One day on a holiday, Ilya Lunev returned home, pale, with clenched teeth, and threw himself fully dressed on his bed. Wrath lay on his heart like a cold immovable lump, an aching pain in his neck kept him from moving his head, and he felt as though his whole body suffered from the bitter wrong he had undergone.
That morning a policeman had permitted him, at the price of a piece of soap and a dozen hooks, to take his stand in front of the circus, where a performance was to be given, and Ilya had placed himself conveniently close to the entrance. Then the assistant district superintendent came by, struck him on the neck, overthrew the stand that supported his box, and scattered his wares over the ground. Some things were lost, others fell in the dirt and were spoiled. Ilya picked up what he could and said: "That is not fair, sir."
"Wha—at?" said the other, stroking his red moustache.
"You've no right to strike me."
"Oh! is that it? Migunov, take him off to the station," said the assistant quietly.
And the same policeman who had given Ilya leave to stand there, took him to the station, where he was detained till the evening.
Before this Ilya had had slight conflicts with the police, but this was the first time he had been detained, and his soul was filled with shame and hate. He lay on his bed with his arms locked, and hugged the torturing sensation of pain that weighed on his heart. Behind the wall that separated his room from the bar came a confused noise of bustle and the talking of many voices, like the sound of swift turbid brooks, dashing down from the mountains in autumn.
He heard the rattle of the tin plates, the clink of glasses, the loud calling of the customers for brandy or tea or beer, the waiters' answers. "One minute! coming! coming!" and, piercing the noise like a steel string vibrating, a high, throaty voice sang dismally, "I never thought that I should lose thee." Another voice, a deep bass, that blended with the chaos, sang softly and harmoniously, "Oh, youth that passes quickly by." Then both voices united in a clear stream of melancholy notes that mastered the tumult for a second or two:
"No riches were ever my portion.
And lonely my pathway through life."
Some one cried aloud, with a voice that sounded as though it came from a larynx of dry cracked wood:
"Do not lie! for it is written, 'Be patient and abide, and I will strengthen thee in the hour of trial.'"
"Liar yourself," struck in another voice sharply and briskly, "for it is also written, 'Since thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.' D'you see? what have you proved?"
Loud laughter followed and then a squeaking voice: "So I gave her one in her silly face, and one on the ear, and one on the teeth, smack! smack! smack!"
"Ha! ha! ha! the devil! and what then?"
The squeaking voice went on, shrilly and rapidly. "She toppled over on to the ground and I hit her again on her pretty mouth—there's one for you, I kissed you once, and now I'll beat you."
"Hullo, you Bible reader!" cried a voice mockingly.
"No. I can't contain myself, I'm so hot-tempered. How can a fellow help it!"
"I love, I accuse, and I punish—have you forgotten? And then again, 'Judge not that ye be not judged,' and the words of King David—have you forgotten?"
Ilya listened to the quarrelling, the song and the laughter for a long time, but all fell alike on his soul and roused no familiar images. Before him in the darkness swam the lean face of the police officer who had so hurt him, with a big hooked nose, greenish, evil, twinkling eyes, and a quivering red moustache. He stared at the face and clenched his teeth harder. But behind the wall the song rose louder as the singers were carried away and let their voices ring out louder and more freely. The warm, melancholy notes found a way to Ilya's heart, and melted the icy lump of rage and bitterness that lay there.
"I wandered on so bravely," sang the high voice, "From mountain land to sea," went on the second, and then joined again:
"Siberia I have traversed
To seek the pathway home."
Ilya sighed and began to attend to the sad words of the song. They stood out against the tumult of the tap room like little stars in a cloudy sky. The clouds hurry on and the stars alternately shine out and vanish.
"My tongue was tortured with hunger,
My limbs were stiffened with frost."
"Sing away, nightingales!" a voice shouted encouragingly.
"They're singing so beautifully," thought Ilya, "that it catches hold of one's heart, and presently they'll get drunk and fight most likely; man never holds on to the good very long."
"Ah! cruel, cruel fate," lamented the tenor, and the bass, deep and powerful, intoned:
"Thou load of iron weight."
Suddenly, before Ilya's mind flashed the vision of old Jeremy. The old man shook his head and spoke while the tears flowed down his cheeks:
"I have seen—I have seen, but have never perceived the truth."
Ilya thought that Jeremy, who loved God from his heart, had saved money in secret; and Terenti feared God, and had stolen it. And all men alike are thus divided in their souls, in their breasts is a balance and the heart inclines like the indicator of the scales, now to one side, now to the other and weighs the good and the bad.
"Aha—a!" some one roared in the bar room, and at once something fell to the ground with a crash that shook Ilya's bed beneath him.
"Stop! for God's sake."
"Hold him! Ah!"
Every moment the noise grew stronger and more vehement, a confused medley of new sounds was added to it, and roared in a wild whirling howl through the air like a pack of evil, hungry, close-chained hounds. Individual voices were lost in the chaos of uproar. Ilya listened with a certain pleasure; it pleased him to find that occur that he had foreseen. It was an exact confirmation of his opinion of mankind. He rolled over on his bed, put his hands under his head and abandoned himself again to his thoughts:
"My grandfather Antipa must have sinned greatly, if he repented in silence for eight whole years, and every one forgave him, spoke of him with respect, and called him righteous; but they drove his children to ruin. One son they sent to Siberia, the other they hunted out of the village.
"Here one must reckon in a special way." The words of the merchant Strogany returned to Ilya's mind. "If there is one honest man to nine rogues, no one is any the better, and the one goes to the wall—it is the majority that is right."
Ilya laughed involuntarily. Through his heart glided a cold, evil feeling of anger against men, like an adder. Well-known pictures rose before him—big, fat Matiza turned in the mud in the midst of the court and groaned:
"A—ah! my dearest mother—my darling mother—if only you would forgive me."
Perfishka, quite drunk, was standing by, swaying to and fro, and said reproachfully:
"How drunk she is! the pig!"
And Petrusha, healthy and red-cheeked, stood on the steps and laughed contemptuously.
Ilya thought of all these things, and his heart contracted, and became even more sober, more hardened.
The disturbance was over in the bar room. Three voices, those of two women and a man, were attempting to sing a song, but without great success. Some one had brought a harmonica; he played a little, very badly, then stopped. By the wall against Ilya's bed, two people conversed half aloud with frequent heavy sighs. Ilya listened with a strange sense of enmity:
"One lives, and works, and toils all one's life; there isn't any sense in it, and all the others live, and our sort goes hungry; we can't stand fast, brother, for all we straddle our legs."
"It's a fact."
"And one can't see how it's ever going to get better. Honest work's no good; builds no stone houses. How long can a man stand such a jolly life? His bit of strength's gone before he knows, then, that means the end."
"Ah! yes—yes—but what's a man to do?"
"And one isn't strong enough or quick enough, for dishonest work. The frog would like to taste the nut, but he's no teeth."
"O God, our Father."
Ilya sighed involuntarily. Suddenly he recognised Perfishka's voice, ringing clearly through the bustle and noise. The cobbler shouted in his quick, sing-song way:
"Fill your cup! fill it up to the brim. 'Tis your master pays, leave it to him. Let us drink, let us love! Through the world let us rove. And who ever says no, to the devil may go."
Cheerful laughter and applause followed. Then again the low voice near the wall:
"I've worked since I was a youngster. I'm near forty. Never once I've earned enough to eat. Sweat comes every day, but not soup, and at home it's all misery and crying. The children whimper, and the wife grumbles; a fellow can't stand it—you just lose your patience and go out and get properly drunk, and when you're sober, all you see is that the trouble's got worse."
"Yes—yes, it's true."
"One prays, 'Father in Heaven, have mercy. Why dost Thou send this misery?' but it looks as if He didn't hear."
"No, He doesn't seem to hear."
Ilya was weary of this mournful lamentation, and the monotonous assenting voice, which sounded even more melancholy than the other that complained. He turned on his bed, and knocked against the wall loudly. The two voices were silent.
He could no longer endure his couch; a torturing restlessness drove him to get up. He stood up, went out into the courtyard and stood on the steps full of a longing to fly somewhere away—where—he did not know.
It was late; Masha was asleep. It was no use to talk to an odd fellow like Jakov, and besides, he, too, was inside the house, in bed. Ilya never cared to go to Jakov's room, for every time Petrusha saw him there he seemed angered and his brows contracted. A cold autumn wind was blowing; a dense, almost black, darkness filled the court and the sky was invisible. All the sheds and outbuildings looked like great masses of darkness solidified by the wind. Strange sounds came through the damp air—a hurrying, a rustling, a low murmuring, like the lament of men over the misery of life. The wind whipped his breast, smote his face, blew a damp, cold breath down his back, a cold shudder ran through him, but he did not move. "I can't go on so," he thought. "I can't. Get out of all this dirt, and restlessness and confusion, live alone somewhere, clean and quiet."
"Who's there?" said a muffled voice suddenly.
"I—Ilya. Who's speaking?"
"Where are you?"
"Here, on the wood pile."
Both were silent.
"To-day's the day my mother died," after a moment, said Matiza's voice out of the darkness.
"Is it long ago?" asked Ilya, just to say something.
"Oh! ever so long—fifteen years—more. And your mother, is she alive?"
"No. She's dead too. How old are you then?"
"Close on thirty," said Matiza, after a pause. "I'm old already, my foot hurts so, it's swollen as big as a melon and it hurts. I've rubbed it and rubbed it with all sorts of things, but it's no better."
"Why don't you go to the hospital?"
"Too far. I can't go so far."
"Take a cab."
Some one opened the bar room door; a torrent of loud sounds poured into the court. The wind caught them up and strewed them hither and thither in the darkness.
"And you, why are you here?" asked Matiza.
"Oh! I was dull."
"Same as I. Up in my room it's like a coffin."
Ilya heard a deep sigh. Then Matiza said, "Shall we go to my room?"
Ilya looked in the direction of the voice and answered indifferently: "All right."
Matiza went first up the stair to her garret. She set always the right foot on each step and dragged the left slowly after with a low moaning. Ilya followed, unthinking, equally slowly, as though his depression of soul hindered his ascent as much as Matiza's foot delayed her.
Matiza's room was long and narrow, and the ceiling was actually the shape of a coffin lid. Near the door stood a Dutch stove, and along the wall, with its head against the stove a wide bed; opposite the bed a table and two chairs; a third chair stood in front of the window that appeared as a dark spot in the grey wall. Up here the howling and rushing of the wind was heard very distinctly. Ilya sat down in the chair by the window, looked round the walls and asked, pointing to a little eikon in one corner:
"What picture is that?"
"Saint Anna," said Matiza softly and devoutly.
"And what's your own name?"
"Anna, too, didn't you know?"
"Nobody knows!" said Matiza, and sat down heavily on the bed. Ilya looked at her but felt no desire to speak; Matiza also was silent and so they sat for a space, three minutes or so, dumb, with no indication that they noticed one another. Finally Matiza asked: "Well, what shall we do?"
"I don't know," answered Ilya, undecidedly.
"Well, that's good," said the woman, and laughed scornfully.
"First you can treat me; go and get a jug of beer. No—buy me something to eat. Nothing else, just something to eat."
She faltered, coughed, and then added in a shamefaced way:
"You see, since my leg's been bad, I've earned nothing—because I can't go out; all I had is used up; to-day's the fifth day I've sat at home, so it's no wonder. Yesterday it was a near thing, and to-day I've eaten nothing; it's true, by God, it's true."
For the first time Ilya became conscious that Matiza was a prostitute. He looked close into her big face and saw that her eyes smiled a little, and her lips moved as though they were sucking something invisible. He felt a certain awkwardness before her, and yet a strange interest that he could not explain.
"I'll get you something, and beer too." He got up quickly, hurried downstairs and stood a moment before the kitchen door. Suddenly he felt a disinclination to go back to the garret; but it only flickered like a tiny spark in the melancholy darkness of his soul and at once faded out. He went into the kitchen, bought some scraps of meat from the cook for ten kopecks, a couple of slices of bread, and other odds and ends of eatables. The cook put it all in a dirty sieve. Ilya took it in both hands like a dish, went out into the passage and stood a moment, wondering how to get the beer. Terenti would question him if he fetched it himself from the bar. He called the dish-cleaner from the kitchen and bade him get it. The man ran off, was back in a moment and gave him the bottles without a word, and lifted the latch of the kitchen door.
"Hold on," said Ilya, "it isn't for myself; a friend is paying me a visit, it's for him."
"I'm treating a friend."
"Oh, well, what's the odds?"
Ilya felt that he had no need to lie and was a little uncomfortable. He went upstairs, slowly, listening attentively lest any one should call to him. But there was no sound, save the roar of the storm, no one called him back and he returned to the woman in the garret, with a distinct, though shy, feeling of pleasure.
Matiza set the sieve on her lap, and with her big fingers picked out the grey fragments of meat without a word, stuffed them into her mouth and began to eat noisily. Her teeth were large and sharp, and before she took a bite she looked at the morsel all round as though to select the most tasty side.
Ilya looked at her insolently and tried to imagine how he would embrace her and kiss her, then again feared to conduct himself awkwardly and be laughed at. He turned hot and cold with the thoughts as they came. The wind swept over the house. It forced a way through the window in the roof, and rattled the door, and every time the door shook, Ilya trembled with anxiety lest any one should enter and surprise him.
"Mayn't I bolt the door?" he said.
Matiza nodded silently. Then she put the sieve on the stove, crossed herself before the picture of Saint Anna, and said devoutly:
"Praise to thee, at least my hunger is satisfied. Ah! how little is enough for the children of men!"
Ilya said nothing. She looked at him, sighed, and went on:
"And who desires much, from him also much shall be desired."
"Who will desire it?"
"Why, God! Don't you know that?"
Again Ilya did not reply. The name of God from her lips roused in him a sudden feeling, vague and not to be expressed in words, that resisted the desire of his mind. Matiza supported herself on the bed with her hands, raised up her big body and propped herself against the wall. Then she said in a careless voice:
"Just now, while I was eating, I was thinking of Perfishka's daughter. I've thought about her for a long time. She lives there, with you and Jakov; it won't be good for her, I'm afraid; you will ruin the girl before her time, and then she'll be started on the road I travel, and my road is a foul, a damnable road, and the women and girls that go along it don't go upright as men should, but crawl like worms."
She was silent for a while, looked at her hands as they lay on her knees, then went on again:
"The girl is growing tall. I've asked all my acquaintances, cooks, and other women, to see if I could get a place for the child. No, they say there's no place; they say, 'sell her, it will be better for her,' they say, 'she'll get money and clothes, and somewhere to live'—it seems as though they're right. Many a rich man whose body is failing and his mind filthy, will buy a young girl, when women won't look at him any more, and will ruin her—the beast. Perhaps she has a good time with him, but it's disgusting, all the same, really, and it's better without that. Better for her to live hungry and in honour, than——"
She began to cough, as though a word had stuck in her throat, and then finished her sentence with evident effort, but in the same indifferent voice:
"Than in shame and hungry all the same, like me, for instance."
The wind whistled along the floor and rattled fiercely at the door. A fine rain drummed on the galvanised iron roof, and outside in the darkness in front of the window a soft whistling sound was heard. "E—e—e!"
The indifferent tone, and Matiza's plump, inexpressive face, made a barrier to the feelings surging up in Ilya, and took from him the courage to express his desire. Matiza pushed him away, he thought, and he grew angry with her.
"O God! O God!" she sighed softly. "Holy Mother."
Ilya jerked his chair backwards and forwards crossly, and said:
"You call yourself impure, and all the time you're saying: 'God—God.' Do you think He cares, that His name's always on your lips?"
Matiza looked at him, then after a pause, shaking her head:
"I don't understand," she said.
"There's nothing to understand," Ilya burst out, getting up from his chair. "You're all alike! first you let your sinfulness drive you—then it's 'O God!' If you want God, then leave your sin!"
"What!" cried Matiza, troubled. "What do you mean? Who should call to God if not sinners? Who else?"
"I don't know who else," cried Ilya, feeling an unconquerable desire to wound this woman and the whole human race, deeply and cruelly. "I only know it doesn't belong to you to speak of Him, not you, at any rate. You take Him as a cover for your sins—I see. I'm not a child now. I can use my eyes. Every one laments, every one complains, but why are they all so worthless? Why do they lie, and rob one another? Why are they so greedy for a scrap of bread? Ha! ha! First the sin is committed, then it's 'O Lord, have mercy!' I see through you, you liars, you devils! you lie to yourselves, and you lie to your God."
Matiza said nothing, but looked at him with her mouth open, and her neck outstretched, and an expression of dull-witted astonishment in her eyes. Ilya strode to the door, drew back the bolt with a jerk and went out slamming the door to behind him. He felt that he had insulted Matiza grossly, and he was glad of it; his heart was lighter and his head clearer. He descended the stairs with a firm step and whistled as he went through his teeth; but his wrath still supplied him with hard, contemptuous words. He felt that all these words glowed in him like flames, and illumined the darkness of his soul, and showed the way which led him apart from mankind. The words fitted not only Matiza, but Terenti, too, and Petrusha, and Strogany, and in short, every one.
"That's it," he thought, as he reached the court again. "Just to stand no nonsense from you rabble!"
The wind chased round the court howling and whistling. Somewhere some one was knocking and the air was full of short detached sounds, like horrible, cold-blooded laughter.
Soon after his visit to Matiza, Ilya began to go after women. The first time it happened in this way. He was going home one evening when a girl spoke to him:
"Won't you come with me?"
He looked at her, then walked along beside her silently. He hung his head as he went, and looked round frequently, fearing all the time to meet an acquaintance. After a few paces side by side, the girl said, warningly: "You must give me a rouble."
"All right," said Ilya, "only hurry."
And till they reached the girl's house they exchanged no further word; that was all.
Acquaintance with women led him at once into great expense, and more and more often Ilya came to the conclusion that his pedlar's trade only wasted his time and strength to no purpose and would never help him to the peaceful life he desired to lead. He meditated long, whether to establish lotteries like the other pedlars, and so cheat the public as they did. But further consideration convinced him that these methods were too small and full of anxiety. He would have either to bribe the police or hide from them, and both courses were distasteful to him. He liked to look all men straight in the face and felt it a constant pleasure to be always cleaner and better dressed than the other pedlars, to drink no brandy and practise no deceptions. Self-controlled and self-respecting, he walked the streets, and his clean-cut face with its high cheek-bones had always a serious, sober expression. When he spoke he drew his dark eyebrows together, but he spoke seldom and always deliberately.
Often he dreamed how splendid it would be if he could find a thousand roubles or more. All thieves' tales roused in him a burning interest. He bought newspapers and read attentively all details of robberies and then looked for days to know if the thieves were discovered or no. If they were caught, Ilya would rage and say to Jakov: "Asses! to let themselves be caught, better let it alone, if they don't understand the business. Fools!" One day he was sitting in his room with Jakov when he said:
"The knaves have a better time in the world than the honest people."
A mysterious expression came into Jakov's face. His eyes blinked and he said in the subdued tone that he always had when he spoke of unusual things:
"The day before yesterday, your uncle had tea in the bar with an old man; he must have been a Bible preacher, and this old man said that in the Bible it was written: 'The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.'"
"You're inventing," said Ilya, and looked attentively at Jakov.
"They're not my words," answered Jakov, and stretched out his hands as though to catch something in the air. "I don't believe that it is in the Bible; perhaps he made it up, the old fox. I asked him once and twice, and each time he said the words the same as before exactly. And there's something in the words sounds right; we must have a look and see if it really is in the Bible." He bent towards Ilya and went on in a low voice: "Take my father, for instance, how peacefully he lives, and yet he does things fit to rouse the anger of God."
"How?" cried Ilya.
"Now they've elected him town councillor."
Jakov let his head fall on his breast, sighed deeply, and said again:
"Everything that concerns man ought to be as clear as spring water to the conscience, and here——Oh! it disgusts me. I don't know any longer what to think. I don't know how to fit myself for this life. I don't want to. Father's always on at me, 'it's time,' he says, 'to stop your child's play, you must be reasonable at last, and make yourself useful.' But how can I make myself useful. I wait behind the counter often when Terenti isn't there, and though I hate it, I do it anyway. But to start something for myself, I don't know how."
"You must learn," said Ilya decidedly.
"Life is so difficult," said Jakov softly.
"Difficult for you? don't talk nonsense," cried Ilya, and sprang from his bed and went over to his friend, who was sitting at the window. "My life is difficult if you like, but yours, what do you want? When your father's old or dead, you'll take over the business, and be your own master, but I—I fag about the streets all day long and see in the shop windows stockings and vests, and watches, and all sorts of things, and I look at myself and think, I can't buy a watch like that. D'you understand? And I should like to ever so much, but what I want most is for people to respect me. Why am I worse than the rest? I'm better, really! Perhaps I'm a rascal, eh? I know people who think no end of themselves and are just rascals, and they get elected town councillors. They've houses and inns; why do such swindlers have all the luck, and I none? I'll get on, too. I'll get hold of my luck."
Jakov looked at his friend and said quietly, but with emphasis:
"God grant that you never get your luck!"
"What! why?" cried Ilya, and stood still in the middle of the room and looked angrily at Jakov.
"You're too greedy, you'll never get enough." Ilya laughed drily and evilly.
"I'll never get enough? Just tell your father to give me half the money he and my uncle stole from old Jeremy, that'll be enough! Yes—I'm greedy am I?—and your father first."
Jakov got up and went quietly with bowed head to the door. Ilya saw his shoulders twitch and his head bend as though he had received a painful blow in the neck.
"Stop," cried Ilya, confused, and grasped his friend's hand. "Where are you going?"
"Let go, brother," half whispered Jakov, then stood still and looked at Ilya. His face was pale, his lips pressed together and his whole figure bowed as though by a heavy load.
"Oh! don't be angry, stay a minute," said Ilya, penitent, and led Jakov from the door back to his chair. "Don't get cross with me—it's true, anyhow."
"You know? Who told you?"
"Everybody says it."
"H'm—yes; but those who say it are rascals too." Jakov looked at him mournfully and sighed.
"I didn't believe it; I thought all the time they said it just out of meanness, out of spite. But then, I began to believe, and if you say it, too—then——"
He made a gesture to express his despair, turned away and stood motionless, his hands grasping the chair, and his head sunk on his breast; Ilya sat on his bed in the same mood and said nothing, for he did not know how to comfort his friend. Behind the wall there was outcry and noise, till the glasses rattled and the voice of a drunken woman sang:
"I cannot sleep, I cannot rest,
For slumber will not come to me."
"And this is where one has to live!" said Jakov, half aloud.
"Oh yes!" answered Ilya, in the same tone, "I can easily understand, brother, that you don't like it here. The only consolation is, it's the same everywhere, men are all alike in the long run."
"Do you know that really for a fact; that about my father and Jeremy?" asked Jakov timidly, without looking at his friend.
"I? I saw it myself; do you remember how I ran out? I looked through a chink and saw them sewing up the pillow—the old man was still gasping."
Jakov shrugged his shoulders and said nothing. They sat in silence for a long time, both in the same position, one on the bed, the other on the chair. Then Jakov got up, went to the door, and said to Ilya, "Good-bye."
"Good-bye, brother—take it easy; what can you do after all?"
"I? Nothing, unfortunately," said Jakov, as he opened the door.
Ilya looked after him, then sank heavily on his bed. He was sorry for Jakov, and again hatred welled up in him against his uncle, against Petrusha, against all mankind. He saw that a being as weak as Jakov could not live among them, such a good, quiet, clean-minded fellow. Ilya let his thoughts run freely over men and in his mind different memories rose up showing him mankind as evil, horrible, lying creatures. The times, in truth, were many in which he had seen them so, and it relieved him to let his scorn loose on them; and the blacker they seemed to him, the heavier weighed on him a strange feeling, partly a vague desire, partly a malignant joy at other's suffering, partly a fear at remaining so alone in the midst of this dark wretched existence, that raged round him like a mad whirlpool.
Finally he lost patience at lying alone in the little room, where the noise and reek pressed through the wall, and he got up and went out in the open. Till late that night he roamed the streets, bearing the heavy load of dull torturing thought. He felt as though even behind him in the darkness, some enemy strode and pushed him imperceptibly to all places that were wearisome and melancholy. All that his unseen enemy showed him roused rancour and bitterness in his soul. There is good in the world, good men, and happy events, and cheerfulness; why did he see nothing of this, but come in contact only with what was gloomy and evil? Who guided him constantly to the soiled, the wretched, and the wicked things of life? In the grip of his thoughts he strode through the fields along the stone wall of a cloister outside the town, and looked about him. Heavy and slow the clouds drifted towards him out of a vast dim distance. Here and there above his head the sky glimmered between the dark masses of cloud, and little stars looked shyly down. From time to time the metallic tones of the bell rang through the still night from the tower of the cloister church; it was the only sound in the deathly quiet that enfolded the earth. Even from the dark mass of houses behind Ilya came no sound of noisy bustle, though it was not yet late. It was a cold, frosty night. As he walked Ilya's feet struck the frozen mud. An uneasy sense of isolation and the fear that his brooding evoked, brought him to a standstill. He leaned his back against the stone cloister wall, and thought again who it might be who guided him through life, and full of mischief let loose on him always evil and hateful things. A cold shudder ran through his frame, and almost with a premonition of something awful before him, he started from the wall and hurried back to the town, stumbling more and more often over the frozen mud. His arms pressed close to his sides, he ran forward, and full of fear did not once dare to cast a look behind.