THE CATASTROPHE WITH Liza and the death of Marya Timofyevna made an overwhelming impression on Shatov. I have already mentioned that that morning I met him in passing; he seemed to me not himself. He told me among other things that on the evening before at nine o’clock (that is, three hours before the fire had broken out) he had been at Marya Timofyevna’s. He went in the morning to look at the corpses, but as far as I know gave no evidence of any sort that morning. Meanwhile, towards the end of the day there was a perfect tempest in his soul, and … I think I can say with certainty that there was a moment at dusk when he wanted to get up, go out and tell everything. What that everything was, no one but he could say. Of course he would have achieved nothing, and would have simply betrayed himself. He had no proofs whatever with which to convict the perpetrators of the crime, and, indeed, he had nothing but vague conjectures to go upon, though to him they amounted to complete certainty. But he was ready to ruin himself if he could only “crush the scoundrels”—his own words. Pyotr Stepanovitch had guessed fairly correctly at this impulse in him, and he knew himself that he was risking a great deal in putting off the execution of his new awful project till next day. On his side there was, as usual, great self-confidence and contempt for all these “wretched creatures” and for Shatov in particular. He had for years despised Shatov for his “whining idiocy,” as he had expressed it in former days abroad, and he was absolutely confident that he could deal with such a guileless creature, that is, keep an eye on him all that day, and put a check on him at the first sign of danger. Yet what saved “the scoundrels” for a short time was something quite unexpected which they had not foreseen.…
Towards eight o’clock in the evening (at the very time when the quintet was meeting at Erkel’s, and waiting in indignation and excitement for Pyotr Stepanovitch) Shatov was lying in the dark on his bed with a headache and a slight chill; he was tortured by uncertainty, he was angry, he kept making up his mind, and could not make it up finally, and felt, with a curse, that it would all lead to nothing. Gradually he sank into a brief doze and had something like a nightmare. He dreamt that he was lying on his bed, tied up with cords and unable to stir, and meantime he heard a terrible banging that echoed all over the house, a banging on the fence, at the gate, at his door, in Kirillov’s lodge, so that the whole house was shaking, and a far-away familiar voice that wrung his heart was calling to him piteously. He suddenly woke and sat up in bed. To his surprise the banging at the gate went on, though not nearly so violent as it had seemed in his dream. The knocks were repeated and persistent, and the strange voice “that wrung his heart” could still be heard below at the gate, though not piteously but angrily and impatiently, alternating with another voice, more restrained and ordinary. He jumped up, opened the casement pane and put his head out.
“Who’s there?” he called, literally numb with terror.
“If you are Shatov,” the answer came harshly and resolutely from below, “be so good as to tell me straight out and honestly whether you agree to let me in or not?”
It was true: he recognised the voice!
“Marie!… Is it you?”
“Yes, yes, Marya Shatov, and I assure you I can’t keep the driver a minute longer.”
“This minute … I’ll get a candle,” Shatov cried faintly. Then he rushed to look for the matches. The matches, as always happens at such moments, could not be found. He dropped the candlestick and the candle on the floor and as soon as he heard the impatient voice from below again, he abandoned the search and dashed down the steep stairs to open the gate.
“Be so good as to hold the bag while I settle with this blockhead,” was how Madame Marya Shatov greeted him below, and she thrust into his hands a rather light cheap canvas handbag studded with brass nails, of Dresden manufacture. She attacked the driver with exasperation.
“Allow me to tell you, you are asking too much. If you’ve been driving me for an extra hour through these filthy streets, that’s your fault, because it seems you didn’t know where to find this stupid street and imbecile house. Take your thirty kopecks and make up your mind that you’ll get nothing more.”
“Ech, lady, you told me yourself Voznesensky Street and this is Bogoyavlensky; Voznesensky is ever so far away. You’ve simply put the horse into a steam.”
“Voznesensky, Bogoyavlensky—you ought to know all those stupid names better than I do, as you are an inhabitant; besides, you are unfair, I told you first of all Filipov’s house and you declared you knew it. In any case you can have me up to-morrow in the local court, but now I beg you to let me alone.”
“Here, here’s another five kopecks.” With eager haste Shatov pulled a five-kopeck piece out of his pocket and gave it to the driver.
“Do me a favour, I beg you, don’t dare to do that!” Madame Shatov flared up, but the driver drove off and Shatov, taking her hand, drew her through the gate.
“Make haste, Marie, make haste … that’s no matter, and … you are wet through. Take care, we go up here—how sorry I am there’s no light—the stairs are steep, hold tight, hold tight! Well, this is my room. Excuse my having no light … One minute!”
He picked up the candlestick but it was a long time before the matches were found. Madame Shatov stood waiting in the middle of the room, silent and motionless.
“Thank God, here they are at last!” he cried joyfully, lighting up the room. Marya Shatov took a cursory survey of his abode.
“They told me you lived in a poor way, but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as this,” she pronounced with an air of disgust, and she moved towards the bed.
“Oh, I am tired!” she sat down on the hard bed, with an exhausted air. “Please put down the bag and sit down on the chair yourself. Just as you like though; you are in the way standing there. I have come to you for a time, till I can get work, because I know nothing of this place and I have no money. But if I shall be in your way I beg you again, be so good as to tell me so at once, as you are bound to do if you are an honest man. I could sell something to-morrow and pay for a room at an hotel, but you must take me to the hotel yourself.… Oh, but I am tired!”
Shatov was all of a tremor.
“You mustn’t, Marie, you mustn’t go to an hotel! An hotel! What for? What for?”
He clasped his hands imploringly.…
“Well, if I can get on without the hotel … I must, any way, explain the position. Remember, Shatov, that we lived in Geneva as man and wife for a fortnight and a few days; it’s three years since we parted, without any particular quarrel though. But don’t imagine that I’ve come back to renew any of the foolishness of the past. I’ve come back to look for work, and that I’ve come straight to this town is just because it’s all the same to me. I’ve not come to say I am sorry for anything; please don’t imagine anything so stupid as that.”
“Oh, Marie! This is unnecessary, quite unnecessary,” Shatov muttered vaguely.
“If so, if you are so far developed as to be able to understand that, I may allow myself to add, that if I’ve come straight to you now and am in your lodging, it’s partly because I always thought you were far from being a scoundrel and were perhaps much better than other … blackguards!”
Her eyes flashed. She must have had to bear a great deal at the hands of some “blackguards.”
“And please believe me, I wasn’t laughing at you just now when I told you you were good. I spoke plainly, without fine phrases and I can’t endure them. But that’s all nonsense. I always hoped you would have sense enough not to pester me.… Enough, I am tired.”
And she bent on him a long, harassed and weary gaze. Shatov stood facing her at the other end of the room, which was five paces away, and listened to her timidly with a look of new life and unwonted radiance on his face. This strong, rugged man, all bristles on the surface, was suddenly all softness and shining gladness. There was a thrill of extraordinary and unexpected feeling in his soul. Three years of separation, three years of the broken marriage had effaced nothing from his heart. And perhaps every day during those three years he had dreamed of her, of that beloved being who had once said to him, “I love you.” Knowing Shatov I can say with certainty that he could never have allowed himself even to dream that a woman might say to him, “I love you.” He was savagely modest and chaste, he looked on himself as a perfect monster, detested his own face as well as his character, compared himself to some freak only fit to be exhibited at fairs. Consequently he valued honesty above everything and was fanatically devoted to his convictions; he was gloomy, proud, easily moved to wrath, and sparing of words. But here was the one being who had loved him for a fortnight (that he had never doubted, never!), a being he had always considered immeasurably above him in spite of his perfectly sober understanding of her errors; a being to whom he could forgive everything, everything (of that there could be no question; indeed it was quite the other way, his idea was that he was entirely to blame); this woman, this Marya Shatov, was in his house, in his presence again … it was almost inconceivable! He was so overcome, there was so much that was terrible and at the same time so much happiness in this event that he could not, perhaps would not—perhaps was afraid to—realise the position. It was a dream. But when she looked at him with that harassed gaze he suddenly understood that this woman he loved so dearly was suffering, perhaps had been wronged. His heart went cold. He looked at her features with anguish: the first bloom of youth had long faded from this exhausted face. It’s true that she was still good-looking—in his eyes a beauty, as she had always been. In reality she was a woman of twenty-five, rather strongly built, above the medium height (taller than Shatov), with abundant dark brown hair, a pale oval face, and large dark eyes now glittering with feverish brilliance. But the light-hearted, naïve and good-natured energy he had known so well in the past was replaced now by a sullen irritability and disillusionment, a sort of cynicism which was not yet habitual to her herself, and which weighed upon her. But the chief thing was that she was ill, that he could see clearly. In spite of the awe in which he stood of her he suddenly went up to her and took her by both hands.
“Marie … you know … you are very tired, perhaps, for God’s sake, don’t be angry.… If you’d consent to have some tea, for instance, eh? Tea picks one up so, doesn’t it? If you’d consent!”
“Why talk about consenting! Of course I consent, what a baby you are still. Get me some if you can. How cramped you are here. How cold it is!”
“Oh, I’ll get some logs for the fire directly, some logs … I’ve got logs.” Shatov was all astir. “Logs … that is … but I’ll get tea directly,” he waved his hand as though with desperate determination and snatched up his cap.
“Where are you going? So you’ve no tea in the house?”
“There shall be, there shall be, there shall be, there shall be everything directly.… I …” he took his revolver from the shelf, “I’ll sell this revolver directly … or pawn it.…”
“What foolishness and what a time that will take! Take my money if you’ve nothing, there’s eighty kopecks here, I think; that’s all I have. This is like a madhouse.”
“I don’t want your money, I don’t want it I’ll be here directly, in one instant. I can manage without the revolver.…”
And he rushed straight to Kirillov’s. This was probably two hours before the visit of Pyotr Stepanovitch and Liputin to Kirillov. Though Shatov and Kirillov lived in the same yard they hardly ever saw each other, and when they met they did not nod or speak: they had been too long “lying side by side” in America.…
“Kirillov, you always have tea; have you got tea and a samovar?”
Kirillov, who was walking up and down the room, as he was in the habit of doing all night, stopped and looked intently at his hurried visitor, though without much surprise.
“I’ve got tea and sugar and a samovar. But there’s no need of the samovar, the tea is hot. Sit down and simply drink it.”
“Kirillov, we lay side by side in America.… My wife has come to me … I … give me the tea.… I shall want the samovar.”
“If your wife is here you want the samovar. But take it later. I’ve two. And now take the teapot from the table. It’s hot, boiling hot. Take everything, take the sugar, all of it. Bread … there’s plenty of bread; all of it. There’s some veal. I’ve a rouble.”
“Give it me, friend, I’ll pay it back to-morrow! Ach, Kirillov!”
“Is it the same wife who was in Switzerland? That’s a good thing. And your running in like this, that’s a good thing too.”
“Kirillov!” cried Shatov, taking the teapot under his arm and carrying the bread and sugar in both hands. “Kirillov, if … if you could get rid of your dreadful fancies and give up your atheistic ravings … oh, what a man you’d be, Kirillov!”
“One can see you love your wife after Switzerland. It’s a good thing you do—after Switzerland. When you want tea, come again. You can come all night, I don’t sleep at all. There’ll be a samovar. Take the rouble, here it is. Go to your wife, I’ll stay here and think about you and your wife.”
Marya Shatov was unmistakably pleased at her husband’s haste and fell upon the tea almost greedily, but there was no need to run for the samovar; she drank only half a cup and swallowed a tiny piece of bread. The veal she refused with disgust and irritation.
“You are ill, Marie, all this is a sign of illness,” Shatov remarked timidly as he waited upon her.
“Of course I’m ill, please sit down. Where did you get the tea if you haven’t any?”
Shatov told her about Kirillov briefly. She had heard something of him.
“I know he is mad; say no more, please; there are plenty of fools. So you’ve been in America? I heard, you wrote.”
“Yes, I … I wrote to you in Paris.”
“Enough, please talk of something else. Are you a Slavophil in your convictions?”
“I … I am not exactly.… Since I cannot be a Russian, I became a Slavophil.” He smiled a wry smile with the effort of one who feels he has made a strained and inappropriate jest.
“Why, aren’t you a Russian?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Well, that’s all foolishness. Do sit down, I entreat you. Why are you all over the place? Do you think I am lightheaded? Perhaps I shall be. You say there are only you two in the house.”
“Yes.… Downstairs …”
“And both such clever people. What is there downstairs? You said downstairs?”
“Why nothing? I want to know.”
“I only meant to say that now we are only two in the yard, but that the Lebyadkins used to live downstairs.…”
“That woman who was murdered last night?” she started suddenly. “I heard of it. I heard of it as soon as I arrived. There was a fire here, wasn’t there?”
“Yes, Marie, yes, and perhaps I am doing a scoundrelly thing this moment in forgiving the scoundrels.…” He stood up suddenly and paced about the room, raising his arms as though in a frenzy.
But Marie had not quite understood him. She heard his answers inattentively; she asked questions but did not listen.
“Fine things are being done among you! Oh, how contemptible it all is! What scoundrels men all are! But do sit down, I beg you, oh, how you exasperate me!” and she let her head sink on the pillow, exhausted.
“Marie, I won’t.… Perhaps you’ll lie down, Marie?” She made no answer and closed her eyes helplessly. Her pale face looked death-like. She fell asleep almost instantly. Shatov looked round, snuffed the candle, looked uneasily at her face once more, pressed his hands tight in front of him and walked on tiptoe out of the room into the passage. At the top of the stairs he stood in the corner with his face to the wall and remained so for ten minutes without sound or movement. He would have stood there longer, but he suddenly caught the sound of soft cautious steps below. Someone was coming up the stairs. Shatov remembered he had forgotten to fasten the gate.
“Who’s there?” he asked in a whisper. The unknown visitor went on slowly mounting the stairs without answering. When he reached the top he stood still; it was impossible to see his face in the dark; suddenly Shatov heard the cautious question:
Shatov said who he was, but at once held out his hand to check his advance. The latter took his hand, and Shatov shuddered as though he had touched some terrible reptile.
“Stand here,” he whispered quickly. “Don’t go in, I can’t receive you just now. My wife has come back. I’ll fetch the candle.”
When he returned with the candle he found a young officer standing there; he did not know his name but he had seen him before.
“Erkel,” said the lad, introducing himself. “You’ve seen me at Virginsky’s.”
“I remember; you sat writing. Listen,” said Shatov in sudden excitement, going up to him frantically, but still talking in a whisper. “You gave me a sign just now when you took my hand. But you know I can treat all these signals with contempt! I don’t acknowledge them.… I don’t want them.… I can throw you downstairs this minute, do you know that?”
“No, I know nothing about that and I don’t know what you are in such a rage about,” the visitor answered without malice and almost ingenuously. “I have only to give you a message, and that’s what I’ve come for, being particularly anxious not to lose time. You have a printing press which does not belong to you, and of which you are bound to give an account, as you know yourself. I have received instructions to request you to give it up to-morrow at seven o’clock in the evening to Liputin. I have been instructed to tell you also that nothing more will be asked of you.”
“Absolutely nothing. Your request is granted, and you are struck off our list. I was instructed to tell you that positively.”
“Who instructed you to tell me?”
“Those who told me the sign.”
“Have you come from abroad?”
“I … I think that’s no matter to you.”
“Oh, hang it! Why didn’t you come before if you were told to?”
“I followed certain instructions and was not alone.”
“I understand, I understand that you were not alone. Eh … hang it! But why didn’t Liputin come himself?”
“So I shall come for you to-morrow at exactly six o’clock in the evening, and we’ll go there on foot. There will be no one there but us three.”
“Will Verhovensky be there?”
“No, he won’t. Verhovensky is leaving the town at eleven o’clock to-morrow morning.”
“Just what I thought!” Shatov whispered furiously, and he struck his fist on his hip. “He’s run off, the sneak!”
He sank into agitated reflection. Erkel looked intently at him and waited in silence.
“But how will you take it? You can’t simply pick it up in your hands and carry it.”
“There will be no need to. You’ll simply point out the place and we’ll just make sure that it really is buried there. We only know whereabouts the place is, we don’t know the place itself. And have you pointed the place out to anyone else yet?”
Shatov looked at him.
“You, you, a chit of a boy like you, a silly boy like you, you too have got caught in that net like a sheep? Yes, that’s just the young blood they want! Well, go along. E-ech! that scoundrel’s taken you all in and run away.”
Erkel looked at him serenely and calmly but did not seem to understand.
“Verhovensky, Verhovensky has run away!” Shatov growled fiercely.
“But he is still here, he is not gone away. He is not going till to-morrow,” Erkel observed softly and persuasively. “I particularly begged him to be present as a witness; my instructions all referred to him (he explained frankly like a young and inexperienced boy). But I regret to say he did not agree on the ground of his departure, and he really is in a hurry.”
Shatov glanced compassionately at the simple youth again, but suddenly gave a gesture of despair as though he thought “they are not worth pitying.”
“All right, I’ll come,” he cut him short. “And now get away, be off.”
“So I’ll come for you at six o’clock punctually.” Erkel made a courteous bow and walked deliberately downstairs.
“Little fool!” Shatov could not help shouting after him from the top.
“What is it?” responded the lad from the bottom.
“Nothing, you can go.”
“I thought you said something.”
Erkel was a “little fool” who was only lacking in the higher form of reason, the ruling power of the intellect; but of the lesser, the subordinate reasoning faculties, he had plenty—even to the point of cunning. Fanatically, childishly devoted to “the cause” or rather in reality to Pyotr Verhovensky, he acted on the instructions given to him when at the meeting of the quintet they had agreed and had distributed the various duties for the next day. When Pyotr Stepanovitch gave him the job of messenger, he succeeded in talking to him aside for ten minutes.
A craving for active service was characteristic of this shallow, unreflecting nature, which was forever yearning to follow the lead of another man’s will, of course for the good of “the common” or “the great” cause. Not that that made any difference, for little fanatics like Erkel can never imagine serving a cause except by identifying it with the person who, to their minds, is the expression of it. The sensitive, affectionate and kind-hearted Erkel was perhaps the most callous of Shatov’s would-be murderers, and, though he had no personal spite against him, he would have been present at his murder without the quiver of an eyelid. He had been instructed, for instance, to have a good look at Shatov’s surroundings while carrying out his commission, and when Shatov, receiving him at the top of the stairs, blurted out to him, probably unaware in the heat of the moment, that his wife had come back to him—Erkel had the instinctive cunning to avoid displaying the slightest curiosity, though the idea flashed through his mind that the fact of his wife’s return was of great importance for the success of their undertaking.
And so it was in reality; it was only that fact that saved the “scoundrels” from Shatov’s carrying out his intention, and at the same time helped them “to get rid of him.” To begin with, it agitated Shatov, threw him out of his regular routine, and deprived him of his usual clear-sightedness and caution. Any idea of his own danger would be the last thing to enter his head at this moment when he was absorbed with such different considerations. On the contrary, he eagerly believed that Pyotr Verhovensky was running away the next day: it fell in exactly with his suspicions! Returning to the room he sat down again in a corner, leaned his elbows on his knees and hid his face in his hands. Bitter thoughts tormented him.…
Then he would raise his head again and go on tiptoe to look at her. “Good God! she will be in a fever by to-morrow morning; perhaps it’s begun already! She must have caught cold. She is not accustomed to this awful climate, and then a third-class carriage, the storm, the rain, and she has such a thin little pelisse, no wrap at all.… And to leave her like this, to abandon her in her helplessness! Her bag, too, her bag—what a tiny, light thing, all crumpled up, scarcely weighs ten pounds! Poor thing, how worn out she is, how much she’s been through! She is proud, that’s why she won’t complain. But she is irritable, very irritable. It’s illness; an angel will grow irritable in illness. What a dry forehead, it must be hot—how dark she is under the eyes, and … and yet how beautiful the oval of her face is and her rich hair, how …”
And he made haste to turn away his eyes, to walk away as though he were frightened at the very idea of seeing in her anything but an unhappy, exhausted fellow-creature who needed help—“how could he think of hopes, oh, how mean, how base is man!” And he would go back to his corner, sit down, hide his face in his hands and again sink into dreams and reminiscences … and again he was haunted by hopes.
“Oh, I am tired, I am tired,” he remembered her exclamations, her weak broken voice. “Good God! Abandon her now, and she has only eighty kopecks; she held out her purse, a tiny old thing! She’s come to look for a job. What does she know about jobs? What do they know about Russia? Why, they are like naughty children, they’ve nothing but their own fancies made up by themselves, and she is angry, poor thing, that Russia is not like their foreign dreams! The luckless, innocent creatures!… It’s really cold here, though.”
He remembered that she had complained, that he had promised to heat the stove. “There are logs here, I can fetch them if only I don’t wake her. But I can do it without waking her. But what shall I do about the veal? When she gets up perhaps she will be hungry.… Well, that will do later: Kirillov doesn’t go to bed all night. What could I cover her with, she is sleeping so soundly, but she must be cold, ah, she must be cold!” And once more he went to look at her; her dress had worked up a little and her right leg was half uncovered to the knee. He suddenly turned away almost in dismay, took off his warm overcoat, and, remaining in his wretched old jacket, covered it up, trying not to look at it.
A great deal of time was spent in righting the fire, stepping about on tiptoe, looking at the sleeping woman, dreaming in the corner, then looking at her again. Two or three hours had passed. During that time Verhovensky and Liputin had been at Kirillov’s. At last he, too, began to doze in the corner. He heard her groan; she waked up and called him; he jumped up like a criminal.
“Marie, I was dropping asleep.… Ah, what a wretch I am, Marie!”
She sat up, looking about her with wonder, seeming not to recognise where she was, and suddenly leapt up in indignation and anger.
“I’ve taken your bed, I fell asleep so tired I didn’t know what I was doing; how dared you not wake me? How could you dare imagine I meant to be a burden to you?”
“How could I wake you, Marie?”
“You could, you ought to have! You’ve no other bed here, and I’ve taken yours. You had no business to put me into a false position. Or do you suppose that I’ve come to take advantage of your charity? Kindly get into your bed at once and I’ll lie down in the corner on some chairs.”
“Marie, there aren’t chairs enough, and there’s nothing to put on them.”
“Then simply oil the floor. Or you’ll have to lie on the floor yourself. I want to lie on the floor at once, at once!”
She stood up, tried to take a step, but suddenly a violent spasm of pain deprived her of all power and all determination, and with a loud groan she fell back on the bed. Shatov ran up, but Marie, hiding her face in the pillow, seized his hand and gripped and squeezed it with all her might. This lasted a minute.
“Marie darling, there’s a doctor Frenzel living here, a friend of mine.… I could run for him.”
“What do you mean by nonsense? Tell me, Marie, what is it hurting you? For we might try fomentations … on the stomach for instance.… I can do that without a doctor.… Or else mustard poultices.”
“What’s this,” she asked strangely, raising her head and looking at him in dismay.
“What’s what, Marie?” said Shatov, not understanding. “What are you asking about? Good heavens! I am quite bewildered, excuse my not understanding.”
“Ach, let me alone; it’s not your business to understand. And it would be too absurd …” she said with a bitter smile. “Talk to me about something. Walk about the room and talk. Don’t stand over me and don’t look at me, I particularly ask you that for the five-hundredth time!”
Shatov began walking up and down the room, looking at the floor, and doing his utmost not to glance at her.
“There’s—don’t be angry, Marie, I entreat you—there’s some veal here, and there’s tea not far off.… You had so little before.”
She made an angry gesture of disgust. Shatov bit his tongue in despair.
“Listen, I intend to open a bookbinding business here, on rational co-operative principles. Since you live here what do you think of it, would it be successful?”
“Ech, Marie, people don’t read books here, and there are none here at all. And are they likely to begin binding them!”
“Who are they?”
“The local readers and inhabitants generally, Marie.”
“Well, then, speak more clearly. They indeed, and one doesn’t know who they are. You don’t know grammar!”
“It’s in the spirit of the language,” Shatov muttered.
“Oh, get along with your spirit, you bore me. Why shouldn’t the local inhabitant or reader have his books bound?”
“Because reading books and having them bound are two different stages of development, and there’s a vast gulf between them. To begin with, a man gradually gets used to reading, in the course of ages of course, but takes no care of his books and throws them about, not thinking them worth attention. But binding implies respect for books, and implies that not only he has grown fond of reading, but that he looks upon it as something of value. That period has not been reached anywhere in Russia yet. In Europe books have been bound for a long while.”
“Though that’s pedantic, anyway, it’s not stupid, and reminds me of the time three years ago; you used to be rather clever sometimes three years ago.”
She said this as disdainfully as her other capricious remarks.
“Marie, Marie,” said Shatov, turning to her, much moved, “oh, Marie! If you only knew how much has happened in those three years! I heard afterwards that you despised me for changing my convictions. But what are the men I’ve broken with? The enemies of all true life, out-of-date Liberals who are afraid of their own independence, the flunkeys of thought, the enemies of individuality and freedom, the decrepit advocates of deadness and rottenness! All they have to offer is senility, a glorious mediocrity of the most bourgeois kind, contemptible shallowness, a jealous equality, equality without individual dignity, equality as it’s understood by flunkeys or by the French in ’93. And the worst of it is there are swarms of scoundrels among them, swarms of scoundrels!”
“Yes, there are a lot of scoundrels,” she brought out abruptly with painful effort. She lay stretched out, motionless, as though afraid to move, with her head thrown back on the pillow, rather on one side, staring at the ceiling with exhausted but glowing eyes. Her face was pale, her lips were dry and hot.
“You recognise it, Marie, you recognise it,” cried Shatov. She tried to shake her head, and suddenly the same spasm came over her again. Again she hid her face in the pillow, and again for a full minute she squeezed Shatov’s hand till it hurt. He had run up, beside himself with alarm.
“Marie, Marie! But it may be very serious, Marie!”
“Be quiet … I won’t have it, I won’t have it,” she screamed almost furiously, turning her face upwards again. “Don’t dare to look at me with your sympathy! Walk about the room, say something, talk.…”
Shatov began muttering something again, like one distraught.
“What do you do here?” she asked, interrupting him with contemptuous impatience.
“I work in a merchant’s office. I could get a fair amount of money even here if I cared to, Marie.”
“So much the better for you.…”
“Oh, don’t suppose I meant anything, Marie. I said it without thinking.”
“And what do you do besides? What are you preaching? You can’t exist without preaching, that’s your character!”
“I am preaching God, Marie.”
“In whom you don’t believe yourself. I never could see the idea of that.”
“Let’s leave that, Marie; we’ll talk of that later.”
“What sort of person was this Marya Timofyevna here?”
“We’ll talk of that later too, Marie.”
“Don’t dare to say such things to me! Is it true that her death may have been caused by … the wickedness … of these people?”
“Not a doubt of it,” growled Shatov.
Marie suddenly raised her head and cried out painfully:
“Don’t dare speak of that to me again, don’t dare to, never, never!”
And she fell back in bed again, overcome by the same convulsive agony; it was the third time, but this time her groans were louder, in fact she screamed.
“Oh, you insufferable man! Oh, you unbearable man,” she cried, tossing about recklessly, and pushing away Shatov as he bent over her.
“Marie, I’ll do anything you like.… I’ll walk about and talk.…”
“Surely you must see that it has begun!”
“What’s begun, Marie?”
“How can I tell! Do I know anything about it?… I curse myself! Oh, curse it all from the beginning!”
“Marie, if you’d tell me what’s beginning … or else I … if you don’t, what am I to make of it?”
“You are a useless, theoretical babbler. Oh, curse everything on earth!”
“Marie, Marie!” He seriously thought that she was beginning to go mad.
“Surely you must see that I am in the agonies of childbirth,” she said, sitting up and gazing at him with a terrible, hysterical vindictiveness that distorted her whole face. “I curse him before he is born, this child!”
“Marie,” cried Shatov, realising at last what it meant. “Marie … but why didn’t you tell me before.” He pulled himself together at once and seized his cap with an air of vigorous determination.
“How could I tell when I came in here? Should I have come to you if I’d known? I was told it would be another ten days! Where are you going?… Where are you going? You mustn’t dare!”
“To fetch a midwife! I’ll sell the revolver. We must get money before anything else now.”
“Don’t dare to do anything, don’t dare to fetch a midwife! Bring a peasant woman, any old woman, I’ve eighty kopecks in my purse.… Peasant women have babies without midwives.… And if I die, so much the better.…”
“You shall have a midwife and an old woman too. But how am I to leave you alone, Marie!”
But reflecting that it was better to leave her alone now in spite of her desperate state than to leave her without help later, he paid no attention to her groans, nor her angry exclamations, but rushed downstairs, hurrying all he could.
First of all he went to Kirillov. It was by now about one o’clock in the night. Kirillov was standing in the middle of the room.
“Kirillov, my wife is in childbirth.”
“How do you mean?”
“Childbirth, bearing a child!”
“You … are not mistaken?”
“Oh, no, no, she is in agonies! I want a woman, any old woman, I must have one at once.… Can you get one now? You used to have a lot of old women.…”
“Very sorry that I am no good at childbearing,” Kirillov answered thoughtfully; “that is, not at childbearing, but at doing anything for childbearing … or … no, I don’t know how to say it.”
“You mean you can’t assist at a confinement yourself? But that’s not what I’ve come for. An old woman, I want a woman, a nurse, a servant!”
“You shall have an old woman, but not directly, perhaps … If you like I’ll come instead.…”
“Oh, impossible; I am running to Madame Virginsky, the midwife, now.”
“A horrid woman!”
“Oh, yes, Kirillov, yes, but she is the best of them all. Yes, it’ll all be without reverence, without gladness, with contempt, with abuse, with blasphemy in the presence of so great a mystery, the coming of a new creature! Oh, she is cursing it already!”
“If you like I’ll …”
“No, no, but while I’m running (oh, I’ll make Madame Virginsky come), will you go to the foot of my staircase and quietly listen? But don’t venture to go in, you’ll frighten her; don’t go in on any account, you must only listen … in case anything dreadful happens. If anything very bad happens, then run in.”
“I understand. I’ve another rouble. Here it is. I meant to have a fowl to-morrow, but now I don’t want to, make haste, run with all your might. There’s a samovar all the night.”
Kirillov knew nothing of the present design against Shatov, nor had he had any idea in the past of the degree of danger that threatened him. He only knew that Shatov had some old scores with “those people,” and although he was to some extent involved with them himself through instructions he had received from abroad (not that these were of much consequence, however, for he had never taken any direct share in anything), yet of late he had given it all up, having left off doing anything especially for the “cause,” and devoted himself entirely to a life of contemplation. Although Pyotr Stepanovitch had at the meeting invited Liputin to go with him to Kirillov’s to make sure that the latter would take upon himself, at a given moment, the responsibility for the “Shatov business,” yet in his interview with Kirillov he had said no word about Shatov nor alluded to him in any way—probably considering it impolitic to do so, and thinking that Kirillov could not be relied upon. He put off speaking about it till next day, when it would be all over and would therefore not matter to Kirillov; such at least was Pyotr Stepanovitch’s judgment of him. Liputin, too, was struck by the fact that Shatov was not mentioned in spite of what Pyotr Stepanovitch had promised, but he was too much agitated to protest.
Shatov ran like a hurricane to Virginsky’s house, cursing the distance and feeling it endless.
He had to knock a long time at Virginsky’s; every one had been asleep a long while. But Shatov did not scruple to bang at the shutters with all his might. The dog chained up in the yard dashed about barking furiously. The dogs caught it up all along the street, and there was a regular babel of barking.
“Why are you knocking and what do you want?” Shatov heard at the window at last Virginsky’s gentle voice, betraying none of the resentment appropriate to the “outrage.” The shutter was pushed back a little and the casement was opened.
“Who’s there, what scoundrel is it?” shrilled a female voice which betrayed all the resentment appropriate to the “outrage.” It was the old maid, Virginsky’s relation.
“I am Shatov, my wife has come back to me and she is just confined.…”
“Well, let her be, get along.”
“I’ve come for Arina Prohorovna; I won’t go without Arina Prohorovna!”
“She can’t attend to every one. Practice at night is a special line. Take yourself off to Maksheyev’s and don’t dare to make that din,” rattled the exasperated female voice. He could hear Virginsky checking her; but the old maid pushed him away and would not desist.
“I am not going away!” Shatov cried again.
“Wait a little, wait a little,” Virginsky cried at last, overpowering the lady. “I beg you to wait five minutes, Shatov. I’ll wake Arina Prohorovna. Please don’t knock and don’t shout.… Oh, how awful it all is!”
After five endless minutes, Arina Prohorovna made her appearance.
“Has your wife come?” Shatov heard her voice at the window, and to his surprise it was not at all ill-tempered, only as usual peremptory, but Arina Prohorovna could not speak except in a peremptory tone.
“Yes, my wife, and she is in labour.”
“Yes, Marya Ignatyevna. Of course it’s Marya Ignatyevna.”
A silence followed. Shatov waited. He heard a whispering in the house.
“Has she been here long?” Madame Virginsky asked again.
“She came this evening at eight o’clock. Please make haste.”
Again he heard whispering, as though they were consulting. “Listen, you are not making a mistake? Did she send you for me herself?”
“No, she didn’t send for you, she wants a peasant woman, so as not to burden me with expense, but don’t be afraid, I’ll pay you.”
“Very good, I’ll come, whether you pay or not. I always thought highly of Marya Ignatyevna for the independence of her sentiments, though perhaps she won’t remember me. Have you got the most necessary things?”
“I’ve nothing, but I’ll get everything, everything.”
“There is something generous even in these people,” Shatov reflected, as he set off to Lyamshin’s. “The convictions and the man are two very different things, very likely I’ve been very unfair to them!… We are all to blame, we are all to blame … and if only all were convinced of it!”
He had not to knock long at Lyamshin’s; the latter, to Shatov’s surprise, opened his casement at once, jumping out of bed, barefoot and in his night-clothes at the risk of catching cold; and he was hypochondriacal and always anxious about his health. But there was a special cause for such alertness and haste: Lyamshin had been in a tremor all the evening, and had not been able to sleep for excitement after the meeting of the quintet; he was haunted by the dread of uninvited and undesired visitors. The news of Shatov’s giving information tormented him more than anything.… And suddenly there was this terrible loud knocking at the window as though to justify his fears.
He was so frightened at seeing Shatov that he at once slammed the casement and jumped back into bed. Shatov began furiously knocking and shouting.
“How dare you knock like that in the middle of the night?” shouted Lyamshin, in a threatening voice, though he was numb with fear, when at least two minutes later he ventured to open the casement again, and was at last convinced that Shatov had come alone.
“Here’s your revolver for you; take it back, give me fifteen roubles.”
“What’s the matter, are you drunk? This is outrageous, I shall simply catch cold. Wait a minute, I’ll just throw my rug over me.”
“Give me fifteen roubles at once. If you don’t give it me, I’ll knock and shout till daybreak; I’ll break your window-frame.”
“And I’ll shout police and you’ll be taken to the lock-up.”
“And am I dumb? Can’t I shout ‘police’ too? Which of us has most reason to be afraid of the police, you or I?”
“And you can hold such contemptible opinions! I know what you are hinting at.… Stop, stop, for God’s sake don’t go on knocking! Upon my word, who has money at night? What do you want money for, unless you are drunk?”
“My wife has come back. I’ve taken ten roubles off the price, I haven’t fired it once; take the revolver, take it this minute!”
Lyamshin mechanically put his hand out of the casement and took the revolver; he waited a little, and suddenly thrusting his head out of the casement, and with a shiver running down his spine, faltered as though he were beside himself.
“You are lying, your wife hasn’t come back to you.… It’s … it’s simply that you want to run away.”
“You are a fool. Where should I run to? It’s for your Pyotr Verhovensky to run away, not for me. I’ve just been to the midwife, Madame Virginsky, and she consented at once to come to me. You can ask them. My wife is in agony; I need the money; give it me!”
A swarm of ideas flared up in Lyamshin’s crafty mind like a shower of fireworks. It all suddenly took a different colour, though still panic prevented him from reflecting.
“But how … you are not living with your wife?”
“I’ll break your skull for questions like that.”
“Oh dear, I understand, forgive me, I was struck all of a heap.… But I understand, I understand … is Arina Prohorovna really coming? You said just now that she had gone? You know, that’s not true. You see, you see, you see what lies you tell at every step.”
“By now, she must be with my wife … don’t keep me … it’s not my fault you are a fool.”
“That’s a lie, I am not a fool. Excuse me, I really can’t …”
And utterly distraught he began shutting the casement again for the third time, but Shatov gave such a yell that he put his head out again.
“But this is simply an unprovoked assault! What do you want of me, what is it, what is it, formulate it? And think, only think, it’s the middle of the night!”
“I want fifteen roubles, you sheep’s-head!”
“But perhaps I don’t care to take back the revolver. You have no right to force me. You bought the thing and the matter is settled, and you’ve no right.… I can’t give you a sum like that in the night, anyhow. Where am I to get a sum like that?”
“You always have money. I’ve taken ten roubles off the price, but every one knows you are a skinflint.”
“Come the day after to-morrow, do you hear, the day after to-morrow at twelve o’clock, and I’ll give you the whole of it, that will do, won’t it?”
Shatov knocked furiously at the window-frame for the third time.
“Give me ten roubles, and to-morrow early the other five.”
“No, the day after to-morrow the other five, to-morrow I swear I shan’t have it. You’d better not come, you’d better not come.”
“Give me ten, you scoundrel!”
“Why are you so abusive. Wait a minute, I must light a candle; you’ve broken the window.… Nobody swears like that at night. Here you are!” He held a note to him out of the window.
Shatov seized it—it was a note for five roubles.
“On my honour I can’t do more, if you were to murder me, I couldn’t; the day after to-morrow I can give you it all, but now I can do nothing.”
“I am not going away!” roared Shatov.
“Very well, take it, here’s some more, see, here’s some more, and I won’t give more. You can shout at the top of your voice, but I won’t give more, I won’t, whatever happens, I won’t, I won’t.”
He was in a perfect frenzy, desperate and perspiring. The two notes he had just given him were each for a rouble. Shatov had seven roubles altogether now.
“Well, damn you, then, I’ll come to-morrow. I’ll thrash you, Lyamshin, if you don’t give me the other eight.”
“You won’t find me at home, you fool!” Lyamshin reflected quickly.
“Stay, stay!” he shouted frantically after Shatov, who was already running off. “Stay, come back. Tell me please, is it true what you said that your wife has come back?”
“Fool!” cried Shatov, with a gesture of disgust, and ran home as hard as he could.
I may mention that Anna Prohorovna knew nothing of the resolutions that had been taken at the meeting the day before. On returning home overwhelmed and exhausted, Virginsky had not ventured to tell her of the decision that had been taken, yet he could not refrain from telling her half—that is, all that Verhovensky had told them of the certainty of Shatov’s intention to betray them; but he added at the same time that he did not quite believe it. Arina Prohorovna was terribly alarmed. This was why she decided at once to go when Shatov came to fetch her, though she was tired out, as she had been hard at work at a confinement all the night before. She had always been convinced that “a wretched creature like Shatov was capable of any political baseness,” but the arrival of Marya Ignatyevna put things in a different light. Shatov’s alarm, the despairing tone of his entreaties, the way he begged for help, clearly showed a complete change of feeling in the traitor: a man who was ready to betray himself merely for the sake of ruining others would, she thought, have had a different air and tone. In short, Arina Prohorovna resolved to look into the matter for herself, with her own eyes. Virginsky was very glad of her decision, he felt as though a hundredweight had been lifted off him! He even began to feel hopeful: Shatov’s appearance seemed to him utterly incompatible with Verhovensky’s supposition.
Shatov was not mistaken: on getting home he found Arina Prohorovna already with Marie. She had just arrived, had contemptuously dismissed Kirillov, whom she found hanging about the foot of the stairs, had hastily introduced herself to Marie, who had not recognised her as her former acquaintance, found her in “a very bad way,” that is ill-tempered, irritable and in “a state of cowardly despair,” and within five minutes had completely silenced all her protests.
“Why do you keep on that you don’t want an expensive midwife?” she was saying at the moment when Shatov came in. “That’s perfect nonsense, it’s a false idea arising from the abnormality of your condition. In the hands of some ordinary old woman, some peasant midwife, you’d have fifty chances of going wrong and then you’d have more bother and expense than with a regular midwife. How do you know I am an expensive midwife? You can pay afterwards; I won’t charge you much and I answer for my success; you won’t die in my hands, I’ve seen worse cases than yours. And I can send the baby to a foundling asylum to-morrow, if you like, and then to be brought up in the country, and that’s all it will mean. And meantime you’ll grow strong again, take up some rational work, and in a very short time you’ll repay Shatov for sheltering you and for the expense, which will not be so great.”
“It’s not that … I’ve no right to be a burden.…”
“Rational feelings and worthy of a citizen, but you can take my word for it, Shatov will spend scarcely anything, if he is willing to become ever so little a man of sound ideas instead of the fantastic person he is. He has only not to do anything stupid, not to raise an alarm, not to run about the town with his tongue out. If we don’t restrain him he will be knocking up all the doctors of the town before the morning; he waked all the dogs in my street. There’s no need of doctors I’ve said already. I’ll answer for everything. You can hire an old woman if you like to wait on you, that won’t cost much. Though he too can do something besides the silly things he’s been doing. He’s got hands and feet, he can run to the chemist’s without offending your feelings by being too benevolent. As though it were a case of benevolence! Hasn’t he brought you into this position? Didn’t he make you break with the family in which you were a governess, with the egoistic object of marrying you? We heard of it, you know … though he did run for me like one possessed and yell so all the street could hear. I won’t force myself upon anyone and have come only for your sake, on the principle that all of us are bound to hold together! And I told him so before I left the house. If you think I am in the way, good-bye, I only hope you won’t have trouble which might so easily be averted.”
And she positively got up from the chair. Marie was so helpless, in such pain, and—the truth must be confessed—so frightened of what was before her that she dared not let her go. But this woman was suddenly hateful to her, what she said was not what she wanted, there was something quite different in Marie’s soul. Yet the prediction that she might possibly die in the hands of an inexperienced peasant woman overcame her aversion. But she made up for it by being more exacting and more ruthless than ever with Shatov. She ended by forbidding him not only to look at her but even to stand facing her. Her pains became more violent. Her curses, her abuse became more and more frantic.
“Ech, we’ll send him away,” Arina Prohorovna rapped out. “I don’t know what he looks like, he is simply frightening you; he is as white as a corpse! What is it to you, tell me please, you absurd fellow? What a farce!”
Shatov made no reply, he made up his mind to say nothing. “I’ve seen many a foolish father, half crazy in such cases. But they, at any rate …”
“Be quiet or leave me to die! Don’t say another word! I won’t have it, I won’t have it!” screamed Marie.
“It’s impossible not to say another word, if you are not out of your mind, as I think you are in your condition. We must talk of what we want, anyway: tell me, have you anything ready? You answer, Shatov, she is incapable.”
“Tell me what’s needed?”
“That means you’ve nothing ready.” She reckoned up all that was quite necessary, and one must do her the justice to say she only asked for what was absolutely indispensable, the barest necessaries. Some things Shatov had. Marie took out her key and held it out to him, for him to look in her bag. As his hands shook he was longer than he should have been opening the unfamiliar lock. Marie flew into a rage, but when Arina Prohorovna rushed up to take the key from him, she would not allow her on any account to look into her bag and with peevish cries and tears insisted that no one should open the bag but Shatov.
Some things he had to fetch from Kirillov’s. No sooner had Shatov turned to go for them than she began frantically calling him back and was only quieted when Shatov had rushed impetuously back from the stairs, and explained that he should only be gone a minute to fetch something indispensable and would be back at once.
“Well, my lady, it’s hard to please you,” laughed Arina Prohorovna, “one minute he must stand with his face to the wall and not dare to look at you, and the next he mustn’t be gone for a minute, or you begin crying. He may begin to imagine something. Come, come, don’t be silly, don’t blubber, I was laughing, you know.”
“He won’t dare to imagine anything.”
“Tut, tut, tut, if he didn’t love you like a sheep he wouldn’t run about the streets with his tongue out and wouldn’t have roused all the dogs in the town. He broke my window-frame.”
He found Kirillov still pacing up and down his room so preoccupied that he had forgotten the arrival of Shatov’s wife, and heard what he said without understanding him.
“Oh, yes!” he recollected suddenly, as though tearing himself with an effort and only for an instant from some absorbing idea, “yes … an old woman.… A wife or an old woman? Stay a minute: a wife and an old woman, is that it? I remember. I’ve been, the old woman will come, only not just now. Take the pillow. Is there anything else? Yes.… Stay, do you have moments of the eternal harmony, Shatov?”
“You know, Kirillov, you mustn’t go on staying up every night.”
Kirillov came out of his reverie and, strange to say, spoke far more coherently than he usually did; it was clear that he had formulated it long ago and perhaps written it down.
“There are seconds—they come five or six at a time—when you suddenly feel the presence of the eternal harmony perfectly attained. It’s something not earthly—I don’t mean in the sense that it’s heavenly—but in that sense that man cannot endure it in his earthly aspect. He must be physically changed or die. This feeling is clear and unmistakable; it’s as though you apprehend all nature and suddenly say, ‘Yes, that’s right.’ God, when He created the world, said at the end of each day of creation, ‘Yes, it’s right, it’s good.’ It … it’s not being deeply moved, but simply joy. You don’t forgive anything because there is no more need of forgiveness. It’s not that you love—oh, there’s something in it higher than love—what’s most awful is that it’s terribly clear and such joy. If it lasted more than five seconds, the soul could not endure it and must perish. In those five seconds I live through a lifetime, and I’d give my whole life for them, because they are worth it. To endure ten seconds one must be physically changed. I think man ought to give up having children—what’s the use of children, what’s the use of evolution when the goal has been attained? In the gospel it is written that there will be no child-bearing in the resurrection, but that men will be like the angels of the Lord. That’s a hint. Is your wife bearing a child?”
“Kirillov, does this often happen?”
“Once in three days, or once a week.”
“Don’t you have fits, perhaps?”
“Well, you will. Be careful, Kirillov. I’ve heard that’s just how fits begin. An epileptic described exactly that sensation before a fit, word for word as you’ve done. He mentioned five seconds, too, and said that more could not be endured. Remember Mahomet’s pitcher from which no drop of water was spilt while he circled Paradise on his horse. That was a case of five seconds too; that’s too much like your eternal harmony, and Mahomet was an epileptic. Be careful, Kirillov, it’s epilepsy!”
“It won’t have time,” Kirillov smiled gently.
The night was passing. Shatov was sent hither and thither, abused, called back. Marie was reduced to the most abject terror for life. She screamed that she wanted to live, that “she must, she must,” and was afraid to die. “I don’t want to, I don’t want to!” she repeated. If Arina Prohorovna had not been there, things would have gone very badly. By degrees she gained complete control of the patient—who began to obey every word, every order from her like a child. Arina Prohorovna ruled by sternness not by kindness, but she was first-rate at her work. It began to get light … Arina Prohorovna suddenly imagined that Shatov had just run out on to the stairs to say his prayers and began laughing. Marie laughed too, spitefully, malignantly, as though such laughter relieved her. At last they drove Shatov away altogether. A damp, cold morning dawned. He pressed his face to the wall in the corner just as he had done the evening before when Erkel came. He was trembling like a leaf, afraid to think, but his mind caught at every thought as it does in dreams.
He was continually being carried away by day-dreams, which snapped off short like a rotten thread. From the room came no longer groans but awful animal cries, unendurable, incredible. He tried to stop up his ears, but could not, and he fell on his knees, repeating unconsciously, “Marie, Marie!” Then suddenly he heard a cry, a new cry, which made Shatov start and jump up from his knees, the cry of a baby, a weak discordant cry. He crossed himself and rushed into the room. Arina Prohorovna held in her hands a little red wrinkled creature, screaming, and moving its little arms and legs, fearfully helpless, and looking as though it could be blown away by a puff of wind, but screaming and seeming to assert its full right to live. Marie was lying as though insensible, but a minute later she opened her eyes, and bent a strange, strange look on Shatov: it was something quite new, that look. What it meant exactly he was not able to understand yet, but he had never known such a look on her face before.
“Is it a boy? Is it a boy?” she asked Arina Prohorovna in an exhausted voice.
“It is a boy,” the latter shouted in reply, as she bound up the child.
When she had bound him up and was about to lay him across the bed between the two pillows, she gave him to Shatov for a minute to hold. Marie signed to him on the sly as though afraid of Arina Prohorovna. He understood at once and brought the baby to show her.
“How … pretty he is,” she whispered weakly with a smile.
“Foo, what does he look like,” Arina Prohorovna laughed gaily in triumph, glancing at Shatov’s face. “What a funny face!”
“You may be merry, Arina Prohorovna.… It’s a great joy,” Shatov faltered with an expression of idiotic bliss, radiant at the phrase Marie had uttered about the child.
“Where does the great joy come in?” said Arina Prohorovna good-humouredly, bustling about, clearing up, and working like a convict.
“The mysterious coming of a new creature, a great and inexplicable mystery; and what a pity it is, Arina Prohorovna, that you don’t understand it.”
Shatov spoke in an incoherent, stupefied and ecstatic way. Something seemed to be tottering in his head and welling up from his soul apart from his own will.
“There were two and now there’s a third human being, a new spirit, finished and complete, unlike the handiwork of man; a new thought and a new love … it’s positively frightening.… And there’s nothing grander in the world.”
“Ech, what nonsense he talks! It’s simply a further development of the organism, and there’s nothing else in it, no mystery,” said Arina Prohorovna with genuine and good-humoured laughter. “If you talk like that, every fly is a mystery. But I tell you what: superfluous people ought not to be born. We must first remould everything so that they won’t be superfluous and then bring them into the world. As it is, we shall have to take him to the Foundling, the day after to-morrow.… Though that’s as it should be.”
“I will never let him go to the Foundling,” Shatov pronounced resolutely, staring at the floor.
“You adopt him as your son?”
“He is my son.”
“Of course he is a Shatov, legally he is a Shatov, and there’s no need for you to pose as a humanitarian. Men can’t get on without fine words. There, there, it’s all right, but look here, my friends,” she added, having finished clearing up at last, “it’s time for me to go. I’ll come again this morning, and again in the evening if necessary, but now, since everything has gone off so well, I must run off to my other patients, they’ve been expecting me long ago. I believe you got an old woman somewhere, Shatov; an old woman is all very well, but don’t you, her tender husband, desert her; sit beside her, you may be of use; Marya Ignatyevna won’t drive you away, I fancy.… There, there, I was only laughing.”
At the gate, to which Shatov accompanied her, she added to him alone.
“You’ve given me something to laugh at for the rest of my life; I shan’t charge you anything; I shall laugh at you in my sleep! I have never seen anything funnier than you last night.”
She went off very well satisfied. Shatov’s appearance and conversation made it as clear as daylight that this man “was going in for being a father and was a ninny.” She ran home on purpose to tell Virginsky about it, though it was shorter and more direct to go to another patient.
“Marie, she told you not to go to sleep for a little time, though, I see, it’s very hard for you,” Shatov began timidly. “I’ll sit here by the window and take care of you, shall I?”
And he sat down, by the window behind the sofa so that she could not see him. But before a minute had passed she called him and fretfully asked him to arrange the pillow. He began arranging it. She looked angrily at the wall.
“That’s not right, that’s not right.… What hands!”
Shatov did it again.
“Stoop down to me,” she said wildly, trying hard not to look at him.
He started but stooped down.
“More … not so … nearer,” and suddenly her left arm was impulsively thrown round his neck and he felt her warm moist kiss on his forehead.
Her lips were quivering, she was struggling with herself, but suddenly she raised herself and said with flashing eyes:
“Nikolay Stavrogin is a scoundrel!” And she fell back helplessly with her face in the pillow, sobbing hysterically, and tightly squeezing Shatov’s hand in hers.
From that moment she would not let him leave her; she insisted on his sitting by her pillow. She could not talk much but she kept gazing at him and smiling blissfully. She seemed suddenly to have become a silly girl. Everything seemed transformed. Shatov cried like a boy, then talked of God knows what, wildly, crazily, with inspiration, kissed her hands; she listened entranced, perhaps not understanding him, but caressingly ruffling his hair with her weak hand, smoothing it and admiring it. He talked about Kirillov, of how they would now begin “a new life” for good, of the existence of God, of the goodness of all men.… She took out the child again to gaze at it rapturously.
“Marie,” he cried, as he held the child in his arms, “all the old madness, shame, and deadness is over, isn’t it? Let us work hard and begin a new life, the three of us, yes, yes!… Oh, by the way, what shall we call him, Marie?”
“What shall we call him?” she repeated with surprise, and there was a sudden look of terrible grief in her face.
She clasped her hands, looked reproachfully at Shatov and hid her face in the pillow.
“Marie, what is it?” he cried with painful alarm.
“How could you, how could you … Oh, you ungrateful man!”
“Marie, forgive me, Marie … I only asked you what his name should be. I don’t know.…”
“Ivan, Ivan.” She raised her flushed and tear-stained face. “How could you suppose we should call him by another horrible name?”
“Marie, calm yourself; oh, what a nervous state you are in!”
“That’s rude again, putting it down to my nerves. I bet that if I’d said his name was to be that other … horrible name, you’d have agreed at once and not have noticed it even! Oh, men, the mean ungrateful creatures, they are all alike!”
A minute later, of course, they were reconciled. Shatov persuaded her to have a nap. She fell asleep but still kept his hand in hers; she waked up frequently, looked at him, as though afraid he would go away, and dropped asleep again.
Kirillov sent an old woman “to congratulate them,” as well as some hot tea, some freshly cooked cutlets, and some broth and white bread for Marya Ignatyevna. The patient sipped the broth greedily, the old woman undid the baby’s wrappings and swaddled it afresh, Marie made Shatov have a cutlet too.
Time was passing. Shatov, exhausted, fell asleep himself in his chair, with his head on Marie’s pillow. So they were found by Arina Prohorovna, who kept her word. She waked them up gaily, asked Marie some necessary questions, examined the baby, and again forbade Shatov to leave her. Then, jesting at the “happy couple,” with a shade of contempt and superciliousness she went away as well satisfied as before.
It was quite dark when Shatov waked up. He made haste to light the candle and ran for the old woman; but he had hardly begun to go down the stairs when he was struck by the sound of the soft, deliberate steps of someone coming up towards him. Erkel came in.
“Don’t come in,” whispered Shatov, and impulsively seizing him by the hand he drew him back towards the gate. “Wait here, I’ll come directly, I’d completely forgotten you, completely! Oh, how you brought it back!”
He was in such haste that he did not even run in to Kirillov’s, but only called the old woman. Marie was in despair and indignation that “he could dream of leaving her alone.”
“But,” he cried ecstatically, “this is the very last step! And then for a new life and we’ll never, never think of the old horrors again!”
He somehow appeased her and promised to be back at nine o’clock; he kissed her warmly, kissed the baby and ran down quickly to Erkel.
They set off together to Stavrogin’s park at Skvoreshniki, where, in a secluded place at the very edge of the park where it adjoined the pine wood, he had, eighteen months before, buried the printing press which had been entrusted to him. It was a wild and deserted place, quite hidden and at some distance from the Stavrogins’ house. It was two or perhaps three miles from Filipov’s house.
“Are we going to walk all the way? I’ll take a cab.”
“I particularly beg you not to,” replied Erkel.
They insisted on that. A cabman would be a witness.
“Well … bother! I don’t care, only to make an end of it.”
They walked very fast.
“Erkel, you little boy,” cried Shatov, “have you ever been happy?”
“You seem to be very happy just now,” observed Erkel with curiosity.