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But the delusion of slavery of all descriptions lies so far back, so much
of artificial exaction has sprung up upon it, so many people, accustomed
in different degrees to these habits, are interwoven with each other,
enervated people, spoiled for generations, and such complicated delusions
and justifications for their luxury and idleness have been devised by
people, that it is far from being so easy for a man who stands at the
summit of the ladder of idle people to understand his sin, as it is for
the peasant who has made his neighbor build his fire.

It is terribly difficult for people at the top of this ladder to
understand what is required of them. [Their heads are turned by the
height of this ladder of lies, upon which they find themselves when a
place on the ground is offered to them, to which they must descend in
order to begin to live, not yet well, but no longer cruelly, inhumanly;
for this reason, this clear and simple truth appears strange to these
people. For the man with ten servants, liveries, coachmen, cooks,
pictures, pianofortes, that will infallibly appear strange, and even
ridiculous, which is the simplest, the first act of - I will not say every
good man - but of every man who is not wicked: to cut his own wood with
which his food is cooked, and with which he warms himself; to himself
clean those boots with which he has heedlessly stepped in the mire; to
himself fetch that water with which he preserves his cleanliness, and to
carry out that dirty water in which he has washed himself.] {140}

But, besides the remoteness of people from the truth, there is another
cause which prevents people from seeing the obligation for them of the
simplest and most natural personal, physical labor for themselves: this
is the complication, the inextricability of the conditions, the advantage
of all the people who are bound together among themselves by money, in
which the rich man lives: My luxurious life feeds people. What would
become of my old valet if I were to discharge him? What! we must all do
every thing necessary, - make our clothes and hew wood? . . . And how
about the division of labor?"

[This morning I stepped out into the corridor where the fires were being
built. A peasant was making a fire in the stove which warms my son's
room. I went in; the latter was asleep. It was eleven o'clock in the
morning. To-day is a holiday: there is some excuse, there are no
lessons.

The smooth-skinned, eighteen-year-old youth, with a beard, who had eaten
his fill on the preceding evening, sleeps until eleven o'clock. But the
peasant of his age had been up at dawn, and had got through a quantity of
work, and was attending to his tenth stove, while the former slept. "The
peasant shall not make the fire in his stove to warm that smooth, lazy
body of his!" I thought. But I immediately recollected that this stove
also warmed the room of the housekeeper, a woman forty years of age, who,
on the evening before, had been making preparations up to three o'clock
in the morning for the supper which my son had eaten, and that she had
cleared the table, and risen at seven, nevertheless. The peasant was
building the fire for her also. And under her name the lazybones was
warming himself.

It is true that the interests of all are interwoven; but, even without
any prolonged reckoning, the conscience of each man will say on whose
side lies labor, and on whose idleness. But although conscience says
this, the account-book, the cash-book, says it still more clearly. The
more money any one spends, the more idle he is, that is to say, the more
he makes others work for him. The less he spends, the more he works.]
{142} But trade, but public undertakings, and, finally, the most
terrible of words, culture, the development of sciences, and the
arts, - what of them?

[If I live I will make answer to those points, and in detail; and until
such answer I will narrate the following.] {142}



CHAPTER XX.


LIFE IN THE CITY.


Last year, in March, I was returning home late at night. As I turned
from the Zubova into Khamovnitchesky Lane, I saw some black spots on the
snow of the Dyevitchy Pole (field). Something was moving about in one
place. I should not have paid any attention to this, if the policeman
who was standing at the end of the street had not shouted in the
direction of the black spots, -

"Vasily! why don't you bring her in?"

"She won't come!" answered a voice, and then the spot moved towards the
policeman.

I halted and asked the police-officer, "What is it?"

He said, - "They are taking a girl from the Rzhanoff house to the station-
house; and she is hanging back, she won't walk." A house-porter in a
sheepskin coat was leading her. She was walking forward, and he was
pushing her from behind. All of us, I and the porter and the policeman,
were dressed in winter clothes, but she had nothing on over her dress. In
the darkness I could make out only her brown dress, and the kerchiefs on
her head and neck. She was short in stature, as is often the case with
the prematurely born, with small feet, and a comparatively broad and
awkward figure.

"We're waiting for you, you carrion. Get along, what do you mean by it?
I'll give it to you!" shouted the policeman. He was evidently tired, and
he had had too much of her. She advanced a few paces, and again halted.

The little old porter, a good-natured fellow (I know him), tugged at her
hand. "Here, I'll teach you to stop! On with you!" he repeated, as
though in anger. She staggered, and began to talk in a discordant voice.
At every sound there was a false note, both hoarse and whining.

"Come now, you're shoving again. I'll get there some time!"

She stopped and then went on. I followed them.

"You'll freeze," said the porters

"The likes of us don't freeze: I'm hot."

She tried to jest, but her words sounded like scolding. She halted again
under the lantern which stands not far from our house, and leaned
against, almost hung over, the fence, and began to fumble for something
among her skirts, with benumbed and awkward hands. Again they shouted at
her, but she muttered something and did something. In one hand she held
a cigarette bent into a bow, in the other a match. I paused behind her;
I was ashamed to pass her, and I was ashamed to stand and look on. But I
made up my mind, and stepped forward. Her shoulder was lying against the
fence, and against the fence it was that she vainly struck the match and
flung it away. I looked in her face. She was really a person
prematurely born; but, as it seemed to me, already an old woman. I
credited her with thirty years. A dirty hue of face; small, dull, tipsy
eyes; a button-like nose; curved moist lips with drooping corners, and a
short wisp of harsh hair escaping from beneath her kerchief; a long flat
figure, stumpy hands and feet. I paused opposite her. She stared at me,
and burst into a laugh, as though she knew all that was going on in my
mind.

I felt that it was necessary to say something to her. I wanted to show
her that I pitied her.

"Are your parents alive?" I inquired.

She laughed hoarsely, with an expression which said, "he's making up
queer things to ask."

"My mother is," said she. "But what do you want?"

"And how old are you?"

"Sixteen," said she, answering promptly to a question which was evidently
customary.

"Come, march, you'll freeze, you'll perish entirely," shouted the
policeman; and she swayed away from the fence, and, staggering along, she
went down Khamovnitchesky Lane to the police-station; and I turned to the
wicket, and entered the house, and inquired whether my daughters had
returned. I was told that they had been to an evening party, had had a
very merry time, had come home, and were in bed.

Next morning I wanted to go to the station-house to learn what had been
done with this unfortunate woman, and I was preparing to go out very
early, when there came to see me one of those unlucky noblemen, who,
through weakness, have dropped from the gentlemanly life to which they
are accustomed, and who alternately rise and fall. I had been acquainted
with this man for three years. In the course of those three years, this
man had several times made way with every thing that he had, and even
with all his clothes; the same thing had just happened again, and he was
passing the nights temporarily in the Rzhanoff house, in the
night-lodging section, and he had come to me for the day. He met me as I
was going out, at the entrance, and without listening to me he began to
tell me what had taken place in the Rzhanoff house the night before. He
began his narrative, and did not half finish it; all at once (he is an
old man who has seen men under all sorts of aspects) he burst out
sobbing, and flooded has countenance with tears, and when he had become
silent, turned has face to the wall. This is what he told me. Every
thing that he related to me was absolutely true. I authenticated his
story on the spot, and learned fresh particulars which I will relate
separately.

In that night-lodging house, on the lower floor, in No. 32, in which my
friend had spent the night, among the various, ever-changing lodgers, men
and women, who came together there for five kopeks, there was a
laundress, a woman thirty years of age, light-haired, peaceable and
pretty, but sickly. The mistress of the quarters had a boatman lover. In
the summer her lover kept a boat, and in the winter they lived by letting
accommodations to night-lodgers: three kopeks without a pillow, five
kopeks with a pillow.

The laundress had lived there for several months, and was a quiet woman;
but latterly they had not liked her, because she coughed and prevented
the women from sleeping. An old half-crazy woman eighty years old, in
particular, also a regular lodger in these quarters, hated the laundress,
and imbittered the latter's life because she prevented her sleeping, and
cleared her throat all night like a sheep. The laundress held her peace;
she was in debt for her lodgings, and was conscious of her guilt, and
therefore she was bound to be quiet. She began to go more and more
rarely to her work, as her strength failed her, and therefore she could
not pay her landlady; and for the last week she had not been out to work
at all, and had only poisoned the existence of every one, especially of
the old woman, who also did not go out, with her cough. Four days before
this, the landlady had given the laundress notice to leave the quarters:
the latter was already sixty kopeks in debt, and she neither paid them,
nor did the landlady foresee any possibility of getting them; and all the
bunks were occupied, and the women all complained of the laundress's
cough.

When the landlady gave the laundress notice, and told her that she must
leave the lodgings if she did not pay up, the old woman rejoiced and
thrust the laundress out of doors. The laundress departed, but returned
in an hour, and the landlady had not the heart to put her out again. And
the second and the third day, she did not turn her out. "Where am I to
go?" said the laundress. But on the third day, the landlady's lover, a
Moscow man, who knew the regulations and how to manage, sent for the
police. A policeman with sword and pistol on a red cord came to the
lodgings, and with courteous words he led the laundress into the street.

It was a clear, sunny, but freezing March day. The gutters were flowing,
the house-porters were picking at the ice. The cabman's sleigh jolted
over the icy snow, and screeched over the stones. The laundress walked
up the street on the sunny side, went to the church, and seated herself
at the entrance, still on the sunny side. But when the sun began to sink
behind the houses, the puddles began to be skimmed over with a glass of
frost, and the laundress grew cold and wretched. She rose, and dragged
herself . . . whither? Home, to the only home where she had lived so
long. While she was on her way, resting at times, dusk descended. She
approached the gates, turned in, slipped, groaned and fell.

One man came up, and then another. "She must be drunk." Another man
came up, and stumbled over the laundress, and said to the potter: "What
drunken woman is this wallowing at your gate? I came near breaking my
head over her; take her away, won't you?"

The porter came. The laundress was dead. This is what my friend told
me. It may be thought that I have wilfully mixed up facts, - I encounter
a prostitute of fifteen, and the story of this laundress. But let no one
imagine this; it is exactly what happened in the course of one night
(only I do not remember which) in March, 1884. And so, after hearing my
friend's tale, I went to the station-house, with the intention of
proceeding thence to the Rzhanoff house to inquire more minutely into the
history of the laundress. The weather was very beautiful and sunny; and
again, through the stars of the night-frost, water was to be seen
trickling in the shade, and in the glare of the sun on Khamovnitchesky
square every thing was melting, and the water was streaming. The river
emitted a humming noise. The trees of the Neskutchny garden looked blue
across the river; the reddish-brown sparrows, invisible in winter,
attracted attention by their sprightliness; people also seemed desirous
of being merry, but all of them had too many cares. The sound of the
bells was audible, and at the foundation of these mingling sounds, the
sounds of shots could be heard from the barracks, the whistle of rifle-
balls and their crack against the target.

I entered the station-house. In the station some armed policemen
conducted me to their chief. He was similarly armed with sword and
pistol, and he was engaged in taking some measures with regard to a
tattered, trembling old man, who was standing before him, and who could
not answer the questions put to him, on account of his feebleness. Having
finished his business with the old man, he turned to me. I inquired
about the girl of the night before. At first he listened to me
attentively, but afterwards he began to smile, at my ignorance of the
regulations, in consequence of which she had been taken to the station-
house; and particularly at my surprise at her youth.

"Why, there are plenty of them of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years of
age," he said cheerfully.

But in answer to my question about the girl whom I had seen on the
preceding evening, he explained to me that she must have been sent to the
committee (so it appeared). To my question where she had passed the
night, he replied in an undecided manner. He did not recall the one to
whom I referred. There were so many of them every day.

In No. 32 of the Rzhanoff house I found the sacristan already reading
prayers over the dead woman. They had taken her to the bunk which she
had formerly occupied; and the lodgers, all miserable beings, had
collected money for the masses for her soul, a coffin and a shroud, and
the old women had dressed her and laid her out. The sacristan was
reading something in the gloom; a woman in a long wadded cloak was
standing there with a wax candle; and a man (a gentleman, I must state)
in a clean coat with a lamb's-skin collar, polished overshoes, and a
starched shirt, was holding one like it. This was her brother. They had
hunted him up.

I went past the dead woman to the landlady's nook, and questioned her
about the whole business.

She was alarmed at my queries; she was evidently afraid that she would be
blamed for something; but afterwards she began to talk freely, and told
me every thing. As I passed back, I glanced at the dead woman. All dead
people are handsome, but this dead woman was particularly beautiful and
touching in her coffin; her pure, pale face, with closed swollen eyes,
sunken cheeks, and soft reddish hair above the lofty brow, - a weary and
kind and not a sad but a surprised face. And in fact, if the living do
not see, the dead are surprised.

On the same day that I wrote the above, there was a great ball in Moscow.

That night I left the house at nine o'clock. I live in a locality which
is surrounded by factories, and I left the house after the
factory-whistles had sounded, releasing the people for a day of freedom
after a week of unremitting toil.

Factory-hands overtook me, and I overtook others of them, directing their
steps to the drinking-shops and taverns. Many were already intoxicated,
many were women. Every morning at five o'clock we can hear one whistle,
a second, a third, a tenth, and so forth, and so forth. That means that
the toil of women, children, and of old men has begun. At eight o'clock
another whistle, which signifies a breathing-spell of half an hour. At
twelve, a third: this means an hour for dinner. And a fourth at eight,
which denotes the end of the day.

By an odd coincidence, all three of the factories which are situated near
me produce only articles which are in demand for balls.

In one factory, the nearest, only stockings are made; in another
opposite, silken fabrics; in the third, perfumes and pomades.

It is possible to listen to these whistles, and connect no other idea
with them than as denoting the time: "There's the whistle already, it is
time to go to walk." But one can also connect with those whistles that
which they signify in reality; that first whistle, at five o'clock, means
that people, often all without exception, both men and women, sleeping in
a damp cellar, must rise, and hasten to that building buzzing with
machines, and must take their places at their work, whose end and use for
themselves they do not see, and thus toil, often in heat and a stifling
atmosphere, in the midst of dirt, and with the very briefest breathing-
spells, an hour, two hours, three hours, twelve, and even more hours in
succession. They fall into a doze, and again they rise. And this, for
them, senseless work, to which they are driven only by necessity, is
continued over and over again.

And thus one week succeeds another with the breaks of holidays; and I see
these work-people released on one of these holidays. They emerge into
the street. Everywhere there are drinking-shops, taverns, and loose
girls. And they, in their drunken state, drag by the hand each other,
and girls like the one whom I saw taken to the station-house; they drag
with them cabmen, and they ride and they walk from one tavern to another;
and they curse and stagger, and say they themselves know not what. I had
previously seen such unsteady gait on the part of factory-hands, and had
turned aside in disgust, and had been on the point of rebuking them; but
ever since I have been in the habit of hearing those whistles every day,
and understand their meaning, I am only amazed that they, all the men, do
not come to the condition of the "golden squad," of which Moscow is full,
{152a} [and the women to the state of the one whom I had seen near my
house]. {152b}

Thus I walked along, and scrutinized these factory-hands, as long as they
roamed the streets, which was until eleven o'clock. Then their movements
began to calm down. Some drunken men remained here and there, and here
and there I encountered men who were being taken to the station-house.
And then carriages began to make their appearance on all sides, directing
their course toward one point.

On the box sits a coachman, sometimes in a sheepskin coat; and a footman,
a dandy, with a cockade. Well-fed horses in saddle-cloths fly through
the frost at the rate of twenty versts an hour; in the carriages sit
ladies muffled in round cloaks, and carefully tending their flowers and
head-dresses. Every thing from the horse-trappings, the carriages, the
gutta-percha wheels, the cloth of the coachman's coat, to the stockings,
shoes, flowers, velvet, gloves, and perfumes, - every thing is made by
those people, some of whom often roll drunk into their dens or sleeping-
rooms, and some stay with disreputable women in the night-lodging houses,
while still others are put in jail. Thus past them in all their work,
and over them all, ride the frequenters of balls; and it never enters
their heads, that there is any connection between these balls to which
they make ready to go, and these drunkards at whom their coachman shouts
so roughly.

These people enjoy themselves at the ball with the utmost composure of
spirit, and assurance that they are doing nothing wrong, but something
very good. Enjoy themselves! Enjoy themselves from eleven o'clock until
six in the morning, in the very dead of night, at the very hour when
people are tossing and turning with empty stomachs in the night-lodging
houses, and while some are dying, as did the laundress.

Their enjoyment consists in this, - that the women and young girls, having
bared their necks and arms, and applied bustles behind, place themselves
in a situation in which no uncorrupted woman or maiden would care to
display herself to a man, on any consideration in the world; and in this
half-naked condition, with their uncovered bosoms exposed to view, with
arms bare to the shoulder, with a bustle behind and tightly swathed hips,
under the most brilliant light, women and maidens, whose chief virtue has
always been modesty, exhibit themselves in the midst of strange men, who
are also clad in improperly tight-fitting garments; and to the sound of
maddening music, they embrace and whirl. Old women, often as naked as
the young ones, sit and look on, and eat and drink savory things; old men
do the same. It is not to be wondered at that this should take place at
night, when all the common people are asleep, so that no one may see
them. But this is not done with the object of concealment: it seems to
them that there is nothing to conceal; that it is a very good thing; that
by this merry-making, in which the labor of thousands of toiling people
is destroyed, they not only do not injure any one, but that by this very
act they furnish the poor with the means of subsistence. Possibly it is
very merry at balls. But how does this come about? When we see that
there is a man in the community, in our midst, who has had no food, or
who is freezing, we regret our mirth, and we cannot be cheerful until he
is fed and warmed, not to mention the impossibility of imagining people
who can indulge in such mirth as causes suffering to others. The mirth
of wicked little boys, who pitch a dog's tail in a split stick, and make
merry over it, is repulsive and incomprehensible to us.

In the same manner here, in these diversions of ours, blindness has
fallen upon us, and we do not see the split stick with which we have
pitched all those people who suffer for our amusement.

[We live as though there were no connection between the dying laundress,
the prostitute of fourteen, and our own life; and yet the connection
between them strikes us in the face.

We may say: "But we personally have not pinched any tail in a stick;" but
we have no right, to deny that had the tail not been pitched, our merry-
making would not have taken place. We do not see what connection exists
between the laundress and our luxury; but that is not because no such
connection does exist, but because we have placed a screen in front of
us, so that we may not see.

If there were no screen, we should see that which it is impossible not to
see.] {154}

Surely all the women who attended that ball in dresses worth a hundred
and fifty rubles each were born not in a ballroom, or at Madame
Minanguoit's; but they have lived in the country, and have seen the
peasants; they know their own nurse and maid, whose father and brother
are poor, for whom the earning of a hundred and fifty rubles for a
cottage is the object of a long, laborious life. Each woman knows this.
How could she enjoy herself, when she knew that she wore on her bared
body at that ball the cottage which is the dream of her good maid's
father and brother? But let us suppose that she could not make this
reflection; but since velvet and silk and flowers and lace and dresses do
not grow of themselves, but are made by people, it would seem that she
could not help knowing what sort of people make all these things, and
under what conditions, and why they do it. She cannot fail to know that
the seamstress, with whom she has already quarrelled, did not make her
dress in the least out of love for her; therefore, she cannot help
knowing that all these things were made for her as a matter of necessity,
that her laces, flowers, and velvet have been made in the same way as her
dress.

But possibly they are in such darkness that they do not consider this.


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