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Anthology of Russian literature from the earliest period to the ..., Volume 2 online

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442 The Nineteenth Century

up more brightly in the darkness, and the crowd is more
agitated, and the banners flutter, and the wakened wind
seizes the waves of sound and with broad pinions carries them
up, to run together with the loud, solemn tones of the bells.

Old Mikhy^ich rings as he has never rung before.

It seems as though the old man's full heart has passed
into the dead brass, and the tones sing and waver, laugh
and weep, and interweaving in a mighty stream are borne
upwards, to the starry heaven. And the stars flash more
brightly and bum, and the tones tremble and pour down
and fall to the earth with loving grace.

A deep bass cries out loud in mighty tones that announces
to heaven and earth: " Christ is risen ! ''

And two tenors, trembling with the alternate beats of their
iron hearts, respond merrily and dangorously: '' Christ is
risen!"

And two soft sopranos, seemingly hastening not to be
behindhand, push themselves in between the larger ones,
and joyfully, like little children, sing out rapidly: ** Christ
is risen!"

And it seems as though the old tower were trembling
and shaking, and as though the wind that blows around the
face of the bell-ringer flapped its mighty pinions and re-
peated: ''Christ is risen!"

The old heart forgets life that is full of cares and injury.
The old bell-ringer forgets that his life is confined to the
grim narrow space in the bell-tower, that he is alone in the
world, like a lonely trunk that the storms have broken. He
hears those singing and weeping sounds that rise to the
heaven on high and fall down to poor earth, and it seems to
him that he is sturrounded by his sons and grandchildren,
that he hears their joyful voices; the voices of the old and
young are combined into a chorus, and they sing to him of
happiness and joy, which he has not known in his life. The
old bell-ringer jerks the ropes, tears roll down his face, and
his heart beats violently with the illusion of happiness.

Down below people listen and say to each other that never
before has old Mikhy^ch rung the bells so wonderfully.



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Vs6volod Mikhiylovich Garshin 443

Suddenly the great bell utters an uncertain tone, and
grows dumb. The disturbed smaller bells ring out with an
unfinished trill, cutting it short, as if to listen to the sad
hollow note which trembles and flows and weeps, gradually
dying upon the air. The old bell-ringer drops down upon
the bench in utter exhaustion, and two last tears softly roll
over his pale cheeks

'' Ho there, send up a change; the old bell-ringer has done
his ringing "

Vs^yolod Mikh&ylovich Garshfn. (1855-1888.)

Garshin was bora in the Govemment of Bkaterinosldv, where his
father was a small landed proprietor. In his early childhood he
travelled a great deal over Russia, as his father was in the military
service. He was placed in the Gymnasium at St. Petersburg, and
there he excelled as a student, but in 1873 he had the first attacks of
insanity which afterwards returned periodically and finally caused
him to commit suicide by throwing himself headlong from an upper
story. He took part in the Turko-Russian War as a common soldier,
and while in the field composed his first story, Four Days, in which
he described the suffering of a wounded comrade of his. Upon his
return he wrote, in his lucid internals, a series of wonderfully
realistic stories, many of which deal with painful situations. Among
his best are The Coward, The Artists, The Red Flower, Attalea
Ptinceps, and That Which Was Not.

In English translation are : Four Days, translated by N. H. Dole,
in Poet Lore, vol. iii. ; Mad Love, or, An Artist* s Dream, London,
1890, and Stories, translated by B. L. Voynich, London, 1893.



THAT WHICH WAS NOT

One beautiful June day — it was beautiful because it was
twenty-eight degrees R^umur — one beautiful June day it
was warm everywhere, but it was even warmer in the clear-
ing in the garden, where stood some ricks of newly mown
hay, because the place was protected from the wind by a
thick, impenetrable, cherry grove. Nearly everything was
asleep: people had had their fill and were devoting them-
selves to post-prandial lateral occupations; the birds were



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444 The Nineteenth Century

silent; and even many insects had sought shelter from the
heat.

That was even more true of the domestic animals: the
cattle took refuge under some roof; the dog lay in a hole
that he had dug out under the barn and, with eyes half open,
breathed intermittently, while sticking out his tongue for
almost more than a foot; at times he so yawned, evidently
from ennui superinduced by the deadly heat, that one could
hear a falsetto whine; the pigs, mother and her thirteen
young ones, went down to the river bank and there lay down
in the black, thick mud whence issued only their panting
and snoring pig coins with two holes in them, their oblong,
mud-washed spines, and enormous pendent ears. Only the
hens were not afraid of the heat and managed to kill time
by scratching up the dry earth opposite the kitchen entry,
though they knew full well that there was not a kernel to
be found there. The cock, evidently, was not feeling very
well, for now and then he assumed a stupid attitude and
cried amain: *' What a scandal! '*

There, we have walked away from the clearing where it
was warmer than elsewhere, and yet a whole wakeful company
was sitting there. That is, they were not all sitting. For
example, the old bay, that was rummaging a hayrick at
the danger of feeling the whip of coachman Ant6n, could
not sit at all, being a horse; the caterpillar was not sitting
either, but rather lying on its belly; but we need not be so
particular about words. A small but very serious com-
pany was gathered under a cherry tree: a snail, a dung
beetle, a lizard, and the above-mentioned caterpillar; then
a grasshopper hopped up to them. Nearby stood the old
bay, listening to their conversation with one of his bay ears,
on the inside of which could be seen dark grey hairs. On
the bay sat two flies.

The company discussed things politely, but with sufficient
animation, and, as is proper in such cases, nobody agreed
with his neighbour, for they all valued the independenoe
of their opinions and characters.

** In my opinion," said the Dung Beetle, *' a decent animal



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Vsdvolod Mikhiylovich Garshin 445

must above all care for his posterity. Life is a labour for
the next generation. He who conscientiously fulfils the
obligations which Nature imposes upon him stands on a
firm foundation. He knows what he has to do, and no
matter what may happen, he is not responsible. Look at
me: who works more than I? Who for whole days at a
time rolls such a heavy ball, a ball that I have made with
great art out of dung, with the great purpose in view of
giving the opportunity to new dung beetles h'ke myself to
grow up ? But then, I do not think there is anybody who
has such a calm conscience, or could with such a pure heart
say: ' Yes, I have done all I can and all I ought to do,' as
I will say when these new dung beetles will see daylight.
That 's what I call labour! "

** Don't mention your labour, friend! " said an Ant that
during the Dung Beetle's speech had dragged up an immense
piece of a dry stalk. He stopped for a moment, sat down
on his four hind legs, and with his two front legs wiped off
the sweat from his tired-out face. ** I work myself, and
much harder than you! But you work for yourself, or,
what is the same, for your baby beetles; not everybody is
so fortunate as that. Just try dragging logs for the com-
monwealth's stores, as I do! I do not know myself what it
is that makes me work so hard, even in such hot weather.
Nobody will say ' thanks! ' to me for it. We, unlucky work-
ing ants, all work, and what good do we get out of it ? It 's
just our fate!"

** You, Dung Beetle, look at life too dryly, and you. Ant,
too gloomily," protested the Grasshopper. '* No, Beetle, I
do like to chirrup and leap about a little, and, really, I have
no scruples about it! Besides, you have not touched the
question that Madam Lizard has put. She asked: * What is
the world?' and you are talking about your dung ball.
Why, that is not even decent. The world is, in my opinion,
a very good thing, if for nothing else, because we find in it
juicy grass, the sun, and the breeze. And it is so big!
Living under these trees, you can't have the slightest con-
ception how big it is. When I am in the field, I sometimes



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446 The Nineteenth Century

jump up as high as I can, and I assure you I reach an enor-
mous height. I see from way up there that there is no end
to the world.*'

** That 's right," thoughtfully assented the Bay. ** But
all the same none of you will ever see one hundredth part of
what I have seen in my lifetime. What a pity, you can't
understand what a verst is! A verst from here is the village
Lupdrevka: I go there every day with a barrel for water.
But they never feed me there. On the other side is £f{-
movka and Kislydkovka; in the latter there is a church with
a belfry. And then comes Svy4to-Tr6itskoe, and then Bo-
goydvlensk. In Bogoydvlensk they always give me some
hay, but the hay is not good there. And then there is
Nikol4evsk, — that 's a town, twenty-eight versts from here,
— there the hay is better, and I get oats there; but I do
not like to go to Nikoldevsk: our master generally drives
there, and he tells the coachman to drive fast, and the
coachman lays the whip on us dreadfully. And there are
also Aleks&ndrovka, Byeldzerka, Kherson, — that 's a town

too But how can you grasp that all! That is the

world; I must say, not the whole world, but yet a consider-
able part of it."

The Bay grew silent, but his lower lip was quivering as if
whispering something. That was from old age: he was
seventeen years old, and for a horse that is as much as
seventy-seven for a man.

'' I do not understand your wise equine words, and, I con-
fess, I am not trying to catch their meaning," said the Snail.
** All I want is a burdock: it is now four days I have been
crawling over one, and it is not yet all ended. Beyond
this burdock there is another burdock, and Jn that buidock
there is, no doubt, another snail. There you have it all.
There is no need in leaping about, — ^that 's all empty talk
and bosh; stay where you are, and eat the leaf on which
you are sitting. If it were not for my laziness, I should
have long ago crawled away from you and all your talk: it
gives me only a headache, that 's aU."

'' Now, I beg your pardon, I don't see why ? " broke in



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Vs6volod Mikhiylovich Garshin 447

the Grasshopper. *' It is quite enjoyable to chirrup, particu-
larly about pleasant matters, like infinity and so forth. Of
course, there are practical natures who only think of filling
their bellies, like you, or that charming Caterpillar "

' ' Oh, no, leave me alone, I pray, leave me alone, don't touch
me! *' exclaimed the Caterpillar pitifully. '* I am doing it
all for the future life, only for the future life."

" What future life are you talking about ? '' asked the Bay.

** Don't you know that after death I shall be turned into
a butterfly with colored wings ? "

The Bay, the Lizard, and the Snail did not know it, but the
insects had some notion of it And they all kept silent for
a moment, for none of them could say anything sensible
about the future life.

'* We ought to bow respectfully to solid convictions,"
chirruped the Grasshopper. *' Is there nobody else who
wants to say anything? Maybe you ? * * he turned to the Flies.

And the older one answered:

** We can't complain. We have just come out of the
rooms; the lady had put out some fresh jam in some dishes,
and we crawled in under the covers, and had lots to eat.
We are satisfied. Dear mama stuck fast in the jam, but
what 's to be done? She has lived long enough in this
world. But we are satisfied."

" Gentlemen," said the Lizard, ** I think that you are all
absolutely right! But, on the other hand "

The Lizard did not finish saying what there was on the
other hand, because she felt that something was jamming
her tail to the ground.

It was coachman Ant6n who had just awakened and had
come to fetch the Bay. He accidentally stepped with his
monstrous boot on the whole company and smashed it.
Only the flies flew away to lick off their dead, sugared
mama, and the Lizard got away with part of her tail. Ant6n
took the Bay by the forelock and led him out of the garden
to hitch him to the barrel, in order to fetch some water, and
he kept saying: ''Get up there, shagtail!" to which the
Bay answered only with a lisp.



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448 The Nineteenth Century

The Lizard was left without a tail. 'T is true, after a
time it grew out again, but it always remained rather
stumpy and blackish. When the Lizard was asked how she
came to injure her tail in that way, she modestly answered:

'' They tore it off, because I had made up my mind to ex-
press my convictions."

And she was absolutely right

Ign&ti Nikol&evich Pot&penko. (1856-.)

Potdpenko was bom in the Government of Elh6:8on, where his
father was a priest. He himself was educated for the priesthood in
Kherson and Od^a, bat he left the Seminary for the university,
and the university again for the Conservatory of Music, from which
he finally graduated in singing. Pot&penko wrote his first sketch in
t88i, and became known as an author through his novel, Holy Art,
in which he depicted the literary Bohemia of St. Petersburg. His
reputation was still more confirmed by his later novels, In AcHve
Service^ Common Sense^ and His Excellency* s Secretary, His pro-
ductions are characterised by a healthy optimism and an exquisite
humour, which make them very pleasant reading.

Pot^euko has been translated into English by W. Gaussen, A
Russian Priest (Sunshine Series, No. 86, and Pseudonym Iribrary,
No. 7), London, 1891 ; Tiie GeneraPs Daughter (Sunshine Series,
No. 126, extra), London and New York, 1892 ; Father of Six, also
Occasional Holiday (Unknown Library, No. 26), London, 1893 ; 7^
Curse of Talent, in Memorials of a Short Life, London, 1895.

A THOUSAND TALENTS

'^ Yes, my friend, I have a g^eat mass of talents, only no-
thing sensible comes of them. Yes, that 's so. That is
quite correct! "

** Well, weU, don't say that! "

*'Not say it? Why, but I tell you, it is the real
truth!''

'•But how? And why?"

" Why? That is the question That is, really, the

question!"

The man who was possessed of such an immense mass of
talents was sitting in a soft armchair, leaning with the whole



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Igniti Nikolievich Potitpenko 449

weight of his body against its broad, inclined back. He had
a remarkably happy exterior. He was neither handsome,
nor stately, nor elegant, nor brilliant, — no, his exterior can-
not be defined by any other word than ** happy.'* There
were even half a dozen pits on his face, — traces of former
smallpox; his nose, which had at first been straight and
even, unexpectedly began to turn up at the point; there was
not the slightest order in his russet beard and moustaches;
bis brow looked too large; and he was all as white as milk,
while his face had a shade of copper. At last, his common,
grey eyes were not out of the ordinary, but everything
taken together, his whole face, breathed a serene, frank
sincerity. There are such faces: you look at them, and you
want to be open with them, and to confide some secret, to
unburden your heart to them. He was awkwardly put to-
gether, his movements were halting, and his voice was a little
shrill, but even thus he was sympathetic. In short, he had
a happy exterior. His name was Nikoldy Petr6vich Bobr6v.

His interlocutor was simply a respectable gentleman, an
attorney in important civil cases, the owner of large apart-
ments, among which was a study, in which they were seated,
with soft, heavy furniture and with bookshelves filled with
a mass of learned and instructive books. That was Kur-
&zhev, Sergy^y Aleksy^evich, a well-known and esteemed
person in the city. He had but lately made Bobr6v's
acquaintance, having met him two or three times, but he
was already in the power of his exterior. Bobr6v had this
day called upon him for the first time, and a conversation
ensued. Kur&zhev outside of his practice busied himself
with ** social questions,'' as he called them, and that meant
that he was a live, responsive man who was interested in
life and people, and who loved to ** psychologise," that is,
to rummage in the human soul.

'* I '11 tell you why,— because I am a Russian ! Yes, that 'a
it," said Bobr6v, this time not awaiting his host's question.

** That is incomprehensible. You must make yourself
dear!" remarked the host, looking at him with the curi-
osity of a professional psychologist, as if he were ready to

VOL, U.— 99.



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450 The Nineteenth Century

take the knife, in order to cut open his breast, and take a
look inside his soul.

'* Make myself clear ? Well, I can make myself dear. I
can and I am prepared to make myself dear, only I shall
have to go way back "

'' That is all right. I am ready to follow you into the
depths of time.''

" Well, it is not exactly the depths of time, but I shall
have to mention my deceased progenitor, and maybe my
grandmother too. ' '

** Or your great-grandfather, if you want to. You have
interested me with your strange statement "

'* My statement is not so strange, if you look at it dosdy.
I affirm that Russians suffer from thdr talented natures.
Yes, that 's it. It ought not to be so. They always are
possessed of a huge number of talents, and that is why they
never amount to anything. Yes, I beg your pardon, you

will contradict me later, but now let me I have struck

a good argument, so I can talk dearly and to the point.
One does not always succeed in that. I^t us take the sim-
plest kind of an example. I had a cook, — ^by the way, she
is still in evidence, — and she had a husband, — he is at your
service, too, and his name is Iv&n. By the way, you might
have guessed a priori that all cooks have husbands by the
name of Ivdn. Now I must tdl you how that Ivin has sur-
prised me, simply stunned me, yes, sir! We hired his wife
by hersdf, and he came to her a week later. He stayed a
while, ate some pumpkin seeds, and went away: that was
noble!

' * Some three days later he made his appearance once more,
but this time it was in the morning. He ate his breakfast
with her, washed the dishes, remained for dinner, — all in
proper shape. We took a liking to him; we sent him on
some errand, I think to the apothecary's, — he started on a
run. Wdl, in short, to be done with it, two weeks later he
settled in the kitchen, and all that looked so simple and
dear that it never occurred to us to doubt his right to it, and
to send him off. He is there still, but that is another mat-



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Igniti Nikolievich Potipenko 451

ter. We soon noticed that he never went out to work, but
that he was passing all the time in the kitchen, wa^iing
dishes, blackening boots, running on errands, eating and
sleeping. I once asked him:

" * Say, Ivdn! Do you know a trade ? '

" ' I know all trades! ' he answered me with the greatest
self-confidence.

'* ' How so ? You don't mean all tradesi '

' * * All, Nikoldy Petr6vich ! ' He never called me otherwise
but Nikoldy Petr6vich,

** * If so, why are you not doing anything ? *

" * Oh, well, no work has turned up-^— I reckon, there is
none for me *

'' And you must know he was not lying, he really knew
all irades. My dining table became unglued; I told them to
send for a joiner.

'' ' What 's the use in a joiner Nikoldy Petr6vich ? I will
fix it for you in first-dass shape! ' he informed me, and, in
reality, he fussed with the table about three hours, and
brought it back to life. It is true, it was rather coarse
work: the glue dried up in lumps, where it could be seen,
and the heads of the nails somehow stuck sideways in the
wood, — ^but it was solid. My wife was about to have the
baby's bathtub fixed. He got hold of it, straightened out
the indented sides, and somehow soldered it, and in addition
painted it inside and outside white. Of course, I must say,
it was not a particularly neat job, but passable enough, — it
could be used. We had to get one of the rooms papered
over, — ^he again proved himself a master, only in one comer
he hung a strip upside down. Finally, when spring came,
he disappeared, and did not return for three days. When
he did show up, he was all smeared with day and lime.

" * Where have you been ? '

'' ' I, sir ? I have been doing some masonry.'

** * What ? You are a mason, too ? '

" • Why not ? I am a mason, too I know all trades! *

" To make an end with Iv4n, I will tell you that he proved
to be a tailor, too« and with his own hand he made an over-



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452 The Nineteenth Century

coat for himself. Of course, it was a wretched coat, but it
held together over his back. He finished up by getting
drunk and beating his wife. This Ivdn is a Russian, yes»
sir. It is his misfortune to have too much ability, and a
bent for too many things. Thanks to that, he has learned
many things, but nothing properly, and he cannot stop, con-
centrate, and perfect himself at anything. No sooner has
he taken up caldmining, than the mason is awakened in him;
he takes up masonry, and he is at once drawn to the tailor's
trade, and so on. No wonder that this man is all his life
suffering and tearing himself asunder, and that he, from
time to time, balances his accounts by getting drunk and
dealing out blows to his wife. And now it is dear to you
that the misfortune of a Russian is in the many-sidedness of
his talents.

** It is quite different with the other nations. Take, for
example, a German. Of course, a German is not naturally
stupid, but he has not the slightest talent. He has but one
talent, — patience, and just see what wonders he performs by
the aid of that modest companion of his. By the aid of
this patience alone, he accomplishes in all spheres of human
activities those results that make us with all our talents
hold up our hands in wonderment. And all that only be-
cause he has but that one talent. He knows that himself,
and he begins to devdop it in his swaddling dothes. I
have heard it said that German babies rardy cry. That is
so because they early get used to patience. Now let us
take the English. No doubt, they are a dever nation, but
they have only one talent, and that is their egotism in the
broadest sense of the word, namely their sdf -respect, their
worship of themsdves, their contempt for everything that is
not English, and its exploitation in thdr favour. That talent
is carried out by them with the strictest consistency in every
thing, — from the most trifling to the most stupendous, —and
makes it possible for them to be the leaders in everything in
the world. Yes, sir."

** But you have deviated a little. You had intended to
q>eak of yourself! " the attorney gently interrupted him.



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Igniti Nikolievich Potipenko 453

'' No, I did not deviate. I only began that way to come
finally to my case. Now I will pass over to that notable
subject. You must know that my father was not of high
birth; he was of the gentry, but of those who are greatly
impoverished. He was the manager of some count's estate.
He had received no education, but had seen and heard
much, and was a man of practical sense. At eight years of
age I felt a hankering for the violin. Yes, sir, for the violin.
It was not the caprice of a q)oilt child, but a real hankering.
I remember how my heart beat at the thought of my father
buying me a violin. Well, he bought me one. The leader
of the church choir showed me the first steps, taught me how
to hold the bow and the fingers, and I began scraping. I
scraped horribly, but something came of it. When I was
ten years old I was taken to town to be sent to the G3rm-
nasium. Here I had a patented teacher whose violin was
worth three hundred roubles, if he was not fibbing. My
father paid him in kind: he would bring him cottage cheese,
or a keg of herrings, or pickling cucumbers. I learned
from him my first correct steps, and what do you suppose
came of it all ? Nothing. Many heard me and cried : ' Oh,
what talent!' And really, I did have talent But you



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