ON the deck of a steamer sailing from Odessa
to Sevastopol, a rather good-looking gentleman, with a little
round beard, came up to me to smoke, and said:
"Notice those Germans sitting near the shelter? Whenever Germans
or Englishmen get together, they talk about the crops, the price
of wool, or their personal affairs. But for some reason or other
when we Russians get together we never discuss anything but
women and abstract subjects -- but especially women."
This gentleman's face was familiar to me already. We had
returned from abroad the evening before in the same train, and
at Volotchisk when the luggage was being examined by the
Customs, I saw him standing with a lady, his travelling
companion, before a perfect mountain of trunks and baskets
filled with ladies' clothes, and I noticed how embarrassed and
downcast he was when he had to pay duty on some piece of silk
frippery, and his companion protested and threatened to make a
complaint. Afterwards, on the way to Odessa, I saw him carrying
little pies and oranges to the ladies' compartment.
It was rather damp; the vessel swayed a little, and the ladies
had retired to their cabins.
The gentleman with the little round beard sat down beside me and
"Yes, when Russians come together they discuss nothing but
abstract subjects and women. We are so intellectual, so solemn,
that we utter nothing but truths and can discuss only questions
of a lofty order. The Russian actor does not know how to be
funny; he acts with profundity even in a farce. We're just the
same: when we have got to talk of trifles we treat them only
from an exalted point of view. It comes from a lack of boldness,
sincerity, and simplicity. We talk so often about women, I
fancy, because we are dissatisfied. We take too ideal a view of
women, and make demands out of all proportion with what reality
can give us; we get something utterly different from what we
want, and the result is dissatisfaction, shattered hopes, and
inward suffering, and if any one is suffering, he's bound to
talk of it. It does not bore you to go on with this
"No, not in the least."
"In that case, allow me to introduce myself," said my companion,
rising from his seat a little:
"Ivan Ilyitch Shamohin, a Moscow landowner of a sort. . . . You
I know very well."
He sat down and went on, looking at me with a genuine and
"A mediocre philosopher, like Max Nordau, would explain these
incessant conversations about women as a form of erotic madness,
or would put it down to our having been slave-owners and so on;
I take quite a different view of it. I repeat, we are
dissatisfied because we are idealists. We want the creatures who
bear us and our children to be superior to us and to everything
in the world. When we are young we adore and poeticize those
with whom we are in love: love and happiness with us are
synonyms. Among us in Russia marriage without love is despised,
sensuality is ridiculed and inspires repulsion, and the greatest
success is enjoyed by those tales and novels in which women are
beautiful, poetical, and exalted; and if the Russian has been
for years in ecstasies over Raphael's Madonna, or is eager for
the emancipation of women, I assure you there is no affectation
about it. But the trouble is that when we have been married or
been intimate with a woman for some two or three years, we begin
to feel deceived and disillusioned: we pair off with others, and
again -- disappointment, again -- repulsion, and in the long run
we become convinced that women are lying, trivial, fussy,
unfair, undeveloped, cruel -- in fact, far from being superior,
are immeasurably inferior to us men. And in our dissatisfaction
and disappointment there is nothing left for us but to grumble
and talk about what we've been so cruelly deceived in."
While Shamohin was talking I noticed that the Russian language
and our Russian surroundings gave him great pleasure. This was
probably because he had been very homesick abroad. Though he
praised the Russians and ascribed to them a rare idealism, he
did not disparage foreigners, and that I put down to his credit.
It could be seen, too, that there was some uneasiness in his
soul, that he wanted to talk more of himself than of women, and
that I was in for a long story in the nature of a confession.
And when we had asked for a bottle of wine and had each of us
drunk a glass, this was how he did in fact begin:
"I remember in a novel of Weltmann's some one says, 'So that's
the story!' and some one else answers, 'No, that's not the story
-- that's only the introduction to the story.' In the same way
what I've said so far is only the introduction; what I really
want to tell you is my own love story. Excuse me, I must ask you
again; it won't bore you to listen?"
I told him it would not, and he went on:
The scene of my story is laid in the Moscow province in one of
its northern districts. The scenery there, I must tell you, is
exquisite. Our homestead is on the high bank of a rapid stream,
where the water chatters noisily day and night: imagine a big
old garden, neat flower-beds, beehives, a kitchen-garden, and
below it a river with leafy willows, which, when there is a
heavy dew on them, have a lustreless look as though they had
turned grey; and on the other side a meadow, and beyond the
meadow on the upland a terrible, dark pine forest. In that
forest delicious, reddish agarics grow in endless profusion, and
elks still live in its deepest recesses. When I am nailed up in
my coffin I believe I shall still dream of those early mornings,
you know, when the sun hurts your eyes: or the wonderful spring
evenings when the nightingales and the landrails call in the
garden and beyond the garden, and sounds of the harmonica float
across from the village, while they play the piano indoors and
the stream babbles . . . when there is such music, in fact, that
one wants at the same time to cry and to sing aloud.
We have not much arable land, but our pasture makes up for it,
and with the forest yields about two thousand roubles a year. I
am the only son of my father; we are both modest persons, and
with my father's pension that sum was amply sufficient for us.
The first three years after finishing at the university I spent
in the country, looking after the estate and constantly
expecting to be elected on some local assembly; but what was
most important, I was violently in love with an extraordinarily
beautiful and fascinating girl. She was the sister of our
neighbour, Kotlovitch, a ruined landowner who had on his estate
pine-apples, marvellous peaches, lightning conductors, a
fountain in the courtyard, and at the same time not a farthing
in his pocket. He did nothing and knew how to do nothing. He was
as flabby as though he had been made of boiled turnip; he used
to doctor the peasants by homeopathy and was interested in
spiritualism. He was, however, a man of great delicacy and
mildness, and by no means a fool, but I have no fondness for
these gentlemen who converse with spirits and cure peasant women
by magnetism. In the first place, the ideas of people who are
not intellectually free are always in a muddle, and it's
extremely difficult to talk to them; and, secondly, they usually
love no one, and have nothing to do with women, and their
mysticism has an unpleasant effect on sensitive people. I did
not care for his appearance either. He was tall, stout,
white-skinned, with a little head, little shining eyes, and
chubby white fingers. He did not shake hands, but kneaded one's
hands in his. And he was always apologising. If he asked for
anything it was "Excuse me"; if he gave you anything it was
"Excuse me" too.
As for his sister, she was a character out of a different opera.
I must explain that I had not been acquainted with the
Kotlovitches in my childhood and early youth, for my father had
been a professor at N., and we had for many years lived away.
When I did make their acquaintance the girl was twenty-two, had
left school long before, and had spent two or three years in
Moscow with a wealthy aunt who brought her out into society.
When I was introduced and first had to talk to her, what struck
me most of all was her rare and beautiful name -- Ariadne. It
suited her so wonderfully! She was a brunette, very thin, very
slender, supple, elegant, and extremely graceful, with refined
and exceedingly noble features. Her eyes were shining, too, but
her brother's shone with a cold sweetness, mawkish as
sugar-candy, while hers had the glow of youth, proud and
beautiful. She conquered me on the first day of our
acquaintance, and indeed it was inevitable. My first impression
was so overwhelming that to this day I cannot get rid of my
illusions; I am still tempted to imagine that nature had some
grand, marvellous design when she created that girl.
Ariadne's voice, her walk, her hat, even her footprints on the
sandy bank where she used to angle for gudgeon, filled me with
delight and a passionate hunger for life. I judged of her
spiritual being from her lovely face and lovely figure, and
every word, every smile of Ariadne's bewitched me, conquered me
and forced me to believe in the loftiness of her soul. She was
friendly, ready to talk, gay and simple in her manners. She had
a poetic belief in God, made poetic reflections about death, and
there was such a wealth of varying shades in her spiritual
organisation that even her faults seemed in her to carry with
them peculiar, charming qualities. Suppose she wanted a new
horse and had no money -- what did that matter? Something might
be sold or pawned, or if the steward swore that nothing could
possibly be sold or pawned, the iron roofs might be torn off the
lodges and taken to the factory, or at the very busiest time the
farm-horses might be driven to the market and sold there for
next to nothing. These unbridled desires reduced the whole
household to despair at times, but she expressed them with such
refinement that everything was forgiven her; all things were
permitted her as to a goddess or to Csar's wife. My love was
pathetic and was soon noticed by every one -- my father, the
neighbours, and the peasants -- and they all sympathised with
me. When I stood the workmen vodka, they would bow and say: "May
the Kotlovitch young lady be your bride, please God!"
And Ariadne herself knew that I loved her. She would often ride
over on horseback or drive in the char--banc to see us, and
would spend whole days with me and my father. She made great
friends with the old man, and he even taught her to bicycle,
which was his favourite amusement.
I remember helping her to get on the bicycle one evening, and
she looked so lovely that I felt as though I were burning my
hands when I touched her. I shuddered with rapture, and when the
two of them, my old father and she, both looking so handsome and
elegant, bicycled side by side along the main road, a black
horse ridden by the steward dashed aside on meeting them, and it
seemed to me that it dashed aside because it too was overcome by
her beauty. My love, my worship, touched Ariadne and softened
her; she had a passionate longing to be captivated like me and
to respond with the same love. It was so poetical!
But she was incapable of really loving as I did, for she was
cold and already somewhat corrupted. There was a demon in her,
whispering to her day and night that she was enchanting,
adorable; and, having no definite idea for what object she was
created, or for what purpose life had been given her, she never
pictured herself in the future except as very wealthy and
distinguished, she had visions of balls, races, liveries, of
sumptuous drawing-rooms, of a salon of her own, and of a perfect
swarm of counts, princes, ambassadors, celebrated painters and
artists, all of them adoring her and in ecstasies over her
beauty and her dresses. . . .
This thirst for personal success, and this continual
concentration of the mind in one direction, makes people cold,
and Ariadne was cold -- to me, to nature, and to music.
Meanwhile time was passing, and still there were no ambassadors
on the scene. Ariadne went on living with her brother, the
spiritualist: things went from bad to worse, so that she had
nothing to buy hats and dresses with, and had to resort to all
sorts of tricks and dodges to conceal her poverty.
As luck would have it, a certain Prince Maktuev, a wealthy man
but an utterly insignificant person, had paid his addresses to
her when she was living at her aunt's in Moscow. She had refused
him, point-blank. But now she was fretted by the worm of
repentance that she had refused him; just as a peasant pouts
with repulsion at a mug of kvass with cockroaches in it but yet
drinks it, so she frowned disdainfully at the recollection of
the prince, and yet she would say to me: "Say what you like,
there is something inexplicable, fascinating, in a title. . . ."
She dreamed of a title, of a brilliant position, and at the same
time she did not want to let me go. However one may dream of
ambassadors one's heart is not a stone, and one has wistful
feelings for one's youth. Ariadne tried to fall in love, made a
show of being in love, and even swore that she loved me. But I
am a highly strung and sensitive man; when I am loved I feel it
even at a distance, without vows and assurances; at once I felt
as it were a coldness in the air, and when she talked to me of
love, it seemed to me as though I were listening to the singing
of a metal nightingale. Ariadne was herself aware that she was
lacking in something. She was vexed and more than once I saw her
cry. Another time -- can you imagine it? -- all of a sudden she
embraced me and kissed me. It happened in the evening on the
river-bank, and I saw by her eyes that she did not love me, but
was embracing me from curiosity, to test herself and to see what
came of it. And I felt dreadful. I took her hands and said to
her in despair: "These caresses without love cause me
"What a queer fellow you are!" she said with annoyance, and
Another year or two might have passed, and in all probability I
should have married her, and so my story would have ended, but
fate was pleased to arrange our romance differently. It happened
that a new personage appeared on our horizon. Ariadne's brother
had a visit from an old university friend called Mihail Ivanitch
Lubkov, a charming man of whom coachmen and footmen used to say:
"An entertaining gentleman." He was a man of medium height, lean
and bald, with a face like a good-natured bourgeois, not
interesting, but pale and presentable, with a stiff, well-kept
moustache, with a neck like gooseskin, and a big Adam's apple.
He used to wear pince-nez on a wide black ribbon, lisped, and
could not pronounce either r or l. He was always in good
spirits, everything amused him.
He had made an exceedingly foolish marriage at twenty, and had
acquired two houses in Moscow as part of his wife's dowry. He
began doing them up and building a bath-house, and was
completely ruined. Now his wife and four children lodged in
Oriental Buildings in great poverty, and he had to support them
-- and this amused him. He was thirty-six and his wife was by
now forty-two, and that, too, amused him. His mother, a
conceited, sulky personage, with aristocratic pretensions,
despised his wife and lived apart with a perfect menagerie of
cats and dogs, and he had to allow her seventy-five roubles a
month also; he was, too, a man of taste, liked lunching at the
Slavyansky Bazaar and dining at the Hermitage; he needed a great
deal of money, but his uncle only allowed him two thousand
roubles a year, which was not enough, and for days together he
would run about Moscow with his tongue out, as the saying is,
looking for some one to borrow from -- and this, too, amused
him. He had come to Kotlovitch to find in the lap of nature, as
he said, a rest from family life. At dinner, at supper, and on
our walks, he talked about his wife, about his mother, about his
creditors, about the bailiffs, and laughed at them; he laughed
at himself and assured us that, thanks to his talent for
borrowing, he had made a great number of agreeable
acquaintances. He laughed without ceasing and we laughed too.
Moreover, in his company we spent our time differently. I was
more inclined to quiet, so to say idyllic pleasures; I liked
fishing, evening walks, gathering mushrooms; Lubkov preferred
picnics, fireworks, hunting. He used to get up picnics three
times a week, and Ariadne, with an earnest and inspired face,
used to write a list of oysters, champagne, sweets, and used to
send me into Moscow to get them, without inquiring, of course,
whether I had money. And at the picnics there were toasts and
laughter, and again mirthful descriptions of how old his wife
was, what fat lap-dogs his mother had, and what charming people
his creditors were.
Lubkov was fond of nature, but he regarded it as something long
familiar and at the same time, in reality, infinitely beneath
himself and created for his pleasure. He would sometimes stand
still before some magnificent landscape and say: "It would be
nice to have tea here."
One day, seeing Ariadne walking in the distance with a parasol,
he nodded towards her and said:
"She's thin, and that's what I like; I don't like fat women."
This made me wince. I asked him not to speak like that about
women before me. He looked at me in surprise and said:
"What is there amiss in my liking thin women and not caring for
I made no answer. Afterwards, being in very good spirits and a
trifle elevated, he said:
"I've noticed Ariadne Grigoryevna likes you. I can't understand
why you don't go in and win."
His words made me feel uncomfortable, and with some
embarrassment I told him how I looked at love and women.
"I don't know," he sighed; "to my thinking, a woman's a woman
and a man's a man. Ariadne Grigoryevna may be poetical and
exalted, as you say, but it doesn't follow that she must be
superior to the laws of nature. You see for yourself that she
has reached the age when she must have a husband or a lover. I
respect women as much as you do, but I don't think certain
relations exclude poetry. Poetry's one thing and love is
another. It's just the same as it is in farming. The beauty of
nature is one thing and the income from your forests or fields
is quite another."
When Ariadne and I were fishing, Lubkov would lie on the sand
close by and make fun of me, or lecture me on the conduct of
"I wonder, my dear sir, how you can live without a love affair,"
he would say. "You are young, handsome, interesting -- in fact,
you're a man not to be sniffed at, yet you live like a monk.
Och! I can't stand these fellows who are old at twenty-eight!
I'm nearly ten years older than you are, and yet which of us is
the younger? Ariadne Grigoryevna, which?"
"You, of course," Ariadne answered him.
And when he was bored with our silence and the attention with
which we stared at our floats he went home, and she said,
looking at me angrily:
"You're really not a man, but a mush, God forgive me! A man
ought to be able to be carried away by his feelings, he ought to
be able to be mad, to make mistakes, to suffer! A woman will
forgive you audacity and insolence, but she will never forgive
She was angry in earnest, and went on:
"To succeed, a man must be resolute and bold. Lubkov is not so
handsome as you are, but he is more interesting. He will always
succeed with women because he's not like you; he's a man. . . ."
And there was actually a note of exasperation in her voice.
One day at supper she began saying, not addressing me, that if
she were a man she would not stagnate in the country, but would
travel, would spend the winter somewhere aboard -- in Italy, for
instance. Oh, Italy! At this point my father unconsciously
poured oil on the flames; he began telling us at length about
Italy, how splendid it was there, the exquisite scenery, the
museums. Ariadne suddenly conceived a burning desire to go to
Italy. She positively brought her fist down on the table and her
eyes flashed as she said: "I must go!"
After that came conversations every day about Italy: how
splendid it would be in Italy -- ah, Italy! -- oh, Italy! And
when Ariadne looked at me over her shoulder, from her cold and
obstinate expression I saw that in her dreams she had already
conquered Italy with all its salons, celebrated foreigners and
tourists, and there was no holding her back now. I advised her
to wait a little, to put off her tour for a year or two, but she
frowned disdainfully and said:
"You're as prudent as an old woman!"
Lubkov was in favour of the tour. He said it could be done very
cheaply, and he, too, would go to Italy and have a rest there
from family life.
I behaved, I confess, as navely as a schoolboy.
Not from jealousy, but from a foreboding of something terrible
and extraordinary, I tried as far as possible not to leave them
alone together, and they made fun of me. For instance, when I
went in they would pretend they had just been kissing one
another, and so on. But lo and behold, one fine morning, her
plump, white-skinned brother, the spiritualist, made his
appearance and expressed his desire to speak to me alone.
He was a man without will; in spite of his education and his
delicacy he could never resist reading another person's letter,
if it lay before him on the table. And now he admitted that he
had by chance read a letter of Lubkov's to Ariadne.
"From that letter I learned that she is very shortly going
abroad. My dear fellow, I am very much upset! Explain it to me
for goodness' sake. I can make nothing of it!"
As he said this he breathed hard, breathing straight in my face
and smelling of boiled beef.
"Excuse me for revealing the secret of this letter to you, but
you are Ariadne's friend, she respects you. Perhaps you know
something of it. She wants to go away, but with whom? Mr. Lubkov
is proposing to go with her. Excuse me, but this is very strange
of Mr. Lubkov; he is a married man, he has children, and yet he
is making a declaration of love; he is writing to Ariadne
'darling.' Excuse me, but it is so strange!"
I turned cold all over; my hands and feet went numb and I felt
an ache in my chest, as if a three-cornered stone had been
driven into it. Kotlovitch sank helplessly into an easy-chair,
and his hands fell limply at his sides.
"What can I do?" I inquired.
"Persuade her. . . . Impress her mind. . . . Just consider, what
is Lubkov to her? Is he a match for her? Oh, good God! How awful
it is, how awful it is!" he went on, clutching his head. "She
has had such splendid offers -- Prince Maktuev and . . . and
others. The prince adores her, and only last Wednesday week his
late grandfather, Ilarion, declared positively that Ariadne
would be his wife -- positively! His grandfather Ilarion is
dead, but he is a wonderfully intelligent person; we call up his
spirit every day."
After this conversation I lay awake all night and thought of
shooting myself. In the morning I wrote five letters and tore
them all up. Then I sobbed in the barn. Then I took a sum of
money from my father and set off for the Caucasus without saying
Of course, a woman's a woman and a man's a man, but can all that
be as simple in our day as it was before the Flood, and can it
be that I, a cultivated man endowed with a complex spiritual
organisation, ought to explain the intense attraction I feel
towards a woman simply by the fact that her bodily formation is
different from mine? Oh, how awful that would be! I want to
believe that in his struggle with nature the genius of man has
struggled with physical love too, as with an enemy, and that, if
he has not conquered it, he has at least succeeded in tangling
it in a net-work of illusions of brotherhood and love; and for
me, at any rate, it is no longer a simple instinct of my animal
nature as with a dog or a toad, but is real love, and every
embrace is spiritualised by a pure impulse of the heart and
respect for the woman. In reality, a disgust for the animal
instinct has been trained for ages in hundreds of generations;
it is inherited by me in my blood and forms part of my nature,
and if I poetize love, is not that as natural and inevitable in
our day as my ears' not being able to move and my not being
covered with fur? I fancy that's how the majority of civilised
people look at it, so that the absence of the moral, poetical
element in love is treated in these days as a phenomenon, as a
sign of atavism; they say it is a symptom of degeneracy, of many
forms of insanity. It is true that, in poetizing love, we assume
in those we love qualities that are lacking in them, and that is
a source of continual mistakes and continual miseries for us.
But to my thinking it is better, even so; that is, it is better
to suffer than to find complacency on the basis of woman being
woman and man being man.
In Tiflis I received a letter from my father. He wrote that
Ariadne Grigoryevna had on such a day gone abroad, intending to
spend the whole winter away. A month later I returned home. It
was by now autumn. Every week Ariadne sent my father extremely
interesting letters on scented paper, written in an excellent
literary style. It is my opinion that every woman can be a
writer. Ariadne described in great detail how it had not been
easy for her to make it up with her aunt and induce the latter
to give her a thousand roubles for the journey, and what a long
time she had spent in Moscow trying to find an old lady, a
distant relation, in order to persuade her to go with her. Such
a profusion of detail suggested fiction, and I realised, of
course, that she had no chaperon with her.
Soon afterwards I, too, had a letter from her, also scented and
literary. She wrote that she had missed me, missed my beautiful,
intelligent, loving eyes. She reproached me affectionately for
wasting my youth, for stagnating in the country when I might,
like her, be living in paradise under the palms, breathing the
fragrance of the orange-trees. And she signed herself "Your
forsaken Ariadne." Two days later came another letter in the
same style, signed "Your forgotten Ariadne." My mind was
confused. I loved her passionately, I dreamed of her every
night, and then this "your forsaken," "your forgotten" -- what
did it mean? What was it for? And then the dreariness of the
country, the long evenings, the disquieting thoughts of Lubkov.
. . . The uncertainty tortured me, and poisoned my days and
nights; it became unendurable. I could not bear it and went
Ariadne summoned me to Abbazzia. I arrived there on a bright
warm day after rain; the rain-drops were still hanging on the
trees and glistening on the huge, barrack-like dpendance where
Ariadne and Lubkov were living.
They were not at home. I went into the park; wandered about the
avenues, then sat down. An Austrian General, with his hands
behind him, walked past me, with red stripes on his trousers
such as our generals wear. A baby was wheeled by in a
perambulator and the wheels squeaked on the damp sand. A
decrepit old man with jaundice passed, then a crowd of
Englishwomen, a Catholic priest, then the Austrian General
again. A military band, only just arrived from Fiume, with
glittering brass instruments, sauntered by to the bandstand --
they began playing.
Have you ever been at Abbazzia? It's a filthy little Slav town
with only one street, which stinks, and in which one can't walk
after rain without goloshes. I had read so much and always with
such intense feeling about this earthly paradise that when
afterwards, holding up my trousers, I cautiously crossed the
narrow street, and in my ennui bought some hard pears from an
old peasant woman who, recognising me as a Russian, said:
"Tcheeteery" for "tchetyry" (four) -- "davadtsat" for "dvadtsat"
(twenty), and when I wondered in perplexity where to go and what
to do here, and when I inevitably met Russians as disappointed
as I was, I began to feel vexed and ashamed. There is a calm bay
there full of steamers and boats with coloured sails. From there
I could see Fiume and the distant islands covered with lilac
mist, and it would have been picturesque if the view over the
bay had not been hemmed in by the hotels and their dpendances
-- buildings in an absurd, trivial style of architecture, with
which the whole of that green shore has been covered by greedy
money grubbers, so that for the most part you see nothing in
this little paradise but windows, terraces, and little squares
with tables and waiters black coats. There is a park such as you
find now in every watering-place abroad. And the dark,
motionless, silent foliage of the palms, and the bright yellow
sand in the avenue, and the bright green seats, and the glitter
of the braying military horns -- all this sickened me in ten
minutes! And yet one is obliged for some reason to spend ten
days, ten weeks, there!
Having been dragged reluctantly from one of these
watering-places to another, I have been more and more struck by
the inconvenient and niggardly life led by the wealthy and
well-fed, the dulness and feebleness of their imagination, the
lack of boldness in their tastes and desires. And how much
happier are those tourists, old and young, who, not having the
money to stay in hotels, live where they can, admire the view of
the sea from the tops of the mountains, lying on the green
grass, walk instead of riding, see the forests and villages at
close quarters, observe the customs of the country, listen to
its songs, fall in love with its women. . . .
While I was sitting in the park, it began to get dark, and in
the twilight my Ariadne appeared, elegant and dressed like a
princess; after her walked Lubkov, wearing a new loose-fitting
suit, bought probably in Vienna.
"Why are you cross with me?" he was saying. "What have I done to
Seeing me, she uttered a cry of joy, and probably, if we had not
been in the park, would have thrown herself on my neck. She
pressed my hands warmly and laughed; and I laughed too and
almost cried with emotion. Questions followed, of the village,
of my father, whether I had seen her brother, and so on. She
insisted on my looking her straight in the face, and asked if I
remembered the gudgeon, our little quarrels, the picnics. . . .
"How nice it all was really!" she sighed. "But we're not having
a slow time here either. We have a great many acquaintances, my
dear, my best of friends! To-morrow I will introduce you to a
Russian family here, but please buy yourself another hat." She
scrutinised me and frowned. "Abbazzia is not the country," she
said; "here one must be comme il faut."
Then we went to the restaurant. Ariadne was laughing and
mischievous all the time; she kept calling me "dear," "good,"
"clever," and seemed as though she could not believe her eyes
that I was with her. We sat on till eleven o'clock, and parted
very well satisfied both with the supper and with each other.
Next day Ariadne presented me to the Russian family as: "The son
of a distinguished professor whose estate is next to ours."
She talked to this family about nothing but estates and crops,
and kept appealing to me. She wanted to appear to be a very
wealthy landowner, and did, in fact, succeed in doing so. Her
manner was superb like that of a real aristocrat, which indeed
she was by birth.
"But what a person my aunt is!" she said suddenly, looking at me
with a smile. "We had a slight tiff, and she has bolted off to
Meran. What do you say to that?"
Afterwards when we were walking in the park I asked her:
"What aunt were you talking of just now? What aunt is that?"
"That was a saving lie," laughed Ariadne. "They must not know
I'm without a chaperon."
After a moment's silence she came closer to me and said:
"My dear, my dear, do be friends with Lubkov. He is so unhappy!
His wife and mother are simply awful."
She used the formal mode of address in speaking to Lubkov, and
when she was going up to bed she said good-night to him exactly
as she did to me, and their rooms were on different floors. All
this made me hope that it was all nonsense, and that there was
no sort of love affair between them, and I felt at ease when I
met him. And when one day he asked me for the loan of three
hundred roubles, I gave it to him with the greatest pleasure.
Every day we spent in enjoying ourselves and in nothing but
enjoying ourselves; we strolled in the park, we ate, we drank.
Every day there were conversations with the Russian family. By
degrees I got used to the fact that if I went into the park I
should be sure to meet the old man with jaundice, the Catholic
priest, and the Austrian General, who always carried a pack of
little cards, and wherever it was possible sat down and played
patience, nervously twitching his shoulders. And the band played
the same thing over and over again.
At home in the country I used to feel ashamed to meet the
peasants when I was fishing or on a picnic party on a working
day; here too I was ashamed at the sight of the footmen, the
coachmen, and the workmen who met us. It always seemed to me
they were looking at me and thinking: "Why are you doing
nothing?" And I was conscious of this feeling of shame every day
from morning to night. It was a strange, unpleasant, monotonous
time; it was only varied by Lubkov's borrowing from me now a
hundred, now fifty guldens, and being suddenly revived by the
money as a morphia-maniac is by morphia, beginning to laugh
loudly at his wife, at himself, at his creditors.
At last it began to be rainy and cold. We went to Italy, and I
telegraphed to my father begging him for mercy's sake to send me
eight hundred roubles to Rome. We stayed in Venice, in Bologna,
in Florence, and in every town invariably put up at an expensive
hotel, where we were charged separately for lights, and for
service, and for heating, and for bread at lunch, and for the
right of having dinner by ourselves. We ate enormously. In the
morning they gave us caf complet; at one o'clock lunch: meat,
fish, some sort of omelette, cheese, fruits, and wine. At six
o'clock dinner of eight courses with long intervals, during
which we drank beer and wine. At nine o'clock tea. At midnight
Ariadne would declare she was hungry, and ask for ham and boiled
eggs. We would eat to keep her company.
In the intervals between meals we used to rush about the museums
and exhibitions in continual anxiety for fear we should be late
for dinner or lunch. I was bored at the sight of the pictures; I
longed to be at home to rest; I was exhausted, looked about for
a chair and hypocritically repeated after other people: "How
exquisite, what atmosphere!" Like overfed boa constrictors, we
noticed only the most glaring objects. The shop windows
hypnotised us; we went into ecstasies over imitation brooches
and bought a mass of useless trumpery.
The same thing happened in Rome, where it rained and there was a
cold wind. After a heavy lunch we went to look at St. Peter's,
and thanks to our replete condition and perhaps the bad weather,
it made no sort of impression on us, and detecting in each other
an indifference to art, we almost quarrelled.
The money came from my father. I went to get it, I remember, in
the morning. Lubkov went with me.
"The present cannot be full and happy when one has a past," said
he. "I have heavy burdens left on me by the past. However, if
only I get the money, it's no great matter, but if not, I'm in a
fix. Would you believe it, I have only eight francs left, yet I
must send my wife a hundred and my mother another. And we must
live here too. Ariadne's like a child; she won't enter into the
position, and flings away money like a duchess. Why did she buy
a watch yesterday? And, tell me, what object is there in our
going on playing at being good children? Why, our hiding our
relations from the servants and our friends costs us from ten to
fifteen francs a day, as I have to have a separate room. What's
the object of it?"
I felt as though a sharp stone had been turned round in my
chest. There was no uncertainty now; it was all clear to me. I
turned cold all over, and at once made a resolution to give up
seeing them, to run away from them, to go home at once. . . .
"To get on terms with a woman is easy enough," Lubkov went on.
"You have only to undress her; but afterwards what a bore it is,
what a silly business!"
When I counted over the money I received he said:
"If you don't lend me a thousand francs, I am faced with
complete ruin. Your money is the only resource left to me."
I gave him the money, and he at once revived and began laughing
about his uncle, a queer fish, who could never keep his address
secret from his wife. When I reached the hotel I packed and paid
my bill. I had still to say good-bye to Ariadne.
I knocked at the door.
In her room was the usual morning disorder: tea-things on the
table, an unfinished roll, an eggshell; a strong overpowering
reek of scent. The bed had not been made, and it was evident
that two had slept in it.
Ariadne herself had only just got out of bed and was now with
her hair down in a flannel dressing-jacket.
I said good-morning to her, and then sat in silence for a minute
while she tried to put her hair tidy, and then I asked her,
trembling all over:
"Why . . . why . . . did you send for me here?"
Evidently she guessed what I was thinking; she took me by the
hand and said:
"I want you to be here, you are so pure."
I felt ashamed of my emotion, of my trembling. And I was afraid
I might begin sobbing, too! I went out without saying another
word, and within an hour I was sitting in the train. All the
journey, for some reason, I imagined Ariadne with child, and she
seemed disgusting to me, and all the women I saw in the trains
and at the stations looked to me, for some reason, as if they
too were with child, and they too seemed disgusting and
pitiable. I was in the position of a greedy, passionate miser
who should suddenly discover that all his gold coins were false.
The pure, gracious images which my imagination, warmed by love,
had cherished for so long, my plans, my hopes, my memories, my
ideas of love and of woman -- all now were jeering and putting
out their tongues at me. "Ariadne," I kept asking with horror,
"that young, intellectual, extraordinarily beautiful girl, the
daughter of a senator, carrying on an intrigue with such an
ordinary, uninteresting vulgarian? But why should she not love
Lubkov?" I answered myself. "In what is he inferior to me? Oh,
let her love any one she likes, but why lie to me? But why is
she bound to be open with me?" And so I went on over and over
again till I was stupefied.
It was cold in the train; I was travelling first class, but even
so there were three on a side, there were no double windows, the
outer door opened straight into the compartment, and I felt as
though I were in the stocks, cramped, abandoned, pitiful, and my
legs were fearfully numb, and at the same time I kept recalling
how fascinating she had been that morning in her dressing-jacket
and with her hair down, and I was suddenly overcome by such
acute jealousy that I leapt up in anguish, so that my neighbours
stared at me in wonder and positive alarm.
At home I found deep snow and twenty degrees of frost. I'm fond
of the winter; I'm fond of it because at that time, even in the
hardest frosts, it's particularly snug at home. It's pleasant to
put on one's fur jacket and felt overboots on a clear frosty
day, to do something in the garden or in the yard, or to read in
a well warmed room, to sit in my father's study before the open
fire, to wash in my country bath-house. . . . Only if there is
no mother in the house, no sister and no children, it is somehow
dreary on winter evenings, and they seem extraordinarily long
and quiet. And the warmer and snugger it is, the more acutely is
this lack felt. In the winter when I came back from abroad, the
evenings were endlessly long, I was intensely depressed, so
depressed that I could not even read; in the daytime I was
coming and going, clearing away the snow in the garden or
feeding the chickens and the calves, but in the evening it was
all up with me.
I had never cared for visitors before, but now I was glad of
them, for I knew there was sure to be talk of Ariadne.
Kotlovitch, the spiritualist, used often to come to talk about
his sister, and sometimes he brought with him his friend Prince
Maktuev, who was as much in love with Ariadne as I was. To sit
in Ariadne's room, to finger the keys of her piano, to look at
her music was a necessity for the prince -- he could not live
without it; and the spirit of his grandfather Ilarion was still
predicting that sooner or later she would be his wife. The
prince usually stayed a long time with us, from lunch to
midnight, saying nothing all the time; in silence he would drink
two or three bottles of beer, and from time to time, to show
that he too was taking part in the conversation, he would laugh
an abrupt, melancholy, foolish laugh. Before going home he would
always take me aside and ask me in an undertone: "When did you
see Ariadne Grigoryevna last? Was she quite well? I suppose
she's not tired of being out there?"
Spring came on. There was the harrowing to do and then the
sowing of spring corn and clover. I was sad, but there was the
feeling of spring. One longed to accept the inevitable. Working
in the fields and listening to the larks, I asked myself:
"Couldn't I have done with this question of personal happiness
once and for all? Couldn't I lay aside my fancy and marry a
simple peasant girl?"
Suddenly when we were at our very busiest, I got a letter with
the Italian stamp, and the clover and the beehives and the
calves and the peasant girl all floated away like smoke. This
time Ariadne wrote that she was profoundly, infinitely unhappy.
She reproached me for not holding out a helping hand to her, for
looking down upon her from the heights of my virtue and
deserting her at the moment of danger. All this was written in a
large, nervous handwriting with blots and smudges, and it was
evident that she wrote in haste and distress. In conclusion she
besought me to come and save her. Again my anchor was hauled up
and I was carried away. Ariadne was in Rome. I arrived late in
the evening, and when she saw me, she sobbed and threw herself
on my neck. She had not changed at all that winter, and was just
as young and charming. We had supper together and afterwards
drove about Rome until dawn, and all the time she kept telling
me about her doings. I asked where Lubkov was.
"Don't remind me of that creature!" she cried. "He is loathsome
and disgusting to me!"
"But I thought you loved him," I said.
"Never," she said. "At first he struck me as original and
aroused my pity, that was all. He is insolent and takes a woman
by storm. And that's attractive. But we won't talk about him.
That is a melancholy page in my life. He has gone to Russia to
get money. Serve him right! I told him not to dare to come
She was living then, not at an hotel, but in a private lodging
of two rooms which she had decorated in her own taste, frigidly
After Lubkov had gone away she had borrowed from her
acquaintances about five thousand francs, and my arrival
certainly was the one salvation for her.
I had reckoned on taking her back to the country, but I did not
succeed in that. She was homesick for her native place, but her
recollections of the poverty she had been through there, of
privations, of the rusty roof on her brother's house, roused a
shudder of disgust, and when I suggested going home to her, she
squeezed my hands convulsively and said:
"No, no, I shall die of boredom there!"
Then my love entered upon its final phase.
"Be the darling that you used to be; love me a little," said
Ariadne, bending over to me. "You're sulky and prudent, you're
afraid to yield to impulse, and keep thinking of consequences,
and that's dull. Come, I beg you, I beseech you, be nice to me!
. . . My pure one, my holy one, my dear one, I love you so!"
I became her lover. For a month anyway I was like a madman,
conscious of nothing but rapture. To hold in one's arms a young
and lovely body, with bliss to feel her warmth every time one
waked up from sleep, and to remember that she was there -- she,
my Ariadne! -- oh, it was not easy to get used to that! But yet
I did get used to it, and by degrees became capable of
reflecting on my new position. First of all, I realised, as
before, that Ariadne did not love me. But she wanted to be
really in love, she was afraid of solitude, and, above all, I
was healthy, young, vigorous; she was sensual, like all cold
people, as a rule -- and we both made a show of being united by
a passionate, mutual love. Afterwards I realised something else,
We stayed in Rome, in Naples, in Florence; we went to Paris, but
there we thought it cold and went back to Italy. We introduced
ourselves everywhere as husband and wife, wealthy landowners.
People readily made our acquaintance and Ariadne had great
social success everywhere. As she took lessons in painting, she
was called an artist, and only imagine, that quite suited her,
though she had not the slightest trace of talent.
She would sleep every day till two or three o'clock; she had her
coffee and lunch in bed. At dinner she would eat soup, lobster,
fish, meat, asparagus, game, and after she had gone to bed I
used to bring up something, for instance roast beef, and she
would eat it with a melancholy, careworn expression, and if she
waked in the night she would eat apples and oranges.
The chief, so to say fundamental, characteristic of the woman
was an amazing duplicity. She was continually deceitful every
minute, apparently apart from any necessity, as it were by
instinct, by an impulse such as makes the sparrow chirrup and
the cockroach waggle its antenn. She was deceitful with me,
with the footman, with the porter, with the tradesmen in the
shops, with her acquaintances; not one conversation, not one
meeting, took place without affectation and pretence. A man had
only to come into our room -- whoever it might be, a waiter, or
a baron -- for her eyes, her expression, her voice to change,
even the contour of her figure was transformed. At the very
first glance at her then, you would have said there were no more
wealthy and fashionable people in Italy than we. She never met
an artist or a musician without telling him all sorts of lies
about his remarkable talent.
"You have such a talent!" she would say, in honeyed cadences,
"I'm really afraid of you. I think you must see right through
And all this simply in order to please, to be successful, to be
fascinating! She waked up every morning with the one thought of
"pleasing"! It was the aim and object of her life. If I had told
her that in such a house, in such a street, there lived a man
who was not attracted by her, it would have caused her real
suffering. She wanted every day to enchant, to captivate, to
drive men crazy. The fact that I was in her power and reduced to
a complete nonentity before her charms gave her the same sort of
satisfaction that visitors used to feel in tournaments. My
subjection was not enough, and at nights, stretched out like a
tigress, uncovered -- she was always too hot -- she would read
the letters sent her by Lubkov; he besought her to return to
Russia, vowing if she did not he would rob or murder some one to
get the money to come to her. She hated him, but his passionate,
slavish letters excited her. She had an extraordinary opinion of
her own charms; she imagined that if somewhere, in some great
assembly, men could have seen how beautifully she was made and
the colour of her skin, she would have vanquished all Italy, the
whole world. Her talk of her figure, of her skin, offended me,
and observing this, she would, when she was angry, to vex me,
say all sorts of vulgar things, taunting me. One day when we
were at the summer villa of a lady of our acquaintance, and she
lost her temper, she even went so far as to say: "If you don't
leave off boring me with your sermons, I'll undress this minute
and lie naked here on these flowers."
Often looking at her asleep, or eating, or trying to assume a
nave expression, I wondered why that extraordinary beauty,
grace, and intelligence had been given her by God. Could it
simply be for lolling in bed, eating and lying, lying endlessly?
And was she intelligent really? She was afraid of three candles
in a row, of the number thirteen, was terrified of spells and
bad dreams. She argued about free love and freedom in general
like a bigoted old woman, declared that Boleslav Markevitch was
a better writer than Turgenev. But she was diabolically cunning
and sharp, and knew how to seem a highly educated, advanced
person in company.
Even at a good-humoured moment, she could always insult a
servant or kill an insect without a pang; she liked bull-fights,
liked to read about murders, and was angry when prisoners were
For the life Ariadne and I were leading, we had to have a great
deal of money. My poor father sent me his pension, all the
little sums he received, borrowed for me wherever he could, and
when one day he answered me: "Non habeo," I sent him a desperate
telegram in which I besought him to mortgage the estate. A
little later I begged him to get money somehow on a second
mortgage. He did this too without a murmur and sent me every
farthing. Ariadne despised the practical side of life; all this
was no concern of hers, and when flinging away thousands of
francs to satisfy her mad desires I groaned like an old tree,
she would be singing "Addio bella Napoli" with a light heart.
Little by little I grew cold to her and began to be ashamed of
our tie. I am not fond of pregnancy and confinements, but now I
sometimes dreamed of a child who would have been at least a
formal justification of our life. That I might not be completely
disgusted with myself, I began reading and visiting museums and
galleries, gave up drinking and took to eating very little. If
one keeps oneself well in hand from morning to night, one's
heart seems lighter. I began to bore Ariadne too. The people
with whom she won her triumphs were, by the way, all of the
middling sort; as before, there were no ambassadors, there was
no salon, the money did not run to it, and this mortified her
and made her sob, and she announced to me at last that perhaps
she would not be against our returning to Russia.
And here we are on our way. For the last few months she has been
zealously corresponding with her brother; she evidently has some
secret projects, but what they are -- God knows! I am sick of
trying to fathom her underhand schemes! But we're going, not to
the country, but to Yalta and afterwards to the Caucasus. She
can only exist now at watering-places, and if you knew how I
hate all these watering-places, how suffocated and ashamed I am
in them. If I could be in the country now! If I could only be
working now, earning my bread by the sweat of my brow, atoning
for my follies. I am conscious of a superabundance of energy and
I believe that if I were to put that energy to work I could
redeem my estate in five years. But now, as you see, there is a
complication. Here we're not abroad, but in mother Russia; we
shall have to think of lawful wedlock. Of course, all attraction
is over; there is no trace left of my old love, but, however
that may be, I am bound in honour to marry her.
Shamohin, excited by his story, went below with me and we
continued talking about women. It was late. It appeared that he
and I were in the same cabin.
"So far it is only in the village that woman has not fallen
behind man," said Shamohin. "There she thinks and feels just as
man does, and struggles with nature in the name of culture as
zealously as he. In the towns the woman of the bourgeois or
intellectual class has long since fallen behind, and is
returning to her primitive condition. She is half a human beast
already, and, thanks to her, a great deal of what had been won
by human genius has been lost again; the woman gradually
disappears and in her place is the primitive female. This
dropping-back on the part of the educated woman is a real danger
to culture; in her retrogressive movement she tries to drag man
after her and prevents him from moving forward. That is
I asked: "Why generalise? Why judge of all women from Ariadne
alone? The very struggle of women for education and sexual
equality, which I look upon as a struggle for justice, precludes
any hypothesis of a retrograde movement."
But Shamohin scarcely listened to me and he smiled
distrustfully. He was a passionate, convinced misogynist, and it
was impossible to alter his convictions.
"Oh, nonsense!" he interrupted. "When once a woman sees in me,
not a man, not an equal, but a male, and her one anxiety all her
life is to attract me -- that is, to take possession of me --
how can one talk of their rights? Oh, don't you believe them;
they are very, very cunning! We men make a great stir about
their emancipation, but they don't care about their emancipation
at all, they only pretend to care about it; they are horribly
cunning things, horribly cunning!"
I began to feel sleepy and weary of discussion. I turned over
with my face to the wall.
"Yes," I heard as I fell asleep -- "yes, and it's our education
that's at fault, sir. In our towns, the whole education and
bringing up of women in its essence tends to develop her into
the human beast -- that is, to make her attractive to the male
and able to vanquish him. Yes, indeed" -- Shamohiri sighed --
"little girls ought to be taught and brought up with boys, so
that they might be always together. A woman ought to be trained
so that she may be able, like a man, to recognise when she's
wrong, or she always thinks she's in the right. Instil into a
little girl from her cradle that a man is not first of all a
cavalier or a possible lover, but her neighbour, her equal in
everything. Train her to think logically, to generalise, and do
not assure her that her brain weighs less than a man's and that
therefore she can be indifferent to the sciences, to the arts,
to the tasks of culture in general. The apprentice to the
shoemaker or the house painter has a brain of smaller size than
the grown-up man too, yet he works, suffers, takes his part in
the general struggle for existence. We must give up our attitude
to the physiological aspect, too -- to pregnancy and childbirth,
seeing that in the first place women don't have babies every
month; secondly, not all women have babies; and, thirdly, a
normal countrywoman works in the fields up to the day of her
confinement and it does her no harm. Then there ought to be
absolute equality in everyday life. If a man gives a lady his
chair or picks up the handkerchief she has dropped, let her
repay him in the same way. I have no objection if a girl of good
family helps me to put on my coat or hands me a glass of water
I heard no more, for I fell asleep.
Next morning when we were approaching Sevastopol, it was damp,
unpleasant weather; the ship rocked. Shamohin sat on deck with
me, brooding and silent. When the bell rang for tea, men with
their coat-collars turned up and ladies with pale, sleepy faces
began going below; a young and very beautiful lady, the one who
had been so angry with the Customs officers at Volotchisk,
stopped before Shamohin and said with the expression of a
naughty, fretful child:
"Jean, your birdie's been sea-sick."
Afterwards when I was at Yalta I saw the same beautiful lady
dashing about on horseback with a couple of officers hardly able
to keep up with her. And one morning I saw her in an overall and
a Phrygian cap, sketching on the sea-front with a great crowd
admiring her a little way off. I too was introduced to her. She
pressed my hand with great warmth, and looking at me
ecstatically, thanked me in honeyed cadences for the pleasure I
had given her by my writings.
"Don't you believe her," Shamohin whispered to me, "she has
never read a word of them."
When I was walking on the sea-front in the early evening
Shamohin met me with his arms full of big parcels of fruits and
"Prince Maktuev is here!" he said joyfully. "He came yesterday
with her brother, the spiritualist! Now I understand what she
was writing to him about! Oh, Lord!" he went on, gazing up to
heaven, and pressing his parcels to his bosom. "If she hits it
off with the prince, it means freedom, then I can go back to the
country with my father!"
And he ran on.
"I begin to believe in spirits," he called to me, looking back.
"The spirit of grandfather Ilarion seems to have prophesied the
truth! Oh, if only it is so!"
The day after this meeting I left Yalta and how Shamohin's story
ended I don't know.
Max Nordau: Max Simon Nordau (1848-1923) was a Hungarian
Raphael's Madonna: Raphael (1483-1520) painted many madonnas
novel of Weltmann's: A. F. Weltmann (1800-1870) was a minor
reddish agarics: mushrooms
homeopathy: a pseudoscience that treats disease by administering
minute doses of drugs that in massive amounts produce symptoms
in healthy individuals similar to the disease itself
Csar's wife: Julius Csar (c. 102 B. C. - 44 B. C.); the wife
of a dictator is very powerful
char--banc: bus (horse-drawn)
kvass: a Russian beer made from rye or barley
dpendance: an outbuilding
comme il faut: proper, decent
guldens: Austrian coins worth at the time of the story about 1
caf complet: coffee with rolls, butter, and jam
enter into the position: she won't understand my position
twenty degrees of frost: 13 below zero F.
three candles in a row: Russians place three candles next to a
coffin, so three candles are a sign of a death in the family
Boleslav Markevitch: Boleslav M. Markevitch (1822-1884) was a
minor novelist who was also extremely conservative politically
Turgenev: Ivan S. Turgenev (1818-1883), the great Russian
Non habeo: I have none
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