THE PALE HORSE
Translated from the Russian by
MAUNSEL AND CO. LTD.
DUBLIN AND LONDON
Printed by Т. and A. Co.vstabi.e, Edinbur^^h. Scotland
The soul of Russia is revealed even more in her
literature than in the realities of her life. If
her activities are handicapped in many ways,
her spirit lives in a sort of Utopian Fr eel and,
where it is concerned only with problems of
spiritual law and spiritual obligations. Russian
novels — certainly the best of them — express this
spirit, and are for that reason ' human docu-
ments ' of great intensity.
Each epoch of Russia's spiritual life is ex-
pressed in a few books of a highly imaginative
character. Among those literary works which
illuminate \vith a rare light the period just before
the Avar, the problems which had to be faced
by the heroic w^ll and the mystic tendencies
of a tragicalh^ unbalanced generation, Ropshin's
Pale Horse ranks as one of the most charac-
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teristic. The Russian writer Dmitry Meresh-
kovsky has called it ' the most Russian book of
vi THE PALE HORSE
the period,' as it contains the tragedy of every
individual conscience in Russia possessed by
the necessity of violent political action and the
equally strong religious objections to it. The
problem of Ropshin's hero could be summed
up in the words : ' I am bound in conscience
to do it — yet my conscience imperatively pro-
hibits me to do it.' The author's aim is to
show the psychological consequences of this
very Russian, this very modern problem. Never-
theless, the book is far from being an objective
psychological study, but bears more the impress
■^ of a personal confession forced out by some
urgent inner need. It is more than mere ' litera-
ture,' — it is life's tragedy interpreted by one
луЬо had lived every bit of what he writes about.
The Pale Horse is a story of a revolutionary
plot, yet it contains nothing of the old conven-
tional and romantic type of the ' Nihilist story,'
as it used to be written — especiall}^ in England.
The picturesque side of revolutionary life — its
: continual dangers, disguises, conspiracies — forms
\ merely the background. The object is to shoAv
the changed spirit of a new generation of revolu-
tionaries, more fully aware of higher responsi-
bilities than the former romantic fanatics of
terrorism. As they appear in The Pale Horse
the Russian revolutionaries remind one of the
mystic heroes of Dostoevsky who seek for justi-
fication of their acts.
The book reveals the nature of the change
that has taken place, and makes clear the fact
that the ' Nihilists ' who deliberately had shaken
off all religious and idealistic conceptions, in
order to secure their immediate political aims,
are a tiling of the past. The new revolutionaries
are more spiritualised, more close to the religious
wants and sentiments of the Russian people.
This has made their problems more complex,
and The Pale Horse shows how distressing their
dilemma has become. Yet, in spite of the
story's pessimistic tone, there is a suggestion of
hopefulness in the struggle for the establish-
ment of idealistic values, in the attempt to make
the will conform to the standards of enlightened
Ropshin's heroes are men and women living
in a period of transition, and as such they are
viii THE PALE HORSE
necessarily unbalanced, unsettled, more given
to reflecting upon new spiritual values than to
facing their problems with the determined and
undivided will they need for their purpose.
They are tragic in the absolute sincerity of their
divided minds. In spite of their doubts and
indecision, their way leads to future harmony —
it is the way of high-strung idealism applied to
the problems of real life. This is the hopeful
prophecy of The Pale Horse. The vision of a
new and regenerated Russia rises above the sad
tale of shattered lives and cruel destinies.
No one is more entitled to reveal the new
psychology of the Russian fighters for freedom
than the author of The Pale Horse. Ropshin
is his пот de plume. He played a conspicuous
part in the revolutionary movement of about
ten years ago. Since then his views underwent
a marked change : The Pale Horse is confes-
sional and autobiographical. He gave up party
луогк, came into touch with a strong religious
current in the Russian literature of recent years,
and made his first appearance as an author with
The Pale Horse. The book created a sensa-
tion when it was published, and passed through
several editions. The author's personal experi-
ence gave special value to his revelations, and
Ropshin is ПОЛУ considered one of the foremost
writers of the younger generation.
His second book. The Tale of What Was Not,
with its vivid scenes of the Moscow barricades
in 1905, and its revelations about the revolu-
tionary parties and their new spirit, was also
a great literary success.
Ropshin has also written short stories, and
is a brilliant journalist as well. His war cor-
respondence from the western front is full of
colour, and has a very personal touch.
The Pale Horse gives the keynote to Rop-
shin's art and attitude to life, and is certainly
the best adapted of his works with which to
introduce him to the Irish and English reader.
THE PALE HORSE
' . . . and behold a pale horse ; and his name that
sat on him was Death. . . .' — Revelation vi. 8.
' But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and
walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he
goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. ' —
1 John ii. 11. » > ^\,^ ; - -
I ARRIVED last night at N. It is tht same' as I
last saw it. The crosses glitter on the churches,
the sledges creak as they glide over the crisp
snow. The mornings are frosty, there are ice-
flowers on the window-panes, the bells of the
monasteries are calling to Mass. I love the
town. I was born here.
I have a passport bearing the red seal of
the King of England and the signature of
Lord Lansdoлvne. The passport certifies that
I, George O'Brien, British subject, have under-
taken a journey to Turkey and Russia. I am
registered as ' tourist ' by the Russian police.
2 THE PALE HORSE
The hotel bores me to weariness. I know so
well its hall-porter in his blue tunic, its gilt
mirrors, its carpets. There is a shabby sofa in
my room and dusty curtains. I have placed
three kilograms of dynamite under the table.
I have brought it from abroad. The dynamite
smells of a chemist's shop. I have headaches
I am going out for a stroll presently. The
boulevard is dark, a fine snow is falling ; the
clock is striking at a distance. I am quite
alone. Scforft; tne lies the peaceful life of the
^ tQw.n. and . i^s slothful people. In my soul re-
sound the sacred words :
' And I will give thee the morning star.'
Erna has blue eyes and heavy plaits of hair.
She clung to me and entreated me :
' Will you love me a little ? '
Some time ago she gave herself to me like a
queen : she never asked for anything in return,
and entertained no hopes. Now she implores
me for love like a beggar. As I looked through
the лvindow on the square covered with snow
I said to her :
THE PALE HORSE 8
' Look how immaculate the snow is.'
She dropped her head and did not answer.
I then said :
' I was out of town yesterday, and saw even
a purer snoAv. It was quite rosy. And the
shadows of the birch-trees were blue.'
I read in her eyes :
' Why didn't you take me with you ? '
' Look here,' I began again, ' have you ever
been deep in the country in Russia ? '
She answered : ' No.'
' Well, in the early spring, when the new
grass begins to show in the fields and the snow-
drops bloom in the woods, the snow still lies
in the ravines. And it looks so odd : the white
snow and the white flowers. Have you ever
seen that ? No ? Can you imagine what a
strange sight it is ? '
She whispered : ' No.'
And I was thinking of Elena.
The governor lives in an old house, under a
double guard of sentries and detectives.
We are a small group of five. Fedor, Vania,
and Heinrich are disguised as sledge-drivers.
4 THE PALE HORSE
They watch all his movements and report their
У observations to me. Erna is an expert in
chemistry. She will prepare the bombs.
I am sitting in my room and studying the
plan of the town. I am mapping out the
roads we must follow. I try to reconstruct his
life, his daily habits. In my thoughts I am
present at the receptions in his house ; I take
walks with him in the garden, behind the gate ;
I hide beside him at night, I say prayers with
him as he goes to bed.
I caught a glimpse of him to-day. I was
waiting for him in the street, and I walked up
and down the frozen sidewalk for a long time.
It was getting dark, and the cold was severe.
I had already begun to give up hope, when
suddenly the police-inspector at the corner
brandished his glove. The policemen stood at
attention, the detectives ran in all directions.
A deathlike silence filled the street.
A carriage came swiftly past me. The horses
were black. The driver had a red beard. I
noticed the curved handles of the doors, the
yellow spokes of the wheels. A sledge followed
closely behind the carriage.
I could hardly discern his face as it rapidly
THE PALE HORSE 5
passed before my eyes. And he did not notice
me. I was part of the street for him. I
81олу1у turned home. I felt happy.
I am not conscious of hate or anger when I
think of him. At the same time I do not feel
any pity for him. As a personality he leaves
me indifferent. But I want him to die.
Strength will break a straw. I don't believe
in words. I do not want to be a slave myself,
and do not want any one else to be one.
Why shouldn't one kill ? And why is murder
justified in one case and not in another ? People
do find reasons, but I don't know why one
should not kill ; and I cannot understand why
to kill in the name of this or that is considered
right, while to kill in the name of something
else is wrong.
I remember the first time I went hunting.
The white-crop fields were red, there were cob-
webs everywhere, the wood was silent. I
stood on the edge of the лvood close to the road
ravaged by the rain. The birches were whis-
pering, the yellow leaves were flying up and
down. I waited. Suddenly there was a con-
6 THE PALE HORSE
fused movement in the grass. A hare, looking
Ике a small grey bundle, rushed out of the
bushes and squatted down cautiously on his
hind legs. He looked about him. I tremblingly
lifted my gun. An echo resounded far in the
wood, there was a puff of blue smoke among
the birches. On the darkened grass, wet
with blood, the wounded hare struggled and
whimpered like a baby. I felt sorry for
him. I fired a second shot. The w^ailing
At home I forgot all about him as if he
had never existed, as if I had not taken from
him that which was most precious to him — his
life. And I ask myself why I suffered when I
heard his outcry, while the fact that I killed
him for my amusement did not arouse any
emotion in me.
Elena is married and lives here — that is all
I know about her. Every morning, in my
leisure, I go strolling on the boulevard to see
her house. The white frost is soft like down.
The snow creaks under my feet. I hear the
slow strokes of the tower clock. It is ten
THE PALE HORSE 7
o'clock. I sit down on the bench and patiently
count the minutes. I say to myself :
' I did not meet her yesterday, but I may
I saw her for the first time a year ago. I
passed through N. in the spring, and went one
morning to the large park. The ground was
damp, the tall oaks and the slim poplars
loomed above it, lost in an all-pervading
silence. Even the birds did not sing. There
was only the low murmur of the brook. I
watched its ripples. The sun gleamed on the
water, which purled ; I listened to the sound.
When I lifted my eyes I saw a woman on the
opposite side. She did not notice me. But
I knew that we were listening to the same
The woman was Elena.
I am sitting in my room. Some one in the
room above me is playing the piano. I can
hear it but faintly. The sound of footsteps is
lost in the soft carpet.
I am used to the uncertain life of a revolu-
tionary and its loneliness. I do not think of
8 THE PALE HORSE
my future, and do not want to know it. I try
to forget the past. I have no home, no name»
no family. I say to myself :
Un grand sorameil noir
Tombe sur ma vie.
Dormez, tout espoir,
Dormez, toute envie.
But hope never dies. What hope ? That
of securing ' the morning star ' ? I know well :
/ we had killed yesterday, we will kill to-day,
and we shall go on killing to-morrow. ' And
the third angel poured out his vial upon the
rivers and fountains of waters and they became
blood.' You cannot quench blood with water,
you cannot burn it out with fire. It will be
blood all the way to the grave.
Je lie vois plus rien,
Je perds la memoire
Du bien et du mal.
O, la triste histoire !
Happy is he who believes in the Resurrection
/ of Christ, in the Resurrection of Lazarus.
Happy is he who believes in socialism, in the
coming paradise on earth. These old tales
seem simply ridiculous to me : fifteen acres of
apportioned land do not tempt me. I have
THE PALE HORSE 9
said to myself : I do not want to be a slave.
Is this my freedom ? It is indeed a poor
freedom ! Why am I pursuing it ? In the
name of what do I go out to kill ? Is it only
for the sake of blood, and more blood ? . . .
Je suis un berceau
Qu'une main balance
All creux d'lin caveau.
Silence . . . Silence. . . .
There is a knock on the door. It must be
I don't know why I have taken up the work,
but I know the reasons that have brought
others into it. Heinrich is convinced that it
is our duty. Fedor joined us because his wife
had been murdered. Erna says she is ashamed
to live. Vania . . . but let Vania speak for
Recently we spent all day about town to-
gether, he acting as my driver. I made an
appointment with him in a tavern.
He came in high boots and in a blue tunic,
such as are worn by men of the lower class.
He has grown a beard and wears his hair cut
round. He said :
10 THE PALE HORSE
' Now, tell me, have you ever thought of
Christ ? '
' Of whom ? '
' Of Christ, of the God-Man Christ ? Did
you ever ask yourself what you ought to be-
lieve in and how you ought to live ? In my
lodgings, in the drivers' yard, I often read the
Gospels, and I have come to the conclusion
that only two ways are open to men, no more
У than two. One is to believe that everything
is permissible. Please, understand me — every-
thing, without exception. Now that leads to
the making of such a character as Dostoyevsky's
Smerdiakov,^ provided a man has a mind to
dare and not to shrink at any consideration.
After all, there is logic in such an attitude :
since God does not exist, since Christ is but a
man, there is no love as well ; there is nothing
whatever to stop you. The other is the way
of Christ which leads to Christ. Tell me, if
there is love in a man's heart — I mean real,
deep love — could he kill or not ? '
I replied : ' He could, in any case.'
' No, not in any case. To kill is a great
sin. Just remember : " Greater love hath no
1 The mail-servant in ' Brothers Karamazov.'
THE PALE HORSE 11
man tiiaii this, that a тан lay down his Hfe
for his friends." And he must lay down more
than his Hfe — his soul. He must ascend his
own calvary and take no decision unless it is
urged by love — by love alone. Any other
motive would bring him back to Smerdiakov.
Take my own life. What do I live for ? Who
knows but that my last hour may prove the
one I had to live my whole life for. I pray to
God : Lord, let me die for the sake of love.
Now, is one likely to pray for the sake of
murder ? A man may kill, but he will not
pray about it. . . . And yet I know : I have
not enough love in my heart. I find my cross
too hard to bear.
' Don't you laugh,' he said a moment later ;
' there is nothing to laugh at. I speak of God and
His words, and you probably think I am raving.
Now, do you really think I am ? Tell me.'
I made no reply.
' You remember St. John in the Revelation :
" And in those days shall men seek death and
shall not find it, and shall desire to die, and
death shall flee from them." Can there be
an3i:hing more ghastly than death fleeing from
you when you are calling for her ? You also
12 THE PALE HORSE
may seek death, and for that matter, all of
us. How dare we shed blood ? How dare we
break the law ? Yet we do one and the
other. You don't recognise laws : blood is
like water to you. But remembei% the day
will come when you shall recall my лvords.
You will long for the end, and the end will
not come. Death will flee from you. I be-
lieve in Christ ; indeed I do. But I am not
with Him. I am not worthy of Him, I am
bespattered with mire and blood. Yet Christ
in His mercy shall come to me.'
I looked intently into his eyes and replied :
' Why kill, then ? You are free to leave us.'
His face grew quite pale.
' How dare you to speak like that ? My soul
suffers agonies. But I cannot ... I love.'
' It 's all simply rot, Vania. Don't think
about it any more.'
He did not answer.
I left him, and, once in the street, I forgot
all about the matter.
Erna wept and said through her tears :
' You don't love me any more.'
THE PALE HORSE 18
She was sitting in my armchair and covering
her face with her hands. How strange that I
never noticed before how large her hands are.
I looked at her very intently and said :
' Don't cry, Erna.'
She lifted her eyes and looked at me. Her
red nose and her drooping under-lip made her
ugly. I turned away from her towards the
window. She rose from her armchair and
tugged timidly at my sleeve.
' I am sorry, dear,' she said, ' I won't cry
She cries rather frequently. First her eyes
redden, then her cheeks begin to swell, until
finally a few barely perceptible tears begin to
roll down her cheeks. What silent tears they
I took her on my knees.
' Listen, Erna,' I said to her. ' Did I ever
say I loved you ? '
' Did I deceive you ? Did I not tell you that
I loved another woman ? '
She did not ans\ver. She only shivered from
head to foot.
' Answer, please.'
14 THE PALE HORSE
' Yes, you did tell me that.'
' Now listen : I will tell you when I get tired
of you. I promise not to hide it from you.
You trust me, don't you ? '
' Oh yes, I do.'
' Well, that settles it. And now stop your
crying. I have no one but you.'
I kissed her. She looked happy as she said :
' Oh, how I love you ! '
But I could not help noticing her large
I don't know a word of English. I speak
a broken Russian in the hotel, in the restaurant,
and in the street. This leads to occasional
I went to the theatre last night. A stout
business man with a red, perspiring face, sat
next to me. He breathed heavily through his
nose and was half asleep during the perform-
ance. Between the acts he turned to me with
the question :
' What is your nationality ? '
I did not reply.
' Don't you hear ? ' he asked again. ' I want
to know what your nationality is.'
THE PALE HORSE 15
I answered without looking at him :
' I am a subject of His Majesty the King of
This did not seem to satisfy him.
' Whose subject did you say ? ' he asked
' I am Enghsh.'
' Oh, Enghsh. . . . Are you ? Then you
belong to the worst nation on earth. They
helped the Japs to sink our flagship at
Tsushima, that's what they did. And now you
just come over on a trip to Russia as if nothing
had happened. I 'd put a stop to that ! '
People began to look at us.
' I must ask you to stop addressing your
remarks to me,' I said in a low voice.
' I will hand you over to the police ; that 's
what I am going to do,' he went on, raising
his voice. ' Look at that man ! He might
be a Japanese spy for all I know, or a swindler
of some sort or other. An Englishman, indeed !
I wonder why the police don't keep a sharp
I felt for the revolver in my pocket.
' I ask you once more to shut up,' I enjoined
16 THE PALE HORSE
' Shut up, you say ! No, sir ; let us go to
the police station, you and me. There they
will find out what 's what. Spies are not
allowed in our country, let me tell you ! No,
I say. Three cheers for Holy Russia ! '
I got up and looked straight into his round,
' I Warn you for the third time : shut up ! '
He shrugged his shoulders and sat down
лvithout a word.
I left the theatre.
Heinrich is just twenty-two. As a student
he used to speak at meetings. In those days he
wore glasses and long hair. Now, he has be-
come rather coarse, like Vania : he is lean and
usually unshaven. His horse is also lean, the
trappings show much wear, the sledge is a
second-hand bargain. He is the usual sledge-
driver from the poorest class.
The other day he took me and Erna out for
a driл^e in his sledge. When we had passed out
of the town gate, he turned round and said :
' I had some trouble mth a priest a few
days ago. He gave me an address in Round
Square and arranged to pay fifteen kopecks
THE PALE HORSE 17
for the fare. Now I did not know where the
place was, and simply drove him round and
round the streets until finally he lost his
temper and began to abuse me. " You
scoundrel," he said, " you don't know your
way. I will hand you over to the police."
" A driver," he went on, " ought to know the
town as well as if it were his own bag of* oats.
You surely have got your certificate by fraud :
you must have bribed some one with a rouble
or so, and they let you pass without an exami-
nation." I had the greatest difficulty in con-
ciliating him. " I humbly beg your pardon,
sir," I said to him. "Do forgive me for the
.sake of Christ ! " And he was right. I had
not passed the examination as required. I
got the tramp Karpusha to pass it for me,
and paid him fifty kopecks for his trouble.'
Erna hardly listened to him, but he went
on with great volubility :
' I had another adventure quite lately. I
was engaged as a driver by an old gentleman
and his wife. They seemed to be decent
people of the better class — quite an old pair.
I drove them through Long Street just at the
moment when the tramcar paused at the
18 THE PALE HORSE
stopping place. Without as much as looking
at it, I darted across the rails. The old gentle-
man in the sledge jumped to his feet and
kicked me violently on the back of my neck.
" You villain ! " he cried, " do you want to
get us run over ? What do you mean by
driving like a madman, you dog ! "
' " Your Highness need not be alarmed," I
said. " It 's quite a simple matter to get across.
There was plenty of time before the car moved
on." Then I heard the woman say to him
in French : "I wish, Jean, you didn't get
into such fits of rage. It 's very bad for your
health, and a driver is, after all, a human
being." She actually said that : a driver is,
after all, a human being. And he answered
in Russian : " That may be true, but this
fellow is a beast for all that. ..." " О Jean,"
she said, " you ought to be ashamed to speak
like that." Then I felt him tapping my
shoulder. "I am sorry, my friend," he said;
" I hope you won't mind." And he gave me
a tip of twenty kopecks. . . . They must have
been liberals. . . . Gee-up there, old girl ! '
Heinrich lashed his poor, jagged horse. Erna
drew stealthily near me.
THE PALE HORSE 19
' 1 say, Erna Jakovlevna, howf do you like
it here ? Have you got used to the work ? '
Heinrich asked the question rather shyly.
Erna answered reluctantly :
' I am quite satisfied. Of course, I 've got
quite used to the work.'
To the right of us were the black skeletons
of the bare trees, on the left the white cloth
of the fields. The town stretched behind us.
The churches gleamed in the sunlight.
Heinrich stopped talking : save for the
creaking of the sledge, there was complete
silence. Heinrich brought us back to town,
and, as I stepped out of his sledge, I put fifty
kopecks into his hand. He took off his cap
covered with frost and for a long time his eyes
Erna whispered :
' May I come to you this evening, darling ? '