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a chance remark would produce such an effect. Like Ezekiel's field of
death, strewn with dead men's bones, there was a quiver at the touch of
the spirit, and the dead bones stirred. I had uttered an unpremeditated
word of love and sympathy, and this word had acted on all as though they
had only been waiting for this very remark, in order that they might
cease to be corpses and might live. They all stared at me, and waited
for what would come next. They waited for me to utter those words, and
to perform those actions by reason of which these bones might draw
together, clothe themselves with flesh, and spring into life. But I felt
that I had no such words, no such actions, by means of which I could
continue what I had begun; I was conscious, in the depths of my soul,
that I had lied [that I was just like them], {62} and there was nothing
further for me to say; and I began to inscribe on the cards the names and
callings of all the persons in this set of apartments.

This incident led me into a fresh dilemma, to the thought of how these
unfortunates also might be helped. In my self-delusion, I fancied that
this would be very easy. I said to myself: "Here, we will make a note of
all these women also, and _later on_ when we [I did not specify to myself
who "we" were] write every thing out, we will attend to these persons
too." I imagined that we, the very ones who have brought and have been
bringing these women to this condition for several generations, would
take thought some fine day and reform all this. But, in the mean time,
if I had only recalled my conversation with the disreputable woman who
had been rocking the baby of the fever-stricken patient, I might have
comprehended the full extent of the folly of such a supposition.

When we saw this woman with the baby, we thought that it was her child.
To the question, "Who was she?" she had replied in a straightforward way
that she was unmarried. She did not say - a prostitute. Only the master
of the apartment made use of that frightful word. The supposition that
she had a child suggested to me the idea of removing her from her
position. I inquired:

"Is this your child?"

"No, it belongs to that woman yonder."

"Why are you taking care of it?"

"Because she asked me; she is dying."

Although my supposition proved to be erroneous, I continued my
conversation with her in the same spirit. I began to question her as to
who she was, and how she had come to such a state. She related her
history very readily and simply. She was a Moscow _myeshchanka_, the
daughter of a factory hand. She had been left an orphan, and had been
adopted by an aunt. From her aunt's she had begun to frequent the
taverns. The aunt was now dead. When I asked her whether she did not
wish to alter her mode of life, my question, evidently, did not even
arouse her interest. How can one take an interest in the proposition of
a man, in regard to something absolutely impossible? She laughed, and
said: "And who would take me in with my yellow ticket?"

"Well, but if a place could be found somewhere as cook?" said I.

This thought occurred to me because she was a stout, ruddy woman, with a
kindly, round, and rather stupid face. Cooks are often like that. My
words evidently did not please her. She repeated:

"A cook - but I don't know how to make bread," said she, and she laughed.
She said that she did not know how; but I saw from the expression of her
countenance that she did not wish to become a cook, that she regarded the
position and calling of a cook as low.

This woman, who in the simplest possible manner was sacrificing every
thing that she had for the sick woman, like the widow in the Gospels, at
the same time, like many of her companions, regarded the position of a
person who works as low and deserving of scorn. She had been brought up
to live not by work, but by this life which was considered the natural
one for her by those about her. In that lay her misfortune. And she
fell in with this misfortune and clung to her position. This led her to
frequent the taverns. Which of us - man or woman - will correct her false
view of life? Where among us are the people to be found who are
convinced that every laborious life is more worthy of respect than an
idle life, - who are convinced of this, and who live in conformity with
this belief, and who in conformity with this conviction value and respect
people? If I had thought of this, I might have understood that neither
I, nor any other person among my acquaintances, could heal this

I might have understood that these amazed and affected heads thrust over
the partition indicated only surprise at the sympathy expressed for them,
but not in the least a hope of reclamation from their dissolute life.
They do not perceive the immorality of their life. They see that they
are despised and cursed, but for what they are thus despised they cannot
comprehend. Their life, from childhood, has been spent among just such
women, who, as they very well know, always have existed, and are
indispensable to society, and so indispensable that there are
governmental officials to attend to their legal existence. Moreover,
they know that they have power over men, and can bring them into
subjection, and rule them often more than other women. They see that
their position in society is recognized by women and men and the
authorities, in spite of their continual curses, and therefore, they
cannot understand why they should reform.

In the course of one of the tours, one of the students told me that in a
certain lodging, there was a woman who was bargaining for her thirteen-
year-old daughter. Being desirous of rescuing this girl, I made a trip
to that lodging expressly. Mother and daughter were living in the
greatest poverty. The mother, a small, dark-complexioned, dissolute
woman of forty, was not only homely, but repulsively homely. The
daughter was equally disagreeable. To all my pointed questions about
their life, the mother responded curtly, suspiciously, and in a hostile
way, evidently feeling that I was an enemy, with evil intentions; the
daughter made no reply, did not look at her mother, and evidently trusted
the latter fully. They inspired me with no sincere pity, but rather with
disgust. But I made up my mind that the daughter must be rescued, and
that I would interest ladies who pitied the sad condition of these women,
and send them hither. But if I had reflected on the mother's long life
in the past, of how she had given birth to, nursed and reared this
daughter in her situation, assuredly without the slightest assistance
from outsiders, and with heavy sacrifices - if I had reflected on the view
of life which this woman had formed, I should have understood that there
was, decidedly, nothing bad or immoral in the mother's act: she had done
and was doing for her daughter all that she could, that is to say, what
she considered the best for herself. This daughter could be forcibly
removed from her mother; but it would be impossible to convince the
mother that she was doing wrong, in selling her daughter. If any one was
to be saved, then it must be this woman - the mother ought to have been
saved; [and that long before, from that view of life which is approved by
every one, according to which a woman may live unmarried, that is,
without bearing children and without work, and simply for the
satisfaction of the passions. If I had thought of this, I should have
understood that the majority of the ladies whom I intended to send
thither for the salvation of that little girl, not only live without
bearing children and without working, and serving only passion, but that
they deliberately rear their daughters for the same life; one mother
takes her daughter to the taverns, another takes hers to balls. But both
mothers hold the same view of the world, namely, that a woman must
satisfy man's passions, and that for this she must be fed, dressed, and
cared for. Then how are our ladies to reform this woman and her
daughter? {66} ]


Still more remarkable were my relations to the children. In my _role_ of
benefactor, I turned my attention to the children also, being desirous to
save these innocent beings from perishing in that lair of vice, and
noting them down in order to attend to them _afterwards_.

Among the children, I was especially struck with a twelve-year-old lad
named Serozha. I was heartily sorry for this bold, intelligent lad, who
had lived with a cobbler, and who had been left without a shelter because
his master had been put in jail, and I wanted to do good to him.

I will here relate the upshot of my benevolence in his case, because my
experience with this child is best adapted to show my false position in
the _role_ of benefactor. I took the boy home with me and put him in the
kitchen. It was impossible, was it not, to take a child who had lived in
a den of iniquity in among my own children? And I considered myself very
kind and good, because he was a care, not to me, but to the servants in
the kitchen, and because not I but the cook fed him, and because I gave
him some cast-off clothing to wear. The boy staid a week. During that
week I said a few words to him as I passed on two occasions and in the
course of my strolls, I went to a shoemaker of my acquaintance, and
proposed that he should take the lad as an apprentice. A peasant who was
visiting me, invited him to go to the country, into his family, as a
laborer; the boy refused, and at the end of the week he disappeared. I
went to the Rzhanoff house to inquire after him. He had returned there,
but was not at home when I went thither. For two days already, he had
been going to the Pryesnensky ponds, where he had hired himself out at
thirty kopeks a day in some procession of savages in costume, who led
about elephants. Something was being presented to the public there. I
went a second time, but he was so ungrateful that he evidently avoided
me. Had I then reflected on the life of that boy and on my own, I should
have understood that this boy was spoiled because he had discovered the
possibility of a merry life without labor, and that he had grown unused
to work. And I, with the object of benefiting and reclaiming him, had
taken him to my house, where he saw - what? My children, - both older and
younger than himself, and of the same age, - who not only never did any
work for themselves, but who made work for others by every means in their
power, who soiled and spoiled every thing about them, who ate rich,
dainty, and sweet viands, broke china, and flung to the dogs food which
would have been a tidbit to this lad. If I had rescued him from the
_abyss_, and had taken him to that nice place, then he must acquire those
views which prevailed in the life of that nice place; but by these views,
he understood that in that fine place he must so live that he should not
toil, but eat and drink luxuriously, and lead a joyous life. It is true
that he did not know that my children bore heavy burdens in the
acquisition of the declensions of Latin and Greek grammar, and that he
could not have understood the object of these labors. But it is
impossible not to see that if he had understood this, the influence of my
children's example on him would have been even stronger. He would then
have comprehended that my children were being educated in this manner, so
that, while doing no work now, they might be in a position hereafter,
also profiting by their diplomas, to work as little as possible, and to
enjoy the pleasures of life to as great an extent as possible. He did
understand this, and he would not go with the peasant to tend cattle, and
to eat potatoes and _kvas_ with him, but he went to the zoological garden
in the costume of a savage, to lead the elephant at thirty kopeks a day.

I might have understood how clumsy I was, when I was rearing my children
in the most utter idleness and luxury, to reform other people and their
children, who were perishing from idleness in what I called the den of
the Rzhanoff house, where, nevertheless, three-fourths of the people toil
for themselves and for others. But I understood nothing of this.

There were a great many children in the Rzhanoff house, who were in the
same pitiable plight; there were the children of dissolute women, there
were orphans, there were children who had been picked up in the streets
by beggars. They were all very wretched. But my experience with Serozha
showed me that I, living the life I did, was not in a position to help

While Serozha was living with us, I noticed in myself an effort to hide
our life from him, in particular the life of our children. I felt that
all my efforts to direct him towards a good, industrious life, were
counteracted by the examples of our lives and by that of our children. It
is very easy to take a child away from a disreputable woman, or from a
beggar. It is very easy, when one has the money, to wash, clean and
dress him in neat clothing, to support him, and even to teach him various
sciences; but it is not only difficult for us, who do not earn our own
bread, but quite the reverse, to teach him to work for his bread, but it
is impossible, because we, by our example, and even by those material and
valueless improvements of his life, inculcate the contrary. A puppy can
be taken, tended, fed, and taught to fetch and carry, and one may take
pleasure in him: but it is not enough to tend a man, to feed and teach
him Greek; we must teach the man how to live, - that is, to take as little
as possible from others, and to give as much as possible; and we cannot
help teaching him to do the contrary, if we take him into our houses, or
into an institution founded for this purpose.


This feeling of compassion for people, and of disgust with myself, which
I had experienced in the Lyapinsky house, I experienced no longer. I was
completely absorbed in the desire to carry out the scheme which I had
concocted, - to do good to those people whom I should meet here. And,
strange to say, it would appear, that, to do good - to give money to the
needy - is a very good deed, and one that should dispose me to love for
the people, but it turned out the reverse: this act produced in me ill-
will and an inclination to condemn people. But during our first evening
tour, a scene occurred exactly like that in the Lyapinsky house, and it
called forth a wholly different sentiment.

It began by my finding in one set of apartments an unfortunate
individual, of precisely the sort who require immediate aid. I found a
hungry woman who had had nothing to eat for two days.

It came about thus: in one very large and almost empty night-lodging, I
asked an old woman whether there were many poor people who had nothing to
eat? The old woman reflected, and then told me of two; and then, as
though she had just recollected, "Why, here is one of them," said she,
glancing at one of the occupied bunks. "I think that woman has had no

"Really? Who is she?"

"She was a dissolute woman: no one wants any thing to do with her now, so
she has no way of getting any thing. The landlady has had compassion on
her, but now she means to turn her out . . . Agafya, hey there, Agafya!"
cried the woman.

We approached, and something rose up in the bunk. It was a woman haggard
and dishevelled, whose hair was half gray, and who was as thin as a
skeleton, dressed in a ragged and dirty chemise, and with particularly
brilliant and staring eyes. She looked past us with her staring eyes,
clutched at her jacket with one thin hand, in order to cover her bony
breast which was disclosed by her tattered chemise, and oppressed, she
cried, "What is it? what is it?" I asked her about her means of
livelihood. For a long time she did not understand, and said, "I don't
know myself; they persecute me." I asked her, - it puts me to shame, my
hand refuses to write it, - I asked her whether it was true that she had
nothing to eat? She answered in the same hurried, feverish tone, staring
at me the while, - "No, I had nothing yesterday, and I have had nothing to-

The sight of this woman touched me, but not at all as had been the case
in the Lyapinsky house; there, my pity for these people made me instantly
feel ashamed of myself: but here, I rejoiced because I had at last found
what I had been seeking, - a hungry person.

I gave her a ruble, and I recollect being very glad that others saw it.
The old woman, on seeing this, immediately begged money of me also. It
afforded me such pleasure to give, that, without finding out whether it
was necessary to give or not, I gave something to the old woman too. The
old woman accompanied me to the door, and the people standing in the
corridor heard her blessing me. Probably the questions which I had put
with regard to poverty, had aroused expectation, and several persons
followed us. In the corridor also, they began to ask me for money. Among
those who begged were some drunken men, who aroused an unpleasant feeling
in me; but, having once given to the old woman, I had no might to refuse
these people, and I began to give. As long as I continued to give,
people kept coming up; and excitement ran through all the lodgings.
People made them appearance on the stairs and galleries, and followed me.
As I emerged into the court-yard, a little boy ran swiftly down one of
the staircases thrusting the people aside. He did not see me, and
exclaimed hastily: "He gave Agashka a ruble!" When he reached the
ground, the boy joined the crowd which was following me. I went out into
the street: various descriptions of people followed me, and asked for
money. I distributed all my small change, and entered an open shop with
the request that the shopkeeper would change a ten-ruble bill for me. And
then the same thing happened as at the Lyapinsky house. A terrible
confusion ensued. Old women, noblemen, peasants, and children crowded
into the shop with outstretched hands; I gave, and interrogated some of
them as to their lives, and took notes. The shopkeeper, turning up the
furred points of the collar of his coat, sat like a stuffed creature,
glancing at the crowd occasionally, and then fixing his eyes beyond them
again. He evidently, like every one else, felt that this was foolish,
but he could not say so.

The poverty and beggary in the Lyapinsky house had horrified me, and I
felt myself guilty of it; I felt the desire and the possibility of
improvement. But now, precisely the same scene produced on me an
entirely different effect; I experienced, in the first place, a
malevolent feeling towards many of those who were besieging me; and in
the second place, uneasiness as to what the shopkeepers and porters would
think of me.

On my return home that day, I was troubled in my soul. I felt that what
I had done was foolish and immoral. But, as is always the result of
inward confusion, I talked a great deal about the plan which I had
undertaken, as though I entertained not the slightest doubt of my

On the following day, I went to such of the people whom I had inscribed
on my list, as seemed to me the most wretched of all, and those who, as
it seemed to me, would be the easiest to help. As I have already said, I
did not help any of these people. It proved to be more difficult to help
them than I had thought. And either because I did not know how, or
because it was impossible, I merely imitated these people, and did not
help any one. I visited the Rzhanoff house several times before the
final tour, and on every occasion the very same thing occurred: I was
beset by a throng of beggars in whose mass I was completely lost. I felt
the impossibility of doing any thing, because there were too many of
them, and because I felt ill-disposed towards them because there were so
many of them; and in addition to this, each one separately did not
incline me in his favor. I was conscious that every one of them was
telling me an untruth, or less than the whole truth, and that he saw in
me merely a purse from which money might be drawn. And it very
frequently seemed to me, that the very money which they squeezed out of
me, rendered their condition worse instead of improving it. The oftener
I went to that house, the more I entered into intercourse with the people
there, the more apparent became to me the impossibility of doing any
thing; but still I did not give up any scheme until the last night tour.

The remembrance of that last tour is particularly mortifying to me. On
other occasions I had gone thither alone, but twenty of us went there on
this occasion. At seven o'clock, all who wished to take part in this
final night round, began to assemble at my house. Nearly all of them
were strangers to me, - students, one officer, and two of my society
acquaintances, who, uttering the usual, "_C'est tres interessant_!" had
asked me to include them in the number of the census-takers.

My worldly acquaintances had dressed up especially for this, in some sort
of hunting-jacket, and tall, travelling boots, in a costume in which they
rode and went hunting, and which, in their opinion, was appropriate for
an excursion to a night-lodging-house. They took with them special note-
books and remarkable pencils. They were in that peculiarly excited state
of mind in which men set off on a hunt, to a duel, or to the wars. The
most apparent thing about them was their folly and the falseness of our
position, but all the rest of us were in the same false position. Before
we set out, we held a consultation, after the fashion of a council of
war, as to how we should begin, how divide our party, and so on.

This consultation was exactly such as takes place in councils,
assemblages, committees; that is to say, each person spoke, not because
he had any thing to say or to ask, but because each one cudgelled his
brain for something that he could say, so that he might not fall short of
the rest. But, among all these discussions, no one alluded to that
beneficence of which I had so often spoken to them all. Mortifying as
this was to me, I felt that it was indispensable that I should once more
remind them of benevolence, that is, of the point, that we were to
observe and take notes of all those in destitute circumstances whom we
should encounter in the course of our rounds. I had always felt ashamed
to speak of this; but now, in the midst of all our excited preparations
for our expedition, I could hardly utter the words. All listened to me,
as it seemed to me, with sorrow, and, at the same time, all agreed in
words; but it was evident that they all knew that it was folly, and that
nothing would come of it, and all immediately began again to talk about
something else. This went on until the time arrived for us to set out,
and we started.

We reached the tavern, roused the waiters, and began to sort our papers.
When we were informed that the people had heard about this round, and
were leaving their quarters, we asked the landlord to lock the gates; and
we went ourselves into the yard to reason with the fleeing people,
assuring them that no one would demand their tickets. I remember the
strange and painful impression produced on me by these alarmed
night-lodgers: ragged, half-dressed, they all seemed tall to me by the
light of the lantern and the gloom of the court-yard. Frightened and
terrifying in their alarm, they stood in a group around the foul-smelling
out-house, and listened to our assurances, but they did not believe us,
and were evidently prepared for any thing, like hunted wild beasts,
provided only that they could escape from us. Gentlemen in divers
shapes - as policemen, both city and rural, and as examining judges, and
judges - hunt them all their lives, in town and country, on the highway
and in the streets, and in the taverns, and in night-lodging houses; and
now, all of a sudden, these gentlemen had come and locked the gates,
merely in order to count them: it was as difficult for them to believe
this, as for hares to believe that dogs have come, not to chase but to
count them. But the gates were locked, and the startled lodgers
returned: and we, breaking up into groups, entered also. With me were
the two society men and two students. In front of us, in the dark, went
Vanya, in his coat and white trousers, with a lantern, and we followed.
We went to quarters with which I was familiar. I knew all the
establishments, and some of the people; but the majority of the people
were new, and the spectacle was new, and more dreadful than the one which

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