Franz Kafka

Sunday, September 30, 2018

"La tessitrice" (The Weaver Girl) by Giovanni Pascoli. English translation, with original Italian text. "La tessitrice" (The Weaver Girl) from the collection "Canti di Castelvecchio"(1903)

Vincent Van Gogh, Woman Sewing (Etten - Scheveningen, 1881-1882)

The following translation of ""La tessitrice" (The Weaver Girl) by Giovanni Pascoli is from the book "The Poems of Giovanni Pascoli: Translated in English, with Original Italian Text," published by LiteraryJoint Press (2017). Also available as Amazon ebook (Free on Kindle Unlimited!)  and also on Kobo.

The Weaver Girl

I sat on the small bench
as I used many years back?
As she used to, she squeezed up
on the small bench.

And not the sound of a word;
only a smile that was all pity.
The pale hand leaves the spool.

I cry, and say to her: How could I,
my dear sweetness, part from you?
She cries, and says to me with a silent nod:
How could you?

Then, the chamber with a sigh
draws back the silent comb.
The silent spool again and again passes by.

I cry, and ask her: then, why does the
keen comb make no more sound?
Shyly and good-heartedly she stares at me;
Why no more sound, you ask me?

And cries, cries she - Sweet love sweet,
did no one tell you? don't you know?
I'm not alive but in your heart and soul.

Dead! Yes, dead! If I still weave, it is
for you alone; how, I have no clue:
in this cloth, under the cypress,
I’ll finally sleep next to you.

La Tessitrice

Mi son seduto su la panchetta
come una volta... quanti anni fa?
Ella, come una volta, s’è stretta
su la panchetta.

E non il suono d’una parola;
solo un sorriso tutto pietà.
La bianca mano lascia la spola.

Piango, e le dico: Come ho potuto,
dolce mio bene, partir da te?
Piange, e mi dice d’un cenno muto:
Come hai potuto?

Con un sospiro quindi la cassa
tira del muto pettine a sè.
Muta la spola passa e ripassa.

Piango, e le chiedo: Perchè non suona
dunque l’arguto pettine più?
Ella mi fissa timida e buona:
Perchè non suona?

E piange, e piange - Mio dolce amore,
non t’hanno detto? non lo sai tu?
Io non son viva che nel tuo cuore.

Morta! Sì, morta! Se tesso, tesso
per te soltanto; come non so:
in questa tela, sotto il cipresso,
accanto alfine ti dormirò.

From the collection “Canti di Castelvecchio”

Sunday, September 16, 2018

"Lavandare" (Laundresses) by Giovanni Pascoli. English translation, with original Italian text. "Lavandare" (Laundresses) from the collection "Myricae" (1896)

Laundresses by a Stream, about 1885-90, Eugène Boudin

The following translation of "Lavandare" (Laundresses) by Giovanni Pascoli is from the book "The Poems of Giovanni Pascoli: Translated in English, with Original Italian Text," published by LiteraryJoint Press (2017). Also available as Amazon ebook (Free on Kindle Unlimited!)  and also on Kobo.



In the field half black and half gray remains a plow without oxen that seems forgotten, in the steamy air.

As a cadence, from the irrigation ditch comes the washboard's swash of the laundresses with thick splashes and long lullabies:

The wind blows and the leaves fall like snow, and yet you have not returned to your home! since you departed, I have remained so!
like the plow amidst the fallow.


Nel campo mezzo grigio e mezzo nero resta un aratro senza buoi che pare dimenticato, tra il vapor leggero.

E cadenzato dalla gora viene
lo sciabordare delle lavandare
con tonfi spessi e lunghe cantilene:

Il vento soffia e nevica la frasca,
e tu non torni ancora al tuo paese! quando partisti, come son rimasta! come l’aratro in mezzo alla maggese.

From the collection “Myricae” (1891-1900)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

"Knock, Knock, Knock and Other Stories," by Ivan Turgenev (1871). Full text, translated in English by Constance Garnett

Portarait of Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev
Turning from side to side I stretched out my hands ... My finger hit 
one of the beams of the wall. It emitted a faint but resounding, and as 
it were, prolonged note ... I must have struck a hollow place.
I tapped again ... this time on purpose. The same sound was repeated. 
I knocked again ...' 



I will tell you my adventures with a watch. It is a curious story.

It happened at the very beginning of this century, in 1801. I had just
reached my sixteenth year. I was living at Ryazan in a little wooden
house not far from the bank of the river Oka with my father, my aunt
and my cousin; my mother I do not remember; she died three years after
her marriage; my father had no other children. His name was Porfiry
Petrovitch. He was a quiet man, sickly and unattractive in appearance;
he was employed in some sort of legal and--other--business. In old
days such were called attorneys, sharpers, nettle-seeds; he called
himself a lawyer. Our domestic life was presided over by his sister,
my aunt, an old maiden lady of fifty; my father, too, had passed his
fourth decade. My aunt was very pious, or, to speak bluntly, she was a
canting hypocrite and a chattering magpie, who poked her nose into
everything; and, indeed, she had not a kind heart like my father. We
were not badly off, but had nothing to spare. My father had a brother
called Yegor; but he had been sent to Siberia in the year 1797 for
some "seditious acts and Jacobin tendencies" (those were the words of
the accusation).

Yegor's son David, my cousin, was left on my father's hands and lived
with us. He was only one year older than I; but I respected him and
obeyed him as though he were quite grown up. He was a sensible fellow
with character; in appearance, thick-set and broad-shouldered with a
square face covered with freckles, with red hair, small grey eyes,
thick lips, a short nose, and short fingers--a sturdy lad, in
fact--and strong for his age! My aunt could not endure him; my father
was positively afraid of him ... or perhaps he felt himself to blame
towards him. There was a rumour that, if my father had not given his
brother away, David's father would not have been sent to Siberia. We
were both at the high school and in the same class and both fairly
high up in it; I was, indeed, a little better at my lessons than
David. I had a good memory but boys--as we all know!--do not think
much of such superiority, and David remained my leader.


My name--you know--is Alexey. I was born on the seventh of March and
my name-day is the seventeenth. In accordance with the old-fashioned
custom, I was given the name of the saint whose festival fell on the
tenth day after my birth. My godfather was a certain Anastasy
Anastasyevitch Putchkov, or more exactly Nastasey Nastasyeitch, for
that was what everyone called him. He was a terribly shifty,
pettifogging knave and bribe-taker--a thoroughly bad man; he had been
turned out of the provincial treasury and had had to stand his trial
on more than one occasion; he was often of use to my father.... They
used to "do business" together. In appearance he was a round, podgy
figure; and his face was like a fox's with a nose like an owl's. His
eyes were brown, bright, also like a fox's, and he was always moving
them, those eyes, to right and to left, and he twitched his nose, too,
as though he were sniffing the air. He wore shoes without heels, and
wore powder every day, which was looked upon as very exceptional in
the provinces. He used to declare that he could not go without powder
as he had to associate with generals and their ladies. Well, my
name-day had come. Nastasey Nastasyeitch came to the house and said:

"I have never made you a present up to now, godson, but to make up for
that, look what a fine thing I have brought you to-day."

And he took out of his pocket a silver watch, a regular turnip, with a
rose tree engraved on the face and a brass chain. I was overwhelmed
with delight, while my aunt, Pelageya Petrovna, shouted at the top of
her voice:

"Kiss his hand, kiss his hand, dirty brat!"

I proceeded to kiss my godfather's hand, while my aunt went piping on:

"Oh, Nastasey Nastasyeitch! Why do you spoil him like this? How can he
take care of a watch? He will be sure to drop it, break it, or spoil

My father walked in, looked at the watch, thanked Nastasey
Nastasyeitch--somewhat carelessly, and invited him to his study. And I
heard my father say, as though to himself:

"If you think to get off _with that_, my man...." But I could not
stay still. I put on the watch and rushed headlong to show my present
to David.


David took the watch, opened it and examined it attentively. He had
great mechanical ability; he liked having to do with iron, copper, and
metals of all sorts; he had provided himself with various instruments,
and it was nothing for him to mend or even to make a screw, a key or
anything of that kind.

David turned the watch about in his hands and muttering through his
teeth (he was not talkative as a rule):

"Oh ... poor ..." added, "where did you get it?"

I told him that my godfather had given it me.

David turned his little grey eyes upon me:


"Yes, Nastasey Nastasyeitch."

David laid the watch on the table and walked away without a word.

"Do you like it?" I asked.

"Well, it isn't that.... But if I were you, I would not take any sort
of present from Nastasey."


"Because he is a contemptible person; and you ought not to be under an
obligation to a contemptible person. And to say thank you to him, too.
I suppose you kissed his hand?"

"Yes, Aunt made me."

David grinned--a peculiar grin--to himself. That was his way. He never
laughed aloud; he considered laughter a sign of feebleness.

David's words, his silent grin, wounded me deeply. "So he inwardly
despises me," I thought. "So I, too, am contemptible in his eyes. He
would never have stooped to this himself! He would not have accepted
presents from Nastasey. But what am I to do now?"

Give back the watch? Impossible!

I did try to talk to David, to ask his advice. He told me that he
never gave advice to anyone and that I had better do as I thought
best. As I thought best!! I remember I did not sleep all night
afterwards: I was in agonies of indecision. I was sorry to lose the
watch--I had laid it on the little table beside my bed; its ticking
was so pleasant and amusing ... but to feel that David despised me
(yes, it was useless to deceive myself, he did despise me) ... that
seemed to me unbearable. Towards morning a determination had taken
shape in me ... I wept, it is true--but I fell asleep upon it, and as
soon as I woke up, I dressed in haste and ran out into the street. I
had made up my mind to give my watch to the first poor person I met.


I had not run far from home when I hit upon what I was looking for. I
came across a barelegged boy of ten, a ragged urchin, who was often
hanging about near our house. I dashed up to him at once and, without
giving him or myself time to recover, offered him my watch.

The boy stared at me round-eyed, put one hand before his mouth, as
though he were afraid of being scalded--and held out the other.

"Take it, take it," I muttered, "it's mine, I give it you, you can
sell it, and buy yourself ... something you want.... Good-bye."

I thrust the watch into his hand--and went home at a gallop. Stopping
for a moment at the door of our common bedroom to recover my breath, I
went up to David who had just finished dressing and was combing his

"Do you know what, David?" I said in as unconcerned a tone as I could,
"I have given away Nastasey's watch."

David looked at me and passed the brush over his temples.

"Yes," I added in the same businesslike voice, "I have given it away.
There is a very poor boy, a beggar, you know, so I have given it to

David put down the brush on the washing-stand.

"He can buy something useful," I went on, "with the money he can get
for it. Anyway, he will get something for it."

I paused.

"Well," David said at last, "that's a good thing," and he went off to
the schoolroom. I followed him.

"And if they ask you what you have done with it?" he said, turning to

"I shall tell them I've lost it," I answered carelessly.

No more was said about the watch between us that day; but I had the
feeling that David not only approved of what I had done but ... was to
some extent surprised by it. He really was!


Two days more passed. It happened that no one in the house thought of
the watch. My father was taken up with a very serious unpleasantness
with one of his clients; he had no attention to spare for me or my
watch. I, on the other hand, thought of it without ceasing! Even the
approval ... the presumed approval of David did not quite comfort me.
He did not show it in any special way: the only thing he said, and
that casually, was that he hadn't expected such recklessness of me.
Certainly I was a loser by my sacrifice: it was not counter-balanced
by the gratification afforded me by my vanity.

And what is more, as ill-luck would have it, another schoolfellow of
ours, the son of the town doctor, must needs turn up and begin
boasting of a new watch, a present from his grandmother, and not even
a silver, but a pinch-back one....

I could not bear it, at last, and, without a word to anyone, slipped
out of the house and proceeded to hunt for the beggar boy to whom I
had given my watch.

I soon found him; he was playing knucklebones in the churchyard with
some other boys.

I called him aside--and, breathless and stammering, told him that my
family were angry with me for having given away the watch--and that if
he would consent to give it back to me I would gladly pay him for
it.... To be ready for any emergency, I had brought with me an
old-fashioned rouble of the reign of Elizabeth, which represented the
whole of my fortune.

"But I haven't got it, your watch," answered the boy in an angry and
tearful voice; "my father saw it and took it away from me; and he was
for thrashing me, too. 'You must have stolen it from somewhere,' he
said. 'What fool is going to make you a present of a watch?'"

"And who is your father?"

"My father? Trofimitch."

"But what is he? What's his trade?"

"He is an old soldier, a sergeant. And he has no trade at all. He
mends old shoes, he re-soles them. That's all his trade. That's what
he lives by."

"Where do you live? Take me to him."

"To be sure I will. You tell my father that you gave me the watch. For
he keeps pitching into me, and calling me a thief! And my mother, too.
'Who is it you are taking after,' she says, 'to be a thief?'"

I set off with the boy to his home. They lived in a smoky hut in the
back-yard of a factory, which had long ago been burnt down and not
rebuilt. We found both Trofimitch and his wife at home. The discharged
sergeant was a tall old man, erect and sinewy, with yellowish grey
whiskers, an unshaven chin and a perfect network of wrinkles on his
cheeks and forehead. His wife looked older than he. Her red eyes,
which looked buried in her unhealthily puffy face, kept blinking
dejectedly. Some sort of dark rags hung about them by way of clothes.

I explained to Trofimitch what I wanted and why I had come. He
listened to me in silence without once winking or moving from me his
stupid and strained--typically soldierly--eyes.

"Whims and fancies!" he brought out at last in a husky, toothless
bass. "Is that the way gentlemen behave? And if Petka really did not
steal the watch--then I'll give him one for that! To teach him not to
play the fool with little gentlemen! And if he did steal it, then I
would give it to him in a very different style, whack, whack, whack!
With the flat of a sword; in horseguard's fashion! No need to think
twice about it! What's the meaning of it? Eh? Go for them with sabres!
Here's a nice business! Tfoo!"

This last interjection Trofimitch pronounced in a falsetto. He was
obviously perplexed.

"If you are willing to restore the watch to me," I explained to him--I
did not dare to address him familiarly in spite of his being a
soldier--"I will with pleasure pay you this rouble here. The watch is
not worth more, I imagine."

"Well!" growled Trofimitch, still amazed and, from old habit,
devouring me with his eyes as though I were his superior officer.
"It's a queer business, eh? Well, there it is, no understanding it.
Ulyana, hold your tongue!" he snapped out at his wife who was opening
her mouth. "Here's the watch," he added, opening the table drawer; "if
it really is yours, take it by all means; but what's the rouble for?

"Take the rouble, Trofimitch, you senseless man," wailed his wife. "You
have gone crazy in your old age! We have not a half-rouble between us,
and then you stand on your dignity! It was no good their cutting off
your pigtail, you are a regular old woman just the same! How can you
go on like that--when you know nothing about it? ... Take the money,
if you have a fancy to give back the watch!"

"Ulyana, hold your tongue, you dirty slut!" Trofimitch repeated.
"Whoever heard of such a thing, talking away? Eh? The husband is the
head; and yet she talks! Petka, don't budge, I'll kill you.... Here's
the watch!"

Trofimitch held out the watch to me, but did not let go of it.

He pondered, looked down, then fixed the same intent, stupid stare
upon me. Then all at once bawled at the top of his voice:

"Where is it? Where's your rouble?"

"Here it is, here it is," I responded hurriedly and I snatched the
coin out of my pocket.

But he did not take it, he still stared at me. I laid the rouble on
the table. He suddenly brushed it into the drawer, thrust the watch
into my hand and wheeling to the left with a loud stamp, he hissed at
his wife and his son:

"Get along, you low wretches!"

Ulyana muttered something, but I had already dashed out into the yard
and into the street. Thrusting the watch to the very bottom of my
pocket and clutching it tightly in my hand, I hurried home.


I had regained the possession of my watch but it afforded me no
satisfaction whatever. I did not venture to wear it, it was above all
necessary to conceal from David what I had done. What would he think
of me, of my lack of will? I could not even lock up the luckless watch
in a drawer: we had all our drawers in common. I had to hide it,
sometimes on the top of the cupboard, sometimes under my mattress,
sometimes behind the stove.... And yet I did not succeed in
hoodwinking David.

One day I took the watch from under a plank in the floor of our room
and proceeded to rub the silver case with an old chamois leather
glove. David had gone off somewhere in the town; I did not at all
expect him to be back quickly.... Suddenly he was in the doorway.

I was so overcome that I almost dropped the watch, and, utterly
disconcerted, my face painfully flushing crimson, I fell to fumbling
about my waistcoat with it, unable to find my pocket.

David looked at me and, as usual, smiled without speaking.

"What's the matter?" he brought out at last. "You imagined I didn't
know you had your watch again? I saw it the very day you brought it

"I assure you," I began, almost on the point of tears....

David shrugged his shoulders.

"The watch is yours, you are free to do what you like with it."

Saying these cruel words, he went out.

I was overwhelmed with despair. This time there could be no doubt!
David certainly despised me.

I could not leave it so.

"I will show him," I thought, clenching my teeth, and at once with a
firm step I went into the passage, found our page-boy, Yushka, and
presented him with the watch!

Yushka would have refused it, but I declared that if he did not take
the watch from me I would smash it that very minute, trample it under
foot, break it to bits and throw it in the cesspool! He thought a
moment, giggled, and took the watch. I went back to our room and
seeing David reading there, I told him what I had done.

David did not take his eyes off the page and, again shrugging his
shoulder and smiling to himself, repeated that the watch was mine and
that I was free to do what I liked with it.

But it seemed to me that he already despised me a little less.

I was fully persuaded that I should never again expose myself to the
reproach of weakness of character, for the watch, the disgusting
present from my disgusting godfather, had suddenly grown so
distasteful to me that I was quite incapable of understanding how I
could have regretted it, how I could have begged for it back from the
wretched Trofimitch, who had, moreover, the right to think that he had
treated me with generosity.

Several days passed.... I remember that on one of them the great news
reached our town that the Emperor Paul was dead and his son Alexandr,
of whose graciousness and humanity there were such favourable rumours,
had ascended the throne. This news excited David intensely: the
possibility of seeing--of shortly seeing--his father occurred to him
at once. My father was delighted, too.

"They will bring back all the exiles from Siberia now and I expect
brother Yegor will not be forgotten," he kept repeating, rubbing his
hands, coughing and, at the same time, seeming rather nervous.

David and I at once gave up working and going to the high school; we
did not even go for walks but sat in a corner counting and reckoning
in how many months, in how many weeks, in how many days "brother
Yegor" ought to come back and where to write to him and how to go to
meet him and in what way we should begin to live afterwards. "Brother
Yegor" was an architect: David and I decided that he ought to settle
in Moscow and there build big schools for poor people and we would go
to be his assistants. The watch, of course, we had completely
forgotten; besides, David had new cares.... Of them I will speak
later, but the watch was destined to remind us of its existence again.


One morning we had only just finished lunch--I was sitting alone by
the window thinking of my uncle's release--outside there was the steam
and glitter of an April thaw--when all at once my aunt, Pelageya
Petrovna, walked into the room. She was at all times restless and
fidgetty, she spoke in a shrill voice and was always waving her arms
about; on this occasion she simply pounced on me.

"Go along, go to your father at once, sir!" she snapped out. "What
pranks have you been up to, you shameless boy! You will catch it, both
of you. Nastasey Nastasyeitch has shown up all your tricks! Go along,
your father wants you.... Go along this very minute."

Understanding nothing, I followed my aunt, and, as I crossed the
threshold of the drawing-room, I saw my father, striding up and down
and ruffling up his hair, Yushka in tears by the door and, sitting on
a chair in the corner, my godfather, Nastasey Nastasyeitch, with an
expression of peculiar malignancy in his distended nostrils and in his
fiery, slanting eyes.

My father swooped down upon me as soon as I walked in.

"Did you give your watch to Yushka? Tell me!"

I glanced at Yushka.

"Tell me," repeated my father, stamping.

"Yes," I answered, and immediately received a stinging slap in the
face, which afforded my aunt great satisfaction. I heard her gulp, as
though she had swallowed some hot tea. From me my father ran to

"And you, you rascal, ought not to have dared to accept such a
present," he said, pulling him by the hair: "and you sold it, too, you
good-for-nothing boy!"

Yushka, as I learned later had, in the simplicity of his heart, taken
my watch to a neighbouring watchmaker's. The watchmaker had displayed
it in his shop-window; Nastasey Nastasyeitch had seen it, as he passed
by, bought it and brought it along with him.

However, my ordeal and Yushka's did not last long: my father gasped
for breath, and coughed till he choked; indeed, it was not in his
character to be angry long.

"Brother, Porfiry Petrovitch," observed my aunt, as soon as she
noticed not without regret that my father's anger had, so to speak,
flickered out, "don't you worry yourself further: it's not worth
dirtying your hands over. I tell you what I suggest: with the consent
of our honoured friend, Nastasey Nastasyeitch, in consideration of the
base ingratitude of your son--I will take charge of the watch; and
since he has shown by his conduct that he is not worthy to wear it and
does not even understand its value, I will present it in your name to
a person who will be very sensible of your kindness."

"Whom do you mean?" asked my father.

"To Hrisanf Lukitch," my aunt articulated, with slight hesitation.

"To Hrisashka?" asked my father, and with a wave of his hand, he
added: "It's all one to me. You can throw it in the stove, if you

He buttoned up his open vest and went out, writhing from his coughing.

"And you, my good friend, do you agree?" said my aunt, addressing
Nastasey Nastasyeitch.

"I am quite agreeable," responded the latter. During the whole
proceedings he had not stirred and only snorting stealthily and
stealthily rubbing the ends of his fingers, had fixed his foxy eyes by
turns on me, on my father, and on Yushka. We afforded him real

My aunt's suggestion revolted me to the depths of my soul. It was not
that I regretted the watch; but the person to whom she proposed to
present it was absolutely hateful to me. This Hrisanf Lukitch (his
surname was Trankvillitatin), a stalwart, robust, lanky divinity
student, was in the habit of coming to our house--goodness knows what
for!--to help the _children_ with their lessons, my aunt asserted;
but he could not help us with our lessons because he had never
learnt anything himself and was as stupid as a horse. He was
rather like a horse altogether: he thudded with his feet as though
they had been hoofs, did not laugh but neighed, opening his jaws till
you could see right down his throat--and he had a long face, a hooked
nose and big, flat jaw-bones; he wore a shaggy frieze, full-skirted
coat, and smelt of raw meat. My aunt idolised him and called him a
good-looking man, a cavalier and even a grenadier. He had a habit of
tapping children on the forehead with the nails of his long fingers,
hard as stones (he used to do it to me when I was younger), and as he
tapped he would chuckle and say with surprise: "How your head
resounds, it must be empty." And this lout was to possess my
watch!--No, indeed, I determined in my own mind as I ran out of the
drawing-room and flung myself on my bed, while my cheek glowed crimson
from the slap I had received and my heart, too, was aglow with the
bitterness of the insult and the thirst for revenge--no, indeed! I
would not allow that cursed Hrisashka to jeer at me.... He would put
on the watch, let the chain hang over his stomach, would neigh with
delight; no, indeed!

"Quite so, but how was it to be done, how to prevent it?"

I determined to steal the watch from my aunt.


Luckily Trankvillitatin was away from the town at the time: he could
not come to us before the next day; I must take advantage of the
night! My aunt did not lock her bedroom door and, indeed, none of the
keys in the house would turn in the locks; but where would she put the
watch, where would she hide it? She kept it in her pocket till the
evening and even took it out and looked at it more than once; but at
night--where would it be at night?--Well, that was just my work to
find out, I thought, shaking my fists.

I was burning with boldness and terror and joy at the thought of the
approaching crime. I was continually nodding to myself; I knitted my
brows. I whispered: "Wait a bit!" I threatened someone, I was wicked,
I was dangerous ... and I avoided David!--no one, not even he, must
have the slightest suspicion of what I meant to do....

I would act alone and alone I would answer for it!

Slowly the day lagged by, then the evening, at last the night came. I
did nothing; I even tried not to move: one thought was stuck in my
head like a nail. At dinner my father, who was, as I have said,
naturally gentle, and who was a little ashamed of his harshness--boys
of sixteen are not slapped in the face--tried to be affectionate to
me; but I rejected his overtures, not from slowness to forgive, as he
imagined at the time, but simply that I was afraid of my feelings
getting the better of me; I wanted to preserve untouched all the heat
of my vengeance, all the hardness of unalterable determination. I went
to bed very early; but of course I did not sleep and did not even shut
my eyes, but on the contrary opened them wide, though I did pull the
quilt over my head. I did not consider beforehand how to act. I had no
plan of any kind; I only waited till everything should be quiet in the
house. I only took one step: I did not remove my stockings. My aunt's
room was on the second floor. One had to pass through the dining-room
and the hall, go up the stairs, pass along a little passage and
there ... on the right was the door! I must not on any account take
with me a candle or a lantern; in the corner of my aunt's room a little
lamp was always burning before the ikon shrine; I knew that. So I
should be able to see. I still lay with staring eyes and my mouth open
and parched; the blood was throbbing in my temples, in my ears, in my
throat, in my back, all over me! I waited ... but it seemed as though
some demon were mocking me; time passed and passed but still silence
did not reign.


Never, I thought, had David been so late getting to sleep.... David,
the silent David, even began talking to me! Never had they gone on so
long banging, talking, walking about the house! And what could they be
talking about? I wondered; as though they had not had the whole day to
talk in! Sounds outside persisted, too; first a dog barked on a
shrill, obstinate note; then a drunken peasant was making an uproar
somewhere and would not be pacified; then gates kept creaking; then a
wretched cart on racketty wheels kept passing and passing and seeming
as though it would never pass! However, these sounds did not worry me:
on the contrary, I was glad of them; they seemed to distract my
attention. But now at last it seemed as though all were tranquil. Only
the pendulum of our old clock ticked gravely and drowsily in the
dining-room and there was an even drawn-out sound like the hard
breathing of people asleep. I was on the point of getting up, then
again something rustled ... then suddenly sighed, something soft fell
down ... and a whisper glided along the walls.

Or was there nothing of the sort--and was it only imagination mocking

At last all was still. It was the very heart, the very dead of night.
The time had come! Chill with anticipation, I threw off the
bedclothes, let my feet down to the floor, stood up ... one step; a
second.... I stole along, my feet, heavy as though they did not belong
to me, trod feebly and uncertainly. Stay! what was that sound? Someone
sawing, somewhere, or scraping ... or sighing? I listened ... I felt my
cheeks twitching and cold watery tears came into my eyes. Nothing! ...
I stole on again. It was dark but I knew the way. All at once I
stumbled against a chair.... What a bang and how it hurt! It hit me
just on my leg.... I stood stock still. Well, did that wake them? Ah!
here goes! Suddenly I felt bold and even spiteful. On! On! Now the
dining-room was crossed, then the door was groped for and opened at
one swing. The cursed hinge squeaked, bother it! Then I went up the
stairs, one! two! one! two! A step creaked under my foot; I looked at
it spitefully, just as though I could see it. Then I stretched for the
handle of another door. This one made not the slightest sound! It flew
open so easily, as though to say, "Pray walk in." ... And now I was in
the corridor!

In the corridor there was a little window high up under the ceiling, a
faint light filtered in through the dark panes. And in that glimmer of
light I could see our little errand girl lying on the floor on a mat,
both arms behind her tousled head; she was sound asleep, breathing
rapidly and the fatal door was just behind her head. I stepped across
the mat, across the girl ... who opened that door? ... I don't know,
but there I was in my aunt's room. There was the little lamp in one
corner and the bed in the other and my aunt in her cap and night
jacket on the bed with her face towards me. She was asleep, she did
not stir, I could not even hear her breathing. The flame of the little
lamp softly flickered, stirred by the draught of fresh air, and
shadows stirred all over the room, even over the motionless wax-like
yellow face of my aunt....

And there was the watch! It was hanging on a little embroidered
cushion on the wall behind the bed. What luck, only think of it!
Nothing to delay me! But whose steps were those, soft and rapid behind
my back? Oh! no! it was my heart beating! ... I moved my legs
forward.... Good God! something round and rather large pushed against
me below my knee, once and again! I was ready to scream, I was ready
to drop with horror.... A striped cat, our own cat, was standing
before me arching his back and wagging his tail. Then he leapt on the
bed--softly and heavily--turned round and sat without purring, exactly
like a judge; he sat and looked at me with his golden pupils. "Puss,
puss," I whispered, hardly audibly. I bent across my aunt, I had
already snatched the watch. She suddenly sat up and opened her eyelids
wide.... Heavenly Father, what next? ... but her eyelids quivered and
closed and with a faint murmur her head sank on the pillow.

A minute later I was back again in my own room, in my own bed and the
watch was in my hands....

More lightly than a feather I flew back! I was a fine fellow, I was a
thief, I was a hero, I was gasping with delight, I was hot, I was
gleeful--I wanted to wake David at once to tell him all about it--and,
incredible as it sounds, I fell asleep and slept like the dead! At
last I opened my eyes.... It was light in the room, the sun had risen.
Luckily no one was awake yet. I jumped up as though I had been
scalded, woke David and told him all about it. He listened, smiled.
"Do you know what?" he said to me at last, "let's bury the silly watch
in the earth, so that it may never be seen again." I thought his idea
best of all. In a few minutes we were both dressed; we ran out into
the orchard behind our house and under an old apple tree in a deep
hole, hurriedly scooped out in the soft, springy earth with David's
big knife, my godfather's hated present was hidden forever, so that it
never got into the hands of the disgusting Trankvillitatin after all!
We stamped down the hole, strewed rubbish over it and, proud and
happy, unnoticed by anyone, went home again, got into our beds and
slept another hour or two--and such a light and blissful sleep!


You can imagine the uproar there was that morning, as soon as my aunt
woke up and missed the watch! Her piercing shriek is ringing in my
ears to this day. "Help! Robbed! Robbed!" she squealed, and alarmed
the whole household. She was furious, while David and I only smiled to
ourselves and sweet was our smile to us. "Everyone, everyone must be
well thrashed!" bawled my aunt. "The watch has been stolen from under
my head, from under my pillow!" We were prepared for anything, we
expected trouble.... But contrary to our expectations we did not get
into trouble at all. My father certainly did fume dreadfully at first,
he even talked of the police; but I suppose he was bored with the
enquiry of the day before and suddenly, to my aunt's indescribable
amazement, he flew out not against us but against her.

"You sicken me worse than a bitter radish, Pelageya Petrovna," he
shouted, "with your watch. I don't want to hear any more about it! It
can't be lost by magic, you say, but what's it to do with me? It may
be magic for all I care! Stolen from you? Well, good luck to it then!
What will Nastasey Nastasyeitch say? Damnation take him, your
Nastasyeitch! I get nothing but annoyances and unpleasantness from
him! Don't dare to worry me again! Do you hear?"

My father slammed the door and went off to his own room. David and I
did not at first understand the allusion in his last words; but
afterwards we found out that my father was just then violently
indignant with my godfather, who had done him out of a profitable job.
So my aunt was left looking a fool. She almost burst with vexation,
but there was no help for it. She had to confine herself to repeating
in a sharp whisper, twisting her mouth in my direction whenever she
passed me, "Thief, thief, robber, scoundrel." My aunt's reproaches
were a source of real enjoyment to me. It was very agreeable, too, as
I crossed the flower-garden, to let my eye with assumed indifference
glide over the very spot where the watch lay at rest under the
apple-tree; and if David were close at hand to exchange a meaning
grimace with him....

My aunt tried setting Trankvillitatin upon me; but I appealed to
David. He told the stalwart divinity student bluntly that he would rip
up his belly with a knife if he did not leave me alone....
Trankvillitatin was frightened; though, according to my aunt, he was a
grenadier and a cavalier he was not remarkable for valour. So passed
five weeks.... But do you imagine that the story of the watch ended
there? No, it did not; only to continue my story I must introduce a
new character; and to introduce that new character I must go back a


My father had for many years been on very friendly, even intimate
terms with a retired government clerk called Latkin, a lame little man
in poor circumstances with queer, timid manners, one of those
creatures of whom it is commonly said that they are crushed by God
Himself. Like my father and Nastasey, he was engaged in the humbler
class of legal work and acted as legal adviser and agent. But
possessing neither a presentable appearance nor the gift of words and
having little confidence in himself, he did not venture to act
independently but attached himself to my father. His handwriting was
"regular beadwork," he knew the law thoroughly and had mastered all
the intricacies of the jargon of petitions and legal documents. He had
managed various cases with my father and had shared with him gains and
losses and it seemed as though nothing could shake their friendship,
and yet it broke down in one day and forever. My father quarrelled
with his colleague for good. If Latkin had snatched a profitable job
from my father, after the fashion of Nastasey, who replaced him later
on, my father would have been no more indignant with him than with
Nastasey, probably less. But Latkin, under the influence of an
unexplained, incomprehensible feeling, envy, greed--or perhaps even a
momentary fit of honesty--"gave away" my father, betrayed him to their
common client, a wealthy young merchant, opening this careless young
man's eyes to a certain--well, piece of sharp practice, destined to
bring my father considerable profit. It was not the money loss,
however great--no--but the betrayal that wounded and infuriated my
father; he could not forgive treachery.

"So he sets himself up for a saint!" he repeated, trembling all over
with anger, his teeth chattering as though he were in a fever. I
happened to be in the room and was a witness of this ugly scene.
"Good. Amen, from today. It's all over between us. There's the ikon
and there's the door! Neither you in my house nor I in yours. You are
too honest for us. How can we keep company with you? But may you have
no house nor home!"

It was in vain that Latkin entreated my father and bowed down before
him; it was in vain that he tried to explain to him what filled his
own soul with painful perplexity. "You know it was with no sort of
profit to myself, Porfiry Petrovitch," he faltered: "why, I cut my own
throat!" My father remained implacable. Latkin never set foot in our
house again. Fate itself seemed determined to carry out my father's
last cruel words. Soon after the rupture (which took place two years
before the beginning of my story), Latkin's wife, who had, it is true,
been ill for a long time, died; his second daughter, a child three
years old, became deaf and dumb in one day from terror; a swarm of
bees had settled on her head; Latkin himself had an apoplectic stroke
and sank into extreme and hopeless poverty. How he struggled on, what
he lived upon--it is hard to imagine. He lived in a dilapidated hovel
at no great distance from our house. His elder daughter Raissa lived
with him and kept house, so far as that was possible. This Raissa is
the character whom I must now introduce into our story.


When her father was on friendly terms with mine, we used to see her
continually. She would sit with us for hours at a time, either sewing,
or spinning with her delicate, rapid, clever fingers. She was a
well-made, rather thin girl, with intelligent brown eyes and a long,
white, oval face. She talked little but sensibly in a soft, musical
voice, barely opening her mouth and not showing her teeth. When she
laughed--which happened rarely and never lasted long--they were all
suddenly displayed, big and white as almonds. I remember her gait, too,
light, elastic, with a little skip at each step. It always seemed to me
that she was going down a flight of steps, even when she was walking on
level ground. She held herself erect with her arms folded tightly over
her bosom. And whatever she was doing, whatever she undertook, if she
were only threading a needle or ironing a petticoat--the effect was
always beautiful and somehow--you may not believe it--touching. Her
Christian name was Raissa, but we used to call her Black-lip: she had
on her upper lip a birthmark; a little dark-bluish spot, as though she
had been eating blackberries; but that did not spoil her: on the
contrary. She was just a year older than David. I cherished for her a
feeling akin to respect, but we were not great friends. But between
her and David a friendship had sprung up, a strange, unchildlike but
good friendship. They somehow suited each other.

Sometimes they did not exchange a word for hours together, but both
felt that they were happy and happy because they were together. I had
never met a girl like her, really. There was something attentive and
resolute about her, something honest and mournful and charming. I
never heard her say anything very intelligent, but I never heard her
say anything commonplace, and I have never seen more intelligent eyes.
After the rupture between her family and mine I saw her less
frequently: my father sternly forbade my visiting the Latkins, and she
did not appear in our house again. But I met her in the street, in
church and Black-lip always aroused in me the same feeling--respect
and even some wonder, rather than pity. She bore her misfortunes very
well indeed. "The girl is flint," even coarse-witted, Trankvillitatin
said about her once, but really she ought to have been pitied: her
face acquired a careworn, exhausted expression, her eyes were hollow
and sunken, a burden beyond her strength lay on her young shoulders.
David saw her much oftener than I did; he used to go to their house.
My father gave him up in despair: he knew that David would not obey
him, anyway. And from time to time Raissa would appear at the hurdle
fence of our garden which looked into a lane and there have an
interview with David; she did not come for the sake of conversation,
but told him of some new difficulty or trouble and asked his advice.
The paralysis that had attacked Latkin was of a rather peculiar kind.
His arms and legs had grown feeble, but he had not lost the use of
them, and his brain indeed worked perfectly; but his speech was
muddled and instead of one word he would pronounce another: one had to
guess what it was he wanted to say.... "Tchoo--tchoo--tchoo," he
would stammer with an effort--he began every sentence with
"Tchoo--tchoo--tchoo, some scissors, some scissors," ... and the word
scissors meant bread.... My father, he hated with all the strength left
him--he attributed all his misfortunes to my father's curse and called
him alternately the butcher and the diamond-merchant. "Tchoo, tchoo,
don't you dare to go to the butcher's, Vassilyevna." This was what he
called his daughter though his own name was Martinyan. Every day he
became more exacting; his needs increased.... And how were those needs
to be satisfied? Where could the money be found? Sorrow soon makes one
old: but it was horrible to hear some words on the lips of a girl of


I remember I happened to be present at a
conversation with David over the fence, on the
very day of her mother's death.

"Mother died this morning at daybreak," she
said, first looking round with her dark expressive eyes and then
fixing them on the ground.

"Cook undertook to get a coffin cheap but she's not to be trusted; she
may spend the money on drink, even. You might come and look after her,
Davidushka, she's afraid of you."

"I will come," answered David. "I will see to it. And how's your

"He cries; he says: 'you must spoil me, too.' Spoil must mean bury.
Now he has gone to sleep." Raissa suddenly gave a deep sigh. "Oh,
Davidushka, Davidushka!" She passed her half-clenched fist over her
forehead and her eyebrows, and the action was so bitter ... and as
sincere and beautiful as all her actions.

"You must take care of yourself, though," David observed; "you haven't
slept at all, I expect.... And what's the use of crying? It doesn't
help trouble."

"I have no time for crying," answered Raissa.

"That's a luxury for the rich, crying," observed David.

Raissa was going, but she turned back.

"The yellow shawl's being sold, you know; part of mother's dowry. They
are giving us twelve roubles; I think that is not much."

"It certainly is not much."

"We shouldn't sell it," Raissa said after a brief pause, "but you see
we must have money for the funeral."

"Of course you must. Only you mustn't spend money at random. Those
priests are awful! But I say, wait a minute. I'll come. Are you going?
I'll be with you soon. Goodbye, darling."

"Good-bye, Davidushka, darling."

"Mind now, don't cry!"

"As though I should cry! It's either cooking the dinner or crying. One
or the other."

"What! does she cook the dinner?" I said to David, as soon as Raissa
was out of hearing, "does she do the cooking herself?"

"Why, you heard that the cook has gone to buy a coffin."

"She cooks the dinner," I thought, "and her hands are always so clean
and her clothes so neat.... I should like to see her there at work in
the kitchen.... She is an extraordinary girl!"

I remember another conversation at the fence. That time Raissa brought
with her her little deaf and dumb sister. She was a pretty child with
immense, astonished-looking eyes and a perfect mass of dull, black
hair on her little, head (Raissa's hair, too, was black and hers, too,
was without lustre). Latkin had by then been struck down by paralysis.

"I really don't know what to do," Raissa began. "The doctor has
written a prescription. We must go to the chemist's; and our peasant
(Latkin had still one serf) has brought us wood from the village and a
goose. And the porter has taken it away, 'you are in debt to me,' he

"Taken the goose?" asked David.

"No, not the goose. He says it is an old one; it is no good for
anything; he says that is why our peasant brought it us, but he is
taking the wood."

"But he has no right to," exclaimed David.

"He has no right to, but he has taken it. I went up to the garret,
there we have got a very, very old trunk. I began rummaging in it and
what do you think I found? Look!"

She took from under her kerchief a rather large field glass in a
copper setting, covered with morocco, yellow with age. David, as a
connoisseur of all sorts of instruments, seized upon it at once.

"It's English," he pronounced, putting it first to one eye and then to
the other. "A marine glass."

"And the glasses are perfect," Raissa went on. "I showed it to father;
he said, 'Take it and pawn it to the diamond-merchant'! What do you
think, would they give us anything for it? What do we want a telescope
for? To look at ourselves in the looking-glass and see what beauties
we are? But we haven't a looking-glass, unluckily."

And Raissa suddenly laughed aloud. Her sister, of course, could not
hear her. But most likely she felt the shaking of her body: she clung
to Raissa's hand and her little face worked with a look of terror as
she raised her big eyes to her sister and burst into tears.

"That's how she always is," said Raissa, "she
doesn't like one to laugh.

"Come, I won't, Lyubotchka, I won't," she added, nimbly squatting on
her heels beside the child and passing her fingers through her hair.
The laughter vanished from Raissa's face and her lips, the corners of
which twisted upwards in a particularly charming way, became
motionless again. The child was pacified. Raissa got up.

"So you will do what you can, about the glass I mean, Davidushka. But
I do regret the wood, and the goose, too, however old it may be."

"They would certainly give you ten roubles," said David, turning the
telescope in all directions. "I will buy it of you, what could be
better? And here, meanwhile, are fifteen kopecks for the chemist's....
Is that enough?"

"I'll borrow that from you," whispered Raissa, taking the fifteen
kopecks from him.

"What next? Perhaps you would like to pay interest? But you see I have
a pledge here, a very fine thing.... First-rate people, the English."

"They say we are going to war with them."

"No," answered David, "we are fighting the French now."

"Well, you know best. Take care of it, then. Good-bye, friends."

Here is another conversation that took place beside the same fence.
Raissa seemed more worried than usual.

"Five kopecks for a cabbage, and a tiny little one, too," she said,
propping her chin on her hand. "Isn't it dear? And I haven't had the
money for my sewing yet."

"Who owes it you?" asked David.

"Why, the merchant's wife who lives beyond the rampart."

"The fat woman who goes about in a green blouse?"

"Yes, yes."

"I say, she is fat! She can hardly breathe for fat. She positively
steams in church, and doesn't pay her debts!"

"She will pay, only when? And do you know, Davidushka, I have fresh
troubles. Father has taken it into his head to tell me his dreams--you
know he cannot say what he means: if he wants to say one word, it
comes out another. About food or any everyday thing we have got used
to it and understand; but it is not easy to understand the dreams even
of healthy people, and with him, it's awful! 'I am very happy,' he
says; 'I was walking about all among white birds to-day; and the Lord
God gave me a nosegay and in the nosegay was Andryusha with a little
knife,' he calls our Lyubotchka, Andryusha; 'now we shall both be
quite well,' he says. 'We need only one stroke with the little knife,
like this!' and he points to his throat. I don't understand him, but I
say, 'All right, dear, all right,' but he gets angry and tries to
explain what he means. He even bursts into tears."

"But you should have said something to him," I put in; "you should
have made up some lie."

"I can't tell lies," answered Raissa, and even flung up her hands.

And indeed she could not tell lies.

"There is no need to tell lies," observed David, "but there is no need
to kill yourself, either. No one will say thank you for it, you know."

Raissa looked at him intently.

"I wanted to ask you something, Davidushka; how ought I to spell

"What sort of 'while'?"

"Why, for instance: I hope you will live a long _while_."

"Spell: w-i-l-e."

"No," I put in, "w-h-i-l-e."

"Well, it does not matter. Spell it with an h, then! What does matter
is, that you should live a long while."

"I should like to write correctly," observed Raissa, and she flushed a

When she flushed she was amazingly pretty at once.

"It may be of use.... How father wrote in his day ... wonderfully! He
taught me. Well, now he can hardly make out the letters."

"You only live, that's all I want," David repeated, dropping his voice
and not taking his eyes off her. Raissa glanced quickly at him and
flushed still more.

"You live and as for spelling, spell as you like.... Oh, the devil,
the witch is coming!" (David called my aunt the witch.) "What ill-luck
has brought her this way? You must go, darling."

Raissa glanced at David once more and ran away.

David talked to me of Raissa and her family very rarely and
unwillingly, especially from the time when he began to expect his
father's return. He thought of nothing but him and how we should live
together afterwards. He had a vivid memory of him and used to describe
him to me with particular pleasure.

"He is big and strong; he can lift three hundred-weight with one
hand.... When he shouted: 'Where's the lad?' he could be heard all
over the house. He's so jolly and kind ... and a brave man! Nobody can
intimidate him. We lived so happily together before we were ruined.
They say he has gone quite grey, and in old days his hair was as red
as mine. He was a strong man."

David would never admit that we might remain in Ryazan.

"You will go away," I observed, "but I shall stay."

"Nonsense, we shall take you with us."

"And how about my father?"

"You will cast off your father. You will be ruined if you don't."

"How so?"

David made me no answer but merely knitted his white brows.

"So when we go away with father," he began again, "he will get a good
situation and I shall marry."

"Well, that won't be just directly," I said.

"No, why not? I shall marry soon."


"Yes, I; why not?"

"You haven't fixed on your wife, I suppose."

"Of course, I have."

"Who is she?"

David laughed.

"What a senseless fellow you are, really? Raissa, of course."

"Raissa!" I repeated in amazement; "you are joking!"

"I am not given to joking, and don't like it."

"Why, she is a year older than you are."

"What of it? but let's drop the subject."

"Let me ask one question," I said. "Does she know that you mean to
marry her?"

"Most likely."

"But haven't you declared your feelings?"

"What is there to declare? When the time comes I shall tell her. Come,
that's enough."

David got up and went out of the room. When I was alone, I pondered ...
and pondered ... and came to the conclusion that David would act
like a sensible and practical man; and indeed I felt flattered at the
thought of being the friend of such a practical man!

And Raissa in her everlasting black woollen dress suddenly seemed to
me charming and worthy of the most devoted love.