grushnitski went in front, his
seconds behind him, and then the doctor
and I.
"I am surprised at you," said the doctor,
pressing my hand vigorously. "Let me feel your
pulse! . . . Oho! Feverish! . . . But nothing
noticeable on your countenance . . . only
your eyes are gleaming more brightly than
Suddenly small stones rolled noisily right
under our feet. What was it? Grushnitski had
stumbled; the branch to which he was clinging
had broken off, and he would have rolled
down on his back if his seconds had not held
him up.
"Take care!" I cried. "Do not fall prematurely:
that is a bad sign. Remember Julius
AND now we had climbed to the summit of
the projecting cliff. The ledge was covered
with fine sand, as if on purpose for a duel.
All around, like an innumerable herd, crowded
the mountains, their summits lost to view in
the golden mist of the morning; and towards the
south rose the white mass of Elbruz, closing the
chain of icy peaks, among which fibrous clouds,
which had rushed in from the east, were already
roaming. I walked to the extremity of the ledge
and gazed down. My head nearly swam. At the
foot of the precipice all seemed dark and cold as
in a tomb; the moss-grown jags of the rocks,
hurled down by storm and time, were awaiting
their prey.
The ledge on which we were to fight formed
an almost regular triangle. Six paces were measured
from the projecting corner, and it was decided
that whichever had first to meet the fire of
his opponent should stand in the very corner with
his back to the precipice; if he was not killed
the adversaries would change places.
I determined to relinquish every advantage to
Grushnitski; I wanted to test him. A spark of
magnanimity might awake in his soul -- and then
all would have been settled for the best. But his
vanity and weakness of character had perforce to
triumph! . . . I wished to give myself the full
right to refrain from sparing him if destiny were
to favour me. Who would not have concluded
such an agreement with his conscience?
"Cast the lot, doctor!" said the captain.
The doctor drew a silver coin from his pocket
and held it up.
"Tail!" cried Grushnitski hurriedly, like a
man suddenly aroused by a friendly nudge.
"Head," I said.
The coin spun in the air and fell, jingling. We
all rushed towards it.
"You are lucky," I said to Grushnitski. "You
are to fire first! But remember that if you do
not kill me I shall not miss -- I give you my word
of honour."
He flushed up; he was ashamed to kill an unarmed
man. I looked at him fixedly; for a
moment it seemed to me that he would throw
himself at my feet, imploring forgiveness; but
how to confess so base a plot? . . . One expedient
only was left to him -- to fire in the air! I
was convinced that he would fire in the air! One
consideration alone might prevent him doing so --
the thought that I would demand a second
"Now is the time!" the doctor whispered to
me, plucking me by the sleeve. "If you do not
tell them now that we know their intentions, all
is lost. Look, he is loading already. . . If you
will not say anything, I will" . . .
"On no account, doctor!" I answered, holding
him back by the arm. "You will spoil everything.
You have given me your word not to
interfere. . . What does it matter to you?
Perhaps I wish to be killed" . . .
He looked at me in astonishment.
"Oh, that is another thing! . . . Only do not
complain of me in the other world" . . .
Meanwhile the captain had loaded his pistols
and given one to Grushnitski, after whispering
something to him with a smile; the other he gave
to me.
I placed myself in the corner of the ledge, planting
my left foot firmly against the rock and bending
slightly forward, so that, in case of a slight
wound, I might not fall over backwards.
Grushnitski placed himself opposite me and, at
a given signal, began to raise his pistol. His knees
shook. He aimed right at my forehead. . . Unutterable
fury began to seethe within my
Suddenly he dropped the muzzle of the pistol
and, pale as a sheet, turned to his second.
"I cannot," he said in a hollow voice.
"Coward!" answered the captain.
A shot rang out. The bullet grazed my knee.
Involuntarily I took a few paces forward in
order to get away from the edge as quickly as
"Well, my dear Grushnitski, it is a pity that
you have missed!" said the captain. "Now it is
your turn, take your stand! Embrace me first:
we shall not see each other again!"
They embraced; the captain could scarcely refrain
from laughing.
"Do not be afraid," he added, glancing cunningly
at Grushnitski; "everything in this world
is nonsense. . . Nature is a fool, fate a turkeyhen,
and life a copeck!"[1]
[1] Popular phrases, equivalent to: "Men are fools, fortune
is blind, and life is not worth a straw."
After that tragic phrase, uttered with becoming
gravity, he went back to his place. Ivan Ignatevich,
with tears, also embraced Grushnitski, and
there the latter remained alone, facing me. Ever
since then, I have been trying to explain to myself
what sort of feeling it was that was boiling within
my breast at that moment: it was the vexation
of injured vanity, and contempt, and wrath engendered
at the thought that the man now looking
at me with such confidence, such quiet insolence,
had, two minutes before, been about to kill
me like a dog, without exposing himself to the
least danger, because had I been wounded a little
more severely in the leg I should inevitably have
fallen over the cliff.
For a few moments I looked him fixedly in the
face, trying to discern thereon even a slight trace
of repentance. But it seemed to me that he was
restraining a smile.
"I should advise you to say a prayer before you
die," I said.
"Do not worry about my soul any more than
your own. One thing I beg of you: be quick
about firing."
"And you do not recant your slander? You
do not beg my forgiveness? . . . Bethink you
well: has your conscience nothing to say to
"Mr. Pechorin!" exclaimed the captain of
dragoons. "Allow me to point out that you are
not here to preach. . . Let us lose no time, in
case anyone should ride through the gorge and
we should be seen."
"Very well. Doctor, come here!"
The doctor came up to me. Poor doctor! He
was paler than Grushnitski had been ten minutes
The words which followed I purposely pronounced
with a pause between each -- loudly
and distinctly, as the sentence of death is pronounced:
"Doctor, these gentlemen have forgotten, in
their hurry, no doubt, to put a bullet in
my pistol. I beg you to load it afresh -- and
"Impossible!" cried the captain, "impossible!
I loaded both pistols. Perhaps the bullet has
rolled out of yours. . . That is not my fault!
And you have no right to load again. . . No
right at all. It is altogether against the rules,
I shall not allow it" . . .
"Very well!" I said to the captain. "If so,
then you and I shall fight on the same terms" . . .
He came to a dead stop.
Grushnitski stood with his head sunk on his
breast, embarrassed and gloomy.
"Let them be!" he said at length to the captain,
who was going to pull my pistol out of the
doctor's hands. "You know yourself that they
are right."
In vain the captain made various signs to him.
Grushnitski would not even look.
Meanwhile the doctor had loaded the pistol and
handed it to me. On seeing that, the captain spat
and stamped his foot.
"You are a fool, then, my friend," he said: "a
common fool! . . . You trusted to me before, so
you should obey me in everything now. . . But
serve you right! Die like a fly!" . . .
He turned away, muttering as he went:
"But all the same it is absolutely against the
"Grushnitski!" I said. "There is still time:
recant your slander, and I will forgive you everything.
You have not succeeded in making a fool
of me; my self-esteem is satisfied. Remember
-- we were once friends" . . .
His face flamed, his eyes flashed.
"Fire!" he answered. "I despise myself and
I hate you. If you do not kill me I will lie in
wait for you some night and cut your throat.
There is not room on the earth for both of
us" . . .
I fired.
When the smoke had cleared away, Grushnitski
was not to be seen on the ledge. Only a slender
column of dust was still eddying at the edge of
the precipice.
There was a simultaneous cry from the rest.
"Finita la commedia!" I said to the doctor.
He made no answer, and turned away with
I shrugged my shoulders and bowed to Grushnitski's
AS I descended by the path, I observed Grushnitski's
bloodstained corpse between the
clefts of the rocks. Involuntarily, I closed my
Untying my horse, I set off home at a walking
pace. A stone lay upon my heart. To my eyes
the sun seemed dim, its beams were powerless to
warm me.
I did not ride up to the village, but turned to
the right, along the gorge. The sight of a man
would have been painful to me: I wanted to be
alone. Throwing down the bridle and letting my
head fall on my breast, I rode for a long time, and
at length found myself in a spot with which I was
wholly unfamiliar. I turned my horse back and
began to search for the road. The sun had already
set by the time I had ridden up to Kislovodsk
-- myself and my horse both utterly spent!
My servant told me that Werner had called,
and he handed me two notes: one from Werner,
the other . . . from Vera.
I opened the first; its contents were as follows:
"Everything has been arranged as well as could
be; the mutilated body has been brought in;
and the bullet extracted from the breast. Everybody
is convinced that the cause of death was an
unfortunate accident; only the Commandant,
who was doubtless aware of your quarrel, shook
his head, but he said nothing. There are no
proofs at all against you, and you may sleep in
peace . . . if you can. . . . Farewell!" . . .
For a long time I could not make up my mind
to open the second note. . . What could it be
that she was writing to me? . . . My soul was
agitated by a painful foreboding.
Here it is, that letter, each word of which is
indelibly engraved upon my memory:
"I am writing to you in the full assurance that
we shall never see each other again. A few years
ago on parting with you I thought the same.
However, it has been Heaven's will to try me a
second time: I have not been able to endure the
trial, my frail heart has again submitted to the
well-known voice. . . You will not despise me
for that -- will you? This letter will be at once a
farewell and a confession: I am obliged to tell
you everything that has been treasured up in my
heart since it began to love you. I will not accuse
you -- you have acted towards me as any other
man would have acted; you have loved me as a
chattel, as a source of joys, disquietudes and
griefs, interchanging one with the other, without
which life would be dull and monotonous. I
have understood all that from the first. . . But
you were unhappy, and I have sacrificed myself,
hoping that, some time, you would appreciate my
sacrifice, that some time you would understand
my deep tenderness, unfettered by any conditions.
A long time has elapsed since then: I
have fathomed all the secrets of your soul. . .
and I have convinced myself that my hope was
vain. It has been a bitter blow to me! But my
love has been grafted with my soul; it has grown
dark, but has not been extinguished.
"We are parting for ever; yet you may be
sure that I shall never love another. Upon you
my soul has exhausted all its treasures, its tears,
its hopes. She who has once loved you cannot
look without a certain disdain upon other men,
not because you have been better than they, oh,
no! but in your nature there is something peculiar
-- belonging to you alone, something proud
and mysterious; in your voice, whatever the
words spoken, there is an invincible power. No
one can so constantly wish to be loved, in no one
is wickedness ever so attractive, no one's glance
promises so much bliss, no one can better make
use of his advantages, and no one can be so truly
unhappy as you, because no one endeavours so
earnestly to convince himself of the contrary.
"Now I must explain the cause of my hurried
departure; it will seem of little importance to
you, because it concerns me alone.
"This morning my husband came in and told
me about your quarrel with Grushnitski. Evidently
I changed countenance greatly, because he
looked me in the face long and intently. I almost
fainted at the thought that you had to fight a
duel to-day, and that I was the cause of it; it
seemed to me that I should go mad. . . But
now, when I am able to reason, I am sure that
you remain alive: it is impossible that you should
die, and I not with you -- impossible! My husband
walked about the room for a long time. I
do not know what he said to me, I do not remember
what I answered. . . Most likely I told him
that I loved you. . . I only remember that, at
the end of our conversation, he insulted me with
a dreadful word and left the room. I heard him
ordering the carriage. . . I have been sitting at
the window three hours now, awaiting your return.
. . But you are alive, you cannot have
died! . . . The carriage is almost ready. . .
Good-bye, good-bye! . . . I have perished -- but
what matter? If I could be sure that you will
always remember me -- I no longer say love -- no,
only remember . . . Good-bye, they are coming!
. . . I must hide this letter.
"You do not love Mary, do you? You will
not marry her? Listen, you must offer me that
sacrifice. I have lost everything in the world for
you" . . .
Like a madman I sprang on the steps, jumped
on my Circassian horse which was being led about
the courtyard, and set off at full gallop along the
road to Pyatigorsk. Unsparingly I urged on the
jaded horse, which, snorting and all in a foam,
carried me swiftly along the rocky road.
The sun had already disappeared behind a black
cloud, which had been resting on the ridge of the
western mountains; the gorge grew dark and
damp. The Podkumok, forcing its way over the
rocks, roared with a hollow and monotonous
sound. I galloped on, choking with impatience.
The idea of not finding Vera in Pyatigorsk struck
my heart like a hammer. For one minute, again
to see her for one minute, to say farewell, to
press her hand. . . I prayed, cursed, wept,
laughed. . . No, nothing could express my
anxiety, my despair! . . . Now that it seemed
possible that I might be about to lose her for ever,
Vera became dearer to me than aught in the
world -- dearer than life, honour, happiness! God
knows what strange, what mad plans swarmed in
my head. . . Meanwhile I still galloped, urging
on my horse without pity. And, now, I began to
notice that he was breathing more heavily; he
had already stumbled once or twice on level
ground. . . I was five versts from Essentuki --
a Cossack village where I could change horses.
All would have been saved had my horse been
able to hold out for another ten minutes. But
suddenly, in lifting himself out of a little gulley
where the road emerges from the mountains at a
sharp turn, he fell to the ground. I jumped down
promptly, I tried to lift him up, I tugged at his
bridle -- in vain. A scarcely audible moan burst
through his clenched teeth; in a few moments
he expired. I was left on the steppe, alone; I
had lost my last hope. I endeavoured to walk --
my legs sank under me; exhausted by the
anxieties of the day and by sleeplessness, I fell
upon the wet grass and burst out crying like a
For a long time I lay motionless and wept
bitterly, without attempting to restrain my tears
and sobs. I thought my breast would burst. All
my firmness, all my coolness, disappeared like
smoke; my soul grew powerless, my reason silent,
and, if anyone had seen me at that moment, he
would have turned aside with contempt.
When the night-dew and the mountain breeze
had cooled my burning brow, and my thoughts
had resumed their usual course, I realized that to
pursue my perished happiness would be unavailing
and unreasonable. What more did I want? --
To see her? -- Why? Was not all over between
us? A single, bitter, farewell kiss would not have
enriched my recollections, and, after it, parting
would only have been more difficult for us.
Still, I am pleased that I can weep. Perhaps,
however, the cause of that was my shattered
nerves, a night passed without sleep, two minutes
opposite the muzzle of a pistol, and an empty
It is all for the best. That new suffering
created within me a fortunate diversion -- to speak
in military style. To weep is healthy, and then,
no doubt, if I had not ridden as I did and had
not been obliged to walk fifteen versts on my way
back, sleep would not have closed my eyes on that
night either.
I returned to Kislovodsk at five o'clock in the
morning, threw myself on my bed, and slept the
sleep of Napoleon after Waterloo.
By the time I awoke it was dark outside. I sat by
the open window, with my jacket unbuttoned --
and the mountain breeze cooled my breast, still
troubled by the heavy sleep of weariness. In
the distance beyond the river, through the tops
of the thick lime trees which overshadowed it,
lights were glancing in the fortress and the village.
Close at hand all was calm. It was dark in
Princess Ligovski's house.
The doctor entered; his brows were knit;
contrary to custom, he did not offer me his
"Where have you come from, doctor?"
"From Princess Ligovski's; her daughter is
ill -- nervous exhaustion. . . That is not the
point, though. This is what I have come to tell
you: the authorities are suspicious, and, although
it is impossible to prove anything positively, I
should, all the same, advise you to be cautious.
Princess Ligovski told me to-day that she knew
that you fought a duel on her daughter's account.
That little old man -- what's his name? -- has
told her everything. He was a witness of
your quarrel with Grushnitski in the restaurant.
I have come to warn you. Good-bye. Maybe
we shall not meet again: you will be banished
He stopped on the threshold; he would gladly
have pressed my hand . . . and, had I shown the
slightest desire to embrace him, he would have
thrown himself upon my neck; but I remained
cold as a rock -- and he left the room.
That is just like men! They are all the same:
they know beforehand all the bad points of an
act, they help, they advise, they even encourage it,
seeing the impossibility of any other expedient --
and then they wash their hands of the whole
affair and turn away with indignation from him
who has had the courage to take the whole burden
of responsibility upon himself. They are all like
that, even the best-natured, the wisest. . .
NEXT morning, having received orders from
the supreme authority to betake myself to
the N---- Fortress, I called upon Princess Ligovski
to say good-bye.
She was surprised when, in answer to her question,
whether I had not anything of special importance
to tell her, I said I had come to wish her
good-bye, and so on.
"But I must have a very serious talk with you."
I sat down in silence.
It was clear that she did not know how to
begin; her face grew livid, she tapped the table
with her plump fingers; at length, in a broken
voice, she said:
"Listen, Monsieur Pechorin, I think that you
are a gentleman."
I bowed.
"Nay, I am sure of it," she continued, "although
your behaviour is somewhat equivocal,
but you may have reasons which I do not know;
and you must now confide them to me. You have
protected my daughter from slander, you have
fought a duel on her behalf -- consequently you
have risked your life. . . Do not answer. I
know that you will not acknowledge it because
Grushnitski has been killed" -- she crossed herself.
"God forgive him -- and you too, I hope. . .
That does not concern me. . . I dare not condemn
you because my daughter, although innocently,
has been the cause. She has told me
everything . . . everything, I think. You have
declared your love for her. . . She has admitted
hers to you." -- Here Princess Ligovski sighed
heavily. -- "But she is ill, and I am certain that
it is no simple illness! Secret grief is killing her;
she will not confess, but I am convinced that you
are the cause of it. . . Listen: you think, perhaps,
that I am looking for rank or immense
wealth -- be undeceived, my daughter's happiness
is my sole desire. Your present position is unenviable,
but it may be bettered: you have
means; my daughter loves you; she has been
brought up in such a way that she will make her
husband a happy man. I am wealthy, she is my
only child. . . Tell me, what is keeping you
back? . . . You see, I ought not to be saying all
this to you, but I rely upon your heart, upon your
honour -- remember she is my only daughter . . .
my only one" . . .
She burst into tears.
"Princess," I said, "it is impossible for me to
answer you; allow me to speak to your daughter,
alone" . . .
"Never!" she exclaimed, rising from her
chair in violent agitation.
"As you wish," I answered, preparing to go
She fell into thought, made a sign to me with
her hand that I should wait a little, and left the
Five minutes passed. My heart was beating
violently, but my thoughts were tranquil, my
head cool. However assiduously I sought in my
breast for even a spark of love for the charming
Mary, my efforts were of no avail!
Then the door opened, and she entered.
Heavens! How she had changed since I had last
seen her -- and that but a short time ago!
When she reached the middle of the room, she
staggered. I jumped up, gave her my arm, and
led her to a chair.
I stood facing her. We remained silent for a
long time; her large eyes, full of unutterable
grief, seemed to be searching in mine for something
resembling hope; her wan lips vainly endeavoured
to smile; her tender hands, which
were folded upon her knees, were so thin and
transparent that I pitied her.
"Princess," I said, "you know that I have
been making fun of you? . . . You must despise
A sickly flush suffused her cheeks.
"Consequently," I continued, "you cannot
love me" . . .
She turned her head away, leaned her elbows
on the table, covered her eyes with her hand, and
it seemed to me that she was on the point of
"Oh, God!" she said, almost inaudibly.
The situation was growing intolerable. Another
minute -- and I should have fallen at her feet.
"So you see, yourself," I said in as firm a voice
as I could command, and with a forced smile,
"you see, yourself, that I cannot marry you.
Even if you wished it now, you would soon repent.
My conversation with your mother has compelled
me to explain myself to you so frankly and so
brutally. I hope that she is under a delusion: it
will be easy for you to undeceive her. You see, I
am playing a most pitiful and ugly role in your
eyes, and I even admit it -- that is the utmost I
can do for your sake. However bad an opinion
you may entertain of me, I submit to it. . . You
see that I am base in your sight, am I not? . . .
Is it not true that, even if you have loved me, you
would despise me from this moment?" . . .
She turned round to me. She was pale as
marble, but her eyes were sparkling wondrously.
"I hate you" . . . she said.
I thanked her, bowed respectfully, and left the
An hour afterwards a postal express was bearing
me rapidly from Kislovodsk. A few versts from
Essentuki I recognized near the roadway the body
of my spirited horse. The saddle had been taken
off, no doubt by a passing Cossack, and, in its
place, two ravens were sitting on the horse's back.
I sighed and turned away. . .
And now, here in this wearisome fortress, I
often ask myself, as my thoughts wander back to
the past: why did I not wish to tread that way,
thrown open by destiny, where soft joys and ease
of soul were awaiting me? . . . No, I could
never have become habituated to such a fate!
I am like a sailor born and bred on the deck of a
pirate brig: his soul has grown accustomed to
storms and battles; but, once let him be case
upon the shore, and he chafes, he pines away,
however invitingly the shady groves allure, however
brightly shines the peaceful sun. The livelong
day he paces the sandy shore, hearkens to the
monotonous murmur of the onrushing waves, and
gazes into the misty distance: lo! yonder, upon
the pale line dividing the blue deep from the
grey clouds, is there not glancing the longed-for
sail, at first like the wing of a seagull, but little
by little severing itself from the foam of the
billows and, with even course, drawing nigh to
the desert harbour?
(By the Author)
THE preface to a book serves the double
purpose of prologue and epilogue. It
affords the author an opportunity of explaining
the object of the work, or of vindicating himself
and replying to his critics. As a rule, however,
the reader is concerned neither with the moral
purpose of the book nor with the attacks of the
Reviewers, and so the preface remains unread.
Nevertheless, this is a pity, especially with us
Russians! The public of this country is so youthful,
not to say simple-minded, that it cannot
understand the meaning of a fable unless the
moral is set forth at the end. Unable to see a
joke, insensible to irony, it has, in a word, been
badly brought up. It has not yet learned that in
a decent book, as in decent society, open invective
can have no place; that our present-day civilisation
has invented a keener weapon, none the less
deadly for being almost invisible, which, under
the cloak of flattery, strikes with sure and irresistible
effect. The Russian public is like a
simple-minded person from the country who,
chancing to overhear a conversation between two
diplomatists belonging to hostile courts, comes
away with the conviction that each of them has
been deceiving his Government in the interest of
a most affectionate private friendship.
The unfortunate effects of an over-literal acceptation
of words by certain readers and even Reviewers
have recently been manifested in regard to
the present book. Many of its readers have been
dreadfully, and in all seriousness, shocked to find
such an immoral man as Pechorin set before
them as an example. Others have observed,
with much acumen, that the author has painted
his own portrait and those of his acquaintances!
. . . What a stale and wretched jest!
But Russia, it appears, has been constituted in
such a way that absurdities of this kind will
never be eradicated. It is doubtful whether, in
this country, the most ethereal of fairy-tales
would escape the reproach of attempting offensive
Pechorin, gentlemen, is in fact a portrait, but
not of one man only: he is a composite portrait,
made up of all the vices which flourish, fullgrown,
amongst the present generation. You
will tell me, as you have told me before,
that no man can be so bad as this; and my
reply will be: "If you believe that such
persons as the villains of tragedy and romance
could exist in real life, why can you not believe
in the reality of Pechorin? If you admire fictions
much more terrible and monstrous, why is
it that this character, even if regarded merely as
a creature of the imagination, cannot obtain
quarter at your hands? Is it not because there
is more truth in it than may be altogether palatable
to you?"
You will say that the cause of morality gains
nothing by this book. I beg your pardon. People
have been surfeited with sweetmeats and their
digestion has been ruined: bitter medicines,
sharp truths, are therefore necessary. This must
not, however, be taken to mean that the author
has ever proudly dreamed of becoming a reformer
of human vices. Heaven keep him from such impertinence!
He has simply found it entertaining
to depict a man, such as he considers to be
typical of the present day and such as he has often
met in real life -- too often, indeed, unfortunately
both for the author himself and for you. Suffice
it that the disease has been pointed out: how it
is to be cured -- God alone knows!

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