Franz Kafka

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Der Fahrgast, On the tram (The passenger)" by Franz Kafka: "Der Fahrgast," English version. "Der Fahrgast, On the tram (The passenger)" by Franz Kafka, translated in English, with Original Text in German

Picture of Franz Kakfa, ca. 1910


 On the tram (The passenger)

I stand on the platform of a tramway car and I feel profoundly uncertain as to my position in this world, in this city, and in my family. Not even by accident I could tell which sensible demands I might set forward rightly. I can not justify to myself the fact that I stand on this platform, I hold to this strap, I let myself be carried by this car, that people avoid the tram, or stride on quietly, or stops before the shops’ windows. No one ask me the reason, but that is irrelevant.
The car approaches a stop; a girl goes towards the exit, ready to alight. She appears to me so distinctly, as if I were touching her. She is dressed in black, the skirt's folds almost do not move, the blouse is tight and has a white lace collar, the left hand she holds flat against the wall, the umbrella in her right hand is on the second step from the bottom. Her face is brown, her nose pressed at the sides, ends in a rounded and wide shape. She has a lot of brown hair and on her right temple her hair is swept aside. Her small ear adheres closely, but I can see, as I am near, the whole back of the ear and its shade at the joint.
Then I asked myself: why is it that she is not surprised about herself, and keeps her mouth shut and says nothing about it?

From "The Tales of Franz Kafka: English Translation With Original Text In German," available as e-book on Amazon KindleiPhone, iPad, or iPod touchon NOOK Bookon Kobo, and as printed, traditional edition through Lulu.  


Original Text in German:


Der Fahrgast

Ich stehe auf der Plattform des elektrischen Wagens und bin vollständig unsicher in Rücksicht meiner Stellung in dieser Welt, in dieser Stadt, in meiner Familie. Auch nicht beiläufig könnte ich angeben, welche Ansprüche ich in irgendeiner Richtung mit Recht vorbringen könnte. Ich kann es gar nicht verteidigen, daß ich auf dieser Plattform stehe, mich an dieser Schlinge halte, von diesem Wagen mich tragen lasse, daß Leute dem Wagen ausweichen oder still gehn, oder vor den Schaufenstern ruhn. — Niemand verlangt es ja von mir, aber das ist gleichgültig.
Der Wagen nähert sich einer Haltestelle, ein Mädchen stellt sich nahe den Stufen, zum Aussteigen bereit. Sie erscheint mir so deutlich, als ob ich sie betastet hätte. Sie ist schwarz gekleidet, die Rockfalten bewegen sich fast nicht, die Bluse ist knapp und hat einen Kragen aus weißer klemmaschiger Spitze, die linke Hand hält sie flach an die Wand, der Schirm in ihrer Rechten steht auf der zweitobersten Stufe. Ihr Gesicht ist braun, die Nase, an den Seiten schwach gepreßt, schließt rund und breit ab. Sie hat viel braunes Haar und verwehte Härchen an der rechten Schläfe. Ihr kleines Ohr liegt eng an, doch sehe ich, da ich nahe stehe, den ganzen Rücken der rechten Ohrmuschel und den Schatten an der Wurzel.
Ich fragte mich damals: Wieso kommt es, daß sie nicht über sich verwundert ist, daß sie den Mund geschlossen hält und nichts dergleichen sagt?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: "A Novel in Nine Letters," 1847. Full Text in English

A Soviet Union stamp commemorating Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1971





For the last two days I have been, I may say, in pursuit of you, my friend,
having to talk over most urgent business with you, and I cannot come across
you anywhere. Yesterday, while we were at Semyon Alexeyitch's, my wife made
a very good joke about you, saying that Tatyana Petrovna and you were a
pair of birds always on the wing. You have not been married three months
and you already neglect your domestic hearth. We all laughed heartily--from
our genuine kindly feeling for you, of course--but, joking apart, my
precious friend, you have given me a lot of trouble. Semyon Alexeyitch said
to me that you might be going to the ball at the Social Union's club!
Leaving my wife with Semyon Alexeyitch's good lady, I flew off to the
Social Union. It was funny and tragic! Fancy my position! Me at the
ball--and alone, without my wife! Ivan Andreyitch meeting me in the
porter's lodge and seeing me alone, at once concluded (the rascal!) that I
had a passion for dances, and taking me by the arm, wanted to drag me off
by force to a dancing class, saying that it was too crowded at the Social
Union, that an ardent spirit had not room to turn, and that his head ached
from the patchouli and mignonette. I found neither you, nor Tatyana
Petrovna. Ivan Andreyitch vowed and declared that you would be at _Woe from
Wit_, at the Alexandrinsky theatre.

I flew off to the Alexandrinsky theatre: you were not there either. This
morning I expected to find you at Tchistoganov's--no sign of you there.
Tchistoganov sent to the Perepalkins'--the same thing there. In fact, I am
quite worn out; you can judge how much trouble I have taken! Now I am
writing to you (there is nothing else I can do). My business is by no means
a literary one (you understand me?); it would be better to meet face to
face, it is extremely necessary to discuss something with you and as
quickly as possible, and so I beg you to come to us to-day with Tatyana
Petrovna to tea and for a chat in the evening. My Anna Mihalovna will be
extremely pleased to see you. You will truly, as they say, oblige me to my
dying day. By the way, my precious friend--since I have taken up my pen
I'll go into all I have against you--I have a slight complaint I must make;
in fact, I must reproach you, my worthy friend, for an apparently very
innocent little trick which you have played at my expense.... You are a
rascal, a man without conscience. About the middle of last month, you
brought into my house an acquaintance of yours, Yevgeny Nikolaitch; you
vouched for him by your friendly and, for me, of course, sacred
recommendation; I rejoiced at the opportunity of receiving the young man
with open arms, and when I did so I put my head in a noose. A noose it
hardly is, but it has turned out a pretty business. I have not time now to
explain, and indeed it is an awkward thing to do in writing, only a very
humble request to you, my malicious friend: could you not somehow very
delicately, in passing, drop a hint into the young man's ear that there are
a great many houses in the metropolis besides ours? It's more than I can
stand, my dear fellow! We fall at your feet, as our friend Semyonovitch
says. I will tell you all about it when we meet. I don't mean to say that
the young man has sinned against good manners, or is lacking in spiritual
qualities, or is not up to the mark in some other way. On the contrary, he
is an amiable and pleasant fellow; but wait, we shall meet; meanwhile if
you see him, for goodness' sake whisper a hint to him, my good friend. I
would do it myself, but you know what I am, I simply can't, and that's all
about it. You introduced him. But I will explain myself more fully this
evening, anyway. Now good-bye. I remain, etc.

P.S.--My little boy has been ailing for the last week, and gets worse and
worse every day; he is cutting his poor little teeth. My wife is nursing
him all the time, and is depressed, poor thing. Be sure to come, you will
give us real pleasure, my precious friend.




I got your letter yesterday, I read it and was perplexed. You looked for
me, goodness knows where, and I was simply at home. Till ten o'clock I was
expecting Ivan Ivanitch Tolokonov. At once on getting your letter I set out
with my wife, I went to the expense of taking a cab, and reached your house
about half-past six. You were not at home, but we were met by your wife. I
waited to see you till half-past ten, I could not stay later. I set off
with my wife, went to the expense of a cab again, saw her home, and went on
myself to the Perepalkins', thinking I might meet you there, but again I
was out in my reckoning. When I get home I did not sleep all night, I felt
uneasy; in the morning I drove round to you three times, at nine, at ten
and at eleven; three times I went to the expense of a cab, and again you
left me in the lurch.

I read your letter and was amazed. You write about Yevgeny Nikolaitch, beg
me to whisper some hint, and do not tell me what about. I commend your
caution, but all letters are not alike, and I don't give documents of
importance to my wife for curl-papers. I am puzzled, in fact, to know with
what motive you wrote all this to me. However, if it comes to that, why
should I meddle in the matter? I don't poke my nose into other people's
business. You can be not at home to him; I only see that I must have a
brief and decisive explanation with you, and, moreover, time is passing.
And I am in straits and don't know what to do if you are going to neglect
the terms of our agreement. A journey for nothing; a journey costs
something, too, and my wife's whining for me to get her a velvet mantle of
the latest fashion. About Yevgeny Nikolaitch I hasten to mention that when
I was at Pavel Semyonovitch Perepalkin's yesterday I made inquiries without
loss of time. He has five hundred serfs in the province of Yaroslav, and he
has expectations from his grandmother of an estate of three hundred serfs
near Moscow. How much money he has I cannot tell; I think you ought to know
that better. I beg you once for all to appoint a place where I can meet
you. You met Ivan Andreyitch yesterday, and you write that he told you that
I was at the Alexandrinsky theatre with my wife. I write, that he is a
liar, and it shows how little he is to be trusted in such cases, that only
the day before yesterday he did his grandmother out of eight hundred
roubles. I have the honour to remain, etc.

P.S.--My wife is going to have a baby; she is nervous about it and feels
depressed at times. At the theatre they sometimes have fire-arms going off
and sham thunderstorms. And so for fear of a shock to my wife's nerves I do
not take her to the theatre. I have no great partiality for the theatre




I am to blame, to blame, a thousand times to blame, but I hasten to defend
myself. Between five and six yesterday, just as we were talking of you with
the warmest affection, a messenger from Uncle Stepan Alexeyitch galloped up
with the news that my aunt was very bad. Being afraid of alarming my wife,
I did not say a word of this to her, but on the pretext of other urgent
business I drove off to my aunt's house. I found her almost dying. Just at
five o'clock she had had a stroke, the third she has had in the last two
years. Karl Fyodoritch, their family doctor, told us that she might not
live through the night. You can judge of my position, dearest friend. We
were on our legs all night in grief and anxiety. It was not till morning
that, utterly exhausted and overcome by moral and physical weakness, I lay
down on the sofa; I forgot to tell them to wake me, and only woke at
half-past eleven. My aunt was better. I drove home to my wife. She, poor
thing, was quite worn out expecting me. I snatched a bite of something,
embraced my little boy, reassured my wife and set off to call on you. You
were not at home. At your flat I found Yevgeny Nikolaitch. When I got home
I took up a pen, and here I am writing to you. Don't grumble and be cross
to me, my true friend. Beat me, chop my guilty head off my shoulders, but
don't deprive me of your affection. From your wife I learned that you will
be at the Slavyanovs' this evening. I will certainly be there. I look
forward with the greatest impatience to seeing you.

I remain, etc.

P.S.--We are in perfect despair about our little boy. Karl Fyodoritch
prescribes rhubarb. He moans. Yesterday he did not know any one. This
morning he did know us, and began lisping papa, mamma, boo.... My wife
was in tears the whole morning.




I am writing to you, in your room, at your bureau; and before taking up my
pen, I have been waiting for more than two and a half hours for you. Now
allow me to tell you straight out, Pyotr Ivanitch, my frank opinion about
this shabby incident. From your last letter I gathered that you were
expected at the Slavyanovs', that you were inviting me to go there; I
turned up, I stayed for five hours and there was no sign of you. Why, am I
to be made a laughing-stock to people, do you suppose? Excuse me, my dear
sir ... I came to you this morning, I hoped to find you, not imitating
certain deceitful persons who look for people, God knows where, when they
can be found at home at any suitably chosen time. There is no sign of you
at home. I don't know what restrains me from telling you now the whole
harsh truth. I will only say that I see you seem to be going back on your
bargain regarding our agreement. And only now reflecting on the whole
affair, I cannot but confess that I am absolutely astounded at the artful
workings of your mind. I see clearly now that you have been cherishing your
unfriendly design for a long time. This supposition of mine is confirmed by
the fact that last week in an almost unpardonable way you took possession
of that letter of yours addressed to me, in which you laid down yourself,
though rather vaguely and incoherently, the terms of our agreement in
regard to a circumstance of which I need not remind you. You are afraid of
documents, you destroy them, and you try to make a fool of me. But I won't
allow myself to be made a fool of, for no one has ever considered me one
hitherto, and every one has thought well of me in that respect. I am
opening my eyes. You try and put me off, confuse me with talk of Yevgeny
Nikolaitch, and when with your letter of the seventh of this month, which I
am still at a loss to understand, I seek a personal explanation from you,
you make humbugging appointments, while you keep out of the way. Surely you
do not suppose, sir, that I am not equal to noticing all this? You promised
to reward me for my services, of which you are very well aware, in the way
of introducing various persons, and at the same time, and I don't know how
you do it, you contrive to borrow money from me in considerable sums
without giving a receipt, as happened no longer ago than last week. Now,
having got the money, you keep out of the way, and what's more, you
repudiate the service I have done you in regard to Yevgeny Nikolaitch. You
are probably reckoning on my speedy departure to Simbirsk, and hoping I may
not have time to settle your business. But I assure you solemnly and
testify on my word of honour that if it comes to that, I am prepared to
spend two more months in Petersburg expressly to carry through my business,
to attain my objects, and to get hold of you. For I, too, on occasion know
how to get the better of people. In conclusion, I beg to inform you that if
you do not give me a satisfactory explanation to-day, first in writing, and
then personally face to face, and do not make a fresh statement in your
letter of the chief points of the agreement existing between us, and do not
explain fully your views in regard to Yevgeny Nikolaitch, I shall be
compelled to have recourse to measures that will be highly unpleasant to
you, and indeed repugnant to me also.

Allow me to remain, etc.



_November 11._


I was cut to the heart by your letter. I wonder you were not ashamed, my
dear but unjust friend, to behave like this to one of your most devoted
friends. Why be in such a hurry, and without explaining things fully, wound
me with such insulting suspicions? But I hasten to reply to your charges.
You did not find me yesterday, Ivan Petrovitch, because I was suddenly and
quite unexpectedly called away to a death-bed. My aunt, Yefimya Nikolaevna,
passed away yesterday evening at eleven o'clock in the night. By the
general consent of the relatives I was selected to make the arrangements
for the sad and sorrowful ceremony. I had so much to do that I had not time
to see you this morning, nor even to send you a line. I am grieved to the
heart at the misunderstanding which has arisen between us. My words about
Yevgeny Nikolaitch uttered casually and in jest you have taken in quite a
wrong sense, and have ascribed to them a meaning deeply offensive to me.
You refer to money and express your anxiety about it. But without wasting
words I am ready to satisfy all your claims and demands, though I must
remind you that the three hundred and fifty roubles I had from you last
week were in accordance with a certain agreement and not by way of a loan.
In the latter case there would certainly have been a receipt. I will not
condescend to discuss the other points mentioned in your letter. I see that
it is a misunderstanding. I see it is your habitual hastiness, hot temper
and obstinacy. I know that your goodheartedness and open character will not
allow doubts to persist in your heart, and that you will be, in fact, the
first to hold out your hand to me. You are mistaken, Ivan Petrovitch, you
are greatly mistaken!

Although your letter has deeply wounded me, I should be prepared even
to-day to come to you and apologise, but I have been since yesterday in
such a rush and flurry that I am utterly exhausted and can scarcely stand
on my feet. To complete my troubles, my wife is laid up; I am afraid she is
seriously ill. Our little boy, thank God, is better; but I must lay down my
pen, I have a mass of things to do and they are urgent. Allow me, my dear
friend, to remain, etc.



_November 14._


I have been waiting for three days, I tried to make a profitable use of
them--meanwhile I feel that politeness and good manners are the greatest of
ornaments for every one. Since my last letter of the tenth of this month, I
have neither by word nor deed reminded you of my existence, partly in order
to allow you undisturbed to perform the duty of a Christian in regard to
your aunt, partly because I needed the time for certain considerations and
investigations in regard to a business you know of. Now I hasten to explain
myself to you in the most thoroughgoing and decisive manner.

I frankly confess that on reading your first two letters I seriously
supposed that you did not understand what I wanted; that was how it was
that I rather sought an interview with you and explanations face to face. I
was afraid of writing, and blamed myself for lack of clearness in the
expression of my thoughts on paper. You are aware that I have not the
advantages of education and good manners, and that I shun a hollow show of
gentility because I have learned from bitter experience how misleading
appearances often are, and that a snake sometimes lies hidden under
flowers. But you understood me; you did not answer me as you should have
done because, in the treachery of your heart, you had planned beforehand to
be faithless to your word of honour and to the friendly relations existing
between us. You have proved this absolutely by your abominable conduct
towards me of late, which is fatal to my interests, which I did not expect
and which I refused to believe till the present moment. From the very
beginning of our acquaintance you captivated me by your clever manners, by
the subtlety of your behaviour, your knowledge of affairs and the
advantages to be gained by association with you. I imagined that I had
found a true friend and well-wisher. Now I recognise clearly that there are
many people who under a flattering and brilliant exterior hide venom in
their hearts, who use their cleverness to weave snares for their neighbour
and for unpardonable deception, and so are afraid of pen and paper, and at
the same time use their fine language not for the benefit of their
neighbour and their country, but to drug and bewitch the reason of those
who have entered into business relations of any sort with them. Your
treachery to me, my dear sir, can be clearly seen from what follows.

In the first place, when, in the clear and distinct terms of my letter, I
described my position, sir, and at the same time asked you in my first
letter what you meant by certain expressions and intentions of yours,
principally in regard to Yevgeny Nikolaitch, you tried for the most part to
avoid answering, and confounding me by doubts and suspicions, you calmly
put the subject aside. Then after treating me in a way which cannot be
described by any seemly word, you began writing that you were wounded.
Pray, what am I to call that, sir? Then when every minute was precious to
me and when you had set me running after you all over the town, you wrote,
pretending personal friendship, letters in which, intentionally avoiding
all mention of business, you spoke of utterly irrelevant matters; to wit,
of the illnesses of your good lady for whom I have, in any case, every
respect, and of how your baby had been dosed with rhubarb and was cutting a
tooth. All this you alluded to in every letter with a disgusting regularity
that was insulting to me. Of course I am prepared to admit that a father's
heart may be torn by the sufferings of his babe, but why make mention of
this when something different, far more important and interesting, was
needed? I endured it in silence, but now when time has elapsed I think it
my duty to explain myself. Finally, treacherously deceiving me several
times by making humbugging appointments, you tried, it seems, to make me
play the part of a fool and a laughing-stock for you, which I never intend
to be. Then after first inviting me and thoroughly deceiving me, you
informed me that you were called away to your suffering aunt who had had a
stroke, precisely at five o'clock as you stated with shameful exactitude.
Luckily for me, sir, in the course of these three days I have succeeded in
making inquiries and have learnt from them that your aunt had a stroke on
the day before the seventh not long before midnight. From this fact I see
that you have made use of sacred family relations in order to deceive
persons in no way concerned with them. Finally, in your last letter you
mention the death of your relatives as though it had taken place precisely
at the time when I was to have visited you to consult about various
business matters. But here the vileness of your arts and calculations
exceeds all belief, for from trustworthy information which I was able by a
lucky chance to obtain just in the nick of time, I have found out that your
aunt died twenty-four hours later than the time you so impiously fixed for
her decease in your letter. I shall never have done if I enumerate all the
signs by which I have discovered your treachery in regard to me. It is
sufficient, indeed, for any impartial observer that in every letter you
style me, your true friend, and call me all sorts of polite names, which
you do, to the best of my belief, for no other object than to put my
conscience to sleep.

I have come now to your principal act of deceit and treachery in regard to
me, to wit, your continual silence of late in regard to everything
concerning our common interests, in regard to your wicked theft of the
letter in which you stated, though in language somewhat obscure and not
perfectly intelligible to me, our mutual agreements, your barbarous
forcible loan of three hundred and fifty roubles which you borrowed from me
as your partner without giving any receipt, and finally, your abominable
slanders of our common acquaintance, Yevgeny Nikolaitch. I see clearly now
that you meant to show me that he was, if you will allow me to say so, like
a billy-goat, good for neither milk nor wool, that he was neither one thing
nor the other, neither fish nor flesh, which you put down as a vice in him
in your letter of the sixth instant. I knew Yevgeny Nikolaitch as a modest
and well-behaved young man, whereby he may well attract, gain and deserve
respect in society. I know also that every evening for the last fortnight
you've put into your pocket dozens and sometimes even hundreds of roubles,
playing games of chance with Yevgeny Nikolaitch. Now you disavow all this,
and not only refuse to compensate me for what I have suffered, but have
even appropriated money belonging to me, tempting me by suggestions that I
should be partner in the affair, and luring me with various advantages
which were to accrue. After having appropriated, in a most illegal way,
money of mine and of Yevgeny Nikolaitch's, you decline to compensate me,
resorting for that object to calumny with which you have unjustifiably
blackened in my eyes a man whom I, by my efforts and exertions, introduced
into your house. While on the contrary, from what I hear from your friends,
you are still almost slobbering over him, and give out to the whole world
that he is your dearest friend, though there is no one in the world such a
fool as not to guess at once what your designs are aiming at and what your
friendly relations really mean. I should say that they mean deceit,
treachery, forgetfulness of human duties and proprieties, contrary to the
law of God and vicious in every way. I take myself as a proof and example.
In what way have I offended you and why have you treated me in this godless

I will end my letter. I have explained myself. Now in conclusion. If, sir,
you do not in the shortest possible time after receiving this letter return
me in full, first, the three hundred and fifty roubles I gave you, and,
secondly, all the sums that should come to me according to your promise, I
will have recourse to every possible means to compel you to return it, even
to open force, secondly to the protection of the laws, and finally I beg to
inform you that I am in possession of facts, which, if they remain in the
hands of your humble servant, may ruin and disgrace your name in the eyes
of all the world. Allow me to remain, etc.



_November 15._


When I received your vulgar and at the same time queer letter, my impulse
for the first minute was to tear it into shreds, but I have preserved it as
a curiosity. I do, however, sincerely regret our misunderstandings and
unpleasant relations. I did not mean to answer you. But I am compelled by
necessity. I must in these lines inform you that it would be very
unpleasant for me to see you in my house at any time; my wife feels the
same: she is in delicate health and the smell of tar upsets her. My wife
sends your wife the book, _Don Quixote de la Mancha_, with her sincere
thanks. As for the galoshes you say you left behind here on your last
visit, I must regretfully inform you that they are nowhere to be found.
They are still being looked for; but if they do not turn up, then I will
buy you a new pair.

I have the honour to remain your sincere friend,


On the sixteenth of November, Pyotr Ivanitch received by post two letters
addressed to him. Opening the first envelope, he took out a carefully
folded note on pale pink paper. The handwriting was his wife's. It was
addressed to Yevgeny Nikolaitch and dated November the second. There was
nothing else in the envelope. Pyotr Ivanitch read:


Yesterday was utterly impossible. My husband was at home the whole evening.
Be sure to come to-morrow punctually at eleven. At half-past ten my husband
is going to Tsarskoe and not coming back till evening. I was in a rage all
night. Thank you for sending me the information and the correspondence.
What a lot of paper. Did she really write all that? She has style though;
many thanks, dear; I see that you love me. Don't be angry, but, for
goodness sake, come to-morrow.


Pyotr Ivanitch tore open the other letter:


I should never have set foot again in your house anyway; you need not have
troubled to soil paper about it.

Next week I am going to Simbirsk. Yevgany Nikolaitch remains your precious
and beloved friend. I wish you luck, and don't trouble about the galoshes.


On the seventeenth of November Ivan Petrovitch received by post two letters
addressed to him. Opening the first letter, he took out a hasty and
carelessly written note. The handwriting was his wife's; it was addressed
to Yevgeny Nikolaitch, and dated August the fourth. There was nothing else
in the envelope. Ivan Petrovitch read:

       *       *       *       *       *

Good-bye, good-bye, Yevgeny Nikolaitch! The Lord reward you for this too.
May you be happy, but my lot is bitter, terribly bitter! It is your choice.
If it had not been for my aunt I should not have put such trust in you. Do
not laugh at me nor at my aunt. To-morrow is our wedding. Aunt is relieved
that a good man has been found, and that he will take me without a dowry. I
took a good look at him for the first time to-day. He seems good-natured.
They are hurrying me. Farewell, farewell.... My darling!! Think of me
sometimes; I shall never forget you. Farewell! I sign this last like my
first letter, do you remember?


The second letter was as follows:


To-morrow you will receive a new pair of galoshes. It is not my habit to
filch from other men's pockets, and I am not fond of picking up all sorts
of rubbish in the streets.

Yevgeny Nikolaitch is going to Simbirsk in a day or two on his
grandfather's business, and he has asked me to find a travelling companion
for him; wouldn't you like to take him with you?

Friday, November 18, 2016

A short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: "An Honest Thief" (Russian: Честный вор), 1848. Full Text in English and Original text in Russian

A short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: "An Honest Thief" (Russian: Честный вор), 1848. Full Text in English  and original text in Russian (further below).

Portrait of Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov, 1872

 One morning, just as I was about to set off to my office, Agrafena, my
cook, washerwoman and housekeeper, came in to me and, to my surprise,
entered into conversation.

She had always been such a silent, simple creature that, except her daily
inquiry about dinner, she had not uttered a word for the last six years. I,
at least, had heard nothing else from her.

"Here I have come in to have a word with you, sir," she began abruptly;
"you really ought to let the little room."

"Which little room?"

"Why, the one next the kitchen, to be sure."

"What for?"

"What for? Why because folks do take in lodgers, to be sure."

"But who would take it?"

"Who would take it? Why, a lodger would take it, to be sure."

"But, my good woman, one could not put a bedstead in it; there wouldn't be
room to move! Who could live in it?"

"Who wants to live there! As long as he has a place to sleep in. Why, he
would live in the window."

"In what window?"

"In what window! As though you didn't know! The one in the passage, to be
sure. He would sit there, sewing or doing anything else. Maybe he would sit
on a chair, too. He's got a chair; and he has a table, too; he's got

"Who is 'he' then?"

"Oh, a good man, a man of experience. I will cook for him. And I'll ask
him three roubles a month for his board and lodging."

After prolonged efforts I succeeded at last in learning from Agrafena that
an elderly man had somehow managed to persuade her to admit him into the
kitchen as a lodger and boarder. Any notion Agrafena took into her head had
to be carried out; if not, I knew she would give me no peace. When anything
was not to her liking, she at once began to brood, and sank into a deep
dejection that would last for a fortnight or three weeks. During that
period my dinners were spoiled, my linen was mislaid, my floors went
unscrubbed; in short, I had a great deal to put up with. I had observed
long ago that this inarticulate woman was incapable of conceiving a
project, of originating an idea of her own. But if anything like a notion
or a project was by some means put into her feeble brain, to prevent its
being carried out meant, for a time, her moral assassination. And so, as I
cared more for my peace of mind than for anything else, I consented

"Has he a passport anyway, or something of the sort?"

"To be sure, he has. He is a good man, a man of experience; three roubles
he's promised to pay."

The very next day the new lodger made his appearance in my modest bachelor
quarters; but I was not put out by this, indeed I was inwardly pleased. I
lead as a rule a very lonely hermit's existence. I have scarcely any
friends; I hardly ever go anywhere. As I had spent ten years never coming
out of my shell, I had, of course, grown used to solitude. But another ten
or fifteen years or more of the same solitary existence, with the same
Agrafena, in the same bachelor quarters, was in truth a somewhat cheerless
prospect. And therefore a new inmate, if well-behaved, was a heaven-sent

Agrafena had spoken truly: my lodger was certainly a man of experience.
From his passport it appeared that he was an old soldier, a fact which I
should have known indeed from his face. An old soldier is easily
recognised. Astafy Ivanovitch was a favourable specimen of his class. We
got on very well together. What was best of all, Astafy Ivanovitch would
sometimes tell a story, describing some incident in his own life. In the
perpetual boredom of my existence such a story-teller was a veritable
treasure. One day he told me one of these stories. It made an impression on
me. The following event was what led to it.

I was left alone in the flat; both Astafy and Agrafena were out on business
of their own. All of a sudden I heard from the inner room somebody--I
fancied a stranger--come in; I went out; there actually was a stranger in
the passage, a short fellow wearing no overcoat in spite of the cold autumn

"What do you want?"

"Does a clerk called Alexandrov live here?"

"Nobody of that name here, brother. Good-bye."

"Why, the dvornik told me it was here," said my visitor, cautiously
retiring towards the door.

"Be off, be off, brother, get along."

Next day after dinner, while Astafy Ivanovitch was fitting on a coat which
he was altering for me, again some one came into the passage. I half opened
the door.

Before my very eyes my yesterday's visitor, with perfect composure, took my
wadded greatcoat from the peg and, stuffing it under his arm, darted out of
the flat. Agrafena stood all the time staring at him, agape with
astonishment and doing nothing for the protection of my property. Astafy
Ivanovitch flew in pursuit of the thief and ten minutes later came back out
of breath and empty-handed. He had vanished completely.

"Well, there's a piece of luck, Astafy Ivanovitch!"

"It's a good job your cloak is left! Or he would have put you in a plight,
the thief!"

But the whole incident had so impressed Astafy Ivanovitch that I forgot the
theft as I looked at him. He could not get over it. Every minute or two he
would drop the work upon which he was engaged, and would describe over
again how it had all happened, how he had been standing, how the greatcoat
had been taken down before his very eyes, not a yard away, and how it had
come to pass that he could not catch the thief. Then he would sit down to
his work again, then leave it once more, and at last I saw him go down to
the dvornik to tell him all about it, and to upbraid him for letting such a
thing happen in his domain. Then he came back and began scolding Agrafena.
Then he sat down to his work again, and long afterwards he was still
muttering to himself how it had all happened, how he stood there and I was
here, how before our eyes, not a yard away, the thief took the coat off the
peg, and so on. In short, though Astafy Ivanovitch understood his business,
he was a terrible slow-coach and busy-body.

"He's made fools of us, Astafy Ivanovitch," I said to him in the evening,
as I gave him a glass of tea. I wanted to while away the time by recalling
the story of the lost greatcoat, the frequent repetition of which, together
with the great earnestness of the speaker, was beginning to become very

"Fools, indeed, sir! Even though it is no business of mine, I am put out.
It makes me angry though it is not my coat that was lost. To my thinking
there is no vermin in the world worse than a thief. Another takes what you
can spare, but a thief steals the work of your hands, the sweat of your
brow, your time ... Ugh, it's nasty! One can't speak of it! it's too
vexing. How is it you don't feel the loss of your property, sir?"

"Yes, you are right, Astafy Ivanovitch, better if the thing had been
burnt; it's annoying to let the thief have it, it's disagreeable."

"Disagreeable! I should think so! Yet, to be sure, there are thieves and
thieves. And I have happened, sir, to come across an honest thief."

"An honest thief? But how can a thief be honest, Astafy Ivanovitch?"

"There you are right indeed, sir. How can a thief be honest? There are none
such. I only meant to say that he was an honest man, sure enough, and yet
he stole. I was simply sorry for him."

"Why, how was that, Astafy Ivanovitch?"

"It was about two years ago, sir. I had been nearly a year out of a place,
and just before I lost my place I made the acquaintance of a poor lost
creature. We got acquainted in a public-house. He was a drunkard, a
vagrant, a beggar, he had been in a situation of some sort, but from his
drinking habits he had lost his work. Such a ne'er-do-weel! God only knows
what he had on! Often you wouldn't be sure if he'd a shirt under his coat;
everything he could lay his hands upon he would drink away. But he was not
one to quarrel; he was a quiet fellow. A soft, good-natured chap. And he'd
never ask, he was ashamed; but you could see for yourself the poor fellow
wanted a drink, and you would stand it him. And so we got friendly, that's
to say, he stuck to me.... It was all one to me. And what a man he was, to
be sure! Like a little dog he would follow me; wherever I went there he
would be; and all that after our first meeting, and he as thin as a
thread-paper! At first it was 'let me stay the night'; well, I let him

"I looked at his passport, too; the man was all right.

"Well, the next day it was the same story, and then the third day he came
again and sat all day in the window and stayed the night. Well, thinks I,
he is sticking to me; give him food and drink and shelter at night,
too--here am I, a poor man, and a hanger-on to keep as well! And before he
came to me, he used to go in the same way to a government clerk's; he
attached himself to him; they were always drinking together; but he,
through trouble of some sort, drank himself into the grave. My man was
called Emelyan Ilyitch. I pondered and pondered what I was to do with him.
To drive him away I was ashamed. I was sorry for him; such a pitiful,
God-forsaken creature I never did set eyes on. And not a word said either;
he does not ask, but just sits there and looks into your eyes like a dog.
To think what drinking will bring a man down to!

"I keep asking myself how am I to say to him: 'You must be moving,
Emelyanoushka, there's nothing for you here, you've come to the wrong
place; I shall soon not have a bite for myself, how am I to keep you too?'

"I sat and wondered what he'd do when I said that to him. And I seemed to
see how he'd stare at me, if he were to hear me say that, how long he would
sit and not understand a word of it. And when it did get home to him at
last, how he would get up from the window, would take up his bundle--I can
see it now, the red-check handkerchief full of holes, with God knows what
wrapped up in it, which he had always with him, and then how he would set
his shabby old coat to rights, so that it would look decent and keep him
warm, so that no holes would be seen--he was a man of delicate feelings!
And how he'd open the door and go out with tears in his eyes. Well, there's
no letting a man go to ruin like that.... One's sorry for him.

"And then again, I think, how am I off myself? Wait a bit, Emelyanoushka,
says I to myself, you've not long to feast with me: I shall soon be going
away and then you will not find me.

"Well, sir, our family made a move; and Alexandr Filimonovitch, my master
(now deceased, God rest his soul), said, 'I am thoroughly satisfied with
you, Astafy Ivanovitch; when we come back from the country we will take
you on again.' I had been butler with them; a nice gentleman he was, but he
died that same year. Well, after seeing him off, I took my belongings, what
little money I had, and I thought I'd have a rest for a time, so I went to
an old woman I knew, and I took a corner in her room. There was only one
corner free in it. She had been a nurse, so now she had a pension and a
room of her own. Well, now good-bye, Emelyanoushka, thinks I, you won't
find me now, my boy.

"And what do you think, sir? I had gone out to see a man I knew, and when I
came back in the evening, the first thing I saw was Emelyanoushka! There he
was, sitting on my box and his check bundle beside him; he was sitting in
his ragged old coat, waiting for me. And to while away the time he had
borrowed a church book from the old lady, and was holding it wrong side
upwards. He'd scented me out! My heart sank. Well, thinks I, there's no
help for it--why didn't I turn him out at first? So I asked him straight
off: Have you brought your passport, Emelyanoushka?'

"I sat down on the spot, sir, and began to ponder: will a vagabond like
that be very much trouble to me? And on thinking it over it seemed he would
not be much trouble. He must be fed, I thought. Well, a bit of bread in the
morning, and to make it go down better I'll buy him an onion. At midday I
should have to give him another bit of bread and an onion; and in the
evening, onion again with kvass, with some more bread if he wanted it. And
if some cabbage soup were to come our way, then we should both have had our
fill. I am no great eater myself, and a drinking man, as we all know, never
eats; all he wants is herb-brandy or green vodka. He'll ruin me with his
drinking, I thought, but then another idea came into my head, sir, and took
great hold on me. So much so that if Emelyanoushka had gone away I should
have felt that I had nothing to live for, I do believe.... I determined on
the spot to be a father and guardian to him. I'll keep him from ruin, I
thought, I'll wean him from the glass! You wait a bit, thought I; very
well, Emelyanoushka, you may stay, only you must behave yourself; you must
obey orders.

"Well, thinks I to myself, I'll begin by training him to work of some sort,
but not all at once; let him enjoy himself a little first, and I'll look
round and find something you are fit for, Emelyanoushka. For every sort of
work a man needs a special ability, you know, sir. And I began to watch him
on the quiet; I soon saw Emelyanoushka was a desperate character. I began,
sir, with a word of advice: I said this and that to him. 'Emelyanoushka,'
said I, 'you ought to take a thought and mend your ways. Have done with
drinking! Just look what rags you go about in: that old coat of yours, if I
may make bold to say so, is fit for nothing but a sieve. A pretty state of
things! It's time to draw the line, sure enough.' Emelyanoushka sat and
listened to me with his head hanging down. Would you believe it, sir? It
had come to such a pass with him, he'd lost his tongue through drink and
could not speak a word of sense. Talk to him of cucumbers and he'd answer
back about beans! He would listen and listen to me and then heave such a
sigh. 'What are you sighing for, Emelyan Ilyitch?' I asked him.

"'Oh, nothing; don't you mind me, Astafy Ivanovitch. Do you know there were
two women fighting in the street to-day, Astafy Ivanovitch? One upset the
other woman's basket of cranberries by accident.'

"'Well, what of that?'

"'And the second one upset the other's cranberries on purpose and trampled
them under foot, too.'

"'Well, and what of it, Emelyan Ilyitch?'

"'Why, nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch, I just mentioned it.'

"'"Nothing, I just mentioned it!" Emelyanoushka, my boy, I thought, you've
squandered and drunk away your brains!'

"'And do you know, a gentleman dropped a money-note on the pavement in
Gorohovy Street, no, it was Sadovy Street. And a peasant saw it and said,
"That's my luck"; and at the same time another man saw it and said, "No,
it's my bit of luck. I saw it before you did."'

"'Well, Emelyan Ilyitch?'

"'And the fellows had a fight over it, Astafy Ivanovitch. But a policeman
came up, took away the note, gave it back to the gentleman and threatened
to take up both the men.'

"'Well, but what of that? What is there edifying about it, Emelyanoushka?'

"'Why, nothing, to be sure. Folks laughed, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'Ach, Emelyanoushka! What do the folks matter? You've sold your soul for a
brass farthing! But do you know what I have to tell you, Emelyan Ilyitch?'

"'What, Astafy Ivanovitch?'

"'Take a job of some sort, that's what you must do. For the hundredth time
I say to you, set to work, have some mercy on yourself!'

"'What could I set to, Astafy Ivanovitch? I don't know what job I could set
to, and there is no one who will take me on, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'That's how you came to be turned off, Emelyanoushka, you drinking man!'

"'And do you know Vlass, the waiter, was sent for to the office to-day,
Astafy Ivanovitch?'

"'Why did they send for him, Emelyanoushka?' I asked.

"'I could not say why, Astafy Ivanovitch. I suppose they wanted him there,
and that's why they sent for him.'

"A-ach, thought I, we are in a bad way, poor Emelyanoushka! The Lord is
chastising us for our sins. Well, sir, what is one to do with such a man?

"But a cunning fellow he was, and no mistake. He'd listen and listen to me,
but at last I suppose he got sick of it. As soon as he sees I am beginning
to get angry, he'd pick up his old coat and out he'd slip and leave no
trace. He'd wander about all day and come back at night drunk. Where he got
the money from, the Lord only knows; I had no hand in that.

"'No,' said I, 'Emelyan Ilyitch, you'll come to a bad end. Give over
drinking, mind what I say now, give it up! Next time you come home in
liquor, you can spend the night on the stairs. I won't let you in!'

"After hearing that threat, Emelyanoushka sat at home that day and the
next; but on the third he slipped off again. I waited and waited; he didn't
come back. Well, at least I don't mind owning, I was in a fright, and I
felt for the man too. What have I done to him? I thought. I've scared him
away. Where's the poor fellow gone to now? He'll get lost maybe. Lord have
mercy upon us!

"Night came on, he did not come. In the morning I went out into the porch;
I looked, and if he hadn't gone to sleep in the porch! There he was with
his head on the step, and chilled to the marrow of his bones.

"'What next, Emelyanoushka, God have mercy on you! Where will you get to

"'Why, you were--sort of--angry with me, Astafy Ivanovitch, the other day,
you were vexed and promised to put me to sleep in the porch, so I
didn't--sort of--venture to come in, Astafy Ivanovitch, and so I lay down

"I did feel angry and sorry too.

"'Surely you might undertake some other duty, Emelyanoushka, instead of
lying here guarding the steps,' I said.

"'Why, what other duty, Astafy Ivanovitch?'

"'You lost soul'--I was in such a rage, I called him that--'if you could
but learn tailoring work! Look at your old rag of a coat! It's not enough
to have it in tatters, here you are sweeping the steps with it! You might
take a needle and boggle up your rags, as decency demands. Ah, you drunken

"What do you think, sir? He actually did take a needle. Of course I said it
in jest, but he was so scared he set to work. He took off his coat and
began threading the needle. I watched him; as you may well guess, his eyes
were all red and bleary, and his hands were all of a shake. He kept shoving
and shoving the thread and could not get it through the eye of the needle;
he kept screwing his eyes up and wetting the thread and twisting it in his
fingers--it was no good! He gave it up and looked at me.

"'Well,' said I, 'this is a nice way to treat me! If there had been folks
by to see, I don't know what I should have done! Why, you simple fellow, I
said it you in joke, as a reproach. Give over your nonsense, God bless you!
Sit quiet and don't put me to shame, don't sleep on my stairs and make a
laughing-stock of me.'

"'Why, what am I to do, Astafy Ivanovitch? I know very well I am a
drunkard and good for nothing! I can do nothing but vex you, my

"And at that his blue lips began all of a sudden to quiver, and a tear ran
down his white cheek and trembled on his stubbly chin, and then poor
Emelyanoushka burst into a regular flood of tears. Mercy on us! I felt as
though a knife were thrust into my heart! The sensitive creature! I'd never
have expected it. Who could have guessed it? No, Emelyanoushka, thought I,
I shall give you up altogether. You can go your way like the rubbish you

"Well, sir, why make a long story of it? And the whole affair is so
trifling; it's not worth wasting words upon. Why, you, for instance, sir,
would not have given a thought to it, but I would have given a great
deal--if I had a great deal to give--that it never should have happened at

"I had a pair of riding breeches by me, sir, deuce take them, fine,
first-rate riding breeches they were too, blue with a check on it. They'd
been ordered by a gentleman from the country, but he would not have them
after all; said they were not full enough, so they were left on my hands.
It struck me they were worth something. At the second-hand dealer's I ought
to get five silver roubles for them, or if not I could turn them into two
pairs of trousers for Petersburg gentlemen and have a piece over for a
waistcoat for myself. Of course for poor people like us everything comes
in. And it happened just then that Emelyanoushka was having a sad time of
it. There he sat day after day: he did not drink, not a drop passed his
lips, but he sat and moped like an owl. It was sad to see him--he just sat
and brooded. Well, thought I, either you've not got a copper to spend, my
lad, or else you're turning over a new leaf of yourself, you've given it
up, you've listened to reason. Well, sir, that's how it was with us; and
just then came a holiday. I went to vespers; when I came home I found
Emelyanoushka sitting in the window, drunk and rocking to and fro.

"Ah! so that's what you've been up to, my lad! And I went to get something
out of my chest. And when I looked in, the breeches were not there.... I
rummaged here and there; they'd vanished. When I'd ransacked everywhere and
saw they were not there, something seemed to stab me to the heart. I ran
first to the old dame and began accusing her; of Emelyanoushka I'd not the
faintest suspicion, though there was cause for it in his sitting there

"'No,' said the old body, 'God be with you, my fine gentleman, what good
are riding breeches to me? Am I going to wear such things? Why, a skirt I
had I lost the other day through a fellow of your sort ... I know nothing;
I can tell you nothing about it,' she said.

"'Who has been here, who has been in?' I asked.

"'Why, nobody has been, my good sir,' says she; 'I've been here all the
while; Emelyan Ilyitch went out and came back again; there he sits, ask

"'Emelyanoushka,' said I, 'have you taken those new riding breeches for
anything; you remember the pair I made for that gentleman from the

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch,' said he; 'I've not--sort of--touched them.'

"I was in a state! I hunted high and low for them--they were nowhere to be
found. And Emelyanoushka sits there rocking himself to and fro. I was
squatting on my heels facing him and bending over the chest, and all at
once I stole a glance at him.... Alack, I thought; my heart suddenly grew
hot within me and I felt myself flushing up too. And suddenly Emelyanoushka
looked at me.

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch,' said he, 'those riding breeches of yours, maybe,
you are thinking, maybe, I took them, but I never touched them.'

"'But what can have become of them, Emelyan Ilyitch?'

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch,' said he, 'I've never seen them.'

"'Why, Emelyan Ilyitch, I suppose they've run off of themselves, eh?'

"'Maybe they have, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"When I heard him say that, I got up at once, went up to him, lighted the
lamp and sat down to work to my sewing. I was altering a waistcoat for a
clerk who lived below us. And wasn't there a burning pain and ache in my
breast! I shouldn't have minded so much if I had put all the clothes I had
in the fire. Emelyanoushka seemed to have an inkling of what a rage I was
in. When a man is guilty, you know, sir, he scents trouble far off, like
the birds of the air before a storm.

"'Do you know what, Astafy Ivanovitch,' Emelyanoushka began, and his poor
old voice was shaking as he said the words, 'Antip Prohoritch, the
apothecary, married the coachman's wife this morning, who died the other

"I did give him a look, sir, a nasty look it was; Emelyanoushka understood
it too. I saw him get up, go to the bed, and begin to rummage there for
something. I waited--he was busy there a long time and kept muttering all
the while, 'No, not there, where can the blessed things have got to!' I
waited to see what he'd do; I saw him creep under the bed on all fours. I
couldn't bear it any longer. 'What are you crawling about under the bed
for, Emelyan Ilyitch?' said I.

"'Looking for the breeches, Astafy Ivanovitch. Maybe they've dropped down
there somewhere.'

"'Why should you try to help a poor simple man like me,' said I, 'crawling
on your knees for nothing, sir?'--I called him that in my vexation.

"'Oh, never mind, Astafy Ivanovitch, I'll just look. They'll turn up,
maybe, somewhere.'

"'H'm,' said I, 'look here, Emelyan Ilyitch!'

"'What is it, Astafy Ivanovitch?' said he.

"'Haven't you simply stolen them from me like a thief and a robber, in
return for the bread and salt you've eaten here?' said I.

"I felt so angry, sir, at seeing him fooling about on his knees before me.

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"And he stayed lying as he was on his face under the bed. A long time he
lay there and then at last crept out. I looked at him and the man was as
white as a sheet. He stood up, and sat down near me in the window and sat
so for some ten minutes.

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch,' he said, and all at once he stood up and came
towards me, and I can see him now; he looked dreadful. 'No, Astafy
Ivanovitch,' said he, 'I never--sort of--touched your breeches.'

"He was all of a shake, poking himself in the chest with a trembling
finger, and his poor old voice shook so that I was frightened, sir, and sat
as though I was rooted to the window-seat.

"'Well, Emelyan Ilyitch,' said I, 'as you will, forgive me if I, in my
foolishness, have accused you unjustly. As for the breeches, let them go
hang; we can live without them. We've still our hands, thank God; we need
not go thieving or begging from some other poor man; we'll earn our bread.'

"Emelyanoushka heard me out and went on standing there before me. I looked
up, and he had sat down. And there he sat all the evening without stirring.
At last I lay down to sleep. Emelyanoushka went on sitting in the same
place. When I looked out in the morning, he was lying curled up in his old
coat on the bare floor; he felt too crushed even to come to bed. Well, sir,
I felt no more liking for the fellow from that day, in fact for the first
few days I hated him. I felt as one may say as though my own son had robbed
me, and done me a deadly hurt. Ach, thought I, Emelyanoushka,
Emelyanoushka! And Emelyanoushka, sir, went on drinking for a whole
fortnight without stopping. He was drunk all the time, and regularly
besotted. He went out in the morning and came back late at night, and for a
whole fortnight I didn't get a word out of him. It was as though grief was
gnawing at his heart, or as though he wanted to do for himself completely.
At last he stopped; he must have come to the end of all he'd got, and then
he sat in the window again. I remember he sat there without speaking for
three days and three nights; all of a sudden I saw that he was crying. He
was just sitting there, sir, and crying like anything; a perfect stream, as
though he didn't know how his tears were flowing. And it's a sad thing,
sir, to see a grown-up man and an old man, too, crying from woe and grief.

"'What's the matter, Emelyanoushka?' said I.

"He began to tremble so that he shook all over. I spoke to him for the
first time since that evening.

"'Nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'God be with you, Emelyanoushka, what's lost is lost. Why are you moping
about like this?' I felt sorry for him.

"'Oh, nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch, it's no matter. I want to find some work
to do, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'And what sort of work, pray, Emelyanoushka?'

"'Why, any sort; perhaps I could find a situation such as I used to have.
I've been already to ask Fedosay Ivanitch. I don't like to be a burden on
you, Astafy Ivanovitch. If I can find a situation, Astafy Ivanovitch, then
I'll pay it you all back, and make you a return for all your hospitality.'

"'Enough, Emelyanoushka, enough; let bygones be bygones--and no more to be
said about it. Let us go on as we used to do before.'

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch, you, maybe, think--but I never touched your riding

"'Well, have it your own way; God be with you, Emelyanoushka.'

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch, I can't go on living with you, that's clear. You
must excuse me, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'Why, God bless you, Emelyan Ilyitch, who's offending you and driving you
out of the place--am I doing it?'

"'No, it's not the proper thing for me to live with you like this, Astafy
Ivanovitch. I'd better be going.'

"He was so hurt, it seemed, he stuck to his point. I looked at him, and
sure enough, up he got and pulled his old coat over his shoulders.

"'But where are you going, Emelyan Ilyitch? Listen to reason: what are you
about? Where are you off to?'

"'No, good-bye, Astafy Ivanovitch, don't keep me now'--and he was
blubbering again--'I'd better be going. You're not the same now.'

"'Not the same as what? I am the same. But you'll be lost by yourself like
a poor helpless babe, Emelyan Ilyitch.'

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch, when you go out now, you lock up your chest and it
makes me cry to see it, Astafy Ivanovitch. You'd better let me go, Astafy
Ivanovitch, and forgive me all the trouble I've given you while I've been
living with you.'

"Well, sir, the man went away. I waited for a day; I expected he'd be back
in the evening--no. Next day no sign of him, nor the third day either. I
began to get frightened; I was so worried, I couldn't drink, I couldn't
eat, I couldn't sleep. The fellow had quite disarmed me. On the fourth day
I went out to look for him; I peeped into all the taverns, to inquire for
him--but no, Emelyanoushka was lost. 'Have you managed to keep yourself
alive, Emelyanoushka?' I wondered. 'Perhaps he is lying dead under some
hedge, poor drunkard, like a sodden log.' I went home more dead than alive.
Next day I went out to look for him again. And I kept cursing myself that
I'd been such a fool as to let the man go off by himself. On the fifth day
it was a holiday--in the early morning I heard the door creak. I looked up
and there was my Emelyanoushka coming in. His face was blue and his hair
was covered with dirt as though he'd been sleeping in the street; he was as
thin as a match. He took off his old coat, sat down on the chest and looked
at me. I was delighted to see him, but I felt more upset about him than
ever. For you see, sir, if I'd been overtaken in some sin, as true as I am
here, sir, I'd have died like a dog before I'd have come back. But
Emelyanoushka did come back. And a sad thing it was, sure enough, to see a
man sunk so low. I began to look after him, to talk kindly to him, to
comfort him.

"'Well, Emelyanoushka,' said I, 'I am glad you've come back. Had you been
away much longer I should have gone to look for you in the taverns again
to-day. Are you hungry?'

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'Come, now, aren't you really? Here, brother, is some cabbage soup left
over from yesterday; there was meat in it; it is good stuff. And here is
some bread and onion. Come, eat it, it'll do you no harm.'

"I made him eat it, and I saw at once that the man had not tasted food for
maybe three days--he was as hungry as a wolf. So it was hunger that had
driven him to me. My heart was melted looking at the poor dear. 'Let me run
to the tavern,' thought I, 'I'll get something to ease his heart, and then
we'll make an end of it. I've no more anger in my heart against you,
Emelyanoushka!' I brought him some vodka. 'Here, Emelyan Ilyitch, let us
have a drink for the holiday. Like a drink? And it will do you good.' He
held out his hand, held it out greedily; he was just taking it, and then he
stopped himself. But a minute after I saw him take it, and lift it to his
mouth, spilling it on his sleeve. But though he got it to his lips he set
it down on the table again.

"'What is it, Emelyanoushka?'

"'Nothing, Astafy Ivanovitch, I--sort of----'

"'Won't you drink it?'

"'Well, Astafy Ivanovitch, I'm not--sort of--going to drink any more,
Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'Do you mean you've given it up altogether, Emelyanoushka, or are you only
not going to drink to-day?'

"He did not answer. A minute later I saw him rest his head on his hand.

"'What's the matter, Emelyanoushka, are you ill?'

"'Why, yes, Astafy Ivanovitch, I don't feel well.'

"I took him and laid him down on the bed. I saw that he really was ill: his
head was burning hot and he was shivering with fever. I sat by him all day;
towards night he was worse. I mixed him some oil and onion and kvass and
bread broken up.

"'Come, eat some of this,' said I, 'and perhaps you'll be better.' He shook
his head. 'No,' said he, 'I won't have any dinner to-day, Astafy

"I made some tea for him, I quite flustered our old woman--he was no
better. Well, thinks I, it's a bad look-out! The third morning I went for a
medical gentleman. There was one I knew living close by, Kostopravov by
name. I'd made his acquaintance when I was in service with the
Bosomyagins; he'd attended me. The doctor come and looked at him. 'He's in
a bad way,' said he, 'it was no use sending for me. But if you like I can
give him a powder.' Well, I didn't give him a powder, I thought that's just
the doctor's little game; and then the fifth day came.

"He lay, sir, dying before my eyes. I sat in the window with my work in my
hands. The old woman was heating the stove. We were all silent. My heart
was simply breaking over him, the good-for-nothing fellow; I felt as if it
were a son of my own I was losing. I knew that Emelyanoushka was looking at
me. I'd seen the man all the day long making up his mind to say something
and not daring to.

"At last I looked up at him; I saw such misery in the poor fellow's eyes.
He had kept them fixed on me, but when he saw that I was looking at him, he
looked down at once.

"'Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'What is it, Emelyanoushka?'

"'If you were to take my old coat to a second-hand dealer's, how much do
you think they'd give you for it, Astafy Ivanovitch?'

"'There's no knowing how much they'd give. Maybe they would give me a
rouble for it, Emelyan Ilyitch.'

"But if I had taken it they wouldn't have given a farthing for it, but
would have laughed in my face for bringing such a trumpery thing. I simply
said that to comfort the poor fellow, knowing the simpleton he was.

"'But I was thinking, Astafy Ivanovitch, they might give you three roubles
for it; it's made of cloth, Astafy Ivanovitch. How could they only give one
rouble for a cloth coat?'

"'I don't know, Emelyan Ilyitch,' said I, 'if you are thinking of taking it
you should certainly ask three roubles to begin with.'

"Emelyanoushka was silent for a time, and then he addressed me again--

"'Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"'What is it, Emelyanoushka?' I asked.

"'Sell my coat when I die, and don't bury me in it. I can lie as well
without it; and it's a thing of some value--it might come in useful.'

"I can't tell you how it made my heart ache to hear him. I saw that the
death agony was coming on him. We were silent again for a bit. So an hour
passed by. I looked at him again: he was still staring at me, and when he
met my eyes he looked down again.

"'Do you want some water to drink, Emelyan Ilyitch?' I asked.

"'Give me some, God bless you, Astafy Ivanovitch.'

"I gave him a drink.

"'Thank you, Astafy Ivanovitch,' said he.

"'Is there anything else you would like, Emelyanoushka?'

"'No, Astafy Ivanovitch, there's nothing I want, but I--sort of----'


"'I only----'

"'What is it, Emelyanoushka?'

"'Those riding breeches----it was----sort of----I who took them----Astafy

"'Well, God forgive you, Emelyanoushka,' said I, 'you poor, sorrowful
creature. Depart in peace.'

"And I was choking myself, sir, and the tears were in my eyes. I turned
aside for a moment.

"'Astafy Ivanovitch----'

"I saw Emelyanoushka wanted to tell me something; he was trying to sit up,
trying to speak, and mumbling something. He flushed red all over suddenly,
looked at me ... then I saw him turn white again, whiter and whiter, and he
seemed to sink away all in a minute. His head fell back, he drew one breath
and gave up his soul to God." 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Free Book Promotion: "Icarus, Liriche" (Italian Edition) Starts: November 11, 2016 Ends: November 13, 2016

Free Book Promotion: "Icarus, Liriche" (Italian Edition) Starts: November 11, 2016 Ends: November 13, 2016

Sospese in eterea precarietà fra cielo e mare, e negra terra, le liriche di Icarus tratteggiano linee spezzate di orizzonti purpurei e infuocati.
Trentotto poesie di nitida bellezza, fra le quali alcune in portoghese, francese ed inglese, con relative traduzioni a cura dell'autore stesso.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Hop-Frog" by Edgar Allan Poe, Full Text. "Hop-Frog", a Short Story.

Hop-Frog, Trippetta, the king and his councilors, 1935 illustration by Arthur Rackham


by Edgar Allan Poe, (published in 1845)

    I NEVER knew anyone so keenly alive to a joke as the king was. He seemed to live only for joking. To tell a good story of the joke kind, and to tell it well, was the surest road to his favor. Thus it happened that his seven ministers were all noted for their accomplishments as jokers. They all took after the king, too, in being large, corpulent, oily men, as well as inimitable jokers. Whether people grow fat by joking, or whether there is something in fat itself which predisposes to a joke, I have never been quite able to determine; but certain it is that a lean joker is a rara avis in terris.

About the refinements, or, as he called them, the 'ghost' of wit, the king troubled himself very little. He had an especial admiration for breadth in a jest, and would often put up with length, for the sake of it. Over-niceties wearied him. He would have preferred Rabelais' 'Gargantua' to the 'Zadig' of Voltaire: and, upon the whole, practical jokes suited his taste far better than verbal ones.

At the date of my narrative, professing jesters had not altogether gone out of fashion at court. Several of the great continental 'powers' still retain their 'fools,' who wore motley, with caps and bells, and who were expected to be always ready with sharp witticisms, at a moment's notice, in consideration of the crumbs that fell from the royal table.

Our king, as a matter of course, retained his 'fool.' The fact is, he required something in the way of folly -- if only to counterbalance the heavy wisdom of the seven wise men who were his ministers -- not to mention himself.

His fool, or professional jester, was not only a fool, however. His value was trebled in the eyes of the king, by the fact of his being also a dwarf and a cripple. Dwarfs were as common at court, in those days, as fools; and many monarchs would have found it difficult to get through their days (days are rather longer at court than elsewhere) without both a jester to laugh with, and a dwarf to laugh at. But, as I have already observed, your jesters, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, are fat, round, and unwieldy -- so that it was no small source of self-gratulation with our king that, in Hop-Frog (this was the fool's name), he possessed a triplicate treasure in one person.

I believe the name 'Hop-Frog' was not that given to the dwarf by his sponsors at baptism, but it was conferred upon him, by general consent of the several ministers, on account of his inability to walk as other men do. In fact, Hop-Frog could only get along by a sort of interjectional gait -- something between a leap and a wriggle -- a movement that afforded illimitable amusement, and of course consolation, to the king, for (notwithstanding the protuberance of his stomach and a constitutional swelling of the head) the king, by his whole court, was accounted a capital figure.

But although Hop-Frog, through the distortion of his legs, could move only with great pain and difficulty along a road or floor, the prodigious muscular power which nature seemed to have bestowed upon his arms, by way of compensation for deficiency in the lower limbs, enabled him to perform many feats of wonderful dexterity, where trees or ropes were in question, or any thing else to climb. At such exercises he certainly much more resembled a squirrel, or a small monkey, than a frog.

I am not able to say, with precision, from what country Hop-Frog originally came. It was from some barbarous region, however, that no person ever heard of -- a vast distance from the court of our king. Hop-Frog, and a young girl very little less dwarfish than himself (although of exquisite proportions, and a marvellous dancer), had been forcibly carried off from their respective homes in adjoining provinces, and sent as presents to the king, by one of his ever-victorious generals.

Under these circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that a close intimacy arose between the two little captives. Indeed, they soon became sworn friends. Hop-Frog, who, although he made a great deal of sport, was by no means popular, had it not in his power to render Trippetta many services; but she, on account of her grace and exquisite beauty (although a dwarf), was universally admired and petted; so she possessed much influence; and never failed to use it, whenever she could, for the benefit of Hop-Frog.

On some grand state occasion -- I forgot what -- the king determined to have a masquerade, and whenever a masquerade or any thing of that kind, occurred at our court, then the talents, both of Hop-Frog and Trippetta were sure to be called into play. Hop-Frog, in especial, was so inventive in the way of getting up pageants, suggesting novel characters, and arranging costumes, for masked balls, that nothing could be done, it seems, without his assistance.

The night appointed for the fete had arrived. A gorgeous hall had been fitted up, under Trippetta's eye, with every kind of device which could possibly give eclat to a masquerade. The whole court was in a fever of expectation. As for costumes and characters, it might well be supposed that everybody had come to a decision on such points. Many had made up their minds (as to what roles they should assume) a week, or even a month, in advance; and, in fact, there was not a particle of indecision anywhere -- except in the case of the king and his seven minsters. Why they hesitated I never could tell, unless they did it by way of a joke. More probably, they found it difficult, on account of being so fat, to make up their minds. At all events, time flew; and, as a last resort they sent for Trippetta and Hop-Frog.

When the two little friends obeyed the summons of the king they found him sitting at his wine with the seven members of his cabinet council; but the monarch appeared to be in a very ill humor. He knew that Hop-Frog was not fond of wine, for it excited the poor cripple almost to madness; and madness is no comfortable feeling. But the king loved his practical jokes, and took pleasure in forcing Hop-Frog to drink and (as the king called it) 'to be merry.'

"Come here, Hop-Frog," said he, as the jester and his friend entered the room; "swallow this bumper to the health of your absent friends, [here Hop-Frog sighed,] and then let us have the benefit of your invention. We want characters -- characters, man -- something novel -- out of the way. We are wearied with this everlasting sameness. Come, drink! the wine will brighten your wits."

Hop-Frog endeavored, as usual, to get up a jest in reply to these advances from the king; but the effort was too much. It happened to be the poor dwarf's birthday, and the command to drink to his 'absent friends' forced the tears to his eyes. Many large, bitter drops fell into the goblet as he took it, humbly, from the hand of the tyrant.

"Ah! ha! ha!" roared the latter, as the dwarf reluctantly drained the beaker. -- "See what a glass of good wine can do! Why, your eyes are shining already!"

Poor fellow! his large eyes gleamed, rather than shone; for the effect of wine on his excitable brain was not more powerful than instantaneous. He placed the goblet nervously on the table, and looked round upon the company with a half -- insane stare. They all seemed highly amused at the success of the king's 'joke.'

"And now to business," said the prime minister, a very fat man.

"Yes," said the King; "Come lend us your assistance. Characters, my fine fellow; we stand in need of characters -- all of us -- ha! ha! ha!" and as this was seriously meant for a joke, his laugh was chorused by the seven.

Hop-Frog also laughed although feebly and somewhat vacantly.

"Come, come," said the king, impatiently, "have you nothing to suggest?"

"I am endeavoring to think of something novel," replied the dwarf, abstractedly, for he was quite bewildered by the wine.

"Endeavoring!" cried the tyrant, fiercely; "what do you mean by that? Ah, I perceive. You are Sulky, and want more wine. Here, drink this!" and he poured out another goblet full and offered it to the cripple, who merely gazed at it, gasping for breath.

"Drink, I say!" shouted the monster, "or by the fiends-"

The dwarf hesitated. The king grew purple with rage. The courtiers smirked. Trippetta, pale as a corpse, advanced to the monarch's seat, and, falling on her knees before him, implored him to spare her friend.

The tyrant regarded her, for some moments, in evident wonder at her audacity. He seemed quite at a loss what to do or say -- how most becomingly to express his indignation. At last, without uttering a syllable, he pushed her violently from him, and threw the contents of the brimming goblet in her face.

The poor girl got up the best she could, and, not daring even to sigh, resumed her position at the foot of the table.

There was a dead silence for about half a minute, during which the falling of a leaf, or of a feather, might have been heard. It was interrupted by a low, but harsh and protracted grating sound which seemed to come at once from every corner of the room.

"What -- what -- what are you making that noise for?" demanded the king, turning furiously to the dwarf.

The latter seemed to have recovered, in great measure, from his intoxication, and looking fixedly but quietly into the tyrant's face, merely ejaculated:

"I -- I? How could it have been me?"

"The sound appeared to come from without," observed one of the courtiers. "I fancy it was the parrot at the window, whetting his bill upon his cage-wires."

"True," replied the monarch, as if much relieved by the suggestion; "but, on the honor of a knight, I could have sworn that it was the gritting of this vagabond's teeth."

Hereupon the dwarf laughed (the king was too confirmed a joker to object to any one's laughing), and displayed a set of large, powerful, and very repulsive teeth. Moreover, he avowed his perfect willingness to swallow as much wine as desired. The monarch was pacified; and having drained another bumper with no very perceptible ill effect, Hop-Frog entered at once, and with spirit, into the plans for the masquerade.

"I cannot tell what was the association of idea," observed he, very tranquilly, and as if he had never tasted wine in his life, "but just after your majesty, had struck the girl and thrown the wine in her face -- just after your majesty had done this, and while the parrot was making that odd noise outside the window, there came into my mind a capital diversion -- one of my own country frolics -- often enacted among us, at our masquerades: but here it will be new altogether. Unfortunately, however, it requires a company of eight persons and-"

"Here we are!" cried the king, laughing at his acute discovery of the coincidence; "eight to a fraction -- I and my seven ministers. Come! what is the diversion?"

"We call it," replied the cripple, "the Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs, and it really is excellent sport if well enacted."

"We will enact it," remarked the king, drawing himself up, and lowering his eyelids.

"The beauty of the game," continued Hop-Frog, "lies in the fright it occasions among the women."

"Capital!" roared in chorus the monarch and his ministry.

"I will equip you as ourang-outangs," proceeded the dwarf; "leave all that to me. The resemblance shall be so striking, that the company of masqueraders will take you for real beasts -- and of course, they will be as much terrified as astonished."

"Oh, this is exquisite!" exclaimed the king. "Hop-Frog! I will make a man of you."

"The chains are for the purpose of increasing the confusion by their jangling. You are supposed to have escaped, en masse, from your keepers. Your majesty cannot conceive the effect produced, at a masquerade, by eight chained ourang-outangs, imagined to be real ones by most of the company; and rushing in with savage cries, among the crowd of delicately and gorgeously habited men and women. The contrast is inimitable!"

"It must be," said the king: and the council arose hurriedly (as it was growing late), to put in execution the scheme of Hop-Frog.

His mode of equipping the party as ourang-outangs was very simple, but effective enough for his purposes. The animals in question had, at the epoch of my story, very rarely been seen in any part of the civilized world; and as the imitations made by the dwarf were sufficiently beast-like and more than sufficiently hideous, their truthfulness to nature was thus thought to be secured.

The king and his ministers were first encased in tight-fitting stockinet shirts and drawers. They were then saturated with tar. At this stage of the process, some one of the party suggested feathers; but the suggestion was at once overruled by the dwarf, who soon convinced the eight, by ocular demonstration, that the hair of such a brute as the ourang-outang was much more efficiently represented by flax. A thick coating of the latter was accordingly plastered upon the coating of tar. A long chain was now procured. First, it was passed about the waist of the king, and tied, then about another of the party, and also tied; then about all successively, in the same manner. When this chaining arrangement was complete, and the party stood as far apart from each other as possible, they formed a circle; and to make all things appear natural, Hop-Frog passed the residue of the chain in two diameters, at right angles, across the circle, after the fashion adopted, at the present day, by those who capture Chimpanzees, or other large apes, in Borneo.

The grand saloon in which the masquerade was to take place, was a circular room, very lofty, and receiving the light of the sun only through a single window at top. At night (the season for which the apartment was especially designed) it was illuminated principally by a large chandelier, depending by a chain from the centre of the sky-light, and lowered, or elevated, by means of a counter-balance as usual; but (in order not to look unsightly) this latter passed outside the cupola and over the roof.

The arrangements of the room had been left to Trippetta's superintendence; but, in some particulars, it seems, she had been guided by the calmer judgment of her friend the dwarf. At his suggestion it was that, on this occasion, the chandelier was removed. Its waxen drippings (which, in weather so warm, it was quite impossible to prevent) would have been seriously detrimental to the rich dresses of the guests, who, on account of the crowded state of the saloon, could not all be expected to keep from out its centre; that is to say, from under the chandelier. Additional sconces were set in various parts of the hall, out of the war, and a flambeau, emitting sweet odor, was placed in the right hand of each of the Caryatides that stood against the wall -- some fifty or sixty altogether.

The eight ourang-outangs, taking Hop-Frog's advice, waited patiently until midnight (when the room was thoroughly filled with masqueraders) before making their appearance. No sooner had the clock ceased striking, however, than they rushed, or rather rolled in, all together -- for the impediments of their chains caused most of the party to fall, and all to stumble as they entered.

The excitement among the masqueraders was prodigious, and filled the heart of the king with glee. As had been anticipated, there were not a few of the guests who supposed the ferocious-looking creatures to be beasts of some kind in reality, if not precisely ourang-outangs. Many of the women swooned with affright; and had not the king taken the precaution to exclude all weapons from the saloon, his party might soon have expiated their frolic in their blood. As it was, a general rush was made for the doors; but the king had ordered them to be locked immediately upon his entrance; and, at the dwarf's suggestion, the keys had been deposited with him.

While the tumult was at its height, and each masquerader attentive only to his own safety (for, in fact, there was much real danger from the pressure of the excited crowd), the chain by which the chandelier ordinarily hung, and which had been drawn up on its removal, might have been seen very gradually to descend, until its hooked extremity came within three feet of the floor.

Soon after this, the king and his seven friends having reeled about the hall in all directions, found themselves, at length, in its centre, and, of course, in immediate contact with the chain. While they were thus situated, the dwarf, who had followed noiselessly at their heels, inciting them to keep up the commotion, took hold of their own chain at the intersection of the two portions which crossed the circle diametrically and at right angles. Here, with the rapidity of thought, he inserted the hook from which the chandelier had been wont to depend; and, in an instant, by some unseen agency, the chandelier-chain was drawn so far upward as to take the hook out of reach, and, as an inevitable consequence, to drag the ourang-outangs together in close connection, and face to face.

The masqueraders, by this time, had recovered, in some measure, from their alarm; and, beginning to regard the whole matter as a well-contrived pleasantry, set up a loud shout of laughter at the predicament of the apes.

"Leave them to me!" now screamed Hop-Frog, his shrill voice making itself easily heard through all the din. "Leave them to me. I fancy I know them. If I can only get a good look at them, I can soon tell who they are."

Here, scrambling over the heads of the crowd, he managed to get to the wall; when, seizing a flambeau from one of the Caryatides, he returned, as he went, to the centre of the room-leaping, with the agility of a monkey, upon the kings head, and thence clambered a few feet up the chain; holding down the torch to examine the group of ourang-outangs, and still screaming: "I shall soon find out who they are!"

And now, while the whole assembly (the apes included) were convulsed with laughter, the jester suddenly uttered a shrill whistle; when the chain flew violently up for about thirty feet -- dragging with it the dismayed and struggling ourang-outangs, and leaving them suspended in mid-air between the sky-light and the floor. Hop-Frog, clinging to the chain as it rose, still maintained his relative position in respect to the eight maskers, and still (as if nothing were the matter) continued to thrust his torch down toward them, as though endeavoring to discover who they were.

So thoroughly astonished was the whole company at this ascent, that a dead silence, of about a minute's duration, ensued. It was broken by just such a low, harsh, grating sound, as had before attracted the attention of the king and his councillors when the former threw the wine in the face of Trippetta. But, on the present occasion, there could be no question as to whence the sound issued. It came from the fang-like teeth of the dwarf, who ground them and gnashed them as he foamed at the mouth, and glared, with an expression of maniacal rage, into the upturned countenances of the king and his seven companions.

"Ah, ha!" said at length the infuriated jester. "Ah, ha! I begin to see who these people are now!" Here, pretending to scrutinize the king more closely, he held the flambeau to the flaxen coat which enveloped him, and which instantly burst into a sheet of vivid flame. In less than half a minute the whole eight ourang-outangs were blazing fiercely, amid the shrieks of the multitude who gazed at them from below, horror-stricken, and without the power to render them the slightest assistance.

At length the flames, suddenly increasing in virulence, forced the jester to climb higher up the chain, to be out of their reach; and, as he made this movement, the crowd again sank, for a brief instant, into silence. The dwarf seized his opportunity, and once more spoke:

"I now see distinctly." he said, "what manner of people these maskers are. They are a great king and his seven privy-councillors, -- a king who does not scruple to strike a defenceless girl and his seven councillors who abet him in the outrage. As for myself, I am simply Hop-Frog, the jester -- and this is my last jest."

Owing to the high combustibility of both the flax and the tar to which it adhered, the dwarf had scarcely made an end of his brief speech before the work of vengeance was complete. The eight corpses swung in their chains, a fetid, blackened, hideous, and indistinguishable mass. The cripple hurled his torch at them, clambered leisurely to the ceiling, and disappeared through the sky-light.

It is supposed that Trippetta, stationed on the roof of the saloon, had been the accomplice of her friend in his fiery revenge, and that, together, they effected their escape to their own country: for neither was seen again.