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Author of "War and Peace," "What I Believe," etc.







Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1887


in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington



We were in mourning for our mother, who had died the preceding autumn,
and we had spent all the winter alone in the country - Macha, Sonia and

Macha was an old family friend, who had been our governess and had
brought us all up, and my memories of her, like my love for her, went as
far back as my memories of myself.

Sonia was my younger sister.

The winter had dragged by, sad and sombre, in our old country-house of
Pokrovski. The weather had been cold, and so windy that the snow was
often piled high above our windows; the panes were almost always cloudy
with a coating of ice; and throughout the whole season we were shut in,
rarely finding it possible to go out of the house.

It was very seldom that any one came to see us, and our few visitors
brought neither joy nor cheerfulness to our house. They all had mournful
faces, spoke low, as if they were afraid of waking some one, were
careful not to laugh, sighed and often shed tears when they looked at
me, and above all at the sight of my poor Sonia in her little black
frock. Everything in the house still savored of death; the affliction,
the horror of the last agony yet reigned in the air. Mamma's chamber was
shut up, and I felt a painful dread and yet an irresistible longing to
peep furtively into the chill, desolate place as I passed it every night
on my way to bed.

I was at this time seventeen years old, and the very year of her death
Mamma had intended to remove to the city, in order to introduce me into
society. The loss of my mother had been a great sorrow to me; but I must
confess that to this grief had been added another, that of seeing
myself - young, beautiful as I heard from every one that I
was, - condemned to vegetate during a second winter in the country, in a
barren solitude. Even before the end of this winter, the feeling of
regret, of isolation, and, to speak plainly, of ennui, had so gained
upon me that I scarcely ever left my own room, never opened my piano,
and never even took a book in my hand. If Macha urged me to occupy
myself with something I would reply: "I do not wish to, I cannot," and
far down in my soul a voice kept asking: "What is the use? Why 'do
something' - no matter what - when the best of my life is wearing away so
in pure loss? Why?" And to this "Why?" I had no answer except tears.

I was told that I was growing thin and losing my beauty, but this gave
me not the slightest concern. Why, and for whom, should I take interest
in it? It seemed to me that my entire life was to drift slowly away in
this desert, borne down by this hopeless suffering, from which, given up
to my own resources alone, I had no longer the strength, nor even the
wish, to set myself free.

Towards the end of the winter Macha became seriously uneasy about me,
and determined come what might to take me abroad. But for this, money
was essential, and as yet we knew little of our resources beyond the
fact that we were to succeed to our mother's inheritance; however, we
were in daily expectation of a visit from our guardian, who was to
examine the condition of our affairs.

He came at last, late in March.

"Thank Heaven!" said Macha to me one day, when I was wandering like a
shadow from one corner to another, perfectly idle, without a thought in
my head or a wish in my heart: "Sergius Mikaïlovitch has sent word that
he will be here before dinner. - You must rouse yourself, my little
Katia," she added; "what will he think of you? He loves you both so

Sergius Mikaïlovitch was our nearest neighbor, and though much his
junior had been the friend of our dead father. Besides the pleasant
change which his arrival might cause in our life, by making it possible
for us to leave the country, I had been too much accustomed, from my
childhood, to love and respect him, for Macha not to divine while
urging me to rouse myself, that still another change might be worked and
that, of all my acquaintances, he was the one before whom I would be
most unwilling to appear in an unfavorable light. Not only did I feel
the old attachment for Sergius Mikaïlovitch which was shared by every
one in the house, from Sonia, who was his god-daughter, down to the
under-coachman, but this attachment had derived a peculiar character
from a few words Mamma had once let fall before me. She had said that he
was just the husband that she would have wished for me. At the moment
such an idea had appeared to me very extraordinary and even somewhat
disagreeable; the hero of my imagination was totally different. My own
hero was to be slender, delicate, pale, and melancholy. Sergius
Mikaïlovitch, on the contrary, was no longer young, he was tall and
large, full of vigor, and, so far as I could judge, had an extremely
pleasant temper; nevertheless my mother's remark had made a strong
impression on my imagination. This had happened six years before, when
I was only eleven, when he still said "_thou_" to me, played with me,
and gave me the name of _La petite violette_, yet ever since that day I
had always felt some secret misgivings whenever I had asked myself the
question what I should do if he should suddenly take a fancy to marry

A little before dinner, to which Macha had added a dish of spinach and a
sweet _entre mets_ Sergius Mikaïlovitch arrived. I was looking out of
the window when his light sledge approached, and as he turned the corner
of the house I hastily drew back into the drawing-room, not wishing to
let him see that I had been watching for him the least in the world. But
upon hearing sounds in the ante-chamber, his strong voice, and Macha's
footsteps, I lost patience and went myself to meet him. He was holding
Macha's hand, and talking to her in a raised voice, smiling. When he
perceived me, he stopped and looked at me for some moments without
saluting me; it embarrassed me a good deal, and I felt myself blush.

"Ah! is it possible that this is you, Katia?" he said in his frank,
decided tone, disengaging his hand and approaching me.

"Can people change so! How you have grown! Yesterday a violet! To-day
the full rose!"

His large hand clasped mine, pressing it so cordially, so strongly, that
he almost hurt me. I had thought he might kiss me, and bent a little
towards him; but he only caught it a second time, and looked me straight
in the eyes with his bright, steady glance.

I had not seen him for six years. He was much changed, older, browner,
and his whiskers, which he had allowed to grow, were not particularly
becoming to him; but he had the same simple manners, the same open,
honest face, with its marked features, eyes sparkling with intelligence,
and smile as sweet as a child's.

At the end of five minutes he was no longer on the footing of a mere
visitor, but on that of an intimate guest with us all, and even the
servants manifested their joy at his arrival, by the eager zeal with
which they served him.

He did not act at all like a neighbor who, coming to a house for the
first time after the mother's death, thinks it necessary to bring with
him a solemn countenance; on the contrary, he was gay, talkative, and
did not say a single word about Mamma, so that I began to think this
indifference on the part of a man standing in such near relation to us
very strange, and rather unseemly. But I soon saw that it was far from
being indifference, and read in his intention a considerateness for
which I could not help being grateful.

In the evening Macha gave us tea in the drawing-room where it had been
usually served during Mamma's lifetime. Sonia and I sat near her;
Gregory found one of Papa's old pipes, and brought it to our guardian,
who began to pace up and down the room according to his old fashion.

"What terrible changes in this house, when one thinks of it!" said he,
stopping suddenly.

"Yes," replied Macha with a sigh; and replacing the top of the samovar,
she looked up at Sergius Mikaïlovitch, almost ready to burst into

"No doubt you remember your father?" he asked me.

"A little."

"How fortunate it would be for you, now, to have him still!" he observed
slowly, with a thoughtful air, casting a vague glance into vacancy over
my head. And he added more slowly still:

"I loved your father very much...."

I thought I detected a new brightness in his eyes at this moment.

"And now God has taken away our mother also!" exclaimed Macha. Dropping
her napkin on the tea-tray, she pulled out her handkerchief and began to

"Yes, there have been terrible changes in this house!"

He turned away as he spoke.

Then, a moment after: "Katia Alexandrovna," he said, in a louder voice,
"play me something!"

I liked the tone of frank, friendly authority with which he made this
request; I rose and went to him.

"Here, play me this," said he, opening my Beethoven at the adagio of the
sonata, _Quasi una fantasia_. "Let us see how you play," he continued,
taking his cup of tea to drink in a corner of the room.

I know not why, but I felt it would be impossible either to refuse or to
put forward a plea of playing badly; on the contrary, I submissively sat
down at the piano and began to play as well as I could, although I was
afraid of his criticism, knowing his excellent taste in music.

In the tone of this _adagio_ there was a prevalent sentiment which by
association carried me away to the conversation before tea, and, guided
by this impression, I played tolerably well, it seemed. But he would not
let me play the _scherzo_.

"No, you will not play it well," said he, coming to me, "stop with that
first movement, - which has not been bad! I see that you comprehend

This praise, certainly moderate enough, delighted me so that I felt my
color rise. It was something so new and agreeable to me to have the
friend, the _equal_ of my father, speak to me alone, seriously, and no
longer as though he were talking to a child as he used to do.

He talked to me about my father, telling me how they suited each other,
and what a pleasant life they had led together while I was occupied
solely with my playthings and school-books; and what he said revealed my
father to me in a light quite new to me, for the first time I seemed to
know fully his simple goodness. My guardian questioned me as to what I
liked, what I read, what I intended doing, and gave me advice. I had no
longer beside me the gay talker, delighting in badinage, but a man
serious, frank, friendly, for whom I felt involuntary respect, while at
the same time I was conscious of being in perfect sympathy with him.
This consciousness was pleasing to me, nevertheless there was a certain
tension in conversing with him. Every word I uttered left me timid; I
wished so much to deserve in my own person the affection which at
present I only received because I was my father's daughter!

After putting Sonia to bed, Macha rejoined us, and began to pour out to
Sergius Mikaïlovitch her lamentations on the score of my apathy, which
resulted she complained in my rarely having a single word to say.

"Then she has not told me the most important thing of all," he answered,
smiling, and shaking his head at me with an air of reproach.

"What had I to tell?" I replied: "that I was bored? - but that will pass
away." (And indeed it now seemed to me, not only that my ennui would
pass away, but that it was something already gone by, which could not

"It is not well not to know how to bear solitude: - is it possible that
you are truly a 'grown young lady'?"

"I believe so!" I answered smiling.

"No, no, or at least a naughty young lady, who only lives to be admired,
and who, when she finds herself isolated, gives way, and no longer
enjoys anything; all for show, nothing for herself."

"You have a lovely idea of me, it seems!" I answered, to say something.

"No," he returned, after a moment's silence; "it is not in vain that you
have that resemblance to your father; _there is something in you_!"

Again those kind, steadfast eyes exerted their charm over me, filling me
with strange emotion.

I noticed for the first time at this moment that the face which to a
casual glance seemed so gay, the expression, so peculiarly his own,
where at first one seemed to read only serenity, afterwards revealed
more and more clearly, a reserve of deep thought and a shade of sadness.

"You should not feel ennui," he said, "you have music, which you are
able to understand, books, study; you have before you a whole life, for
which the present is the only moment to prepare yourself, so that
hereafter you may not have to repine. In a year it will be too late."

He spoke to me like a father or an uncle, and I understood that he was
making an effort to come to my level. I was a little offended that he
should think me so much below him, and on the other hand, it was
gratifying to feel that he cared to make the effort for my sake.

The rest of the evening was devoted to a business conversation between
him and Macha.

"And now, good-night, my dear Katia," said he, rising, approaching me,
and taking my hand.

"When shall we see each other again?" asked Macha.

"In the spring," he replied, still holding my hand; "I am now going to
Danilovka" (our other estate); "I must look into matters there and make
some necessary arrangements, then I have to go to Moscow upon business
of my own, and later - or in the summer - we shall see each other again."

"Why do you go for so long a time?" I asked, dejectedly; for I was
already hoping to see him every day, and it was with a sudden sinking of
my heart that I thought of again battling with my ennui. Probably my
eyes and voice let this be guessed.

"Come, occupy yourself more; drive away the blues!" he said in a voice
that seemed to me too placid and cold. "In the spring I will hold an
examination," he added, dropping my hand without looking at me.

We accompanied him to the ante-chamber, where he hurriedly put on his
pelisse, and again his eyes seemed to avoid mine.

"He is taking very useless trouble!" I said to myself, "can it be
possible that he thinks he is giving me too great a pleasure by looking
at me! - An excellent man - Perfectly good.... But that is all."

We remained awake a long time that night talking, not of him, but of the
employment of the ensuing summer, of where and how we should spend the
winter. Mighty question, yet why? To me it appeared perfectly simple and
evident that life was to consist in being happy, and in the future I
could imagine nothing but happiness, so suddenly had our sombre old
dwelling at Pokrovski filled itself with life and light.


The spring came. My former ennui had disappeared, and in exchange I felt
the dreamy vernal sadness, woven of unknown hopes and unslaked desires.
But my life was no longer the existence I had led during the early
winter; I occupied myself with Sonia, with music, with studies, and I
often went into the garden, to spend a long, long, time in wandering
alone through the shady walks, or in sitting motionless upon some quiet
bench. God knows what I was thinking, what I was wishing, what I was
hoping! Sometimes for whole nights, especially if it was moonlight, I
would remain kneeling at my window with my elbows on the sill; morning
would find me there; and sometimes, without Macha's knowing it, I would
steal down into the garden again after I was in my simple night-dress,
and fly through the dew to the little pond; once I even went out into
the fields, and spent the rest of the night roaming alone about the

Now it is difficult for me to recall, still less to comprehend, the
reveries which at this period filled my imagination. If I can succeed in
remembering them, I can hardly believe that these reveries were my own,
so strange were they, so outside of real life.

At the end of May, Sergius Mikaïlovitch, as he had promised, returned
from his journey.

The first time he came to see us was in the evening, when we were not
expecting him at all. We were sitting on the terrace, preparing to take
tea. The garden was in full verdure, and at Pokrovski nightingales had
their homes on all sides in the thick shrubbery. Here and there, large
clumps of lilacs raised their heads, enamelled with the white or pale
purple of their opening flowers. The leaves in the birch alleys seemed
transparent in the rays of the setting sun. The terrace lay in
refreshing shade, and the light evening dew was gathering upon the
grass. In the court-yard behind the garden were heard the sounds of
closing day, and the lowing of cows returning to their stable; poor
half-witted Nikone came along the path at the foot of the terrace with
his huge watering-pot, and soon the torrents of cool water traced in
darkening circles over the newly-dug earth of the dahlia beds. Beside us
on the terrace, the shining samovar hissed and sputtered on the white
cloth, flanked by cream, pancakes, and sweetmeats. Macha, with her plump
hands, was dipping the cups in hot water like a good housekeeper. As to
me, with an appetite sharpened by my late bath, I could not wait for
tea, but was eating a crust of bread soaked in fresh, rich cream. I had
on a linen blouse with loose sleeves, and my damp hair was bound in a

Macha was the first to perceive him.

"Ah! Sergius Mikaïlovitch!" she cried; "we were just talking about you."

I rose to run in and change my dress; but he met me as I reached the

"Come, Katia, no ceremony in the country," said he, smiling, and looking
at my head and my handkerchief, "you have no scruples before
Gregory, - I can be Gregory to you."

But at the same time it darted into my mind that he was not looking at
me precisely as Gregory would have done, and this embarrassed me.

"I will be back directly," I replied, drawing away from him.

"What is wrong about it?" he exclaimed, following me, "one might take
you for a little peasant girl!"

"How strangely he looked at me," I thought, as I hastened up-stairs to
dress myself. "At last, thank Heaven, here he is, and we shall be
gayer!" And with a parting glance at the mirror I flew down again, not
even trying to conceal my eager delight, and reached the terrace, out of
breath. He was sitting near the table, talking to Macha about our
business matters. Noticing me, he gave me a smile, and went on talking.
Our affairs, he said, were in very satisfactory condition. We had
nothing to do but to finish our country summer, and then we could go,
either to St. Petersburg for Sonia's education, or abroad.

"That would be very well, if you would come abroad with us," said Macha,
"but by ourselves we should be like people lost in the woods."

"Ah! would to Heaven I could go around the world with you," was the
half-jesting, half-serious answer.

"Well and good," said I, "let us go around the world then!"

He smiled and shook his head.

"And my mother? And my business? Come, we will let the tour of the world
alone, now, and you can tell me how you have passed your time. Can it be
possible that you have had the blues again?"

When I told him that I had been able, without him, to employ myself and
not to yield to ennui, and Macha had confirmed the good account, he
praised me, with the same words and looks of encouragement he would have
used to a child, and as if he had a perfect right to do so. It seemed to
me quite natural that I should tell him frankly and minutely everything
I had done that was right, and also, on the contrary, own to him, as if
in the confessional, whatever I had done that might deserve his censure.
The evening was so beautiful that, when the tea-tray was carried away,
we remained upon the terrace, and I found the conversation so
interesting that I only gradually became aware that all the sounds from
the house were ceasing around us. Upon all sides arose the penetrating
night perfume of flowers, the turf was drenched with heavy dew, the
nightingale in a lilac bush near us was executing his roulades, stopping
abruptly at the sound of our voices. The starry sky seemed to stoop
close above our heads.

What warned me that night had come, was the swift, heavy rush of a bat
beneath the awning of the terrace, and its blind, terrified circling
around my white dress. I fell back against the wall, and almost cried
out, but with another dull swoop it was off again and lost in the
blackness of the garden.

"How I love your Pokrovski," said Sergius Mikaïlovitch, interrupting the
conversation.... "One could linger for a lifetime on this terrace!"

"Well," said Macha, "linger!"

"Ah, yes! linger; but life - does not pause!"

"Why do you not marry?" continued Macha; "you would make an excellent

"Why?" he repeated, smiling. "People long ago, ceased to count me a
marriageable man!"

"What!" replied Macha, "thirty-six years old, and already you pretend to
be tired of living?"

"Yes, certainly, and even so tired that I desire nothing but rest. To
marry, one must have something else to offer. There, ask Katia," he
added, pointing me out with a nod "Girls of her age are the ones for
marriage. For us ... our rôle is to enjoy their happiness."

There was a secret melancholy, a certain tension in the tone of his
voice, which did not escape me. He kept silence a moment; neither Macha
nor I said anything.

"Imagine now," he resumed, turning towards the table again, "if all at
once, by some deplorable accident, I should marry a young girl of
seventeen, like Katia Alexandrovna! That is a very good example, and I
am pleased that it applies so well to the point ... there could not be
a better instance."

I began to laugh, but I could not at all understand what pleased him so
much, nor to what it applied so well.

"Come, now, tell me the truth, 'hand on heart,'" he went on, turning to
me with a bantering air, "would it not be a great misfortune for you, to
bind your life to a man already old, who has had his day, and wants
nothing except to stay just where he is, while you, - Heaven knows where
you would not want to run off to, as the fancy took you!"

I felt uncomfortable, and was silent, not knowing very well what to say
in reply.

"I am not making a proposal for your hand," said he, laughing, "but,
now, tell us the truth are you dreaming of such a husband, as you wander
through your alleys in the evening, and would he not be a great

"Not so great a misfortune ..." I began.

"And not so great a boon, either," he finished for me.

"Yes ... but I may be mistaken...."

He interrupted me again.

"You see?... she is perfectly right.... I like her honesty, and am
delighted that we have had this conversation. I will add that - to me - it
would have been a supreme misfortune!"

"What an original you are! you have not changed in the least!" said
Macha, leaving the terrace to order supper to be served.

After her departure we were silent, and all was still around us. Then
the solitary nightingale recommenced, not his abrupt, undecided notes of
early evening, but his night song, slow and tranquil, whose thrilling
cadence filled the garden; and from far down the ravine came for the
first time a response from another nightingale. The one near us was mute
for a moment, listening, then burst out anew in a rapture of song,
louder and clearer than before. Their voices resounded, calm and
supreme, amid that world of night which is their own and which we
inhabit as aliens. The gardener went by, on his way to his bed in the
orange-house, we heard his heavy boots on the path as he went farther
and farther from us. Some one in the direction of the mountain blew two
shrill, quick notes on a whistle, then all was still once more. Scarcely
a leaf was heard to move; yet all at once the awning of the terrace

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