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    Knock, Knock, Knock

    by Ivan S. Turgenev
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    We all settled down in a circle and our good friend Alexandr
    Vassilyevitch Ridel (his surname was German but he was Russian to the
    marrow of his bones) began as follows:

    I am going to tell you a story, friends, of something that happened to
    me in the 'thirties ... forty years ago as you see. I will be
    brief--and don't you interrupt me.

    I was living at the time in Petersburg and had only just left the
    University. My brother was a lieutenant in the horse-guard artillery.
    His battery was stationed at Krasnoe Selo--it was summer time. My
    brother lodged not at Krasnoe Selo itself but in one of the
    neighbouring villages; I stayed with him more than once and made the
    acquaintance of all his comrades. He was living in a fairly decent
    cottage, together with another officer of his battery, whose name was
    Ilya Stepanitch Tyeglev. I became particularly friendly with him.

    Marlinsky is out of date now--no one reads him--and even his name is
    jeered at; but in the 'thirties his fame was above everyone's--and in
    the opinion of the young people of the day Pushkin could not hold
    candle to him. He not only enjoyed the reputation of being the
    foremost Russian writer; but--something much more difficult and more
    rarely met with--he did to some extent leave his mark on his
    generation. One came across heroes _à la_ Marlinsky everywhere,
    especially in the provinces and especially among infantry and
    artillery men; they talked and corresponded in his language; behaved
    with gloomy reserve in society--"with tempest in the soul and flame in
    the blood" like Lieutenant Byelosov in the "_Frigate Hope_."
    Women's hearts were "devoured" by them. The adjective applied to them
    in those days was "fatal." The type, as we all know, survived for many
    years, to the days of Petchorin. [Footnote: The leading character in
    Lermontov's _A Hero of Our Time_.--_Translator's Note_.] All
    sorts of elements were mingled in that type. Byronism, romanticism,
    reminiscences of the French Revolution, of the Dekabrists--and the
    worship of Napoleon; faith in destiny, in one's star, in strength of
    will; pose and fine phrases--and a miserable sense of the emptiness of
    life; uneasy pangs of petty vanity--and genuine strength and daring;
    generous impulses--and defective education, ignorance; aristocratic
    airs--and delight in trivial foppery.... But enough of these general
    reflections. I promised to tell you the story.


    Lieutenant Tyeglev belonged precisely to the class of those "fatal"
    individuals, though he did not possess the exterior commonly
    associated with them; he was not, for instance, in the least like
    Lermontov's "fatalist." He was a man of medium height, fairly solid
    and round-shouldered, with fair, almost white eyebrows and eyelashes;
    he had a round, fresh, rosy-cheeked face, a turn-up nose, a low
    forehead with the hair growing thick over the temples, and full,
    well-shaped, always immobile lips: he never laughed, never even smiled.
    Only when he was tired and out of heart he showed his square teeth,
    white as sugar. The same artificial immobility was imprinted on all his
    features: had it not been for that, they would have had a good-natured
    expression. His small green eyes with yellow lashes were the
    only thing not quite ordinary in his face: his right eye was very
    slightly higher than his left and the left eyelid drooped a little,
    which made his eyes look different, strange and drowsy. Tyeglev's
    countenance, which was not, however, without a certain attractiveness,
    almost always wore an expression of discontent mingled with
    perplexity, as though he were chasing within himself a gloomy thought
    which he was never able to catch. At the same time he did not give one
    the impression of being stuck up: he might rather have been taken for
    an aggrieved than a haughty man. He spoke very little, hesitatingly,
    in a husky voice, with unnecessary repetitions. Unlike most
    "fatalists," he did not use particularly elaborate expressions in
    speaking and only had recourse to them in writing; his handwriting was
    quite like a child's. His superiors regarded him as an officer of no
    great merit--not particularly capable and not over-zealous. The
    brigadier-general, a man of German extraction, used to say of him: "He
    has punctuality but not precision." With the soldiers, too, Tyeglev
    had the character of being neither one thing nor the other. He lived
    modestly, in accordance with his means. He had been left an orphan at
    nine years old: his father and mother were drowned when they were
    being ferried across the Oka in the spring floods. He had been
    educated at a private school, where he had the reputation of being one
    of the slowest and quietest of the boys, and at his own earnest desire
    and through the good offices of a cousin who was a man of influence,
    he obtained a commission in the horse-guards artillery; and, though
    with some difficulty, passed his examination first as an ensign and
    then as a second lieutenant. His relations with other officers were
    somewhat strained. He was not liked, was rarely visited--and he
    hardly went to see anyone. He felt the presence of strangers a
    constraint; he instantly became awkward and unnatural ... he had no
    instinct for comradeship and was not on really intimate terms with
    anyone. But he was respected, and respected not for his character nor
    for his intelligence and education--but because the stamp which
    distinguishes "fatal" people was discerned in him. No one of his
    fellow officers expected that Tyeglev would make a career or
    distinguish himself in any way; but that Tyeglev might do something
    extraordinary or that Tyeglev might become a Napoleon was not
    considered impossible. For that is a matter of a man's "star"--and he
    was regarded as a "man of destiny," just as there are "men of sighs"
    and "of tears."


    Two incidents that marked the first steps in his career did a great
    deal to strengthen his "fatal" reputation. On the very first day after
    receiving his commission--about the middle of March--he was walking
    with other newly promoted officers in full dress uniform along the
    embankment. The spring had come early that year, the Neva was melting;
    the bigger blocks of ice had gone but the whole river was choked up
    with a dense mass of thawing icicles. The young men were talking and
    laughing ... suddenly one of them stopped: he saw a little dog some
    twenty paces from the bank on the slowly moving surface of the river.
    Perched on a projecting piece of ice it was whining and trembling all
    over. "It will be drowned," said the officer through his teeth. The
    dog was slowly being carried past one of the sloping gangways that led
    down to the river. All at once Tyeglev without saying a word ran down
    this gangway and over the thin ice, sinking in and leaping out again,
    reached the dog, seized it by the scruff of the neck and getting
    safely back to the bank, put it down on the pavement. The danger to
    which Tyeglev had exposed himself was so great, his action was so
    unexpected, that his companions were dumbfoundered--and only spoke all
    at once, when he had called a cab to drive home: his uniform was wet
    all over. In response to their exclamations, Tyeglev replied coolly
    that there was no escaping one's destiny--and told the cabman to drive

    "You might at least take the dog with you as a souvenir," cried one of
    the officers. But Tyeglev merely waved his hand, and his comrades
    looked at each other in silent amazement.

    The second incident occurred a few days later, at a card party at the
    battery commander's. Tyeglev sat in the corner and took no part in the
    play. "Oh, if only I had a grandmother to tell me beforehand what
    cards will win, as in Pushkin's _Queen of Spades_," cried a
    lieutenant whose losses had nearly reached three thousand. Tyeglev
    approached the table in silence, took up a pack, cut it, and saying
    "the six of diamonds," turned the pack up: the six of diamonds was the
    bottom card. "The ace of clubs!" he said and cut again: the bottom
    card turned out to be the ace of clubs. "The king of diamonds!" he
    said for the third time in an angry whisper through his clenched
    teeth--and he was right the third time, too ... and he suddenly turned
    crimson. He probably had not expected it himself. "A capital trick! Do
    it again," observed the commanding officer of the battery. "I don't go
    in for tricks," Tyeglev answered drily and walked into the other room.
    How it happened that he guessed the card right, I can't pretend to
    explain: but I saw it with my own eyes. Many of the players present
    tried to do the same--and not one of them succeeded: one or two did
    guess _one_ card but never two in succession. And Tyeglev had
    guessed three! This incident strengthened still further his reputation
    as a mysterious, fatal character. It has often occurred to me since
    that if he had not succeeded in the trick with the cards, there is no
    knowing what turn it would have taken and how he would have looked at
    himself; but this unexpected success clinched the matter.


    It may well be understood that Tyeglev clutched at this reputation. It
    gave him a special significance, a special colour ... "_Cela le
    posait_," as the French express it--and with his limited
    intelligence, scanty education and immense vanity, such a reputation
    just suited him. It was difficult to acquire it but to keep it up cost
    nothing: he had only to remain silent and hold himself aloof. But it
    was not owing to this reputation that I made friends with Tyeglev and,
    I may say, grew fond of him. I liked him in the first place because I
    was rather an unsociable creature myself--and saw in him one of my own
    sort, and secondly, because he was a very good-natured fellow and in
    reality, very simple-hearted. He aroused in me a feeling of something
    like compassion; it seemed to me that apart from his affected
    "fatality," he really was weighed down by a tragic fate which he did
    not himself suspect. I need hardly say I did not express this feeling
    to him: could anything be more insulting to a "fatal" hero than to be
    an object of pity? And Tyeglev, on his side, was well-disposed to me;
    with me he felt at ease, with me he used to talk--in my presence he
    ventured to leave the strange pedestal on which he had been placed
    either by his own efforts or by chance. Agonisingly, morbidly vain as
    he was, yet he was probably aware in the depths of his soul that there
    was nothing to justify his vanity, and that others might perhaps look
    down on him ... but I, a boy of nineteen, put no constraint on him;
    the dread of saying something stupid, inappropriate, did not oppress
    his ever-apprehensive heart in my presence. He sometimes even
    chattered freely; and well it was for him that no one heard his
    chatter except me! His reputation would not have lasted long. He not
    only knew very little, but read hardly anything and confined himself
    to picking up stories and anecdotes of a certain kind. He believed in
    presentiments, predictions, omens, meetings, lucky and unlucky days,
    in the persecution and benevolence of destiny, in the mysterious
    significance of life, in fact. He even believed in certain
    "climacteric" years which someone had mentioned in his presence and
    the meaning of which he did not himself very well understand. "Fatal"
    men of the true stamp ought not to betray such beliefs: they ought to
    inspire them in others.... But I was the only one who knew Tyeglev on
    that side.


    One day--I remember it was St. Elijah's day, July 20th--I came to stay
    with my brother and did not find him at home: he had been ordered off
    for a whole week somewhere. I did not want to go back to Petersburg; I
    sauntered about the neighbouring marshes, killed a brace of snipe and
    spent the evening with Tyeglev under the shelter of an empty barn
    where he had, as he expressed it, set up his summer residence. We had
    a little conversation but for the most part drank tea, smoked pipes
    and talked sometimes to our host, a Russianised Finn or to the pedlar
    who used to hang about the battery selling "fi-ine oranges and
    lemons," a charming and lively person who in addition to other talents
    could play the guitar and used to tell us of the unhappy love which he
    cherished in his young days for the daughter of a policeman. Now that
    he was older, this Don Juan in a gay cotton shirt had no experience of
    unsuccessful love affairs. Before the doors of our barn stretched a
    wide plain gradually sloping away in the distance; a little river
    gleamed here and there in the winding hollows; low growing woods could
    be seen further on the horizon. Night was coming on and we were left
    alone. As night fell a fine damp mist descended upon the earth, and,
    growing thicker and thicker, passed into a dense fog. The moon rose up
    into the sky; the fog was soaked through and through and, as it were,
    shimmering with golden light. Everything was strangely shifting,
    veiled and confused; the faraway looked near, the near looked far
    away, what was big looked small and what was small looked big ...
    everything became dim and full of light. We seemed to be in fairyland,
    in a world of whitish-golden mist, deep stillness, delicate sleep....
    And how mysteriously, like sparks of silver, the stars filtered
    through the mist! We were both silent. The fantastic beauty of the
    night worked upon us: it put us into the mood for the fantastic.


    Tyeglev was the first to speak and talked with his usual hesitating
    incompleted sentences and repetitions about presentiments ... about
    ghosts. On exactly such a night, according to him, one of his friends,
    a student who had just taken the place of tutor to two orphans and was
    sleeping with them in a lodge in the garden, saw a woman's figure
    bending over their beds and next day recognised the figure in a
    portrait of the mother of the orphans which he had not previously
    noticed. Then Tyeglev told me that his parents had heard for several
    days before their death the sound of rushing water; that his
    grandfather had been saved from death in the battle of Borodino
    through suddenly stooping down to pick up a simple grey pebble at the
    very instant when a volley of grape-shot flew over his head and broke
    his long black plume. Tyeglev even promised to show me the very pebble
    which had saved his grandfather and which he had mounted into a
    medallion. Then he talked of the lofty destination of every man and of
    his own in particular and added that he still believed in it and that
    if he ever had any doubts on that subject he would know how to be rid
    of them and of his life, as life would then lose all significance for
    him. "You imagine perhaps," he brought out, glancing askance at me,
    "that I shouldn't have the spirit to do it? You don't know me ... I
    have a will of iron."

    "Well said," I thought to myself.

    Tyeglev pondered, heaved a deep sigh and dropping his chibouk out of
    his hand, informed me that that day was a very important one for him.
    "This is the prophet Elijah's day--my name day.... It is ... it is
    always for me a difficult time."

    I made no answer and only looked at him as he sat facing me, bent,
    round-shouldered, and clumsy, with his drowsy, lustreless eyes fixed
    on the ground.

    "An old beggar woman" (Tyeglev never let a single beggar pass without
    giving alms) "told me to-day," he went on, "that she would pray for my
    soul.... Isn't that strange?"

    "Why does the man want to be always bothering about himself!" I
    thought again. I must add, however, that of late I had begun noticing
    an unusual expression of anxiety and uneasiness on Tyeglev's face, and
    it was not a "fatal" melancholy: something really was fretting and
    worrying him. On this occasion, too, I was struck by the dejected
    expression of his face. Were not those very doubts of which he had
    spoken to me beginning to assail him? Tyeglev's comrades had told me
    that not long before he had sent to the authorities a project for some
    reforms in the artillery department and that the project had been
    returned to him "with a comment," that is, a reprimand. Knowing his
    character, I had no doubt that such contemptuous treatment by his
    superior officers had deeply mortified him. But the change that I
    fancied I saw in Tyeglev was more like sadness and there was a more
    personal note about it.

    "It's getting damp, though," he brought out at last and he shrugged
    his shoulders. "Let us go into the hut--and it's bed-time, too." He
    had the habit of shrugging his shoulders and turning his head from
    side to side, putting his right hand to his throat as he did so, as
    though his cravat were constricting it. Tyeglev's character was
    expressed, so at least it seemed to me, in this uneasy and nervous
    movement. He, too, felt constricted in the world.

    We went back into the hut, and both lay down on benches, he in the
    corner facing the door and I on the opposite side.


    Tyeglev was for a long time turning from side to side on his bench and
    I could not get to sleep, either. Whether his stories had excited my
    nerves or the strange night had fevered my blood--anyway, I could not
    go to sleep. All inclination for sleep disappeared at last and I lay
    with my eyes open and thought, thought intensely, goodness knows of
    what; of most senseless trifles--as always happens when one is
    sleepless. Turning from side to side I stretched out my hands.... My
    finger hit one of the beams of the wall. It emitted a faint but
    resounding, and as it were, prolonged note.... I must have struck a
    hollow place.

    I tapped again ... this time on purpose. The same sound was repeated.
    I knocked again.... All at once Tyeglev raised his head.

    "Ridel!" he said, "do you hear? Someone is knocking under the window."

    I pretended to be asleep. The fancy suddenly took me to play a trick
    at the expense of my "fatal" friend. I could not sleep, anyway.

    He let his head sink on the pillow. I waited for a little and again
    knocked three times in succession.

    Tyeglev sat up again and listened. I tapped again. I was lying facing
    him but he could not see my hand.... I put it behind me under the

    "Ridel!" cried Tyeglev.

    I did not answer.

    "Ridel!" he repeated loudly. "Ridel!"

    "Eh? What is it?" I said as though just waking up.

    "Don't you hear, someone keeps knocking under the window, wants to
    come in, I suppose."

    "Some passer-by," I muttered.

    "Then we must let him in or find out who it is."

    But I made no answer, pretending to be asleep.

    Several minutes passed.... I tapped again. Tyeglev sat up at once and

    "Knock ... knock ... knock! Knock ... knock ... knock!"

    Through my half-closed eyelids in the whitish light of the night I
    could distinctly see every movement he made. He turned his face first
    to the window then to the door. It certainly was difficult to make out
    where the sound came from: it seemed to float round the room, to glide
    along the walls. I had accidentally hit upon a kind of sounding board.

    "Ridel!" cried Tyeglev at last, "Ridel! Ridel!"

    "Why, what is it?" I asked, yawning.

    "Do you mean to say you don't hear anything? There is someone

    "Well, what if there is?" I answered and again pretended to be asleep
    and even snored.

    Tyeglev subsided.

    "Knock ... knock ... knock!"

    "Who is there?" Tyeglev shouted. "Come in!"

    No one answered, of course.

    "Knock ... knock ... knock!"

    Tyeglev jumped out of bed, opened the window and thrusting out his
    head, cried wildly, "Who is there? Who is knocking?" Then he
    opened the door and repeated his question. A horse neighed in the
    distance--that was all.

    He went back towards his bed.

    "Knock ... knock ... knock!"

    Tyeglev instantly turned round and sat down.

    "Knock ... knock ... knock!"

    He rapidly put on his boots, threw his overcoat over his shoulders and
    unhooking his sword from the wall, went out of the hut. I heard him
    walk round it twice, asking all the time, "Who is there? Who goes
    there? Who is knocking?" Then he was suddenly silent, stood still
    outside near the corner where I was lying and without uttering another
    word, came back into the hut and lay down without taking off his boots
    and overcoat.

    "Knock ... knock ... knock!" I began again. "Knock ... knock ...

    But Tyeglev did not stir, did not ask who was knocking, and merely
    propped his head on his hand.

    Seeing that this no longer acted, after an interval I pretended to
    wake up and, looking at Tyeglev, assumed an air of astonishment.

    "Have you been out?" I asked.

    "Yes," he answered unconcernedly.

    "Did you still hear the knocking?"


    "And you met no one?"


    "And did the knocking stop?"

    "I don't know. I don't care now."

    "Now? Why now?"

    Tyeglev did not answer.

    I felt a little ashamed and a little vexed with him. I could not bring
    myself to acknowledge my prank, however.

    "Do you know what?" I began, "I am convinced that it was all your

    Tyeglev frowned. "Ah, you think so!"

    "You say you heard a knocking?"

    "It was not only knocking I heard."

    "Why, what else?"

    Tyeglev bent forward and bit his lips. He was evidently hesitating.

    "I was called!" he brought out at last in a low voice and turned away
    his face.

    "You were called? Who called you?"

    "Someone...." Tyeglev still looked away. "A woman whom I had hitherto
    only believed to be dead ... but now I know it for certain."

    "I swear, Ilya Stepanitch," I cried, "this is all your imagination!"

    "Imagination?" he repeated. "Would you like to hear it for yourself?"


    "Then come outside."


    I hurriedly dressed and went out of the hut with Tyeglev. On the side
    opposite to it there were no houses, nothing but a low hurdle fence
    broken down in places, beyond which there was a rather sharp slope
    down to the plain. Everything was still shrouded in mist and one could
    scarcely see anything twenty paces away. Tyeglev and I went up to the
    hurdle and stood still.

    "Here," he said and bowed his head. "Stand still, keep quiet and

    Like him I strained my ears, and I heard nothing except the ordinary,
    extremely faint but universal murmur, the breathing of the night.
    Looking at each other in silence from time to time we stood motionless
    for several minutes and were just on the point of going on.

    "Ilyusha ..." I fancied I heard a whisper from behind the hurdle.

    I glanced at Tyeglev but he seemed to have heard nothing--and still
    held his head bowed.

    "Ilyusha ... ah, Ilyusha," sounded more distinctly than before--so
    distinctly that one could tell that the words were uttered by a woman.

    We both started and stared at each other.

    "Well?" Tyeglev asked me in a whisper. "You won't doubt it now, will

    "Wait a minute," I answered as quietly. "It proves nothing. We must
    look whether there isn't anyone. Some practical joker...."

    I jumped over the fence--and went in the direction from which, as far
    as I could judge, the voice came.

    I felt the earth soft and crumbling under my feet; long ridges
    stretched before me vanishing into the mist. I was in the kitchen
    garden. But nothing was stirring around me or before me. Everything
    seemed spellbound in the numbness of sleep. I went a few steps

    "Who is there?" I cried as wildly as Tyeglev had.

    "Prrr-r-r!" a startled corn-crake flew up almost under my feet and
    flew away as straight as a bullet. Involuntarily I started.... What

    I looked back. Tyeglev was in sight at the spot where I left him. I
    went towards him.

    "You will call in vain," he said. "That voice has come to us--to
    me--from far away."

    He passed his hand over his face and with slow steps crossed the road
    towards the hut. But I did not want to give in so quickly and went
    back into the kitchen garden. That someone really had three times
    called "Ilyusha" I could not doubt; that there was something plaintive
    and mysterious in the call, I was forced to own to myself.... But who
    knows, perhaps all this only appeared to be unaccountable and in
    reality could be explained as simply as the knocking which had
    agitated Tyeglev so much.

    I walked along beside the fence, stopping from time to time and
    looking about me. Close to the fence, at no great distance from our
    hut, there stood an old leafy willow tree; it stood out, a big dark
    patch, against the whiteness of the mist all round, that dim whiteness
    which perplexes and deadens the sight more than darkness itself. All
    at once it seemed to me that something alive, fairly big, stirred on
    the ground near the willow. Exclaiming "Stop! Who is there?" I rushed
    forward. I heard scurrying footsteps, like a hare's; a crouching
    figure whisked by me, whether man or woman I could not tell.... I
    tried to clutch at it but did not succeed; I stumbled, fell down and
    stung my face against a nettle. As I was getting up, leaning on the
    ground, I felt something rough under my hand: it was a chased brass
    comb on a cord, such as peasants wear on their belt.

    Further search led to nothing--and I went back to the hut with the
    comb in my hand, and my cheeks tingling.


    I found Tyeglev sitting on the bench. A candle was burning on the
    table before him and he was writing something in a little album which
    he always had with him. Seeing me, he quickly put the album in his
    pocket and began filling his pipe.

    "Look here, my friend," I began, "what a trophy I have brought back
    from my expedition!" I showed him the comb and told him what had
    happened to me near the willow. "I must have startled a thief," I
    added. "You heard a horse was stolen from our neighbour yesterday?"

    Tyeglev smiled frigidly and lighted his pipe. I sat down beside him.

    "And do you still believe, Ilya Stepanitch," I said, "that the voice
    we heard came from those unknown realms...."

    He stopped me with a peremptory gesture.

    "Ridel," he began, "I am in no mood for jesting, and so I beg you not
    to jest."

    He certainly was in no mood for jesting. His face was changed. It
    looked paler, longer and more expressive. His strange, "different"
    eyes kept shifting from one object to another.

    "I never thought," he began again, "that I should reveal to
    another ... another man what you are about to hear and what ought
    to have died ... yes, died, hidden in my breast; but it seems it is
    to be--and indeed I have no choice. It is destiny! Listen."

    And he told me a long story.

    I have mentioned already that he was a poor hand at telling stories,
    but it was not only his lack of skill in describing events that had
    happened to him that impressed me that night; the very sound of his
    voice, his glances, the movements which he made with his fingers and
    his hands--everything about him, indeed, seemed unnatural,
    unnecessary, false, in fact. I was very young and inexperienced in
    those days and did not know that the habit of high-flown language and
    falsity of intonation and manner may become so ingrained in a man that
    he is incapable of shaking it off: it is a sort of curse. Later in
    life I came across a lady who described to me the effect on her of her
    son's death, of her "boundless" grief, of her fears for her reason, in
    such exaggerated language, with such theatrical gestures, such
    melodramatic movements of her head and rolling of her eyes, that I
    thought to myself, "How false and affected that lady is! She did not
    love her son at all!" And a week afterwards I heard that the poor
    woman had really gone out of her mind. Since then I have become much
    more careful in my judgments and have had far less confidence in my
    own impressions.


    The story which Tyeglev told me was, briefly, as follows. He had
    living in Petersburg, besides his influential uncle, an aunt, not
    influential but wealthy. As she had no children of her own she had
    adopted a little girl, an orphan, of the working class, given her a
    liberal education and treated her like a daughter. She was called
    Masha. Tyeglev saw her almost every day. It ended in their falling in
    love with one another and Masha's giving herself to him. This was
    discovered. Tyeglev's aunt was fearfully incensed, she turned the
    luckless girl out of her house in disgrace, and moved to Moscow where
    she adopted a young lady of noble birth and made her her heiress. On
    her return to her own relations, poor and drunken people, Masha's lot
    was a bitter one. Tyeglev had promised to marry her and did not keep
    his promise. At his last interview with her, he was forced to speak
    out: she wanted to know the truth and wrung it out of him. "Well," she
    said, "if I am not to be your wife, I know what there is left for me
    to do." More than a fortnight had passed since that last interview.

    "I never for a moment deceived myself as to the meaning of her last
    words," added Tyeglev. "I am certain that she has put an end to her
    life and ... and that it was _her_ voice, that it was _she_
    calling me ... to follow her there ... I _recognised_ her
    voice.... Well, there is but one end to it."

    "But why didn't you marry her, Ilya Stepanitch?" I asked. "You ceased
    to love her?"

    "No; I still love her passionately."

    At this point I stared at Tyeglev. I remembered another friend of
    mine, a very intelligent man, who had a very plain wife, neither
    intelligent nor rich and was very unhappy in his marriage. When
    someone in my presence asked him why he had married and suggested that
    it was probably for love, he answered, "Not for love at all. It simply
    happened." And in this case Tyeglev loved a girl passionately and did
    not marry her. Was it for the same reason, then?

    "Why don't you marry her, then?" I asked again.

    Tyeglev's strange, drowsy eyes strayed over the table.

    "There is ... no answering that ... in a few words," he began,
    hesitating. "There were reasons.... And besides, she was ... a
    working-class girl. And then there is my uncle.... I was obliged to
    consider him, too."

    "Your uncle?" I cried. "But what the devil do you want with your uncle
    whom you never see except at the New Year when you go to congratulate
    him? Are you reckoning on his money? But he has got a dozen children
    of his own!"

    I spoke with heat.... Tyeglev winced and flushed ... flushed unevenly,
    in patches.

    "Don't lecture me, if you please," he said dully. "I don't justify
    myself, however. I have ruined her life and now I must pay the

    His head sank and he was silent. I found nothing to say, either.


    So we sat for a quarter of an hour. He looked away--I looked at
    him--and I noticed that the hair stood up and curled above his
    forehead in a peculiar way, which, so I have heard from an army doctor
    who had had a great many wounded pass through his hands, is always a
    symptom of intense overheating of the brain.... The thought struck me
    again that fate really had laid a heavy hand on this man and that his
    comrades were right in seeing something "fatal" in him. And yet
    inwardly I blamed him. "A working-class girl!" I thought, "a fine sort
    of aristocrat you are yourself!"

    "Perhaps you blame me, Ridel," Tyeglev began suddenly, as though
    guessing what I was thinking. "I am very ... unhappy myself. But what
    to do? What to do?"

    He leaned his chin on his hand and began biting the broad flat nails
    of his short, red fingers, hard as iron.

    "What I think, Ilya Stepanitch, is that you ought first to make
    certain whether your suppositions are correct.... Perhaps your lady
    love is alive and well." ("Shall I tell him the real explanation of
    the taps?" flashed through my mind. "No--later.")

    "She has not written to me since we have been in camp," observed

    "That proves nothing, Ilya Stepanitch."

    Tyeglev waved me off. "No! she is certainly not in this world. She
    called me."

    He suddenly turned to the window. "Someone is knocking again!"

    I could not help laughing. "No, excuse me, Ilya Stepanitch! This time
    it is your nerves. You see, it is getting light. In ten minutes the
    sun will be up--it is past three o'clock--and ghosts have no power in
    the day."

    Tyeglev cast a gloomy glance at me and muttering through his teeth
    "good-bye," lay down on the bench and turned his back on me.

    I lay down, too, and before I fell asleep I remember I wondered why
    Tyeglev was always hinting at ... suicide. What nonsense! What humbug!
    Of his own free will he had refused to marry her, had cast her off ...
    and now he wanted to kill himself! There was no sense in it! He could
    not resist posing!

    With these thoughts I fell into a sound sleep and when I opened my
    eyes the sun was already high in the sky--and Tyeglev was not in the

    He had, so his servant said, gone to the town.


    I spent a very dull and wearisome day. Tyeglev did not return to
    dinner nor to supper; I did not expect my brother. Towards evening a
    thick fog came on again, thicker even than the day before. I went to
    bed rather early. I was awakened by a knocking under the window.

    It was _my_ turn to be startled!

    The knock was repeated and so insistently distinct that one could have
    no doubt of its reality. I got up, opened the window and saw Tyeglev.
    Wrapped in his great-coat, with his cap pulled over his eyes, he stood

    "Ilya Stepanitch!" I cried, "is that you? I gave up expecting you.
    Come in. Is the door locked?"

    Tyeglev shook his head. "I do not intend to come in," he pronounced in
    a hollow tone. "I only want to ask you to give this letter to the
    commanding officer to-morrow."

    He gave me a big envelope sealed with five seals. I was
    astonished--however, I took the envelope mechanically. Tyeglev at once
    walked away into the middle of the road.

    "Stop! stop!" I began. "Where are you going? Have you only just come?
    And what is the letter?"

    "Do you promise to deliver it?" said Tyeglev, and moved away a few
    steps further. The fog blurred the outlines of his figure. "Do you

    "I promise ... but first--"

    Tyeglev moved still further away and became a long dark blur.
    "Good-bye," I heard his voice. "Farewell, Ridel, don't remember evil
    against me.... And don't forget Semyon...."

    And the blur itself vanished.

    This was too much. "Oh, the damned _poseur_," I thought. "You
    must always be straining after effect!" I felt uneasy, however; an
    involuntary fear clutched at my heart. I flung on my great-coat and
    ran out into the road.


    Yes; but where was I to go? The fog enveloped me on all sides. For
    five or six steps all round it was a little transparent--but further
    away it stood up like a wall, thick and white like cotton wool. I
    turned to the right along the village street; our house was the last
    but one in the village and beyond it came waste land overgrown here
    and there with bushes; beyond the waste land, a quarter of a mile from
    the village, there was a birch copse through which flowed the same
    little stream that lower down encircled our village. The moon stood, a
    pale blur in the sky--but its light was not, as on the evening before,
    strong enough to penetrate the smoky density of the fog and hung, a
    broad opaque canopy, overhead. I made my way out on to the open ground
    and listened.... Not a sound from any direction, except the calling of
    the marsh birds.

    "Tyeglev!" I cried. "Ilya Stepanitch!! Tyeglev!!"

    My voice died away near me without an answer; it seemed as though the
    fog would not let it go further. "Tyeglev!" I repeated.

    No one answered.

    I went forward at random. Twice I struck against a fence, once I
    nearly fell into a ditch, and almost stumbled against a peasant's
    horse lying on the ground. "Tyeglev! Tyeglev!" I cried.

    All at once, almost behind me, I heard a low voice, "Well, here I am.
    What do you want of me?"

    I turned round quickly.

    Before me stood Tyeglev with his hands hanging at his sides and with
    no cap on his head. His face was pale; but his eyes looked animated
    and bigger than usual. His breathing came in deep, prolonged gasps
    through his parted lips.

    "Thank God!" I cried in an outburst of joy, and I gripped him by both
    hands. "Thank God! I was beginning to despair of finding you. Aren't
    you ashamed of frightening me like this? Upon my word, Ilya

    "What do you want of me?" repeated Tyeglev.

    "I want ... I want you, in the first place, to come back home with me.
    And secondly, I want, I insist, I insist as a friend, that you explain
    to me at once the meaning of your actions--and of this letter to the
    colonel. Can something unexpected have happened to you in Petersburg?"

    "I found in Petersburg exactly what I expected," answered Tyeglev,
    without moving from the spot.

    "That is ... you mean to say ... your friend ... this Masha...."

    "She has taken her life," Tyeglev answered hurriedly and as it were
    angrily. "She was buried the day before yesterday. She did not even
    leave a note for me. She poisoned herself."

    Tyeglev hurriedly uttered these terrible words and still stood
    motionless as a stone.

    I clasped my hands. "Is it possible? How dreadful! Your presentiment
    has come true.... That is awful!"

    I stopped in confusion. Slowly and with a sort of triumph Tyeglev
    folded his arms.

    "But why are we standing here?" I began. "Let us go home."

    "Let us," said Tyeglev. "But how can we find the way in this fog?"

    "There is a light in our windows, and we will make for it. Come

    "You go ahead," answered Tyeglev. "I will follow you." We set off. We
    walked for five minutes and our beacon light still did not appear; at
    last it gleamed before us in two red points. Tyeglev stepped evenly
    behind me. I was desperately anxious to get home as quickly as
    possible and to learn from him all the details of his unhappy
    expedition to Petersburg. Before we reached the hut, impressed by what
    he had said, I confessed to him in an access of remorse and a sort of
    superstitious fear, that the mysterious knocking of the previous
    evening had been my doing ... and what a tragic turn my jest had

    Tyeglev confined himself to observing that I had nothing to do with
    it--that something else had guided my hand--and this only showed how
    little I knew him. His voice, strangely calm and even, sounded close
    to my ear. "But you do not know me," he added. "I saw you smile
    yesterday when I spoke of the strength of my will. You will come to
    know me--and you will remember my words."

    The first hut of the village sprang out of the fog before us like some
    dark monster ... then the second, our hut, emerged--and my setter dog
    began barking, probably scenting me.

    I knocked at the window. "Semyon!" I shouted to Tyeglev's servant,
    "hey, Semyon! Make haste and open the gate for us."

    The gate creaked and opened; Semyon crossed the threshold.

    "Ilya Stepanitch, come in," I said, and I looked round. But no Ilya
    Stepanitch was with me. Tyeglev had vanished as though he had sunk
    into the earth.

    I went into the hut feeling dazed.


    Vexation with Tyeglev and with myself succeeded the amazement with
    which I was overcome at first.

    "Your master is mad!" I blurted out to Semyon, "raving mad! He
    galloped off to Petersburg, then came back and is running about all
    over the place! I did get hold of him and brought him right up to the
    gate--and here he has given me the slip again! To go out of doors on a
    night like this! He has chosen a nice time for a walk!"

    "And why did I let go of his hand?" I reproached myself. Semyon looked
    at me in silence, as though intending to say something--but after the
    fashion of servants in those days he simply shifted from one foot to
    the other and said nothing.

    "What time did he set off for town?" I asked sternly.

    "At six o'clock in the morning."

    "And how was he--did he seem anxious, depressed?" Semyon looked down.
    "Our master is a deep one," he began. "Who can make him out? He told
    me to get out his new uniform when he was going out to town--and then
    he curled himself."

    "Curled himself?"

    "Curled his hair. I got the curling tongs ready for him."

    That, I confess, I had not expected. "Do you know a young lady," I
    asked Semyon, "a friend of Ilya Stepanitch's. Her name is Masha."

    "To be sure I know Marya Anempodistovna! A nice young lady."

    "Is your master in love with this Marya ... et cetera?"

    Semyon heaved a sigh. "That young lady is Ilya Stepanitch's undoing.
    For he is desperately in love with her--and can't bring himself to
    marry her--and sorry to give her up, too. It's all his honour's
    faintheartedness. He is very fond of her."

    "What is she like then, pretty?" I inquired.

    Semyon assumed a grave air. "She is the sort that the gentry like."

    "And you?"

    "She is not the right sort for us at all."

    "How so?"

    "Very thin in the body."

    "If she died," I began, "do you think Ilya Stepanitch would not
    survive her?"

    Semyon heaved a sigh again. "I can't venture to say that--there's no
    knowing with gentlemen ... but our master is a deep one."

    I took up from the table the big, rather thick letter that Tyeglev had
    given me and turned it over in my hands.... The address to "his honour
    the Commanding Officer of the Battery, Colonel So and So" (the name,
    patronymic, and surname) was clearly and distinctly written. The word
    _urgent_, twice underlined, was written in the top left-hand
    corner of the envelope.

    "Listen, Semyon," I began. "I feel uneasy about your master. I fancy
    he has some mischief in his mind. We must find him."

    "Yes, sir," answered Semyon.

    "It is true there is such a fog that one cannot see a couple of yards
    ahead; but all the same we must do our best. We will each take a
    lantern and light a candle in each window--in case of need."

    "Yes, sir," repeated Semyon. He lighted the lanterns and the candles
    and we set off.


    I can't describe how we wandered and lost our way! The lanterns were
    of no help to us; they did not in the least dissipate the white,
    almost luminous mist which surrounded us. Several times Semyon and I
    lost each other, in spite of the fact that we kept calling to each
    other and hallooing and at frequent intervals shouted--I: "Tyeglev!
    Ilya Stepanitch!" and Semyon: "Mr. Tyeglev! Your honour!" The fog so
    bewildered us that we wandered about as though in a dream; soon we
    were both hoarse; the fog penetrated right into one's chest. We
    succeeded somehow by help of the candles in the windows in reaching
    the hut again. Our combined action had been of no use--we merely
    handicapped each other--and so we made up our minds not to trouble
    ourselves about getting separated but to go each our own way. He went
    to the left, I to the right and I soon ceased to hear his voice. The
    fog seemed to have found its way into my brain and I wandered like one
    dazed, simply shouting from time to time, "Tyeglev! Tyeglev!"

    "Here!" I heard suddenly in answer.

    Holy saints, how relieved I was! How I rushed in the direction from
    which the voice came.... A human figure loomed dark before me.... I
    made for it. At last!

    But instead of Tyeglev I saw another officer of the same battery,
    whose name was Tyelepnev.

    "Was it you answered me?" I asked him.

    "Was it you calling me?" he asked in his turn.

    "No; I was calling Tyeglev."

    "Tyeglev? Why, I met him a minute ago. What a fool of a night! One
    can't find the way home."

    "You saw Tyeglev? Which way did he go?"

    "That way, I fancy," said the officer, waving his hand in the air.
    "But one can't be sure of anything now. Do you know, for instance,
    where the village is? The only hope is the dogs barking. It is a fool
    of a night! Let me light a cigarette ... it will seem like a light on
    the way."

    The officer was, so I fancied, a little exhilarated.

    "Did Tyeglev say anything to you?" I asked.

    "To be sure he did! I said to him, 'good evening, brother,' and he
    said, 'good-bye.' 'How good-bye? Why good-bye.' 'I mean to shoot
    myself directly with a pistol.' He is a queer fish!"

    My heart stood still. "You say he told you ..."

    "He is a queer fish!" repeated the officer, and sauntered off.

    I hardly had time to recover from what the officer had told me, when
    my own name, shouted several times as it seemed with effort, caught my
    ear. I recognised Semyon's voice.

    I called back ... he came to me.


    "Well?" I asked him. "Have you found Ilya Stepanitch?"

    "Yes, sir."


    "Here, not far away."

    "How ... have you found him? Is he alive?"

    "To be sure. I have been talking to him." (A load was lifted from
    my heart.) "His honour was sitting in his great-coat under a birch
    tree ... and he was all right. I put it to him, 'Won't you come home,
    Ilya Stepanitch; Alexandr Vassilitch is very much worried about you.'
    And he said to me, 'What does he want to worry for! I want to be in the
    fresh air. My head aches. Go home,' he said, 'and I will come later.'"

    "And you left him?" I cried, clasping my hands.

    "What else could I do? He told me to go ... how could I stay?"

    All my fears came back to me at once.

    "Take me to him this minute--do you hear? This minute! O Semyon,
    Semyon, I did not expect this of you! You say he is not far off?"

    "He is quite close, here, where the copse begins--he is sitting there.
    It is not more than five yards from the river bank. I found him as I
    came alongside the river."

    "Well, take me to him, take me to him."

    Semyon set off ahead of me. "This way, sir.... We have only to get
    down to the river and it is close there."

    But instead of getting down to the river we got into a hollow and
    found ourselves before an empty shed.

    "Hey, stop!" Semyon cried suddenly. "I must have come too far to the
    right.... We must go that way, more to the left...."

    We turned to the left--and found ourselves among such high, rank weeds
    that we could scarcely get out.... I could not remember such a tangled
    growth of weeds anywhere near our village. And then all at once a marsh
    was squelching under our feet, and we saw little round moss-covered
    hillocks which I had never noticed before either.... We turned
    back--a small hill was sharply before us and on the top of it stood a
    shanty--and in it someone was snoring. Semyon and I shouted several
    times into the shanty; something stirred at the further end of it, the
    straw rustled--and a hoarse voice shouted, "I am on guard."

    We turned back again ... fields and fields, endless fields.... I felt
    ready to cry.... I remembered the words of the fool in _King
    Lear_: "This night will turn us all to fools or madmen."

    "Where are we to go?" I said in despair to Semyon.

    "The devil must have led us astray, sir," answered the distracted
    servant. "It's not natural ... there's mischief at the bottom of it!"

    I would have checked him but at that instant my ear caught a sound,
    distinct but not loud, that engrossed my whole attention. There was a
    faint "pop" as though someone had drawn a stiff cork from a narrow
    bottle-neck. The sound came from somewhere not far off. Why the sound
    seemed to me strange and peculiar I could not say, but at once I went
    towards it.

    Semyon followed me. Within a few minutes something tall and broad
    loomed in the fog.

    "The copse! here is the copse!" Semyon cried, delighted. "Yes,
    here ... and there is the master sitting under the birch-tree....
    There he is, sitting where I left him. That's he, surely enough!"

    I looked intently. A man really was sitting with his back towards us,
    awkwardly huddled up under the birch-tree. I hurriedly approached and
    recognised Tyeglev's great-coat, recognised his figure, his head bowed
    on his breast. "Tyeglev!" I cried ... but he did not answer.

    "Tyeglev!" I repeated, and laid my hand on his shoulder. Then he
    suddenly lurched forward, quickly and obediently, as though he were
    waiting for my touch, and fell onto the grass. Semyon and I raised him
    at once and turned him face upwards. It was not pale, but was lifeless
    and motionless; his clenched teeth gleamed white--and his eyes,
    motionless, too, and wide open, kept their habitual, drowsy and
    "different" look.

    "Good God!" Semyon said suddenly and showed me his hand stained
    crimson with blood.... The blood was coming from under Tyeglev's
    great-coat, from the left side of his chest.

    He had shot himself from a small, single-barreled pistol which was
    lying beside him. The faint pop I had heard was the sound made by the
    fatal shot.


    Tyeglev's suicide did not surprise his comrades very much. I have told
    you already that, according to their ideas, as a "fatal" man he was
    bound to do something extraordinary, though perhaps they had not
    expected that from him. In the letter to the colonel he asked him, in
    the first place, to have the name of Ilya Tyeglev removed from the
    list of officers, as he had died by his own act, adding that in his
    cash-box there would be found more than sufficient money to pay his
    debts,--and, secondly, to forward to the important personage at that
    time commanding the whole corps of guards, an unsealed letter which
    was in the same envelope. This second letter, of course, we all read;
    some of us took a copy of it. Tyeglev had evidently taken pains over
    the composition of this letter.

    "You know, Your Excellency" (so I remember the letter began), "you are
    so stern and severe over the slightest negligence in uniform when a
    pale, trembling officer presents himself before you; and here am I now
    going to meet our universal, righteous, incorruptible Judge, the
    Supreme Being, the Being of infinitely greater consequence even than
    Your Excellency, and I am going to meet him in undress, in my
    great-coat, and even without a cravat round my neck."

    Oh, what a painful and unpleasant impression that phrase made upon me,
    with every word, every letter of it, carefully written in the dead
    man's childish handwriting! Was it worth while, I asked myself, to
    invent such rubbish at such a moment? But Tyeglev had evidently been
    pleased with the phrase: he had made use in it of the accumulation of
    epithets and amplifications _à la_ Marlinsky, at that time in
    fashion. Further on he had alluded to destiny, to persecution, to his
    vocation which had remained unfulfilled, to a mystery which he would
    bear with him to the grave, to people who had not cared to understand
    him; he had even quoted lines from some poet who had said of the crowd
    that it wore life "like a dog-collar" and clung to vice "like a
    burdock"--and it was not free from mistakes in spelling. To tell the
    truth, this last letter of poor Tyeglev was somewhat vulgar; and I can
    fancy the contemptuous surprise of the great personage to whom it was
    addressed--I can imagine the tone in which he would pronounce "a
    worthless officer! ill weeds are cleared out of the field!"

    Only at the very end of the letter there was a sincere note from
    Tyeglev's heart. "Ah, Your Excellency," he concluded his epistle, "I
    am an orphan, I had no one to love me as a child--and all held aloof
    from me ... and I myself destroyed the only heart that gave itself to

    Semyon found in the pocket of Tyeglev's great-coat a little album from
    which his master was never separated. But almost all the pages had
    been torn out; only one was left on which there was the following

    Napoleon was born Ilya Tyeglev was born
    on August 15th, 1769. on January 7th, 1811.
    1769 1811
    15 7
    8* 1+
    ----- -----
    Total 1792 Total 1819

    * August--the 8th month + January--the 1st month
    of the year. of the year.

    1 1
    7 8
    9 1
    2 9
    --- ---
    Total 19! Total 19!

    Napoleon died on May Ilya Tyeglev died on
    5th, 1825. April 21st, 1834.

    1825 1834
    5 21
    5* 7+
    ----- -----
    Total 1835 Total 1862

    * May--the 5th month + July--the 7th month
    of the year. of the year.

    1 1
    8 8
    3 6
    5 23
    -- --
    Total 17! Total 17!

    Poor fellow! Was not this perhaps why he became an artillery officer?

    As a suicide he was buried outside the cemetery--and he was
    immediately forgotten.


    The day after Tyeglev's burial (I was still in the village waiting for
    my brother) Semyon came into the hut and announced that Ilya wanted to
    see me.

    "What Ilya?" I asked.

    "Our pedlar."

    I told Semyon to call him.

    He made his appearance. He expressed some regret at the death of the
    lieutenant; wondered what could have possessed him....

    "Was he in debt to you?" I asked.

    "No, sir. He always paid punctually for everything he had. But I tell
    you what," here the pedlar grinned, "you have got something of mine."

    "What is it?"

    "Why, that," he pointed to the brass comb lying on the little toilet
    table. "A thing of little value," the fellow went on, "but as it was a
    present ..."

    All at once I raised my head. Something dawned upon me.

    "Your name is Ilya?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Was it you, then, I saw under the willow tree the other night?"

    The pedlar winked, and grinned more broadly than ever.

    "Yes, sir."

    "And it was _your_ name that was called?"

    "Yes, sir," the pedlar repeated with playful modesty. "There is a
    young girl here," he went on in a high falsetto, "who, owing to the
    great strictness of her parents----"

    "Very good, very good," I interrupted him, handed him the comb and
    dismissed him.

    "So that was the 'Ilyusha,'" I thought, and I sank into philosophic
    reflections which I will not, however, intrude upon you as I don't
    want to prevent anyone from believing in fate, predestination and such

    When I was back in Petersburg I made inquiries about Masha. I even
    discovered the doctor who had treated her. To my amazement I heard
    from him that she had died not through poisoning but of cholera! I
    told him what I had heard from Tyeglev.

    "Eh! Eh!" cried the doctor all at once. "Is that Tyeglev an artillery
    officer, a man of middle height and with a stoop, speaks with a lisp?"


    "Well, I thought so. That gentleman came to me--I had never seen him
    before--and began insisting that the girl had poisoned herself. 'It
    was cholera,' I told him. 'Poison,' he said. 'It was cholera, I tell
    you,' I said. 'No, it was poison,' he declared. I saw that the fellow
    was a sort of lunatic, with a broad base to his head--a sign of
    obstinacy, he would not give over easily.... Well, it doesn't matter,
    I thought, the patient is dead.... 'Very well,' I said, 'she poisoned
    herself if you prefer it.' He thanked me, even shook hands with
    me--and departed."

    I told the doctor how the officer had shot himself the same day.

    The doctor did not turn a hair--and only observed that there were all
    sorts of queer fellows in the world.

    "There are indeed," I assented.

    Yes, someone has said truly of suicides: until they carry out their
    design, no one believes them; and when they do, no one regrets them.

    Baden, 1870.
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