Aleksey Tolstoy [torture] The Sisters (doc) (2023) (2023)

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Alexei Tolstoy

Aleksey Tolstoy [torture] The Sisters (doc) (2023) (1)

a trilogy



gloomy morning

The sisters



Moscow 1953





autobiographical sketch

I grew up on a steppe farm about sixty miles from Samara. My father, Nikolai Alexeyevich Tolstoy, was a landowner in Samara. My mother, Alexandra Leontyevna, née Turgeneva (she was the great-niece of Nikolai Ivanovich Turgenev*), left my father before I was born. Her second husband, my stepfather, Alexei Apollonovich Bostrom, was at that time a member of the Zemstvo from the city of Nikolayevsk (now Pugachevsk).

When she separated from my father, my mother left him three small children: two sons, Alexander and Mstislav, and a daughter, Elizaveta. He left his home to embark on a difficult life, for the step he had taken meant severing all family ties as well as breaking with aristocratic society. Leaving her husband was a crime, a disgrace, in the eyes of society she was no longer a decent woman, she had become a fallen woman. Everyone considered her that, including her father, Leonti Borisovich Turgenev, and her mother, Ekaterina Alexandrovna.

Her great love for A.A. Bostrom was not the only thing that made her decide on this critical step; my mother was a highly educated woman for her time and a writer. (She was the author of the novels The Restless Heart and A Remote Corner, and later wrote a series of children's books, the most popular of which was My Friend.) Samara Society in the 1980s, until they appeared as Marxist exiles. , presented a repulsive and depressing picture. Rich flour millers, merchants, buying up the estates of the gentry, steppe landowners who gradually go bankrupt and prolong their days in idleness and boredom, against the backdrop of those vulgar bourgeois that Gorky so disgustingly paints .

In this dusty, ghastly, sinister city and its surrounding suburbs, drinking and debauchery were the order of the day. When small landowner Alexei Apollonovich Bostrom arrived on the scene - young, handsome, liberal and reading, a man with spiritual "demands", my mother faced a life-or-death problem - to let herself down. into a filthy swamp, or enter into a high, spiritual, and pure way of life. And she left for a new husband and a new life in Nikolayevsk. It was there that my mother wrote her two stories under the titleA remote corner.

[* Nikolai Ivanovich Turgenev (1789-1871) — financier and social worker. The opposite serfdom in Russia. He was sentenced to death for his participation in the anti-tsarist uprising of December 14, 1825. The sentence could not be carried out due to his absence from Russia]

Alexei Apollonovich, a liberal group and "descendant of the sixties"* (the words "sixties" were always pronounced reverently, as denoting something holy and lofty), unable to get along with the landowners of the Nikolayevsk steppes, did not he was re-elected to the Zemstvo and I returned with my mother and I, now a two-year-old boy, to his farm in Sosnovka.

It was there that I spent my childhood. An orchard... reed-edged ponds surrounded by willows... The Chagra steppe river... The village children, my only companions... Saddle horses... The steppe, overgrown with tall, feathery grass, and the monotonous horizon interrupted only by tombstones... The changing of the seasons, which always seemed like big events and each time new... All this, and especially the fact of having grown up in solitude, helped to develop the dreamer in me.

When winter came and snow piled up in the orchard and the house, the howling of wolves was heard at night. When the wind moaned in the chimneys, the hanging lamp lit over the round table in the dining room, a poorly furnished room with plaster walls, and my stepfather would read aloud, usually by Nekrasov, Lev Tolstoy or Turgenev, ** and at times of the last number ofEuropean herald.

[* Sixties men. Progressive, revolutionary and democratic writers of the sixties, who criticized the Peasant Reform of February 19, 1861 and elaborated revolutionary slogans. The movement included N. G. Chernyshevsky, N. A. Dobrolyubov, A. I. Herzen, N. P. Ogarev and others.

** Turgenev: o escritor Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818-1883).]

My mother knitted a sock while she listened. He drew or colored the images in a book of stories... Nothing disturbed the tranquility of those afternoons in the old wooden house, smelling the heat of the whitewashed stoves, heated with dry dung or straw, and it was necessary to carry a candle to move it. from one dark room to another.

I barely read children's books, probably didn't own any. My favorite author was Turgenev. I began to hear his works read aloud on winter nights from the age of seven. Next in order of preference were Lev Tolstoy, Nekrasov and Pushkin. (Dostoevsky inspired a certain terror in our house: he was considered a "cruel" writer.)

My stepfather was a militant and materialistic atheist. He had read Buckle, Spencer, Conte and mostly loved arguments on ideological issues. That didn't stop him from housing his workers in precarious facilities with rotten floors and walls covered in black beetles, or feeding his servants rotten meat.

Later, when the Marxist exiles began to arrive, my stepfather met them and had many heated arguments with them; but i never masterCapital,contenting himself with the works of Kant and the English economists.

My mother was also an atheist, but it seems to me more on principle than reality. She was afraid of death, loved to dream and was always writing. My stepfather, however, strictly imposed his "ideology" on him, and teachers, rural midwives and zemstvo workers in his plays (none of which made it to the theater) presented monologues quite full of social meaning.

From the age of ten I became a great reader, always within reach of the classics. But three years later, when my parents managed, not without difficulty (I got the lowest marks in all subjects on the entrance exam), to get into Syzran "Modern" Secondary School, I discovered in the municipal library the works of Jules Verne, Fennimore Cooper and Mayne Reid, which I greedily devoured, even though my mother and stepfather called them "trash."

Until I started attending Syzran High School, I was homeschooled. My stepfather brought from Samara a teacher, Arkady Ivanovich Slovookhotov, a good-natured student of the church seminary, with pockmarks and wild red hair, with whom I lived in close friendship, without learning much from him or burdening myself with study. . Slovookhotov was followed by an exiled Marxist. He stayed with us one winter, gave me languid algebra lessons, looked desperately at the iron fan whirring in the windowpane, was not easily lured into theoretical discussions with my stepfather, and left in the spring...

One winter—I was about ten at the time—my mother suggested I try writing a story. She was extremely anxious for me to be a writer. I struggled with the adventures of a boy named Stepka for many nights, but now I don't remember anything from this story, except for the phrase that the snow sparkled like diamonds in the moon's rays. I had never seen diamonds before, but I liked the phrase. Apparently, Stepka's story was not a success, since my mother never forced me to do creative work again.

Until I was thirteen, until I entered high school, I lived a dreamy and contemplative life. This did not prevent me, of course, from spending whole days at the harvest, among the stubble, on the threshing floor and with the village boys by the river, or going in winter to friends among the peasants to listen to fairy tales. stories, fables and songs, playing punches or cards ("Kings", "My Triumphs", etc.), participating in a fast-paced game of fists among the snowdrifts ... Other pleasures were riding bareback on intact horses and "dress up" at Christmas and New Years.

The three years of famine, from 1891 to 1893, left a deep impression on my mind, the traces of which have never been erased. Large cracks appeared in the earth, trees changed color and lost their leaves, and crops turned brown. and sang. A dark wave of heat shuddered across the horizon, burning away all traces of plant life.

The roofs of houses in the villages were bare and exposed, straw had been used to feed livestock, and the skeletal animals that survived had to be tied to slats to keep them upright. My stepfather had a very hard time getting his property free during these years and finally, a few years later, he was forced to sell it. The entire province of Samara passed into the hands of Shekhobalov, a magnate who bought estates from the nobility and leased them to peasants for whatever annual payment he chose.

In 1897 we left Sosnovka forever. It was sold to the "courier" kulak, an individual who earned his nickname after robbing the courier and hiding the ten-year statute of limitations, thus laying the groundwork for his prosperity. We moved to Samara, to a house on Saratovskaya Street, which my stepfather bought with the money left over from paying the mortgage on his property and all the bills.

I graduated from Samara High School in the year 1901 and went to Petersburg to prepare for entrance exams, entering S. Voitinsky preparatory school in Terioki for that purpose. I passed the exams at the Technological Institute and applied to the Department of Mechanics. My first literary attempts were made when I was sixteen: weak verses written under the influence of Nekrasov and Nadson. I don't remember what impulse led me to write them, but I suppose they must have been the result of vague aspirations in search of a way out. The poems were mediocre and I stopped fighting for them. However, I was always drawn to some kind of creative process, I loved notebooks, pen and ink... When I was still a student, I repeatedly returned to my attempts at writing, but this was just the beginning of something he was unable to find a solution to. path on its own, or of becoming complete...

I got married early, at nineteen. My wife was a medical student and until the end of the year 1906 ours was the normal working life of students. Like everyone else, I participated in student movements and strikes and was a member of the social democratic faction. I also worked at the dining table at the Instituto Tecnológico. In 1903, I was almost killed by a flying cobblestone during a demonstration in front of Kazan Cathedral, only to be saved by a book that was inside my coat trunk.

When the institutions of higher learning closed in 1905, I went to Dresden to study at the Polytechnicum for a year. There I returned to writing poetry, experimenting with revolutionary verses like Tan-Bogoraz and even the young Balmont wrote then, and in lyrical forms. Returning to Samara in the summer of 1906, I showed them to my mother. He sadly told me they were very mediocre. This notebook has not survived.

Each era has its own style, in which thoughts, sensations and passions are hidden. I had not yet acquired this new form, and I still could not create it myself.

In the summer of 1906, my mother died of meningitis, and I left for Petersburg to continue my studies at the Technological Institute.

A reactionary era had begun, and the Symbolists forced their way into the limelight under its aegis...

It was an employee of the Ministry of Roads and Communications, Konstantin Sergeyevich Vanderflit, a navigator, a madman and a dreamer, who first introduced me to his works, performed by Vyacheslav Ivanov, Balmont and Andrei Byeli. In his attic on Vasilyevsky Island he read me the verses of the Symbolists by the light of an oil lamp, expounding them with the heat of his inimitable imagination.

It was then, in the spring of 1907, that I produced my first volume of "decadent" verse, a derivative work, naive and worthless. But it did help me to chart a path towards the assimilation of modern forms of poetry. A year later, he already had another book of verses ready, entitledBeyond the blue rivers.I am not ashamed of this book to this day.Beyond the blue riversit was the result of my first contact with Russian folklore and Russian folk art.

After that, I started my first attempts at prose:Tales of a Magpie.In these stories, I tried, in fairy-tale form, to express the impressions of my childhood. But I only managed to do this with more success many years later, instory 'Nikita's Childhood.

It was the poet and translator M. Voloshin who introduced me to fiction writing. In the summer of 1909 I heard him read his translation of Henri de Regnier. The exquisitely carved images made a big impression on me. The symbolists, with their search for form, and aesthetes like Regnier instilled in me conceptions of what I lacked at the time and without which there can be no artistic creation: form and technique.

In the fall of 1909 I wrote my first storyA week in Tourenevowhich was later included in myVolga Anthology,and later in a longer volume titledunder the old lime trees,a collection of histories dealing with that section of landlords and nobles whose estates were gradually bought uptup por novos magnatas da terra como Shekhobalov.

Those noble landowners who, firmly rooted in the land, turned to intensive forms of agriculture are not mentioned in my book. I didn't know them

Then came two novels:the lame princeythe eccentrics,which ended my first period of writing about my middle youth.

Having exhausted my reminiscences, I returned to contemporary life. And here I came to the pain. My novels and short stories from that period were not successful, they did not bring out the characteristics of the time. Now I understand why. He still lived in symbolist circles, whose reactionary art rejected modern life, which was moving stormily and inexorably to face the revolution.

Symbolists delved into abstractions and mysticism, noted their "ivory towers", where they hoped to cultivate their talents and escape impending events.

Loving life as I did, I resisted abstractions and idealistic perspectives with all the strength of my temper. And what served me in 1910, in 1913 became a danger and an obstacle.

I fully realized that such a state of affairs could not continue. Always a diligent worker, I began to work harder than ever, but the results were melancholy, because I knew nothing about the people and real life in the country.

Then came the war. I was at the front as a war correspondent for theRussian registration,and in 1916 he went to England and France. I no longer have my reprinted book of war articles, tsarist censorship made it impossible to fully express what I saw and experienced. Only a few stories from this period were included in my collected works.

But I had seen real life, I had been a part of it, ripping off the tightly buttoned black frock coat of the Symbolists. He had seen the Russian people.

I returned to the subject of Peter the Great in the early months of the February Revolution. It must have been artistic intuition, not conscious reasoning, that made me look for in this matter the key to the mystery of the Russian people, of Russian politics. The late historian V. V. Kallash helped me a lot in my new job. The treasure of the Russian language stretched out before me in all its splendor, in all its strength and genius. At last he discovered the secret of literary construction; the literary form is conditioned by the writer's own intimate feelings, transmitted first by movement (gesture) and then by words (speech), in which the choice and arrangement of words is equivalent to gesticulation. The beginning of my theatrical work as a playwright dates back to the first days of the war. Before 1913 he had writtenthe oppressors,a comedy staged at the Maly Theater in Moscow. It provoked a fervent reaction from the public, and was soon banned by the director of the Imperial Theaters.

From 1914 to 1917 I wrote five plays, all staged:The Shot, The Evil One, The Wanted, The Rocket,yThe bitter flower.*

After the October Revolution, I turned to fiction, preparing a draft ofpeter's day,and writingCompassion,a story that was my first attempt at a critical assessment of the Russian liberal intelligentsia in light of the outbreak of the October Revolution.

In the autumn of 1918 I took my family to Ukraine, spending the winter in Odessa, where I wrote a playThe Golden Book of LoveyCagliostro,A long story. From Odessa I went with my family to Paris. And there, in July 1919, I began my epicTrial.

The time I spent as an immigrant was the most difficult period of my life. There I learned what it means to be an outcast, a man cut off from his homeland, weightless and sterile, unwanted by anyone under any circumstances.

I threw myself into writing with enthusiasmThe sisters(The first partordeal), Nikita's childhood(a story) andAs aventuras de Nikita Roshchinat the same time embarking on a great work: revising everything that had any value among what he had written so far...

[*or shotis the first version of the workCuckoo grass. the bitter floweris the first version ofthe reactionaries,which in later versions appeared under the titlesEagleit's himExpulsion of the Prodigal Son.]

In the autumn of 1921 I moved to Berlin and entered theAltar Way(Modification of Marcos).* This meant the instantaneous rupture of all relations with emigrant writers. My former friends "mourned" me. In the spring of 1922 Alexei Maximovich Peshkov (Gorky) came to Berlin from the Soviet Union and we became friends.

During my time in Berlin, I wroteAelita,a novel and the storiesBlack Friday, O assassination by Antoine Ribeaux,yThe manuscript found under the bed,the most serious matter of all these works. At that time I also finally completedNikita's childhoodand the first partTrial.

In the spring of 1922, in response to the curses hurled at me from Paris, I published myLetter to Chaikovsky(reprinted inIzvestia),and I went with my family to Soviet Russia.

I started with two books after my return to my homeland:ibis(a story) andblue cities,a shorter tale, written after a visit to Ukraine. In addition, I worked on several smaller short stories.

HeLetter to Chaikovsky,dictated by love for the Fatherland and the desire to once again dedicate my powers to the Fatherland and its edification, was my passport, unacceptable for the Trotskyists, the "left" groups, rotating in their orbit and, consequently, for many of the leaders from RAPW.**

[*Change See—a bourgeois political movement, which arose among the emigration of white Russian intelligentsia in 1921. It took its name after publishing a collection of articles and essays under the title of "Smena Vekh" (Changing Milestones). Realizing the hopelessness of overthrowing Soviet power, theAltar Waypeople expected the internal collapse of the Soviet state as a result of the New Economic Policy. A. Tolstoy did not realize the full significance of the reactionary anti-Soviet tendencies of theAltar Wayset. However, in the year 1922, after the publication of hisCharter and N.V. Tchaikovsky,it was obvious that A. Tolstoy was breaking in many respects, not only with the White Guard as a whole, but also with theVejitas of Smenaalso.

** RAPW — Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. Literary political organization, founded in 1925. In its early stages it played a certain role in the struggle for proletarian literature. After numerous serious theoretical and political mistakes, it was dissolved in 1932.]

In 1924 I returned to writing for the theater, contributingThe Expulsion of the Prodigal Son, The Empress's Intriguesyazef,the comedyWonders never cease, youth returnand three new adaptations—The Rebellion of the Machinesby Tired,Business manby Hasenklewer andAna Christieby O'Neill.

The pressure exerted on me by RAPW increased each year and finally took on dimensions that forced me to abandon my work as a playwright for several years.

In 1926 I wroteEngineer Garin's Hyperboloid(a novel), and a year later began work on the second part ofTrial-the soap opera1918.

During all this time I worked incessantly to improve everything I had written so far.

In 1929 I returned to the theme of Peter the Great in my workOn the shelf,in which I still clung to certain "traditional" tendencies in the treatment of the time. In 1934 I completely rewrote the play and performed it at the Alexandrinsky Theater in Leningrad, and in 1937 it was revised into its final form and given a new production at the same theater.

The production of the first version ofPedroat the Second Art Theater he was met with open hostility by the RAPW, but was saved by Comrade Stalin, who, in the year 1929, had given the true historical estimate of Peter's period.

In 1930 I wrote the first part of my novelPeter I.A year and a half later came non-fictionBlack gold,reworked by me in 1938 and published under the titleThe Emigrants.I finished the second partPeter Iem 1934.

The two published parts ofPeter Ithey are only an introduction to the third novel, a work I have just begun (Autumn 1943).*

What brought me to the time of Pedro I? It is not true that I chose this era as a contrast to ours. I was attracted by the feeling of the fullness of unvarnished creative forces inherent in the life of that time, when the Russian character was shown with particular vividness.

[* Alexei Tolstoy was working on the third part of his novelPeter Ithroughout 1944 and into early 1945. A serious illness, culminating in his death in February 1945, prevented him from finishing his book. Only the first six chapters of Part III have been completed.—ed.]

Four eras awakened my desire to portray them in literature for the same reasons: the times of Ivan the Terrible, Peter I, the civil wars of 1918-1920, and our own time, unprecedented in scope and importance. But about that later. In order to understand the secret and greatness of the Russian people, it is necessary to acquire a complete and deep knowledge of its past - our history, its turning points, the tragic and creative eras during which the Russian character developed.

My two or three attempts to return to the theater after 1930 met with strong opposition from the Trotskyist sections of the press and RAPW. It was only after the dissolution of RAPW, and after our social life was cleansed of Trotskyists and their minions, and all those elements that hated and tried to harm our motherland, that I felt freed from a hostile environment. Only then could I devote my energy to social and literary work. I spoke five times at anti-fascist congresses abroad, was elected a member of the Leningrad Soviet and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, and was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

In 1935 I startedPan,a long story that forms an essential link between the novels1918and the novel already designedGloomy morning. Breadit was completed in the fall of 1937. I was heavily criticized for this story, particularly for its "boring" and "professional" nature. I will say only one thing in my justification.Panit was an attempt to gather accurate historical material by artistic means; hence his undeniable lack of imaginative freedom. But maybe this attempt will one day serve someone. I retain copyright to the experiments and errors related to them. Literary experiences must be treated with respect: without daring there would be no art. It is interesting to note that, just asPeter I,and perhaps even to a greater extent,PanIt has been translated into almost every language. In the spring of 1938 I wrote my workthe way to victoryand in the autumn of the same year I published my antifascist pamphlet,Devil's Bridge.

Along with these literary works, I worked on the five-volume material of Russian folklore for the Children's Literature Publishing House (Detgiz). I refrained from adapting these tales. Preserving the primitive nature of the narrated tale, I mix all the versions that emerged around a certain theme, in a single story; at the same time, I maintain all the characteristics of colloquial speech, simply freeing the subject from unnecessary details and additions that have accumulated in it, whether due to limitations of the narrator, mechanical transfer from other tales, or the inclusion of strictly local elements. , atypical expressions.

I finished my soap operagloomy morningon June 22, 1941, the day war was declared. While preparing my trilogy for the printer, I revised and corrected the first two parts. The trilogy took twenty-two years to write. Its theme is the return home, the path to the homeland. And the fact that the last lines ofgloomy morningthey were being written on the day our homeland was under fire convinces me that the path taken by this novel is the right one.

Looking at the two terrible and devastating years of the war at this moment, I realize that it was only faith in the inexhaustible strength of our people, in the narrowness of our historical path, so arduous and difficult, the true human path towards a great style of life, the love of the country, the acute pain caused by its sufferings and the hatred of the enemy, which gave us strength for the struggle and for victory. I believed in our victory even in difficult days from October to November 1941. It was then, in Zimenki (not far from the city of Gorki on the Volga), that my drama began.Ivan the Terrible.It was my response to the humiliation the Germans were subjecting my homeland to. I called the great passionate Russian soul of Ivan the Terrible out of limbo in order to strengthen my own "awakened conscience." While working on this work, I continued to publish articles, of whichWhat are we defending, the motherland,ythe blood of the peopleattracted the most attention. My articles published in newspapers during the war have been collected in two volumes. I finishedThe eagle and his companion(The first partIvan the Terrible)in February 1942, andthe difficult years(the second part), in April 1943. Furthermore, I wroteTales of Ivan Sudarevand other works...

Alexei Tolstoy


The sisters

"Oh!Russian land!"

The Ballad of Igor's Host

* EU *

A thoughtful stranger, newly arrived in Petersburg from the tree-lined streets of some suburban resort, would have experienced complex sensations of mental excitement and spiritual oppression.

Wandering the straight misty streets, past desolate, lightless houses, each with a sleepy porter at the door; resting the gaze on the full, dark expanse of the Neva, on the bluish lines of the bridges, lit some time before dusk, and flanked by somber and sad palaces with colonnades; looking at the Peter and Paul Cathedral, so un-Russian in its dizzying height, and looking at the fragile ships, their bows constantly dipped in the dark water, and the countless barges laden with wet logs, lined up along the granite quay ; looking into the faces of the passersby, faces pale and sad, with eyes as dark as the city itself, the stranger, if he had been in a good mood, would have simply snuggled closer into his coat collar, or, if he had been If he hadn't agreed, he would have said himself that it wouldn't be a bad idea to land a crushing blow and break all that petrified magic to smithereens.

Already in the time of Pedro Magno, a sacristan of the Igreja da Trindade, not far from the Ponte da Trindade, where it still stands today, was alarmed, as he descended the stairs of the belfry in the dark, at the appearance of an emaciated prostitute and a uncovered head, and ran into a tavern, where he shouted: "Petersburg is doomed!", For which he was arrested, interrogated under torture in the Secret Chancellery and mercilessly beaten.

Persistent rumors that there was something strange in Petersburg may have dated back to this time. Some claimed to have seen with their own eyes the devil driving through the streets of Vasilyev-sky Island in a droshky. Others saw the bronze emperor leap from his granite plinth at midnight and gallop across the cobblestones in a storm at high tide. And a corpse, that of an officer, would have pressed its face against the window of a privy councilor's carriage. Many of these tales were current in the city.

And very recently, the poet Alexei Alexeyevich Bessonov, crossing a humpbacked bridge on his way to the islands in a fast rubber-tired droshky, and looking tearfully at a star visible through a crack in the clouds, told himself that the droshky, and the row of lamps on the bridge and all of Petersburg sleeping behind him were but a dream, a chimera, a product of his brain soaked in drink and love and boredom.

Two centuries passed like a dream: Petersburg, perched on the edge of the world, among swamps and wastelands, dreamed of endless glory, boundless power. Palacecoup,regicides, triumphal entries and bloody executions vibrated like hallucinations. Weak women enjoyed an almost divine authority; the fate of nations was decided on fallen love beds; Muscular young men with dirt-stained hands appeared on the scene and boldly climbed the steps of the throne to share power, bed and Byzantine luxury.

Horrified eyes turned from neighboring countries to these frenzied displays of fantasy. The Russians themselves watched the capital delirium with fear and dismay. The country was being drained of its lifeblood to feed the insatiable specters that haunted Petersburg.

Petersburg led a nocturnal existence: wild, frigid, sated. Phosphorescent, crazy, voluptuous summer nights; sleepless winter nights; gaming tables and clinking gold; music, couples circling in front of lighted windows; fast horse-drawn sleighs, gypsies, duels at dawn; troops marching in the icy wind to the piercing sound of fifes, under the Tsar's formidable Byzantine gaze. Such was life in the village.

Huge companies have sprung up with unbelievable speed over the past ten years, and princely fortunes seem to have materialized out of thin air. Banks, music halls and skating rinks were erected in glass and concrete, as were luxury restaurants whose patrons were dazed by the music, dazzled by the glittering mirrors and the spectacle of scantily clad women dazed by champagne. Gambling clubs, brothels, theaters, cinemas and amusement parks opened quickly. Engineers and financiers worked on plans to build a new capital of unprecedented luxury on an island not far from Petersburg that had never been inhabited or built.

There was an outbreak of suicides in the city. The courtrooms were crowded with hysterical women, eagerly absorbing the bloody details of sensational trials. Everything had to be had for money: luxury and women. Depravity was everywhere, spreading through the Court like a plague. *

And in the same palace, an illiterate peasant, wide-eyed and powerfully built, made his way to the very throne of the emperor, there, mockingly, cynically, to bring infamy on Russia.

Like all large cities, Petersburg led a tense and preoccupied life of its own. That life was governed by its core force, which never really merged with what you might call the spirit of the people. The central force aimed at establishing order, tranquility and decency, and the spirit of the people aimed at destroying the central force. The spirit of destruction permeated everything; its deadly venom permeated the vast financial speculations of the celebrated Sashka Sakelman, the ill-tempered steelworker, the rambling aspirations of the elegant poet sitting until five in the morning in the basement of the theater of "The Red Sleigh Bells." Even those whose duty it was to fight the destruction unconsciously did their best to increase its scope and intensity.

Those were the days when love and all kind and wholesome emotions were considered common and old-fashioned, when people didn't feel love but desire, and their perverse appetites craved something spicy that would burn their vital organs.

Girls hid their innocence, marriages hid their fidelity. Destructiveness was considered a sign of good taste, neurasthenia - a sign of refinement. Trendy writers, who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere in a single season, preached these doctrines. People invented vices and perversions for themselves, anything before it was considered boring.

Such was Petersburg in 1914. Exhausted from sleepless nights, drowning his melancholy in drink and gold, choking on loveless love, and piercing, impotent, sensual notes of tango, that dance of death, he lived as if in anxious expectation of some fatal and terrible day. And there was no lack of signs that that day was approaching, the new and the strange oozed through every crack.


"...What do we want with memories? We say: Enough is enough! Turn your back on the past!" Who's after me? The Venus de Milo? Well, is it good to eat? Will it make my hair grow? I don't see what good this marble shell can do me! You say? You still like to thrill, can you imagine this idea? Look around you, ahead, on the ground! You wear American shoes. Three cheers for American shoes! A red car, rubber tires, a gallon of gas and seventy miles per hour - that's art! One yearns to devour space. And here's the art for you: a 40-foot poster, depicting a smart young man in a top hat that shines like the sun. The tailor is the artist, the genius of today. I want you to devour life itself, and you offer me a calming syrup for the impotent..."

Laughter and applause echoed from the back of the narrow room, beyond the armchairs, where students from the courses and the university were crowded. The speaker, Sergei Sergeyevich Sapozhkov, wet lips curled in a smile, placed his glasses precariously on the end of his large nose and blithely walked down the steps of the great oak bleachers.

At one side of the room were the members of the "Society of Philosophical Nights", seated behind a long table lit by two five-branched candelabras. There were the president of the Society, the theology professor Antonovsky, the historian Velyaminov, the afternoon lecturer the philosopher Borsky, and the one like tute writer, Sakunin.

That winter, the "Society of Philosophical Nights" had suffered violent attacks from some little-known but extremely invective young people. They attacked venerable writers and respected philosophers with such virulence, and expressed such bold and seductive sentiments, that the old mansion at Fontanka in which the society lodged was packed to capacity on Saturdays, when its meetings were open to the public. This particular night was no exception. As soon as Sapozhkov, amid applause, disappeared into the crowd, a short man with a shaved, bony head and a young, pale, high-cheeked face came up the steps to the podium. This was Akundin, a relative newcomer. His popularity was immense, especially among the backseats, but when asked who he was and where he came from, those who knew him smiled enigmatically. He However, it was known that Akudin was not his real name, that he had just arrived from abroad, and that he had his own reasons for speaking here.

Touching his wispy beard, Akundin looked around the silent hall with a slight smile before starting to speak.

In the third row, right on the catwalk, sat a young woman in a black fabric dress with a high collar, her chin resting on her wrist. Her fine ash blonde hair was pulled back behind her ears in a high bun, held in place with a comb. Without moving or smiling, she surveyed the group around the felt-covered table, her gaze occasionally landing on the candle flames.

When Akundin, knocking on the oak reading table, exclaimed: "The world economy will strike the first fist blow on the church dome!" The girl sighed and, taking her fist out from under her flushed chin, popped a piece of candy into her mouth.

Akundin continuou.

"... and you're still indulging in vague dreams of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. But despite all your efforts, They go on sleeping. Or do you hope they'll Wake up at last and talk, like Balaam's donkey They will wake up well, but it won't be the sweet voices of their poets or the fumes of their incense that will wake them up, the People can only be woken up by factory sirens, they will wake up and speak, and their voices will be hard to hear. Or do you still trust your swamps and swamps? I guarantee, you can sleep here for another fifty years. Just don't call your sleep the worship of the Messiah. Your dreams are not for the future, but for the past. The Russian muzhik was invented here , in Petersburg, in this splendid hall. Hundreds of volumes have been written about it, operas have been composed. I fear this amusing occupation will end in bloodshed..."

Here the president interrupted the speaker. Akundin smiled slightly, took a large handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiped his face and head with characteristic gestures. The screams came from the back of the room.

"Let him speak!"

"It's a shame to muzzle a man!"

"It's pure mockery!"

"Silence back there!"


Akundin continuou:

"The Russian muzhik is a hook on which to hang theories. It is true. But if these theories are not integrally linked to his secular aspirations, to the instinctive conception of justice that he shares with the rest of humanity, they will be like the seed that fell in E. until people begin to regard the Russian muzhik as a human being with an empty stomach and a back aching from work, until they strip him of the messianic traits that a good gentleman once invented for him, two diametrically opposed poles will continue their tragic existence : your splendid theories, conceived in the twilight of the studio, and the people themselves, with whom you want nothing. This is not an essential criticism of yourselves. To investigate such a conglomerate of... ahem... human fantasy. No! Our advice to you is to run away before it's too late, because your ideas and your treasures will be ruthlessly thrown into the dust of history."

The girl in the black fabric dress was in no mood to worry about what was being said in the oak bleachers. It seemed to him that while all these words and arguments were extremely important and full of meaning, what really mattered was something else entirely, something these people never mentioned. ...

At that moment, a newcomer appeared at the cloth-covered table. Sitting with leisurely movements beside the president, he waved right and left, stroking his blond hair, still damp from the snow, with fingers reddened by the frost. Hiding his hands under the edge of the table, he sat bolt upright in his tight black frock coat, sporting a lean countenance with dull skin, arched eyebrows, huge gray eyes rimmed with dark rings, and a lock of hair. Alexei Alexeyevich Bessonov was exactly like his last portrait in a weekly magazine.

The girl now had eyes for nothing but that face, of almost repulsive beauty. With something like wonder, she looked at the strange features that had haunted her dreams on so many stormy Petersburg nights.

There he was, cocking his ear to the next and smiling, and his smile was almost naive; but in the cut of the fine noses, in the effeminate brows, in the marked but subtle power of the whole face, there was betrayal and arrogance, and something else which she could not define, but which affected her most of all.

Velyaminov, the speaker, red-faced and bearded, with gold-rimmed glasses, his great skull fringed with locks of blond and gray hair, now answered Akundin.

"You are as sure as an avalanche rushing from the top of a mountain. We have long expected the onset of a terrible age and foresaw the triumph of its truths. It,not we who will rule the elements. But we also know that nothing will remain of the superior justice that you hope to achieve through the sirens of the factories, but a heap of rubble, a chaos, in the midst of which man, astonished and bewildered, will grope helplessly. I am thirsty! will be his cry, because he will find himself without a drop of the divine fluid. Careful! Raising a long, pencil-straight index finger, Velyaminov sternly surveyed the rows of faces listening through his spectacles. mechanism, number such and such – a human being in a syllogism – in this terrible paradise, the threat of a new revolution lurks. The most terrible of all revolutions, the revolution of the spirit!"

Akundin coldly replied from his seat:

"A human being in a syllogism, that too is idealism!"

Velyaminov spread his hands, leaning over the rostrum. The candle flames highlighted his bald head. He began to speak of the sin into which the world would fall and the terrible reckoning to come. There was coughing in the hall.

During the break, the girl went to the cafeteria, where she stood in the doorway, frowning and worried. A few lawyers and their wives were drinking tea, talking louder than anyone else in the room. The famous writer Chernobylin was sitting by the stove, eating fish with cranberry sauce, looking drunkenly at the people passing by. Two middle-aged literary ladies with saggy collars and huge bows in their hair were eating sandwiches at the bar. A little apart, not mingling with the laity, some priests maintained dignified postures. Under the hanging chandeliers, hands clasped beneath the skirts of his long frock coat, a man rocked back on his heels, his gray hair a picturesque mess. This was the critical Chirva, waiting for someone to approach him. Velyaminov appeared and one of the literary ladies pounced on him and buttoned up his jacket sleeve. The other stopped eating suddenly, brushed crumbs off the front of her dress, lowered her head, and wide-eyed. Bessonov approached her, bowing affably to right and left.

The girl in the black dress could feel on all her nerves how the literary lady was shrinking inside her corsets. Bessonov said something to him with a lazy smile. She spread her chubby hands, giggling and rolling her eyes.

Hooking one shoulder, the girl left the cafeteria. Someone called her by her name. A dark, slim young man in a velvet jacket was walking towards her through the crowd. Nodding happily, wrinkling his nose in pleasure, he took her hand. He had a wet palm, a damp lock on his forehead, and long wet black eyes, from which he looked at her with wet tenderness. His name was Alexander Ivanovich Zhirov.

"What are you doing here, Darya Dmitrevna?" shout out.

"Exactly what you are," she replied, releasing his hand and tucking it into her muff, where she wiped it on her handkerchief.

He chuckled, giving her an even more tender look.

"Don't tell me you didn't like Sapozhkov this time! He spoke like a prophet. I know his abrupt and peculiar way of expressing himself irritates you. But isn't the essence of his thinking simply what everyone secretly wants? and you dare not put it into words? And you dare. Listen to this:

We're young!

We are hungry!

Let's devour the void!

It's all so extraordinary, so new, so daring, Darya Dmitrevna! You mean you don't feel well? It is the new life arising. It's ours, it's new, it's voracious, it's daring! Take Akudin, now! He is very rationalistic, I admit, but how he drives every nail! A few more winters and everything will break, everything will cave in! Wonderful!"

He spoke softly, smiling with a sickening tenderness. Dasha could feel everything inside him trembling, as if from intense emotion. Without waiting to hear it, she nodded and started to make her way to the wardrobe.

The taciturn, decorated attendant, his arms laden with coats and galoshes, didn't notice Dasha's exaggerated etiquette. He had to wait a long time, the draft on his ankles through the continuous swinging door, opening into the dilapidated hall, where tall izvozchiks in their damp blue robes were offering their services with gleeful sass to departing guests.

"My horse is fast, Excellency!"

"Go away sir! To Peskee!"

The sound of Bessonov's voice suddenly came from behind Dasha.

"Auxiliary, my coat, cap and cane!" he said in a cold, definite tone.

Dasha's skin tingled. Turning her head quickly, she looked directly into Bessonov's eyes. He looked into her eyes calmly, as if she deserved it, but suddenly his eyelids fluttered, his gray eyes became wet and excited, as if giving up, and Dasha's heart skipped a beat.

"I think we met at your sister's house, right?" he said leaning towards her.

"Yes, we did," Dasha answered sharply.

Grabbing her coat from the attendant's hands, she hurried to the front entrance. Outside, the cold, damp breeze caught at her dress, splattering it with dirty raindrops. She pulled the fur collar up to her eyes. Someone coming from behind exclaimed right in her ear: "Wow, what a snooper!"

Dasha walked quickly across the wet asphalt, darting in and out of the flickering beams of electric light. The howl of waltzing violins came through the open door of a restaurant. And Dasha, without looking around, hummed into the disheveled fur of her muff:

"It's not that simple! It's not that simple!"


Unbuttoning her wet coat in the hall, Dasha said to the maid:

"I don't think there's anyone home!"

The Great Mughal - the name given to Lusha, the maiden, on account of her face, broad as an idol's and heavily powdered - said in her squeaky voice, looking in the mirror, what a lady, it is true, she was out, but what a Master was at home in his study and wanted dinner in half an hour.

Entering the living room, Dasha sat down at the grand piano, crossed her knees and clasped her hands around one knee.

Since his brother-in-law, Nikolai Ivanovich, was at home, he must have had a fight with his wife and would be sullen and whiny. It was only eleven o'clock and she had nothing to do until she could fall asleep at three o'clock. One could read, but what? Besides, she didn't want to read. And she couldn't just sit and think. Life can be pretty dark sometimes!

Dasha sighed, lifted the lid of the piano and, sitting sideways in front of the keyboard, began to play with one hand the melody of a piece by Scriabine. At the odd age of nineteen, life tends to be tough, especially if you're a girl, and far from stupid, and if idiotic Puritanism makes you unnecessarily hard on those (and there were many!) to dispel virginal ennui.

Dasha came from Samara the previous year to study law in Petersburg, while living with her older sister Ekaterina Dmitrevna Smokovnikova. Her sister's husband was a well-known lawyer, and they led an extravagant and exuberant life.

Dasha was almost five years younger than her sister and was still a child when Ekaterina Dmitrevna got married. The sisters saw very little of each other over the next few years, and a new relationship arose between them: Dasha adoring, Ekaterina Dmitrevna quietly affectionate.

Absorbed in admiration for her sister's beauty, good taste, and social ease, Dasha began to slavishly copy her. She was shy around Katya's friends, although her shyness made her sassy with some of them. Ekaterina Dmitrevna tried to make her house a model of good taste, admitting in it only novelties not yet discovered by the crowd. He never missed an exhibition and was concerned about buying futuristic paintings. Lately this led to violent quarrels with her husband, who liked paintings "with an idea behind them", while Ekaterina Dmitrevna, with feminine ardor, preferred to suffer for the cause of new art rather than risk being considered outdated.

Dasha also admired these strange paintings on the living room walls, sadly admitting that the angular figures with geometric faces and more hands and feet than strictly necessary, the soft neuralgic colors, all this cynical and cast-iron art. ... they were too big a tax for her limited imagination.

A merry, boisterous company gathered every Tuesday at the Smokovnikovs' house to dine in the Smokovnikovs' dining room, which overlooks the ship's suite. It was composed of chatty lawyers, very susceptible to feminine charms and zealous followers of new literary currents; some journalists, quite sure of knowing how domestic and foreign policy should be conducted; the critic Chirva, with his crazed nervous system, always plotting yet another literary catastrophe. Sometimes some of the first to arrive were some young poets, leaving handwritten copies of poetry in their coat pockets. A celebrity would arrive just as dinner was being served, stepping forward to kiss the hostess's hand and sink with dignity into her rightful chair. In the middle of dinner, leather galoshes burst into the room, and a velvety voice could be heard exclaiming:

"Greetings to you, Great Mogul!" The next moment, a clean-shaven face with a saggy jowl, the face of the traditional stage lover, would be leaning over the hostess's chair:

"¡Katyusha! ¡Tu pata!"

For Dasha, the central figure at these dinners* was her sister. Furious with those who seemed to neglect the kind and naive Ekaterina Dmitrevna, she was jealous of those who, on the contrary, looked very attentive and stared intently at the offenders.

Gradually, she began to find her bearings in this ocean of faces, so disconcerting at first. He soon learned to despise mere associate lawyers, whose only distinguishing marks were their disheveled cuts, purple ties, and low hair from forehead to neck. She hated the stage owner, what right did he have to call her sister Katya and the Big Mogul, the Big Mogul? What right did he have to look at Dasha with half-closed eyes over the rim of a vodka glass and declaim:

"I drink from the almond blossom!"

Dasha gasped with rage every time she did this.

Her cheeks really were rosy, there was no getting rid of that damned almond blossom hue, which made Dasha feel like a painted wooden doll in this refined company.

Dasha did not return to spend the summer holidays with her father in dusty and stuffy Samara, happily agreeing to stay on the seashore with her sister, in Sestroretsk. Here they found the people they mixed with during the winter, but even more often: boating, bathing, eating ice cream under the pine trees, listening to music at night and participating in noisy "dinners under the stars, on the veranda of the Casino". .

Ekaterina Dmitrevna had a white embroidered dress made for Dasha, with a wide silk sash tied with a large bow at the back, and a large white chiffon hat with a black ribbon around it, and Nikanor Yurevich Kulichok, her brother-in-law's brother. deputy, he suddenly fell in love with the girl, as if her eyes had just been opened to her charms.

But he belonged to the "despised" class. Dasha was indignant and invited him to go for a walk in the forest, in order, without allowing him to say a word in her defense (all he could do was wipe his forehead with a handkerchief closed in his hand), tell him that she she couldn't stand to be treated as a "simple woman", to be indignant, to have a sick imagination and to immediately complain to her brother-in-law.

And that same night he complained to his brother-in-law. Nikolai Ivanovich listened to her in silence, stroking his well-groomed beard and looking with amazement at the flush of anger on Dasha's cheeks, the strongly fluttering brim of the "picture hat", her whole slender figure dressed in white. When she had finished he sat down by the water and laughed until he cried, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief and exclaiming:

Go away, Darya, go away, you will be the death of me!

And Dasha, bewildered and upset, was gone. Kulichok, who had lost weight and begun to withdraw from society, now did not even dare to look at her. Dasha's honor was saved. But this episode had awakened feelings until then locked in a virginal dream. A subtle balance had been disturbed, as if someone else—dull, dreamy, misshapen, disgusting—had dominated Dasha from head to toe. Dasha was aware of this person with all her being and suffered as if she were close to something unclean. She wished she could remove the invisible web and become fresh, fresh, light once more.

Now he played tennis for hours, bathed twice a day and got up early, while large drops of dew still glistened on the leaves, a mist hovered over the purple, mirror-like surface of the sea, wet tables were laid. on the porch, and the wet, sandy paths were being swept.

But as soon as she basked in the sun, or in her warm, soft bed at night, that other being lifted its head, slipped into her heart, and gave her a squeeze with its soft paw. She couldn't pull it off herself, and like the bloodstains on Bluebeard's key, it wouldn't come off no matter how much she washed it.

Everyone who saw her just now, her sister the first, noticed that Dasha had improved a lot in appearance this summer and was getting prettier every day. Ekaterina Dmitrevna, entering her sister's room one morning, said: "What will happen next?"

"What do you mean, Katya?"

Dasha was sitting in her nightgown on the edge of the bed, pulling her hair into a big bun.

You're getting awfully pretty, you know that? What do we do about it?

Dasha looked at her sister with big, wavy eyes and turned her head. Her cheek and ear were tinged with color.

"I wish you wouldn't talk like that Katya, you know I don't like it!"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna sentou-seemthe bed, and pressed her cheek against Dasha's bare back, laughing and kissing her sister between the shoulder blades. "How susceptible we are!" she said. One day a thin Englishman appeared on the tennis court, clean-shaven, with a jutting chin and boyish eyes, and dressed so impeccably that some of Ekaterina Dmitrevna's young men were quite put out. He invited Dasha to play a set with him and she played like a machine. It seemed to Dasha that during the entire game he never looked at her, but looked past her all the time. She lost and proposed another game. To give herself more freedom, she rolled up her white blouse. A lock of hair escaped from under her piqué bonnet and she didn't catch it. Dasha, standing on the net to deflect the ball with a formidable blow, thought:

"The skillful Russian girl has an indescribable grace in her every move, and the blush on her cheeks is extremely attractive..."

Again the English won. Invariably correct, he bowed, lit a fragrant cigarette, sat down not far away, and ordered pumpkin and lemon.

Playing a third set, "this time with a famous player from the school", Dasha threw the Englishman a sidelong glance from time to time. He was sitting at a small table, stroking a silk-covered ankle against his knee, his straw hat pulled back and looking out to sea, not once turning his head.

That night, lying in bed, Dasha remembered all these details. With pitiless clarity, she saw herself staggering across the courtyard, red-faced, a lock of hair sticking out from under her bonnet, and weeping from wounded vanity and some feeling she couldn't control.

From that day on he stopped going to the tennis courts. Once Ekaterina Dmitrevna told him:

"Dasha, Mr. Bailey asks about you every day, why don't you play anymore?"

Dasha's jaw dropped in panic. Then she said angrily that she wasn't going to listen to silly gossip, that she didn't know any Mr. Bailey and besides, she didn't want to, and it was brazen of her to think she knew. He stopped playing that stupid tennis because of him. She refused dinner and went into the bush, her pockets full of bread and currants, and there, amidst the warm, resinous fragrance of the pines, she told herself, winding among the tall red stalks, with whispering heights, that the unhappy truth could no longer be hidden: she was in love with the Englishman and desperately unhappy.

From now on, that "other being", gradually raising its head higher and higher, grew in stature inside Dasha. At first his presence was intolerable, like something impure, painful, pure annihilation. But soon she got used to this complicated sensation, as women tend, when the summer is over, with its cool breezes and refreshing currents, to wear corsets and thick dresses.

His self-absorbed passion for English lasted a fortnight. Dasha hated herself and was furious with him. From time to time she would watch him “from afar, lazily playing tennis or dining with Russian sailors, and she would tell herself desperately that he was the most attractive creature in the world.

And suddenly there appeared at his side a tall, thin girl, dressed in white flannel pants - she was his fiancée, and an Englishwoman, of course - and they left together. Dasha lay awake all night, hating herself with a kind of fierce disgust, and in the morning she told herself that this should be the last mistake she ever made.

The decision calmed her down and she was amazed at how quickly and easily it all happened. But not everything had happened. Dasha felt that this "other being" had now merged its identity with hers, dissolved into her own being and disappeared, and that everything about her had become "different", as light and fresh as before. . but somehow softer, more tender, more mysterious; Her own skin seemed more delicate, and now she could barely recognize her own face in the mirror, especially her eyes. What eyes! It made her head spin looking at them.

In mid-August, the Smokovnikovs and Dasha returned to Petersburg, to their large apartment on Panteleimonov Street. Again on Tuesdays at home, painting shows, noisy first nights, notorious trials, buying paintings, enthusiasm for the past, nightly excursions to gypsies at "Samarkand", a restaurant outside the city. Once again the lover of the stage appeared, minus ten pounds of flaky flesh in a spa, and to all these restless pleasures were added vague and deliriously alarming rumors of impending changes.

Dasha had no time now to think or feel. In the morning there were lectures, at four o'clock a walk with her sister, in the evening theater, concert, dinner, and people, people... never a moment for herself.

One Tuesday, after dinner, while everyone was drinking coffee and liqueurs, Alexei Alexeyevich Bessonov entered the living room. As soon as she saw him at the door, Ekaterina Dmitrevna blushed. The murmur of conversation subsided. Bessonov sat on the sofa and accepted a cup of coffee from Ekaterina Dmitrevna.

Two lawyers, knowledgeable in literature, approached him, but Bessonov, fixing his hostess with a long, strange gaze, remarked sternly that there was no such thing as art, that it was all false, the old fakir trick of getting a monkey to climb a rope and disappear. up in the air.

"There is no such thing as poetry. Everything has been extinct for centuries: people, art, everything. Russia is mere rubbish, with a flock of crows hovering over it at a crow feast. And everyone who writes poetry is They will meet in hell one day."

He spoke softly, in hushed tones. Two patches of color burned in her pale, angry face. Her soft neck was wrinkled and her coat was splattered with cigarette ash. The coffee in the small cup in his hand dripped onto the rug.

Connoisseurs of literature would have accepted the argument, but Bessonov, not listening to them, followed Ekaterina Dmitrevna with a gloomy look. Then he got up and walked over to her, and Dasha could hear him say:

"I can't stand company. Let me go."

Timidly, she asked him to read something to them. He shook his head and said goodbye for so long, Ekaterina Dmitrevna's hand pressed against her lips, that she felt herself blush.

After he left, an argument arose. The men unanimously declared that "there are limits after all, and such blatant disrespect for society cannot be allowed". The critic Chirva went from one to the other saying: "I was drunk, gentlemen!" The women decided that "Bessonov, drunk or just in a bad mood, is an exciting person, and we don't care who knows about it!"

The next day, at dinner, Dasha said that Bessonov was one of those "real" people in whose emotions, sins, tastes the whole circle of Ekaterina Dmitrevna lived, as if in a reflected light. "I can easily understand a woman who loses her mind over sucha man,Katia!"

Nikolai Ivanovich was indignant.

"You are simply overwhelmed by his fame, Dasha!"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna said nothing. Bessonov did not appear at the Smokovnikovs' house again. It was rumored that he was always hanging around actress Charodeyeva's dressing room. Kulichok went with some friends to see this Charodeyeva and came back disappointed: she was nothing but skin and bones, a mere bundle of lace petticoats...

Once Dasha met Bessonov at an exhibition. He was standing by a window, nonchalantly turning the pages of a catalog, while two plump schoolgirls stood before her like a figure in a wax show, looking at him with fixed smiles on their faces. Dasha passed slowly and sank into a chair in the next room; her legs suddenly felt weak and she felt melancholy.

After that, Dasha bought Bessonov's photograph and put it on her desk. Her poems-three small white volumes-acted on her at first like a kind of poison, and she walked about for days as if she were bewitched, feeling herself an accomplice to some mysterious and evil deed. But after reading and rereading them, she began to enjoy that aching sensation, the voices seeming to whisper to her to forget everything, to relax, to step on and squander some precious treasure, to yearn for something that did not yet exist.

It was on account of Bessonov that she began to attend "Philosophical Evenings". She was always late and rarely spoke, but Dasha came home each time uniquely touched and was happy to have visitors. He no longer suffered from wounded vanity.

And now here he is, playing a Scriabine song in solitude. Like ice balls, the sounds seep into his soul, like the depths of a dark, bottomless lake. As they fall, they shake off the glittering surface and sink, the liquid oozing and oozing incessantly, while, somewhere deep down, the heart beats with a hollow, anxious sound, as if soon, very soon, this very moment, something completely impossible would happen. happening. to happen

Dasha lowered her hands to her knees and raised her head. In the soft light of the orange lamp, ironic, purplish, puffy faces with bulging eyeballs peered from the walls, like ghosts from some antediluvian chaos, hungrily licking the railings of the Garden of Eden on the first day of creation. . .

"We are very bad, dear lady," said Dasha to herself. Her fingers violently climbed a scale, she closed the piano without making a sound, took a cigarette from a Japanese box, lit it, coughed and crushed it against the bottom of the ashtray.

"Nikolai Ivanovich, what time is it?" she screamed loud enough to be heard four doors down.

Something landed on the office floor, but there was no response. The Great Mughal appeared at the door and announced, looking at himself in the mirror, that dinner was served.

Dasha sat in the dining room in front of a vase with withered flowers and began to cut off their heads and throw them on the tablecloth. The Great Mogul brought tea, some cold meat and fried eggs. At last Nikolai Ivanovich appeared, in a new blue suit, but without a collar. His hair was disheveled, his beard hanging askew, with a little fuzz.

He coldly bowed to Dasha and sat down at the head of the table; pulling the tray of eggs towards him, he began to eat voraciously.

After a few minutes, he rested his elbow on the edge of the table, resting his cheek on a large furry fist, looked blindly at the bunch of petals, and said in a deep, artificial voice:

"Last night your sistereraunfaithful to me."


Katya, her own sister, did something terrible, incomprehensible, black. Last night, her head had rested on the pillow, cut off from everything alive, warm, familiar, and her body had been crushed, distorted. This is how the trembling Dasha understood what Nikolai Ivanovich called infidelity. And to top it off, Katya wasn't home, as if she didn't exist in the world anymore.

For a moment, Dasha was stunned. Her head was spinning. Holding her breath, she waited for Nikolai Ivanovich to burst into tears or shout something terrible.

But he didn't add a single syllable to his communication, he simply played with the handle of a knife between his fingers. Dasha did not dare to look at his face.

Finally, after a long silence, he pushed his chair away from the table and walked into the office. He will shoot himself, thought Dasha. But that didn't happen either. She remembered with sharp, momentary pity the hairy appearance of her big fist on the tablecloth. Then he swam out of reach, and Dasha could only repeat: "What is to be done? What is to be done?" There was a ringing in his ears, everything was broken and disfigured, everything!

The Great Mogul appeared with a tray from behind the heavy curtain, and Dasha, looking at it, suddenly realized that soon there would be no Great Mogul left. Tears filled her eyes and she ran into the living room with her teeth clenched.

Here, everything, even the smallest trifle, was carefully placed and arranged by Katya's own hands. But Katya's soul had left this room, and everything about her had become strange and sad. Dasha sat down on the sofa. Little by little, her gaze fell on a newly purchased painting. And for the first time he saw and understood the theme of it.

It was an image of a naked woman, rotten red, as if she had been skinned. Her mouth was on one side, her nose no more than a triangular hollow, her head rectangular, with a rag attached to it, a piece of real stuff. Her legs were like hinged logs and one of her hands held a flower. The other details were hideous, and most hideous of all was the dull brown corner in which the figure lay. The image was called "Love" and Katya called it Modern Venus.

"So that's why Katya was so in love with this damn woman! Now she herself is like this: with a flower, in a corner. Dasha buried her face in the sofa and cried, biting the pillow so as not to cry. Some time later Nikolai Ivanovich entered the room. Legs spread wide, he angrily lit his lighter, walked over to the piano and began to play the notes on it. Suddenly, the melody of a street song emerged. Dasha's blood froze. piano lid closed.

"It was to be expected," he said.

Dasha repeated these words over and over in her mind, trying to penetrate their meaning. The doorbell rang sharply and suddenly. Nikolai Ivanovich grabbed his beard and let out a long "oh!" in a strangled voice and ran to her office. The Great Mogul tap-tap along the corridor, as if on hooves. Dasha jumped out of her chair on the sofa, her heart pounding, her head spinning, and ran out into the hallway.

Ekaterina Dmitrevna, wrinkling her nose, played with her numb fingers in the purple ribbons of her fur hood. She held out a cool, rosy cheek for her sister to kiss, but when there was no response, she tilted her head, pushed back her hood, and looked questioningly at Dasha.

"Is something wrong here?" she asked, in the deep voice everyone always found so adorable. "Have you two been fighting?"

Dasha looked at Nikolai Ivanovich's leather galoshes. They were known in the family as her "seven-league boots", and she found them lonely and abandoned. Her chin trembled.

"Nothing happened. It's just one of my moods."

Ekaterina Dmitrevna slowly unbuttoned the large buttons of her squirrel coat, which she shook off her bare shoulders, standing there warm, vulnerable, tired. Leaning down to unbutton her leggings, he said:

"I got my feet wet before I found a taxi."

Then Dasha, without taking her eyes off Nikolai Ivanovich's galoshes, sternly asked:

"Where have you been, Katya?"

"At a literary dinner, my dear, in honor of God knows who." The same. I'm dead tired, I just need to go to bed. She entered the dining room, threw her leather bag on the table and asked, blowing her nose:

Who is cutting off the flower heads? And where is Nikolai Ivanovich? Did he go to bed?

Dasha did not know what to make of all this. Her sister was nothing like that damned woman, nor anything strange; in fact, she had never seemed so close to him as she was now. Dasha wanted to stroke her.

Regaining her presence of mind with enormous effort and scratching the tablecloth with her fingernail exactly where, half an hour before, Nikolai Ivanovich had sat down to eat his eggs, Dasha managed to say:


"What's up, duckling?"

"I know everything."

"What do you know? For God's sake, tell me what happened?"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna sat down at the table, her knees touching Dasha's, and looked questioningly at her sister.

"Nikolai Ivanovich told me everything," said Dasha.

But she didn't look at her sister's face to see how the announcement had been received.

After a silence that seemed almost unbearably long, Ekaterina Dmitrevna said angrily:

"And what was the amazing communication that Nikolai Ivanovich made about me?"

"Katya, you know!"

"No, I don't!"

His "No, not me!" it was like a frozen ball.

Dasha instantly fell to the ground in front of her sister.

"Maybe it's not true! Katya, dear, my beautiful sister, tell me, it's not true, is it?"

Quick kisses covered the backs of Katya's soft, fragrant, veined hands.

“Of course not true,” replied Ekaterina Dmitrevna, closing her eyes wearily. "Don't cry! Tomorrow her eyes will be red and her nose will be swollen!"

She lifted Dasha, pressing her long lips against her sister's hair.

"I was a fool," Dasha whispered into Katya's chest.

At that moment, the loud and clear voice of Nikolai Ivanovich reached them through the office door.

"She's lying!"

The sisters turned quickly, but the door was closed.

"Go to bed, girl," said Ekaterina Dmitrevna. "I'll see what it's all about. My pleasure I must say, and I'm ready to drop!"

She followed Dasha to her room, kissed her absently, and returned to the dining room, where she picked up her purse, straightened her comb, and tapped her finger on the office door.

"Let me in, please, Nikolai!"

At first there was no answer, but after an ominous silence followed by an angry snort, the key was turned and Ekaterina Dmitrevna opened the door directly to the broad back of her husband, who, without turning around, walked to the table, sat down. if down. . He sat down in a leather chair and picked up an ivory letter opener, which he slid forcefully across the open page of his book (Wasserman'sforty-year-old man).All this was done as if Ekaterina Dmitrevna was not in the room.

She sat down on the sofa, smoothed her skirt above her knees, and, putting her handkerchief in her bag, unzipped it. At this sound, a lock of hair on top of Nikolai Ivanovich's head trembled.

"There is only one thing that I do not understand," said Ekaterina Dmitrevna. "You are free to think what you want, but should you impose your assumptions on Dasha?"

With that, he turned abruptly in his chair, craning his neck so that his beard pointed forward, and said through clenched teeth:

"Then you have the nerve to call them assumptions!"

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Excellent! You don't know what I'm talking about! But you seem to know very well how to behave like a woman on the street."

Ekaterina Dmitrevna opened her mouth slightly, without saying a word. Looking at her husband's crimson and sweaty face, distorted with anger, she said in a low voice:

"Since when, if I may, did you start insulting me?"

"I humbly apologize! But I don't know what tone to adopt. To be clear, I'd like to know the details."

"What details?"

"Don't lie to my face!"

"Ah, that's what you mean!" Ekaterina Dmitrevna rolled her big eyes as if she were in the last spasms of fatigue. "I told you something not long ago, but what exactly I can't remember."

"I want to know who it was."

"I don't know myself."

"Once again I ask you not to lie."

"I'm not lying. Why should I lie to you? Well, I said it! I'll say anything when I'm angry. I said it and I forgot it."

As she spoke, Nikolai Ivanovich's face remained impassive, but his heart skipped a beat and began to flutter. "Thank God she was just telling lies about herself." This meant that she could now pretend not to believe in anything, could pick up a fight and ease her feelings with impunity.

She rose from her chair and started to walk, then stopped, slicing the air with her ivory knife as she spoke of the decline of family life, the decline of morals, the sacred and neglected duties of woman: wife, mother and helping partner. . . He reproached Ekaterina Dmitrevna for triviality, for thoughtless waste of blood-earned money ("not with blood, but with the tongue," corrected Ekaterina Dmitrevna). Withadvancethan blood, with nerves! He reproached him for carelessness in choosing his acquaintances, for the disorder in the house, for his weakness for "that idiot" the Great Mughal, and even for the "disgusting bestial pictures in his middle-class living room".

In a word, Nikolai Ivanovich unloaded his soul.

It was after three in the morning, and when her husband was hoarse, Ekaterina Dmitrevna, with the words: "Nothing can be more disgusting than a hysterical fat man," got up and went into the bedroom.

But even this did not have the power to offend Nikolai Ivanovich now. She undressed slowly, hung her clothes over the back of a chair, wound her watch and, with a soft sigh, slipped into the spotless, clean bed that had been made for her on the leather sofa.

"Yes, our way of living is completely wrong. We must rebuild our whole lives. Everything is wrong, everything is wrong", he thought, opening the book to calm himself before falling asleep. But the next minute she put the book down and listened. All was quiet in the house. Someone sniffled, and the sound made her heart skip a beat. He's crying, she thought. "Oh me! I overreacted."

When he mentally replayed the entire conversation and remembered how Katya had been sitting listening to him, he began to feel sorry for her. He raised himself up on one elbow, ready to leap out of bed, but suddenly, feeling limp, as if after days of fatigue, he dropped his head onto the pillow and fell asleep.

Undressing in her delicately decorated room, Dasha took the comb out of her hair, shook her head which made all the hairpins fly, slipped into the snow-covered bed and, covering herself up to her chin, narrowed her eyes. "Thank God everything's fine! I don't need to think about anything, just sleep!" Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a whimsical little face. Dasha smiled, raised her knees and hugged the pillow. As soon as a dark and sweet dream began to envelop her, Katya's voice rang in her ears: "Of course it's not true!" Dasha widened her eyes. "But I never said a word to Katya, not a word! I just asked if it was true or not. And she answered me as if she understood perfectly what I was talking about." She was pierced through and through by the sharp realization of the needle: "Katya lied to me." Then, remembering the smallest details of the conversation, every word and movement of Katya, everything became clear to Dasha: yes, it was all a lie. She was stunned. Katya had cheated on her husband, but by cheating, sinning, lying, she seemed to have become even more fascinating. No one with eyes in their heads would fail to notice something new about her, a strange, tired tenderness. And the way he lied was enough to make you mad in love. But she was a criminal, wasn't she? Dasha did not know what to make of all this.

Totally shaken and confused, she took a drink of water, turned the lamp on and off, and walked into the dawn, feeling that she could neither condemn Katya nor understand what she had done.

Ekaterina Dmitrevna could not sleep that night either. Lying on her back, without strength, with her hands outstretched on the silk bedspread, she wept without wiping away her tears, she wept because she felt bewildered, polluted, dirty, because she couldn't do anything, because she wasn't passionate and austere, like Dasha, and would never be; she was crying because Nikolai Ivanovich had called her a woman from the street and said her salon was middle class. And she wept all the more bitterly because, at midnight the night before, Alexei Alexeyevich Bessonov had taken her in a droshky with rubber tires to a hotel outside the city, and there, unconscious, without love, alien to all that was sacred. for her. He had taken her, unhurriedly, hatefully, like a wax figure, one of the rosy-cheeked mannequins in the window of Madame Duclet's dress shop in Paris on Rue Morskaya.


In the apartment of engineer Ivan Ilyich Telegin, on the fifth floor of a newly built house on 19th Street, Vasilyevsky Island, the so-called "Center for Struggle against the Convention" worked.

As the first tenant, Telegin got the apartment cheaply for a year. He reserved one room for himself, the others, furnished with iron beds, wooden tables and stools, he rented out to guests, all merry singles. His old friend and former schoolmate, Sergei Sergeyevich Sapozhkov, had little trouble finding people who fit that description.

They were: Alexander Ivanovich Zhirov, a law student, Antoshka Arnoldov, a journalist and newspaper reporter, the artist Valet, and Elizaveta Rastorguyeva, a young woman who had not yet found a husband or occupation to her liking.

The guests woke up late. When Telegin returned from work for lunch, they just started to resume their daily routine. Antoshka Arnoldov took the tram to a cafe on Nevsky Prospect to catch up on the latest gossip before heading to the editorial office of the newspaper where she worked. Valet worked on a self-portrait. Sapozhkov locked himself in to prepare speeches and articles on the New Art. Zhirov sneaked into Elizaveta Kievna's room and discussed life's problems with her in a soft, purring voice. He wrote verses but he was too shyalet no one see it. Elizaveta Kievna considered him a genius.

In addition to chatting with Zhirov and the other guests, Elizaveta Kievna weaved long strips of many colors that seemed to have no particular purpose, singing out-of-tune Ukrainian songs at the same time with a deep and powerful voice, or inventing new remarkable ways of doing things. your hair; when she, tired of singing, she let her hair fall over her shoulders, lay on the bed with a book and read until her head hurt. Elizaveta Kievna was an attractive girl, tall, rosy-cheeked, myopic eyes that seemed drawn on the surface of her face. He dressed so extravagantly that even Telegin's guests scolded him.

When a newcomer entered the house, she invited him into her room, where a disconcerting conversation took place, ranging from dizzying heights to absolute depths, while Elizaveta Kievna struggled to know whether her interlocutor had ever felt criminal inclinations. Was he capable of killing, now? Have you ever experienced a "self-inflicted" urge? The latter was a quality that Elizaveta Kievna considered the hallmark of originality. Telegin's tenants nailed a list of these questions to their door.

Elizaveta Kievna was actually just a dissatisfied girl, constantly looking for some violent upheaval, some "dreadful event", thanks to which life would suddenly become brighter, and a girl could live fully, instead of languishing in a darkened Peel chuva. glass of janela

Telegin himself found great amusement in watching his guests, whom he considered a charming bunch of freaks, although he never found time to share their amusements.

One day at Christmas, Sergei Sergeyevich Sapozhkov gathered the guests and addressed them as follows:

"Comrades, the time for action has come. There are many of us, but we are scattered. So far all our action has been timid and isolated. We must close ranks and strike a blow at bourgeois society. To do this, we must simply form into a phalanx, and then issue a manifesto. Here it is, I'll read it to you: "We are the new Columbus! We are the brilliant instigators of action! We are the seed of the new Humanity! We demand that the swollen bourgeois society put aside all prejudices. From now on there will be no virtues. Family, social comforts, marriage, everything must be thrown away. We insist on it. Men and women must be naked and free. Sex is society's business. Boys and maidens! Men and women! Come out of the lairs in which you have languished for so long and emerge, naked and happy, to join hands and dance in the wild beast's sun!'"

Sapozhkov went on to explain that it was absolutely essential to publish a futurist magazine. It was going to be called "The Dish of the Gods", and Telegin was going to invest part of the measly three thousand rubles needed to start it; the rest would be snatched from the clutches of the bourgeoisie.

This was the inauguration of the "Center for the Fight Against the Convention". This name was invented by Telegin, who, returning one day from the play, laughed to tears at Sapozhkov's plan. Preparations for the first issue ofThe Dish of the Godsthey started right away. The necessary three thousand rubles were provided by some wealthy art patrons, among whom were a few lawyers and a certain well-known financier. Wrapping paper with the obscure title "Centrifuge" was ordered for stationery, supplies were arranged to fill key editorial positions, literary and artistic material was collected. The artist Valet suggested that the walls of Sapozhkov's room, which would be the headquarters of the new magazine, be painted with indecent drawings, and at first he painted twelve self-portraits on them. Much thought has gone into the living room furniture. Finally, everything was taken except a large table covered with gold paper.

As soon as the first number ofThe Dish of the Godsmade his appearance, became the talk of the town. Some were outraged, others - declared that there was more to all this than met the eye, and that they would soon be relegating Pushkin's works to limbo. Critic Chirva was quite bewildered:The Dish of the Godsshe called him a pig. Ekaterina Dmitrevna Smokovnikova immediately sent a year's subscription to the magazine and decided to invite futurists to one of her Tuesdays.

Sergei Sergeyevich Sapozhkov was delegated by the "Center" to dinner at the Smokovnikovs' house. He appeared in a long dirty green fustian coat, worn inManon Lescaut,and hired from the theatrical hairdresser. At dinner he made a point of eating a lot, laughing so loud that the sound even rang in his ears; looking at Chirva, he called critics "jackals, scavengers". Then he leaned back in his chair, smoking and adjusting his glasses on the wet bridge of his nose. In general, more was expected.

After the publication of the second issue, it was decided to organize evenings, which would be called "Magnificent Blasphemies". Dasha went to one of these "blasphemies". Zhirov opened the front door for her and immediately began moving around her, removing her galoshes and fur coat and even removing a thread from her cloth dress. Dasha was surprised by the smell of cabbage in the hall. Zhirov, walking along the corridor behind her to the place of "blasphemy", asked her:

"What perfume do you use? It's really good!" Another thing that impressed Dasha was the homespun quality of all this much-touted chutzpah. True, the walls were full of eyes, noses, hands, indecent figures, falling skyscrapers, in short, all the ingredients for the portrait of Vasily Veniaminovich Valet, who stood there silently, with zigzags drawn on his cheeks. Hosts and visitors (and almost all the young poets who attended Smokovnikov's Tuesdays were here) had to sit on rough planks, leaning against logs (a gift from Telegin), while poems were recited in tones of exaggerated insolence, in cars that were dragging about the vault of heaven, about "spitting on the heavenly syphilitic old man", about the youthful jaws with which the author crushed the domes of churches like nuts, about an absolutely incredible locust, which, dressed in an overcoat, and with binoculars and a Baedeker, he jumped out of the window onto the sidewalk. But somehow Dasha found all these horrors simply pathetic. The only person he really liked was Telegin. In the midst of general conversation he approached her and asked, with a shy smile, if she would like some tea and sandwiches.

"Our tea and sausages are pretty average, they're good." There was something witty about his tanned, clean-shaven face, but the gentle blue eyes looked capable of being shrewd and hard if necessary.

Just to please him, Dasha agreed and followed him into the dining room. On the table was a plate of sandwiches and a dented samovar. Quickly picking up the used plates, Telegin threw them on the floor in a corner of the room. Unable to find a cloth, she wiped the table with her handkerchief and poured Dasha some tea, choosing a sandwich that looked to be a lot more "delicate" than the others. All this he did with slow movements of his big strong hands, talking all the while, as if he was extremely anxious that Dasha should feel at home in spite of all this mess.

"Our housekeeping isn't good, I know, but the tea and sausages are top notch, they're from Eliseyev's house. There were some sweets, but they've run out... Wait a minute!"

Pursing her lips, she glanced at Dasha, her blue eyes expressing first alarm, then resolution. "Would I?"

And he took two chocolates wrapped in paper from his waistcoat pocket.

"Such a man would never let anyone down," thought Dasha. Out loud, she said:

"My favorite sweets!"

Telegin, sitting sideways opposite Dasha, fixed his gaze on the mustard jar. The effort brought a vein to his high, broad forehead. She discreetly took out her handkerchief and wiped her forehead.

Dasha's lips involuntarily parted in a smile; this big, handsome guy was so lacking in self-confidence that she had to take refuge behind the mustard jar. She probably had a mother in some country town, she told herself, a neat little old lady who wrote her stern warnings about her "incorrigible habit of lending money to all kinds of idiots", adding that "the respect of others you only earn with modesty and diligence, my son". And he no doubt sighed at these letters, realizing how far from perfect he was. Dasha was attracted to this man.

"Where do you work?" she asked.

Telegin looked up sharply, saw that she was smiling, and smiled too.

"On the Baltic Engineering Works".

"Is your job interesting?"

"It's hard to say. All the work is interesting, in my opinion."

"I'm sure the workers love you very much."

"Well, I never thought of that. I don't see why they should be. I'm very strict with them. Of course we get along very well, just in a camaraderie."

"Tell me, did you really like what's going on in that room today?"

The wrinkles on Ivan Ilych's forehead smoothed out, and he laughed out loud.

"Just kids! Horrible bullies! But good kids! I'm very happy with my tenants, Darya Dmitrevna. Sometimes things go wrong at the factory and I come home upset to find they've invented some new nonsense. It amuses me throughout the next day ."

"Well, I don't like such swear words at all," said Dasha sternly. "I think they're disgusting."

He looked into her eyes in wonder.

"I don't like them at all," he repeated.

“I'm more guilty than they are, you know? said Ivan Ilyich thoughtfully. "I encouraged them. Of course, when you think about it…inviting people in and talking dirty all night…I'm sorry you hated it so much."

Dasha looked him in the face and smiled. He felt that there was nothing he was afraid to say to this man. although she barely knew him.

'I thought you'd like something quite different, Ivan Ilyich.' I'm sure you're a good man. Much better than you think. Very much!

Dasha, her elbow on the table, her chin resting on her hand, ran her little finger across her lips. Her eyes laughed, but he found them terrible in their overwhelming beauty: large, cold, gray eyes. In his embarrassment, Ivan Ilyich bent and unfolded a teaspoon between his fingers.

To her relief, Elizaveta Kievna entered the dining room. She was wearing a Turkish shawl and her hair was gathered in "curls" over her ears. Extending a long, flabby hand to Dasha, he introduced himself.

"Rastorguyeva,"* he said, and sat down.

"We heard a lot about you from Zhirov," he continued. "I've been studying your face all night. You were surprised. That's good."

"Have some cold tea, Liza!" suggested Ivan Ilyich hastily.

"You know I never drink tea, Telegin."

He turned to Dasha.

"You're probably wondering who this strange creature is talking to you about. I'm... nobody. A nonentity. I have no talents, just vices."

Ivan Ilyich, standing by the table, turned around in despair. Dasha looked down. Elizaveta Kievna looked at her with a smile.

"You're smart, prosperous, beautiful. No need to deny it, you know it's true. You've got dozens of men in love with you, of course. What a pity it all ends like this in a common way! The male will appear, you'll bear children to him and in the end you will die. How annoying!

[* Your name. Kievna (daughter of Kii) is her patronymic.—trans]

Dasha's lips trembled with indignation.

"I have no desire to be anything out of the way," she replied. And I don't understand why you should care about my future.

Elizaveta Kievna's smile widened, but her eyes remained sad and kind.

"I warned you that I was despicable as a human being and disgusting as a woman. Very few people tolerate me, and only out of pity, like Telegin."

"What nonsense you say, Liza," murmured Telegin, without raising his head.

"I don't demand anything from you, Telegin, don't be afraid!"

He turned to Dasha again.

“Have you ever been in a hurricane? to the sea! She went with me out of sheer spite. They took us out to the open sea... That was funny. Devilishly funny. I took off my dress and told her...

"Listen, Liza," interrupted Telegin, pursing his lips and nose, "you're lying. None of this happened. I know it didn't happen."

Elizaveta Kievna looked at him with an enigmatic smile and suddenly burst out laughing. She planted her elbows on the table and buried her face in her hands, her plump shoulders shaking with laughter. Dasha got up and told Telegin that she wanted to go home and would leave, if she didn't mind, without saying goodbye to anyone.

Ivan Ilych helped her into her coat as carefully as if it were a part of Dasha herself, and followed her up the stairs, continually lighting matches and apologizing for being so dark and windy and slippery. He walked with Dasha to the corner of the street and helped her into a sleigh driven by an old man, whose horse was speckled with snow. He stood for a long time, without hat or coat, watching the low sleigh with the girl's figure melt and disappear into the yellow mist. Then he slowly walked home and into the dining room. Elizaveta Kievna was sitting at the table with her face hidden in her hands, just as he had left her. Telegin scratched his chin and said, frowning: "Liza!"

With that, quickly, very quickly, she lifted her head.

"Liza, I'm sorry to say this, but why do you always talk like that? Does it just make people uncomfortable?"

“You're in love,” Elizaveta Kievna said softly, continuing to stare at him with her sad, short-sighted eyes, which seemed drawn on the surface of her face. "I can see who you are! How annoying!"

"There isn't a word of truth in that!" Telegin turned scarlet. "Any word!"

"Okay then, sorry!"

Lazily she got up and left, the ends of her dusty Turkish shawl trailing on the floor.

Ivan Ilyich walked thoughtfully for some time, sipped cold tea, and then picked up the chair on which Daria Dmitrevna was sitting and carried her into his room. There he carefully put it in a corner and, raising his hand to his nose, exclaimed, as if suddenly struck by something:

"Nonsense! What nonsense!"

For Dasha, the meeting was one of many. She met a really nice man, and that was it. Dasha was at an age when people do not see or hear clearly. Her hearing is dulled by the pulsing of the blood in her veins, and her eyes see everywhere, as in a mirror, even the faces of others, nothing but her own reflection. At that age, the imagination is only impressed by what is abnormal: the nineteen-year-old queen considers attractive people, beautiful landscapes and discreet beauties of art as just part of her entourage.

Ivan Ilyich was in a very different case. Now that more than a week had passed since Dasha's visit, he began to marvel at the fact that this girl with her delicate, rosy complexion, in her black woven dress, with her high ash-blond hair and girlish mouth arrogant, could have walked in virtually unnoticed (he didn't even shake her hand at the time), and with so little fuss, just walking in, sitting down, putting her muff on her lap. She couldn't understand how he dared talk to her about Eliseyev's sausage. In fact, as rude as it was, he had offered her warm caramels from his pocket.

Ivan Ilyich, who was about to turn thirty, had been in love six times: while still a student in Kazan, he fell in love with Marusia Khvoyeva, the daughter of a veterinarian, a mature virgin who had been unsuccessfully catching the director. village street in the same wool coat every day at four for many years. But Marusya Khvoyeva, who was very practical, rejected Ivan Ilyich. Soon afterwards, without the slightest transitional period, he fell in love with Ada Tillye, that star of the theatrical world, who astounded the inhabitants of Kazan by appearing in all operettas, whatever the period, in a bathing suit, a habit which O theater did not fail to underline on its posters: “The renowned Ada Tillye, awarded a gold medal for the perfection of her legs”.

Ivan Ilyich entered the house where she was staying and presented her with a bouquet of flowers that he had picked in the municipal park. But Ada Tillye, throwing the flowers to the ground for her cute little dog to smell, told Ivan Ilyich that the local food had completely ruined her digestion and asked him to go to the pharmacy to buy it. And that was the end of it.

Later, when he was a student in Petersburg, he almost fell in love with Vilbushevich, a medical student, and even arranged to meet her at the anatomical theater. But this somehow came to nothing, and Vilbushevich went to work in a Zemstvo hospital.

And then there was Zinochka, a girl from a large hat shop, who fell madly and tearfully in love with Ivan Ilyich. In his shame and sweetness of heart, Ivan Ilyich pleased her, but when she left for Moscow with a branch of the company, he could not help but sigh with relief, for her departure meant an end to the perpetual stress of unfulfilled obligations. . .

His last experience of tender emotions dated back to the summer of the previous year. Across the courtyard from her room, a pale girl began to appear at an opposite window just after sunset, opening a window and diligently shaking and brushing the same brown dress every day, after which she put it on and went outside. . sit in the park.

It was in the park that Ivan Ilyich had spoken to her for the first time, in the stillness of twilight, and since then they had met every evening, walking, admiring the city's sunset and listlessly talking.

The girl, Olya Komarova, worked in a registry office; lonely and ill, she had a perpetual cough. They talked about her cough and her illness, they said how melancholy nights were for an unmarried person, and she told him that Kira, a friend of hers, had fallen in love with a good man and had gone to Crimea with him. Their conversations were not interesting. Olya Komarova was so desperate that she confided her dearest thoughts to Ivan Ilyich, even admitting that she sometimes hoped that he would suddenly fall in love with her and take her to the Crimea.

But as long as he pitied her and respected her, Ivan Ilyich could not fall in love with her, although from time to time, lying on her sofa in the evening after one of their conversations, he would think how selfish, cruel and cruel she was. means she was. ....

In the fall, Olya Komarova caught a cold and went to bed. Ivan Ilyich took her to the hospital and from there he followed her to the cemetery. Before she died, she had asked, "If I get better, will you marry me?" “On my honor I will do it,” replied Ivan Ilyich.

His feeling for Dasha was different from any of these previous feelings. Elizaveta Kievna had said: "You are in love." But one can only fall in love with what is at least theoretically accessible; one cannot fall in love with a statue or a cloud.

His feeling for Dasha was of a special nature, completely new to him and, moreover, incomprehensible, since there was very little basis for it - just a few minutes of conversation and a chair in the corner of the room.

The feeling itself was not so acute, but Ivan Ilyich felt the desire to become something special, to start being more particular for himself.

"I'll be thirty soon," he said to himself, "and so far I've only been vegetating. I've gotten terribly carried away! Selfishness... indifference to others... I need to pull myself together before it's too late." ."

At the end of March came one of those first days of spring that break so unexpectedly over a city still white with snow, still sheltered from the cold. On such days, drops glisten and tinkle on the eaves and cornices from early morning, water bubbles in the gutters, the green vats placed below them overflow, the snow turns to slush underfoot, and steam rises from the asphalt, which dries up. in spots; in those days the heavy fur-lined coat weighed heavily on the shoulders, and people were suddenly startled to see a man with a Vandyke beard walking without a coat, and as they smiled at him, they looked up and saw that the blue, the sky without bottom looks freshly washed. And one day, at half past three, Ivan Ilyich came out of the engineering office on Nevsky Prospect, unbuttoned his fur-lined coat and squinted into the sunlight.

"After all, it's good to be alive!" And then he saw Dasha. She wore a spring-blue coat and walked slowly along the curb, swinging her left hand, in which she held a package; white daisies peeked out from her blue cap; her face was thoughtful and melancholy. Behind her was the huge, wrinkled sun, whose rays, burning with spring intensity in the abyss of blue, were reflected in puddles, tram lines and glass, falling on the backs of passers-by, on the ground under her feet. , and the spokes of the chariot wheels.

Dasha seemed to emerge from all this blue and light, only to disappear a moment later into the crowd. Ivan Ilyich looked at her for a long time. Her heart was pounding. The air was pure, spicy, heady.

Ivan Ilyich walked slowly to the corner and stood for a long time, with his hands clasped behind his back, in front of a column surrounded by banners. "The Amazing New Adventures of Jack the Ripper," he read, realizing at the same time that he wasn't taking in a word and that he had never been happier in his life than he was now.

When he moved away from the column, for the second time he saw Dasha. She was coming back, still gripping the sidewalk, the daisies still bouncing from her hat, the same package in her hand. He approached her, taking off his hat.

"Darya Dmitrevna, what a glorious day!"

She did a little jump. Then she looked up at him with rather austere eyes, in which the light had made green flecks, smiled sweetly and held out her hand in the white kid glove, firm and friendly.

"Nice to meet you! Fantastic, I thought of you today! I really did!"

Dasha nodded as she spoke, and the daisies in her hat nodded as well.

"I had business on Nevsky Prospect, Darya Dmitrevna, but now I'm free for the rest of the day. And what a day!"

Ivan Ilyich pursed his lips, summoning all his presence of mind to prevent them from breaking into a smile.

"Ivan Ilyich, could you walk me home?" Dasha asked.

They turned onto a side street and now found themselves walking in the shade.

"Ivan Ilyich, would it seem strange to you if I asked you something? No, I'm sure not, I know I can tell you anything. Only you must answer me immediately. Don't stop to think, answer directly! Answer no when I ask you.

His face was worried, his brows furrowed.

"I used to think it was like that," he said, gesturing in the air. "There were thieves, liars, murderers... They all existed somewhere or other, just like snakes and spiders and rats. But guys, of course they knew they had their foibles and quirks, they were good and simple. Look! That girl is coming towards us! Surely she is exactly what she appears to be! And the whole world seemed to me painted in lush colors. Do you know what I mean?

"But this is splendid, Darya Dmitrevna!"

"Wait! And now I seem to have somehow fallen into the picture, into some kind of suffocating darkness... I see that a person can be fascinating, just lovely, you know, and at the same time be the only one." Terrible sinner. Don't think I mean stealing cakes from a counter, but the real sin: lying." Dasha turned her head, chin quivering. "That same person could be an adulteress. A married woman. Does that mean it's okay to go on like this? I ask you, Ivan Ilyich."

"No, no, it's not!"

"Why not?"

"I can't say in advance, but I know it isn't."

"Do you think I don't feel it too? I've been wandering around desperately since two o'clock. It's such a pure and still day, and I keep imagining that there are bad people hiding in these houses, behind the curtains, and that I have to live among them. You understand me?

"I'm afraid not," he said quickly.

"But I must! Oh, how miserable I am! I'm still just a silly child, and this town was built for adults, not little girls."

Dasha stopped at the entrance to the house and began pushing a box of cigarettes, on the lid of which was an image of a green lady with smoke coming out of her mouth, on the sidewalk, with the toe of her boot tied. Ivan Ilyich, with his eyes fixed on the varnished toe of Dasha's boot, felt that it would dissolve, disappear in a haze. He wanted to hold her, but he didn't know how. The strength that would have allowed him to stop her gripped her heart, gripped her throat. But her feelings were mere shadows on the wall for Dasha: he was just "good old Ivan Ilyich."

"Well, bye! And thank you very much, Ivan Ilyich! You were lovely! I don't feel better, but thanks anyway. You understand, don't you? That's how it is! There's nothing but growing up. Come see us when you have a free moment , do it!

Smiling, she squeezed his hand and walked out the door, where she was plunged into darkness.


Dasha opened the door to her room and froze in surprise. She could smell damp flowers, and in the next moment her eyes fell on a basket, its high handle trimmed with a blue bow, on her dressing table. She ran to bury her face in the flowers. The basket was full of Parma violets, in a wet, unbridled profusion.

Dasha was quite excited. Since the morning she wanted something indefinable and now she knew that it was the violets she wanted. Who could have sent them? Who had thought of her with an intensity that allowed her to discover hidden desires even for herself? Of course, the bow could have been dispensed with. Untying it, Dasha said to herself:

"She's a bit fidgety, but she's not a bad girl, actually. The rest of you can get into all sorts of things, but she's always herself. Some people might think she makes fun of everything, but there are others who fazem-no". understand that, and at the same time that you like it for that reason."

A note on thick paper, just two words "Cherish Love!" in a large, unfamiliar handwriting, slipped into the archway. On the other side were the words "Riviera Flower Shop". So whoever it was must have written "Cherish Love!" There at the store. Dasha went out into the hall, holding the basket by the handle, and shouted:

"Mogul! Who sent me these flowers?"

The Great Mogul looked at the basket and heaved a virtuous sigh, these things were none of his business.

"A guy from the store took them to Ekaterina Dmitrevna, and the lady told me to put them in her room."

"Did he say who sent them?"

"He didn't say anything, he just told me to give them to the lady."

Dasha returned to her room and stood by the window. Through the glass she could see the sun setting to the left, behind the brick wall of the house next door. It flooded the sky, melted into green and gradually disappeared. A star appeared in the greenish void, shimmering and shining as if it had just been polished. In the narrow, foggy street below, glowglobes came to life simultaneously along their entire length, but they still weren't glowing and didn't emit any glow. A car howled somewhere close by and soon could be seen rolling down the street to disappear into the night mist.

It was getting very dark in the room, and the violets gave off a faint fragrance. They were sent by the person with whom Katya committed a sin. That much was obvious. Dasha stood there, thinking to herself that she had crawled like a fly onto something as subtle and seductive as a spider's web. That something was in the humid smell of the flowers, in the two words, so emotional and at the same time so exciting: "Cherish Love!", in the spring charm of the afternoon.

Suddenly, her heart began to beat violently and rapidly. Dasha had the feeling of touching, seeing, hearing something forbidden, secret, something possessed by burning sweetness. Without the slightest warning, with all her heart, she let herself go. It was not known how it happened, but there she was, on the other side. Her austerity, her wall of ice, seemed to have dissolved into a mist like the one at the end of the street, into which the car had disappeared silently, with two ladies in white hats.

She only knew that her heart was pounding and her head was spinning, and that a joyous coolness ran through her veins, a spontaneous melody forming inside her: "I'm alive, I'm in love! Joy, life, the whole world, everything." it's mine, mine!

"Listen, my dear," said Dasha loudly, widening her eyes, "you are just an old spinster with a bestial temper."

She went to the farthest corner of the room, sat down in a large, overstuffed chair, and began to recall the events of the last fortnight as she slowly peeled the wrapper off a chocolate bar.

Nothing had changed at home. In any case, Katya was very affectionate with Nikolai Ivanovich, who seemed to be in good spirits and was planning to build a summer home in Finland. Only Dasha silently felt the "tragedy" of these two blind people. She didn't dare be the first to speak, and Katya, usually so sensitive to Dasha's moods, didn't seem to notice a thing. Ekaterina Dmitrevna ordered spring clothes for herself and Dasha for Easter, spent hours at seamstresses and hatters, participated in charity bazaars; at the request of Nikolai Ivanovich, he organized a literary evening with the unspoken aim of helping the left-wing committee of the Social Democratic Party, the so-called Bolsheviks; the Smokovnikovs were now given Thursdays as well as Tuesdays; in a word, Katya never had a free moment.

"And the whole time you were depressed and couldn't make up your mind and just speculated about things you couldn't understand any better than a sheep, things you would never understand.willpowerunderstand until you singe your wings, Dasha said to herself, laughing softly. From the gloomy lake into which small balls of ice had fallen and from which no good could be expected, there emerged, as so often in recent days, the mocking, evil image of Bessonov. She let herself go and he took possession of her thoughts. Dasha was very quiet. In the dark room, the clock was ticking.

Then, somewhere far away in the house, a door rang and she could hear her sister's voice, asking, "Have you been back a long time?" Dasha got up from her chair and went out into the hall.

"Why is your face so red?" said Ekaterina Dmitrevna quickly. Nikolai Ivanovich, taking off his coat, quoted a joke from the stage lover. Dasha, casting a hateful look at her plump, soft lips, followed Katya into her room. There, sitting at the dressing table, which had the fragile elegance of everything in her sister's room, Dasha listened to the conversation about the acquaintances they had met during the walk.

As she spoke, Ekaterina Dmitrevna was tidying the wardrobe drawers, crammed with gloves, scraps of lace, veils, satin slippers, an array of trifles that smelled of the perfume she wore. "Looks like Kerensky has lost his case again and has no money. I met his wife, she says things are very difficult. The Timiryazevs have the measles at home. Scheinberg is back with that hysterical woman, they say he really tried shoot". in her rooms. What a spring! And what a beautiful day it has been! All walking the streets as if they were drunk. Oh yes, here's the latest! I met Akundin, and he assured me that there will be a revolution at any moment. now. The factories, the cities, they're all boiling, you know? I wish he would hurry up! Nikolai Ivanovich was so pleased that he took me to Pivato's and we drank a whole bottle of champagne, just like that. — for the Future Revolution".

Dasha listened to her sister in silence, mechanically opening and closing the lids of several glass jars.

"Katya," he said abruptly, "the way I am now, you know, I'm no good for anyone."

Ekaterina Dmitrevna, her hand in a silk stocking, turned and looked intently at her sister. "And the good thing is, I'm not good for myself either. I'm like a person who decides to eat only raw carrots and finds that it elevates him above the rest."

"I do not understand you," said Ekaterina Dmitrevna. Dasha looked at her back and sighed. "I think everyone is bad, I criticize everyone. This one is dumb, that one is horrible, the other one is dirty. Only I am good. I'm like a stranger here, and that makes me unhappy. I criticize you too." , Katia".

"For what?" Ekaterina Dmitrevna asked quietly, without turning around.

"Ah, try to understand me! I refuse everything, and that's my only virtue. It's just stupid, and I'm sick of being a stranger among you all. The problem is, I must tell you, I had a crush on a certain person .

All the time she was talking, Dasha kept her head down; I had stuck my finger in a glass jar and couldn't get it out.

"Well girl, thank God you like someone. It will make you happy. And who should be happy if not you?"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna gave a slight sigh as she said this.

"But Katya, it's not that simple! I don't think I'm in love with him."

"If you like it, you will come to love it."

"But you'll see that I really don't like it."

Then Ekaterina Dmitrevna closed the closet door and stood next to Dasha.

"But you just said you liked him... What the hell..."

"Don't take me, Katya! Do you remember the British in Sestroretsk, I liked itto him,I was even in love with him. But I was pretty much myself back then. I was furious, I hid, I cried at night. But this... I don't even know if it's him... Oh yeah, it is, it's... He's haunting me... And now I'm so different, y'all. of me. Like I was inhaling something... If I walked into my room, I wouldn't move... I could do whatever I wanted."

"Dasha, don't say such things!"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna sat down next to her sister and drew her to herself, taking her burning hand and kissing the palm, but Dasha gently released herself, sighed, resting her chin on her hand and staring out the now bluish window at ace stars

"Dasha! What is her name?"

"Alexei Alexeyevich Bessonov".

Then Katya, with her hand on her throat, moved to the chair next to Dasha and froze. Dasha couldn't see her sister's face, which was in shadow, but she felt that she had said something terrible.

So much the better, he thought, turning away. And that "much better" made her feel light and hollow.

"Tell me why other people can do anything, and I can't. For two years I've heard of endless temptations, and in all my life I've only been kissed once by a schoolgirl on the skating rink."

She sighed heavily and fell silent. Ekaterina Dmitrevna was now sitting leaning forward in her chair, hands on her knees.

"Bessonov is a very bad man," he said. He's a terrible man, my dear. Is he listening to me?


"He will break you."

"Well, what can be done about it now?"

"I won't allow it. Let other people... But not you, not you, my dear!"

"Give a dog a bad name and hang him for it! What's wrong with Bessonov? Tell me!"

"I can't tell you… I don't know… But just thinking about him makes me shudder."

"Didn't you like yourself once?"

"Never! I hate him! The Lord keep you away from him!"

"You know what, Katya! Now I'm sure I'm going to fall into their web."

"What are you talking about? We're crazy, both of us!"

This was the kind of conversation Dasha loved, it was like tiptoeing along a narrow plank. He enjoyed seeing Katya's excitement. She hardly thought about Bessonov, but deliberately began to talk about her feelings for him, describing meetings with him, her face. All this she exaggerated, so that it seemed that she was awake every night pining for Bessonov and was about to fall into his arms. Finally, she herself felt the absurdity of it all and wanted to throw her arms around Katya's neck, kiss her, exclaim: "If anyone is a goose, it's you, Katya!" But Ekaterina Dmitrevna suddenly slid out of her chair onto the rug, hugged her sister and buried her face in Dasha's lap, shuddering violently and screaming in a voice that almost terrified Dasha:

"Forgive me, Dasha, forgive me!"

Dasha got scared. Bending over her sister, weeping in terror and pity, she began to question Katya through her sobs, "What the hell do you mean? What is there to forgive?" But Ekaterina Dmitrevna gritted her teeth and, in response, stroked her sister and kissed her hands.

At dinner, Nikolai Ivanovich, looking from one of the sisters to the other, said:

"Hm! And I won't be initiated into the cause of these tears?"

“The cause of these tears is my bestial mood,” said Dasha hastily. "Please calm down, I know without you telling me I'm not worth your wife's little finger."

At the end of dinner, when coffee was served, some guests arrived. Nikolai Ivanovich decided that family morality urgently required a visit to a restaurant. Kulichok asked for a car. Katya and Dasha were sent to change clothes. Chirva arrived and upon learning that they were going to a restaurant, she fell in love, to everyone's surprise.

"After all, what suffers from this incessant revelry? Russian literature!"

But they made him go in the car with the others.

It was crowded and noisy in "North Palmyra", the huge room in the basement was flooded with white light from crystal chandeliers. The chandeliers, the smoke, the tables close together, the men in evening clothes, the bare shoulders of the women, their colorful wigs – green, purple, gray – the snow-white eagles, the jewels, quivering in orange, blue and lightning the ruby ​​of necks and ears, the waiters gliding in the darkness, the cadaverous individual with a magic wand in his raised hands, cutting the air in front of the crimson velvet curtain, the glow of the wind instruments, all this was multiplied by mirrored walls, of so that it seemed that all of humanity, the entire world, was sitting here in infinite perspective.

Dasha, drinking champagne through a straw, looked at the other tables. A freshly shaven man with powdered cheeks sat in front of a sweaty bucket of champagne and fragments of lobster shells. His eyes were half-lidded, his mouth sneering. He seemed to be sitting there, thinking to himself that the electricity would finally go out, and they would all die, and there was practically nothing worth cheering about.

And then the curtain shuddered and opened. A small Japanese man with tragic wrinkles jumped onto the stage and multicolored balls, plates and torches began to spin in the air. Dasha thought to herself:

"Why did Katya say 'Forgive me, forgive me'?" And suddenly her head felt squeezed into a tight band, her heart seemed to stop. "Could it be?" She shook her head, took a deep breath and, without even allowing herself to question what she meant by that "Really?", looked at her sister.

Ekaterina Dmitrevna, across the table, looked so tired, so sad, and so beautiful that Dasha's eyes filled with tears. She put her finger to her lips and blew imperceptibly. It was one of her signs. Katya saw this, understood, and smiled slowly and tenderly.

Around two o'clock, an argument began about where they should go next. Ekaterina Dmitrevna begged to be allowed to go home. Nikolai Ivanovich said that he would do what everyone else did, and "everyone else" decided to continue elsewhere.

That's when Dasha spotted Bessonov in the dwindling crowd. He was sitting with his elbow propped on the table, listening attentively to Akundin, who was saying something to him with a half-chewed cigarette between his lips, at the same time drawing energetically with his fingernail on the tablecloth. And Bessonov was looking at this flying nail. His face was pale and he looked absorbed. It seemed to Dasha that she could even make out through the general din the words: "End, end of everything!" But almost immediately the two men were out of sight of a Tartar waiter with an enormous paunch. Katya and Nikolai Ivanovich got up, called Dasha, and she had to leave, not satisfying her curiosity and enthusiasm.

In the street, the invigorating fragrance of frost surprised. Stars swam in the black and purple sky. Someone behind Dasha said, with a laugh, "What a beautiful night!" The car pulled up to the curb, a ragged man stepped out of the gas fumes, took off his cap and, with a dance move, opened the door for Dasha. Entering, Dasha looked around: the man, thin, bearded, with a crooked mouth, was shaking all over, his elbows pinned to his sides.

"Congratulations on a successful night at the sanctuary of luxury and sensuality!"

His voice was cheerful and husky, and he deftly caught a coin thrown from one of the group, touching his tattered cap in greeting. Dasha felt as if his whole being was torn apart by her fierce black eyes.

They got home late. Dasha, lying on her back on the bed, fell into a trance-like sleep, her whole being numb with exhaustion. And suddenly, throwing off the covers with a groan, she sat up suddenly and opened her eyes. The sun beat down on the parquet floor through the window... "Oh, God, how awful!" It had been so awful that she could barely hold back the tears, but when she pulled herself together, it felt like she'd forgotten everything. There was nothing left but an ache in her heart, the result of some terrible dream.

After breakfast, Dasha went to the university, applied for exams, bought some books and led a rather austere working life until dinnertime. But in the evening she had to put on silk stockings again (in the morning she had decided to put only cotton ones on), powder her arms and shoulders, comb her hair. "I wish I could wrap it in a bow around my neck, but everyone is yelling at me to have a trendy hairstyle, and how can I when my hair is so fluffy!" In a word, everything was noise and trouble. And there was a champagne stain down the front of her new blue silk dress.

Suddenly Dasha was so sad about this dress and about her own wasted life that she sat down and cried a lot with her ruined skirt in her hand. Nikolai Ivanovich had just entered the door, but seeing Dasha sitting crying in her underwear, he called his wife. Katya came running, grabbed the dress and exclaimed: "Oh, this will come off in a minute!" and she called the Great Mogul, who appeared with benzine and hot water.

She wiped the dress, and Dasha put it on, Nikolai Ivanovich fuming in the hall. "Don't you realize, it's the first night, good people, we can't be late!" And of course they were late.

Dasha, sitting next to Ekaterina Dmitrevna in the box, watched a stocky guy with a fake beard and unnaturally wide eyes, standing under a plane tree. "I love you, I love you," he would say to a girl in bright pink whose hand he held. And although the play was not sad, Dasha was inclined to cry all the time and pity the girl in bright pink, and she was very angry that the act did not end sadly. The girl, it seemed, loved him and did not love him, she responded to her hugs with a goblin laugh and rushed to the villain, whose white pants gleamed in the background. The hero put his hand to his brow, swore he would destroy one manuscript or another—his life's work—and the first act was over.

Acquaintances appeared in the box, and the usual quick and lively conversation began.

Little Scheinberg, whose bare skull and scraped, wrinkled face always seemed to be jumping out of his crick, said the play was thrilling.

"The sex problem again, but vividly presented. Humanity must just get rid of this damn problem."

Burov, the tall, dark coroner, a Liberal whose wife had eloped at Christmas with the owner of a racing stable, replied to this:

"I don't know about other people, but for me the problem is solved. Women are liars by nature, men lie with the help of art. The question of sex is just dirt and art is a form of crime."

Nikolai Ivanovich laughed and looked at his wife. Burov continued sullenly:

"When the time comes for the bird to lay an egg, the male sports a brightly colored tail. This is a lie, as his natural tail is gray and colorless. A flower opens on a branch and that is a lie, a decoy, the real thing. truth is in the ugly underground roots. But the worst liar of all is man. He doesn't scatter flowers, he doesn't have a tail, so he uses his tongue; it's a gross and hateful lie, that's called love, and all the fuss that goes on was made about it. All this is mysterious only to very young girls." (He squinted at Dasha.) "But in our dark times, serious people are interested in this rubbish. Yes, the Russian state is suffering from intestinal congestion." Grimacing, he bent over a box of chocolates, poking them with his finger, but finding none to his liking, he raised the naval binoculars that dangled from a shoulder strap to his eyes.

The conversation was about policy stagnation and backlash. Kulichok relayed the latest court gossip in an excited whisper.

"Atrocious! Atrocious!" Scheinberg muttered. Nikolai Ivanovich hit his knee.

"Revolution, gentlemen," he said. "We urgently need a revolution. Otherwise we will simply perish. I have information," he lowered his voice, "that there is a great deal of unrest in the factories."

In his excitement, Scheinberg stretched the fingers of both hands.

"But when, when? We can't wait forever."

"We will live to see it, Yakov Alexandrovich," said Nikolai Ivanovich cheerfully. "We'll live to see." And we will name you Minister of Justice, Your Excellency.

Dasha was tired of hearing about these problems, revolutions and ministerial posts. Propping his elbow on the edge of the velvet-covered box and wrapping his other arm around Katya's waist, he looked around the stalls, occasionally exchanging smiling bows with acquaintances. Dasha knew very well that she and her sister were attractive, and surprised looks from the crowd (admiration from men, resentment from women), snatches of conversation, smiles went to his head. Her tearful mood was gone. A lock of Katya's hair tickled her cheek by her ear.

"I love you, Katya!" he said in a whisper.

"And I love you!"

"Are you happy that I live with you?"


Dasha tried to think of nicer things to say to Katya. And suddenly he saw Telegin below. He was standing in a black coat, a cap and a theater poster in his hands, and had been looking at the Smokovnikovs' box for a long time, but without raising his head, so that no one would notice. His strong, tanned face stood out among the other faces, all pale or drenched in booze. His hair was much lighter than Dasha remembered-it was the color of rye.

Looking into Dasha's eyes, he immediately bowed and turned away, but the cap fell out of his hands. Bending down, he bumped into a large woman in the stalls, started to apologize, blushed, took a step back, and stepped on the editor's foot.The Choir of the Muses,an aesthetic magazine. Dasha told her sister:

"Look, Katya, this is Telegin."

"Look great".

"He's so charming I could kiss him! And, Katya, you don't know how smart he is!"

"Well then, Dasha..."


But her sister was silent. Dasha understood and was silent. She again felt a pang in her heart: all was not well inside, inside the snail's shell. She had a moment of forgetfulness, but when she looked down at herself, all was darkness and confusion.

When the lights dimmed and the curtain opened, Dasha sighed, broke off some chocolate, put it in her mouth and began to follow what was happening on stage.

The man with the fake beard kept threatening to burn his manuscript, the girl, sitting at the grand piano, mocked him. And it was perfectly obvious that this girl should have been wildly married, and that all these niceties didn't need to be stretched out over three acts.

Dasha looked up at the ceiling, where a beautiful half-naked woman with a pure, cheerful smile was hovering among the clouds. "Why, she's just like me!" Dasha thought. She immediately began to see herself as she imagined others saw her: a being sitting in a box, munching on chocolate, lying down, messing things up, and waiting for something extraordinary to happen. But nothing happened. "There will be no rest for me until I go with him, until I hear her voice, feel her essence. Everything else is a lie. One has to be honest."

From this night, Dasha's mind made up its mind. Now he knew he was going to Bessonov and dreaded the moment. At one point, she considered going to see her father in Samara, but she abandoned the idea when she realized that a thousand miles or so would not free her from temptation.

Her healthy virginity was up in arms, but what could she do against the "other being" when everything was in her favor. Moreover, it was intolerably humiliating to think and suffer so much for this Bessonov, who never thought about her and lived perfectly content somewhere near Kameno-Ostrov Avenue, writing poetry about an actress in a lace petticoat. But it had got into Dasha's blood, her whole being was saturated with it.

Dasha now began to deliberately smooth her hair back, gathering it in a bun at the back of her head; she wore her old school clothes brought from Samara, forced herself to study Roman law, did not appear when there were visitors, and did not participate in entertainments. It wasn't an easy task to be honest. Dasha was scared, just scared.

On a cold afternoon in early April, when the twilight colors had faded and the faded greenish sky was illuminated by shadowless phosphorescent light, Dasha returned from the islands.

At home, he told them he was going to university, but in fact he took the tram to Elagin Bridge and wandered through empty alleys all night, crossing bridges, looking out over the water, the purple branches etched into the orange background. the sunset, on the faces of passers-by, in the carriage lights that shine between the rows of moss-covered trunks. His mind was blank and he didn't hurry.

She felt perfectly calm, her entire being immersed in the salty spring air blowing in from the shore. Her feet were tired, but she didn't want to go home. Carriages rolled along the wide expanse of Kameno-Ostrov Avenue, long automobiles sped past, groups of pedestrians passed, joking and laughing. Dasha turned into a side street.

Here all was stillness and solitude. The sky was green behind the roofs. The music came from between the closed window blinds. In one house someone was learning a sonata, from another came a maddeningly familiar waltz, and from an attic window reddened by the setting sun came the strains of a violin.

Also Dasha's heart, penetrated by all these sounds, was filled with nostalgic music. Her body seemed to have become light and pure.

He turned the corner, wrote down the number on the wall of a house and smiled; then, approaching the front door on which, on the head of a bronze lion, was a business card engraved with "A. Bessonov", he rang the bell violently.


The night before, the doorman of the "Vienna" restaurant, while helping Bessonov to take off his coat, had said meaningfully:

"There is someone waiting for you, Alexei Alexeyevich."


"A youngster."

"But who is she?"

"We've never seen her here before."

Bessonov, looking blindly over the diners' heads, made his way to the farthest corner of the crowded restaurant. Loskutkin, the headwaiter, with his gray chops slung over Bessonov's shoulder, recommended the loin of lamb as very choice.

"I don't want to eat," said Bessonov. "Give me some white wine—mibrand."

He sat sternly erect, with his hands on the tablecloth, enveloped in the dark inspiration which was habitual with him at that time and place. All the impressions of the day coalesced into a harmonious and intelligible form, and the shadow of that externally evoked form arose within his soul, agitated as it were by the howling of Romanian violins, the fragrance of perfume, the closeness of the crowd. restaurant. This shade was inspiration. He felt as if he could, by some inner sense of touch, reach the secret meaning of things and words.

Bessonov lifted his glass and took a sip of wine. His heart was beating slowly. It was indescribably pleasant to feel his whole being penetrated by sounds and voices.

Opposite, at a table set in front of a mirror, Sapozhkov, Antoshka Arnoldov and Elizaveta Kievna were having dinner. The day before, Elizaveta Kievna had written Bessonov a long letter asking for an assignment, and now she was sitting at the table, flushed and excited. She was wearing a black and yellow striped dress, and a matching bow in her hair. When Bessonov entered, she felt suffocated.

"Be careful!" Arnoldov whispered to her, showing all his teeth at once, the decayed ones and the gold ones. "He has just fallen in love with an actress, now he has no wife and he is as dangerous as a tiger."

Elizaveta Kievna laughed, swinging her striped bow, and pushed her way through the tables towards Bessonov. People turned to look at her, smiling.

Lately Elizaveta Kievna's life had become indescribably boring, day after day with nothing to do, with no hope of anything better; in short, she was bored to death. Telegin seemed to dislike her, and although he was perfectly polite, he avoided talking to her or being alone with her, while she desperately felt that he was the man she needed. When her voice sounded in the hallway, she glanced at the door. He was tiptoeing down the hall as usual. She would wait, her heart would race, the door would seem to float before her eyes, but once again he would pass. If only I knocked on the door, asked for a match...

A day or two ago, to irritate Zhirov, who, cautious as a cat, was critical of everything, she had bought one of Bessonov's books and, cutting the pages with the tweezers, read it several times from cover to cover, spilling coffee over it. . she, she crumpled up the pages while reading in bed, and finally, one day at dinner, she announced that she was a genius. Telegin's inmates were outraged. Sapozhkov called Bessonov a fungus that spreads through the decaying body of the bourgeoisie. A vein popped in Zhirov's temple. Artist Valet broke a plate. Only Telegin remained impassive. Then Elizaveta Kievna was seized by one of her so-called "impulses of self-provocation". Laughing, he went to his room, wrote Bessonov an absurdly enthusiastic letter demanding a meeting, and returned to the dining room, where he tossed the letter on the table in silence. The inmates read it aloud and discussed it for a long time. Telegin said:

"A very bold letter."

Then he handed the letter to the cook to be sent immediately, whereupon he felt as if he were falling headlong into an abyss.

And now, coming to Bessonov, Elizaveta Kievna boldly said:

"I wrote to you. You came. Thank you."

She sat opposite him, on her side, with her knees crossed, her elbow on the towel, her chin resting on her hand, and began to look at Alexei Alexeyevich with her extraordinary eyes. He did not say anything. The waiter put another glass on the table and poured wine for Elizaveta Kievna. She said:

"You will ask, of course, why I wanted to see you."

"No, I won't. Drink your wine."

"You're right, I have nothing to say. You live, Bessonov, and I don't. I'm just... bored."

"What is your job?"

"Anything!" She laughed and suddenly her face turned red. "I can become a cocotte, but that's boring. I don't do anything. I'm waiting for the trumpets to sound, and the fire... Does that sound weird to you?"

"Who is it?"

She didn't answer, but lowered her head and blushed even more furiously.

"I'm a ghost," he whispered.

Bessonov smiled bitterly. "She's a fool!" he thought. But the parting in her blond hair was so sweetly virginal, her plump bare shoulders looked so innocent, that Bessonov smiled more gently, drained the entire glass of wine between his teeth, and suddenly had the urge to blow the black smoke out of his mouth. imagination. . this naive girl He told her that night was falling over Russia, for the fulfillment of a terrible retribution. This had been revealed to him by certain mysterious and sinister portents.

"You've seen the billboard all over town: a grinning little devil jumping down a giant ladder on a rubber tire... do you understand the meaning?"

Elizaveta Kievna looked into his icy eyes, noted his feminine mouth, his well-plucked, arched eyebrows, the slight tremor in his fingers as he held the glass, and the slow, greedy way in which he drank. Her head was pleasantly spinning. Sapozhkov was waving at him from where he was sitting. Suddenly Bessonov turned in his chair and said grimly:

"Who are these people?"

"They are my friends."

"I don't like the way they wave at you."

Then, barely realizing what she was saying, Elizaveta Kievna blurted out:

"We can go somewhere else if you want."

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Bessonov looked at her. He had a light cast on one eye, there was a slight smile on his lips and beads of sweat were on her temples. And suddenly he felt a longing for this healthy, short-sighted girl, and he said, taking the big, warm hand that was on the table:

"Either you leave now or shut up. Come on! You know you're going to have to go."

Elizaveta Kievna gave a short sigh and turned pale. He never knew how he got up and took Bessonov's arm, or how they pushed their way between the tables. And when they were sitting on a droshky, the wind did not cool their burnt skin.

The wheels rattled on the rocks. Bessonov sat with his chin resting on his hands, which were clasped around the handle of his cane:

"I am only thirty-five years old," he said, "but my life is over. I can no longer be deceived by love. What could be sadder than to discover suddenly that the rider's steed is but a rocking horse! And what is it? a long, long time you have to drag this life, like a corpse..."

He turned to her, his lips curling into a smile.

"I guess I'll just have to wait, like you, for the trumpets of Jericho to sound. Wouldn't it be great if they suddenly sounded over this cemetery! Just a few notes and the sky would be on fire! Probably great."

They arrived at a hotel outside the city. The sleepy waiter led them down a long corridor to the only room not yet occupied, a lower room with torn and stained crimson wallpaper. A large bed with a faded canopy against one wall, a tin sink at the foot. It was damp and stuffy, and it smelled of stale tobacco. Elizaveta Kievna, standing in the doorway, said in a barely audible voice:

"Why did you bring me here?"

"Don't worry, we'll be fine here," said Bessonov hastily.

He took off her coat and hat and placed them on a wobbly chair. The waiter brought a bottle of champagne, some small apples and a bunch of grapes with the sawdust still clinging to it, took one look at the sink and left, invariably sad.

Elizaveta Kievna opened the window curtain: there was a gas lamp in the middle of a damp expanse of wasteland, and men huddled under sacks walked past enormous bathtubs. Smiling bitterly, she went to the mirror and began to fix her hair with unfamiliar gestures. "When I come to myself tomorrow, I'm going to go crazy," she thought calmly, and straightened the striped ribbon bow.

"Do you want some wine?" asked Bessonov.

"Yes please!"

She sat down on the sofa and he fell to his feet on the rug, saying thoughtfully:

"Your eyes terrify me, they are wild and kind. Russian eyes. Do you love me?"

This again confused her, but in the next moment she said to herself, "Why, that'sescraziness!"

She took the full goblet of wine from his hand and drank, and immediately everything seemed to spin slowly, as if she were falling.

"I'm afraid of you and I'm going to hate you, I suppose," she said, noting that the words—her own and not hers—seemed to come from afar.

"Don't look at me like that," he said. "You make me feel ashamed."

"You are a strange girl."

"Bessonov, you are a very dangerous man. I come from an Old Believer family, I believe in the devil... For God's sake, don't look at me that way! I know what you need me for... I have Fear of you."

He laughed out loud, his whole body shaking with laughter so that the wine in his glass spilled over. Bessonov rested his face in her lap.

"Love me, love me, I beg you," she exclaimed in a desperate voice, as if she saw her salvation alone.

"I'm so unhappy... I'm so scared... I'm scared to be alone... Love me, love me!"

Elizaveta Kievna put her hand on his head and closed her eyes.

He told her that the fear of death invaded him every night. He had to feel a living being close to him, someone who would pity him, warm him, give himself to him.

"I know, it's hell...but I'm too numb. My heart has stopped. Warm me up. It's such a small question. Take pity on me, I'm dying. Don't leave me alone. Sweet, sweet girl...."

Terrified and excited, Elizaveta Kievna didn't say a word. Bessonov dropped longer and longer kisses on the palms of his hands. Then he started kissing her big, sturdy legs. She closed her eyes even tighter and thought her heart would stop beating in embarrassment.

And suddenly she felt like she was engulfed in flames. Bessonov looked so charming and pathetic... she lifted his head and kissed him firmly, eagerly, on the lips. After that, she undressed without the slightest feeling of shame and went to bed.

When Bessonov fell asleep, his head resting on her bare shoulder, Elizaveta Kievna looked long with her short-sighted eyes at the pale face, with the lines of weariness at the temples, under the eyelids, beside the closed lips: the strange face. be familiar forever.

She was so sad to see the sleeper that Elizaveta Kievna cried.

She told herself that Bessonov, waking to see her in bed next to him - fat, ugly, with puffy eyes - would instantly knock her over; that no one could ever love her, that everyone would think her a depraved, foolish, vulgar woman, and that she would do her best to make them think so; that she loved one man and gave herself to another, and that her whole life would be nothing but rubbish, rubbish and heinous insults. Elizaveta Kievna, giving in to pent-up sobs, wiped her eyes with the edge of the sheet. And little by little, still crying, she found the dream's oblivion.

Bessonov took a deep breath through his nose, rolled onto his back and opened his eyes. His whole body was tormented by the indescribable melancholy that follows revelry. The idea that he would have to start another day was repugnant to him. She took a long look at one of the brass handles on the bed frame, then, steeling herself, she glanced to the side. Beside him, also on his back, was a woman, her face hidden in the crook of his bare arm.

"Who could it be?"

Tortured but unable to remember anything, he racked his brain, felt under his pillow for his cigarette case, and lit a cigarette.

"I can't fucking remember! Damn weird!"

"I see you're awake," he began flattering. "Good morning!"

She didn't speak or remove her arm from her face, but he persevered.

"Yesterday we were strangers and today we are united by the mysterious bonds of the night we spent together."

He frowned, it all seemed so banal. And who could say what she would do next: repent, cry, or cling to him in a fit of love? He touched her elbow carefully and immediately backed away. Her name was Margarita, right?

"Daisy, are you mad at me?" he asked sadly.

Then she sat up between the pillows and, clutching her shirt to her chest, looked at him with myopic, bulging eyes. Her eyelids were puffy and a bitter smile tugged at her thick lips. It all came back to him, and he experienced a feeling of brotherly tenderness.

"My name is not Margarita, it's Elizaveta Kievna," she said. "I hate you. Get out of that bed!"

Bessonov instantly got up and dressed as best he could behind the bed curtains, near the stinking sink. Once dressed, he lifted the shade and turned off the electric light.

"There are moments you can never forget," he said. he muttered.

Elizaveta Kievna looked at him all the time with a gloomy look. As he sat down on the sofa to finish his cigarette, she said slowly:

"I'll poison myself when I get home."

"I don't understand your mood, Elizaveta Kievna."

"Then no! Leave the room, I want to get dressed."

Bessonov went out into the corridor, full of drafts and the smell of coal gas. She made him wait a long time. He sat on the windowsill and smoked, then went down the hall, where he heard the waiter and two waitresses talking quietly in the small kitchen over tea.

"We've heard enough about your village!" said the waiter. "Russia indeed! You understand a lot! Just walk around the dorms all night, there's Russia for you! Pigs, all of them! Pigs and scoundrels, that's what they are!"

"Watch what you say, Kuzma Ivanovich!"

"After working here eighteen years, I can say whatever I want."

Bessonov returned. The door was open, the room empty. His hat was on the floor.

"Much better!" he thought, yawning and stretching his limbs.

Thus began another day. Since morning, a strong wind had dispersed the previous day's rain clouds and blown them northwards, where they piled up in great white mounds. The waterlogged city was bathed in sunlight. In its beams all sorts of gelatinous monsters, invisible to the naked eye - colds, coughs, diseases, the melancholy tuberculosis bacilli - shriveled, burned and stunned; even the semi-mystical microbes of black neurasthenia took refuge in the folds of curtains in dark rooms and damp cellars. The wind swept the streets. The windows of the houses were cleaned and opened. Gardeners in blue aprons swept the paths. On Nevsky Prospect, depraved-looking girls with pale, lined faces offered bundles of bluebells scented with cheap cologne to passersby. Everything reminiscent of winter was quickly removed from the windows and replaced with items as cheerful and springlike as the first flowers.

The evening papers carried the headline: "Long live the Russian Spring!" There were even some extremely ambiguous poems. In a word, the censor was deceived.

As a final touch, the "Centro" futurists walked through the streets, accompanied by the whistles and howls of children. There were three of them: Zhirov, the artist's servant, and the then-unknown Arkady Semisvetov, an immensely tall young man with an equine countenance.

Futurists wore top hats and short, beltless orange velvet blouses trimmed with black zigzags. Each wore a monocle and had a fish, an arrow, and the letter "R" painted on one cheek. Around five o'clock they were arrested by the district police inspector and taken in a droshky to the police station for identification.

Everyone seemed to be out on the streets. Bright carriages and streams of pedestrians moved along Morskaya Street, the embankment and Kameno-Ostrov Avenue. Many, surprisingly many, felt that something extraordinary was going to happen that very day; some manifesto would be signed in the Winter Palace, the Council of Ministers would be blown up by a bomb, something, somewhere, would certainly "begin".

But the blue twilight descended on the city, lamps lit in the streets and on the banks of the canals, their rays reflected in bright lines on the dark water, and from the bridges of the Neva they could be seen, behind the chimneys of the shipyards. , a vast sunset, mixed with smoke, barred by clouds. And nothing happened. The last flash shone on the tower of the Peter-Paul Fortress and the day ended.

Bessonov had workedaa lot that day, and it worked out well. Having enjoyed a refreshing nap after breakfast, he read Goethe for a long time and was excited and stimulated by his reading.

He would pace back and forth on his shelves, thinking aloud and occasionally going to his desk to write words and lines. The old nurse who looked after his bachelor pad brought out the china teapot full of steaming mocha.

Bessonov was elated. "Night falls on Russia", he wrote, "the curtain rises on the final tragedy, the God-fearing people, assuming a terrible mask, will be transformed gloriously like the Cossack into Gogolterrifying revengeinto fighters against God. A national celebration of the Black Mass is in preparation. The abyss opens. There is no escape. She closed her eyes and imagined deserted fields, crosses carved into mounds, roofs blown away by the wind, and far beyond the hills the glow of fires. he told himself that this was how he liked to think of his country, the country he knew only through books and pictures. His forehead creased into deep wrinkles, his heart sank with terrible forebodings. Then, cigarette smoking between his fingers, he covered sheet after sheet of whispering paper in his bold handwriting. As night fell, Bessonov, without turning on the light, lay down on the sofa, still excited, his head burning, his hands sweaty. His working day had come to an end. end,

Gradually, her heart began to beat more evenly and calmly. Now it was a matter of deciding how to spend the afternoon and evening... No one had called or come to visit. He would have to face the demon of depression himself. The sound of a piano came from the upper floor of the English family, awakening vague and impossible desires.

Suddenly, the silence of the house was broken by the sound of the front doorbell. The old maid shuffled past in her soft slippers. A haughty female voice could be heard saying, "I want to see!"

Then light, rushing footsteps stopped at the door. Bessonov stayed where he was, smiling. The door opened silently and a small, graceful girl in a big hat with daisies perched on the brim walked into the room, her figure luminous in the beams of the hall lamp. Entering the brightly lit hallway, she paused for a moment as if dazed in the middle of the room. As Bessonov silently got up from the sofa, she started to leave, but instead she shook her head decidedly and said, in the same high voice:

I came to talk to you about a very important matter.

Bessonov went to his desk and turned on the lamp. Its shade of blue shimmered among the books and papers, filling the room with a peaceful twilight. .

"What can I do for you?" asked Alexei Alexeyevich. He offered his visitor a seat and relaxed in the desk chair, leaning on the armrest. His face was transparent white, with blue shadows under the lids. She slowly looked up at her visitor, but began to recognize her, her hands trembling.

"Daria Dmitrevna!" he said softly. "I didn't know you at first."

Dasha sat down in a chair with the same purposeful air as when she had entered, folding her gloved hands on her knees and frowning.

"Darya Dmitrevna, I am very happy to see you in my house. This is a beautiful gift you have given me."

Not paying attention to his words, Dasha said:

"Please don't think I'm one of your admirers. I like some of your poems and I don't like some of your poems, I don't understand them, I just don't like them. I didn't come here to talk about poetry, I came because you didn't give me a break.

She lowered her head and Bessonov saw that her neck and wrists, between the glove and sleeve of her black dress, were dyed with color. He didn't speak or move.

"I'm nothing to you, of course. I wish I could feel the same indifference. But there it is, you see... unpleasant moments are not to be avoided..."

She lifted her head, her eyes clear and stern looking at him. Bessonov slowly lowered his eyelids.

"You got into my blood... like a disease. I keep surprising myself thinking about you. I can't take it anymore. The best thing seemed to be to go and tell you frankly. I made up my mind today... And here I am, doing- you a declaration of love.

Her lips were trembling. He hastily turned to one side and began to examine the wall, against which, illuminated from below, hung the mask of Peter the Great, with the tightly closed, malicious mouth and closed eyelids, then so beloved by poets. The English clergyman's family upstairs sang a four-voice fugue: "Let's die! No, let's fly! To the crystal sky! To endless, endless happiness!"

"If you try to tell me you feel the same way about me, I'm leaving right now!" Dasha said in a passionate hurry. "Of course it's obvious that you can't even respect me. Decent women don't do those things. But I don't want anything and I don't ask for anything from you. I just had to tell you that I love you desperately, violently... Did it all come crashing down on me... until my pride is gone...

She thought to herself, "Now get up. Take a dignified bow and go." But she stood still, looking at the malicious mask. She felt so weak that she could barely lift her hand, and now she was aware of her whole body, its weight and heat. "Why do not you answer?" she wondered, as in a dream. Bessonov, covering his face with the palm of his hand, began to speak in a low, muffled voice, as people do in church.

"I can only thank you for your feelings with all my soul. Such moments, such a fragrance as you brought me can never be forgotten..."

"You were not called to remember them," said Dasha through clenched teeth.

Bessonov fell silent, got up from his chair and, moving away, went to lean against the bookcase.

"Darya Dmitrevna, I can only bow to you. I am not worthy to hear you. Perhaps I never cursed myself before as I do at this moment. I wasted myself, squandered my substance. There is nothing left of me. How should I respond? I invite Would you go to the countryside with me, to a hotel? Darya Dmitrevna, I'll be honest with you. I can't love anymore. A few years ago, I would have thought I still had an eternity of youth to go. I wouldn't have let you go. "

Dasha felt as if needles were being pricked into her. Her words were a slow torture...

"Now I can only spill the precious wine. You must try to understand what it costs me. Reach out, grab..."

"No, no," Dasha hastily whispered.

"But yes. And you yourself know it. There is no sweeter sin than to waste what is precious. To spill the wine. That is why you came to me. To spill the chalice of your virgin wine... he brought it for me."

His eyes slowly narrowed. Dasha, holding her breath, looked in horror at his face.

"Darya Dmitrevna, I'll be honest with you. You look so much like your sister that at first..."

"What!" Dasha screamed. "What did you say?"

She jumped out of her chair and stood in front of him. Bessonov, who did not understand what had happened, misinterpreted her excitement. He felt he was starting to lose his mind. The scent of his essence and the scent of a woman's skin, barely perceptible but overpowering and different on each individual, slipped through his nostrils.

"This is crazy…! I know…I can't help it…" he whispered, taking her hand blindly.

But Dasha ran away. At the door, he looked back with wild eyes and disappeared. The front door slammed shut. Bessonov walked slowly to the table and took out a cigarette, tapping the glass case with his fingernails. Then he pressed the palm of his hand against his eyes, the terrible force of his imagination assuring him that the White Order, preparing for the decisive battle, had sent this passionate, delicate, seductive maiden to him to lure, convert and conquer. save him, but he was already desperately in the hands of the Black Order, and there was no saving him left. He was fascinated by insatiable desires and regrets, coursing through his blood like a slow poison.


"Is that you, Dasha? Go ahead!"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna was standing in front of the closet mirror, tying her corset. She smiled absently at Dasha and kept going round and round, dancing back and forth on the rug in her tight slippers. She was wearing skimpy underwear, all ribbon and lace, her beautiful arms and shoulders were powdered and her hair was swept up in a lush crown on top of her head. On a low table nearby was a glass of hot water; Nail scissors, nail files, lipsticks, and powder puffs were strewn about in profusion. There were no engagements for the night, and Ekaterina Dmitrevna was "getting her feathers in order", as her family used to say.

“Imagine,” she said, buttoning up her stockings, “they don't wear flat-chested braces anymore. Look, this is brand new, from Madame Duclet's. The belly is much freer and a little accentuated. Did you like it?"

"No, not me," said Dasha.

He was near the door, hands clasped behind his back. Ekaterina Dmitrevna raised her eyebrows in bewilderment.

"Isn't it? Too bad! They are so comfortable!"

"What's so comfortable, Katya?"

"Maybe you don't like the lace on them? It could be changed. Still funny, why don't you like them?"

Once again he began to spin around and around in front of the mirror.

"Please don't askto meHow I enjoy your stays!"

"Well, Nikolai Ivanovich does not understand anything about these matters."

It has nothing to do with Nikolai Ivanovich either.

"What is it, Dasha?"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna opened her mouth in amazement. It was only now that he noticed that Dasha was full of pent up emotions, that she spoke through clenched teeth, and that there were burning spots on her cheeks.

"I think you better stop running around in front of the mirror, Katya."

"I have to become decent, don't I?"

"For whose benefit?"

"What's wrong with you? For mine, of course!"

"This is a lie!"

After that, the sisters didn't say anything for a long time. Ekaterina Dmitrevna took the camel hair robe with blue silk lining that hung over the back of the chair and put it on, slowly tying the belt. Carefully following her movements, Dasha uttered the words:

"Go to Nikolai Ivanovich and make a neat chest out of it."

Ekaterina Dmitrevna was there, fiddling with her belt. A lump was growing in her throat, as if she had swallowed something hard.

"Dasha, did you find out anything?" he asked softly.

I just came from Bessonov. (Ekaterina Dmitrevna looked forward with blind eyes and suddenly turned pale as death. Her shoulder twitched.) "You don't need to worry, nothing happened to me there. She told me right away ..."

Dasha shifted from one foot to the other.

I assumed a long time ago that you... that it was him... It was too terrible to believe... You got angry and you lied. But I tell you that I have no intention of continuing to live in this filth... Go to your husband and tell him everything.

Dasha could not continue; her sister was standing in front of her, her head bowed. Dasha expected anything but that guilty, bowed head.

"Am I going to him now?" Katia asked.

"Yes, right now. You must understand this yourself."

Ekaterina Dmitrevna let out a short sigh and went to the door. Then, hesitating a little, he said: "I can't, Dasha."

Dasha did not answer.

"Okay, I'll tell him," said Katya.

Nikolai Ivanovich was sitting in the living room, scratching his beard with an ivory stiletto and reading Akundin's article in the latest issue ofRussian magazine.

It was an article about the anniversary of Bakunin's death, and Nikolai Ivanovich was having a great time. When his wife came in, he called out to her:

"Sit down, Katya. Listen to this... here it is... The charm of this man" (referring to Bakunin*) "is not so much in his way of thinking and his unremitting devotion to his cause, but his spirit with which he put his ideas into practice, the spirit that permeates everything he did: the nocturnal discussions with Proudhon**, the courage with which he threw himself into the midst of battle and even the romantic gesture with which, a mere spectator, he directed the fires of the Austrian insurgents, without quite knowing against whom and why. Bakunin's spirit is the symbol of that powerful force with which the new classes enter the struggle. It is the task of the coming age, not its extraction from an accumulation of facts, themselves subservient to the blind inertia of life, not the withdrawal into an ideal world, but the whole opposite process, the conquest of the physical world by the world of ideas, reality is very combustible, ideas are sparks. These two worlds, disparate and hostile, must coalesce in the flame of a global upheaval…” What do you think of that, Katya? There it is, in black and white, a salute to the revolution. Splendid companion, Akundin! It's perfectly true: today there are no big ideas or emotions. The Government is guided by nothing more than a mortal fear for the future. Intellectuals do nothing but swallow. We keep talking, talking, talking, Katyusha, and all the time we are up to our necks in a swamp. People are rotting alive. All of Russia is devoured by syphilis and vodka. Russia is in decline. Blow on it and it will crumble to dust. Such a life cannot go on...we need the sacrificial pyre, the purification by fire."

[*Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (1814-1876) — an anarchist theorist, a rabid enemy of Marxism.

** Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), French petty-bourgeois socialist-anarchist.]

Nikolai Ivanovich's soft voice was anxious, his eyes were round, his stiletto sliced ​​through the air. Ekaterina Dmitrevna was beside him, clinging to the back of a chair. When he finished what he had to say and started cutting the pages of the magazine again, she walked over to him and put her hand in his hair.

"Kolya dear, what I'm about to say will haunt you a lot. I wanted to hide it, but I see I'll have to tell you..."

Nikolai Ivanovich freed his head from her hand and looked at her.

"I'm listening, Katya."

"Do you remember once, when we were arguing, I told you, in a bad mood, that you shouldn't be so sure of me...ySo I took it back..."


He put the magazine down and turned in his chair. His eyes, meeting Katya's calm, frank gaze, twitched nervously back and forth.

"Very well, then. I told you a lie, that time… I really did cheat on you."

She frowned pathetically, trying to smile. Her mouth was dry. When it was no longer possible to remain silent, he said in a thick voice:

"You were right to tell me. Thank you, Katya..."

With that she raised her hand, touching it with her lips and pressing it against her chest. But her hand slipped and she made no attempt to catch it.

Then Ekaterina Dmitrevna calmly sank down on the rug and rested her head on the leather armrest of the chair.

"Don't you want me to tell you more?"

"No, Katya. Please go away."

She got up and left. At the door to the dining room, Dasha ran to her, hugged her violently in her arms and whispered, kissing her hair, neck, ears:

"Forgive me! Forgive me! You are wonderful, you are wonderful! I heard everything. Will you forgive me, Katya? Will you?"

Ekaterina Dmitrevna gently freed herself, approached the table, smoothed out a wrinkle in the tablecloth and said:

"I did what you told me, Dasha."

"Will you forgive me, Katya?"

"You were right, Dasha. It's better this way."

"I wasn't sure at all!EUHe said it out of spite... Now I understand that no one has the right to judge you. I don't care if we all suffer, you're still right. Sorry, you are absolutely right. Forgive me, Katya."

Huge round tears rolled down Dasha's cheeks. He stood right behind his sister and said in a loud whisper:

"If you don't forgive me, I don't want to go on living." ;

Ekaterina Dmitrevna turned sharply to her:

"What else do you want from me? Now you want everything to be nice and cozy again. Alright then, I'll tell you. If I lied and bit my tongue, it was because that was the only way to go." living with Nikolai Ivanovich. And now it's the end, understand? I stopped loving Nikolai Ivanovich a long time ago, and I have been unfaithful to him for a long time. Whether Nikolai Ivanovich loves me or not, I don't know. "I don't know, but there's no more intimacy between us. You see? And you want to hide your head under your wing, so you don't see unpleasant things. But I saw it, I understood it and I continued to live in all this filth, because I am a weak woman. And I could see that you were being attracted to her too. I tried to protect you, I forbade Bessonov to visit us. That was before he... oh, what does that mean? It's important! Now it's all over and done with." .."

Ekaterina Dmitrevna suddenly raised her head, listening attentively. Dasha felt shivers down her spine. Nikolai Ivanovich appeared in the doorway, peering sideways through the curtains. His hands were hidden behind his back.

"Besonov?" he said, shaking his head and smiling. He advanced towards the dining room.

Ekaterina Dmitrevna did not answer. A red spot appeared on each cheek, her eyes burning. She pursed her lips.

"You seem to think our conversation is over, Katya. But you're wrong." . .

Smiling, he continued:

"Leave us alone, please, Dasha."

"I won't, I won't!"

And Dasha stood next to her sister.

"You will if I ask."

"No, I won't."

"In that case, I'll have to leave the house alone."

"To do!" Dasha said, looking at him.

Nikolai Ivanovich blushed, but a moment later an expression of joyful madness shone in his eyes.

"So much the better, stay then! That's the way it is, Katya... I sat there after you left me, and I must admit that in those few minutes I suffered agony. I came to the conclusion that I'm going to have to kill you." Yes, that's what I should do.

Hearing this, Dasha quickly snuggled up to her sister and wrapped both her arms around her. Ekaterina Dmitrevna's lips trembled with disdain.

"You're should take some valerian, Nikolai Ivanovich."

"No, Katya, this time it's not hysteria."

"Then do what you came here to do!" he shouted, pushing Dasha away and approaching Nikolai Ivanovich directly. "Come on then, do it!" I'm saying it to your face, I don't love you!

She took a step back, placed a small "female" revolver behind her back on the towel, put her fingertips to her mouth, bit down on them, and turned toward the door. Katya followed him with her eyes. Without turning around, he said:

"How it hurts! Oh, how it hurts!"

She ran to him, grabbed his shoulders and turned to face her.

"Lies! You're always lying! You're lying now too!"

But he shook his head and left. Ekaterina Dmitrevna sat down at the table.

"Well, Dasha, we have the scene from the shooting of the third act," he said. "I'll leave it."

"Oh, Katya! You won't do that!"

"Yes, I'm not going to go on living like this. In five years I'll be old, and then it'll be too late. I just can't go on living like this... It's too horrible!"

She lifted her hands from the table to her face, and in the next moment her head fell into the crook of his arm.

Dasha, sitting down next to him, began to shower quick and sneaky kisses on his shoulder. Ekaterina Dmitrevna raised her head.

"Don't think I don't feel sorry for him! I feel sorry for him all the time. But you know very well, if I go to him now, there will be endless talk, fake from beginning to end... us, lying and gesturing... talking to Nikolai Ivanovich is like playing a piano that needs tuning... It's no use, I'll have to go... oh , Dasha, Dasha, if you only knew how unhappy I am!"

But later Ekaterina Dmitrevna went to her husband's office.

They had a long conversation, each speaking in low, sad voices, trying to be honest, not forgiving each other, but both were left with the feeling that nothing had been done or clarified. The conversation had not brought them closer to each other.

Left alone, Nikolai Ivanovich sat at the table until dawn, sighing. Later, Katya found out that she had replayed her whole life in those hours. The result was a long epistle for his wife, ending with the words: "Morally, we are all at a dead end, Katya. I have not had a single powerful emotion over the past five years, nor have I taken a single important step." Even my love for you, our marriage, seems to have been just part of the general uproar. It has been a mere trivial, semi-hysterical, drugged existence. There are two ways out: end my life or start it. the film involved my thoughts, my feelings, my conscience. And I'm incapable of doing one thing or the other..."

The domestic calamity had come on so suddenly, the home world had collapsed so easily and irrevocably, that Dasha was too overwhelmed to think about herself. His childish moods now seemed trivial to her, like the ghost shadow on the wall the nurse had used to scare her and Katya, a long, long time ago.

Dasha went to Katya's room several times a day and knocked on the door with her fingernail, but every time Katya screamed:

"Would you mind leaving me alone, Dasha dear?" During these days, Nikolai Ivanovich had to appear in court. I would leave early, have breakfast and dinner at a restaurant and come back late at night. Everyone in the courtroom, including the judge himself, was captivated by the eloquence of his defense of Zoya Ivanovna Ladnikova, wife of a tax official, who had killed her lover, student Schnippe, son of a Petersburg householder, while he lay in bed. By her side. one night, on Gorokhov Street. The women sobbed. The defendant, Zoya Ivanovna, hit her head on the back of the seat and was acquitted.

Nikolai Ivanovich, leaving the court pale and sunken-eyed, was instantly surrounded by a crowd of women, throwing him flowers, screaming, kissing his hands. He went straight home from the courts and talked with Katya in a softened spirit.

Ekaterina Dmitrevna's boxes were full. With the greatest impartiality, Nikolai Ivanovich advised her to go to the south of France, giving her twelve thousand rubles for expenses. While talking to her, he privately resolved to leave all her affairs to her deputy and go to the Crimea, to rest and think things over.

Neither of them really knew whether the separation would be temporary or permanent, or who had left whom. These vital points have been carefully kept in the background in the game's hubbub.

They forgot about Dasha. Ekaterina Dmitrevna remembered her only at the last moment, when, in her gray traveling suit, elegant hat and veil, slender and plaintive, she went out into the hall and found Dasha, sitting on a trunk. Dasha dangled her legs and ate bread and jam, no one remembered to order dinner that day.

"Dasha, my pet," said Ekaterina Dmitrevna, kissing her sister through the veil. "What about you? Want to come with me?"

But Dasha said that she would be alone in the apartment with the Great Mogul, pass the exams, and at the end of May she would go to her father for the summer.


Dasha was left alone in the apartment. The big rooms now seemed gloomy and the things in them superfluous. With the departure of the master and mistress, even the Cubist paintings in the room seemed to fade and lose their power of terror. The curtains hung in lifeless folds. And although every morning the Great Mogul walked the rooms in her silent, ghostly form with her feather duster, an invisible dust seemed to be gathering ever denser in the house.

In her sister's room, her owner's life could be read like an open book. In one corner was a small easel holding an unfinished painting: a girl with a white crown on her head, her eyes filling half her face. Ekaterina Dmitrevna clung to this easel in hopes of escaping the chaos that surrounded her, but her grip was not strong enough; and there was the old workbench littered with a jumbled pile of unfinished work, shiny scraps, all incomplete, discarded: another escape attempt. A similar confusion prevailed on the shelf, and here, too, it was obvious that attempts at some kind of order had been made and were soon abandoned. Books with half-cut pages were scattered everywhere. Books on Yogi, a collection of popular lectures on Anthroposophy, books of verse, novels... how many fruitless attempts and efforts to turn the page! Dasha found a silver notebook on the chest of drawers, which contained the words: "Twenty-four nightgowns, 8 bodices, 6 ditto with lace ... tickets to the Kerenskys."Uncle Vânia."*And further, in large, childish handwriting: "Buy Dasha an apple pie."

Dasha remembered the apple pie, they had never bought it. The thought of her sister nearly brought her to tears. Loving, kind, too sensitive for this life, she clung to all sorts of trivialities in her attempts to find an anchor, to save herself from total destruction, but there was nothing and no one to help her.

[*Uncle Vânia, aobra de Chekhov (1860-1904).]

Dasha got up early, sat down at her books and passed almost all exams with flying colors. On the phone, which rang incessantly in the office, he always sent the Great Mogol, who answered everyone who called with the invariable words: "Boss and mistress are absent; miss you cannot answer the phone."

Dasha spent whole evenings at the piano. Music no longer excited her as before, no longer aroused her vague aspirations, no longer stopped her anxious heart. Now, sitting solemnly calm at the keyboard, the music before her, lit by a candle on either side, Dasha felt as if she were purifying herself with the triumphant sounds that filled that deserted house from wall to wall.

From time to time, small enemies, disguised as unwanted memories, appeared in the middle of the song, causing Dasha to lower her hands and frown. Then it was so quiet in the house that you could hear the candles crackling. Dasha let out a stormy sigh, and once again her fingers hit the cold keys hard, and the little enemies, like dust and leaves blown by the wind, flew out of the large room into the dark corridor, hiding somewhere behind. cabinets and cardboard boxes... The Dasha who rang the bell on Bessonov's front door and spoke malicious words to the helpless Katya is gone forever. That crazy kid almost caused a disaster. Just imagine, as if love were the only thing in the world! Besides, there was never love, really!

At about eleven o'clock, Dasha closed the piano, put out the candles and went to bed. And it was all done calmly and purposefully. During these days, she decided that she would start an independent life as soon as possible: she would earn a living and take Katya to live with her.

At the end of May, at the time when the exams ended, Dasha went with her father, along the Volga route, via Rybinsk. In the evening she went straight from the train to the white steamer brightly lit on the dark water, unpacked in the neat little cabin, fixed her hair, told herself the independent life was off to a good start, and with her elbow under her head. Smiling with sheer happiness, she fell asleep to the constant sound of engines.

Heavy footsteps and the sound of running up and down the deck woke her up. Sunlight streamed in through the blinds, playing with liquid rays on the mahogany sink. The breeze blowing the silk curtain was heavy with the fragrance of honey blossoms. He opened the blinds a little. The steamer was on a deserted shore, where boxcars laden with wooden crates were parked below the cliff, the top of which, owing to a recent landslide, was protruding from tangled roots and clods of earth. A brown colt was drinking at the water's edge, astride its thin legs with thick knees. At the top of the bank was a lighthouse in the shape of a large red cross.

Dasha jumped out of her bunk, pulled out the tub and, letting the sponge fill with water, held it close to her body. The cold made her shiver and double over with laughter. She then dressed herself in the clothes she had prepared the day before: white stockings, white dress, white hat, everything fitted her splendidly and, feeling very independent, she went up on deck, serene but extremely happy.

Liquid sunbeams played on the white ship, and the river sparkled and sparkled so much that it hurt to look at it. In the middle of the undulating slopes of the other bank, the white walls of an ancient bell tower gleamed, half hidden among the birches.

When the steamer left the bank and, describing a semicircle, began to go down the river, the banks of the river seemed to come slowly towards it. Here and there weathered thatched roofs peeked out from behind the mounds. Clouds, bluish at the base, huddled in the sky, casting white reflections in the blue and yellow depths of the water.

Sitting on a wicker chair, legs crossed and hands clasped on her knees, Dasha felt as if the sparkling river was bending, the clouds and their white reflections, the slopes overgrown with birch trees, the meadows, the gusts of wind , dragging the wind. The fragrance of marsh plants, freshly turned earth, and fields of clover and wormwood, in quick succession, everything, everything, passed for her, and her heart was filled with silent ecstasy.

Someone passed slowly, stopped sideways at the banister and seemed to look at her. From time to time, Dasha forgot about him, but the next time she looked, he was still there. She made a firm resolution not to turn her head, but - too impetuous to bear such a remark calmly - she flushed and quickly turned away in fury. Before her stood Telegin, clinging to a pole, unable to decide whether to go up and speak to her or leave. Dasha could not help but laugh - there was something indescribably kind and cheerful about him. And the strong, timid Ivan Ilyich, broad-shouldered in his white jacket, seemed to be a fitting corollary to the peace of the river. She held out her hand.

"I saw you come aboard," said Telegin. "Actually, we were in the same train as Petersburg. But I didn't like bothering you, you looked so worried... I hope I'm not in your way..."

"Have a seat," he said, pushing a wicker chair towards her. "I'm going to my father. Where areyouindo?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't know myself very well. At the moment I'm going to Kineshma, to my people."

He sat down next to her and took off his hat. His eyebrows twitched and wrinkles appeared on her forehead. He squinted at the hollow, foamy trail the ship left in the water. River gulls fluttered on pointed wings over the water ahead, diving to its surface, only to fly away with hoarse, plaintive cries, circling and struggling at a safe distance in floating breadcrumbs. "Isn't it a good day, Darya Dmitrevna?"

It's a glorious day, Ivan Ilyich, a glorious day! I sit here and keep telling myself that I escaped hell into freedom. Do you remember our conversation on the street?

"Every word, Darya Dmitrevna."

"If you only knew the horrible things that happened after that! I'll tell you everything one day." She shook her head thoughtfully. "It seems to me that you were the only person in Petersburg who didn't go mad." She smiled and put her hand on her sleeve. Ivan Ilyich's eyelids fluttered nervously, and he pursed his lips. I absolutely trust you, Ivan Ilyich. You must be very strong.son,it's not like this?"

"What makes you think that?"

"It's trustable."

It seemed to Dasha that only kind, simple and loving thoughts arose in her, and Ivan Ilyich's thoughts should also be kind, true and strong. And she took extraordinary pleasure in talking, in allowing the luminous waves of feeling to rise within her.

"If you loved someone, Ivan Ilych," she said, "I'm sure you would be very manly and confident. And if you wanted something, you would never give it up."

Ivan Ilyich did not answer. He slowly reached into his pocket and took out a piece of bread, which he began to throw to the birds. A flock of white gulls swooped down on the crumbs in the air, squealing excitedly. Dasha and Ivan Ilyich got up from their chairs and went to the railing.

"Play him a little," said Dasha, "he looks terribly hungry."

Telegin threw the remaining piece of bread into the air. A fat, big-headed gull soared on motionless wings, flat as blades, darted forward but missed the bread, when immediately a dozen more dove after the falling fragment on their way to the hot, foaming foam around the table. keel.

"Do you know what kind of woman I'd like to be?" Dasha said. "I want to graduate next year, start earning a lot of money and take my sister Katia to live with me. You'll see, Ivan Ilyich!"

As she spoke, Telegin frowned to restrain himself, but at last, taking no more, he opened his mouth, showing a row of strong white teeth, and laughed so hard that tears wet his eyelashes. Dasha blushed, but her chin also began to tremble and she laughed as sincerely as Telegin, not knowing why.

"Darya Dmitrevna," he finally said. "You're wonderful! I used to be afraid of you... But you're just wonderful!"

"Let's have breakfast," said Dasha angrily.

"With pleasure!"

Ivan Ilych had a table brought up on deck and began to study the menu, scratching his freshly shaved chin with a worried expression.

"What would you say to a bottle of light white wine, Darya Dmitrevna?"

"Just a little would be good."

"White or red?"

"One or the other," answered Dasha, imitating his professional tone.

"Let's bubble then!"

Beyond them floated the mountainous coastline, radiating green rows of silken wheat, blue-green rye, and burgeoning buckwheat. At a bend in the river, sunlight shone on the windows of low thatched huts with small piles of cow dung set beneath their walls, perched on mud cliffs. Further along were the piled crosses of a village cemetery and a toy windmill with six sails, damaged on one side. Flocks of small children ran along the top of the bank after the steamer, throwing stones that didn't even reach the water. The ship capsized and now there was nothing to see on the deserted shore except low bushes over which the hawks hovered.

The light breeze stirred the tablecloth and the skirt of Dasha's dress. The golden wine in the faceted goblets was like a gift from the gods. Dasha told Ivan Ilyich that she envied him - he had his profession, confidence in life, while she would have to pore over books for another year and a half - not to mention the misfortune of being born a woman.

Laughing, Telegin replied:

"But I got fired from jobs."

"Not precisely?"

"He told me to get out of here in 24 hours. Otherwise, how could I be on a Volga steamer? Haven't you heard what's going on at our factory?"

"No, I do not have."

"I left lightly. Oh yeah..."

He stopped talking and leaned his elbow on the towel. "You can't imagine how stupidly and inefficiently everything is done here. It's unbelievable! God knows the reputation we're earning from the Russians. It's a shame, a shame! Just look: a talented nation, vast natural riches, and what it happened". Can we show? Nothing but a bunch of insolent officials! Paper and ink instead of life. You have no idea how much paper and ink we waste. We started this whole bureaucracy back in the days of Peter the Great, and it's been going on ever since. And ink can be deadly sometimes, you know?

Ivan Ilyich put his wineglass aside and lit a cigarette. It was apparently painful for him to continue his narrative.

"Well, why look back? Let's hope things are good for us one day too, or at least not worse than everyone else's."

Dasha and Ivan Ilyich spent the whole day on deck. To an outsider, it might look like they were talking nonsense, when in fact they were using code. In a wonderful and mysterious way, the most common words acquired a double meaning, so that when Dasha, his eyes fell first on a plump girl whose purple scarf fluttered around her shoulders, and then on the second officer who was attentively passing by him. side, he said: "Look, Ivan Ilyich,theyIt seems that everything is fine!" His words should have been interpreted: "If there was something between you and me, it would be very different." Ilyich that Dasha was much smarter, more subtle and more observant than him, while Dasha thought that Ivan Ilyich was kinder, better and infinitely wiser than her.

Dasha tried several times to tell him about Bessonov, but each time she thought better of it. The sun warmed her knees, the breeze caressed her cheeks and shoulders and neck with soft, tender fingers.

"I'll tell him tomorrow," Dasha told herself. "I'll tell you if it rains."

Dasha, who enjoyed people-watching and was, like all women, a keen observer, at the end of the day knew practically everything about everyone aboard the steamer, to the point where it seemed almost miraculous to Ivan Ilyich.

For some reason, he concluded that the rector of Petersburg University, a brooding fellow in sunglasses and a cape from Inverness, was a notorious itinerant card-thrower. And although Ivan Ilyich knew that he was the dean, suspicions arose from him: maybe he really was a swindler! Overall, their conceptions of reality were a bit shaken that day. He didn't know if his head was spinning or if he was in a waking dream. Overcome with waves of affection for everyone around him, he thought to himself how delicious it would be to throw himself into the water right now after the short-haired girl, if he fell into the sea! If only she would!

At midnight Dasha fell into such a sudden and pleasant sleep that she barely made it to her cabin, where, at the door, she said between yawns:

"Goodnight! Watch out for the sharpest one!"

Ivan Ilyich went straight to the first-class cabin on the deck, where the rector, who suffered from insomnia, was reading the works of Dumas. After looking at him for a while and deciding that while he might be a gambler, he was certainly a good person, Ivan Ilyich walked back into the well-lit hallway, which smelled of machine oil, varnish, and Dasha's perfume, and walked at the end of the hall. of the feet. he passed through her door, and, once in her own cabin, she flung herself down on her bunk and closed her eyes; he was deeply moved, his whole being filled with sounds, smells, the warmth of the sun, and a joy as vivid as anguish.

Shortly after six he was awakened by the howl of the steamer. They were approaching Kineshma. Ivan Ilyich quickly dressed and went into the hall. All the doors were closed, everyone was still asleep. Dasha was also sleeping. "I should get out of here, it would look weird if I didn't," he told himself. Climbing onto the deck, he looked down at Kineshma, looming into view with a merciless inevitability. It was on the high, steep bank, with its wooden stairs, its tangle of wooden houses, the pale green leaves of the lime trees in the municipal park gleaming in the morning light, a still cloud of dust on the carts. and down. Slopes A sailor appeared with Telegin's beige suitcase, treading firmly on deck with bare heels.

"I changed my mind, withdraw!" said Ivan Ilyich in an agitated tone. "I decided to go to Nizhny, you know? I didn't particularly need to get off at Kineshma. Put it here, under the bunk. Thanks, boy."

Ivan Ilyich sat in his hut for three hours, wondering how he could explain to Dasha what he considered her vulgar and intrusive behavior, and decided that there was no possible explanation: he could neither lie to her nor tell the truth.

At eleven o'clock, full of remorse, hating and despising himself, he appeared on deck, hands behind his back, with a sort of stooped gait and an unnatural expression on his face, the very personification of vulgarity! But having walked around the deck and not seeing Dasha, he got upset and began to look everywhere. Dasha was nowhere to be seen. Her mouth was dry. Something must have happened. And suddenly he met her. She was sitting where they had sat the night before, in the wicker chair, sad and calm. In her lap was a book and a pear. She slowly turned her head towards Ivan Ilyich, and her eyes, which at first opened as if in fear, were filled with joy; Color slid into her cheeks, the pear rolled into her lap.

"Are you here? Didn't you come down?" he said softly.

Ivan Ilyich swallowed his emotion, sat down next to her and said quietly:

"I don't know what they'll think of me, but I've decided not to go down on Kineshma."

"What do I think of you? I won't tell you!" Dasha laughed and unexpectedly put her hand in his, simply and affectionately, so that once again Ivan Ilyich's head began to spin, and he remained in that state all day, even worse than the day before.


What actually happened at the Engineering Site was this: On a rainy afternoon, when the sulphurous sky was almost covered with patchy clouds and the horns blared the end of a work shift, a stranger in a raincoat with his hood up, he appeared among the workers returning home through the narrow and stinking alley, stained with metallic soot and the soot of the neighborhood of the big factories.

He walked a little way with the crowd, then stopped and began handing out flyers left and right, saying in a low voice:

"From the Central Committee... Read it, comrades."

Workers grabbed the leaflets endlessly and stuffed them in their pockets or inside their hats.

As the man in the raincoat got rid of most of his leaflets, a watchman pushed his way through the crowd towards him, grabbing him by the jacket from behind with a hurried "Wait here." But the stranger, slippery for so long in the rain, broke away and ran. There was a sharp whistle, answered from afar by another. A hollow murmur passed through the dwindling crowd. But the task was done and the man in the raincoat was gone.

One or two days later, to the surprise of the Engineering Works management, the entire tool shop went on strike, making demands that, in themselves moderate, were extremely insistent. Fragments of speeches, comments, angry words flew like sparks over the long factory halls, in the dim light that came in through the grimy windows and smoked glass roofs. Workers were at their lathes, eyeing the office workers curiously as they passed, and awaiting further instructions with pent-up enthusiasm.

Senior foreman Pavlov, an informer and informer, accidentally suffered a foot crushed by red-hot mold, while wandering near a hydraulic press: his wild screams spread the rumor around the factory that someone had died. At nine o'clock, the chief engineer's huge limousine rolled into the factory yard with hurricane force.

Ivan Ilyich Telegin arrived at the foundry at the usual time, a huge circular building with broken glass here and there, iron cables hanging from overhead cranes, smelters lined up against the walls and dirt floor. Standing in the doorway, shoulders hunched against the morning coolness, Telegin shook hands and exchanged cheerful greetings with Foreman Punko, who had just approached him.

The foundry had received an urgent order for engine cheek parts, and Ivan Ilyich began to discuss the work ahead with Punko, consulting seriously on matters about which neither of them had the slightest doubt. This innocent maneuver had the effect of boosting Punko's self-esteem, who was very happy with the conversation. He had arrived at the foundry fifteen years earlier as an unskilled laborer and, having risen to foreman, highly valued his own knowledge and experience. Telegin knew that as long as Punko was happy, the work would go well.

Visiting the foundry, Ivan Ilyich stopped to chat with the foundries and molders, in a good-natured and friendly tone that clearly defined their relationship: we are all involved in the same work, so we are comrades, but I am an engineer and you are a worker. , so we are essentially enemies. However, since we respect each other, the only thing left for us is to make fun of each other.

A crane swung into one of the fireboxes, lowering its clinking cable. Phillip Shubin and Ivan Oreshnikov got down to business immediately. They were stocky, muscular fellows: the first with gray streaks in his black hair, who wore glasses, the second with a curly beard and blond hair held back with a leather band, blue eyes, strong build. Shubin knocked over the brick shield in front of the furnace with a crowbar, while Oreshnikov secured the crane's jaws to the tall, red-hot crucible. The cable jerked and the crucible spun outward, floating through the air toward the center of the shed, hissing and glowing and spewing shards of slag.

"Arrest Prison!" Oreshnikov shouted. "Lower!"

Again the winch groaned; the crucible descended and a blinding stream of bronze, emitting green stars that exploded as it fell and cast an orange glow on the vaulted ceiling, spilled out onto the floor, smelling sickeningly sweet of copper smoke.

At that moment, the double doors leading to the next shed were flung open and a young worker with a pale, angry face entered the foundry with firm, quick strides.

"Stop working and go!" he shouted in a harsh, spasmodic tone, casting a sidelong glance at Telegin. "Are you listening to me? Or not?"

“We hear you, you don't have to shout,” Oreshnikov replied calmly, raising his head to look at the crane. "Don't sleep, Dmitri..."

“Very well, then, since you've figured it out, you know what to do. We won't ask again,” said the worker, shoving his hands in his pockets, quickly turning and walking out of the shed.

Ivan Ilyich was crouched beside the new mold, carefully scraping away the dirt with a piece of wire. Punko, sitting on a high stool at a table near the door, began nervously stroking his gray goatee.

"Like it or not," he said, looking this way and that, "we have to stop working. Do these guys think about how we're going to feed our kids if they fire us?"

"You better not meddle in this, Vasily Stepanovich," answered Oreshnikov hoarsely.

"Why not?"

"This is our mess so just bite your tongue! You'll be fine, just run and hide from the bosses."

"What is the strike about?" Telegin could not help but ask. "What lawsuits have been filed?"

Oreshnikov, whom he had addressed, looked away. Punko answered for him:

“The tool room workers are on strike. Last week, sixty lathes passed as an experiment. Well, and it looks like they didn't earn as much as they used to, so they had to work overtime. All kinds of demands have been posted on Number Six's door, but they're nothing special.

He dipped the quill violently into the inkwell and continued with the list he was drawing. With his hands behind his back, Telegin stepped through the furnaces and said, looking through a round opening into the boiling bronze, dancing in spirals like serpents in the unbearable white heat of the flames:

"Hasn't that thing been there long enough, Oreshnikov?"

Without answering, Oreshnikov took off his leather apron, hung it on a nail, put on a sheepskin cap and a long, thick coat, and said in his low, husky voice, which echoed throughout the shop:

"Stop working, comrades! Everyone come to Number Six, the middle door."

And walked towards the exit. Silently, workers dropped their tools, emerging from behind winches, cranes, holes in the ground, and piling up behind Oreshnikov. There was a sudden crash at the door, a frantic voice was heard, breaking into a shout:

"Write it down, you son of a bitch? Come on, write my name! Tell the bosses!"

It was Alexei Nosov, a shaper, yelling at Punko. His weathered, unshaven face, with dull, sunken eyes, was contorted with rage, a vein bulging in his thin neck. He continued to scream, hitting the edge of the table with a blackened fist.

"Leechs! Torturers! We'll solve your hash too!"

Then Oreshnikov grabbed Nosov by the middle, easily plucked him from the table and pushed him towards the door. Nosov immediately calmed down. The workshop was now deserted.

By noon, the entire factory was on strike. There were rumors of riots at the Obukhov Works and at the Neva Engineering Plant. The workers remained in the factory yard in large groups, waiting to see where the negotiations between management and the strike committee would go.

The meeting was held in the office. Management was alarmed and ready to make concessions. The only problem arose in connection with a gate in the plank fence, which the workmen demanded was kept open so they would not have to turn around and fight their way through a quarter mile of mud. In fact, nobody cared about this door at all, but it became a point of honor for both parties, and when management suddenly became stubborn, a long dispute ensued.

Then came a telephone order from the Home Office: not to give in to any of the strike committee's demands and not to enter into negotiations of any kind until further notice.

This order had such a disastrous effect that the chief engineer hurried into town to clear up the matter. The workers were perplexed, but in general their spirit was peaceful. A few engineers wandered through the crowd, explaining and gesticulating. There were even laughs here and there. Finally, a huge, burly, gray-haired individual named Engineer Bulbin appeared on the steps of the office and shouted in a voice that carried across the courtyard that the negotiations had been postponed until the next day.

Ivan Ilyich, who stayed in the foundry until evening, seeing that the furnace would go out anyway, scratched the back of his head and went home. The Futurists, who were sitting in the dining room, seemed very interested in the happenings at the factory. But Ivan Ilyich did not say anything to them. He ate the sandwiches that Elizaveta Kievna distractedly placed in front of him and went straight to his room, locked the door and lay down on the bed.

He could see from afar, as he drove to the construction site the next day, that things weren't going well. Across the street, groups of workers were standing and talking. There was a large crowd at the gate, several hundred people, buzzing like a hive of angry bees.

Nobody noticed Ivan Ilyich in his soft felt hat and civilian overcoat, but overhearing the conversation of various groups, he learned that the entire strike committee had been arrested overnight and that the workers were still being arrested; that a new commission had been elected and that they now presented demands of a political nature; that the factory yard was full of Cossacks, who would have been ordered to disperse the crowd, but refused; and last but not least, that the Obukhov Works, the Neva Shipbuilding Works, the French Factory and several smaller ones also went on strike.

Ivan Ilyich made an effort to get to the office for the news, but his best efforts only got him as far as the factory gate. There, beside the familiar watchman in his voluminous sheepskin coat, stood two tall Cossacks, their round caps pulled aside and their beards parted in the middle. His glances swept with gleeful insolence over the gaunt, sickly faces of the workmen; they themselves had clean and colorful countenances and looked aggressive and mocking.

"There aren't many scruples with these boys," thought Ivan Ilych, trying to go out into the courtyard. The nearest Cossack immediately blocked his path, looking at him insolently and shouting:

"Where are you trying to go? Back!"

"I have to go to the office. I'm an engineer."

"Back, I say!" Voices rose from the crowd: "Infidels! Dogs!" "Haven't you spilled enough of our blood?"

Bestias Gord! Ear!

At that moment, a short, pimply young man with a large, crooked nose, an overcoat that was too big for him, and a tall cap perched awkwardly on top of his curly hair, pushed his way to the front of the crowd. Waving his skinny arms, he exclaimed, stammering:

"Comrade Cossacks! We are all Russians, aren't we? Against whom do you take up arms? Against your own brothers! Are we your enemies so that you shoot us? What do we want? We want all Russians to be happy .. We want all men to be happy .. be free. We want to destroy despotism..."

The Cossack, pursing his lips, looked the young man from head to toe with disdain, turned and walked up and down the door. The other said in a pompous and affected voice:

"We cannot allow riots, we took an oath."

The first Cossack, having now found something to say in response to the curly-haired youth, shouted:

"Brothers, brothers... pull up your pants, they're down."

And the two Cossacks laughed.

Ivan Ilyich walked away from the gates and, pushed aside by the movement of the crowd, was led to a pile of scrap metal that lay at the foot of the fence. As he tried to climb the pile, he saw Oreshnikov, with his sheepskin cap on the back of his head, calmly munching on bread. Seeing Telegin, he raised his eyebrows and said in a low voice:

"Good situation, Ivan Ilyich!"

"Good morning, Oreshnikov! How do you think this will all end?"

"Let's go on shouting a little, and then we'll go to the chiefs, cap in hand. That's all that happens with the rebellion. They brought the Cossacks. What do we have to fight them with? Should I throw myself?" this old turnip of mine in them and kill a couple?"

At that moment, a murmur rose from the crowd, followed by a silence, broken a moment or two later by an authoritative and abrupt voice from the doorway.

"Go home, all of you, please! Your requests will be considered. Please disperse quietly."

The cheering crowd backed up and walked away. Some retreated, others advanced. The conversation increased in volume. Oreshnikov said:

"This is the third time they've kindly asked us."

"Who was speaking?"

"The Cossack officer".

"Don't scatter, comrades!" an excited voice was heard shouting, and behind Ivan Ilyich a pale, agitated man in a large hat, a shaggy black beard, under which his elegant jacket was fastened at the neck with a safety pin, jumped out onto the scrap heap. pin.

"Whatever you do, don't go, comrades," he shouted loudly, raising his clenched fists. "We have it on good authority that the Cossacks refused to fire. The administration is negotiating with the strike committee through intermediaries. And that's not all: the railway workers are now considering a general strike. The government is in a panic."

"Angry!" shouted a frantic voice. The crowd hummed, the orator dove into it and disappeared. You could see people running in the street.

Ivan Ilyich tried to see Oreshnikov, but he was already some distance away, at the door. The word "Revolution!" was heard intermittently.

Ivan Ilych felt a shiver of nervous but joyful excitement. Climbing onto the scrap heap, he let his eyes wander over the now huge crowd, until they fell on Akudin, standing very close to him. He wore glasses, a wide peaked cap, and a black cape.

A man in a bowler hat was approaching him, lips trembling. Telegin heard him say to Akundin:

"Come, Ivan Avakumovich, they are waiting for you."

"I won't," Akundin said with savage brevity.

"The whole committee is there. They won't make any decisions without you, Ivan Avakumovich."

I follow my opinion, everyone knows that.

"Are you crazy? You see what's happening! I tell you, the shooting will start any moment."

The gentleman in the bowler hat's lips trembled even more violently.

"First of all, don't scream," said Akudin. "Go and pass your compromise resolution. I will not be part of the provocation."

"Damn it! He's just crazy!" said the gentleman in the bowler hat, pushing his way through the crowd.

The workman who the day before had told the men to put their tools away in Telegin's workshop was now heading towards Akundin. Akundin said something to him, he nodded and disappeared. The same procedure - the short sentence followed by a nod - was repeated when another worker approached.

But at that moment, warning cries were heard from the crowd, and suddenly three short, sharp shots rang out. There was instant silence. There was a muffled groan, prolonged in a way that seemed unnatural. The crowd thinned, moving away from the gate. A Cossack lay face down in the trampled mud, his knees bent. Terrified cries of protest erupted from all sides as the doors opened.

Then a fourth revolver shot rang out somewhere and rocks were hurled into the air, hitting the iron beams as they fell. At that moment, Telegin saw Oreshnikov, standing alone and without a cap, with his mouth open, in front of the crowd, now dispersing in confusion. He stood there in his huge boots, motionless with horror. Rifle shots ripped through the air like the crack of a whip, one, two, then a volley, and Oreshnikov, falling silently to his knees, fell face first to the ground.

A week later, investigations into the disturbances at the construction site were completed. Ivan Ilyich's name was on the list of people suspected of sympathizing with the workers. When called into the office, to everyone's astonishment, he spoke sternly with management and tendered his resignation.


The Doctor. Dmitri Stepanovich Bulavin, Dasha's father, was sitting in his dining room beside the big steaming samovar, reading the local newspaper:Samara Bulletin.When his cigarette was reduced to a cotton ball at the end, the doctor took another from his bulky and well-filled wallet, lit it at the end of the one he had just finished, coughed until he was red in the face, and scratched his face. hairy chest a little through the opening of the shirt. He drank weak tea from a small saucer as he read, cigarette ash falling onto the newspaper, shirt and tablecloth.

A bed creaked in the next room, followed by the sound of footsteps, and Dasha walked in, a robe over her nightgown, her face flushed with sleep. Dmitri Stepanovich, looking at his daughter over broken glasses with eyes as cold and mocking as Dasha's, held out his cheek to her. Dasha kissed him and sat opposite, taking the bread and butter.

"Another windy day," he said.

A strong and hot wind was blowing since the day before. A veil of lime dust hung over the city, obscuring the sun. Thick clouds of gritty dust blew in gusts across the street, infrequent passers-by turning their backs to each gust. Dust got in through all the cracks and through the window frames, settling in thick layers on the window frames and squeaking between the teeth. The wind rattled the windows and shook the iron roof. At the same time, it was hot and stuffy, and the smell of the streets penetrated even into the rooms.

"An epidemic of eye diseases. Well, well," said Dmitri Stepanovich.

Dasha sighed.

A fortnight ago she and Telegin had parted on the catwalk, after all he had accompanied her to Samara, and since then she had lived with her father, with nothing to do, in this new, unfamiliar, empty apartment, with boxes of books piled up in the hallway, without curtains on the windows and everything at six and seven, so that it was impossible to get comfortable anywhere. It was as bad as living in an inn.

Stirring tea in her glass, Dasha looked dejectedly out the window at the swirling clouds of gray dust. Now that she was home again, she felt as if the past two years had been a mere dream, and that these clouds of dust were all that was left of her hopes and emotions, of the many people she had known, of noisy Petersburg. .

"The Archduke has been murdered," said Dmitri Stepanovich, turning the page in his newspaper.


"Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, of course! He was assassinated in Sarajevo."

"Was young?"

"I don't know. Pour me another glass."

Dmitri Stepanovich put a small cube of sugar between his teeth - he always drank tea with sugar - and looked ironically at Dasha.

"Tell me," she said, raising the plate to her lips, "Did Ekaterina leave her husband forever?"

"I told you everything, dad."

"Very good...."

He went back to reading the paper. Dasha went to the window. How depressing it all was! She remembered the white steam, the piercing sun, the blue sky, the river, the clean deck, the sunlight, the humidity, the coolness of everywhere. At that time, it seemed that the bright path of the wide and slowly winding river, the steamboatFyodor Dostoevsky,she and Telegin were drifting out into a blue, shoreless ocean of light and joy, into bliss. Dasha was in no hurry then, although she knew what Telegin was going through, and she didn't like to know about it. Why should he be in a hurry, when every moment of their journey was so enjoyable, and when they were drifting towards happiness anyway?

But when they approached Samara, a sadness came over Ivan Ilyich's features and he stopped playing. We are drifting towards happiness, Dasha told herself, and then she felt his gaze rest on her: the gaze of a man, once strong and cheerful, over which cruel wheels have passed. She felt sorry for him, but she didn't know what to do. How could she let him get a little closer to her, knowing that this would mean the instant precipitation of what should only happen at the appointed time? If she did that, they would never achieve her happiness, because they would have wasted it along the way in their impatience. Therefore, she was affectionate towards Ivan Ilyich and nothing else. And he was afraid of offending Dasha, even hinting at what kept him up four nights in a row; she lived in a peculiar sort of visionary world, in which the outside elements glided like shadows in a bluish haze, and Dasha's gray eyes shone with a commanding light. He was only aware of smells and sunlight, and an unrelenting ache in his heart.

In Samara, Ivan Ilyich switched to another ship and returned. And Dasha's radiant ocean, to which she peacefully floated, disappeared, and in its place there was nothing but clouds of dust that were visible through the slamming window.

"The Austrians are going to beat those Serbs up," said Dmitri Stepanovich, taking off his glasses and throwing them at the newspaper. "Is thatyouDo you think about the Slavic question, kitten?

From her spot by the window, Dasha shrugged.

"Are you coming back for dinner?" he asked tiredly.

"Impossible! I have scarlet fever at the Postnikovs' outside the city."

With slow movements, Dmitry Stepanovich picked up the false front of the table, put it on, buttoned his shantung jacket, rummaged in his pockets to see if he had everything he needed, and began to comb the frizzy gray hair over his forehead. with a broken comb.

"Well, what about the Slav question, huh?"

"Oh, how do I know, Dad! Why are you still with me?"

"Ah, but I have my own opinion, Darya Dmitrevna."

He was obviously in no hurry to go to the country and, in any case, liked to discuss politics in the morning, to the sound of the samovar. "The Slav question, you hear, is the key to world politics. Many people will suffer from it. This is why the Balkans, the original home of the Slavs, is nothing more and no less than the appendix of Europe. And why what, you ask? I'll tell you." She flexed her chubby fingers one after the other as she checked her stitches. "First of all, there are more than two hundred million Slavs, and they multiply like rabbits. Second, the Slavs managed to create a military state as powerful as the Russian Empire. Third, the smaller Slavic groups, despite assimilation , are organizing themselves into independent units and gravitating towards the so-called Pan-Slavic Alliance. Last but not least, the Slavs represent a morally quite new type. danger to European civilization: the seekers of God. God', are you listening, kitten?, means the negation and destruction of modern civilization. I look for God, that is, the Truth, within me. For that I need to be perfectly free, to destroy the moral foundations under which I am buried, the State that enslaved me".

"Go away, father!" Dasha said tiredly.

"Truth must be sought there!" Dmitri Stepanovich continued. He pointed downwards as if into the nether regions, but suddenly stopped and headed for the door. The front door bell rang shrilly. "Go and open the door, Dasha."

"I can't, I'm not dressed."

"Matryon!" shouted Dmitri Stepanovich. “Damn that woman!” and went to open the door himself, returning with a letter in his hand.

"From Katya," he said. "Wait a minute, don't steal! Let me finish what I was saying. All right, so the search for God inevitably begins with destruction, and this period is extremely dangerous and contagious. Russia is precisely at this stage of the disease right now ". Just stepping out at night onto the main street, all I hear is, 'Help! Help!' The streets are full of murderers, the police don't know how to deal with vandalism. These guys have no morals, they are God seekers. Do you follow me, kitten? They are parading down Main Street today, they are going to Tomorrow they will be strutting all over Russia and the nation as a whole will pass through the first stage of the search for God - the destruction of the foundations."

At that, Dmitri Stepanovich snorted loudly and lit a cigarette. Dasha took the letter from Katya and took it to her room. Dmitri Stepanovich continued to argue for some time, then, knocking on the doors behind him, he went from room to room on the painted floor of the rather run-down and dusty apartment, until he finally left for the countryside.

"My own dashenka," wrote Katya. "So far I haven't heard from you or Nikolai. I'm living in Paris. Now is the height of the season. Dresses are worn very narrow in the skirt, chiffon is in fashion. Paris is very beautiful. And absolutely everyone dances the tango, you should see them! They dance between the plates at lunch time, they dance at tea time, all through dinner and into the wee hours of the morning. I can't tear myself away from this song, it's kind of sad and dark and melancholy. I feel like I'm burying my youth, that something has gone beyond memory, when I look at all these women with their low-cut dresses and their makeup eyes, and the men around them, I'm depressed all the time. Someone will die. I'm nervous about Dad. After all, he's not young anymore. The place is full of Russians, all our friends are here; every day we go somewhere together, it's like I never left Petersburg By the way, someone here told me that Nikolai was living with a woman, a widow with three children, one of them a baby. At first, you know, it hurt a lot. And then somehow I began to feel so sorry for the baby... Oh, Dasha, sometimes I need so much time to have a baby! But that could only happen if someone loved the man. When you get married, you must have a child, you hear?

Dasha read the letter several times, shed a few tears, especially over the innocent baby's part, and sat down to write a reply. This led to dinner, which she ate alone, simply picking at her food. After dinner she went to her office and began sifting through stacks of old magazines until she found a novel, a very long one. Lying on the couch with the books spread out around her, she read into the night. Finally her father returned, tired and covered in dust. At dinner time, he answered all questions with an absent-minded "M'h'm", but Dasha received information that the scarlet fever, a three-year-old boy, had died.

Saying this, Dmitry Stepanovich sniffed, put his glasses back in their case and went to bed. Dasha also climbed into bed, covered her head with the sheet and cried at the thought of such sadness.

Two days passed. The dust storm ended with thunder and torrential rain, drumming all night on the roof, and the next morning, a Sunday, gave way to a calm, cool day.

Dasha had barely gotten up when Semyon Semyonovich Govyadin, a Zemstvo statistician and an old friend of the family, came to visit. He was thin, slumped and pale, with a wispy beard and hair brushed behind his ears. He smelled like sour cream. He neither drank nor smoked, never touched meat, and was guarded by the police. As soon as he greeted Dasha, he said with a playfulness that had no apparent cause:

"I came for you, woman. We are leaving on the Volga."

"And so it all ended with the statistician Govyadin," Dasha thought to herself.

But he took his white umbrella and followed Semyon Semyonovich along the slope to the landing place, where the ships were moored.

Longshoremen and freighters, broad-shouldered, broad-chested men and boys with bare heads and necks wandered about.(tiled grain silos, piles of wood, and bales of wool and cotton. Some played games, others slept on sacks and boards. About thirty were running along the rickety walkways with boxes on their shoulders. A drunken man, covered in dirt and dust, his face bleeding, was standing beside a wagon, clutching his trousers with both hands and cursing lazy obscenities.

"These people do not know either holidays or leisure," Semyon Semyonovich dogmatically noted. "But you and I will enjoy nature in our own time, as wise and educated people."

Saying that, he stepped over the huge bare legs of a broad-chested, loose-lipped guy who was lying on the floor. Another was sitting on a log, munching on a roll.

Dasha heard the one on the floor yelling at her, "That's the guy for us, Phillip!"

But the other replied, with his mouth full: "Too good! It takes work!"

Small boats, making their way to the sandy shore on the other side, were outlined against the bright reflections of sunlight on the wide yellow surface of the river. Govyadin hired one. Asking Dasha to rule, he himself took the oars and began to row against the current. Before long, beads of sweat appeared on his pale face.

"Sport is a great thing," said Semyon Semyonovich, and began to take off his jacket, timidly unbuttoning his suspenders and throwing them over the bow. His thin, weak arms were covered in long hair and he wore celluloid handcuffs. Dasha opened her umbrella and looked out over the water, narrowing her eyes.

"Excuse the impertinent question, Darya Dmitrevna, but they say in town that you are getting married. Is that true?"

"No, it's not."

Hearing this, he broke into a wide smile that did not match his eager, studious countenance, and began to sing "Down the Volga" in a squeaky voice, but stopped, embarrassed, and pushed the oars with sudden violence.

A boat came towards them, full of people. Three plain-looking women in crimson and green patterned dresses nibbled on sunflower seeds, spitting the husks into their laps. In front of them was a typical crook, drunk, curly hair, black mustache, frantically rolling his eyes and playing a polka on his accordion. Another young man rowed furiously, rocking the boat from side to side, while a third, waving a pole oar, shouted to Semyon Semyonovich.

"Stay to the right, idiot!"

And they passed right by, screaming and cursing.

Finally, the boat slid with a humming noise on the sandy bottom. Dasha jumped ashore. Semyon Semyonovich put on his suspenders and overcoat again.

"I may be a city dweller, but I really love nature," he said, narrowing his eyes. Especially when including the figure of a maiden. In my opinion, there is something similar to Turgenev in it. Let's go to the forest.

They walked on the hot sand, sinking ankle-deep in it. Govyadin stopped every few steps, wiped his face and exclaimed:

"Look! What a beautiful place!"

Eventually the sand ran out and they had to climb a small slope that led to a meadow where the grass had been cut here and there and lay in faded heaps. There was a warm smell of honeyed flowers. A hairy walnut tree loomed over the water at the top of a narrow ravine. In a hollow filled with lush grass, a babbling brook flowed into a hollow ahead, forming a tiny round lake. On its bank grew ancient lime trees and a crude pine, whose only surviving branch reached out like an arm. Farther on, along the top of a narrow ridge of land, a bush of white roses bloomed. It was a favorite spot for snipes during their migratory flights. Dasha and Semyon Semyonovich sat on the grass. The water in the winding ravine below them reflected the blue of the sky and the green of fallen leaves. Not far from Dasha, two small gray birds flew inside a bush from branch to branch, singing monotonously. And a wood pigeon cooed patiently from a thicket, with all the melancholy of an abandoned lover. With her legs apart, hands on her knees, Dasha listened to the tender accents of her mistress abandoned on the branches.

"Darya Dmitrevna, Darya Dmitrevna, what's wrong with you? Why are you so sad, what makes you want to cry? Nothing has happened yet and you cry as if life is over for you, as if it has passed" . You're just a crybaby, that's what you are.

"I want to be frank with you, Darya Dmitrevna," said Govyadin. "That I, as they say, leave conventions aside..."

“You can say whatever you want, I don't care,” said Dasha, and lay down on her back, with her hands under her head, so that she could see the sky, and not the wandering gaze of Semyon Semyonovich, resting furtively on her stockings. white

"You are a proud and bold girl. You are young, beautiful, full of life..."

"Good?" Dasha said.

"Surely you have sometimes wished to destroy the conventional morality instilled by your upbringing and background? Surely you don't feel compelled to suppress your fine instincts in the name of a moral code that has been rejected by all authorities!"

"Well, if I don't want to suppress my pretty instincts, then what?" Dasha asked with languid curiosity.

The sun was warm on her, and it was so delicious to watch the sun's rays pulsing through the blue depths of the sky that she didn't want to think or move.

Semyon Semyonovich was silent, digging the earth with his finger. Dasha knew that he was married to Marya Davidovna, a midwife, and that Marya Davidovna picked up their three children several times a year and returned to their mother, who lived across the street. Semyon Semyonovich, explaining these family disturbances to his colleagues in the Zemstvo office, attributed them to the sensual and restless nature of Marya Davidovna. Marya Davidovna herself explained them in the Zemstvo hospital, saying that her husband was ready to cheat on her with whoever came, that he didn't think about anything else, and if he really didn't cheat on her, then it was out of cowardice and apathy, which was even worse , and he couldn't stand his long, vegetarian face any longer. During these partings, Semyon Semyonovich, without a hat, crossed the street several times a day. Then husband and wife would reconcile and Marya Davidovna would go home to her children and her pillows.

"When a woman is alone with a man, she feels a natural desire to belong to him; a man, on the contrary, to own her body, - said Semyon Semyonovich finally, clearing his throat. "I dare you to be honest and frank. Look deep inside yourself and you will see that, in the midst of prejudice and falsehood, the desire for a healthy and natural sensuality shines in you."

"No desire shines on me," said Dasha. "Asked me why!"

She felt amused and languid. A bee hovered in the pale chalice and the yellow pollen of a wild rose hung over her head. And the lover abandoned in the poplar grove murmured:"Darya Dmitrevna, Darya Dmitrevna, are you in love? You are in love, that's it! That's why you're so sad."Hearing this, Dasha began to laugh softly.

"Looks like you have sand in your shoes." Let me shake her, - said Semyon Semionovich in a strange, hollow voice, and tried to take the shoe off by the heel. At that, Dasha got up, snatched the shoe from her hand and hit Semyon Semyonovich in the cheek with it.

"You are a scoundrel!" she said. "I never thought you were a beast!"

He put on his shoe, got up, took his parasol and walked towards the river without looking at Govyadin.

"Fool that I was, I didn't even ask for her address, so I could write," she told herself. "It was Kineshma or Nizhni. So now you can stay here with Govyadin! Oh, God!" Turning around, he saw Govyadin walking down the grassy slope, his eyes averted and lifting each foot like a stork. "I'm going to write Katya: 'Imagine that! I think I'm in love, really!'"

Dasha quietly repeated: "Dear, dear, dear Ivan Ilyich!"

At that moment, from somewhere very close by, a voice came: "I won't go in, I won't go in! Let go of my skirt, you'll tear it!" A naked old man with a short beard and pale ribs, with a black cross hanging from his hollow chest, was running along the beach in knee-deep water. An obscene figure was silently and malevolently trying to drag a somber-looking woman into the water. "Let me go, you're ripping my skirt!" she repeated.

Then Dasha ran as fast as she could along the shore to the boat, her throat tight with shame and hatred. As he pushed the boat into the water, Govyadin came running out of breath. Without answering or looking around, Dasha sat in the stern and, protected by her parasol, did not say a word the entire way back.

After this excursion, Dasha began to harbor a grudge against Telegin, inexplicable even for her. She blamed him for everything: the miserable, dusty, sun-drenched provincial town, the ramshackle square houses, the rotten fences and hateful gates, the telegraph poles and streetcar tracks in the treeless street. He even blamed it on the sweltering midday heat, when a dazed woman wandered the shadowless, white streets, piles of smoked fish slung over her shoulders, looking out of dusty windows and shouting, "Smoked fish!" she, except a dog, also dazed, in fact half mad, who sniffed the fish, while an organ played the melody of an old waltz from a distant courtyard.

It was all Telegin's fault that Dasha reacted so sensitively now to all this middle-class conceit, which would probably last forever, and forever, making one want to run out into the street and scream at the top of his lungs. "I want to live! Live, do you hear me?"

Telegin was to blame for being overly shy and withdrawn. After all, it was not for Dasha to say: "Can't you see that I love you?" It was his fault that he hadn't sent a word of himself, that he'd vanished into thin air, perhaps without a second thought.

And to add to all this misery, on one of those sultry nights, black as the inside of an oven, Dasha had the same dream from which she had once woken up in tears in Petersburg, and thus disappeared from her memory. , disappearing like steam evaporating into the glass. He couldn't help feeling that this agonizing and troublesome dream foreshadowed some disaster. Dmitri Stepanovich advised him to inject himself with arsenic. Then another letter arrived from Katya.

"Dear Dasha," he wrote, "I miss you, everyone and Russia very much. I am starting to feel more and more that I was wrong to leave Nikolai. I wake up thinking about it and all day I walk around with a feeling of guilt and some kind of spiritual rot. And then, I don't remember if I told you, there's a man who's been following me for weeks. When I leave the house, he comes towards me. When I'm in the elevator of one of the big stores, he jumps when he's going up. Yesterday I was in the Louvre and I was sitting on a bench in one of the galleries feeling tired, when I suddenly had the feeling that a hand was passing through me I turned around and there he was, sitting not far away, with black hair hairs that were turning very gray and a beard that looked like it had been glued to his cheeks, he had his hands crossed over the top of his cane, and he was looking grimly ahead of him. He has sunken eyes, never says a word and never it bothers me, but I'm afraid of him. I feel like I'm spinning. around me..."

Dasha showed this letter to her father. The next morning, Dmitri Stepanovich casually said in his newspaper:

"Go to Crimea, cook".

"For what?"

"Find Nikolai Ivanovich and tell him he's a fool. Let him go to Paris, with his wife... He must do what he wants, of course. It's a private matter."

Dmitri Stepanovich was angry and nervous, although he hated to show his feelings. Suddenly Dasha brightened up: she imagined the Crimea as an exquisite blue expanse, noisy with crashing waves. She was haunted by images of a long shadow cast by a Lombardy poplar, a stone bench, a scarf billowing around her head, and restless eyes watching her...

He quickly packed his bags and left for Yevpatoria, where Nikolai Ivanovich was bathing in the sea.

* XII *

There was an extraordinary flow of visitors from the north to Crimea that summer. The distant inhabitants of Petersburg, who brought with them colds and bronchitis, the noisy and disorderly inhabitants of Moscow, with their lazy, singing speech, the black-eyed visitors of Kiev, unable to distinguish between the vowels "a" and "o", and wealthy Siberians, scornful of all this Russian fuss, roamed the beach, the skin on their noses peeling in the sun. Everyone basked in the sun and roasted black people in the sun: girls, young waders, priests, state officials, respectable couples, all leading the demoralized life that all of Russia led at that time, as if there were none left. moral backbone.

In the middle of summer, the salt water, the heat and their own skins burned by the sun had already made all those people uncomfortable, ordinary clothes already seemed superfluous, and women began to appear on the sands only covered by towels. Tatars, while men looked like drawings on Etruscan ships.

Domestic stability was threatened by a remarkable combination of blue waves, hot sand and naked bodies that he continually bumped into. Here everything started to look easy and possible. As for more calculations in the drab atmosphere of home in the north, with the rain running down the windowpanes, the phone ringing in the hallway, and an incessant sense of unfulfilled obligations, they could wait. The sea approached the shore with a soft whisper, gently touching the feet, and a feeling of lightness, warmth and sweetness slipped over the body lying on the sand, arms outstretched, eyelids closed. Everything, no matter how dangerous it was, was easy and sweet.

This summer, the frivolity and demoralization of visitors reached unprecedented proportions, as if a gigantic bulge, escaped from the scorching sun on a June morning, had stunned the memory and reasoning capacity of thousands of city dwellers.

There wasn't a house on the entire coast where everything was fine. The strongest ties were broken unexpectedly. The air itself seemed to be filled with loving whispers, tender laughter, and the unspeakable nonsense spoken in this hot soil, strewn with the shards of ancient cities and the bones of long-dead nations. It seemed that a general day of reckoning and bitter tears was in store with the autumn rains.

Dasha arrived in Yevpatoria in the afternoon. As the dusty white strip of road, winding between salt marshes and straw mounds on the flat steppe, approached the town, he saw a great wooden ship, silhouetted against the sun. She seemed to move slowly over the wormwood steppe, her black sails raised from stern to stern. The sight was so extraordinary that Dasha gasped. The Armenian sitting next to him in the car said, smiling at him:

"You'll see the sea in a minute." The car, skirting the rectangular tanks of a salt pan, climbed a sandy hill from which the sea could be seen. It appeared to be tilted above ground level, dark blue, dotted with long grooves of white foam. The breeze whistled happily. Dasha tightened her grip on the leather suitcase on her lap and said to herself: "That's it! Now come!"

At that time, Nikolai Ivanovich Smokovnikov was sitting in a pavilion built on stilts over the sea, drinking coffee with his stage lover. There, summer visitors gathered after dinner, sitting at little tables, exchanging messages, talking about sea bathing and women, and the advantages of iodine treatment. Inside the pavilion it was cool. The breeze stirred the edges of the white tablecloths and the women's handkerchiefs. A one-sail yacht floated by, from which shouts of joy came. Some visitors from Moscow, world celebrities, entered and occupied one of the biggest tables. The stage lover frowned at the sight of them and proceeded to relate the plot of the play he intended to write.

"I worked out the matter thoroughly, but only the first act is written," he said, looking with great seriousness into Nikolai Ivanovich's face. "You are a smart fellow, Kolya, you will understand my idea: a beautiful young woman, sad, languid and nothing but trifles around her. Decent people, but absorbed in the turmoil of life, spoiled by unhealthy emotions and booze ... You you know what I mean... And suddenly he says: 'I have to go, I have to break with this life, I have to go somewhere, to the light...' And then there is the husband and the friend... Both are suffering You understand what I mean, Kolya, sucked into the vortex of life ... she leaves, I don't say who she goes to ... she has no lover, it's all about her mood ... and then you see two men drinking silently in a cafe, swallowing their tears with their schnapps... and the wind in the chimney howls, sings at their funeral... and... hollow... dark... .."

"Do you want to know my opinion?" asked Nikolai Ivanovich.

"Yes. You just have to say, 'Misha, never mind!' and I will stop writing.

"Your work is wonderful. It's life itself," agreed Nikolai Ivanovich, closing his eyes.

"Yes, Misha, we could not appreciate our happiness, and it faded. And you and I, without hope or will, sat down to drink. And the wind howls over our graves... your game moves me beyond words."

The sagging skin under the stage lover's eyes quivered; she approached and kissed Nikolai Ivanovich with enthusiasm. Then he poured each of them a glass of wine. They touched their glasses, leaned their elbows on the table, and resumed their intimate conversation.

"Kolya," said the stage lover, looking darkly at his companion, "do you know that I loved your wife on this side of idolatry?"

"I thought you did it."

"I have been through agonies, Kolya. But you were my friend... How many times have I fled your house, vowing never to cross the threshold again... But I went there again and played the jester... Kolya, no, you dare blame her..."

He stretched his lips fiercely. "She treated us cruelly, Misha."

"Undoubtedly ... But we treated her badly, all of us ... Oh, Kolya, there is only one thing that I cannot understand: how can you, living with such a woman, at the same time mix with that widow, Sophia Ivanovna How could you?

"It's all very complicated."

"Nonsense! I saw her, just a cow."

"You see, Misha, all this is over, now, of course, Sophia Ivanovna was just a good-natured woman. She gave me moments of joy and never asked me for anything. And at home everything was very complicated, very difficult, very deep.. . I had no spiritual strength for Ekaterina Dmitrevna...."

But, Kolya, you mean... Let's go back to Petersburg... Tuesday comes and I go to your house after the performance... And your house is empty... How can I bear this? Listen... where is your wife now?

"To Paris."

"You write?"


"Go to Paris. Let's go together!"

"It would not be good".

"Let's drink to your health, Kolya!"

"We'll do it!"

Suddenly, actress Charodeyeva appeared in the pavilion, standing between the tables in a transparent green dress and a large hat. She was thin and serpentine, with blue circles under her eyes, and she writhed and bent over as if she had no backbone to hold her upright. the editor ofThe Choir of the MusesHe rose to meet her and, taking her hand, slowly kissed the crook of her elbow.

"Wonderful woman!" said Nikolai Ivanovich through gritted teeth.

No, Kolya, it's not! Charodeyeva is just carrion. What do people see in it? ear to ear, and a sticky neck. She's not a woman, she's a hyena!

But when Charodeyeva, brim of her hat quivering as she leaned left and right, her big pink mouth opening in a smile, approached the table, the stage mistress slowly rose, as if she were Fascinated, she lifted her hands and then he pressed them under her chin. :

"Nina... Darling... What a beautiful outfit! I can't take it anymore! I've been prescribed absolute rest, my love!"

Wrinkling her nose, Charodeyeva pinched her cheek with a bony hand.

"And what did you say about me yesterday at the restaurant?"

"Did I say something mean about you at the restaurant yesterday? Oh Nina!"

"Didn't you just do that!"(

"I have been slandered, honor resplendent!"

Charodeyeva, laughing, touched her lips with her little finger: "You know very well that I cannot be angry with you for a long time."

And then, in a completely different voice, as if she were acting in a society comedy, she turned to Nikolai Ivanovich.

I just passed your room. Someone came to see you, a relative I think, a lovely girl.

Nikolai Ivanovich, casting a quick glance at his friend, took a half-smoked cigar from the end of the saucer and began to suck on it so hard that his whole beard was enveloped in clouds of smoke. "This is quite unexpected," he said. "What could that mean? I'll run and see."

He tossed the end of his cigar into the sea and walked down the steps to the beach, twirling a silver-tipped cane and hat on the back of his head. He was almost out of breath when he got to the hotel.

"Dasha! What brings you here? What happened?" he asked, closing the door behind him. Dasha was sitting on the floor next to her open suitcase, mending a sock. When her brother-in-law entered, she rose slowly, offered her cheek for him to kiss, and casually said:

"It's good to see you! Dad and I thought you should go to Paris. I've got two letters from Katya. Here they are. I want you to read them."

Nikolai Ivanovich took the cards and sat down by the window. Dasha went to the dressing room where, while changing clothes, she heard her brother-in-law fiddling with the sheets of paper and sighing. Then he was silent. Dasha's senses were alert.

"Did you have breakfast?" he asked suddenly. "If you're hungry, come to the pavilion."

He doesn't love her anymore, she told herself.

Using both hands, she placed her hat on her head and decided to postpone all conversations about Paris until the next day.

Nikolai Ivanovich did not say anything on the way to the pavilion, walking with his eyes fixed on the floor, but when Dasha asked: "Do you shower?" she lifted her head happily and proceeded to tell him about the "swimming suit abolition society" that had been formed, mainly for hygienic reasons.

"Look, you absorb more iodine in a week, bathing on this beach, than could be ingested. And on top of that, you absorb the sun's rays and the heat from the sand warmed by the sun. It's not so bad for us men " We only have to wear the tightest shorts, but women have to cover almost two-thirds of the body. We started a determined campaign against it... I'm going to give a talk on the subject on Sunday."

They walked along the water's edge on the soft, velvety yellow sand, here made up of shells crushed by the action of the sea. Not far from them, right where small waves lapped against a sandbar, two girls in red bathing caps bobbed up and down like floats.

"Our champions," said Nikolai Ivanovich energetically.

Dasha experienced a growing sensation that wasn't exactly excitement or anxiety. It began to grow inside her from the moment she saw the black ship in the middle of the steppe.

She remained motionless, watching how the thin film of water stretched over the sand and receded, leaving streams in its wake, and there was something so cheerful and eternal in the contact of water with earth that Dasha couldn't resist bending over and rubbing the fingers. nisso. A tiny flat snail slid to the side, causing a miniature sandstorm to disappear into the watery depths. The waves washed the hands até the cotovelos.

"There's something different about you," said Nikolai Ivanovich, narrowing his eyes. "Either you've gotten even prettier, or you're thinner, or it's time to get married."

Turning her head, Dasha looked at him strangely and got up. Without drying her hands, she walked to the pavilion, where the stage lover waved his straw hat in greeting.

They fed her Tartar delicacies and gave her champagne to drink; the lover of the stage was agitated, falling from time to time into a kind of stupor, and whispering to himself, "God, isn't she delicious?" Then he brought some young people to introduce them, students from a theater studio, who spoke in low voices, as if they were in the confessional. Nikolai Ivanovich was satisfied with the impression that "his Dashenka" was making.

Dasha drank her wine, laughed, held out her hand to be kissed, and never took her eyes off the radiant blue of the choppy sea. This is happiness, she told herself.

After a day of bathing and walking, they went to dinner at the hotel, where everything was noise, light and elegance. The stage lover spoke long and ardently about love. Nikolai Ivanovich, looking at Dasha, drank himself into a melancholy mood. And all the while, through a gap between the closed curtains, Dasha watched liquid flashes of light appear from somewhere very close by, escape and reappear. Finally he got up and went to the beach. The bright, full moon that seemed like a scene from Scheherazade's tales was tracing a scaly path across the ocean. Dasha intertwined the fingers of both hands and broke the joints.

Hearing the voice of Nikolai Ivanovich, he hurried along the edge of the waves sleepily lapping against the shore. One could see the figure of a woman, sitting on the sand, next to her the figure of a man, with his head resting on his knees. In the dark purple water, someone's head bobbed up and down between bright points of light, and two eyes, with moonlight reflected in them, stared at Dasha, following her for a long time as she walked. Then he found a couple, standing close to each other. As she passed them, Dasha heard a sigh followed by the sound of kissing.

From afar came shouts of: "Dasha! Dasha!"

He sat down on the sand, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands. If at that moment Telegin had come up, sat down next to her, put his arm around her waist and asked in a low, stern voice: "Are you mine?", Dasha would have answered: "I am."

On the other side of a mound of sand, a reclining gray figure stirred, sat down, head down, and, looking long at the path where the moonbeams seemed to dance for the children's amusement, rose and rose. half-dead thing passed by Dasha, and Dasha, with her heart beating wildly, recognized Bessonov.

This is how the last days of the old world began for Dasha. Happy, carefree days laden with the sweltering heat of the waning summer: not many left. But people, accustomed to the idea that tomorrow would dawn as clear as the distant blue mountains, were unable - even the wisest and most perceptive of them - to see anything beyond the present moment. An impenetrable darkness waited beyond this moment, steeped in color and perfume, and pulsing with the sap of life...

Not a single glance could penetrate this darkness, no | not a sensation or a thought interfered with it, and few were those who, perhaps alerted by the vague feelings that animals know before a storm, intuited what awaited them. This feeling was akin to undefined anxiety. And all the while an invisible cloud, swirling furiously in a kind of triumphant frenzy, its contours jagged and contorted, waited to descend upon the world. The only sign of it was a band of livid shadow, stretching from southeast to northwest, blotting out all the former gay and wicked life from the land.


Bessonov spent day after day lying on the beach. Looking at the faces around him—the women's faces, tanned and laughing, the men's faces, aroused, burnt a coppery red—he felt, wearily, that his heart was a mere lump of ice in his chest. Gazing at the sea, its waves were said to have been roaring against the shore for thousands of years. And this coast, which was once a desert, was now covered with human beings; they would die and the coast would be deserted again, but the sea would continue to crash against the sand as before. Frowning at these thoughts, he scraped a few shells into a pile with his fingers and threw the burnt cigarette into the pile, after which he showered, lazily ate dinner, and went to bed.

Last night a girl sat on the sand not far from him and looked long into the moonlight; a faint scent of violets emanated from her. A memory had stirred her sluggish brain. Turning around, Bessonov said to himself: "Leave this bait alone... To hell... Go to bed...", and getting up, he returned to the hotel.

The encounter had alarmed Dasha. She took it for granted that life in Petersburg, with its restless nights and strange fascination with Bessonov, was over.

But just the look, the moment he walked past her, his silhouette dark against the moonlight, was enough to remind her of it all with renewed strength; and it was no longer mere vague and indefinable emotions that he felt, it was now a real desire, as burning as the midday heat. she wishedto feelthis man. Not loving him, not torturing yourself, not flinching, just feeling.

Sitting in the moonlit white room, on her white bed, she would exclaim softly over and over again, "My God, my God!esthe matter with me?"

The next morning, before seven o'clock, Dasha went to the beach, took off her clothes, plunged knee-deep into the water and was fascinated. The sea was a pale, faded blue, barely touched here and there by pearly ripples. He continued gently rising over his knees and gently falling below them. Dasha stretched out her arms, threw herself into this divine coolness and began to swim. A little later, refreshed and salty, she wrapped herself in her toweling robe and lay down on the already warm sand.

"I don't love anyone but Ivan Ilych," she said to herself, resting her cheek on her arm, which smelled fresh and fresh, "I love Ivan Ilych, I love him. He makes me feel clean, fresh and happy. Thank God, I love Ivan Ilyich, I will marry him.

He closed his eyes and fell asleep, feeling as if the sea in his movement was breathing to the rhythm of his own pulsations. It was a sweet dream. All the while she was aware of the warm lightness with which her body lay on the sand. And while she slept, an extraordinary tenderness for herself came over her.

On the same day, at sunset, when the sun descended in a flat disk in a cloudless orange glow, Dasha found Bessonov, sitting on a stone on the path that wound through a flat expanse of wormwood. Her walk had brought her this far, and when she saw Bessonov, she stopped and would have turned and run, but her usual lightness left her and her legs grew heavy, as if they had taken root, so that I could only stare at her approach. under lowered eyebrows. He showed no signs of surprise at the encounter, such ashehe lifted his straw hat, bowing humbly, almost piously.

So, I was not mistaken last night, Darya Dmitrevna. It was you on the beach.

"Yes, it was me".

He lowered his eyes in silence, and then, looking past Dasha into the dark plain, said:

"You feel like you're in a desert in this field at sunset. Hardly anyone comes here. Everything around you is just wormwood and rocks and it's easy to imagine, at dusk, that there's no one else on earth." . advance."

Bessonov laughed, slowly showing his white teeth. Dasha gave him a wild look, like a bird. So she went down the path with him. Beside him, tall, strong-smelling wormwood bushes stretched across the field; every bush cast a faint shadow before him on the dry land. Two bats, clearly visible against the setting sun, fluttered overhead, rising and falling in jerky, fluttering motions.

"Temptations, temptations, there is no escape," said Bessonov. "They lure, they tempt, and once again you fall prey to illusions. See how cleverly everything is arranged." He pointed with his cane at the suspended moon globe. "All night will weave cobwebs, the path will pretend to be a stream, every bush will seem inhabited, even a corpse will look beautiful, and every woman's face - mysterious. And perhaps it should be so; perhaps all wisdom is in this very illusion... How lucky you are, Darya Dmitrevna, oh, how lucky!"

"Why is it an illusion? I don't think it's an illusion at all. It's just... moonlight," Dasha said stubbornly.

"Of course it is, Darya Dmitrevna! Of course it is! 'Unless you become like little children'." The illusion comes in because I don't believe in any of that. 'So be as shrewd as serpents.' And how to reconcile the two? How is it done? They say that love reconciles everything. What do you think?

"I don't know. I never think about it."

"From what regions does love come? How can it be drawn hither? With what words can it be invoked? Should one lie down in the dust and howl, 'Oh, God, send me some love!'?"

He chuckled softly, showing his teeth.

"I will not go further," said Dasha. "I want to go to the sea".

They turned and headed for the sand dunes, now walking over the wormwood. Bessonov suddenly said, in a low, timid voice:

"I remember every word you said to me that time in Petersburg. I scared you." (Dasha walked quickly, looking directly in front of her.) "I was absorbed in just one sensation... It wasn't so much your beauty... No, I was shocked, penetrated by the indescribable music of your voice, I kept looking to you and thinking: 'This is my salvation: to give my heart to him, to become a beggar, to humble myself, to melt in his light... or, perhaps, to win his heart... to become infinitely rich...' Look, Darya Dmitrevna, when you came here, you gave me a riddle to solve!"

Dasha, walking ahead of him, ran up a sand dune. The broad road that stretched in luminous scales over the vast expanse of water ended where sea and sky met in a long band of light, from which hung a dark glow. Dasha's heart was pounding so hard that she had to close her eyes. "Oh, God, save me from him!" she told herself. Bessonov thrust his staff several times into the sand.

"The time has come for a decision, Darya Dmitrevna... one of us must be consumed in this flame... which of us will it be? You...? Me...? Think about it and then give me your answer."

"I don't understand," said Dasha abruptly. "Only when you become a beggar, consumed, consumed, will real life begin for you, Darya Dmitrevna. No moonshine or cheap bait. Then wisdom will be yours. And all that is needed is for you to throw off the belt . from her virginity".

Bessonov took Dasha's hand in his icy hands and looked into her eyes. Dasha could only remain silent, slowly closing her eyes. After a few endless moments of silence, he continued:

"Perhaps, after all, it's best for each of us to go home and sleep. We talk, we discuss the problem in all its aspects, besides that it's late."

He accompanied Dasha to the hotel, politely said goodbye to her, put his hat on his neck and began to walk along the seashore, looking at the indistinct forms of passers-by. Suddenly she stopped, turned and walked over to a tall woman standing: Jess, wrapped in a white shawl. Throwing the cane over his shoulders and holding it with one hand at each end, he said:

"Hello, Nina!"


"What are you doing alone on the beach?"

"Just standing here."

"Why are you alone?"

"Because I am," Charodeyeva replied in a low, angry voice.

"Are you sure you're not mad at me yet?"

"No, honey. I got over it a long time ago."

"Nina, come to me."

Throwing his head back, he maintained a long silence, breaking it to say in a trembling and confused voice:

"You are crazy?"

"Didn't you know that?"

He took her by the arm, but she pulled away, walking slowly beside him, past the glint of moonlight on the black, oily water.

The next morning, Nikolai Ivanovich woke Dasha by cautiously knocking on her door.

"Get up, Dasha, dear, and come for coffee."

Dasha lowered her legs to the edge of the bed and looked at her shoes and socks: they were covered with gray dust. Something had happened. Or was it that horrible dream again? No, it was something worse than a dream. Dasha got dressed and ran out to take a shower.

But the water tired her and the sun scorched her. Sitting on the sand in her bathrobe, her arms wrapped around her raised knees, she told herself that nothing good could ever happen here.

"I have no brains, no courage, no perseverance. My imagination is inflated. I don't even know what I want. I want one thing in the morning, another at night, the same kind I hate most."

Dasha looked at the sea with her head down. Everything looked so sad and uncertain that tears welled up in her eyes.

"And what is this treasure I have to keep? Who wants it? Not a single soul! There is no one I really love. He asked me to come, what if I came to see him tonight? Oh no!

Feeling hot, Dasha lowered her head to her knees. It was obvious that this dual existence could not continue. One way or another, some release had to be offered from the weight of a virginity that had become intolerable. Anything, even a mess, would be better! "Suppose I go!" she reflected in her dismay. "Back to my father. To the dust. To the flies... Hold on until autumn. Period begins. I work twelve hours a day. I wither and become a fright. I learn all the international laws by heart. .." Wearing flannel petticoats. The esteemed spinster lawyer, Bulavina. A very sensible ride, of course!"

Shaking off the grains of sand from her skin, Dasha returned home. Nikolai Ivanovich, dressed in silk pajamas, was lying in a rocking chair on the porch, reading a forbidden novel by Anatole France. Dasha sat on the arm of the chair and said thoughtfully, swinging one foot, slipper dangling from her toes. "You and I were going to have a talk about Katya."

"Oh sim!"

"You see, Nikolai, life is very difficult for a woman. Even at nineteen you don't know what to do with yourself."

"At your age, Dashenka, one should live life to the fullest without thinking too much about it. Thinking too much won't get you anywhere. You've turned out to be terribly beautiful, you know that?"

"I knew you'd say that! It's no good talking to you, Nikolai. You're so tactless, you always say the wrong things. That's why Katya left you."

Nikolai Ivanovich laughed, put the book on his stomach and clasped his chubby hands behind his head.

"When it starts to rain, the little bird flies home alone. Do you remember how he fixed his feathers? Despite everything, I really like Katya. Anyway, we're separated now."

"That's how you talk now! If I were in Katya's place, I would have treated you the same way."

And she walked away irritably towards the banister.

"When you grow up, you will realize that it is foolish and harmful to take life's ups and downs too seriously," said Nikolai Ivanovich. "You Bulavin are all the same: you make everything look so complicated. You should be simpler, closer to nature..."

She sighed and fell silent, examining her fingernails. A sweaty schoolboy on a bicycle passed by on his way back from the post office, where he had gone to pick up the letters.

"I will go as a teacher to a village school," said Dasha sullenly.

(Video) Devil’s Island | Full Episode

"You are goingwhat?"exclaimed Nikolai Ivanovich.

Dasha went to her own room without answering. There were two letters for her. One from Katya, one from her father.

"I am sending you a letter from Katya," wrote her father. "I read it and I don't like it at all. But, of course, you have to do what you want. Everything is the same here. It's very hot. What else? Oh, yes, Semyon Semyonovich Govyadin was beaten by bandits in the municipal gardens yesterday, but for what, he won't say. That's all our news. Oh, yes, a postcard came for you from Telegin, or from someone, but I lost it. I think it's in Crimea, too, but I'm not sure ." .

Dasha carefully read these last lines with the utmost attention, and her heart suddenly began to beat violently. She nearly stomped in irritation. "How delicious! I think it's in Crimea too, but I'm not sure!"

What a terrible person his father was, so careless, so selfish! She crumpled up the letter and sat at her desk for a long time, her chin resting on her fist. Then he turned to Katya's letter.

"Do you remember that I wrote to you, Dasha, about a man who followed me everywhere. Last night he came and sat down next to me in the Luxembourg Gardens. At first I was scared, but I didn't get up. Then he said to me, "I've been following, I know your name and everything about you. And then I had a great misfortune: I fell in love with you." I looked at him, sitting there, so grand, with his stern face, so dark and pale. "You need not be afraid of me," he said. 'I am an old man, a loner "I have angina. I can die at any time. And now this disgrace! A tear rolled down his cheek. Then, nodding, she said, 'Oh, what a sweet, sweet face you have!' I said, 'Please don't keep following me!' I intended to leave, but I felt sorry for him, stayed and talked with him. He listened to me with his eyes closed and shaking his head. And imagine, Dasha, today I received a letter from a woman, the "Concierge where he lives, believe me. She informs me on her instructions that she died last night... It was terrible! And now I am also looking out the window at the millions of street lights, the carriages going by and people pushing their way through the trees. It's been raining and now it's foggy. And it seems to me that all this is past, that everything is dead, those people are dead, and it seems to me that I am looking at things that no longer exist, I don't see what I'm standing and looking at, I just know that it's all over. I think I must be sick. Sometimes I lie and cry. About my wasted life It might not have been anything special, but there was still a kind of happiness, there were people I loved... And none of that was left. And my heart withered and withered. I'm sure great pain awaits us, Dasha, and all as punishment for the bad life we've led."

Dasha showed this letter to Nikolai Ivanovich.

He sighed as he read it and then proceeded to say that he had always felt guilty about Katya.

"I realized that our lifestyle was wrong, that all this pursuit of pleasure would end in a burst of despair at one point or another. But what was I supposed to do when our whole lives, mine, Katya's, everyone's around us, was it pleasure? Sometimes I look at the sea and think: somewhere there is a Russia that tills the land, raises cattle, mines coal, weaves, hammers, builds, and there are people to force her to do all this , but we, the intellectual aristocracy of the country, are mere spectators, we have not the slightest contact with this Russia that supports us. We are just butterflies. That is our tragedy. Suppose I, for example, tried to grow vegetables, or whatever anything else useful would come to nothing. I'm doomed to flutter around like a butterfly until the end of my days. Oh, I know we write books, we make speeches, we do politics, but it's all a mere pastime, even when done by order of the conscience. This relentless pursuit of pleasure wreaked spiritual havoc on Katya. It could not be otherwise. ... If you only knew how sweet, kind and tender she used to be! I spoiled her, I corrupted her... Yes, you're right, I must go with her."

It was decided that the two would go to Paris immediately, as soon as they got their passports. After dinner, Nikolai Ivanovich went into town, and Dasha began to pack her straw hat for the trip, but she only managed to spoil it and ended up giving it to the waitress. So she wrote a letter to her father, and when night fell she lay down on her bed, suddenly overcome with weariness; with her cheek resting on the palm of her hand, she listened to the sound of the sea, which seemed to get farther and farther away, becoming more and more relaxing as she retreated.

Then she had the impression that someone was bending over her, that someone was pulling a lock of hair away from her face and kissing her eyelids, her cheeks, the corners of her lips, kisses as light as breath. The sweetness of those kisses spread through her entire being. Gradually, Dasha woke up. Through the open window, a few lone stars were visible, and the breeze stirred the pages of the chart. And then a figure appeared at the window, rested his elbows on the outer sill and looked at Dasha.

Now fully awake, she sat up and placed her hand on her chest where her dress was unbuttoned.

"What you want?" he asked almost inaudibly.

The man at the window replied in Bessonov's voice:

"I was waiting for you on the beach. Why didn't you come? Are you scared?"

After a moment of silence, Dasha said: "Yes."

Then she climbed onto the windowsill, pushed off the table and went to bed.

"I had a terrible night, I was about to hang myself. Do you have feelings for me?"

Dasha shook her head, but did not open her lips.

"Look, Darya Dmitrevna, it has to be, you know, if not today, then tomorrow, or a year from now. I can't go on living without you! Don't destroy every semblance of humanity in me."

He spoke in a low, husky voice, approaching Dasha directly. Suddenly, she took a deep breath and looked up into his face.

"Everything I said yesterday was a lie. I suffer cruelly. Your image haunts me. Be my wife!"

He leaned over Dasha, inhaling her scent, putting his hand behind her neck and pressing his lips to hers. Dasha tried to push him away, but her wrists buckled with tension. Then a peaceful thought crept into his stupor: "This is what I feared and desired, but it is as bad as murder ..." Turning his face to the side, he could hear Bessonov, who smelled of spirit, whispering words in the heard her. . And Dasha said to herself: "He was like that with Katya." And suddenly her whole being was filled with a sober chill, the smell of alcohol became stronger, the murmur more disgusting.

"Let me go!" she said, pushing him away violently and heading for the door. She finally managed to close the dress around her neck.

This made Bessonov furious: grabbing Dasha by the hands, he pulled her to him and began to kiss her throat. Mouth closed, she struggled silently. When he finally managed to pick her up and carry her, she muttered quickly:

"Never! Not to save your life!"

Struggling with all his might, he broke free and stopped against the wall. Still breathing hard, he sank into a chair and lay still. Dasha ran her hand over her finger prints.

"I shouldn't have rushed you," said Bessonov.

"You make me sick," she replied.

With that, he tipped his head back in his chair.

"You are crazy," said Dasha. "To leave...."

She repeated this several times. Finally understanding, she got up and climbed heavily and awkwardly through the window. Dasha closed the blinds and began to pace in the dark room. He couldn't sleep all night.

In the morning Nikolai Ivanovich dragged his bare feet to the door and asked in a sleepy voice:

"Do you have a toothache, Dasha?"


"So what was the noise during the night?"

"I don't know."

"Extraordinary!" he muttered, and left. Dasha could neither sit nor lie down. She could do nothing but pace back and forth, from window to door and back again, in an effort to quell her self-loathing, unbearable as a toothache. She told herself that it would have been better if she had let Bessonov do what she wanted. And it was with a desperate pain that he remembered the white vapor, flooded with sunlight, and how, later, the abandoned lover in the poplar grove had cooed that Dasha was in love, and how her cooings were lies. Looking at the bed, which turned white at dawn, that terrible place where so recently a human face turned into a bestial mask, Dasha felt that she would not be able to live with such a conscience. She was ready to suffer any torture instead of this feeling of disgust. Her head was on fire and there seemed to be cobwebs on her face, her neck, all over her body that he'd give anything to rip out.

Now it was unmistakable daylight streaming in through the cracks in the blinds. The doors of the house slammed, and a booming voice exclaimed: "Matryosha! Bring some water ..." Nikolai Ivanovich woke up and heard himself through the wall brushing his teeth. Dasha washed her face with water and went to the beach, pulling her cap tightly over her eyebrows. The sea was like milk, the sand wet. There was a smell of seaweed. Dasha entered the field and wandered along the path.

A wicker wagon, drawn by a horse, was approaching her from the opposite direction, its wheels raising clouds of dust! The driver was a Tartar, the passenger a broad-shouldered man in a white suit. Looking at him, Dasha thought to herself drowsily (the bright light and fatigue made it difficult for her to keep her eyes open): "Another good happy person, well, what if he is good and happy?" Out of the way. Suddenly, a surprised voice came from the car:

"¡Daria Dmitrevna!"

Someone jumped to the ground and started to run. At the sound of that voice, Dasha's heart skipped a beat and her knees began to shake. She has changed. Telegin was running towards her, sunburnt, agitated, blue-eyed and so unexpectedly affectionate that Dasha impetuously put her hands on his chest, pressed her face against him and began to cry loudly like a child.

Telegin held her firmly by the shoulders. When Dasha tried in a broken voice to hesitate in some explanation, she said:

"It doesn't matter, Darya Dmitrevna, it doesn't matter... later. It doesn't matter."

The front of her linen jacket was wet from Dasha's tears. Now he felt much better. "

"Are you coming for us?" she asked.

"Yes, I came to say goodbye, Darya Dmitrevna. Yesterday I learned that you were here and I wanted to say goodbye to you..."

"Bye Bye?"

"They called me, I can't help it."


"You mean you didn't hear?"

"Hear that?"

"It's war, that's what it is."

Dasha looked at him, blinked and still did not understand.


An emergency editorial meeting was taking place in the editor's office.the word of the peoplethe great liberal newspaper, and, as the use of spirits had been legally forbidden the day before, brandy and cachaça, against custom, adorned the editorial tea.

The burly, bearded liberals sat smoking in deep armchairs. They were completely lost. The younger contributors sat on the windowsills and on the famous upholstered leather sofa, bulwark of opposition, which a certain tactlessly well-known writer had declared harboring bedbugs.

The red-cheeked, white-haired editor, who cultivated an English style, deliberately enunciated, word for word, one of his famous speeches, designed to give—and did give—a hint of all liberalism. press.

"... The complexity of our task consists in the need, without yielding an iota of our opposition to the tsarist power, to extend a hand to this power in the face of the danger that threatens the sovereignty of the Russian state. Our gesture must be frank and sincere. The question of the Tsarist government's guilt in leading Russia to war is at this time of secondary importance. First we must win, then judge the guilty. As we sit here talking, gentlemen, a bloody battle is raging in Krasnostav, where our guards were sent to fill the gap in front of us. The outcome of this battle is still unknown, but it should be noted that Kiev is in danger. Needless to say, the war cannot lastMore than three or four months, and whatever the As a result, we should be able to say to the Tsarist government, with our heads held high: 'in the hour of danger we were with you, now we have come to call you to account!' "

Belosvetov, an authority on Zemstvo affairs, and one of the most important members of the editorial office, unable to contain himself any longer, exclaimed in a frantic tone:

"It is the tsarist government that is fighting, why should we catch up with it? For the life of me, I cannot see it! The most elementary logic must teach us to stay out of this dangerous adventure, thus giving a clue to the entire intelligentsia Let the tsars break their necks, it will only be to our advantage."

"Yes, it certainly goes against nature to reach out to Nikolai II, say what you will, gentlemen," muttered Alfa, one of the paper's top editors, as he selected a cake from his plate. "It's enough to make the blood run cold..."

Immediately there was a murmur of voices:

"There are not and never will be conditions that oblige us to make a commitment..."

"What is this, I ask, capitulation?"

"Will the whole progressive movement come to an ignominious end?"

"I would like someone to explain to me the objectives of this war, gentlemen!"

"Wait until the Germans give us a good beating, then you'll know!"

"Aha, my friend, so you are a nationalist!"

"I just don't want to be defeated."

"It is not you who will be defeated, it is Nikolai II."

"Excuse me! What about Poland? What about Volhynia? What about Kiev?"

"The more defeated we are, the sooner the revolution will come."

"I am not ready to give up Kiev for any of its revolutions..."

"Pyotr Petrovich, what a pity!"

The editor, having difficulty restoring order, explained that the military censor had been authorized, by a circular on martial law, to close the paper at the slightest hint of an attack on the government and, therefore, on freedom of expression. the country. struggle for which so much energy was expended, would be destroyed.

I suggest, therefore, that this worthy assembly arrive at an acceptable point of view. For my part, I venture to express what may seem the paradoxical opinion that we must accept this war in its entirety, with all its consequences. We cannot lose sight of the fact that war is extremely popular. In Moscow it was called the Second Patriotic War." He smiled subtly and looked down. "The Emperor received a reception bordering on enthusiasm in Moscow. Mobilization is advancing among the common people better than one might expect..."

"Vasily Vasilievich, are you serious?" Belosvetov exclaimed, his voice now positively plaintive. "You know you're destroying our whole philosophy... Going to the aid of the government? What about Russia's ten thousand best people rotting in Siberia? What about shooting the workers? Jeez, the stones are still there soaked in their blood." ...."

This was all very high and noble, but everyone understood that there was no escaping coming to terms with the government, and so when the tests of a leader began with the words: "In the face of the German invasion we must close our ranks on a front single" were brought from the printery, the meeting moved through the galleys in a silence broken by muffled sighs and the meaningful, muffled exclamation: "So this is what we came for!" Belosvetov buttoned every button on his black frock coat flecked with ash with brusque movements, but he didn't leave, just leaned back in his chair. And the current edition came out with the headline: "The Fatherland is in danger. To arms!".

Everyone's heart was filled with confusion and alarm. It was difficult for the editorial staff to conceive how the stable peace of Europe could have been destroyed in twenty-four hours, while European human civilization, on behalf of whichthe word of the peopledaily accusing the government and pricking the public conscience, had become a mere house of cards. Men invented printing and discovered electricity, now they even had radio, but when the time came, the furry beast, armed with a club, emerged from behind the starched bib. This was a bitter pill to swallow for the intelligentsia.

The meeting ended in somber silence. Venerable writers went to Cubat for lunch, while younger ones gathered in the newsroom. It was decided to carry out detailed investigations into the state of mind prevailing among the most varied sectors of the population. Antoshka Arnoldov was supposed to investigate the operation of military censorship. Right there, he demanded an advance and drove along Nevsky Prospect in a rubber-wheeled droshky to the General Staff.

Solntsev, Colonel of the General Staff, head of the press section, received Antoshka Arnoldov in his office and listened to him courteously, looking into his face with clear, cheerful, bulging eyes. Antoshka prepared to meet some legendary hero, some ruddy-skinned leonine general, the scourge of the free press, but before him was an intelligent, well-mannered gentleman, who neither shouted at him hoarsely nor showed his face. . less desire to whip and oppress. This was not in keeping with the accepted idea of ​​a tsarist wage earner.

"Therefore, Colonel, we trust that you will not refuse to cast your authoritative opinion on the questions I have raised," said Arnoldov, glancing sideways at the full-length portrait of Nikolai I, whose inexorable eyes seemed to sum up. to the press agent: "Short jacket, brown boots, sweaty nose, pitiful appearance. You're scared, you son of a bitch!"

"Of course, I don't doubt for a moment," continued Arnoldov, "that by the New Year Russian troops will be in Berlin, but our newspaper is mainly interested in certain specific questions..."

Colonel Solntsev politely interrupted him. “It seems to me that Russian public opinion is not sufficiently aware of the magnitude of the current war. that you". For my part, I believe that the most important mission of the press at this moment is to accustom public opinion to the idea of ​​the very serious danger that threatens our State, and of the extraordinary sacrifices that we will all have to make.

Antoshka Arnoldov lowered the notebook and looked at the colonel in astonishment.

"We are not looking for this war," continued Solntsev, "and at the moment we are simply defending ourselves. The Germans have more artillery than us and a greater concentration of rail communications on their borders. However, we will do everything possible. " that's it. possible to prevent the enemy from crossing our borders. Russian troops are fulfilling the duty imposed on them. However, it would be extremely desirable if the public were equally attentive to the idea of ​​their duty to the fatherland." Solntsev's eyebrows rose. "I realize that the feeling of patriotism is a complicated thing in certain circles. But the danger is so great that I am sure all quarrels and grudges will be postponed to a more propitious time. Even in 1812*, the Russian Empire faced no such danger. "That is all I want you to take note of. Furthermore, it will be necessary to make it known that the military hospitals at the government's disposal are insufficient to house all the wounded. In this regard, too, the public must be ready with ample assistance. ..."

"Excuse me Colonel, but I would like to know how many casualties are expected."

Again, Solntsev's eyebrows rose. "As far as I can see, 250 to 300,000 injured in the next few weeks." Arnoldov swallowed hard, wrote down the numbers and asked, even more deferentially:

"And how many deaths are expected?"

"Typically, we estimate between five and 10 percent injuries."

"I see thanks!"

Solntsev got to his feet, Antoshka quickly shook his hand, colliding in the doorway with Atlant, a ragged, consumptive journalist in a crumpled jacket. In fact, Atlant hadn't had a drink in nearly two days.

"I came to you for war, Colonel," Atlant said, trying to cover the front of his dirty shirt with his hand. "Well, how are things going? Are we going to take Berlin soon?"

Arnoldov left the General Staff on Palace Square, put on his hat and stood there for a while, squinting.

"War to a victorious end," he muttered under his breath. "Wait guys, let's show you what 'defeatism' means!"

[*Reference is made to the war of 1812 against Napoleon.]

Bearded, awkward peasants moved in groups across the wide, well-swept square, with the heavy granite Alexander Column at its center. High-pitched commands sounded from time to time. The peasants lined up, obeying the order, now to run, now to lie down; at one place about fifty men rose from the pavement with discordant shouts of "Viva!" and he stumbled forward. -High! Attention! Dogs, motherfuckers! shouted a hoarse voice, yelling them down. From elsewhere came the words: "Climb up and hit his body. If you break the bayonet, use the butt!"

Only those ragged peasants with fan-shaped beards, in aprons and cane shoes, sweat drying in patches on the backs of their aprons, came to these swampy shores some two hundred years ago to build a city. Now they have been called upon to support the faltering pillars of the empire with their shoulders.

Antoshka turned to Nevsky Prospect, thinking about his article all the time. In the middle of the street, with the fifes howling like an autumn wind, two companies marched in marching formation, armed with packs, canteens and spades. The soldiers' broad faces were tired and dusty. A short officer in a green tunic with new shoulder straps crossed stood on tiptoe, turning his head and rolling his eyes. "Left, right! Left, right!" Nevsky Prospect, cheerful, resplendent with carriages and glass, emitted a dreamy hum. "Left, right! Left, right!" The peasants, docile and heavy, followed the little official in an oscillating line. They were overtaken by a chariot drawn by a fiery black horse covered in foam. The broad-shouldered coachman reined in his horse, and a fair lady, climbing into the carriage to view the passing soldiers, made the sign of the cross over them with a white-gloved hand.

The soldiers marched and were soon hidden by the stream of carriages. It was hot on the crowded sidewalks and everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen. Passers-by stopped suddenly, heard snatches of conversation and disconnected shouts, pressed against one another, asked questions, passed excitedly from one group to another.

The disorderly traffic gradually gained direction, the crowd diverted from Nevsky Prospect to Morskaya Street, where it spilled onto the highway. Ahead of them ran some gaunt-looking men, silent and preoccupied. Caps were thrown on street corners, umbrellas were shaken. Morskaya Street hummed with cheers. The boys whistled shrilly. Everywhere there were carriages, with well-dressed women standing in them. The crowd poured into Isakievsky Square, spilling out on all sides and pushing their way through the railings. People were everywhere: in the windows, on the roofs, on the stone steps of the Cathedral. And all these thousands of people were looking at the clouds of smoke billowing from the upper windows of the heavy, dark red building of the German Embassy. Through the broken glass of the windows, people could be seen running up and down and throwing wads of paper into the crowd, which flew in all directions and slowly sank. A roar rose from the crowd at every new puff of smoke, every object hurled from a window. And right in front of the house, with its two bronze giants holding the bronze horses' reins, the worried and frail-looking subjects reappeared. The crowd fell silent, listening to the sound of hammer blows. The giant on the right staggered and fell to the pavement. The crowd screamed. People ran from all directions until there was a tremendous crowd. "To Moika with them! To Moika with the demons!" The other statue also fell. A burly lady in glasses grabbed Antoshka Arnoldov by the shoulder and shouted in his ear: "Let's drown them all, young man!" The crowd moved towards the Moika. The horns of fire trucks could be heard and the bronze helmets gleamed in the distance. Mounted police appeared around the corner. And suddenly, in the midst of all this rushing and screaming crowd, Arnoldov saw a man, bareheaded, pale as death, with wide, motionless, glazed eyes. Recognizing Bessonov, he approached him.

"You were there?" asked Bessonov. "I heard them kill someone."

"Was there a murder? Who was murdered?"

"I don't know."

Bessonov turned and staggered across the square like a blind man. What was left of the crowd now ran in scattered groups towards Nevsky Prospect, where the Café Reiter was being looted.

At night, Antoshka Arnoldov was standing at a high table in one of the newspaper's smoky offices, covering narrow sheets of paper as fast as he could write:

"...We have witnessed today the extent and beauty of people's anger. It should be noted that not a single bottle of wine was drunk in the cellars of the German Embassy, ​​all of them were broken and poured into the Moika Compromise is out of the question. We will fight to the victorious end, whatever the sacrifice to ourselves. The Germans counted on catching Russia asleep, but at the thunderous words: The Fatherland is in danger! He rose as one man. His wrath will be a dreadful thing. Fatherland is a mighty word, but forgotten among us. At the first shot of the German guns it came alive in all its virginal beauty, and burns in letters of fire in the hearts of every man. um de nos... ."

Antoshka closed her eyes, the blood congealed. The words he had to write! How different from what he had written a fortnight earlier, when he was hired to write summer entertainment. He remembered a man who came onstage at La Bouffe, dressed as a pig and singing:

I'm a piglet and I see no shame

Owning that piglet is my name.

My mother was a dear old pig,

They say I look a lot like her now.

"... We are entering a heroic age. We have been rotting alive for a long time already. War is our purification," wrote Antoshka, his pen stuttering.

Despite opposition from the defeatists, led by Belosvetov, Arnoldov's article was published.

The article was relegated to page three and given the innocuous headline "In time of war", but that was the only concession to the paper's old traditions. Letters from readers arrived immediately, some expressing enthusiastic appreciation of the article, others bitterly ironic. But the enthusiasts were the most numerous. Antoshka's line fees rose, and a week later he was called to the editor-in-chief's office, where Vasily Vasilievich himself, gray-haired, rosy-cheeked, smelling of English cologne, offered him a chair and offered a chair for him. he formally said:

You have to go to the field.

"Yes sir."

"We have to know what the peasants think and say." He tapped a large pile of letters with the palm of his hand. There has been enormous interest in the field among intellectuals. You must give us a first-hand, living idea of ​​this sphinx.

"The results of the mobilization point to a great patriotic uprising, Vasili Vasilievich."

-I already know. But where the hell does that come from? Go wherever you want, keep your ears open, ask questions. I expect five hundred lines of rural prints by Saturday.

From the newspaper office, Arnoldov went to Nevsky Prospect, where he bought a military-cut traveling suit, brown leggings and a pointed cap. Wearing this new outfit, he went to lunch at Donon's restaurant, where he drank an entire bottle of champagne, and decided that the simplest thing would be to go to the village of Khlibi, where Elizaveta Kievna was staying with her brother Kii. . That night he took his place in the sleeping car, lit a cigar and said to himself, looking down at his brown trousers that creaked like a man's: "That's life!"

With more than sixty houses, backyards lined with currant bushes, streets lined with century-old lime trees, a school on a hill (formerly the landlord's residence), the village of Khlibi sprawled on low ground between a swamp and the Svinukha River. The village land was small, the land was barren, and in the off-season most peasants went to Moscow to work.

The first thing that caught Antoshka's attention when the wagon drove him into the village at dusk was the absolute silence. The only sounds were the clucking of a silly hen escaping from under the horse's hooves, the barking of an old dog under a barn, and the clapping of clothes on the riverbank. In the middle of the street, two rams were bumping into each other, honking their horns.

Antoshka paid the deaf old man who had led him out of the station and followed the path to where the old log in front of the school poked through the birch foliage. On the rotten porch steps sat Professor Kii Kievich, talking with Elizaveta Kievna. Below them, the long shadows of huge willows stretched across the fields. The starlings, back and forth, flew in a dark cloud above. In the distance, the horn could be heard calling the cattle home. A few red cows emerged from the reeds, one raising its head and lowing. Kii Kievich, who was very like his sister, with the same curiously lined eyes, said, munching on a blade of grass:

"Also in the sexual sphere, you are absolutely disorganized, Liza. Guys like you are the disgusting scum of bourgeois culture."

Elizaveta Kievna, with a lazy smile, fixed her gaze on a spot in the meadow where the grass and shadows turned a warm yellow in the light of the setting sun.

"It's terribly boring to hear you talk, Kii. You seem to have learned everything by heart, everything seems clear to you, like from a book."

"We must always strive to put our ideas in order, Liza, to systematize them, and not care whether what we say is boring or not."

"Okay, keep trying then." It was a quiet afternoon. The drooping branches of birch trees formed a transparent, motionless screen in front of the porch. A trace of corn sounded its harsh note at the bottom of the hill. Kii Kievich continued to chew his blade of grass. Elizaveta Kievna looked dreamily at the trees that merged into the blue of twilight. Suddenly, an energetic little man with a suitcase appeared between them.

"There she is!" Antoshka exclaimed. "Hello, Liza, my beautiful!"

Elizaveta Kievna was indescribably happy to see him. She jumped up and hugged him.

Kii Kievich greeted him briefly and continued to chew his blade of grass. Antoshka lay down on the stairs and lit a cigar.

"I came to you for information, Kii Kievich. I want you to tell me in detail what people think and say about the war here in Khlibi..."

Kii Kievich smiled wryly.

"Devil knows what they think... They don't say anything. Wolves don't say anything either when they gather in packs."

"So there was no resistance to mobilization?"

"Oh no, not at all!"

"Do you realize that the Germans are our enemies?"

"It's not a question of the Germans."

"Of what, then?"

Kii Kievich smiled again.

"It's not a question of Germans, it's a question of rifles. Having a rifle in your hand. A man with a rifle in his hand has quite a different psychology. One day we'll see which direction they plan to turn." that's right...."

"But even so... they talk about the war?"

"Go to the village and listen to them."

Antoshka and Elizaveta Kievna went to the village at dusk. The sky had cooled down and was thickly dotted with August stars. In Khlibi it was quite humid and smelled of fresh milk and dust from the herds. Wagons without hitches were at the gates. Under the lime trees, where it was quite dark, the chimney sweep rustled and a horse snorted and snorted as it drank. Three girls were sitting on logs in an open space in front of a wooden barn with a thatched roof. Elizaveta Kievna and Antoshka approached them and also sat down a little further.

The girls sang about the beauty of their native Khlibi: there were flowers in Khlibi, they sang, yes, and fine furniture, and the girls are fond of paintings. Looking at the new arrivals, one of them said in a low voice:

"Well girls, isn't it time we went to bed?" But they stayed put. There was a sound of someone moving around inside the barn, then the door creaked and a bald peasant in an unbuttoned sheepskin jacket came out. He fumbled for the lock, panting and coughing, then walked over to the girls, one hand on his lower back, his messy beard pointing forward.

"Still singing, my larks!"

"We are singing, but not about you, Gaffer Fyodor."

"I'll get you out of here in a knot in a minute.

Sing songs at night, is that how you behave?"

"Are you jealous!" said a girl, and another added with a sigh:

"We have nothing left to do, Gaffer Fyodor, except sing about our Khlibi."

"Yes, you are very bad. Now you are alone, all the men are gone."

Fyodor crouched beside the girls. The closest to him said:

Kozmodemyan women say that they led almost all people in the world to war.

"Soon it will be your turn, girls."

To go to war, us girls?

They laughed, and then one of them asked:

"Gaffer Fyodor, whom is our Tsar fighting?"

"Another Tsar."

The girls exchanged glances, one sighed, another straightened her scarf and the third said:

"That's what the Kozmodemyan women said: he is fighting another tsar."

At that, a shaggy head appeared from behind the logs, the owner of which, wrapped in his sheepskin jacket, said in a hoarse voice:

"You, go ahead, no more lies! It's not another Tsar, we're at war with the Germans."

"Could be," said Gaffer Fyodor.

The head disappeared. Antoshka Arnoldov, taking out his cigarette case, offered Fyodor a cigarette.

"Tell me, did they go to war voluntarily from your village?" he asked, choosing his words carefully.

"Many went willingly, sir."

"Was there a lot of enthusiasm?"

"There was. Why not go? They'll look and see how things are there. If they die, well, people die here too. Our lands are poor, we live side by side. And everyone says they give you meat twice a day, sugar, tea and tobacco; you can smoke as much as you like".

"But isn't fighting terrible?"

"Of course it is. There's no denying it."


Canvas-covered farm wagons, wagons loaded with straw and hay, ambulances, huge pontoons moved, swaying and creaking, over the liquid mud of the road. A fine, slanting rain fell incessantly. The ruts and ditches cut along the road were overflowing with water. In the distance, the indistinct outlines of isolated trees and bushes could be made out.

Like an avalanche, the Russian army lumbered through the rain and mud, accompanied by shouts and curses, the crack of whips and the creak of axles. On either side of the road lay dead and dying horses and overturned carts with protruding wheels. From time to time, a military car crossed the creek. This was always the signal to yell, curse and rear the horses, and a loaded wagon would surely start to slide sideways into the ditch at the side of the road, spilling its human cargo.

From time to time, the stream of carts stopped, and foot soldiers with sacks and tents on their backs stood in a long line on the slippery mud. Luggage carts and other means of transport moved between their tangled rows, rifles sticking out in all directions and stretcher bearers piled on top of them. Every now and then someone would run off the road into the field, drop their rifle in the grass and crouch down. .

Then came more wagons, pontoons, farm wagons and carriages with drenched figures in military cloaks sitting in them. The thundering procession now fell, stumbling and scrambling into some narrow gorge, men shouting as they fought for places, now creeping slowly over a hill and disappearing at the top. More and more wagons, laden with grain, hay and shells, arrived from both sides. From time to time, small detachments of cavalry, riding through the fields, caught up with the procession on the road, and the artillery advanced with metallic thunder between the wagons. Huge, broad-chested horses, ridden by Tartars with ferocious bearded faces, attacking horses and humans alike, plowed the road like a plow, dragging the leaping flat-mouthed cannon in their wake. People were running from all directions, others were getting up on their wagons, waving their arms. And once more the creek closed over the road and flowed into a forest, full of the acrid smell of fungus and decaying leaves, and the soft patter of rain.

In places, on both sides of the road, stovepipes could be seen poking sadly out of rubbish heaps and charred logs; here a broken lantern swayed back and forth, there a movie poster fluttered against the brick wall of a house destroyed by shells. And in the midst of it all, on a farm wagon with no front wheels, lay a wounded Austrian in his blue coat, his face lined and pale, his eyes dull and sad.

About twenty miles ahead, the rumble of guns echoed hollowly across the smoky horizon. This was the place to which these troops and wagons headed day and night, the place to which, across Russia, the trains laden with grain, human beings and munitions were speeding. The country was shaken out of its lethargy by the roar of cannons. All the greedy, insatiable and evil instincts that had developed under repression and tyranny were finally unleashed.

The city's population, sated by its grotesque and corrupt way of life, seemed to have awakened from some oppressive dream. In the roar of the guns was the enthusiastic defiance of a cosmic storm. The old way of life had suddenly become intolerable. The population received the war with a sinister frenzy.

There was little research in the villages about who the enemy was or what the war was about. What difference did it make? The eyes had been darkened for so long by a bloody film of rage and hatred! The time for acts of terror had finally arrived. Peasants, boys and men, abandoned their girlfriends and wives, crammed, excited and anxious, into freight trucks and were driven through the cities, whistling and singing lewd songs. The old life had come to an end, it seemed that Russia was being stirred and muddy with a gigantic shell, and now everything was in motion, moving forward, everyone was intoxicated with the intoxicating fumes of war.

Arriving at the battle zone, whose thunder could be heard for miles around, the chariots and troops seemed to have been swallowed up. Here everything that was alive and human stopped. Each was given a place on the ground, in a ditch: a place to sleep, to eat, to kill lice, a place to slump in the fine mist of rain until the senses faltered.

At night, the entire horizon was gradually reddened by the high crimson glow of fires; the currents traced across the sky by rockets and punctuated by sparks of fire; ended in an explosion of stars; the projectiles flew in a wailing crescendo, to explode in columns of fire, smoke and dust.

Here fear gnawed at the vital organs, made the skin crawl, the fingers clenched and clenched. Around midnight the signal would be given. The officers came running in, their faces convulsed, and the soldiers, bloated with sleep and wet, woke to curses, screams and blows. And the men ran across the field, stumbling and cursing and howling like wild beasts, now throwing themselves to the ground, now leaping, and finally, deaf, maddened, half stunned with terror and rage, hurling themselves into the enemy trenches.

Afterwards, no one could remember what had happened in these trenches. When you wanted to brag about heroic deeds, explain how you stuck a bayonet, how you broke your head under a rifle butt, you had to lie. The only indisputable result of these attacks was the corpses.

Another day dawned and the field kitchens stirred. The soldiers, tired and half-frozen, ate and smoked. After that they spoke obscenities and women, here too, lying freely. A short period to get lice and then sleep. They slept for days and days in that place without thunder and death, dirty with excrement and blood.

Like everyone else, in the dirt and dampness, without taking off his clothes and boots for weeks, lived Telegin. The regiment of regulars to which he had enlisted as a second lieutenant was attacking. More than half of their officers and men were put out of action, no reinforcements were sent, and one thought dominated all minds: that of the moment when, half-dead with exhaustion, their clothes in tatters, being sent to the back. paper.

But the High Command wanted at all costs to cross the Carpathians before winter arrived and advance towards Hungary, where the intention was to devastate the country. Men were not spared, human reserves were not lacking. It was hoped that the resistance of the Austrian armies, continually retreating in disarray, would be broken by the sustained effort of three months of incessant fighting, that Kraków and Vienna would fall, allowing the Russian left flank to attack Germany's unprotected rear.

In accordance with this plan, Russian troops marched steadily westwards, taking prisoners by the thousands, seizing huge stores of provisions, ammunition, weapons and clothing. In previous wars, a mere fraction of that plunder, a single one of those endless bloody battles in which entire battalions fell, would have decided the outcome of a campaign. But now, although the regular armies had been destroyed in the first few battles, the fighting became fiercer. The whole world went to war, the whole nation, from the youngest to the oldest. There was something beyond human comprehension in this war. The enemy seemed to have been defeated, to have spilled his last drop of blood, one more effort and victory would be assured. The effort was made, but new armies rose in place of the weakened enemy forces, marching towards death and destruction with relentless determination. The Tartar hordes and Persian cohorts never fought as fiercely or died as easily as these frail, spoiled Europeans and cunning Russian peasants, fully aware that they were but dumb cattle, fodder for the chaos planned by their masters.

The remnants of Telegin's regiment were entrenched on the bank of a narrow and deep stream. The position was poor, completely exposed and the trenches were shallow. At any moment the regiment expected the order to attack, but in the meantime the opportunity to get some sleep, to change boots, to rest, was welcome, despite the fact that an intense firefight was taking place on the opposite bank, where an Austrian division was. he was entrenched.

Towards evening, when the firing had subsided as usual for a few hours, Ivan Ilyich made his way to the regimental headquarters, an abandoned castle a mile away.

A fluffy mist covered the surface of the winding river, covered with reeds, and settled in a wreath on some bushes on the bank. It was a silent, humid night, with the smell of wet leaves in the air. Every now and then, a lone gunshot echoed across the water.

Ivan Ilyich jumped over the ditch at the side of the road and stopped to light a cigarette. On either side were huge leafless trees that looked immensely tall in the mist. The holes and gaps in the marshy soil at its roots appeared to be filled with milk. A bullet whistled sadly in the silence. Ivan Ilych heaved a deep sigh and walked over the crushed gravel, looking over his head at the shadowy branches. The stillness and the fact that he was walking and thinking completely alone reassured him; the deafening noises of the day ended and a subtle and pervasive melancholy took hold of his heart. Once more he sighed, then, throwing away his cigarette and lacing his fingers behind his neck, he walked as if he were in a dream world, inhabited only by the ghosts of the trees, his own beating, loving heart, and the charm of the absent Dasha. .

Dasha was with him in this hour of rest and stillness. Every time the metallic howl of projectiles, the crack of rifle shots, the screams, the curses, all those sounds so foreign to the divine universe died, every time she managed to curl up in a corner of the bench, her heart seemed to run wild. . feel the touch of her charm.

It seemed to Ivan Ilyich that if he died, then this feeling of unity would accompany him until the last moment. He was not afraid of death, nor did he think about it.

Nothing could take away that wonderful feeling of being alive, not even death.

On his way to Yevpatoria that summer, to take, as he thought, one last look at Dasha, Ivan Ilyich was haggard and nervous, trying to come up with all sorts of excuses. But the meeting on the road, Dasha's sudden tears, her fair head pressed against him, her hair, her hands, her shoulders, everything smelling of the sea, her childlike mouth from which, when she raised her face with wet lashes and agitated, the words came: "Ivan Ilyich, dear Ivan Ilyich, I really wanted to see you!" — all these incredible things, falling like lightning on him, there, on the road by the sea — turned Ivan Ilyich's whole life upside down in a few minutes. Looking into the beloved face, he said: "I will love you forever!"

Then she wondered if she'd really said those words, or just thought them, and she understood. Removing her hands from her shoulders, Dasha said:

"I have a lot to tell you. Shall we continue?"

They walked until they reached the edge of the water, where they sat down. Dasha took a handful of pebbles and began to slowly drop them into the water.

"The question is whether you'll still like me after hearing everything. But it doesn't matter, you should do what you want." she sighed. "I have been behaving badly on my own, Ivan Ilyich. You must try to forgive me."

And she began to tell him everything, honestly and completely. She told him about Samara, and how she came to this place, and met Bessonov, and how she lost her desire to live, because the Petersburg miasma, which came to life, poisoning the blood, arousing curiosity, made it all it looks so disgusting.

"How long would anyone hold out? I suddenly felt like rolling around in the mud, it would be good for me!

But at the last moment I got scared... Ivan Ilyich, dear... Dasha stretched out her arms. -Help me! I can't hate myself anymore. Surely all the good in me has not perished! I want something very, very different!"

After that, Dasha was silent for a long time. Ivan Ilyich looked at the mirror-blue water glistening in the sun, his heart, despite everything, was overflowing with joy.

Dasha realized only a little later, when a wave driven by the wind passed her feet, that the war had begun and that Telegin would have to go to join his regiment the next day.

"Ivan Ilitch?"


"Do You like me?"




So she crawled to him, moving across the sand on her knees, and put her hand in his, as she had that day on the steamer.

"Ivan Ilyich, I like you too." '

Clasping her trembling fingers together tightly, she asked, after a silence:

"What was it you said to me just now, on the road?" She frowned. "War? With who?"

"The Germans."

"Oh yes, and you?"

"I have to go tomorrow."

Dasha gasped and fell silent again. Nikolai Ivanovich, apparently just getting out of bed, was running towards them from afar in his striped pajamas, waving a newspaper page in his hand and yelling at them.

At first, he did not seem to notice Ivan Ilyich, but when Dasha said: "Nikolai, this is my best friend," Nikolai Ivanovich grabbed Telegin by the lapels of his coat and roared in his face:

"So this is what we've come to, young man, hey! There's your civilization! It's monstrous! Can you take it in? It's pure delirium!"

All that day Dasha, docile and thoughtful, did not leave Ivan Ilyich's side. This day, filled with sunlight and the sound of the sea, seemed like an eternity. Every minute seemed to stretch into a lifetime.

Telegin and Dasha walked along the beach, lying on the sand, sitting on the porch, all in some kind of daze. And it was impossible to get rid of Nikolai Ivanovich, who followed them everywhere, endlessly discussing the war and the barbarism of the Germans.

At dusk, finally shaking off, Dasha and Telegin went for a long walk along the curved sands. They walked in silence, keeping pace. And here Ivan Ilyich began to think that he should tell Dasha something after all. She must be waiting for a passionate statement, above all, clear. And what could I say? Could any words express the feelings that filled him? No, they cannot be expressed.

"No, no," she said to herself, looking at the floor, "it would be unscrupulous to say things like that to her. It can't be that she loves me, but like the good, honest girl she is." ", she might think she was obliged to accept me if I proposed. But that would put pressure on her. And the fact that we must be separated for an indefinite period, and thatEUI probably won't come back from the war, that gives me even less right to speak..."

This was one of his self-torture attacks. Suddenly Dasha stopped walking and leaned on his shoulder to take off one of his slippers.

"Oh my God!" he said, and began to shake off the sand; when she put it back on, she straightened up and let out a deep sigh.

I will love you very much after you are gone, Ivan Ilyich.

She put her hand on his neck and, looking into his face with her pale gray eyes, almost stern eyes, with not a hint of a smile in them, she sighed again, this time lightly.

"Nós estaremos lá juntos também, certo?"

Ivan Ilyich gently pulled her to him and kissed her delicate, trembling lips. Dasha closed her eyes. Then, when they were both completely out of breath, Dasha let go, took Ivan Ilyich by her arm, and they walked together along the dark, heavy water, lapping the sand at their feet with crimson tongues.

Ivan Ilyich remembered all this with new emotion every time there was a moment of silence. And now, walking through the trees along the foggy road, with her hands clasped behind her neck, she once again saw Dasha's serious gaze, again felt her long kiss.

"Stop, who goes there?" a rough voice called out from the mist.

"A friend! A friend!" replied Ivan Ilyich, dropping his hands into his coat pockets and turning under some oak trees towards the vague bulk of the castle, some of whose windows showed a yellow light. A man standing at the entrance, seeing Telegin, threw away a cigarette and stood at attention.

"The mail hasn't arrived yet?"

"No sir, we are waiting for you."

Ivan Ilyich went out into the hall. At the end, over a wide oak staircase, hung an ancient tapestry depicting Adam and Eve standing among some very slender trees, she holding an apple, he a branch in blossom. Their colorless faces and bluish forms were dimly lit by a candle in a bottle, which stood on the pillar at the bottom of the stairs.

Ivan Ilyich opened a door on the right and entered an empty room with a carved ceiling, which had collapsed where a shell had hit the corner of the wall the day before. Lieutenant Prince Belski and Second Lieutenant Martinov sat on a bed in front of a roaring fireplace. Ivan Ilyich greeted them, asked when a car was expected from headquarters, and sat down in the distance on a pile of cartridges. The light made him blink.

"Well, are the pictures still there?" asked Martinov.

Ivan Ilyich just shrugged. Prince Belski continued speaking in a low voice.

"Worst of all is the stench. I wrote home and told them I'm not afraid of death. I'm ready to sacrifice my life for my country; strictly speaking, that's why they transferred me to the infantry and now I'm trapped in the trenches But... the stench is killing me.

“The stench is nothing. If you don't like it, don't smell it,” Martinov said, straightening one of his shoulder straps. "The worst thing is that there are no women here. This will not lead to anything good. Think about it: the Army Commander is a trembling old man, so we all have to live like monks, without women and without wine. That's what you call caring?" from the army, is this what you call war?

Martinov got up from his bunk and started kicking a burning log with the toe of his boot. Prince Belski continued to smoke thoughtfully, staring into the flame.

"Five million soldiers strewn about the place," he said, "and on top of that rotting corpses and dead horses. I'll remember this war all my life as a stink. Ugh!"

The knock of a car engine was heard in the courtyard.

Gentlemen, the mail has arrived! exclaimed an excited voice from the doorway.

The officers rushed to the porch. Dark figures moved around the car, others ran across the courtyard. And a hoarse voice repeated: "Don't steal, please, gentlemen!" The bags of letters and packages were carried into the hall and unpacked on the stairs, under the Adam and Eve tapestry. It was a month's postage. A veritable ocean of love and pain seemed to be contained in the dirty backpacks, a life sweet and beyond memory.

"Don't steal, gentlemen!"

The stocky, red-faced Captain Babkin snarled: "Lieutenant Telegin, six letters and a package. Ensign Nezhny, two letters..."

"Nezhny was killed, gentlemen."


"This morning."

Ivan Ilyich went to the fireplace. All six letters were from Dasha. The address on the envelopes was written in bold. Ivan Ilyich felt a rush of tenderness for the dear hand that had formed such large letters. Leaning over the fire, he carefully tore open the first envelope. It emanated such memories that he was forced to close his eyes for a moment. Then he started to read. "Nikolai Ivanovich and I went to Simferopol immediately after saying goodbye to you and took the train to Petersburg. Now we are in our old apartment. Nikolai Ivanovich is terribly upset; not a word from Katyusha and we don't even know where she is. What do we know? happened What happened to you and me is so big and so sudden, that I still haven't come to my senses. Don't be mad at me for writing 'you' instead of 'you'!... I will be faithful to you, and I I'll always love you so much. But now it's all so confusing. The troops go by with bands playing, and everything's so sad, like the happiness is gone with the bugles and the soldiers. I know I shouldn't say this, but watch out there , in war...

"Your Honor, Your Honor!"

Telegin turned around with difficulty: there was an orderly standing at the entrance.

"A phonegram, Your Honor. You are required by the company."

"Who wants me?"

"Lieutenant Colonel Rozanov. He asks you to be there as soon as possible."

Telegin refolded the letter, which he had not finished reading, tucked it with the others under his shirt, pulled his cap over his eyes and left.

The fog was even thicker now and the trees became invisible, it was like walking on milk, the path only distinguishable by the crunch of gravel underfoot. Ivan Ilyich kept repeating to himself: "I will be faithful to you and I will love you very much." Suddenly he stopped and stood there listening. No sound came out of the mist, except when a heavy drop fell from a tree. And then, very close by, he began to make out a kind of gurgling and a soft whisper. He continued again, and the bubbling became even clearer. He took a hasty step back, and a clod of earth, dislodged under his foot, fell with a loud splash into the water.

Apparently this was where the road ended at a bridge that had been burned. On the other side, a hundred paces away, he knew that the Austrian trenches stretched almost to the shore. And sure enough, just after the splash made by the falling clod, a shot resounded from the other side, like the crack of a whip, its sound reverberating off the surface of the water; it was followed by another and another, and finally by a long burst, like the rattling of metal, answered by quick bursts that came from all directions through the mist. The rumble and thunder over the river became louder and louder, and amidst this hellish rumble, the loud rap-rap of a machine gun was heard. "Bang!" something happened in the forest. Rough, echoing mist hugged the ground, hiding this disgusting but now commonplace matter.

Several times a bullet hit a tree near Ivan Ilyich with a rough sound and a branch broke. He turned from the road into the field, feeling his way through the bushes. The shooting began to subside as suddenly as it had started and soon stopped completely. Ivan Ilyich took off his cap and wiped his forehead. Once again all was dead quiet, and there was nothing to be heard but the dripping of raindrops on the bushes. Thank God, today I was able to read Dasha's letters! Ivan Ilyich laughed and jumped over a ditch. Suddenly he heard, very close by, a yawn and the words: "We had a good dream, Vasili, a good dream!"

"Hang on!" said another voice hastily. "Someone is coming".

"Who goes there?"

"A friend! A friend!" said Telegin hastily, and at that moment he saw the earthen parapet of a trench, behind which two bearded countenances looked up.

"What company?" asked.

"Three Companies, sir, your own company. Why are you walking on top, sir? You could get hit."

Jumping into the trench, Telegin walked along it to the communication trench leading to the officers' wharf. The soldiers, awakened by the shots, said:

"In a fog like this, 'he' could easily cross the river somewhere."

"As easy as easy."

“Shooting suddenly, thunderously like that…

'He' wants to scarefor us,Or did 'he' freak out 'himself'?"

"Do not be afraid?"

"Me? I'm a nervous guy, you know?"

"Gavril's finger has been cut off, everyone!"

"You should have heard him scream!"

"Some people are lucky. He will be sent home."

"Not him! If it was the whole hand, now! But just one finger, they'll keep him rotting somewhere nearby for a while, and back with him to the company!"

"When will this war end?"

"Ah, count!"

"It will come to an end, but we won't be there to see it."

"If only we could take Vienna!"

What is Vienna for you?

“Oh, nothing, but still…”

"Even if the war doesn't end in the spring, everyone will be rushing home. Who will plow the land? The women? The men have been killed en masse. We've had enough. We've had enough of blood, we've had our share."

"The generals will not be in a hurry to stop fighting, you know."

"What's this talk? Who said that?"

"Ah, never mind, Sergeant... go..."

"The generals will not stop fighting..."

"She's right, folks! First of all, they get double pay, and they get crosses and medals. One man told me that the English give our generals thirty-eight and a half rubles for every recruit.'

"The pigs! Selling us like cattle."

"Very good! Wait a little longer and we'll show you!"

When Telegin entered the dugout, Lieutenant Colonel Rozanov, the battalion commander, fat, bespectacled, with tufts of thinning hair, shouted from where he sat on a pile of horse clothes, in a corner protected by spruce branches:

"So you've finally come, old man!"

"Sorry, Fyodor Kuzmich, I got lost in the fog."

"There's work to be done tonight, old man." He broke the piece of bread he had been holding in his filthy fist the whole time. Telegin's jaw gradually tightened.

"You see, Ivan Ilyich, my old man, we've been ordered to cross over to the other side. It would be nice if we could settle this matter without any problems. Sit down here beside me. Would you like some brandy? Look, this is what I thought of doing... Knock down a bridge, right in front of the big gorse bush, send two sections.



"Here, Your Honor!"

"Dig here! Careful, don't throw dirt into the water! Go ahead, guys, go ahead! Zubtsov!"

"Here, Your Honor!"

"Wait a minute! Put it there. Dig a little more... Put it in the ground... Calm down now!"

"Calm down, everyone! You're going to rip my arm off! Get out of the way!"

Come on, now, push!

"Don't yell, shut up you pig!"

"Push it to the other side... Shall we get up, Your Honor?"

"Did you fix the ends?"

"Everything is set".


In the clouds of moonlit mist, two tall stakes, connected by crossbars, rose into the air with a groan. This was the suspension bridge. The blurred figures of the volunteer group were barely visible as they moved along the shore. They were talking and cursing in hurried whispers. "It's already solved?"

"Yes, it's been going really well."

"Go away! Watch out there!"

"Careful, careful, boys!"

The poles, their points sunk into the riverbank at their narrowest point, slowly bent forward and hung in the mist above the water.

"Will it make it to the other shore?"

"Careful how you put that down!"

"It's heavy!"

"It seems... it seems! Kindly!"

But the other end of the bridge fell into the water with a loud splash. Telegin waved his hand.


The volunteers lay down, silently sank to the ground, crouching in the beach grass. The fog was getting thinner, but at the same time it was getting darker and the air was getting cooler with the onset of the day. Everything was silent on the other side. Telegin called:



"Go inside and start lying down."

Exhaling a pungent odor of sweat, the tall figure of Vasily Zubtsov pushed past Telegin and slid down the bank into the water. Ivan Ilyich saw the big, trembling hand grasp the grass, let go of it, and disappear.

"It's deep," came Zubtsov's voice from somewhere below, in a frozen whisper. "Give me the tables here, boys..."

"The boards, hand over the boards!"

The planks passed from hand to hand with silent speed. They could not be nailed into place due to noise. Having laid the first ranks, Zubtsov climbed out of the water onto the bridge, muttering under his breath, chattering his teeth:

"Pass the tables... Hurry up! Don't sleep!"

Icy water bubbled under the bridge, the stakes swayed. Telegin could make out the dark outlines of the bushes on the other side, and although they were no different from the bushes on the Russian side, they had an ominous appearance. Ivan Ilyich returned to the beach where the rest of his group was and shouted loudly:


Immediately, blurred figures, which looked fantastically tall, made their way into the white clouds of mist.

"Single file, run!"

Telegin turned to the bridge. At that moment Zubtsov's yellowed boards and black-bearded face, thrown back in alarm, lit up like a ray of sunlight falling on a cloud. A searchlight beam swept aside the bushes, picked out a single rough branch with bare twigs, and landed again on the boards. Telegin, with clenched teeth, rushed across the bridge. This seemed to be the signal for all that black stillness to break inside his brain with a deafening roar. Rifle and machine gun fire began to rain down on the bridge from the Austrian side. Telegin jumped onto the shore, landed on his heels and looked back. A tall soldier, she couldn't make out who it was, was running across the bridge, rifle clutched to his chest. Suddenly he dropped the rifle, threw up his arms and fell sideways into the water. A machine gun was sweeping the bridge, the water, the shore... Another man ran across, it was Susov, and he threw himself beside Telegin...

Take out their entrails, you damn pigs!

Another ran, and another, until there were four. The next one was dragged across the bridge and fell screaming and struggling into the water.

They had all crossed now and were face down on the ground, having managed to pile up some dirt in front of them with their shovels. Terrible shots now roared and filled the river. They did not dare to raise their heads - a machine gun was incessantly falling on the place where Telegin and his volunteers were lying. Suddenly, something whistled not far away, once, twice and again, up to six times, followed by six deafening explosions. It was the Russians firing at the machine gun positions.

Telegin and Zubtsov (who was lying in front of him) jumped up, ran forty paces and fell to the ground again. The machine gun fired again from the darkness to the left. But it was obvious that the fire on the Russian side was stronger and that the Austrians were being driven underground. Under the cover of a lull in the fire, the volunteers rushed to the spot where, the day before, Russian artillery had cut the tangles of barbed wire in front of the Austrian trenches.

Attempts were made to repair it overnight, and a dead body was caught in the wires. Zubtsov cut the threads, and the body fell like a sack at Telegin's feet. Volunteer Laptev went ahead of the other four, without a rifle, and threw himself in front of the parapet. Zubtsov shouted at him:

"Stand up and drop a bomb!"

But Laptev did not speak, or move, or turn; he seemed paralyzed with fear. The shots became more intense and the volunteers couldn't move, they just crushed themselves against the ground and tried to bury themselves.

"Get up! Drop your bomb, you son of a bitch!" Zubtsov shouted. "Drop your bomb!"

Reaching as far as he could and holding the rifle by the butt, he hit Laptev's hard coat with his bayonet. Laptev made a terrified face, grabbed the hand grenade from his belt and, throwing himself against the parapet, hurled the missile, bouncing into the trench as it exploded.

"On! On!" Zubtsov shouted in an unnatural voice.

Nine or ten of the volunteers got up, ran forward and disappeared underground. There was nothing to be heard except the sharp, piercing sounds of explosions.

Telegin was running blindly back and forth along the parapet, trying in vain to throw his hand grenade; finally he jumped into the ditch and ran, stumbling and screaming at the top of his lungs, scraping his shoulders against the sticky mud... He saw the face, white as a mask, of a man pressed against the bottom of the trench, and he saw it. grabbed by the shoulder. But the man just mumbled continuously, as if he was talking in his sleep...

"Shut up, foal, I won't hurt you," shouted Telegin, almost crying, to the white mask, as he ran ahead, leaping over the corpses. But the fight is over now. Gray figures, throwing their rifles to the ground, poured out of the trenches onto the field. They were pushed back by Russian rifle butts. And meanwhile, forty paces away, in a hiding place, a machine gun continued to fire across the river. Ivan Ilyich, making his way through the crowd of volunteers and prisoners, shouted:

"Can anyone stop this? Zubtsov! Where is Zubtsov?"

"Here I am!"

"Can't you stop it, you idiot?"

"If I only knew how to get to him..."

They rushed forward.

"Stop, here it is!"

A narrow passageway led from the trench to the machine gun position. Stooping, Telegin rushed into the shelter, where everything trembled in the "darkness of intolerable thunder, grabbed someone by the elbow and dragged him out. There was instant silence, broken only by the struggles and heavy breathing of the man he was trying to stop." to go out." move away from the machine gun.

"Pig! You're not going away, are you? Here, leave me..." Zubtsov muttered from behind and hit the man three times in the head with the butt of his rifle. The Austrian shuddered, groaned and froze. Telegin released him and left the bench. Zubtsov called him: "He is in chains, Your Honor!"

It soon became clear. Stains and streaks of blood could be seen on the yellow clay. A few tattered calfskins, tins, and pots were strewn about in a wild mess, and everywhere corpses were piled like sacks. The volunteers, utterly exhausted, rested, ate canned food, and rummaged through the scattered bags of Austrians.

The prisoners had been sent back across the river a long time ago. The regiment crossed to the other bank and took up position, from which artillery fired on the second line of the Austrians, getting only a languid response. It began to drizzle and the fog dispersed. Ivan Ilyich, with his elbow on the edge of the trench, looked out over the field where they had run during the night. It was just an ordinary field, brown and damp, with here and there a tangle of barbed wire, a few dark patches where the earth had been dug up, and a few bodies of his own men. The river was very close. The towering trees and sinister bushes of yesterday were nowhere to be seen. But what an expense of men and material was involved in crossing those few meters!

The Austrians continued to retreat, and the Russian troops, without stopping for a moment, pursued them until nightfall. Telegin and his volunteers were ordered to occupy a forest that tops a distant ridge and, after a lively exchange of fire, they occupied it by night. Hastily digging in, they posted sentries, established telephone communication with the division, and ate what was in their packs. Many slept in the drizzle, in the dark, among the rotten leaves, even though the order had been given to keep firing all night.

Telegin was sitting on a stump, leaning against the smooth trunk of a mossy tree. Every now and then a drop fell down his neck, inside, which was good, because it kept him awake. The excitement of the morning was long gone, as was the terrible weariness caused by walking over soggy acres of crops, climbing fences and jumping over ditches, emerging at random with stiff feet and a pounding head.

Someone approached him, walking through fallen leaves, and Zubtsov's voice said quietly:

"Do you want a crust?"


Ivan Ilyich took the peel from his hand and began to chew it, it was so sweet that it almost melted in his mouth. Zubtsov crouched beside her.

"May I smoke, sir?"

"Okay, but be careful!"

"I have a pipe!"

"Zubtsov, you shouldn't have killed him, you know?"

"The machine gun?"


"Of course you shouldn't."

"Do you want to have a dream?"

"Oh, I can do without sleep!"

"Then give me a push if I throw myself."

The drops fell slowly, gently, on the rotten leaves, on Telegin's hand, on the visor of his cap. They fell like glass beads, after the noise, the screams, the hateful tumult, the machine gun murder. They fell into the murky depths filled with the smell of decaying leaves. His whisper made sleep impossible. I mustn't sleep, I mustn't... Ivan Ilyich forced himself to open his eyelids, and his gaze rested on the vague contours of the branches, which seemed to be traced in charcoal. But there was no point in shooting all night either... let the men rest... Eight dead, eleven wounded. Yes, yes, you have to be careful with war. Oh, Dasha, Dasha! The crystal drops were so consoling, so calming...

"Ivan Ilitch!"

"Yes, yes! I'm not sleeping, Zubtsov!"

"It's wrong to kill a man, isn't it? Surely he has a home, a family of some kind, and you bayonet him like a doll and it's all over. The first time I killed a man I couldn't t eat "I was sick. And now I've finished my ninth or tenth... It's awful, isn't it? Has anyone ever taken that sin upon themselves?"


"Well, my sin! I ask you, did anyone take my sin, some general or someone in Petersburg, who deals with all this kind of thing?"

"What sin have you committed, if you are defending your homeland?"

"That's right... but... listen, Ivan Ilyich, it must be someone's fault, and we'll find out. Let those who raised this war answer for it. Let them answer for it with their blood... .. "

A shot echoed through the forest with a hollow sound. Telegin began. The shot was answered by several others from the opposite direction.

The surprise was greater, as there had been no contact with the enemy since the afternoon. Telegin rushed to the phone. The operator poked his head out of a hole in the floor.

"It doesn't work, Your Honor."

Frequent shots began to be heard throughout the forest, the bullets cracking in the branches. The outposts fanned out and opened fire. A volunteer named Klimov appeared next to Telegin and exclaimed in a strange, ominous voice:

"We're surrounded, Your Honor!" Then, clutching his face, he dropped to the floor and lay on his stomach. In the darkness, another voice shouted: "I am dying, brothers!"

Among the trunks of trees, Telegin made out the tall, motionless figures of his volunteers. He was aware that everyone was looking at him. He gave the order for everyone to head, one at a time, to the north side of the forest, which was probably still unfenced. He himself would take the place with anyone who wanted to stay with him, here in the trenches. Five men are needed. Who wants to stay? Zubtsov, Susov and a boy named Kolov came out from behind the trees and walked towards him.

"Two more wanted! You come, Ryabkin!" Zubtsov exclaimed, turning his head.

"Okay I will".

"One more to make five!"

A short man in a sheepskin jacket and a fur hat rose from the ground. "I can stay too."

The six men lay down about twenty paces away and opened fire. The figures behind the trees disappeared. Ivan Ilyich fired a few shots and suddenly he saw, with merciless clarity, men in blue coats turning over his smiling corpse the next morning, the better to rummage through his clothes, he saw a filthy hand groping inside his shirt.

He dropped the rifle, dug a hole in the soft, damp earth and, taking Dasha's letters, kissed them, put them in the hole and scattered dead leaves on top.

"Brothers! Brothers!" Susov's voice came from the left. Only two rounds of shells remained. Bowing down, Ivan Ilyich crawled to Susov, sat down next to him and took a bullet from his case. Now it was just him and another one, to the right, still shooting. Finally, there were no more cartridges. Ivan Ilyich waited a moment, got up, looked around and began to call the volunteers by name. A voice replied, "Here!" and Kolov approached, leaning on his rifle.

"Any cartridges?" asked Ivan Ilych.


"None of the others respond?"

"¡No! ¡Ni uno!"

"Okay. Let's go. Run!"

Kolov shouldered his rifle and ran, hiding behind tree trunks. But before Telegin had time to take a dozen steps, a blunt iron finger seemed to hit him on the shoulder.


Conceiving war as a series of cavalry attacks, spectacular marches, and heroic deeds by men and officers proved to be quite old-fashioned.

The only result of the famous attack of the Horse Guards, when the regimental commander, Prince Dolgorukov, walking under machine-gun fire with a cigar in his mouth and swearing, as usual, in French, led three squadrons in infantry formation beyond the barbed wire defenses. without firing a shot, it was that the Guards, losing half their forces, captured a pair of heavy guns, which were deliberately put out of action and covered by a single machine-gun.

A Cossack officer commenting on this incident said:

I could have carried that rubbish with a dozen Cossacks.

From the first few months it was very evident that the heroism of the soldier of old - a big, mustachioed, heroic-looking individual who could gallop, carry a sword and not heed the bullets - was useless. Mastery of technique and the ability to organize the rear became the first requirements of warfare. Soldiers were only called upon to die with resolute obedience at the places indicated on the map. What was wanted were soldiers who could hide, bury themselves in the ground, disappear into the dusty depths. The sentimental rules laid down at the Hague Conference on moral and immoral forms of killing were silently ignored. And along with this piece of paper, the last remnants of moral laws disappeared, which now become completely unnecessary.

Thus, in a few months of war, the work of a century was accomplished. Until then, many still believed that human life was governed by superior moral laws, that good was destined to defeat evil, and that humanity would become perfect. Unfortunately, these ideas turned out to be mere survivals from medieval times, capable only of weakening the will and slowing the march of civilization. It now became evident, even to the most inveterate idealists, that the terms good and evil were purely philosophical conceptions, and that the genius of mankind had entered the service of a bad master.

It was a time when the same children were taught that murder, destruction and annihilation of entire nations were heroic and sacred achievements. Millions of newspaper columns daily claim this, lamenting and appealing to their readers. There were experts who predicted, every morning, the outcome of battles. Newspapers published the predictions of that famous seer, Madame Tab. Countless soothsayers, astrologers and soothsayers appeared. Goods were scarce. Pink prices. The export of raw materials from Russia was stopped. Only shells and war implements reached the three northern and eastern ports - the only remaining outlets for the closed and isolated country. The land was neglected. Billions of paper money were being shipped to the countryside, and peasants were already showing signs of reluctance to sell their grain.

At the secret congress of the Occult Lodge of Anthroposophists in Stockholm, the founder of the Order declared that the terrible struggle in the higher spheres had now been transferred to earth, that a world catastrophe was imminent, and that Russia would be offered as a sacrifice to redeem mankind from sin. . All rational arguments were drowned in the oceans of blood in which the two thousand mile band around Europe was submerged. Reason was powerless to explain why mankind was obstinately destroying itself with steel, dynamite and starvation. Certain secular ulcers burst. The legacy of the past had won out. But that wasn't an explanation either.

Famine began in several countries. Everywhere life was at a standstill. It began to look like the war was just the first act of a tragedy.

In the face of this spectacle, the individual, "the microcosm," the bloated ego, timidly shrank to a mere speck of dust. Their prominent place in this tragedy was occupied by the primitive masses.

It was more difficult for women. Each, according to her beauty, charm, and skill, wove her fabric with fine threads that were strong enough for everyday life. Either way, those whose fate this was fell upon them, humming lovingly. But these networks were also broken by the war. And there was no question, in such dire times, of turning it around again. There was no choice but to wait for better days. And the women patiently waited, though time passed and the most precious years of a woman's life faded into barren melancholy.

Husbands, boyfriends, brothers and children, now mere figures, abstract units, lay under mounds of earth in the fields, at the edges of the woods, by the side of the road. And no amount of effort could remove the wrinkles that continually appear on aging female faces.


"I said to my brother: 'You are a dogmatist, I hate social democrats. You are ready to torture people for a single slip of the tongue. You are an astral being', I told him. He could not bear it, so he kicked me out .of his house.' So here I am in Moscow, penniless. Isn't that a shout? Talk to Nikolai Ivanovich about me, Darya Dmitrevna! I'd take anything, but of course I'd rather work on a hospital train."

"Okay, I'll talk to him."

"I have no friends here. Do you remember our 'Center'? They say that Vasily Veniaminovich Valet went to China... Sapozhkov is somewhere at the front. Zhirov is in the Caucasus, giving lectures on futurism. And where is Ivan Ilyich Telegin, I don't know, you knew him very well, I think.

Elizaveta Kievna and Dasha walked slowly along the side street, between huge piles of snow. A fine snow fell and crunched underfoot. A low sleigh passed by and its driver, his felt boot on the edge, called out to them:

"Watch out ladies, or I'll run you over!"

There was a lot of snow that winter. The snow-laden branches of the linden trees hung low over the street. Birds flitted back and forth against the snow-white sky. The crows that lived on the roofs of churches flew in ragged flocks in ragged flocks, landing on spiers and domes and soaring to icy heights.

Dasha stopped at the corner of the street and pulled her white shawl over her head. His sealskin coat and muff were covered with flakes of snow. Her face was thinner and her eyes looked even bigger and more serious.

"Ivan Ilyich is not here," he said. "I don't know anything about him."

Dasha raised her eyes and looked at the birds. The crows must be hungry in the snowy village. Elizaveta Kievna was standing there, her smile hardening on her brightly colored lips, her head bowed. She was wearing a bonnet with earflaps and a man's coat; the coat hugged his chest, the fur collar was too big for him, and the short sleeves didn't reach his reddened hands. Snowflakes melted on her pale neck.

“I'm going to talk to Nikolai Ivanovich today,” said Dasha.

"I would take anything," said Elizaveta Kievna, looking at the floor and shaking her head. "I adored Ivan Ilyich, I simply adored him." She laughed, and her nearsighted eyes filled with tears. "I'll see you tomorrow then. Bye."

He turned and walked away in his felt boots, his icy hands shoved in his pockets like a man.

Dasha looked at her, frowned and turned the corner, walking towards the entrance of the large private house that is now used as a hospital. Here, in the high-paneled rooms, which smelled of iodoform, the wounded with shaved heads and in robes lay or sat on beds. Two were playing checkers by a window. One was gently walking up and down the room in slippers. When Dasha appeared, he glanced at her quickly, frowned, and lay back on the bed, folding his hands behind his head.

"Nurse!" called a weak voice.

Dasha approached a plump, heavyset guy with thick lips.

"Roll me onto my left side, for God's sake," he said, groaning after each word. Dasha grabbed him, used all her strength to lift him and turned him over like a sack.

"Time to take my temperature, nurse!"

Dasha waved the thermometer and put it under her armpit.

"I keep throwing up, nurse. If I eat a crumb, it all comes out. I can't take it anymore!"

Dasha covered him with the blanket and left him. The smiles came from the neighboring beds. someone said:

You're faking it, nurse. He is strong as an ox.

"Let him have fun!" came with another voice. "It's a nurse's job and it makes him happy."

"Semyon wants to ask you something, nurse, but he's shy."

Dasha approached a peasant with merry eyes, round like a dog's, and an absurdly small mouth, like a bear's. His large, fan-shaped beard was very well groomed. When Dasha approached, she pushed him away, stretching her lips.

"You're just kidding, nurse. I'm perfectly satisfied, thank you most humbly."

Dasha smiled. The burden she felt on her heart eased. She sat on the edge of the bed next to Semyon and, pushing his sleeve away, examined his bandages. He proceeded to give her a detailed account of all her aches and pains.

Dasha had arrived in Moscow in October, when Nikolai Ivanovich, moved by patriotic enthusiasm, took a post in the Moscow branch of the Municipal Defense Union. He gave up his apartment in Petersburg to an Englishman from the Military Mission and lived with Dasha in Moscow as simply as possible, walking around in a suede jacket, abusing spoiled intellectuals and working, he said, like a horse.

Dasha studied criminal law, looked after the small household and wrote to Ivan Ilyich every day. Inside her, everything was still and quiet. The past seemed so remote as if it belonged to another existence. And now she seemed to live with half her being, always full of anxiety, waiting for news and preoccupied with preserving herself for Ivan Ilyich in purity and rigor.

In early November, over breakfast, Dasha turned the pages ofThe Russian word,when his eyes fell on the name "Telegin" in the lists of the missing. The list spanned two columns in fine print. So many wounded, so many dead, so many missing, and at the end: "Telegin, I. I., Second Lieutenant."

So was the event that darkened his entire life marked by (half a line of fine print.

Dasha felt as if those tiny letters, sterile lines, columns and headings had turned to blood. It was a moment of indescribable horror, the printed page seemed to have become what was written on it, a stinking and bloody mess, from which a suffocating stench and a confused noise of voices seemed to emerge.

Dasha had a fit of chills. Even her despair dissolved into this animal horror and disgust. She stretched out on the couch and covered herself with her coat.

Nikolai Ivanovich came home to dinner, sat down at Dasha's feet and silently stroked them.

"Wait, Dasha," said Nikolai Ivanovich. "Just wait. He's missing, probably taken prisoner. I know hundreds of cases like this."

At night he had a dream: in a narrow, empty room, the windows covered with dust and cobwebs, a man in a soldier's tunic was sitting on the edge of an iron bed. His gaunt face was distorted by pain. He would touch his bald head with both hands, peel it like an egg and take what was under the skin in his mouth.

Dasha screamed so much in the night that Nikolai Ivanovich appeared at her bedside, a blanket over his shoulders, and for a long time he could not get her to tell him what was wrong with her. Then he measured a few drops of valerian into a glass of wine, gave some to Dasha and drank a little.

Dasha, sitting on the bed, tapped her chest with her fingertips and repeated in a low, desperate voice:

"I can't go on living, you understand? You understand, Nikolai, I can't and I don't want to!"

It was very difficult to continue living after what happened, and to continue living as Dasha lived until now was impossible.

The war had only to touch Dasha with its iron finger, so that all tears and all deaths became her business. And after the first days of acute despair passed, she started to do the only thing she was capable of: she took a course in hospital nursing and went to work in a hospital.

In the beginning it was very difficult. The wounded arrived from the front with bandages that had not been changed for days. Such an intolerable stench emanated from the bandages that the nurses fainted. During operations, Dasha had to hold on to blackened legs and arms, from which clots of dried blood and pus fell, and she knew how strong men clench their teeth and how their limbs tremble in pain, powerless.

There was so much suffering that it was not possible to find enough mercy in all the storehouses of mercy in the world. Dasha began to feel that now she was forever bound to this maimed, blood-soaked life, and that there was no other. The lamp's green shade glowed in the staff room, while on the other side of the wall someone was muttering deliriously; bottles clinked in a shell as a car rattled down the street. The boring routine has become an integral part of real life.

Sitting during the night vigil at the table in the staff room, Dasha replayed the past in her mind, seeing it more and more clearly as a dream. He had leapt from heights from which the earth could not be seen. She lived like everyone else around her, self-absorbed and arrogant. And he had to fall from those clouds into the blood and filth, in this hospital, with its smell of sick bodies where people moaned heavily and raved and mumbled in their sleep. There was a Tartar soldier dying, and in ten minutes she would have to go and give him a shot of morphine.

Today's meeting with Elizaveta Kievna upset Dasha. It had been a difficult day, the wounded had been brought from Galicia in a deplorable state: here a hand had to be amputated, there an arm, and two men were delirious in their last delirium.

Dasha was tired after a day's work, but she couldn't get Elizaveta Kievna out of her head, with her red hands, man's coat, pitiful smile and sweet eyes.

At night, sitting and resting, Dasha looked at the big lamp and thought how she wished she could cry in a corner and say to a stranger: "I just adored Ivan Ilyich."

Dasha sat down in a large armchair, moved a little, put her feet under it and opened a book - 'a report on the three-month activities of the City Union. Here were columns of numbers and all sorts of utterly meaningless words, but no consolation. He looked at his watch, sighed and went into the living room.

In the stuffy room, the wounded slept. High above, just below the oak-beamed ceiling, a dim light burned in the circular iron sconce. The young Tartar soldier, whose arm had been amputated, raved, his shaved head bobbing on the pillow. Dasha picked up an ice pack from the floor, put it on her burning forehead and straightened the blanket. After making her way through the beds, she sat down on a stool, her hands folded in her lap.

My heart isn't trained, that's it, she told herself. "I only knew how to love what was refined and beautiful. He was never trained to feel sorry, to love what is not lovable."

"Are you sleepy, nurse?" said a soft voice. Dasha turned her head.

The bearded semion watched her from his bed.

"Why are not you sleeping?" she asked.

"I slept during the day."

"Does your arm hurt?"

"Not now... Nurse!"


"What a little face of yours, you must be sleepy. Why don't you go get some?" Photograph? I'll stay alert, call you if necessary."

"I'm not sleepy at all."

"Do you have someone up front?"

"My heart."

"It doesn't matter, God will take care of him."

He is among the missing.

"Darling dear!" Semyon's beard bristled as he sighed. "My little brother had disappeared, and then we got a letter from him, he was in jail. And is his boyfriend a good man?"

"A very good man!"

"Maybe I've heard of him. What's his name?"

"Ivan Ilitch Telegin".

"I heard about him. Wait a minute! Yes! People said he was taken prisoner. What regiment?"

"A Caza".

"That's the man! He's been taken prisoner. He's alive! What a good man! Don't worry, nurse, be patient! The snow will melt, the war will end, there will be peace. Aeons yet, believe me!"

Tears rose in Dasha's throat as she listened. She knew that Semyon had invented everything, that she did not know Ivan Ilyich, but she was grateful to him.

"Poor little thing!" Semyon said softly.

Once again in the staff room, with her cheek resting against the back of the chair, Dasha felt as if she, a stranger, had been warmly welcomed, as if a voice had said to her: "Be one of us!" And now he was able to feel sorry for all those sick, sleeping men. And then, feeling sorry for himself, thinking, he suddenly visualized Ivan Ilyich with devastating clarity, lying somewhere on a narrow bed, like these men, sleeping, breathing...

He began to pace from one side of the room to the other. Suddenly the phone rang. Dasha gave a violent start, so harsh and shrill was the sound in the drowsy stillness. Probably another train arrived with wounded.

He said "hello" into the receiver, and a woman's voice, tender and excited, spoke in his ear.

"Can I speak with Darya Dmitrevna Bulavina?"

"It is me!" Dasha answered, and her heart began to beat violently.

"Who is it? Katya? Katyusha? Is that you? Oh dear!"


“So, here we are together again, girls,” said Nikolai Ivanovich, pulling his suede jacket over his stomach and taking Ekaterina Dmitrevna by the chin to kiss her on the cheek. "Good morning, duckling, how did you sleep?"

Passing Dasha's seat, he kissed her hair.

"Dasha and I are inseparable now, Katyusha. She's a brick, a real hard worker!"

He sat down at the table, on which there was a clean cloth, took an egg from a porcelain egg cup and cut the end with a knife.

"Fantastic Katyusha, I must like eggs cooked the English way, with mustard and butter. Try it, it's really good. Germans only eat one egg a head every two weeks. What do you think of that?"

His big mouth opened in a laugh.

"This egg will be Germany's undoing. They say children are being born there with a short fur coat. Bismarck told fools they should keep peace with Russia. They ignored him, they despised us, and now, they they have an egg every fortnight!

“It's terrible that children are born without skin,” said Ekaterina Dmitrevna, looking down. "It's terrible wherever they are born, here or in Germany."

"Sorry, Katya, but you're talking nonsense!"

"The only thing I know is that life isn't worth living if it's to kill, to kill every day."

"What to do, my dear? We have to learn from personal experience. What does it mean to belong to a state. So far, we only read in the works of Ilovaisky and other historians how certain peasants fought for their land in the battles of Kulikovo,* Borodino ,** etc. We used to look at the map and say: 'What a great country Russia is!' And now we have to encourage ourselves to give this or that percentage of lives for the conservation of all that territory painted green on the map of all Europe and Asia, and we don't like it, of course, if you say our state the mechanism is bad, no I will contradict. Now, before I die for the State, I ask: 'And you, who are sending me to my death, are you yourselves the embodiment of the State's wisdom? May I shed my blood for my country? in full confidence?' Yes, Katyusha, the government, out of sheer habit, still looks askance at social organizations, but it's been clear for a long time that they can't do without us. Let them try! Give us an inch and we'll do it. optimistic about it all.”

Nikolai Ivanovich got up, took a box of matches from the fireplace, lit a cigarette while still standing and threw the burnt match into the shell of the egg.

"Blood is notterit was poured out in vain. The war will end with our kind of people, social workers, taking over the state. The war will do what the 'Land and Freedom' group, the revolutionaries and the Marxists could not do. Bye girls!"

He pulled on his jacket and left; from behind it looked like a big woman disguised as a man.

[* On the Kulikovo field, Russian troops led by Prince D. I. Dolgorukii won a brilliant victory over the hordes of Khan Mamai. ** Campo de Borodino - Here was fought the biggest battle of the war of 1812 that ended with the defeat of Napoleon's army.]

Ekaterina Dmitrevna sighed and sat down by the window with her knitting. Dasha sat on the arm of the chair and put an arm around her sister's shoulder. They were both wearing high-necked black dresses now, and they looked a lot alike as they sat silently next to each other. The snow was constantly falling and a cold, bright light reflected off the walls of the room. Dasha rested her cheek on Katya's hair, which smelled faintly of an unfamiliar perfume.

"Katya, what have you been doing all this time? You never tell me anything."

"What is there to tell you, Cat? I wrote to you."

"Still, Katya, I don't understand. You're charming, fascinating, sweet. I've never seen anyone like you. Yet you're never happy. Your eyes are always sad."

I guess I have an unhappy heart.

"No, but seriously..."

"That's what always baffles me, child. It seems you can only be truly unhappy when you have everything. I have a good(husband, beloved sister, freedom... And I live like a mirage and walk like a ghost. I remember when I was in Paris, I used to think, 'If only I could live in a small remote town, take care of birds and vegetables and go meet my sweetheart at sunset by the river! ... 'Oh, Dasha, my life is over!"

"Don't talk nonsense, Katya!"

"You know," said Katya, looking at her sister with eyes that seemed to have gone dark and empty, "I can seethatsuch a clear day... the mattress scratched, the sheet slippery, the basin full of bile... And there I am, dead, yellow, with gray hair...

Putting down her knitting, Katya looked out the window at the snowflakes falling in the silence. In the distance, under the peaked roof of a Kremlin tower astride a golden eagle, crows circled like a cloud of black leaves.

"I remember getting up very early one morning, Dasha. I could see all of Paris from the balcony, shrouded in a kind of blue haze, with [pillars of smoke, white, gray, blue, rising everywhere. It rained in a night and there was a delicious, fresh, leafy, spicy smell. In the streets there were children with books and women with baskets, and the grocery stores were just opening. Everything looked so(solid and eternal. I wanted to go there, blend in with the crowd, find a man with kind eyes and lay my hand on his chest. But when I went down to the big boulevards, the whole city started going crazy. Newspaper boys were running around, everywhere people were in excited groups. Newspapers were full of fear of death and hatred. The war had begun. And since then I haven't heard anything but the word death, death... what else can I expect?"

After a moment of silence, Dasha said:

"¡Katyusha!" ...

"What's up, my pet?" ..:

"What about you and Nikolai?"

'It is hard to say. Looks like we made it up. Look, it's been three days and he's so sweet to me. This is not the time to dwell on old wounds. One can suffer, go crazy, who cares about that now? You buzz like a mosquito and you can barely hear yourself. I envy the old ones. Everything is simple for them, they just need to prepare for death."

Dasha shifted on the arm of the chair, sighed heavily once or twice, and released her arm from Katya's shoulders.

"Dashenka," said Katya softly, "Nikolai Ivanovich told me that you are engaged. Is this true? Poor thing!"

He took Dasha's hand, kissed it, put it on his chest and began to stroke it.

"I am sure that Ivan Ilyich is alive," she continued. "If you really love him, there's nothing else in the world you need."

The sisters were silent again, looking out the window at the falling snow. A platoon of cadets, each with a change of clothes and a bundle of sticks under his armpits, walked down the street through the accumulated snow, the soles of their boots slipping on the icy surface. They were being taken to the bathroom. As they passed the window, they sang in unison, each stanza ending with a triumphant whistle:

Arise, hawks, and soar like eagles,

Stop crying, stop crying...

A day or two later, Dasha began to go to the hospital again. Katya was left alone in the apartment, where everything was alien to her: two boring landscapes on the wall, depicting a haystack and a puddle of melted snow between bare birches; photos of strangers on the living room sofa; and a sheaf of dusty grass in one corner. Ekaterina Dmitrevna tried to go to the theater, where veteran artists played Ostrovsky, or to exhibitions, to museums, where everything seemed pale, faded, languid to her, and she herself was a shadow wandering through a deserted world.

She sat at the window for an hour, near the hot water pipes, looking out over silent, snowy Moscow, where melancholy bells rang in the soft air, through the falling snow, ringing for a funeral service or for the funeral of someone brought . facing. The book would fall out of her hands. What was there to read, to dream about? How futile all previous dreams and thoughts seemed now!

The passage of time was marked by morning and evening newspapers. It was obvious to Katya that everyone around her lived only in the future, in some imaginary days of victory and peace. Everything that confirmed these expectations was received with exaggerated joy, while setbacks caused general dismay. People threw themselves madly at rumours, snatches of conversations, the most improbable news, excited by the lines in the newspapers.

Finally, Katya made an internal decision and asked her husband to find her some kind of job. In early March, she started working at the hospital where Dasha worked.

At first, the dirt and suffering repelled her onlyasthey(he had repelled Dasha. But she took the reins and gradually became interested in the work. That self-control was in itself a joy. For the first time she felt in touch with the life around her. He came to love hard, dirty work and sympathize with those he worked for. Once he told Dasha:

"Who started the idea that we should have a special and refined life? You and I are just women, after all. What we need is an ordinary husband, a house full of children and a simple life."

On Passion Week, Katya took the hospitalEaster*be blessed and broke the fast with Dasha in the hospital. Nikolai Ivanovich had an extraordinary session to attend that night, and he called his sisters after two in the morning by car. Katya said that neither she nor Dasha was sleepy and asked her to take them for a walk. It was a ridiculous idea, of course, but they gave the driver a glass of brandy and drove on to Khodinskoye field.

[*cream cheese and raisin mixture, made at Easter.]

There was a light frost, just enough to make your cheeks tingle. The sky was clear, with a few bright stars shining here and there. Thin ice crackled under the wheels. Katya and Dasha, both dressed in white shawls and gray coats, were leaning against each other in the deep seat. Nikolai Ivanovich, who was sitting next to the driver, looked from one to the other, struck by the similarity of their black eyebrows and large eyes.

"Honestly, I don't know which one of you is my wife," he said quietly.

One of them replied, "You'll never guess," and they both laughed.

Over the vast, desolate countryside, the sky was beginning to turn green at the horizon, and the black outlines of the Silver Forest were beginning to appear in the distance.

"I would like to fall in love, Katyusha," Dasha said softly.

Katya squeezed his arm gently. Over the woods, in the damp green dawn, shone a great star, flickering like a throbbing pulse.

“I totally forgot to tell you, Katya,” said Nikolai Ivanovich, turning in his chair. Chumakov, our representative, has just arrived and says that the situation in Galicia seems extremely critical. such hurricanes of gunfire upon us, that entire regiments are being annihilated at once. And we, verily, are short of missiles! This is a disgrace!

Katya, in response, looked up at the stars. Dasha pressed her cheek against her sister's shoulder. Nikolai Ivanovich allowed himself another burst of execration and told the driver to go home.

On the third day of Easter, Katya felt bad. She was unable to go to the hospital and was forced to stay in bed. It looked like he had pneumonia, probably caused by a draft.


"We're in such a mess, it's horrible to think about!"

"You've stormed the fire long enough, go to bed!"

"What a mess... Russia is going to the dogs, mates!"

By the mud wall of a shed with a high thatched roof, three soldiers sat in front of the smoldering remains of a fire. One of them had hung the bandages on his legs to dry on stakes driven into the ground and was making sure they didn't catch fire; another was putting a patch on his pants, meticulously manipulating the needle; while the third, pockmarked with a hooked nose and a wispy black beard, sat cross-legged on the floor, hands shoved in the pockets of his military jacket, staring into the embers with wild, vacant eyes.

"There's betrayal everywhere, that's what it is," he said quietly. "As soon as we gain the slightest advantage, the order to retreat comes in. All we do is hang the Jews from the lowest branches, while treason nestles safely at the top."

"I'm sick of this war, but they'll never printthatin the newspapers,' said the soldier, cleaning the bandages from his legs, and cautiously placing a dry stick on the embers.

"First we attack, then we retreat, we attack again, dammit, and we're right back where we started, in the same order. And all for nothing!" He spat into the flame.

"Lieutenant Zhadov came to me the other day," the soldier who was mending his pants smiled, not looking up from his work. "I think he's bored as hell. Then he starts berating me. Why do I have a hole in my pants? And why do I look like this? I don't say anything. And our conversation ends when he punches me. " the jaw".

To this, the soldier who was drying the bandages on his legs replied:

"No rifles, nothing to shoot! In our battery we only have seven rounds for each gun. They have nothing to do but break our teeth!"

The man mending the pants looked up in surprise and shook his head in dismayed sympathy.

The bulging-eyed brunette said:

"They're calling everybody. Now they're taking forty-three year old men. The whole world could be won over with those numbers. And don't we do our part? You do your job, we do ours!"

The man fixing the pants nodded.

"So it is!"

"I saw a field near Warsaw," continued the dark man. "There were five or six thousand Siberian Riflemen thrown into it. All dead, like so many sheaves of corn thrown in there. Why? For what? I'll tell you why... They decide this and that in the military council, and immediately then, a general goes out and secretly sends a telegram to Berlin... secretly. See? Two Siberian corps are marching straight from the station, straight to that field, to be machine-gunned. And you complain about a sock on my father used to hit me in the face , and very well, too. You have to be taught and learn to fear God. But why are all those Siberian marines being led like sheep to the slaughter? I tell you, comrades, Russia is ruined, we have been betrayed... And it was one of our peasants who betrayed us, a compatriot of mine from the village of Pokrovskoye, a vagabond... I won't even name him. from working, he started stealing horses, mixed with Raskolniki, started liking women and drinking. .. And now he is in Petersburg, as good as the Tsar himself, with ministers and generals dancing next to him. We are being slaughtered, we lie in the damp earth by the thousands, and Petersburg burns with electricity. Drinking, swallowing, they all exude fat."

It was suddenly interrupted. It was still and damp, the horses biting in the shed, one of them kicking the wall with a thud. A night bird flew from the roof into the fire and disappeared with a mournful cry. And at that very moment, from afar, a deafening roar was heard, getting closer and closer, as if a beast was rushing with incredible speed, tearing the darkness with its rays.Snout,and something pushed the earth, and beyond the shed there was an explosion that shook the ground. The horses kicked, their halters jingling. The soldier who was mending his pants nervously said:

"There she goes!"

"There's a weapon for you!"

"Just wait!"

The three raised their heads. Another sound went up for about two minutes in the starless sky, and from somewhere very close by, on his side of the shed, a second explosion rumbled, the jagged tops of the firs rose into relief, and once more the ground shook. . . Immediately afterwards, the passage of a third projectile was heard. It came with a maddening, saliva-swallowing sound, so intolerable that the listeners' hearts seemed to stop. The black soldier got up and started to back away. Something came down, like dark lightning, and a column, black and burning, flew with a piercing roar.

When the column went down there was a deep hole where the fire and the three men were. On the twisted wall of the shed, the thatched roof was a mass of yellow smoke. A long-maned horse galloped panting through the flames, darting toward the pines silhouetted against the sky.

And now, beyond the jagged edge of the plain, lightning flashed, cannons roared, rockets flew upward, trailing serpentine tails, their flames falling slowly, illuminating the damp, dark land. The projectiles pierced the sky, groaning and roaring.



That same evening, not far from the shed, on the officers' wharf, officers of a company of the Usolsk Regiment were holding a feast to celebrate the news received by Captain Tetkin of the birth of a son. Deep underground, eight officers, a doctor and three field hospital nurses sat at a table in a low cellar protected by three layers of flooring and lit by potted tallow candles. Everyone had been drinking too much. The proud father, Captain Tetkin, slept with his head on a plate of leftovers, a filthy fist hanging over his bald head. Thanks to their proximity, the drink consumed, and the soft candlelight, the nurses, in their gray gowns and headscarves, looked pretty enough. One, who was called Mushka and had a black curl at each temple, laughed nonstop, showing her white throat, which the men on either side of her, and the two seated opposite, stared at. Another, Marya Ivanovna, plump and red-faced, wonderfully sang gypsy ballads. Listeners of hers pounded the table in their frenzy, repeatedly exclaiming, "Damn it! Those were the days!" The third nurse was Elizaveta Kievna. He saw the candle flames as flickering points of light, multiplied endlessly, and through the haze of smoke the faces around the table were blotches of white, while one of them, that of his neighbor, Lieutenant Zhadov, seemed to have something that was as much terrifying and attractive about it. He was broad-shouldered, blond, clean-shaven, with clear, luminous eyes. He sat up straight, belt neatly tucked; he had had a lot to drink, but he showed it only by turning pale. When the black-haired Mushka laughed, when Marya Ivanovna picked up her guitar, she wiped her face with a crumpled handkerchief and began to sing in a deep voice: "I was born in the Moldovan steppe," Zhadov slowly smiled. with the corner of her straight lips and poured herself another glass of liqueur.

Elizaveta Kievna looked at her smooth, unlined face. He entertained her with conventional gossip, telling her, among other things, that there was a Captain Martinov in his regiment who enjoyed a reputation as a fatalist, and when he drank brandy he crossed the barbed wire and came within range of enemy fire. ., and abuse the Germans in four languages. But a few days ago he paid for his boast with an abdominal wound. Sighing, Elizaveta Kievna said that Captain Martinov must be a hero. Zhadov smiled:

"I'm sorry, there are ambitious and foolish people, but there are no heroes."

"And when you go on the attack, isn't that heroism?"

"For starters, people don'tefor the attack - aresentto attack, and they go because they are cowards. There are, of course, people who risk their lives without any compulsion, but these are men with an inherent desire to kill. Zhadov drummed on the table with the tips of his stiff nails. the pinnacle of mental development by modern standards".

Rising, she grabbed a large box of fruit jams from the far corner of the table and offered it to Elizaveta Kievna.

"No thanks, I don't want anything," she said, aware that her heart was pounding and her body was limp. "What about you, yourself? Tell me."

Zhadov's brow furrowed, his face broken into unexpected lines that made him look quite old.

"About me?" he repeated harshly. "Yesterday I shot a Jew behind the shed. You want to know if it was a cool experience? What the fuck!"

He squeezed a cigarette between his sharp teeth and struck a match; but although the fingers of the spatula which held it were steady, the cigarette did not reach the flame, could not be lit.

"Sorry, I'm drunk!" he said, throwing away the match, which had burned down to his fingertips. "Let's go on air!"

Elizaveta Kievna got up as if she were sleeping and followed him to the narrow opening leading out of the bench. They were pursued by cheerful drunken voices, and Marya Ivanovna, plucking the strings of her guitar, exclaimed hoarsely: "The night breathes the sweetness of passion."

Outside, there was a pungent smell of rot that heralds spring, and everything was dark and silent. Zhadov walked briskly across the wet grass, his hands shoved in his pockets. Elizaveta Kievna was a little behind him, smiling as if she couldn't stop. He suddenly stopped and snapped, "Well, what's up with that?"

His ears burned. Controlling a spasm rising in her throat, she replied almost inaudibly, "I don't know."

"Let's go!"

Nodding toward the deeper darkness of the shed, he took a few steps forward, then stopped and took Elizaveta Kievna's hands in an icy grip.

"I'm built like a god," he said with surprising passion. "I can break silver coins in two. I see through people like glass. I hate them!" He stopped as if remembering something and tapped his foot. All that giggling and singing and cowardly talking is hateful. They're like worms in hot dung, all of them. I will crush them... Listen! I don't love you, I can't! I will not love you... Make no mistake! But I need you... This feeling of dependence, I can't stand it... You should understand... With his hands under Elizaveta Kievna's elbows, he pulled her tightly to him and pressed her temples dry and hot like coal fire.

She pulled away, but he held her so tightly her bones felt like they were cracking, and she dropped her head, hanging heavily on his arms.

"You're not like those others, the rest of them," he said. "I'll teach you...."

She was suddenly silent, lifting her head.

A sharp, piercing sound grew louder in the darkness.

"Swearing!" Zhadov exclaimed through clenched teeth.

In the next moment, there was an explosion in the distance. Elizaveta Kievna gave another tug, but Zhadov's grip tightened even more.

"Let me go!" she screamed frantically.

Another shell exploded. Zhadov was still grumbling when a black column flecked with flame rose up behind them, just behind the shed, and the roar of the explosion sent bits of straw flying.

Elizaveta Kievna broke free of his grip and ran to the bench. The officers were running out of it. Looking back at the burning shed, they ran over the uneven surface of the land, accentuated by slanting beams of light, some to the left, towards the forest where the trenches were, others to the right, towards the communication trench. leading to the bridgehead. The German batteries were crossing the river, far beyond the hills. The shots came from two places, from the right at the bridge and from the left at the ford leading to a farmhouse recently occupied on the other side by a company of the Usolsk Regiment. Part of the fire was directed at Russian batteries.

Elizaveta Kievna saw Zhadov, hatless, hands in pockets, walking straight across the field towards the machine gun position. The next moment there was a blurred circle of smoke and fire where he had been. Elizaveta Kievna closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Zhadov was walking farther to the left, elbows still swinging happily. Captain Tetkin, standing over Elizaveta Kievna with binoculars in his eyes, angrily shouted:

"I told them we didn't need that damn farm! Now look what they've done! They destroyed the whole ford, the pigs!"

He looked through the binoculars again.

"The pigs, they're shooting right at the farm. Six Company is lost." He groaned as he rolled over, scratching hard at the bare nape of her neck. "Shlyapkin!"

"Here sir!" answered Shlyapkin smartly. He was a small man with a big nose and a Cossack cap on his head.

"Did you take the farm?"

"The wires are cut!"

Tell Company Eight to send reinforcements to the farm.

"Well done sir!" answered Shliapkin. Removing his hand from the side of his head with a jerky movement, he took a few steps and stopped.

"Lieutenant Shlyapkin!" the captain shouted again, in a ferocious tone.

"Yes sir!"

"Please obey orders!"

"Well done sir!"

Shlyapkin took a few more steps and, with his head down, began digging in the earth with his cane.

"¡Teniente Shlyapkin!"

"Here sir!"

"Do you understand when they talk to you?"

"Yes sir!"

"Give the order to Eight Company. You can tell them not to obey it, at their own expense. They will know themselves not to send men there. Have them send a dozen men to the ford to return fire." enemy. And send a message to division that Eight Company is bravely crossing the crossing. We can quote casualties in Six Company. Go! And go, young lady," he said, turning to Elizaveta Kievna. "Get out of here, the shooting will start in a minute."

At that moment, a projectile hissed and hit something nearby.


Zhadov was lying in the embrasure of the machine gun position, anxiously watching the battle through his binoculars, which did not come down for a moment. The fortification was carved into the side of a wooded hill, around which the river curved gently. To the right, the bridge, which had just caught fire, was billowing up clouds of smoke. Beyond, on the other bank, the zigzag line of trenches occupied by Company One of the Usolsk Regiment could be seen in the grassy marsh. To their left, a stream meandered its reedy course to the river. Still further to the left, beyond this creek, the three farmhouses burned; behind them, in trenches that joined and angled together, was Company Six. About three hundred paces away the German lines began, which then turned to the right and moved into the Distance, up into the wooded hills.

The river was a dull crimson from the flames of the fires that burned on either side, its waters, boiling from the ceaseless falling shells, gushing in fountains amid clouds of rusty smoke.

Most of the artillery fire was concentrated on the farmhouse.

Explosive shells continually flashed onto the burning buildings, and blurred black pillars continued to shoot along the sides of the angle formed by the junction of the trenches. From the reeds and reeds on the opposite bank of the creek came flashes of rifle fire.

The air was shaken by the boom-boom of exploding heavy bombs. Over the river and meadows on the near side, and over the trenches of Companies Two, Three, and Four, came the faint crack of shrapnel. And beyond the hills, where twelve German batteries flashed like lightning, came a steady thunder. The Russian shells responded with a high-pitched hiss as they shot through the air to the other side of the hills. The noise made the men feel as if their eardrums were bursting and their chests were sagging as fury rose in their hearts.

Things went on like this for a long, weary time. Zhadov looked at the luminous face of his watch: the hands read half past two. It would be dawn soon and an attack was expected at any moment.

And sure enough, the artillery fire was increasing, the river crackled a lot, shells rained down on the ford and on the hills on the Russian side. From time to time the earth made a hollow noise, and clay and pebbles fell from the walls and roof of the fortification. But now all was quiet at the burning farm site. Suddenly, from a great distance, dozens of rockets snaked over the river at a sharp angle, and the ground was illuminated as if by sunlight. When the rockets exploded, it was pitch black for a few minutes. The Germans were abandoning their shelters and advancing to attack.

In the dawn gloom, Zhadov finally made out figures moving across the meadow, stopping and crouching every now and then, catching up with those ahead. They didn't find the flash of a single shot coming from the direction of the farm. Turning around, Zhadov shouted: "Let them eat!"

The machine gun, trembling as if possessed by a diabolical rage, began hurriedly spitting lead, at the same time emitting pungent smoke. Figures immediately began to move faster across the meadow, and some of them crouched down. Now the entire field was covered with groups of men going on the attack. The first were rushing towards the 6th Company's shattered trenches. Several heads appeared above the trenches, and in an incredibly short space of time, a seething crowd had gathered around this place.

This fight for the farm was an infinitesimal part of the huge battle that was fought on a front of several hundred kilometers and resulted in the loss of thousands of lives on both sides.

The farmhouse had been occupied by the Russians two weeks earlier, with the idea of ​​securing a defensive position in the event of an attack from across the river. The Germans wanted to occupy it to provide themselves with an observation post closer to the river. Both objectives were of importance only to the commanders of the respective divisions, Russian and German, which formed part of the strategic plan for the spring campaign, thought out in all its details.

General Dobrov, Commander of the Russian Division, who, with the permission of the highest command, had changed his original non-Russian name to the one he now used, was playing a game of preference when word of the German attack was received. .in the sector held by the Usolsk Regiment.

The General abandoned his game of choice and, accompanied by some senior officers and a couple of aides, entered a room where there was a table covered with topographical maps. News was received from the front lines of the firefight at the ford and bridge. The general realized that the Germans intended to occupy the headquarters of the farm, the same place where he had based his famous offensive plan, a plan approved by the General Headquarters of the Corps and presented to the Army Commander. With the attack on the farm, the Germans derailed the whole plan.

Every minute phonegrams arrived confirming the account. Removing the pince-nez from the tip of his large nose, the General said, calmly but firmly, fiddling with his glasses:

"Good! I'm not going to move an inch from the position I've occupied." A telephone call was immediately sent out prescribing the measures to be taken to defend the headquarters. The Kundravin Reserve Regiment was ordered to send two battalions to reinforce Tetkin at the ford. At this time, news was received from the commander of a heavy battery that the stock of shells was running out, one gun was already out of order, and it was impossible to adequately respond to the enemy's hurricane fire.

To this General Dobrov, looking sternly at the faces around him, said:

"Great! When the shells run out, we'll fight with cold steel."

And taking a gleaming white handkerchief from the pocket of his gray tunic with its red lapels, he shook it, wiped his glasses, and bent over the map.

At that moment, junior assistant Count Bobruisky appeared in the doorway, dressed in a dark khaki uniform that fitted him like a glove.

"Your Excellency," he said, a slight smile on his thin, youthful lips, "Captain Tetkin sends word that the Eighth Company is bravely crossing the river, despite the destructive fire of the enemy."

The General looked at him through his glasses, made a chewing motion, twisting his clean-shaven upper lip, and said:

"Very good."

Despite the cheerful note that sounded, reports from the front became more and more intriguing. Kundravin's regiment, on reaching the ford, had entrenched itself there. Eight Company continued its valiant efforts to ford the river, but had not yet crossed it. Captain Islambekov, commander of a mortar division, sent word that two of his guns were broken and shells were running out. Colonel Borozdin, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Usolsk Regiment, announced that due to the exposed position, Companies Two, Three and Four had suffered heavy casualties. Therefore, he asked for permission to attack and cut down the impudent enemy, or to withdraw to the outskirts of the forest. No information was received from Company Six, which was occupying the farm.

A military council was convened at two-thirty in the morning. subway. General Dobrov said that he himself would lead the troops entrusted to him, rather than give up a centimeter of occupied territory. At that moment the news arrived that the farm had been taken and Six Company completely annihilated. The general crushed the batiste handkerchief in his hand and closed his eyes. The commander of the General Staff, Colonel Svechin, shrugged his shoulders and said in a hoarse but clear voice, blood streaming down his fleshy, black-bearded face:

Several times I have drawn Your Excellency's attention to the risk of taking a position on the right bank. We shall lose two, three, perhaps four battalions at the ford, and even if we recover the farmhouse it will be a matter of the greatest difficulty to retain it."

"We need a beachhead, we must have one and we will," said General Dobrov, with beads of sweat on his nose. "If we lose the beachhead, my plan for an offensive will be a complete failure."

Colonel Svechin, redder than ever, insisted:

"Your Excellency, under such terrible fire, the troops, inadequately supported by artillery, are physically unable to cross, and the artillery, as you know, is unable, for lack of shells, to support them."

To this the general replied:

"Fine. In that case, inform the troops that there are St. George's crosses hanging from the wire across the river. I know my soldiers."

Having uttered words so worthy of perpetuation, the general rose, dangling his gold-rimmed spectacles on the back between his stout fingers, and looked out of the window, through which, in the soft blue of the afternoon, morning mist, a birch dripping could be seen rising from the meadow. A flock of sparrows perched on its slender branches, chirped for a few minutes in a nervous noise, and flew away as suddenly as they had arrived. The whole misty meadow with its vague silhouettes of trees was now gilded by the slanting rays of the sun.

By dawn, the battle was over. The Germans occupied the farmhouse and the left bank of the creek. Nothing remained of the Russian position except the plains on the right side, where One Company was entrenched. communication with its own side now that the bridge has been destroyed. Obviously, the most rational thing would have been to get out of the swamp that very night.

But in the afternoon Colonel Borozdin, commander of the First Battalion, received instructions to prepare, cross the stream at dusk, reach the swamp and come to the reinforcement of Company One. Captain Tetkin was ordered to concentrate the forces withdrawn from Companies Five and Seven under the farm and on pontoons. The 3rd Usolsk Reserve Battalion was supposed to take up an offensive position. The Kundravin Regiment was to ford the stream at a shallow point near the burnt bridge and launch a frontal attack.

This was a final order, and the disposition was quite clear. The farm would be attacked in a pincer movement, the 1st battalion taking the right, the 2nd the left, while the Kundravin Reserve Regiment drew attention and drew enemy fire. The attack was scheduled for midnight.

At dusk, Zhadov went to see the machine guns placed at the crossroads; one of them was rowed with the greatest precautions to a small islet of about thirty meters square, covered with wickerwork. Zhadov himself stayed with him.

All day Russian batteries maintained a languid fire on the farm and beyond, on positions taken by the Germans upriver. Here and there lone rifle shots echoed across the water. The journey began at midnight and in silence, in three places at once. A section of the Belotserkovsky Regiment, posted about three miles upriver, opened live fire to draw enemy fire, but the Germans maintained a cautious silence.

Parting the intricate web of willow branches, Zhadov watched the join. A yellow star hung motionless low over the wooded hills to the right, its hazy reflection flickering on the dark surface of the water in a narrow band of light, occasionally pierced by dark objects. Running figures were shown on islets and sand reefs. Not far from Zhadov, a dozen or so were moving with gentle splashes, chest-deep water, rifles and cartridge belts on raised arms. It was men from the Kundravin regiment crossing the river.

Suddenly, in the distance on the other side, there was a sound of quick shots, shells whistling as the explosion of shrapnel exploded with metallic booms high up in the river. Each explosion lit up bearded faces rising above the water. The sandbar was crowded with men running to and fro. The bursts announced a new round of fire. The air was split with screams. The rockets soared into the sky, emitting dazzling flames. Russian batteries thundered. The current brought a writhing man to Zhadov's feet. He kept crying "My head! My head!" in a strangled voice, clinging to the branches of the willows. Zhadov flew to the other side of the islet. In the distance, pontoons full of men were crossing the river and units that had already crossed could be seen running across the field. Like yesterday, a real hurricane of fire hit the river, the crossing and the hills. The boiling wafers looked like they were full of worms: the contorted figures of soldiers fighting and screaming amid black and yellow clouds of smoke and jets of water. Those who reached the other shore began to climb ashore. Zhadov's machine guns fired at the rear. At the front, Russian shells continued to fire. Both of Captain Tetkin's companies were keeping a crossfire on the farm. The Kundravin Regiment's advance units, which later emerged to have lost half their men at the crossing, tried to make a bayonet attack, but the attack bogged down and the men crouched under tangles of barbed wire. Across the creek, through the reeds, the First Battalion advanced in tight formation. The Germans came out of their trenches.

Lying beside his machine gun and desperately clutching the wildly vibrating lock, Zhadov keptacreeping fire on a grassy knoll beyond the German trenches over which the men ran one or two and in groups, only to stumble one after another and fall prostrate. ;

"Fifty-eight, sixty," Zhadov said.

A frail figure rose, holding its head, and staggered down the slope. Zhadov turned the machine gun barrel, the figure fell to his knees and fell. "Sixty one." Suddenly, an unbearable, scorching light flashed in his eyes, and Zhadov soared into the air. He felt a searing pain in his arm.

The farmhouse and the entire line of adjacent trenches were captured. About two hundred prisoners were taken. By daylight, artillery fire had ceased on both sides. The wounded and dead were being collected. Searching the islets, the ambulance men found an overturned machine gun among the broken wicker and nearby, half buried in the sand, a soldier whose neck had been snapped. About twenty feet away, on the other side of the islet, was Zhadov, his legs in the water. When they picked him up, he groaned. A pink bone protruded from her bloodied sleeve. When Zhadov was taken to the field hospital, the doctor called Elizaveta Kievna:

"Your young man has been brought. Take him to the table immediately!"

Zhadov was unconscious, with a pointed nose and black lips. When his shirt was removed, Elizaveta Kievna saw the tattoos on his broad chest: monkeys with intertwined tails. During the operation, he clenched his teeth, convulsions running across his face.

When the torture ended and the wound healed, he opened his eyes, Elizaveta Kievna leaned over him. "Sixty-one," he said.

Zhadov raved until the morning, when he fell into a peaceful sleep. Elizaveta Kievna asked permission to take him to the large hospital attached to the division's staff.


Dasha entered the dining room. Nikolai Ivanovich and Dmitri Stepanovich (the latter had arrived two days earlier from Samara by urgent telegram) stopped talking at her entrance. Tucking the white shawl under her chin, Dasha looked at the red face and disheveled hair of her father, who had one leg tucked under him as he sat, and at Nikolai Ivanovich, with his distorted face and swollen eyelids. Dasha sat at the table next to them. Through the window one could see the clear, thin outlines of the sickle moon in the bluish darkness.

Dmitri Stepanovich was smoking, ash falling onto his fuzzy waistcoat. Nikolai Ivanovich was busy making a bunch of crumbs on the tablecloth. For a long time no one spoke.

Finally, Nikolai Ivanovich said in a choked voice:

"Why did everyone leave her? We can't do this."

"Sit down there, I'll come," said Dasha, getting up. She no longer felt pain or tiredness.

Holding the shawl in her mouth, she said, "Give him another chance, Daddy!"

Dmitri Stepanovich inhaled loudly and threw the unlit cigarette over his shoulder. The floor around him was covered in cigarette butts.

"Just one more, Dad, do it!"

At this, Nikolai Ivanovich exclaimed, his voice exasperated and unnatural:

He cannot go on living on camphor. He is dying, Dasha.

Dasha turned on him violently.

"Don't you dare say that! Don't you dare! She won't die!"

Nikolai Ivanovich's pale face shuddered. She turned to the window and, like Dasha, looked at the thin, piercing moon in the blue expanse.

"This is hell," he said. "If she dies, I just can't ..." Dasha tiptoed across the hall, took another look out the window, beyond which the eternal cold reigned, and slipped into Katya's room, where a barely lit night light glowed. the darkness conquered

At the back of the room, the little face lay, motionless as before, on the pillows of the wide, low bed, the dry, dull hair combed upwards, the narrow hand a little lower. Dasha knelt beside the bed. Katya's breathing was barely audible. After a while, she spoke in a low, plaintive voice.

"What time is it?" ' "Eight, dear Katya."

Taking a deep breath, Katya repeated her question, just as wistfully as before, like a complaint:

"What time is it?"

She had been repeating this over and over all day. Her semi-transparent face was calm, her eyes closed. She had been walking for a long time on the soft carpet of the long yellow corridor. Everything was yellow, walls, ceilings, everything. Overhead to the right, a torturous yellow light streamed in through dusty windows. To the left were many flat doors. On the other side of them, if they opened, it would be the end of the world, an abyss. Katya walked slowly as in a dream past these doors, these dusty windows. Ahead stretched the long flat corridor, all yellow. The hallway was stuffy and every door exuded a deathly desperation. When will the end come? Oh God, when? Should I stop for a moment and listen? But there is nothing to hear. Nothing but a deep hum coming from the darkness beyond the doors, like the pendulum of a grandfather clock... Ah, how sad it all was! If only I could wake up... say something, anything, something simple and human...

And with a huge effort, Katya wistfully repeated:

"What time is it?"

"Katya, what do you want to know?"

(Okay. So Dasha is here....) and once again the long carpet unfolded its mild nausea under their feet, the harsh suffocating glare filtered through the dusty panes, the clock hummed in the distance...

(Hearing nothing, seeing nothing, feeling nothing... just lying there buried in the sheets... if only the end came soon... but Dasha won't let me, she won't let me sleep... she keeps taking my hand, kissing me, murmuring, murmuring... and something vital keeps flowing from her into my light, hollow body... oh dear, oh dear... how can I explain to her how easy it is to die, easier than feel that vital thing inside of us... why won't she let me go?)

"Katyusha, I love you, I love you! Can you hear me?"

(She won't let me go, she can't bear to lose me... Sol can't die... She'll be alone, the girl, alone...)


"What's what?"

"I will not die".

A smell of tobacco: it must be the father approaching. Now he's leaning over her, pulling back the blanket, and a needle plunges into her chest, causing a sweet, sharp pain. Blessed moisture flows sweetly through her veins. The walls of the yellow corridor tremble and open, fresh air rushes in. Dasha strokes the hand lying on the bedspread, presses her lips to it, breathes warmth into it. One more minute and her body will dissolve into the sweet darkness of sleep. And then again there are the sharp yellow lines, coming out of the corners of her eyes... squeak, squeak... smug, taking on a life of its own, multiplying and building the horrible, suffocating corridor...

"Dasha! Oh, Dasha! I don't want to go there!"

Dasha's arms around her head, Dasha next to her on the pillow, squeezing her to herself, alive, strong... and pouring out of Dasha a fierce, brutal strength: "Alive!"

And then the hallway stretches out again, and Katya knows she must get up and stagger with a ton of weight on each foot. You cannot lie down; Dasha will definitely hug her, pick her up and say: "Come!"

So for three days and three nights Katya struggled with death. All the while she had the feeling of Dasha's passionate will, and if not for Dasha, she would have given up, exhausted, long ago.

Dasha did not get out of bed all afternoon and evening of the third day. The sisters seemed fused into one being, sharing the same pain, animated by the same will. Finally, at dawn, Katya began to sweat profusely and rolled over onto her side. Her breathing was barely audible. Alarmed, Dasha called her father. There was nothing he could do, and they sat and waited. A little after six in the morning, Katya sighed and turned away. The crisis had passed, the return to life had begun.

And for the first time in all these days Dasha also slept in the big armchair next to the bed. Nikolai Ivanovich, having learned that Katya was out of danger, cried into Dmitri Stepanovich's terry vest.

The day started happy. It was warm and sunny, and everyone seemed like wonderful people to each other. A vase of white lilacs sent by the florist was placed in the room. Dasha felt that she had pulled Katya with her own hands from some cold black hole and eternal darkness. Nothing on earth was more precious than life, he realized that now.

At the end of May, Nikolai Ivanovich took Ekaterina Dmitrevna out of town, to a country house, a small log house with two terraces, one facing a birch grove, through the ever-wandering green shade. Spotted calves, the other facing outwards. rolling fields.

Every evening Dasha and Nikolai Ivanovich got off the suburban train at a stop between stations and walked through the swampy meadow. Overhead, mosquitoes swarmed. So they had to go up the hill. Nikolai Ivanovich used to stop here for a while, as if to admire the sunset.

"God, how beautiful!" he exclaimed, panting slightly.

Over the rapidly darkening undulating plain, its surface mottled by fields of corn, by glades of leafy walnut trees, and by groves of birch trees, hovered the clouds that rise at sunset: purple, motionless, barren. The glow of twilight showed faintly in its long crevices, and below them, very close by, a long orange band of sky was reflected in the curve of a stream. The frogs moaned and moaned. The haystacks and roofs of the village stood out dark against the flat fields. Somewhere in the fields a fire was burning. There, somewhere, beyond the hillside and the high picket fence, False Dmitri had once made his lair. The A train appeared, with a long whistle, carrying soldiers west into the twilight darkness.

Going around the forest as they approached the house, Dasha and Nikolai Ivanovich could see, through the glass of the veranda, the table set for dinner and inside it the dull globe of the lamp. Sharik the dog ran to meet them, barking a courteous welcome; Having done that duty, he would wag his tail and run towards the absinthe, to finish his bark there, out of reach of people.

They would find Katya sitting drumming at the terrace windows; he still wasn't allowed out after dark. Nikolai Ivanovich, closing the door behind him, exclaimed: "Say what you like, it's a beautiful place!" And they sat down to eat. Katya told them about local happenings: a mad dog came from Tushino and bit two of Kishkin's chickens; the Zhilkins had moved into the Simovs' hut and their samovar was instantly stolen; the cook, Matryona, had whipped her son again.

Dasha ate in silence: the day in the city always left her exhausted. Nikolai Ivanovich, taking a bundle of newspapers from his briefcase, was preparing to read them, using his toothpick meanwhile; when he came across something unpleasant, he would click his tongue until Katya protested, "Please don't do this, Nikolai!" Dasha would go out onto the porch and sit, chin in her hand, looking out over the darkening plain, lit here and there by fires, watching the little summer stars appear. The smell of freshly watered flower beds wafted up from the small garden.

Nikolai Ivanovich, leafing through his newspapers on the porch, said:

"The war cannot last much longer for the simple reason that we and our allies in the Entente will soon have exhausted our resources."

"Do you want some sour milk?" Katya would ask him.

"If it's too cold... It's just awful! We lost Lvov and Lyublin. Miserables! How are we going to fight when the traitors stab us in the back? It's unbelievable!"

"Nikolai, don't click your tongue!"

"Leave me alone! If we lose Warsaw, I don't know how we'll survive the misfortune. Sometimes we can't help but wonder if the best thing to do would be to establish some kind of truce and then turn our bayonets on Petersburg!"

From afar came the whistle of a train. He could be heard rattling on the bridge spanning the creek which lately reflected the setting sun: he must have brought the wounded to Moscow. Nikolai Ivanovich again fiddled with his paper:

“Troops are sent to the front without rifles, they lie down in the trenches armed only with sticks. Only one rifle for every five men. " . they when they kill him. God! Oh God!

Dasha stepped off the porch and leaned against the top of the false door. The porch light fell on the bright spring leaves on the fence and path. Petya, son of Matryona, walked past with his head down, reluctant and miserable. There was nothing left for him but to go back to the kitchen, be whipped and go to bed.

Dasha went through the gate and slowly walked towards the Khimka River.

There, in the dark, on the edge of the slope, he heard: from somewhere came the bubbling of a spring, a sound that could only be heard in the dead of night. A clod of land from the dry shore cracked and fell into the water. All around were the motionless shapes of trees; its leaves rustled sleepily and all was quiet again. "When, when, oh, when?" Dasha said quietly, cracking her knuckles.

One Valentine's Day in early June, Dasha got up early and went to the kitchen to wash up so as not to wake Katya. On the table was a pile of vegetables and on top of it a strange greenish postcard, which must have been brought by the greengrocer from the post office with the newspapers. Matryona's son Petya was sitting at the gate, sobbing and tying a chicken leg to a stick. Matryona hung from the branches of a laburnum, washing herself.

Dasha poured water with the smell of a river into an earthenware bowl, lowered her shirt and looked again: what was that strange postcard? She picked it up with wet fingertips and read: "Dear Dasha, I am worried that I have not received a reply to any of my letters. Have they all been lost?"

Dasha sat up quickly, everything was spinning before her eyes, her legs were wobbly... "...My injury has healed a lot. I do gymnastics every day now and try to keep myself as fit as possible. And I'm studying English and French. I send you a kiss, Dasha, if you still remember me. I. Telegin".

Dasha thrust her arms into the straps of her nightgown and read the postcard again.

"'If you still remember me...'"

Jumping up, he ran into Katya's room and pulled back the patterned curtains at the window.

"Read, Katya, read aloud!"

But before a startled Katya could respond, Dasha sat on the edge of the bed and read it herself, only to jump up again, clasping her hands violently in front of her.

"Oh, Katya, isn't it awful?"

"But at least he's alive Dasha, that's something to be thankful for!"

"I love him!... Oh, God, what am I supposed to do?... When will the war end, when? Tell me that!"

Taking the postcard, Dasha ran to Nikolai Ivanovich. After reading it, she frantically insisted on a definitive answer to her question: "When will the war end?"

"No one can tell you that, my dear girl!"

"Then what are you doing in your idiot town union? You just talk a bunch of rubbish from morning till night! I'm going straight to town and see the Troop Commander... I'll......"

"What are you going to make him do? I'm afraid there is nothing but patience, dear Dasha!"

Dasha didn't know what to do with herself for a day or two, but then she calmed down, as if a light had gone out in her. In the evenings, she went early to her room, where she wrote to Ivan Ilyich and made packages for him, sewing them on canvas. When Katya told her about Telegin, Dasha usually said nothing; she gave up her nightly walks and spent most of her time sitting beside Katya, sewing or reading. She seemed to want to bury all her feelings deep down, create an invulnerable layer of everyday protective skin.

Although Katya made a full recovery, like Dasha, her spark went out that summer. The sisters used to tell themselves that they, and indeed everyone else today, carried a ton of weight with them. Waking up, walking, thinking, meeting people, it was an effort, they couldn't wait for the night to arrive, when, exhausted, they stumbled over the bed. His only joy was sleeping and forgetting everything. There were the Zhilkins - they had invited friends to try their freshly made jam the night before, and over tea the newspapers were brought to them, with Zhilkin's brother on the list of the dead - they died on the field of glory. The hosts had entered the house, and the guests, after sitting for some time on the porch in the dark, had quietly departed. And it was the same everywhere.

The cost of living was rising. The future was dark and gloomy. Warsaw withdrew. Brest Litovsk flew and crashed. Everywhere spies were being caught.

The steep banks of the Khimka River were infested with thieves. For a whole week people did not dare to enter the forest. The police then chased the bank robbers away, two were caught, a third escaped, to Zvenigorod district, it was said, to loot property there.

One morning a droshky, the coachman who got up to urge his horse, drove like a madman into an open space not far from the Sniokovnikovs' hut. Peasants, servants, children, came running from all directions. Something out of the ordinary must have happened. Some vacationers came out of their gardens. Matryona, wiping her hands, ran along the garden path. The driver, hot and flushed, still standing, exclaimed:

"... they dragged him out of the office and threw him in the air and threw him back on the cobblestones, and then in the Moskva River, and there were still five Germans hiding in the factory... They found three, but the police took them although, or they would have thrown them into the river in the same way... And silk and velvet are flying all over Lubyanskaya Square. Looting all over the city... Everywhere masses of people.... "

He whipped his racehorse, crouched among the curved arrows, urging the horse on with shouts and another crack of the whip, until the horse, snorting and splattered with foam, galloped the rickety carriage toward the tavern.

Dasha and Nikolai Ivanovich were in Moscow. A column of black smoke rose from that direction, turning into a cloud as it rose against the gray, hot, dark sky. The fire could be seen clearly from the town square, where peasants were gathered in groups. When any of the summer residents approached them, the conversation was silent. They looked at the nobility with something that could have been contempt, or just some kind of weird expectation. A stocky fellow, hatless, with a torn shirt, approached the small brick altar by the roadside and shouted:

They are killing Germans in Moscow!

Her scream was followed by the screams of a pregnant woman. The crowd surged toward the shrine, followed by Katya. The crowd was full of emotion.

"Warsaw train station is on fire, the Germans have set it on fire!"

"Two thousand Germans were killed!"

"Sixthousand, all were thrown into the river".

"They started with the Germans and now they continue. They say the Kuznetsky Most has been completely cleared."

"They deserve it! They've been living off our work for a long time, you pigs!"

"You can't stop people!"

"In Petrovsky Park, my sister just came from there, they found a wireless device in a house in the park, so help me! And two spies nearby, with fake beards. They were killed, of course."

"We should go everywhere summer, that's it!"

Girls carrying empty bags could be seen running down the hill next to the dam, right where the road to Moscow ran. People started yelling at them. Turning around, they waved their bags and laughed.

"Where are those girls running to?" Ekaterina Dmitrevna asked an old, dignified peasant with a tall cane, standing next to her.

[*A street in Moscow with expensive shops, many of which are owned by foreigners.]

"To plunder, gracious lady."

Dasha and Nikolai Ivanovich finally arrived, between five and six, having driven all the way in a droshky. Both were very enthusiastic and described, constantly interrupting each other, how mobs had gathered in Moscow, vandalizing German homes and shops. Several houses were set on fire. Mandel's ready-to-wear shop was looted. The Becker piano shop on Kuznetsky Most had been destroyed, pianos thrown from second-story windows and thrown into a bonfire. Lubyanskaya Square was littered with medicine and broken glass. Murders would have been committed. Patrols were called in the afternoon and the crowd dispersed. Now everything was quiet again.

"It's barbaric, of course," said Nikolai Ivanovich, winking with enthusiasm, "but I like the spirit, the power of the people. Today they loot German stores, tomorrow they may, for all we know, start building barricades. The government has deliberately allowed it that this turmoil would continue. I guarantee, they did, so that the people would find an outlet for their anger. But that's how the people acquire a taste for something more serious..."

That same night, the Zhilkins' cellar was ransacked and the Svechnikovs' clothes were stolen from the attic where they were drying. The tavern was lit all night. And for a whole week, vacationers walking around the village were haunted by strange looks and whispered words.

The Smokovnikovs returned to the city in early August, and Katya resumed her work at the hospital. This autumn, Moscow was full of Polish refugees. It was almost impossible to move along the main streets - Petrovka, Kuznetsky Most and Tverskaya. Shops, cafes and theaters were crowded, and everywhere the newly minted phrase was heard: "I beg yours!"

All this bustle and luxury - the crowded theaters and hotels, the bright and noisy streets - were protected by the living wall of an army of twelve million men, bleeding from countless wounds.

And yet, military affairs were far from prosperous. Everywhere - at the front and at home - there was talk of Rasputin's bad influence, betrayal, the impossibility of continuing to fight without a miracle from St. Nicholas.

And then, suddenly, in the midst of all this depression and corruption, General Ruzsky, without the slightest warning, stopped the advance of the German army across the open field.

* XXIV *

The beach was swept by the northeast wind in the autumn twilight. The leafless poplars bent to one side under its impact. In the old house on top of the hill, with the wooden tower, the window frames shook and the roof reverberated as if the footsteps of some heavy being were lurking in its iron plates. The wind blew through chimneys, under doors, into every nook and cranny.

From the windows you could see bare rosebushes swaying over the brown earth and jagged clouds folding the furrowed leaden sea. Everything was cold and sad.

Arkady Zhadov was sitting on a flimsy sofa in the only habitable room in the house, on the second floor. The empty sleeve of his once elegant cloak was tucked into his belt. His eyelids were puffy, but he was clean-shaven and his hairline was scrupulously straight. A muscle twitched in each cheek. Squinting to keep out the cigarette smoke, Zhadov took a sip of the red wine that came from the barrels still in the basement of his childhood home. At the other end of the sofa sat Elizaveta Kievna, also smoking and drinking wine, with a sweet smile on her lips. Zhadov taught her to be silent from morning until night, while offering her more than half a dozen bottles of vintage Cabernet. During the war, as well as during his present starving existence at "Chateau Cabernet" (the half-ruined house set amidst a few acres of vineyards which was all his property left to him after his father's death), he had amassed a lot of bitter thoughts. in Zhadov's brain.

Six months earlier, in the rear hospital, on one of his bad nights, when he was suffering from sharp pains in his amputated arm, Zhadov had said to Elizaveta Kievna, in a tone full of irritation, anger and resentment: - "Instead of keeping up all night looking at me with loving eyes, why don't you call a priest tomorrow and be done with all this nonsense?

Elizaveta Kievna paled, then nodded. They were married in the hospital. In December, Zhadov was transferred to Moscow, where he underwent another operation, and in early spring he and Elizaveta Kievna went to Anapa and settled in "Chateau Cabernet". Zhadov had absolutely no means of subsistence, and they had to sell old furniture and various household items to get money to buy food. But there was plenty of wine: vintage Cabernet, matured during the war years.

Here, in the half-ruined house with the enchanted tower of birds, a period of long and desperate inactivity began. It had been a long time since they'd said all they had to say. The future was a void. A door seemed to have finally closed for the Zhadovs.

Elizaveta Kievna struggled with little success to fill the void of intolerably long days with her company. Messy and ineffective, her efforts to please were simply ridiculous. Zhadov mocked her for her failure, and she reflected with despair that, for all her open-mindedness, as a woman she was terribly vulnerable. And yet she would not have traded this miserable life, with its insults, its intolerable boredom, its terrible submission to her husband, and its rare moments of ecstasy, for any other.

Lately, with the autumn winds whistling along the desolate coast, Zhadov was more irritable than ever. If she moved, he bared his cruel-looking teeth at her and uttered horrible words, biting off every syllable. But Elizaveta Kievna only shuddered inwardly, though her skin crawled with the insult, for, without taking her eyes off Zhadov's ravaged beautiful face, she listened to his ravings for hours on end.

He used to send her for wine in the vaulted brick cellar, which had huge spiders scurrying everywhere. There, crouched before a barrel and watching the crimson stream of Cabernet flow into the crock, Elizaveta Kievna let her thoughts run wild. In a kind of bitter trance, she imagined Arkady killing her one day, here in the cellar, and burying her under a barrel. They would spend many winter nights. I would light a candle and come down here to the candelabra. Sitting in front of a barrel and looking at the flowing wine, just as he was doing now, he suddenly called her name. "Liza!" But there would be no answer, just spiders scurrying across the walls. And for the first time in his life, he would cry from loneliness, from pure misery. Dreaming like this, Elizaveta Kievna made up for all her insults: in the end, she would triumph, not him.

The wind increased in strength. Its gusts rattled the windowpanes. A wild voice howled from the tower, a voice that would howl through the night. Not a single star shone on the sea. ,

Elizaveta Kievna went to the cellar three times to fill the jug. Zhadov sat motionless and silent. Tonight, no doubt, the lecture would be something special.

"Do we have any potatoes?" Zhadov suddenly shouted. "Surely you've noticed that I haven't eaten anything since yesterday!"

Elizaveta Kievna was stunned. Potatoes... she was so busy with her thoughts all day, trying to figure out what Arkady's attitude towards her really was, that she completely forgot about dinner. He jumped off the couch.

"Stay where you are, bitch," Zhadov said coldly. "I know very well there are no potatoes. It seems you are good for nothing on earth except to indulge in silly fantasies."

"I'll go next door, maybe they'll give us bread and potatoes in exchange for wine."

"You can do that when I finish talking. Sit down. Today I finally solved the problem of the permissibility of the crime." (Hearing this, Elizaveta Kievna wrapped herself in her shawl and snuggled into the corner of the sofa.) "This problem has haunted me since childhood. The women I met thought I was a criminal and indulged me all the time." with more enthusiasm. But I've only been able to solve the crime problem in the last twenty-four hours.

He picked up the glass, drank some of the wine greedily and lit a cigarette.

“Here I am in the trenches, a few hundred paces from the enemy. and tobacco? If I was absolutely sure they wouldn't start shooting at me, or if they did they wouldn't shoot me, then of course I would go ahead and kill and steal. And they would put my photo on the papers, like a hero." Everything, apparently, quite clear and logical. And now that I am not in the trenches, but in the "Chateau Cabernet", a few kilometers from Anapa, which prevents me from going into the village at night, breaking into Muraveichik's jewelry store and helping me with gems and gold? If Muraveichik gets in his way, I can stick a knife in him, right here, with the greatest of ease." He pointed firmly at his own throat. "How come I haven't done this before now? Again, simply because I'm afraid. Arrest, trial, execution. I'm being perfectly logical, I hope. The problem of murdering and robbing the enemy has been solved by the State, that is, according to the moral dictated by the authorities – I mean the legal code – in the affirmative sense. Consequently, the problem boils down to my personal sense of who I consider my enemy”.

“But this is when he is an enemy of the state, and you are only talking about a personal enemy,” Elizaveta Kievna said almost inaudibly.

"Very well! Next time you will preach socialism to me! Nonsense! Morality is based on the right of the individual, not of society. I tell you: the mobilization has been a brilliant success in all countries, and the war continues full steam ahead nearly three years, despite the pope's protests, simply because each of us, each individual, has outgrown the diaper phase. robberies are organized by the state. Fools and idiots still call murder, murder and theft, theft. from now on I'll call them full compliance with the rights of the individual. The tiger takes what it wants, doesn't it? I'm superior to the tiger? Who dares to limit my rights? The legal code? The worms ate it."

Zhadov put his feet together, rose slightly and began to pace around the room, which was almost dark, the grimy panes barely letting in the somber fringe of twilight.

"Millions of individuals were involved in military action, fifty million individuals are fighting on several fronts. They are organized and armed. At the moment they represent two hostile groups. But nothing prevents them from ceasing fire and joining forces one fine day and that will happen when a manesfound to say to that group of fifty million, 'Blocks, you're pointing in the wrong direction!' War is destined to end in revolt, in revolution, in world conflagration. Bayonets will be turned inward against the country's rulers. Society itself will become master of life. A mangy beggar will be placed on the throne, and everyone will bow before him. So be it. It leaves my hands freer for the fight. On the one hand, the law of the masses, on the other, the law of the individual, the naked and unbridled individual. You defend socialism, we defend the law of the jungle, iron and the organized discipline of holy anarchy."

Elizaveta Kievna's heart was beating wildly. Wasn't this the "abyss" she had dreamed of when she lived in Telegin's apartment? But it was no longer about lighthearted banter, like the "twelve points of self-provocation" hung on Liza's door by Telegin's guests... terrible, dangerous as a caged cougar. He only spoke like that because he wasn't free to act. Hearing her words, Elizaveta Kievna felt, almost satiated, the wild gallop of horses over the steppe, the glow in the sky ... she could almost hear the screams, the roar of battle, the screams of death, the steppe songs

* XXV *

At the beginning of the winter of 1916, when depression and frustrated expectations prevailed everywhere, Russian troops, digging deep tunnels in the snow and climbing the ice-covered slopes, suddenly broke into the Erzerum fortress. This was at a time when the English were suffering military setbacks in Mesopotamia and near Constantinople, when desperate battles were raging on the western front for a boathouse on the Iser, when the conquest of a few yards of bloody land was considered a great achievement. , making the Eiffel Tower hum its broadcasts to the entire world.

Also on the Austrian front, the Russian armies, under the command of General Brusilov, suddenly embarked on a determined offensive.

All this produced an international sensation. A book about the enigmatic Russian soul has come out in England. And indeed, contrary to logic and reason, after eighteen months of war and defeat, after the loss of eighteen provinces, after universal despondency, economic and political collapse, Russia has again taken the offensive on a front of thousands. of kilometers. A wave of fresh, seemingly inexhaustible strength swept across the country. Prisoners were transferred to the Russian countryside by the hundreds of thousands. Austria had received its mortal blow and was destined, two years later, to crumble slightly, like a broken vase. Germany offered a secret peace. The ruble soared. Once again, hopes were raised to end the war in one effective blow. "The Russian Soul" became exceedingly popular. The ocean liners were crowded with Russian divisions. The peasants of Oryol, Tula and Ryazan sang soldiers' songs in the streets of Thessaloniki, Marseilles and Paris, and threw themselves into bayonet attacks like madmen for the salvation of European civilization.

The offensive continued throughout the summer. New age categories were constantly called up. 43-year-old men were pulled straight from the plow. Replacement units were being formed in every city. The mobilization reached the figure of twenty-four million. The immemorial terror of the swarming Asiatic hordes hung over Germany, indeed over all of Europe.

Moscow was very empty this year: the war had absorbed most of the male population. Nikolai Ivanovich went to the front, to Minsk. Dasha and Katya led a quiet and lonely life in the city, but they had a lot to do. Short, melancholy postcards arrived from Telegin from time to time. It appeared that he had tried to escape, but was captured and taken to a fortress.

For a while, the sisters were visited by a charming young man. It was Captain Roshchin, in Moscow with the aim of receiving ammunition and equipment. Nikolai Ivanovich brought him to dinner in his Municipal Union car one day, and since then Roshchin began to visit them.

Every night, at dusk, the front door bell would ring. That was Katya's signal to get up with a pent-up sigh and go to the sideboard, where she was putting jam on a glass plate or slicing a lemon. Dasha noticed that when Roshchin followed the ring to the dining room, Katya did not immediately turn her head towards him, but waited a few seconds before showing her usual amiable smile. Vadim Petrovich Roshchin would silently bow. He was thin, with dark, sad eyes and a shapely, shaved head. Sitting down at the table, he told them the news of the war in a low, slow voice. Katya, sitting silently by the samovar, looked into his face, and her eyes, pupils dilated, showed how attentively she was listening to him. Meeting her gaze, Roshchin seemed to frown slightly, and his spurs clacked under the table. Sometimes there was a long silence, and Katya would suddenly sigh and, blushing, smile in confusion. A little before eleven, Roshchin would get up, kiss their hands—Katya's respectfully, Dasha's absently—and leave, begging them not to bother with him. His firm steps echoed for a long time in the deserted street. Katya washed and dried the cups and saucers, closed the cupboard and still quietly went to her room and locked herself inside.

One day, at sunset, Dasha was sitting by the open window. Swallows flew high over the street. Dasha could hear their high-pitched, brittle chirping and told herself that the fact that they were flying so high meant that tomorrow would be a hot day and the swallows, happy birds, didn't know there was a war.

The sun was setting, its rays bathing the city in a fine golden dust. People were sitting in the twilight in doorways and on porches. The atmosphere was melancholy, and Dasha sat down to wait she knew not what, when suddenly, not far away, a barrel organ added its eternally sentimental note to the pungency of the night. Dasha leaned her elbow on the windowsill. A woman's shrill voice rose to the roofs of the houses.

"Dry bread was my portion, cold water my drink," he sang.

Katya moved behind Dasha's chair, apparently listening too, as she was very still.

"Don't you sing very well, Katya?"

"What's all this for?" Katya suddenly screamed, her voice low and frantic. "What did they send us all this for? What did we do? When it's over I'm going to be an old woman, you know? I can't take it anymore, I can't take it!"

Pale lines formed on either side of her mouth, and she stopped beside the long curtain, breathing hard and looking at Dasha with eyes hot and dark with pain.

"I can't take it anymore, I can't take it!" he repeated, his voice low and husky. "This will never end! We will die... we will never be happy again... Hear her lament! She is singing a lament for the living!"

Dasha hugged her sister, stroked her, tried to comfort her, but Katya, holding her elbows, broke free.

A bell was heard at the front door. Katya pushed her sister away and looked toward the door. Roshchin entered in a coarse tunic and highly polished new boots. He smiled to greet Dasha and held out his hand to Katya, his smile changing to an admiring frown when he saw her face. Dasha immediately went to the dining room. As she set the table for tea, she heard Katya say to Roshchin, in a cautious tone, her voice still low and husky:

"You are going?"

Clearing his throat, he responded with a curt, "Yes."


"No, today, in an hour and a quarter."

"Where are you going?"

"To the forces in the field," he said, adding after a short pause:

"We may never meet again, you know, Ekaterina Dmitrevna, so I decided to tell you..."

"No! I don't know all about that... and you know how it is with me too..."

"Ekaterina Dmitrevna, you ..."

"You can see for yourself!" Katya screamed desperately. "Go away, I beg you!"

The cup in Dasha's hand shook. Silence fell in the room. Finally, Katya said, very quietly:

"¡Vete agora, Vadim Petrovich!"

"Bye Bye!"

He let out a short breath. Then his freshly polished boots squeaked and the front door slammed shut. Katya walked into the dining room, sat down at the table and put her hands to her face.

From that moment on, he never mentioned the man who had left again. She bore her pain bravely, though she would wake up in the morning with reddened eyelids and swollen lips. A postcard came from somewhere along the way, with greetings from Roshchin to the two sisters, and it sat on the mantelpiece until it flew away.

Every night the sisters went to Tverskoi Boulevard to hear the band. They would sit on a bench and watch brightly dressed girls in various stages of adolescence strolling under the trees. There were a large number of women and children. More rarely did a soldier pass by with a bandaged arm or a war invalid on crutches. On one of these nights, the band played a waltz: "On the Manchurian Hills". The melancholy notes of the horns rose into the night sky. Dasha took Katya's weak and thin hand.

“Katyusha,” she said, her eyes fixed on the night glow that was visible through the branches of the trees. "Do you remember: 'Unsatisfied love, tenderness that grows cold in the heart'? I believe that if we have courage, we will live until we can love without suffering... Now we know, don't we, that nothing in the world is greater than love? Sometimes I sometimes feel that Ivan Ilyich will return from captivity very different, very young. Now I love him in solitude, spiritually. But we will meet as if we had loved each other in another life.

Leaning on his shoulder, Katya said:

"Oh Dasha, my heart is so full of pain and darkness that it has grown quite old. You will live to see good times yet, but not me, mine is a barren flower."

"You should be ashamed of yourself for talking like that, Katya!"

"We need to learn to face things, child!"

On another of her evenings on the boulevard, a man in uniform came and sat at the far end of her bench. The band was playing an old waltz again. Street lamps flickered faintly behind the trees. The man next to her on the bench was looking at them so intently that the muscles in Dasha's neck tensed.

Turning around, he could not contain a soft, frightened exclamation: "It can't be!"

It was Bessonov, thin and ragged, in a loose military tunic and a cap with the insignia of the Red Cross. Rising, he silently greeted them. Dasha said: "How are you?" and pursed her lips.

Katya leaned back in the seat, in the shadow of Dasha's brim, and closed her eyes. Bessonov looked dirty, as if he was covered in dust or just dirty.

"I saw you on the boulevard yesterday and the day before," he said to Dasha, raising his eyebrows, "but I didn't dare approach you. I'll fight. They're down there, I, You'll see."

"Why do you say you're going to fight when you're with the Red Cross?" Dasha said with sudden irritation.

"Of course, in comparison, the danger is not so great, I admit. But in fact, I am deeply indifferent whether they kill me or not ... Everything is so boring, Darya Dmitrevna."

She lifted her head and fixed her dull gaze on Dasha's lips.

"They're just corpses, corpses, corpses... and it's so boring..."

"Is that what you find so annoying?" said Katya, without opening her eyes.

"Yes, boring to death, Ekaterina Dmitrevna. I still had a ray of hope, before... But all these corpses and corpses are the end... corpses and blood and chaos. So... Darya Dmitrevna, to you say In fact, I sat down next to you to ask you to give me half an hour of your time.

"For what?" Dasha asked, looking into his sick, unfamiliar face, and suddenly realized with dizzying clarity that she had never seen him before.

"I thought a lot about what happened in Crimea," Bessonov said, frowning. I would like to chat with you. His hand slowly reached into his robe pocket for his cigarette case. I would like to erase a certain unhappy impression.

Dasha narrowed her eyes; no, there was no trace of magic in that repulsive countenance. Firmly, she said:

"I think you and I have nothing to talk about," and he turned his back with a: "Goodbye, Alexei Alexeyevich!"

His face contorted in a wry smile, Bessonov raised his cap and walked away. Dasha looked at his weak back, his baggy pants that looked in imminent danger of falling off, his heavy, dusty boots... Could it be Bessonov, the demon of her virginal nights?

"Wait a minute, Katya, I'll be right back," he said hastily, and hurried after Bessonov. He had turned onto a back road. Dasha, panting, picked him up and grabbed his sleeve. He stopped and turned, lids drooping and covering his eyes like a sick bird's.

"Don't be angry with me, Alexei Alexeyevich!"

"It's not me who's angry, you refused to talk to me yourself."

"No, no, no! You misunderstood me... I like you a lot, I'll always wish you the best. But there's no point in going over the past, there's nothing left of it... I know. A lot of guilt, I'm so sorry for you..."

Shrugging her shoulders, she looked wryly past Dasha at the passers-by.

"Thanks for the compassion."

Dasha sighed. If Bessonov was a boy, he would take him home, wash him in warm water and give him sweets. But what was she supposed to do with him as he was? He had created his own pain, for his own pain and torment.

"Alexei Alexeyevich, write to me every day if you want," said Dasha, trying to look into his face as kindly as possible. "I will answer you."

Throwing her head back, she forced a laugh.

"Thanks... but paper and ink have become disgusting to me," he said, grimacing as if he'd swallowed something sour. "Darya Dmitrevna, you must be a saint or a fool... Don't you understand that you are the torture of hell sent to me while I'm still alive?"

He made an effort to go, but he seemed unable to lift his feet. Dasha stood there, head down; now he understood and regretted it, but he was insensitive. Bessonov looked at her curved neck, her tender virginal breast, visible in the slit of her white dress, and said to himself: "This is the end, this is death."

"Have mercy," he said aloud in a voice that became simple and gentle and human.

Without raising his head, he hurried to whisper: "Yes, yes!" and walked away through the trees. For the last time, Bessonov's gaze searched the crowd for his fair head. He didn't turn around once. She placed her hand against the trunk of a tree, her fingertips digging into the green bark. The earth, her last refuge, caved under her feet.

* XXVI *

The moon hung, a dark globe, over the deserted bogs. Fog shrouded the abandoned trenches. Everywhere were stumps of trees, and here and there low pines loomed dimly. It was wet and still. A line of hospital carts was coming up the narrow log entrance, single file. The front line extended only about three miles beyond the jagged outline of the forest, from which not a sound came.

In one of the carts, Bessonov lay on his back, covered with a stinking horse blanket. Every evening at sunset he had a feverish attack, his teeth chattered with cold, his body seemed to shrink, while clear, light, multicolored thoughts swirled in his brain with a kind of cold effervescence. He felt a delicious sensation of having no body weight.

Alexei Alexeyevich pulled the horse blanket up to his chin and looked up at the foggy, feverish sky. There it was: the end of the trip: fog, moonlight and the car rocking like a cradle.

The cycle of a century was completed once more, and the creak of Scythian chariot wheels could be heard again. Everything that had gone before was nothing more than a dream: the lights of Petersburg, the austere splendor of its buildings, the music in its warm, radiant halls, the excitement of curtains slowly rising in theaters, the lure of snowy nights. the woman's arms thrown back on the pillow, the dark, wild pupils of her eyes... The excitement of fame... the intoxication of fame... The gloom of the office, the happy beating of the heart and the intoxication of words that are born... The girl with the white daisies, running from the lighted corridor towards her dark room, towards her life... Everything, everything was dreams... The stopped car rocks... .. Next to the pitiful farmer , his cap fell over his eyes. He has walked beside the chariot for two thousand years... There he lies, lying in mist and moonlight, in the infinite expanse of time... Shadows advance from the darkness of ages, and to sound there is the creak of carts, their wheels leaving dark furrows all over the world. And beyond the fog there is nothing but broken chimneys, smoke rising to the sky from burning embers, and the crackle and rumble of wagons. And the creaking and rumbling of the wagons grows louder and louder, until the air resounds with the ominous rumble...

The car stopped abruptly. Through the roar that filled the pale night, the alarmed voices of drivers could be heard. Bessonov raised himself up on one elbow. High above the trees floated a long column, with shining facets; it spun, bright, with engines roaring, and from inside came a blue-white beam of light, which crossed the swamp, the stumps, the felled trees, the pine forest, and landed on the road, on the carts.

Above the noise came faint sounds like the rapid tapping of a metronome. They all fell off the wagons. The ambulance car fell into the swamp and overturned. And about thirty meters from Bessonov, a bush of dazzling light flashed on the road. A horse and wagon rose into the air in a black heap, a huge column of smoke rolled upwards, and the entire wagon train came crashing down in thunder and swirls. Horses galloped through the swamp, dragging the fronts of their wagons behind them, men running to and fro. The cart on which Bessonov was lying suddenly jolted and overturned, and Alexei Alexeyevich rolled off the road and into the ditch; he was hit hard in the back by a bag that fell and half buried in the straw.

The Zeppelin dropped a second bomb, then the hum of its engines died away and was heard no more. Bessonov, groaning, began to get out of the straw; crawling with difficulty under the luggage that half-covered him, he shook himself off and started back up the trail. Some carriages lay on their sides, their front parts missing; in the swamp a horse, still in harness, lay with its head thrown back, one hind leg trembling automatically.

Bessonov touched his head and face; there was a sticky patch behind her ear, and she held the handkerchief against the scratch as she walked down the path toward the woods. Her legs were shaking so badly from the fright and the fall that after a few steps he had to sit down on a pile of rubble. He longed for a drink of brandy, but her bottle was with the luggage in the ditch. With an effort, he took the pipe and matches out of his pocket and lit them, but the tobacco tasted bitter and unpleasant. Then he remembered the fever: he was in a hurry, he had to get to the bush at all costs, where he had been told the battery was parked. She got up, but her legs gave out completely, felt like wood and felt nothing above her knees. He dropped back to the floor and started rubbing himself, reaching and pinching his legs and when the pain started to build up he kept walking.

The moon was high in the sky now, and the road wound endlessly through the mist over the lonely marsh. With his hands behind his back, rocking, lifting and dragging his heavy boots, each of which seemed to weigh a ton, Bessonov carried on a constant conversation with himself:

"Go with you, go with you, before the wheels roll over you... you wrote verses, you seduced foolish women... they picked you up and threw you away, with you until sunset, until you fell Protest as much as you like Protest, howl... Go, scream as loud as you can, howl...

Suddenly Bessonov turned around. A shiver ran down her spine as she saw a gray shadow glide across the path. Then he grinned and scrambled halfway down the path, uttering broken, meaningless sentences aloud. In a few moments, he cast a wary glance behind him. I was there! A dog with a huge head and long legs followed him at a distance of about fifty feet.

"Conviction!" Bessonov muttered, but quickened his pace and looked over his shoulder again. Now five dogs followed in single file, nose down, all gray, hindquarters drooping, Bessonov threw a stone at them. "I...! Stand back, you filthy beasts!"

The creatures silently descended into the swamp. Bessonov picked up a few stones, stopping every now and then to throw one... Then he continued whistling and shouting: "Hello!" The animals went back up the path and again followed in single file.

Bessonov came to a roadside plantation of low spruce trees and right here, at a bend in the road, he saw a human figure ahead. He stopped, looked around and slowly disappeared into the shade of the pines.

"Hell!" whispered Bessonov, and he himself retreated into the shade, standing there for a long time, waiting for the violent beating of his heart to subside. The animals also stopped not far away. The first of them had its snout in its paw. The man in front didn't move. Bessonov saw, in clear relief, a long cloud, white and transparent, resting against the moon. Then there was a sound that entered his brain with the sharpness of a needle, the snap of a branch underfoot, probably the unknown man. Bessonov stepped quickly into the middle of the street and kept walking, his fists clenched menacingly. Finally, to his right, he saw the man, a tall, round-shouldered soldier with his coat thrown over his shoulders. His long, browless face looked lifeless, gray-skinned, with a slightly open mouth.

"Hello!" Bessonov shouted. "What is your regiment?"

I'm from battery two.

"Come on, take me there!"

The soldier said nothing, but looked at the motionless Bessonov with a dark look. Finally, he turned his head to the left.

"What are those things over there?"

"Dogs," Bessonov called impatiently.

"Oh no, they're not, they're not dogs!"

Come on, turn around and take me to the battery.

"I won't go there," said [the soldier calmly.

"Look, I have a fever! You take me, I'll pay you."

"I'm not going that way," the soldier repeated, raising his voice. "I am a deserter."

"They'll get you anyway, you fool!"

"Very likely."

Bessonov looked over his shoulder. The animals were gone, they must have gone to the pine plantation.

"Are you far from the battery?"

The soldier did not answer. But when Bessonov turned to continue, the soldier grabbed his arm just above the elbow, firmly, like pincers.

"You don't go there!" he said.

"Let go of my arm!"

"I won't!"

Still holding Bessonov's arm, the soldier looked up at the sky above the spruce grove. "I haven't eaten anything since the day before yesterday. I was napping in the trench just now and I heard someone coming. It's the unit, I think to myself. I lay down. They're coming, many of them, marching in step on the road. And now? I peek out from the ditch, they are walking in their shrouds, they are endless... like mist."

"What are you talking about?" Bessonov shouted in a frantic voice, trying to break free.

"It's true what I'm telling you, pig!"

Bessonov snatched the sleeve from the man's hands and ran, though his legs still felt like they were made of cotton and didn't belong to him. The soldier, walking behind him in his heavy boots and breathing hard, grabbed his shoulder. Bessonov fell, covering his throat and head with his hands. The soldier, panting, lunged at Bessonov, digging his hard fingers into his throat and squeezing... Then he froze, as if frozen to the spot.

"So that's what you are, that's what you are!" he whispered through clenched teeth. A long tremor shook the body of the man lying on the floor, and then he seemed to stretch out and collapse, as if crushed into dust. The soldier released him, got to his feet, picked up his cap, and continued down the trail, without turning to look at the work. Staggering, he shook his head and sat up, feet dangling over the ditch.

"And now, now where?" the soldier told himself. "My death! Come on, devour me, beasts..."


Ivan Ilyich Telegin tried to escape from the concentration camp, but was captured and taken to a fortress, in solitary confinement. He immediately began planning a second escape and forced himself through one of the bars opposite his window for six weeks. In the middle of summer, the entire fortress was unexpectedly evacuated, and Telegin, as a man under pity, was sent to the so-called "Rotten Hole". It was a horrible, depressing place: four long military huts, surrounded by tangles of barbed wire, sat in a field of grass in a large depression in the ground. In the distance, at the foot of a ridge, where brick chimneys rose steeply into the sky, a single-track railway began, its rusty line stretching across the marsh and ending not far from the huts in the deep hollow. from the previous year's work, during which more than five thousand Russian soldiers died of typhus and dysentery. Across the tawny plain rose the jagged zigzag of the purple Carpathian range. To the north of the huts, far out in the swamp, could be seen a multitude of wooden crosses. On hot days, when steam rose from the plain and horseflies buzzed, the dull red sun constantly rotted this place of despair.

Here the conditions were severe and the food terrible. Half of the prisoners suffered from intestinal disorders, malaria, ulcers and skin rashes. Despite this, however, the mood on the pitch was optimistic. Brusilov was advancing despite fierce resistance, the French having defeated the Germans in Champagne, and at Verdun the Turks were being driven out of Asia Minor. The end of the war did indeed appear to be in sight.

But the summer passed and the rains began. Brusilov had conquered neither Kraków nor Lvov, and fierce fighting on the French front had subsided. The Central Powers and the Entente licked their wounds. It was quite clear that the end of the war was again postponed until the autumn.

That's when despair settled in "Buraco Podre". Viskoboinikov, the man who slept in the bed next to Telegin, suddenly stopped shaving and washing and lay for days in his unmade bed, refusing to answer questions. From time to time, he would get up grimacing and scratching himself violently. Reddish sores appeared and disappeared on his skin. One night he woke Ivan Ilyich to ask him in a hollow tone:

"Is married?"


"I have a wife and daughter in Tver. Make sure you go see them!"

"Enough, go to sleep!"

"I mean, sleep soundly, brother."

Viskoboinikov did not respond to the morning roll call. They found him hanging by his thin leather belt from a peg in the toilet bowl. There was great excitement in the hut. The prisoners crowded around the body, which lay on the ground. The beams from a lamppost illuminated a face convulsed with intolerable suffering, revealing the marks of his scratches through his ragged shirt. The lantern cast a dim light and the faces of the living bent over the corpse were swollen, yellowed, distorted. One of them, Lieutenant Colonel Melshin, turned in the darkness of the hut and said aloud:

"Are we going to take this lying down, comrades?"

A confused murmur rose from the crowd and the cots. The outer door was flung open and an Austrian officer, the camp commander, appeared. The prisoners made way for him to approach the corpse, and instantly loud voices were raised:

"Let's not take it lying down!"

"Take a man to his death!"

"It's your system!"

"I myself am rotting alive!"

"We are not damned!"

"They still haven't been hit enough, dammit!" Standing on tiptoe, the commander shouted:

"Silence! To your seats! Russian pigs!"

"What? What did he say?"

"We are Russian pigs, right?"

Captain Zhukov, a stocky man with a thick, unkempt beard, immediately made his way to the commander. Sticking his thumb directly into the Austrian officer's face in an obscene gesture, he gasped:

"See that, you son of a bitch? See that?"

Then, shaking his furry head, he grabbed the commander's shoulders, shook him furiously, knocked him off his feet, and landed on top of him.

The officers, forming a tight circle around the combatants, fell silent. But in the next minute, footsteps of running soldiers trampling the planks were heard, and the commander shouted: "Help!" Telegin nudged his comrades, exclaiming: "Are they crazy? He will strangle him!" and grabbing Zhukov by the shoulders, he dragged him away from the Austrian.

"You are a shameless man!" he said in German to the commander.

Zhukov was breathing hard.

"Let go of me, I'll show him who's a pig!" he said quietly. But the commander was already on his feet. He straightened his crumpled cap, cast a searching look at the faces of Zhukov, Telegin, Melshin and two or three others standing there, as if to memorize their features, and left the hut with a loud jingle of spurs. The gate was immediately closed and sentries posted outside.

That morning there was no inspection visit, no sound of drums, no emission of acorn coffee. Around noon, some soldiers entered the hut with a stretcher and took away Viskoboinikov's body. Then the door closed again. Prisoners walked between beds, many just lay down. He lay as still as death in the hut. Everyone noticed the situation: mutiny, attack on an officer, court-martial.

Ivan Ilyich started the day as usual, without deviating from a single rule that he had set himself and obeyed for more than a year: at six o'clock he had pumped out a bucket of brown water. , he washed and scrubbed, did a hundred and one gymnastic exercises, taking care to make the muscles crack, dressed and shaved. Now, as there was no coffee that day, he sat down to his German grammar on an empty stomach.

The most difficult and destructive factor of life in captivity was forced salute. Many were saddened by this: a man suddenly began to powder his face, make up his eyes and eyebrows and gossip all day with a friend of similar tastes; another shunned his comrades, spent the day lying down, with a tattered blanket over his head, unwashed, unattended; yet another would start using obscene language, pester everyone with fantastic stories, and finally commit some obscenity that would result in his being sent to the ward.

From all this there was only one salvation: austerity. During his captivity Telegin became sullen and his body, the muscles hard as iron, withered; his movements were jerky and there was a cold, stubborn glint in his eyes; in moments of anger or determination, they can be terrifying.

On this particular day, Telegin opened his tattered Spielhagen and began memorizing the German words he had written the night before, even more meticulously than usual. Zhukov came over and sat down on the edge of his bunk, but Ivan Ilyich did not turn around and continued reading in a low voice. Sighing, Zhukov said:

"I'll pretend I'm angry about the trial, Ivan Ilyich."

Telegin looked at him sternly. Zhukov's rosy, good-natured face, with its broad nose, curly beard, and soft, warm lips visible through its unkempt moustache, was downcast and guilty; her pale eyelashes fluttered continuously.

“What possessed me to do this? I was crazy... Do you think I should?

"Look, Zhukov," replied Ivan Ilyich, holding his place in the book with one finger. "Some of us are doomed to be realize that?"


"So maybe it's easier not to make a fool of yourself in court... what do you think?"

"I guess you're right."

"None of your comrades blame you. It's just that the price of the pleasure of punching an Austrian in the jaw is a little high, you know?"

"Ivan Ilyich! If you only knew how I feel about letting my comrades stand trial!"

Zhukov shook his shaggy head.

"I wish the beasts would doto meinside, and no one else!"

He continued to speak in this tone for a long time, but Telegin paid no further attention to him and continued to read his Spielhagen. After a while he got up, stretching himself to Mrs. pop. At that moment, the outer door was flung open and four soldiers entered with bayonets stuck in, positioning themselves on either side of the door and rattling the bolts of their rifles. Behind them came the Sergeant Major, a grumpy fellow with a bandage over his eye, who looked around the hut and shouted in a hollow, fierce voice:

"Captain Zhukov, Lieutenant Colonel Melshin, Second Lieutenant Ivanov, Second Lieutenant Ubeiko, Second Lieutenant Telegin..."

The named men stepped forward, the Sergeant Major looking questioningly at each of them. The soldiers surrounded them and led them out of the hut through the courtyard to a small wooden house, the commander's office. Here was a newly arrived military car. The barriers that blocked the way through the tangles of barbed wire to the road had been removed. The sentry stood motionless beside the striped guardhouse. In the car, leaning against the front seat, was the driver, a boy with swollen eyelids. Telegin nudged Melshin, who was walking beside him.

"Can you drive a car?"

"Yes, why?"


They were shown into the commandant's office, where three newly arrived senior Austrian officers were seated at a wooden table covered with pink blotter. One of them, with a clean-shaven bluish chin and red spots on his fat cheeks, was smoking a cigar. Telegin noticed that he did not even look at them when they entered. His hands were on the table, the fat hairy fingers intertwined; eyes squinted to keep out cigar smoke, neck jutting out over neck. That has already been decided in advance, Telegin told himself.

The presiding judge was a thin old man whose long, grim face had a few scrupulously clean wrinkles and a fluffy white moustache. One of his eyebrows was raised by a monocle. through the glass of the monocle, on Telegin, the look was clear, intelligent and kind, and the ends of the mustache twitched.

That looks bad, thought Ivan Ilych, and looked at the third judge, in front of whom were horn-rimmed glasses and a folded sheet of neatly written paper.

He was a stocky man, with a pale, earthy complexion, with frizzy brush,and huge prominent ears. Everything about him indicated the former activist, and a failure.

As the defendants stood in front of the table, this man slowly put on his glasses, smoothed the sheet of paper with a dry palm and suddenly began reading the indictment, exposing his yellow artificial teeth.

On one side of the table, brows furrowed and lips pursed, sat the chief complainant, the commander. Telegin tried with all his nerves to follow the words of the accusation, but the thoughts of Do what he wants worked strongly and actively in another direction.

"... when the suicide bomber's body was brought into the hut, several Russians, taking advantage of the incident to incite their comrades to open insubordination to the authorities, began to shout abusive and outrageous expressions, threateningly clenching their fists. In the hands of the Lieutenant Colonel Melshin, for example, there was an open razor..."

Through the window, Ivan Ilyich saw the young chauffeur, picking his nose, leaning sideways on the seat and covering his eyes with the huge brim of his cap. Two short soldiers with blue cloaks draped over their shoulders walked to the car and stood looking at it; one of them crouched down and poked one of the tires with his finger. Then the two turned: the field kitchen entered the courtyard, its chimney smoking peacefully. He went to the huts and the soldiers lazily approached. The driver didn't look up or turn around; he must have fallen asleep. Telegin, biting his lips with nervous impatience, once again turned his attention to the prosecutor's gruff voice:

"...the aforementioned Captain Zhukov, deliberately threatening the Herr Commandant's life, began by bringing his hand to his face with clenched fingers, thumb protruding between his index and middle fingers; this obscene gesture was apparently intended as an insult to the imperial uniform..."

Hearing these words, the commander got up and, with a face full of red spots, began to explain in detail to the court the somewhat obscure story of the captain's fingers. Zhukov himself, who understood very little German, listened with all his might and showed that he wanted to say a word, looking at his comrades with a guilty good-natured smile; Finally, he couldn't hold back any longer and addressed the prosecutor in Russian: "Herr Colonel, let me explain. I said, 'Why are you treating us like this? Why?' ... I don't know German, so you'll see I tried to explain it to him on my fingers."

"Call to mouth, Jukov!" Sibilou Ivan Ilitch.

The presiding judge tapped the table with a pencil. The prosecutor continued reading the indictment.

Describing how and where exactly Zhukov seized the commander and, "throwing him on his back, pressed his thumbs to the plaintiff's throat, with a view to causing his death," the prosecutor moved on to the most sinister point of the charge. : "... pushing and shouting, the Russians urged the murderer on; one of them, namely 2nd Lieutenant Johann Telegin, hearing the footsteps of the soldiers rushing to the rescue, pushed Zhukov aside, and Herr Commandant I was a distance away hair's breadth away from death". At this point, the prosecutor, pausing, smiled in satisfaction. “But at that moment the guard on duty appeared and Telegin could only shout: 'You scoundrel!' for his victim."

Then came an ingenious psychological analysis of the behavior of Telegin, "who is known to have made two previous escape attempts...". murder wielding a razor. To add to the strength of the charge, the Colonel exonerated Ivanov and Ubeiko for having "acted under the influence of temporary 'insanity'".

When the indictment was read, the commander confirmed all his statements. The soldiers were interrogated: their testimony showed that the first three defendants were undoubtedly guilty, while the other two were unknown to them. The presiding judge, wringing his hands, proposed that Ivanov and Ubeiko be acquitted for lack of incriminating evidence. The red-faced officer, who had smoked his cigar to the end, nodded; the prosecutor, after some hesitation, also agreed. Two of the convoy soldiers raised their arms to their shoulders.

"Farewell, comrades," said Telegin.

Ivanov lowered his head, Ubeiko looked at Ivan Ilyich with silent horror.

They were taken away and the presiding judge gave the defendants a chance to speak for themselves.

Do you plead guilty to inciting a riot and making an attempt on the camp commander's life? he asked Telegin.


"Is there anything else you want to say?"

"The allegation is false from beginning to end."

The commander jumped up angrily, demanding an explanation, but the presiding judge stopped him with a wave of his hand.

"Don't you have anything to add to your statement?"

"Nothing at all".

Telegin moved away from the table and looked at Zhukov. The latter, blushing and puffing, gave the same answers to all questions, word for word, as Telegin. Melshin did the same. The presiding judge listened to the responses and closed his eyes wearily. At last the judges rose and passed into the next room, the caricatured official, who arrived last, pausing at the door to spit out what was "of his cigar and stretch generously.

"They will kill us, I realized the moment we entered," said Telegin calmly.

"A glass of water, please," he said, turning toward the train.

The soldier ran to the table and began pouring muddy water from the pitcher, never lowering his weapon. Ivan Ilyich quickly whispered in Melshin's ear:

"When they get us out, try to start the engine."

"I follow you."

The judges returned within a minute and assumed their previous positions. The presiding judge slowly removed his monocle and, holding a piece of paper that trembled slightly before his eyes, read the short sentence condemning Telegin, Zhukov and Melshin to be shot.

Hearing these words, Ivan Ilyich, despite his earlier conviction about the sentence, felt as if blood were leaking from his heart. Zhukov's head tilted. Melshin, strong, broad-shouldered, aquiline-nosed, slowly licked his lips.

The presiding judge wiped his tired eyes and said, covering them with the palm of his hand, in a clear but low voice:

"The Herr Commandant is instructed to carry out the sentence immediately."

The judges rose. Only the commander sat upright for a few seconds, his face a sickly green. Then he, too, rose, straightened his immaculate uniform, and ordered the two remaining soldiers, in an exaggeratedly gruff voice, to bring out the condemned. Telegin managed to stand at the narrow gate and let Melshin out first. Melshin, as if feeling weak, grabbed one of the convoys by the sleeve and muttered under his breath:

"Come a little closer, please... My stomach hurts, I can't take it..."

The soldier looked at him in astonishment, pushing him away and giving him a terrified look, as if he didn't know what to do in the face of such an unforeseen contingency. But Melshin managed to drag him to the front of the car, where he crouched down, grimacing and panting, trembling fingers gripping his pants buttons, now the crank. The convoy's face expressed a mixture of pity and disgust.

"Sit down, then, if you have a stomach ache," he said angrily. "Hurry up!"

Melshin suddenly turned the starter with frantic force. The soldier bent over him, terrified, trying to drag him away. The driver started the engine, shouted something angrily and jumped out of the car. Everything that followed was a matter of seconds. Telegin, trying to stay as close as possible to the second convoy, followed Melshin's movements under his brows. Soon he heard the engine thumping and his heart began to beat in rhythm with that fascinating spasmodic beat.

"Take his rifle, Zhukov!" he yelled, grabbing his convoy around the waist and pulling him up before throwing him violently to the ground. A few jumps took him to the car, where Melshin was struggling to wrest the soldier's rifle away. Ivan Ilyich delivered a flying blow to the soldier's neck, making him fall to the ground with a groan. Melshin threw himself behind the wheel and released the gear. Ivan Ilyich clearly saw Zhukov getting into the car, loaded with the rifle, and the young driver crawling to the wall and suddenly leaning out of the door of the commandant's office; then a long, distorted, monocled face appeared in a window, and the major's figure ran out onto the porch, revolver in hand, dancing wildly. Pop! Pop! "Lost! Lost! Lost!" The wheels looked like they grew out of the grass. But at last the gears engaged and the car lurched forward. Telegin sank back into the leather cushions. The wind was blowing harder in his face, the striped sentry, with the sentry aiming his rifle, coming closer and closer. Pop! The car whizzed past him like a cyclone. Behind him, across the courtyard, soldiers ran and fell to their knees. Pop! Pop! Pop! Faint shots rang out. Turning around, Zhukov shook his fist in her direction. Now the sad square of huts began to get smaller and smaller, lower and lower, and the whole camp disappeared into a corner. Poles, bushes, figures on milestones rushed to meet him and flew dizzily.

Melshin turned his head: his forehead, one eye and one cheek were dripping with blood.

"Right?" he shouted to Telegin.

Go straight and cross the bridge, then right towards the hills.


The Carpathian Mountains are lonely and gloomy on a windy autumn afternoon. The fugitives' hearts were heavy and anxious as they reached the top along the winding, rain-washed road to the rocks. A few tall pines swayed over a ravine. Below, in the smoky haze, an almost invisible forest hummed low. Still below, at the very bottom of the abyss, a rushing torrent roared and splashed over the clattering stones.

Behind the trunks of the pines, far beyond the lone wooded tops of the mountains, a long ray of sunlight shone through the leaden clouds. The wind was blowing free and strong at this height, ruffling the car's leather bumper.

The fugitives remained silent. Telegin examined the map, Melshin, elbow on the steering wheel, looked towards the setting sun. His head was bandaged with a cloth.

What are we going to do with the car? he asked quietly. "No more gasoline."

"We can't leave him here, God forbid!" said Telegin. "The only thing to do is throw E over the edge," said Melshin. Then he groaned and jumped onto the road, kicking up and down to straighten his legs, and began to shake Zhukov's shoulder.

"Wake up, Captain! We're here!"

Zhukov got out of the car without opening his eyes, stumbled and sat down on a stone. Ivan Ilyich took from the car some leather coats and a basket of provisions, intended for the judges' dinner in the "Rotten Hole". They stuffed their pockets with groceries, pulled on their coats and, grabbing the car by the fenders, rolled to the edge of the cliff.

"You've done your part, dear," said Melshin. "Now then, all together!"

The front wheels swayed over the precipice. The long dusty gray car, with its leather upholstery and brass fittings, as obedient as if it were alive, dipped, banked and shot downwards, sending up a shower of stones and debris; it caught momentarily on a ledge, hit, turned, and skidded down the slope, with a rising clatter of flying rocks and shards of metal, until it hit the bottom of the creek. An echo picked up the sound and sent it rolling across the misty canyons.

The fugitives entered the woods and walked along the road. They spoke little and in whispers. It was now quite dark. The pines murmured solemnly overhead, with a sound like water falling in the distance.

From time to time Telegin went down the road to see some landmark. At one place, where they thought there might be a military post, they took a wide detour, up and down several ravines, stumbling in the dark over fallen trees and mountain streams, getting soaked and tearing their clothes. They walked all night. One morning they heard the noise of a wagon and threw themselves into a ditch as the wagon passed so close that they could even hear the sound of voices inside it. -

In the morning, they chose a place to rest on the bank of a creek in a remote, wooded ravine. There they sat down to eat, drinking almost half of the brandy from the flask, after which Zhukov asked them to shave their beards with a rusty razor that they found in the car. When his beard and mustache were removed, he was seen to have a surprisingly youthful chin and full lips. Telegin and Melshin kept pointing at him and laughing. Zhukov squealed with delight, smacking his lips. He was just drunk. They covered him with leaves and invited him to sleep. Telegin and Melshin spread the map on the grass, each making a small topographical copy of it. They decided to part the next day: Melshin and Zhukov to go to Romania, Telegin to go to Galicia. They buried the big map in the ground. Then they made a bed of dry leaves, curled up on it and instantly fell asleep.

At the top of the trail above the ravine stood a man leaning on his rifle. It was the sentry guarding the bridge. Around and below him, in the wooded desert, silence reigned, broken only by the heavy flight of a woodcock flying over the clearing, its wings brushing the tops of the young fir trees, and the dull sound of rushing water falling somewhere in the middle of the forest. forest. distance. The sentry stood for a moment, then walked away, slinging his rifle over his shoulder.

When Ivan Ilyich opened his eyes, it was already night; there were bright stars twinkling among the still black branches. He began to review the events of the previous day, but the memory of the mental strain during the test and the escape was so painful that he tried to banish all thoughts of them.

"Ivan Ilyich, are you awake?" Melshin asked quietly. "Yes, I've been awake for a long time. Get up and wake up Zhukov."

An hour later, Ivan Ilyich was walking alone along the road, which glowed white in the dark.

* XXIX *

On the tenth day, Telegin reached the combat zone. He had been able to advance only at night, taking refuge in the woods as day approached or, when forced down onto the plain, choosing to spend the night as far away from the men's quarters as possible. He lived on raw vegetables he stole from the gardens.

The night was cold and rainy. Ivan Ilyich had to travel the main road between ambulances full of the wounded on their way to the west, farm wagons loaded with household items, and crowds of women and old men carrying children, bundles and household items in their arms.

From the opposite direction, to the east, came military convoys of baggage and troops. It seemed incredible that 1914 and 1915 had passed, and 1916 had come to an end, and farm wagons continued to creak along the uneven roads, along which the inhabitants of the burning villages walked in resigned despair. But now the huge military horses were almost too exhausted to move, the soldiers ragged and shorter, the homeless crowd silent and apathetic. And in the east, where the icy wind blew away the low clouds, men continued to kill men, unable to exterminate themselves.

A great mass of people and wagons moved in the dark over the marshy plain and along the bridge that spanned the rushing river. Wheels rumbled, whips cracked, orders sounded, countless lanterns bobbed up and down, their beams falling into the murky waters swirling around the bridge pilings.

Going down the slope next to the road, Ivan Ilyich reached the bridge. A transport was crossing it and it was useless to think about reaching the other side before dawn.

By the time they reached the bridge, the horses were pulling the axles, digging their hooves into the wet planks and dragging the heavy loads with difficulty. At the entrance to the bridge was a man on horseback, his cloak fluttering in the wind, holding a lantern and shouting hoarsely. An old man approached him and took off his cap, evidently making a wish. In response, the knight hit him in the face with the iron edge of the lantern, and the old man fell to the ground, rolling under the wheels of a wagon.

The other end of the bridge was lost in darkness, but there was such a maze of dancing lights that there seemed to be thousands of refugees there. Transport continued. Ivan Ilyich was standing next to a cart, in which she was sitting, wrapped in a blanket, a thin woman with hair falling over her eyes. In one hand he held a cage, in the other he held the reins. Suddenly, the procession stopped. The woman looked around terrified. From across the bridge came a murmur of voices, and the lights rose and fell faster than ever. Something had happened. A horse screamed wildly, as only animals do. There was a prolonged cry, in Polish: "Save yourselves!" And in the next moment the air was ripped by a hail of gunfire. The horses spurred, the wagons rattled, the voices of the women and children turned to wails and screams.

Intermittent flashes came from afar, and the sound of counterattacks from the right carried as far as the bridge. Ivan Ilych climbed onto a wheel hub to get a better view. His heart was beating like a sledgehammer. The shots seemed to be coming from all directions, from all over the river. The woman with the cage got out of the car; Her skirt caught and she fell, screaming "Help!" in a deep voice. The cage with the bird rolled along the side of the road.

Amid shouts and rattles, the wagons began to cross the bridge again, this time at a trot. "Stop stop!" frantic voices shouted. Ivan Ilyich saw a large wagon turn right on the edge of the bridge and fall against the railing into the river. He jumped off the wheel, leapt over scattered pieces, reached the car and threw himself face first into the moving car. His nostrils were immediately assaulted by the sweet smell of freshly baked bread. He reached under the canvas, cracked a crust off a loaf of bread, and, nearly choking with extreme desire, began to eat.

Amidst confusion and gunfire, the train finally made it to the other side of the bridge. Ivan Ilych jumped out, pushed his way through the wagons full of refugees in the field and walked along the road. From snippets of conversation he overheard in the dark, he deduced that the shots were aimed at an enemy, namely a Russian mounted patrol. This meant that the front lines were no more than six or seven miles away.

Ivan Ilyich stopped from time to time to catch his breath. It was hard going, against the wind and rain. His knees ached, his face burned, his eyes were puffy and puffy. Eventually he had to sit on a mound at the edge of a ditch and rest his face in his hands. Cold raindrops ran down his neck, his whole body ached.

In the next minute, a dull, hollow sound, like a distant sigh, reached his ears, as if, somewhere far away, the ground was caving in. A moment later, the night sighed again. Ivan Ilyich raised his head to listen. Between these two deep sighs, he heard a muffled murmur, now fading, now rising to a furious roar. The sound did not come from the direction in which Ivan Ilych was going, but from the left, almost opposite.

He sat down on the far side of the ditch: low, ragged clouds could now be clearly seen rushing across the leaden gloomy sky. That was early morning. it was east. There was Russia.

Ivan Ilyich got to his feet, adjusted his belt and stumbled, slipping in the mud, in that direction, across wet stubble, ditches and partially filled-in remains of last year's trenches.

At dawn, Telegin saw again, across the field, a road covered with people and vehicles. He stood still, looking around. To one side, under a huge, nearly leafless tree, was a whitewashed shrine. The door had been blown off its hinges and soggy leaves lay on the circular ceiling and floor. Ivan Ilyich decided to wait here until nightfall, and entered the sanctuary to lie down on the mossy ground. The faint, sickening smell of rotting leaves made her head spin. The clatter of wheels and the crack of whips could be heard in the distance. These sounds, which were incredibly comforting, suddenly stopped. His fingers seemed to be pressing her eyelids closed. But something alive little by little invaded his leaden dream. He seemed to struggle in vain to become a dream. However, his weariness was so overwhelming that Ivan Ilyich only groaned and fell even deeper into sleep. But the living being would not give him peace, however. His sleep began to fade and once more the wheels thundered in the distance. Ivan Ilyich sighed and sat down.

Through the door could be seen dense flat clouds, under whose watery and leaden bases the setting sun cast broad rays of light. A liquid splash of light landed on the shrine's crumbling wall, illuminating the bowed head of a weather-beaten wooden Madonna with a golden halo; the girl, her print dress rotting away, lay in his lap, and her hand, raised in benediction, was broken at the wrist.

Ivan Ilyich left the shrine. On the front stone step sat a young woman with a child in her arms. He was wearing a white jacket, splattered with mud. One hand landed on her cheek, the other landed on the brightly colored duvet around the baby. He slowly raised his head and looked at Ivan Ilyich. His gaze was bright and strange, his tear-stained features twitched as if in a smile, and he said softly, in Ruthenian, "He's dead, the little one."

Then he rested his face in his palm again. Telegin bent over her and stroked her hair. She took a spasmodic breath.

"Come with me. I'll take it for you," he said softly.

The woman shook her head. "Where shall I go? Go alone, kind sir." Ivan Ilyich waited a moment longer, then pulled his cap over his eyes and put it down. At that moment, two Austrian gendarmes came trotting through the sanctuary. With blue mustaches and faces, they wore dirty, damp robes. As they passed, they looked at Ivan Ilyich and stopped the horses, the one in front shouting in a hoarse voice: "Come here, you!"

Ivan Ilyich approached them. The gendarme, leaning out of his chair, surveyed him with brown eyes, lids red from wind and lack of sleep. The eyes suddenly lit up.

"A Russian!" he exclaimed, grabbing Telegin by the collar. Ivan Ilyich made no attempt to escape and only smiled wryly.

They locked Telegin in a shed. it was night, the sound of gunshots clearly came to him. Through the cracks in the wall, he could see a dull red glow. Ivan Ilyich finished off the remains of the bread he had taken from the cart the day before, walked around the boarded walls in search of an opening, tripped over a compressed bale of hay, yawned and lay down. But shortly after midnight the guns began to rumble again, close at hand, and he could not sleep. Flashes of red seeped through the cracks. Ivan Ilyich got up and listened attentively. The intervals between shots shortened, the walls of the shed shook, and suddenly, close by, rifle shots rang out.

It was obvious that the fight was coming. On the other side of the wall, there were excited voices and the throbbing of a car engine. There was a great stamping of feet. Only when something heavy hit the outside of the shed did Ivan Ilych realize that the bullets were hitting the wall, making a noise like peas in a frying pan. He lay down on the floor.

The smell of gunpowder permeated the shed. The shooting was non-stop, it was clear that the Russians were advancing at tremendous speed. But the storm of extraneous noise did not last long. There were bangs, hand grenades exploding, like walnuts being cracked. Ivan Ilych jumped up and slid close to the walls. Was the attack being repelled? Finally there was a hoarse, piercing roar, a groan, the stamping of feet. The shots stopped immediately. In a long moment of silence, there was nothing but the sound of banging and the clang of metal. Then the voices screamed in terror: "Wir ergeben uns, Russ, Russ!..."

Tearing a splinter out of the door, Ivan Ilyich could make out, through the crack thus formed, figures fleeing, trying to protect their heads with their hands. The riders, casting huge shadows, cut through the crowd, turning constantly as they fell on the fleeing figures on the right. Three of the fugitives turned toward the shed. One of the horsemen began to give chase, the long tails of his Cossack hood falling over his shoulders. His horse, a huge beast, snorted and reared heavily. Its rider was brandishing his sword like a drunk, his mouth open. And when the horse's forelegs touched the ground again, the rider struck one of the figures with his sword so hard that it hissed through the air, the blade breaking as it entered the victim's flesh.

"Let me out!" Telegin shouted frantically, banging against the door.

The rider reined in his steed.

"Who's calling?"

A prisoner. A Russian officer.

"In one minute!"

The knight threw away the hilt of his sword, bent down and pulled the bolt. Ivan Ilyich came out, and the man who released him, an officer of the Savage Division, half-jokingly said:

"I'm happy to meet you!"

Ivan Ilyich looked at him more closely.

"I don't recognize you."

"¡Vaya, soy Sapozhkov, Sergei Sergeyevich Sapozhkov!"

He let out a loud, rasping laugh.

"You didn't expect that, did you? By God, there's war for you!"


During the last hour of the journey to Moscow, the train whistled past abandoned summer cottages; the white smoke from the engine mingled with the hues of the autumn leaves, the transparent yellow of the birches and the purple ash trees with the smell of fungus. Here and there the spreading crimson branches of a maple tree hung over the path. Here and there the bushes thinned, offering glimpses of home: a crystal ball on a pole in the middle of a flower bed, nailed shutters or leaf-covered walkways and steps.

The train stopped; from their platforms, two soldiers with packs on their backs stared indifferently at the carriage windows, and a sad young woman in a plaid coat sat on a bench, tracing patterns with the tip of her parasol on the wet boards. At the next bend in the line, a wooden fence peeked through the trees, on it the image of a bottle and the inscription: "Shustov's incomparable mountain ash vodka is the best!" Now the forest ended and long rows of whitish-green cabbages stretched right and left; at a railway crossing there was a hay wagon, with a peasant woman in a man's jacket leading the stubborn little horse. And in the distance, under a long cloud, the pointed pinnacles of the towers and the glittering dome of San Salvador rising above the roofs of the city could already be seen.

Telegin sat by the window to inhale the strong September scents, rising from decaying leaves, mushrooms, smoke from straw fires and earth, freshly touched by morning frost.

Behind him was the hard road of two years of suffering, which ended in this wonderful, long hour of waiting. By Ivan Ilyich's reckoning, at two-thirty sharp he would be ringing the bell of the only door in the world—he supposed it must be made of light oak with a double window at the top—and which he would have arrived at. . dead or alive.

The orchards ended, followed in an endless procession by rows of mud-spattered suburban homes, wagons rattling over poorly paved sidewalks, fences around gardens planted with centuries-old lime trees whose branches spilled into side streets, brightly colored road signs, and the passers-by, all concentrated on their trivial matters, oblivious to the noise of the train and Ivan Ilyich at the window. Below, a toy-like streetcar was rolling down a cavernous street; the dome of a small church peeked out behind a house; and the train wheels rattled at the ends. At last, at last, after two endless years, the planks of a Moscow platform slid through the windows! Neat, distant old men in white aprons climbed into carriages. Ivan Ilyich stuck his head out of the window and looked around. Nonsense, of course, because she hadn't told anyone she was coming.

Leaving the station, Ivan Ilyich could not help but laugh: on the square, about fifty steps away, there was a long line of droshkies. Waving their gloved hands from the boxes, the conductors shouted, "I'll take you, sir!"

"Come on, sir, try the black steed!"

"My droshky is fast, on rubber tires!"

Horses on tight reins kicked and snorted and neighed. The square resounded with shouts and shouts. It looked like the droshkies were preparing to storm the station in one body.

Ivan Ilyich got into a tall vehicle with a narrow seat; the handsome, pert driver asked him with gentle condescension where he wanted to go; he broke into a trot to impress his passenger, sitting sideways and holding the reins loosely in his left hand as the rubber tires bounced on the cobblestones.

"Ahead, Your Honor?"

"Escape from captivity."

"What now? Well, how's it going out there? They say they don't have anything to eat. Watch out, Grandma! So you're a national hero! There's been a lot of leaks. See where you're going, Carter Block! You've heard talk about Ivan Trifonovich?

"Who is he?"

“He lives on Razgulyai Street, deals with fabrics. He hired me yesterday, almost cried.there is onestory for you! He makes a lot of contracts, he doesn't know what to do with his money, and the day before yesterday his wife leaves and runs away with a Pole! We izvozchiks spread the story around the city. And now Ivan Trifonovich is ashamed to leave the house. That's what you get for stealing from people!"

“Go faster, old man,” Ivan Ilyich exhorted him, “although the tall steed, which had a nasty habit of continuously shaking its fierce-looking head, flew down the street like the wind.

"Here we are, Your Honor, the second gate. Wow, Vasya!"

Ivan Ilyich cast a quick, agitated glance at the white house's six windows, each of which hung with modest lace curtains, and leaped to the entrance. The door was old, heavily carved, with a lion's head, and there was a ringing bell, not an electric button. Ivan Ilyich stood still for a few moments, his heart beating slowly and painfully, before he could muster up the courage to raise his hand and ring the bell. "After all, who knows, maybe no one is home, maybe they don't see me," she told herself as she slowly pulled on the brass handle. From deep within came the tinkling of the bell. "There's no one home, of course!" But in the next moment a woman's quick footsteps were heard. Ivan Ilyich looked around with sudden embarrassment. The driver winked jovially. Then a chain snapped, the door opened a crack, revealing the pockmarked face of a maid.

"Does Daria Dmitrevna Bulavina live here?" Telegin asked, clearing his throat.

- It's inside. Come in, please," replied the pockmarked maiden in a gentle, singsong voice. "The lady and girl are inside."

As in a dream, Ivan Ilyich walked down a narrow corridor with glass embedded in one wall, large laundry baskets here and there, and a pungent smell of fur. The maid opened another door, on the right, lined with black oilcloth, and found herself in a small dark hall with women's coats hanging on hangers and, on a shelf in front of a long mirror, gloves, a handkerchief with a red handkerchief. cross on it, and a feathered shawl. A familiar, almost imperceptible, exquisite smell rose from all these innocent objects.

Without asking the visitor's name, the maid went to announce his arrival. Ivan Ilyich touched the feather shawl with his fingertips and suddenly felt as if there could be no connection between this pure and refined life and himself, narrowly escaping this whole bloody mess.

"Someone for you, miss," she could hear the maid's voice from somewhere inside.

Ivan Ilyich closed his eyes as if expecting some heavenly thunder and shuddered from head to toe when he heard a clear voice quickly saying:

"For me? Who is it?"

There was a sound of footsteps in the intervening rooms. They flew out of the abyss of two years of waiting. Dasha was standing in the doorway of the small salon, the light from the windows falling on her, bringing a golden glow to her blond hair. She looked taller and thinner in her cardigan and navy blue skirt.

"Did you come to see me?"

Dasha hesitated. Her features tightened, her brows lifted and her lips parted, but the fleeting shadow of alarm instantly disappeared from her face and her eyes lit up with joy and wonder.

"And you?" she murmured almost inaudibly, and threw her arms violently around Ivan Ilyich's neck, kissing him with tender, trembling lips. Then she took a step back.

Come with me, Ivan Ilych!

And Dasha ran into the living room, sat down in an armchair and, bending over her knees, covered her face with her hands.

"I know I'm being silly," she whispered, wiping her eyes hard.

Ivan Ilyich was in front of her. Suddenly Dasha, grabbing the armrests of the chair, raised her head:

"Ivan Ilyich, did you run away?"


"Heavens! And then?"

"And then... I came straight here."

He sat in an armchair opposite her, holding his cap tightly against his chest.

"How did this happen?" Dasha hesitated.

"There was nothing out of the ordinary about it."

"Was it dangerous?"

"Yes… I mean, not especially."

They continued talking like this for a while longer. Little by little, the two were caught up in their shyness.

Have you been here for a long time, in Moscow? Dasha asked, lowering her eyes.

"I came straight from the station."

"I'll order a coffee right now."

"Please don't worry... I'm going to a hotel."

"Are you coming back tonight?" Dasha asked, almost inaudibly.

Ivan Ilyich bowed with tight lips. I could barely breathe.

"Okay, I'm leaving," he said, getting to his feet. "I'll be back tonight." Dasha held out her hand. He took her hand, softly and firmly, and the contact seemed to burn him and send the blood rushing to her face. He squeezed her fingers and walked out into the hall, but glanced back at the door. With her back to the light, Dasha was looking at him with raised eyebrows.

"Can I arrive around seven, Darya Dmitrevna?"

She nodded. Ivan Ilyich jumped onto the porch and called the waiting driver:

"Driving to a hotel, well, the best there is!"

Throwing himself into the droshky once more, hands tucked into his coat sleeves, he grinned. Nondescript bluish shadows (people, trees, vehicles) flew past him. The icy wind, laden with the characteristic odors of a Russian city, cooled her cheeks. Ivan Ilyich brought his hand to his nose, still burning from Dasha's touch, and laughed out loud: "Sheer magic!"

And Dasha, having said goodbye to Ivan Ilyich, stopped by a window in the living room. His head was throbbing and he just couldn't pull himself together to realize what had happened. She closed her eyes for a moment and then, with a sudden sigh, she ran into her sister's room.

Katya was sitting by the window, sewing and thinking. Hearing Dasha's footsteps, she asked, without raising her head:

"Who was it, Dasha?"

Then she looked at her sister, her features contorted.

And the. I do not understand you? He! Ivan Ilych!

Katya stopped sewing and slowly brought her palms together.

"And imagine, Katya, I'm not even happy! I'm just scared," said Dasha emptyly.


When it began to get dark, Dasha began to tremble at the slightest whisper, and she continually ran into the hall and listened. She opened a book several times, always on the same page:

"Marusya loved the chocolate her husband brought from Kraft's..."

Two windows suddenly glowed in the frosty twilight, in the house opposite, where the actress Charodeyeva lived, and a maid in a cap could be seen setting the table. Then Charodeyeva herself appeared, thin as a skeleton, with a velvet coat thrown over her shoulders. She sat at the table yawning (she must have been dozing on the couch), poured herself a bowl of soup, and suddenly fell into abstraction, staring with glazed eyes at a vase of withered roses. “Marusya loved chocolate,” Dasha repeated through clenched teeth.

Suddenly there was a ringing. Blood rushed from Dasha's heart. But it was just the evening paper. "He won't come," she told herself, and went into the dining room, where a single electric light was shining on the white tablecloth and the clock was ticking off the seconds. It was five minutes to seven. Dasha sat down at the table. "And that's how life goes, minute by minute."

There was another bell on the front door. Almost suffocating, Dasha jumped up and ran into the corridor... It was the hospital watchman, with a bunch of papers. Of course, Ivan Ilyich would not come, and this is not surprising: after waiting two years, he could not find a word to say to him.

Dasha took the handkerchief and began to bite one end. Had he not felt, had not known, that it would be so? She loved an imaginary man for two years, and when the real man arrived, she lost her mind.

"Horrible, horrible!" Dasha told herself.

She didn't realize that the door had opened and that the pockmarked Liza was in the room. "Someone wants to see you, miss."

With a deep sigh, Dasha lightly stumbled into the dining room, her feet barely touching the floor. Katya saw her first and smiled at her. Ivan Ilyich jumped to his feet, blinked and straightened up.

He was wearing a new tunic of coarse cloth, with a new cartridge belt slung over his shoulder; he was freshly shaved and had a haircut. His great stature, erect posture, and broad shoulders were more impressive than ever. He was another man, that much was obvious. The look in his pale eyes was steady, and there were two folds, two thin lines at the corners of his straight, well-defined lips. Dasha's heart was beating, she understood that these were the traces left by death, horror and suffering. His handshake was firm and cold.

Dasha pushed back a chair and sat down next to Telegin. Placing her fisted hands on the table and casting Dasha perpetual, quick glances, she told them the story of her captivity and escape. Dasha, sitting very close to him, looked into his eyes, her lips parted. Ivan Ilyich's voice sounded strange and distant to his own ears, and his whole being was deeply shaken. There, beside her, her dress skimming her knee, was this creature words could not describe, this completely incomprehensible girl, perfumed with a dizzying, hot perfume.

Ivan Ilyich told his experiences during the night. Dasha kept interrupting with questions, interrupting him, clapping her hands and appealing to her sister.

'"Imagine, Katya, he was sentenced to be shot!"

When Telegin described the struggle for the car, the moment that came between him and death, the way the car leapt forward and the wind hit him in the face, with life and freedom in front of him, Dasha turned deathly pale and took her hand.

"We'll never let you go again!"

Telegin laughed.

"They'll call me back, I can't help it. My only hope is that they send me to some war factory."

He squeezed her hand gingerly. Dasha looked into his eyes and looked at him more carefully again; then a slight flush crept into her cheeks and she let go of his hand.

"Why aren't you smoking? I'm going to get some matches."

He hurried out and returned instantly with a box of matches. Standing in front of Ivan Ilyich, he began to light matches, holding them by the end, and when they broke, he exclaimed: "Look at the matches that our Liza buys!" Finally a hit. Dasha carefully brought her to Ivan Ilyich's cigarette, the flame lit up her chin. Telegin closed his eyes as he took his first breath. He didn't know that lighting a cigarette was so much pleasure.

Katya watched Dasha and Telegin in silence. He was happy, very happy for Dasha, but he also felt very sad. He could not get Vadim Petrovich Roshchin out of his mind, whom he vainly hoped to soon forget; he had sat at the table with them, and once she had brought him the matches too and lit the fire without breaking any.

Telegin left at midnight. Dasha, hugging her sister and kissing her warmly, locked herself in her room. Lying in bed, hands above her head, she told herself that she was finally freed from the swamp of despondency, and that although everything around her was still wild and desolate, there was now a gap in the clouds, and that was itself. a joy.


Five days after his return, Ivan Ilyich received an official letter notifying him to report to the Baltic Works.

Everything was like a dream: the delight that this letter gave her, the rest of the day spent with Dasha running around the city, the hasty farewell at Nikolai station, and then the second-class compartment, with its dry heat and strong wind. reports from the heating apparatus, the package he was surprised to find in his pocket, tied with a ribbon, and containing two apples, a bar of chocolate and some cakes. Ivan Ilyich unbuttoned the collar of his cloth tunic, stretched out his legs and, unable to remove the idiotic smile from his lips, looked at the traveling companion in front of him, a stern-looking old man with glasses.

"Excuse me, are you leaving Moscow?" asked the old man.

"Yes!" Oh, the divine word: Moscow. The streets bathed in the autumn sun, the dry leaves underfoot, Dasha, stepping on them, so light and slender, the voice clear and intelligent (she couldn't remember a single word she said), the warm smell of the flowers that inhaled. every time he leaned over her or kissed her hand.

"Moscow is a Sodom, a real Sodom," said the old man. I've been there three days... I've had a look at things... She spread her feet in her high boots and galoshes and spat. "Wherever you go there are people running from one place to another. At night everything is light, bustle, vertigo, everywhere crowds... Nothing makes sense! Yes, that's Moscow for you! That's where it started all of our country! And how From what I can see, it's nothing but a hell of meaningless hubbub. You've been in the war, young man, you've been wounded, eh? Old friend, is our blood being spilled there over this bloody mess? And how much to our country? Our religion? Our Tsar? Tell me that! I'm going to Petersburg, to get yarn. Damn it! What do you think I'll take back to Tyumen, yarn? Not me! I'll go back and tell them: we all went to the dogs, that's what I'll take with me Words, young man! We'll pay, we'll pay everything... We'll have to answer for all this nonsense .

Bracing his hands on his knees, the old man rose stiffly and closed the window shutter, beyond which, in the darkness, a flaming thread of engine sparks flew. “We have forgotten God and God has forgotten us. And I tell you: there will be a reckoning to pay, oh, there will be a heavy reckoning..."

"What do you mean? Do you think the Germans will beat us?" asked Ivan Ilych.

"Who's to say? Whoever the Lord sends to punish us, from him we'll take our punishment... Now suppose the boys in my shop started to misbehave. I put up with that for a while, and then... .getting a blow to the back of the head, another to the neck and another to take the bag. And Russia is not my shop, it's a big concern, God knows. The Lord is merciful, but when men leave the way to If it's too big It has to be clean, right? That's what I mean. God has withdrawn from the world. And that's the worst that can happen."

The old man crossed his hands over his stomach and closed his eyes, his glasses gleaming grimly as he rocked up and down on the corner of the dirty bunk. Ivan Ilyich got out of the compartment and stopped by the window in the corridor, his face almost touching the glass.

Cold, sharp air was coming in through a crack in the window. Rays of fire flew, intertwined, passed through the window and fell to the floor. A cloud of gray smoke drifted by from time to time. The train's wheels hum complacently. A long hiss came from the engine as it rounded a turn, and a flame from the furnace brought momentary relief to the sharp black tips of the fir trees. The train rocked gently at the click points, the green disk of a signal flashed by, and the long stripes flew out the window again in a shower of fire.

Watching them, Ivan Ilyich fully realized, with a sudden and overwhelming surge of joy, everything that had happened to him in the past five days. If he could tell anyone everything he feels, they would consider him crazy. But for him there was nothing strange or crazy about it; everything was extraordinarily clear.

What he felt was something like this: millions and millions of people lived, suffered and died in the dead of night. But his life was a mere symbol, and everything that happened in the world was merely symbolic, little more than illusory. So illusory that Ivan Ilych felt that a little effort on his part could change everything. But in the midst of all this illusion there was a living core: himself, Ivan Ilyich, a figure pressed against a train window... someone who was loved. This being emerged from the shadow world and was flying over the dark world in a rain of fire.

This extraordinary feeling of self-love lasted a few seconds. Returning to the compartment, she climbed into the top bunk, looked at her large hands as she undressed, and for the first time in her life, she thought they were beautiful. Then, grabbing them behind her head, she closed her eyes and immediately saw Dasha. She looked into his eyes, moved and affectionate, as she had that day, in the dining room, where she was wrapping empanadas. Ivan Ilyich went around the table, approached her, kissed her warm shoulder, and when she hastily turned away, he said: "Dasha, will you be my wife?" She just looked at him.

(Video) Mitchelle Blair's House of Horrors

Now, lying on the top bunk, remembering Dasha's face as if he could never get enough of the image, Ivan Ilyich felt, also for the first time in his life, a joyous joy at the thought that Dasha loved him, the great man, but beautiful hands

Arriving in Petersburg, Ivan Ilyich immediately went to the Baltic Works and enrolled in one of the workshops, the night shift.

Many changes have taken place in the works during the last three years; there were three times as many workers there, some young, some transferred from factories in the Urals and western cities, some directly from the front. The workers read the newspapers, cursed the war, the Tsar, the Tsarina, Rasputin, the generals; everyone was outraged, everyone was convinced that after the war the revolution would break out. What infuriated everyone was that in the municipal bakeries straw was mixed with the flour, and that there was often no meat for days in the markets, and when there was, it was rotten; that the potatoes were spoiled by frost, the sugar was dirty, and that the price of all foodstuffs was rising, while shopkeepers, speculators and speculators, taking advantage of war contracts, paid at that time up to fifty rubles for a box of chocolates and a hundred for a bottle of champagne, and he wouldn't even hear about peace with Germany.

Ivan Ilyich was given three days' leave to attend to his personal affairs, and he spent them looking for rooms all over the city. He inspected dozens of homes, none of which satisfied him. But on the last day he unexpectedly found an apartment that matched his dreams on the train: five small rooms with bright windows facing the sunset. This apartment, which was located in a house at the end of Kameno-Ostrov Street, was a little expensive for Ivan Ilyich, but he accepted it without hesitation and wrote to Dasha about it.

The next night he went to work. The courtyard, black with coal dust, was lit by tall lamps. The smoke from the chimneys of the factories, due to the humidity and the wind, stuck to the ground and the air was filled with suffocating yellow vapors. Through the huge dusty half-round windows of the various workshops one could see myriads of pulleys and drive belts, the cast-iron bases of the lathes moving back and forth, drilling, planing, turning iron and bronze, while the discs vertical rotation of punching machines. constantly. The crane cabs rose into the air and flew past in the dark. The ovens burned pink and white. The earth shook with the blows of a gigantic steam hammer. Pillars of flame shot up into the dark gray sky from low chimneys. Amidst this clamorous roar, amidst the roar of the machines, moved figures of human beings.

Ivan Ilyich entered the workshop, where the presses that produced shrapnel bodies were working. One of the engineers, an old acquaintance of his, named Strukov, led him around the workshop and explained certain features of the work that were new to Telegin. Then he escorted him to a sort of office in the corner, walled up from the shop, where he showed her the books and records, and handed her the keys, saying, as he put on his coat:

"Twenty-three percent of production goes to waste; try not to exceed that number."

In his words and in the manner in which he handed over the tent, Ivan Ilyich felt indifference to the work. This saddened him, because Strukov, when he met him, was an excellent engineer, quite enthusiastic.

"Do you consider it impossible to reduce the withdrawal percentage?" asked.

Strukov, yawning, shook his head, lowered his cap over his disheveled hair, and returned to the wheel with Ivan Ilyich.

"Why should you care, old man? What's the difference? It just means we kill twenty-three percent less Germans at the front! There's no helping it: the lathes are worn out and to hell with them!"

He stopped in front of a press. A short-legged old worker in a leather apron was placing a red-hot mold under the press; the frame sank, the pressure rod plunged into the butter-hot steel, a flame erupted, the frame heaved, and a shrapnel body fell to the dirt floor. The old man immediately put a new mold in its place. Another worker, young, tall, with a black mustache, was busy at the furnace. Strukov spoke to the old man:

Not much loot among the shrapnel bodies, Rublev?

The old man chuckled, tossing his wispy beard to one side and slyly looking at Telegin through his slits.

"Well, yes, there are. Here's how it works!" He put his hand on the post, green with oil, up and down the press had to slide.

Shakes too much. The damn thing should have been discarded a long time ago.

The young furnace worker, son of Ivan Rublev, Vasili, laughed.

"Many things need to be ruled out," he said. "All the machines rusted."

"Calm down, Vasili," Strukov said happily.

"Easy there and easy here," said Vasili, shaking his curly head and a confident, not at all humorous, smile spread across his thin face with high cheekbones, a small black mustache and fierce, steady eyes.

"The best workers in the workshop," Strukov said quietly to Ivan Ilyich, walking away. "Bye. I'm going to 'Red Sleigh Bells' tonight, have I been there? Nice place, and they serve wine."

Telegin began to study the Rublevs - father and son - with some curiosity. From the beginning, the way they talked about Strukov caught his attention-almost a code, made of words, laughter, and looks-and it seemed to him that the three of them were trying to find out if he was a friend. . or enemy. The ease with which the Rublevs struck up a conversation with him over the next few days showed that they considered him a friend.

Undoubtedly, the term applied not so much to Ivan Ilyich's vague and indecisive political opinions, but to that feeling of confidence which inspired them all. Without him doing or saying anything in particular, it was perfectly obvious that here was an honest man, a good man, decent in every way, "one of us."

Whenever his night shift work took him to the Rublevs' quarter, Ivan Ilyich would stop and listen to father and son arguing among themselves.

Vasili Rublev was highly educated and all his talk was about class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, topics on which he expressed himself in simplistic and pompous language. Ivan Rublev was an Old Believer, a cunning and merciless old man.

"Where I come from," he said, "in the Perm forests, in the hermitages, everything is written in the holy books: this war here and the devastations it will lead to, how our whole country will be ruined and the number of people who will remain in it...not many, there will not be...And like a man will come out of the forest, out of a hermitage, and will rule the land, and will rule by the awful word of God".

"This is mysticism," said Vasili.

"Scumbag! Bad! Preparing himself with words! He calls himself a socialist! Cossack, and calls himself a socialist! everything backwards, and shouting: 'Come to the fight!' Who is the fight against? What is it for? You idiot!

"Listen to the old man," said Vasili, jabbing his thumb in his father's direction. "He's a dangerous anarchist, he doesn't know anything about socialism, but he's always ready to yell at me to argue."

"No," interrupted Ivan Rublev, taking a spitting ingot from the furnace. "No, gentlemen!" And describing a semicircle in the air with the mold, he deftly placed it under the lower shaft of the press. "You read books, but you don't read the right ones. And nobody has humility, they never think about it. They don't understand that in our time everyone must be poor in spirit."

"It's all mixed up, Dad. Didn't he go around calling himself a revolutionary not long ago?

"Yes, I did. And if anything happened, I would be the first to take a gallows. Why should I cling to the tsar? I am a muzhik. Nobody knows how many acres of land I own." plowed in the last thirty years! Of course I'm a revolutionary, what do you think? I don't care about my soul's salvation?

Telegin wrote to Dasha every day, but her answers were less frequent. Letters from him were strange, with an icy tone, and as he read them, Ivan Ilyich felt a slight chill. Usually she would sit by the window and read a page of Dasha's letter, in the large, sloping handwriting, over and over again. Then he would look at the gray and purple forests of the islands, at the cloudy sky, cloudy as the water in the canal, and he would tell himself that it was just as well that Dasha's letters were not affectionate, as he had thoughtlessly hoped they would be. to be.

"My dear friend," he wrote. You say you rented an apartment with five rooms. Think about the expense you are having! Even if you're not going to live alone, that's a lot - five rooms! And the servants you'll need, two servants at the very least! That's too much for these days! Now it's autumn in Moscow, cold and rainy, not a ray of light... We must wait for spring."

Just like on the day of Ivan Ilyich's departure, Dasha only responded with a look when he proposed to her, in his letters he never directly referred to their marriage, nor to their future life together. They would have to wait for spring...

This waiting for spring, this vague, hopeless hope for some kind of miracle, was now common to everyone. Life was at a standstill, it was time for hibernation, for living off one's own fat. In the waking hours, it seemed that no one had the strength to survive the expectation of another bloodshed. Once Dasha wrote:

"... I did not intend to speak or write to you about Bessonov's death. But yesterday I heard new details of his terrible end. I met him on Tverskoi Boulevard shortly before he went to the front. He was terribly pathetic and now it seems to me that if I hadn't rejected him then, maybe I wouldn't have died.

Telegin devoted half a day to answering this letter... "How can you think that I will not accept anything about you?..." He wrote slowly, thinking a lot, so as not to admit a single false word "A Sometimes I put myself to the test and try to imagine that you would love someone else, the most terrible thing that could happen to me...thatI would accept it, not that I would settle for it, oh no! The sun would darken for me. But is my love for you nothing but joy? I know what it means to yearn to give your life because you love yourself so much. This must have been how Bessonov felt when he went to the front ... And you, Dasha, must feel that you are absolutely free ... I don't ask you for anything, not even love ... Lately I have noticed this .... "

Ivan Ilyich, who returned from work two days later at dawn, showered and went to bed, only to be awakened by a telegram shortly afterwards.

"It's okay, I love you very much, your Dasha."

One Sunday, Strukov called Ivan Ilyich and took him to the "Red Sleigh Bells".

The cabaret was housed in a basement, whose vaulted ceilings were adorned with paintings of ornate birds, depraved-looking children, and highly significant flourishes. It was loud and smoky. On the stage sat a little bald man with red cheeks, playing songs on a piano. A couple of the cops were drinking stiff punch and making loud comments about every woman who entered. A few lawyers, devoted to art, were shouting and arguing. The basement queen, a dark-haired beauty with puffy eyelids, was laughing out loud. Antoshka Arnoldov, twisting a lock of hair, sat writing his front copy. Sitting at a table set on a small platform, head down like a drunk, the progenitor of Futurism, a veterinarian with a distorted, consumptive-looking face, dozed against the wall. From time to time the owner of the cellar, an exactor, hairy, meek, drunk, would appear through a side door, stare at the customers and disappear again.

Strukov, a little drunk from the blow, said to Ivan Ilyich:

"Do you know why I like this place? Because you won't find such putrefaction anywhere else! How delicious! Look at that woman over there in the corner, thin, horrible, barely able to move: the last stages of hysteria, and hugely popular. " !"

Strukov laughed, sipped his punch and, without wiping his flabby lips, the superior shadowed by a Tatar mustache, continued to name the people at Ivan Ilyich's tables, pointing to one hungry, sick, half-crazy face after another. :

"It's the last of the Mohicans, all...the remnants of the beauty salons...Ugh! What mold! They've locked themselves in here and pretend there's no war." , and that everything is how it used to be."

Telegin listened and looked around. The heat, the smoke and the wine made everything dreamlike, and his head spun... He noticed that several people turned their heads towards the entrance; the vet opened a pair of jaundiced eyes with obvious exertion; the owner's crazed countenance appeared around the partition; the comatose woman sitting on her side next to Ivan Ilych lifted her sleepy eyelids and sat up with unexpected vivacity, looking in the direction where everyone was looking... A sudden silence fell over the cellar, broken by the sound of falling glass. ...

In the doorway stood an old man of medium height, one shoulder thrown forward and his hands in the pockets of his cloth jacket. As he stood there, smiling, his narrow face with its flowing black beard formed into two deep characteristic wrinkles, each dominated by a pair of steady, sly, piercing eyes. The silence lasted a full minute. Then another face approached her from the darkness of the door, that of an official-looking individual, who whispered something in his ear, smiling nervously. The old man wrinkled his big nose in disgust.

"There you go again with your nonsense! I'm done with you!"

He looked around the cellar even more cheerfully, straightened his beard and said in a loud, drawling voice:

"Well, bye, merry boys!"

The next moment he was gone. The door slammed. The cellar was buzzing with conversation. Strukov dug his nails into Ivan Ilyich's arm.

"See him?" panting. "It was Rasputin."


Ivan Ilych walked back from the works at four in the morning. subway. a cold December night. He could not find a droshky; even in the city it was hard to get one these days. Telegin walked quickly down the middle of the deserted street, his breath turning to steam inside his raised collar.

In the light of the rare lamps, the air was full of falling needles of ice. Snow crunched loudly underfoot. Reddish reflections danced on the flat yellow facade of the house opposite. Turning the corner, Telegin saw the flames of a fire in a perforated bucket, around which frozen, sultry figures floated, shrouded in clouds of steam. Ahead, about a hundred people – women, old people and children – remained motionless in line on the sidewalk. It was a queue outside a grocery store. Beside him, a night watchman pulled on his felt boots, clapping his gloved hands.

Ivan Ilyich dodged the tail and looked at the figures huddled in shawls and blankets against the wall.

"Three stores were looted yesterday on the Vyborg side," said a voice.

"That's all that's left to do, now!"

"I ordered a liter of oil yesterday, the shopkeeper told me there would be no more oil, and Dementyev's cook came and bought more than a gallon, at black market prices."

"How much does it cost?"

"Two rubles and a half liter, my girl."

"Two and a half rubles for oil?"

That shopkeeper better watch out. We'll remember that when the time comes!

"My sister said they caught a merchant in the Okhta district doing these tricks and stuck him headfirst in a barrel of brine. The poor boy drowned and begged to be let go!"

"They didn't do enough with him, these guys should be tortured."

In the meantime, let's freeze.

"While he drinks tea."

"Who drinks tea?" asked a hoarse voice.

- Everyone has. My mistress, she is a general's wife, gets up at midday and drinks cup after cup until midnight. I'm surprised she doesn't burst, pig of her!

"And you can freeze and go into a consumption."

"You're absolutely right, I already have a cough."

My lady is just a lost woman. When I come back from the market, the cafeteria is always full of visitors, all of them drunk. As soon as they arrive, they order fried eggs, black bread, vodka, the coarsest food.

"It's English money they're spending on drinks," said someone confidently.

"What are you talking about?"

"It's all sold, believe me, I know what I'm talking about. You stay here and don't know anything, and they're all sold, for another fifty years. The Army's sold too."

"For God's sake!"

A hoarse voice asked again:

"Lord Watcher!" Mr. Watchman, I say!

"What is happening?"

"Will there be salt today?"

"In all likelihood there will be no salt today."

"The Rascals!"

"No salt for five days!"

"Drinking the blood of the people, the pigs!"

"That's good, girls, it's going to give a sore throat to scream like that," said the night watchman in a guttural bass.

Telegin left the tail behind. The angry hum of voices died away, and once more the straight streets were deserted, disappearing into the icy mist. Ivan Ilyich reached the embankment and turned towards the bridge, realizing only when the wind fluttered the skirts of his coat that he should be looking for a droshky, and forgetting about it the next moment. In the distance, on the other side of the river, almost invisible streetlights blinked intermittently. A row of dim lights marked pedestrians' slanted footprints on the ice. An icy wind swept across the vast, dark expanse of the Neva, echoing off the snow underfoot and whistling plaintively between the tram cables and through the gaps in the bridge's iron railings.

From time to time Ivan Ilyich would stop and look into the gloomy darkness, and then go on again, thinking, as he always thought now, of nothing but Dasha and himself, and that moment in the train compartment when he was bundled up. in happiness as by a flame.

Now everything was vague, confused, conflicted, alien to that happiness. Each time a new effort was needed to assert: "I am alive, I am happy, my life will be bright and beautiful!" It had been easy to say that, standing at the carriage window with sparks flying, but now he had to force himself away from those half-frozen figures on the tails, from the howling deaths. desperation of the December wind, of the sense of universal loss and impending doom.

Ivan Ilyich was convinced of one thing: in his love for Dasha, in Dasha's charm and in the feeling of joy that he felt inside himself when he was at the train window, and later, when he felt loved by Dasha, he would find good supreme.

The cozy old social building, a little cramped perhaps, but still so beautiful, shook and cracked under the blows of war, its pillars shook, its dome opened, its ancient stones crumbled, and here were two beings amidst the rubble. and thunder from the wobbly temple - Ivan Ilyich and Dasha, who, in the mad optimism of love, dared, in spite of everything, to hope for happiness. Was it okay?

Looking through the darkness of the night at the flickering lights and listening to the painful despair underlying the whistling of the wind, Ivan Ilyich said to himself: “Why not admit that the desire for happiness is the strongest of all? Very good! Can I abolish the queues, feed the hungry, stop the war? I can't! And if so, does that mean I too must disappear into the dark, renounce happiness? Certainly not! But can I, should I be happy?

Ivan Ilyich had crossed the bridge and was walking along the embankment, not knowing where he was going. Tall electric lamps, swaying in the wind, glowed brightly. Powdered snow rustled dryly on the bare pavement. The windows of the Winter Palace were dark and deserted. In front of a striped guardhouse, half buried in snow, stood a gigantic soldier in a sheepskin coat, rifle clutched to his chest.

Ivan Ilych stopped suddenly, looked at the windows, and then moved even faster, now fighting the wind, now being driven by it from behind. He felt able, at that moment, to proclaim a plain and simple truth to everyone, and make everyone believe it. "Can't you see," he reportedly shouted, "that you can't live like this any longer? States are built on hate, borders are determined by hate, each of you is a bundle of hate, a fortress with guns pointed at every corner. places." directions. Life is narrow and terrible. The whole world drowns in hatred, human beings exterminate each other, rivers of blood flow. Haven't you had enough? Have your eyes not yet been opened? Yet? Are you waiting until man has destroyed your neighbor too here, in every house? Regain common sense! Lay down your weapons, erase your borders, open the doors and windows of the house of life... There is boundless land for man Growing corn, meadows for grazing herds, mountain slopes for vineyards... The treasures within the earth are inexhaustible, there is room for everyone... Can't you see that you still live in the darkness of times gone by?

There were no droshkies in that part of town either. Ivan Ilyich crossed the Neva once more and plunged into the network of winding streets on the Petersburg side. Meditating, talking to himself, he finally got lost and wandered randomly through the dark and deserted streets, until he reached the bank of one of the canals. "What a trip!" he exclaimed with a laugh, stopping to catch his breath and look at his watch. It was exactly five o'clock. A large open car with no headlights sped around the corner, "snow crunching under the tires. At the wheel was an officer in an unbuttoned jacket; his narrow, clean-shaven face was pale and his eyes glazed over, like those." . of an extremely drunk man. Behind him sat another officer, his cap pulled back, his face hidden by a long, rug-wrapped bundle he held in his arms. The third person in the car was a civilian, wearing a tall sealskin cap with the collar turned up. Suddenly, he jumped up and grabbed the man behind the wheel by the shoulder. The car stopped not far from the small bridge. Ivan Ilyich saw how the three jumped up, dragging the burden. from the car, drag it a few paces over the snow and then, with effort, lift it and carry it to the middle of the bridge, swing it for a moment on the railing and throw it into the water. He returned to the car, the civilian lingered a little behind, leaning over the railing and looking down, and then, lowering his collar, he ran after his companions at a brisk trot. The car sped up and disappeared.

"Yuk, what a beast!" murmured Ivan Ilyich, who had been standing all this time with uneven breathing. He climbed onto the ledge, but no matter how hard he looked he could see nothing in the large black hole in the ice below. And there was nothing but the gurgling of hot, smelly water from a drainpipe.

"Yuk, what a beast!" he muttered again and frowned at the sidewalk beside the canal. At the corner, he finally found a sleigh, with an old man frozen in the cabin, driving a racing car with his mouth open, and when, climbing up and buttoning his ice-hardened apron, he closed his eyes, his whole body seemed to hum with exhaustion. "I love, and that's the truth," he told himself, "whatever I do will be good as long as the motive is love."


The bundle tied with a mat that three men threw from the bridge into a part of the river that was not frozen was the body of the murdered Rasputin. To kill this peasant, with his almost superhuman vitality and strength, they had to put potassium cyanide in his wine, then shoot him in the chest, back and head, and finally crush his skull with their fist. . And yet, when his body was found and washed up in the river, medical testimony established that Rasputin only stopped breathing under the ice.

This assassination seemed to constitute a turning point for the events that began two months later. Rasputin himself said more than once that when he died, the throne would collapse and the Romanov dynasty would perish.

There must have been vague feelings of evil in this wild and violent man, as dogs are said to have before a death at home, and he died hard: the last holder of the throne, the peasant, the horse thief, the fanatical monster.

His death caused deep dismay in the palace, but the country generally rejoiced, and when he came and went, people congratulated each other. Nikolai Ivanovich wrote to Katya from Minsk: “On the night when the news was received, the General Staff officers of the Commander-in-Chief ordered eight dozen bottles of champagne for the mess hall. .

A few days later, this murder was forgotten in Russia, but not at Court: there they believed Rasputin's prophecy and prepared, with the worst omens, for revolution. Petrograd was secretly divided into sectors, machine guns were demanded from Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, and when he refused them, they were sent from Arkhangelsk, four hundred and twenty were hidden in attics and placed at crossroads. Press restrictions were tightened, and newspapers began to publish with entire columns blank. The Tsarina sent desperate letters to her husband, trying to rouse her will and make him show firmness of mind. But the Tsar remained in Mogilev, as if bewitched, protected, he was convinced, by ten million faithful bayonets. The rowdy women and howls of the Petrograd bread ranks alarmed him less than the armies of the three empires advancing on the Russian front. And all the while, unknown to the Tsar, General Alexeyev, Chief of Staff of the Supreme Command, was making plans for the arrest of the Tsarina and the destruction of the German party at court.

In January, in anticipation of the spring campaign, the order was given for an offensive on the northern front.

The fighting started near Riga, on a frosty night. With the opening of artillery fire, a blizzard began. The troops advanced through the deep snow, amid the howl of the blizzard and the flaming hurricane of exploding bombs. Dozens of planes that came up to support the attack were shot down by the wind, many of them mowing down Russian and enemy troops with machine-gun fire in the darkness of the blizzard.

Russia was making one last attempt to break through the iron ring surrounding its round; Russian peasants dressed in white, driven by a polar storm, were fighting for the last time for an empire that covered one-sixth of the Earth's surface, for an autocracy that was once able to build a great state that posed a worldwide threat, but now a survival . which has long outlived its time, historical nonsense, a moral disease of the whole nation.

The battle lasted ten days, with thousands giving their lives in the snowdrifts. The offensive stalled and died. Again, the front was frozen in snow.


Ivan Ilyich expected to go to Moscow for Christmas, but he was sent to Sweden and did not return until February; After securing three weeks' leave, he telegraphed Dasha that he would leave on the 26th.

He had to do his duty at the Steamworks for an entire week before he could escape. He couldn't help but be surprised at the change that had taken place during his absence. Management became extraordinarily courteous and helpful, while the men were so ill-tempered that it seemed at any moment someone might throw a wrench on the floor and shout, "Down with the tools, into the street!"

Just now, the workers were feverishly excited about proceedings in the Duma, where the debates on the food question were taking place. These proceedings clearly showed that the government, with difficulty maintaining presence of mind and dignity, was desperately trying to repel attacks, and that the Tsar's ministers, no longer giving like the heroes of legend, had been reduced to human speech, while their speeches , and those delivered to the Duma, were all lies, for the true truth was on everyone's lips: dark and ominous rumors of imminent universal ruin, front and back, due to famine and devastation.

During his last night on the job, Ivan Ilyich noticed an extraordinary excitement among the workers. They were continually leaving their lathes and conferring, and it was obvious that they were waiting for some kind of news. When he asked Vasili Rublev what it was about, Vasili suddenly threw his padded coat over his shoulders with *. one cruel move, and he stormed out of the shop, slamming the door behind him.

"Vasili has become hot-tempered, the scoundrel," said Ivan Rublev, "has dug up a revolver somewhere and has it with him."

But Vasili soon reappeared, and the workers in the depths of the workshop, abandoning all lathes, crowded around him. "Statement by Lieutenant General Khabalov, commander of troops in the Petersburg Military District," said Vasili loudly and emphatically, reading a blank sheet of paper in his hands. "In recent days, the shipment of flour to bakeries and the amount of baked bread has been normal..."

"This is a lie!" several voices instantly exclaimed. "No bread was delivered for three days!"

"—There must be no shortage of bread—"

He should have known, it was his decree!

"If some stores are out of stock, it's because a lot of people, fearing a shortage, have been buying to make cookies."

"Who's doing this?" a voice howled. "I hope you choke on one of your own cookies!"

"Silence, comrades!" Vasily screamed. "It's time to take to the streets, comrades. Four thousand workers from the Obukhov Works are marching along Nevsky Prospect... And they too are coming down the Vyborg side."

"Good! Show us the bread!"

"They will not show bread, comrades. There are only three days of flour in the city, and there is no more bread and flour to come. All the trains are stopped in Siberia... and the elevators are full of grain. ... There is seventy thousand tons of meat rotting in Chelyabinsk ... they are greasing wheels with butter in Siberia ... "

The workshop was in an uproar. Vasily raised his hand.

"Comrades! Nobody will give us bread until we accept it... Let's go with the other factories, comrades, to the streets, with the slogan: 'All power to the soviets!'..."

"Down with the tools! Stop working! Turn off the ovens!" the workers shouted, running through the store.

Vasili Rublev approached Ivan Ilyich. His little mustache was twitching.

"You will," he said in different tones. "Go before they hurt you!"

For the rest of the night, Ivan Ilyich slept badly and woke up anxious. The morning was cloudy: drops from outside were dripping from the iron cornice. ... Ivan Ilyich was trying to collect his thoughts. He was still fidgeting, and the drops were maddening, they seemed to be falling straight into his brain. "I shouldn't wait until the 26th, I have to leave tomorrow", he said to himself, and taking off his shirt, he went to the bathroom, turned on the shower and stood under the cold and cutting stream.

There was a lot to do before leaving. Ivan Ilyich hurriedly drank his coffee, got out and got into a crowded tram: here he felt the same emotion again. The passengers sat in their usual somber silence, feet tucked nervously under the seats, the ends of their coats pushed out of their neighbors; the floor was greasy, drops were falling from the windows, the bell next to the driver's seat tinkled maddeningly. Opposite Ivan Ilyich sat a soldier with a yellow, dropsical face; his clean-shaven lips formed a lopsided smile, but his eyes moved inquiringly with an evidently uncharacteristic animation. Looking again, Ivan Ilyich noticed that all the passengers were looking at each other in the same way, with admiration and questioning.

At the corner of Bolshoi Prospect, the tram stopped. Passengers began to move and look around, and some people jumped off the step. The chauffeur took the wrench, stuck it down the front of his blue coat, and, opening the front door a little, said in a nervous, angry voice:

"The tram doesn't go any further." There were trams as far as the eye could see on Kameno-Ostrov Street and Bolshoi Prospect. The sidewalks teemed with shifting crowds. From time to time, an iron shutter slammed into a shop window. A thin, wet snow was falling.

A man in a long unbuttoned coat appeared on the roof of a streetcar, took off his cap and shouted something. A long o-o-oh sigh passed through the crowd. The man, after tying a rope to the roof of the car, straightened up and took off his cap again. Another o-o-oh went through the crowd. The man jumped onto the sidewalk. The crowd backed away, exposing a dense group to view, sliding across the dirty, yellowing snow, pulling on a rope attached to the car. The tram began to tilt. The crowd backed away, little children whistling. But the wagon just swayed precariously and righted itself, wheels slamming against the rails. Then, the group pulling the rope was joined by people running from all directions, who also began to pull, in silent absorption. The car overturned again and crashed with a clinking sound of breaking glass. The crowd, silent as ever, moved towards the overturned tram.

"Now the fat is on fire!" said a voice just behind Ivan Ilyich; came from the pale-faced officer he had seen on the tram, and in the next instant several voices had vanished in discordant unison:You fell victims in the fatal fight...

On the way to Nevsky Prospect, Ivan Ilyich observed the same puzzled looks and anxious countenances. Eager listeners, like little whirlwinds, surrounded the bearers of news. Well-fed porters waited at the gate, a maid poked her head out of a window and looked up and down the street. A gentleman with a shiny beard, an unbuttoned fur-lined coat, carrying a briefcase in his hand, asked a gardener:

"What is this crowd, my dear friend? What is going on there?"

"They are asking for bread, they are rioting, sir."

"I see!"

Beyond, a pale old lady was standing at a crossroads with an angry dog, her hindquarters drooping and quivering; she asked all passers-by, "What is this crowd? What do they want?"

"Sounds like a revolution, ma'am," said the gentleman in the fur-lined coat, now quite cheerful.

A laborer with a sickly, contorted face walked along the sidewalk, the hem of his jacket rippling gracefully. Turning around suddenly, he shouted in a pitiful, broken voice:

"Comrades! How long will you continue to grind the workers' faces?"

A plump-cheeked young officer made the driver of the taxi he was sitting in stop his horse and, holding the izvozchik's belt, looked at the excited groups in the street as if watching an eclipse.

"That's right, take a good look at this!" the worker snarled at him.

The crowd, which had grown and now filled the whole street, was humming excitedly and moving towards the bridge. White flags appeared in three places. Passers-by were sucked into the current and floated like slivers on the updraft. Ivan Ilyich crossed the bridge with the crowd. A few cavalry officers galloped across the snowy expanse of the Champ de Mars, dotted with footprints and shrouded in mist. When they saw the crowd, they turned their horses and took a step. One of them, a ruddy colonel with a beard parted in the middle, laughed and saluted. Sad, heavy chants came from the crowd. From the mists of Summer Park, ravens with tattered feathers, like those that frightened Emperor Pavel's assassins, rose from the dark, bare branches.

Ivan Ilyich walked in the front rows of the crowd. He felt a tightness in his throat. He tried to cough, but the excitement kept building in him. Upon reaching the Palace of Engineers, he turned left and continued on Liteini Avenue,

Another crowd was coming onto Liteini Prospect from the Vyborg Side and crossing the bridge.

Along its entire length, onlookers thronged the front doors and excited faces appeared at the windows. Ivan Ilyich stopped in front of a door next to an old officer with trembling cheeks. In the distance, to the right, a line of soldiers stretched down the street, motionless leaning on their rifles.

As the crowd closed in on them, he slowed down. From within him came terrified cries of "Stop! Stop!" The next minute the word: "Bread! Bread! Bread!" came from thousands of high-pitched women's voices....

"Outrageous!" barked the officer, looking sternly at Ivan Ilych over his spectacles. At that very moment, two burly gardeners burst through the gate and began pushing back the onlookers. The officer's cheeks trembled, a young woman in pince-nez shouted: "Don't you dare, idiot!" But the door was closed. Doors and gates were being closed all along the street.

There were terrified cries of, "No! No!"

The howling crowd continued. A young man in a wide-brimmed hat, his face red with excitement, leapt forward.

"Advance the flags!" voices came.

At that moment, a tall, slim-waisted officer in his smartly armed fur Cossack cap appeared at the head of the line of soldiers. With her hand on her hip holster, she shouted something, and the words: "The order to fire has been given... I have no desire for bloodshed... Spread it!" could be distinguished.

"Bread! Bread! Bread!" the voices howled madly.

And the crowd rushed at the soldiers... Wide-eyed men and women began to push Ivan Ilyich... "Bread!... Down with them...! Pigs!"

Someone in the crowd collapsed and, raising his contorted face, shouted like a man possessed: "I hate you!... I hate you!..."

Suddenly there was a sound in the street like chintz tearing. Everything went silent in an instant. A student, flapping his cap, dove into the crowd... The officer raised a gnarled hand in the sign of the cross. The volley was fired into the air and not followed for a second, but the crowd withdrew, some of them scattering, some following the banner to Znamensky Square. In the yellowed snow there was nothing but hats and strange high boots. Going out onto Nevsky Prospect, Ivan Ilyich again heard the murmur of countless voices. This was another mob that advanced, having crossed the Neva on Vasilievsky Island. The sidewalks were full of well-dressed women, soldiers, students, and foreign-looking strangers. An English officer with a rosy, boyish face stood as rigid as a post. Saleswomen with black bows in their hair pressed their powdered faces against the glass of shop doors. And down the middle of the street, dipping into its misty expanse, marched the angry crowd of workers, men and women, howling, "Bread! Bread! Bread!"

A driver who had stopped the sleigh at the curb was leaning sideways in his seat, happily chatting over his shoulder with a lady, flushed with fear, in the backseat.

"You can see for yourself that I can't go on, they wouldn't let a fly through."

"Come on, you fool, don't you dare answer me!"

"I'm nobody's fool anymore... Get off the sleigh...!"

Passers-by on the sidewalk jostled each other, stretched their necks, listened and asked anxiously:

"Is it true that a hundred people were killed on Liteini Avenue?"

"No way! It was just a pregnant woman and an old man!"

"My God! Why did they kill an old man?"

"Protopopov's orders. And he's crazy, poor thing!"

"News, good people! This is amazing! General Strike!"

"What? Water and electricity too?"

"I wish it were true, finally!"

"Well done, workers!"

"Don't be in such a hurry to rejoice! They will be crushed ..."

"Careful you don't get crushed, with that face!"

Ivan Ilyich, irritated by such a waste of time, telephoned several addresses where he had business to attend to, but finding no one at home at any of them, he began to walk along Nevsky Prospect, completely irritated.

Once more the sleds began to race along the road, the gardeners went out to scrape the snow off the sidewalk, and the important man in the long black coat reappeared at the corner of the street, brandishing his white club, the magic wand of law and order, over the ground. hot heads and wild thoughts from the crowd. A malicious passerby, running down the street, could say to himself, looking at the policeman: "Wait, old man, your turn will come!" But no one dreamed that the turning point had arrived, and that the sculptural figure with the mustache and the club was already a mere ghost, destined to disappear in a day or two from street corners, from everyday life, from men's minds. ...

"Telegin! Telegin, stop! Are you deaf?"

Strukov rushed at Ivan Ilyich with his cap thrown back and his eyes gleaming with malice.

"Where are you going? Let's go to a cafe!"

He grabbed Telegin's arm and dragged him to a cafe.

The smell of cigarette smoke that filled the room made your eyes sting. Men in bowler hats, sealskin caps, their coats unbuttoned, argued and shouted, rising from time to time. Strukov went to a window and sat down opposite Ivan Ilyich at a small table.

"The ruble is falling!" he exclaimed, grabbing the edge of the table with both hands. "Values ​​are going to hell! That's what I call power! Tell me what you saw..."

"I was on Liteini Prospect, there was shooting, but I think it was in the air."

"What do you say to all this?"

"I don't know. It seems to me that now the government will have to seriously address the issue of transporting food."

"Too late!" Strukov yelled, banging on the glass table top. "Too late! We have devoured our own entrails. The end of the war: we have had enough. Do you know what they are clamoring for in the factories? For the convening of soviets of workers' deputies: that is what they are asking for." They want! And they won't believe anything but these soviets."

"You don't say that!"

"This is the end, old man. The autocracy is bankrupt. Open your eyes! This is not just a riot...not even a revolution...this is the beginning of chaos. This is chaos itself."

A vein stood out under the beads of sweat on Strukov's forehead.

"Within three days there will be no state, no army, no governors, no police... One hundred and eighty million wild men! Do you realize what a wild man is? Tigers and rhinos are child's play in comparison. A cell in an organism disintegrating: that's a wild man. That's scary! That's bacteria devouring each other in a drop of water."

"Oh, to hell with you," said Telegin. "It's nothing like that, and it won't be. Assuming thatesrevolution! And a good thing too!"

"Oh no! What you saw today wasn't a revolution. It was just the disintegration of matter. The revolution is yet to come, it will come. But you and I won't see it."

"Perhaps you are right," said Ivan Ilyich, getting to his feet. Vasili Rublev, he is the revolution. Not you, Strukov. You make too much noise and rationalize too much.

Ivan Ilyich returned early to his rooms and immediately went to bed. But oblivion visited him only for a moment, and he sighed, turned heavily away and opened his eyes. There was a leather smell from an open suitcase lying on a chair. In this suitcase, bought in Stockholm, there was a beautiful leather and silver travel bag - a gift for Dasha. Ivan Ilyich was very sentimental about it, pulling it out of the tissue paper every day, to feast on it. He imagined a train compartment with the long window that foreign train compartments have, and Dasha in her traveling dress on the seat; on her lap is a trinket smelling of perfume and leather, a symbol of carefree and delightful wanderings.

Through the window, Ivan Ilyich could see the gloomy sky bathed in the dark purple reflection of the city lights. And he perfectly understood the harrowing hatred with which those who today howled for bread must now face this reflection. The unloved, dull, hateful city. The will and the brain of the country. And now infected with a deadly disease. ...Now in its death agony....

It was about noon when Ivan Ilyich left the house... The wide, misty street was deserted. In a glass vase behind the smoky windows of a flower shop was a beautiful bouquet of red roses, with large drops of water on their petals. Ivan Ilyich looked at them lovingly through the falling snow.

A Cossack patrol - five horsemen - emerged from a side street. The last of them turned the horse's head and trotted down the sidewalk, towards three men in caps who were talking excitedly under their breath as they walked. These men stopped and one of them, with a cheerful comment, took the horse by the reins. The act was so extraordinary that Ivan Ilyich's heart leaped. But the Cossack only laughed, throwing back his head, and then, nodding to the rearing horse, he caught up with his companions, the five of them disappearing into the street mist.

Approaching the embankment, Ivan Ilyich began to meet groups of enthusiastic citizens. It was obvious that no one could calm down after the events of the previous day. People moved towards the river, consulting and exchanging news and rumours.

Along the stone parapet, thousands of onlookers smeared like a black anthill as they moved over the snow. Right on the bridge was a group of hotheads, yelling at the soldiers blocking the way, who were dragged across the bridge and all the way to the other end, barely visible in the mist of falling snow.

"Why are you blocking the bridge? Let us through!"

"We want to get to town!"

"It is scandalous to stop citizens...".

"The bridge is for walking, not for you!"

"You are Russians, aren't you? Let us through!" A tall sergeant with four St. George paced back and forth across the bridge, his heavy spurs jingling. At the crowd's taunt, he turned a grim, pockmarked face:

"Calling each other gentlemen, and shouting like that!" he yelled, the ends of his twisted mustache quivering. "I cannot allow you to cross the bridge. In case of insubordination, I will be forced to open fire-" This only made the hotheads scream more. "Soldiers will not shoot!" They cried. "Who put you there, you damn dog?" •

The petty officer turned to face them again, but though his voice was the husky, imperious voice of a soldier, there was something in his words that everyone felt in those days: an alarmed bewilderment. The hotheads noticed this and tried, pushing and cursing them, to force their way through.

Suddenly, a tall, thin fellow, with crooked pince-nez and a scarf wrapped around his long neck, shouted in a loud, resounding voice:

"Traffic blocked, barriers everywhere, bridges cut, scandalous! Do we or do we not have the right to move freely in the city? My fellow citizens, I propose that we ignore the soldiers and cross the ice to the other side!"

"That's right! On ice! Hooray!"

And several people instantly ran to the snow-covered stone steps leading to the river. The tall man, the ends of his scarf fluttering, walked resolutely across the ice below the bridge. The soldiers, bowing, shouted:

"Hello! Come back! Let's shoot! Come back, you slender demon!"

But the tall man kept walking without looking back. More and more people began to follow him in single file, at a trot. They fell noisily from the embankmentemon the ice, one at a time, their figures running black against the snow. Soldiers shouted at them from the bridge; the runners, hands over their mouths, responded to the screams. One of the soldiers tried to take aim, but his neighbor tapped him on the shoulder and didn't fire.

Nobody had a definite plan, as it turned out, but when people saw the barriers at bridges and crossroads, everyone, obeying the old impulse that makes everyone want to do exactly what is currently forbidden, took control of the plan. cross and gather in crowds. Imaginations already sufficiently inflamed were aroused red-hot. A rumor that there was a stranger behind all this mess spread like wildfire.

Late the next day, units of the Pavlov Regiment fanned out along Nevsky Prospect and were ordered to open longitudinal fire on groups of onlookers and individual bystanders. People began to realize that something like a revolution was underway.

But nobody knew where his headquarters was, nor who organized it, nor the commander of the troops, nor the police; Least of all Protopopov, dictator, royal favorite and cloth merchant, whose head the landlord Naumov had crushed, shattering the door panel of the Troitsk Hotel, Simbirsk, in the process; whose injury resulted in migraine and neurasthenia, and later, when he was put in charge of the government of the Russian Empire, in fatal confusion. The revolution had its headquarters everywhere, in every house, in the minds, seething with the wild imagination, bitterness and dissatisfaction, of every citizen. The impossibility of discovering the headquarters of the revolution was disastrous. The police caught the shadows. What they really had to do was arrest the two million four hundred thousand inhabitants of Petrograd.

Ivan Ilyich spent the whole day on the street, his head seemed to be spinning all the time, as no doubt everyone else was. He felt the growing excitement, reaching something like madness, in the city; everyone seemed plunged into a kind of enveloping vertigo, an incoherent mass, wandering restlessly through the streets, looking for a sign, a flash that should blind them and melt them into coherence.

The firefight along Nevsky Prospect did not have much effect. People crowded like wild beasts to look at the two corpses: a woman in a patterned skirt and an old man in a raccoon coat, lying on the corner of Vladimir Street. As the shooting intensified, people dispersed and again began to crawl, clinging to the walls.

By dusk, the shooting had subsided. An icy wind cleared the sky and a gloomy sunset shone through the clouds floating over the sea. The thin, sickle-shaped moon hung low over the city, right where the sky was pitch black.

The street lamps didn't come on that night. The windows were dark and the entrances to the houses closed. Rifles were piled up along the misty desert on Nevsky Prospect. The tall figures of sentries were visible on street corners. Moonlight glinted now on a glass window, now on a strip of railroad tracks, now on the steel of a bayonet. Everything was still and silent. But frantic descriptions of what had happened were muttered throughout the houses in muffled murmurs and bleats into telephone earpieces.

On the morning of February 25, Znamensky Square was full of troops and police. Mounted policemen, mounted on prancing, spindly brown horses, were positioned in front of the Northern Hotel. The police on foot, in their black coats, stationed themselves around the statue of Alexander III or dispersed in groups across the square. In front of the station stood cheerful bearded Cossacks, their fur caps high and merrily crumpled, bales of hay strapped to their saddles. In the direction of Nevsky Prospect, the light gray uniforms of the Pavlov Regiment could be seen.

Ivan Ilyich, suitcase in hand, climbed to the high point of the stone ridge on the side of the paved slope that led to the station entrance, from where he had a good view of the entire square.

In the middle of it, on a slab of blood-red granite, mounted on a huge horse, his bronze head bowed under the rider's weight, sat the Emperor, stocky and massive, with grim shoulders and a round cap covered in gold. . .snow. . Screaming, whistling and cursing crowds descended five streets towards the square and the base of the monument.

As on the bridge the day before, soldiers - especially Cossacks - rode in pairs towards people coming from all directions, exchanging oaths and mocking comments. Silence and obvious indecision reigned among the hulking groups of surly policemen. Ivan Ilyich knew well the anguish of waiting for the order to take action: the enemy is already in sight and everyone knows what to do, but the order is late and the minutes drag on painfully. Suddenly, one of the doors to the station was flung open and a pale-faced policeman in a lab coat and with a colonel's insignia appeared at the top of the stairs. Rising, he looked across the square, his pale eyes resting for a moment on Ivan Ilyich's face. Then he ran down the steps, while the Cossacks made way for him on either side, and he spoke to the Cossack captain, lifting his chin so that his beard stood on end. The captain listened with a wry smile, hunched over in his chair. The colonel nodded towards Old Nevsky Street and crossed the snow-covered square with lithe steps. A policeman ran up to him, his huge stomach contracting, his hand raised in a shaky salute. And from the direction of Old Nevsky Street, the cries of the advancing crowd grew louder, and the chant could finally be heard. Someone grabbed Ivan Ilyich violently by the sleeve, and an excited man, hatless and with a livid scratch on his face, climbed up beside him.

"Brothers! Cossacks!" she screamed in that hoarse, terrifying voice one hears just before murder and bloodshed, that wild, mad voice that horrifies the heart and covers the eyes with a film of madness. "Brothers, they are killing me... Help!... Murder!"

The Cossacks, turning in their chairs, looked at him in silence, pale and wide-eyed.

At that moment, the heads of the crowd of workers approaching the Kolpino district boiled in black on Old Nevsky Street. A wet flag of red pennants fluttered in the wind. The mounted police backed away from the front of the Northern Hotel, and suddenly their swords gleamed bare in their hands. Frantic screams came from the crowd. Again Ivan Ilyich saw the police colonel running, holding his revolver holster and waving to the Cossacks with the other hand.

Chips of ice and rocks flew from the crowd of Kolpino workers towards the colonel and the mounted police. The spindly-legged brown horses were hopping wildly. Faint revolver shots could be heard and clouds of smoke could be seen around the base of the monument: the police had fired on the Kolpino workers. And immediately after, in the ranks of the Cossacks, ten paces from Ivan Ilyich, a chestnut Cossack mare with a curved muzzle reared up; its rider, bent over its neck, hurled it towards the colonel of police in a few bounds, unsheathing his sword as he galloped; there was a hiss of the swinging sword, and he shoved the horse back onto its hind legs. Cossacks moved en masse to the crime scene. The crowd, breaking through the barriers, invaded the square. A few shots rang out, the explosion almost drowned out by the general shout of cheers.

"Telegin, what are you doing here?"

"I must leave today, whatever happens. On a freight train, in the engine room, it doesn't matter what!"

"Forget it! You can't leave now! It's the revolution, old man!"

It was Antoshka Arnoldov, unshaven, ragged, puffy eyes and reddened eyelids.

"Did you see how he cut off the policeman's head?" he shouted, digging his fingers into the lapels of Ivan Ilyich's coat. "It bounced like a football, wonderful! You don't get it, idiot, it's the revolution!"

Antoshka was raving like he was delirious. They were standing at the entrance to the station, surrounded by the crowd.

"This morning, the Lithuanian and Volinsk regiments refused to fire ... A company from the Pavlov Regiment went out into the street, armed. The whole city is upside down, nobody understands anything. The soldiers are as dense as flies on the Avenue Nevsky, afraid to go back to the barracks..."


Dasha and Katya, in fur coats and feather shawls on their heads, walked briskly along dimly lit Malaya Nikitskaya Street. A thin layer of ice crunched underfoot. The clear horned moon was rising in the cold pale green sky. Here and there a dog barked in a courtyard. Dasha laughed into the wet softness of her shawl, listening to the crunch of ice.

"If someone invented an instrument, Katya, and put it here," he said, placing a hand on his chest, "it would record extraordinary things."

Dasha hummed softly. Katya grabbed her arm.

"Let's go!"

A few steps further, Dasha stopped again.

"Katya, do you think you're really the4revolution?"

His eyes were dazzled from afar by the electric light above the entrance to the Lawyers' Club, where, at half-past nine that day, under the influence of wild rumors from Petrograd, the cadets had announced a public meeting, for the exchange of views, and to arrive to a common course of action in these troubled days. The sisters hurried upstairs to the second floor, where, simply throwing back their shawls without taking off their coats, they entered a room full of people listening anxiously to a burly old man with a pink beard, gesticulating gracefully with his large arms. . .

"Events are unfolding with breakneck speed," he was saying in a thin, gravelly voice. "Yesterday, in Petrograd, all power was transferred to General Khabalov, who posted the following notice throughout the city: 'In recent days, riots accompanied by violence and attempts on the lives of military authorities and police have taken place. All street gatherings are prohibited. The people of Petrograd are advised that I have confirmed the order to the troops to take up arms and stop at nothing to restore order in the capital..."

"Butcher's!" came from the back of the room in the rich bass of a theology student.

"This announcement, unsurprisingly, was the last straw. Twenty-five thousand soldiers from the Petrograd garrison, from all arms and services, passed over to the insurgents..."

Before he could finish speaking, the hall resounded with applause. People were jumping up and down in their chairs, shouting and gesticulating, as if they were going to transgress the old order from beginning to end. The speaker looked at the boisterous audience with a broad smile, then, raising his hand, continued:

"A very important phone message has just been received." He reached into the pocket of his plaid coat and unfolded a sheet of paper.

"Today, Duma President Rodzyanko sent a direct message to the Tsar: 'Grave situation. Anarchy in the capital. Defenseless government. Transport, supplies and fuel in complete disarray. Irregular shooting in the streets. Troops shooting at each other. Yes on some cases. It is essential to entrust the formation of a new government to someone who enjoys the confidence of the country. There must be no delay. Any delay would be fatal. I pray to God that at such a time as this the responsibility does not fall on the crowned head.' "

The rosy gentleman lowered the sheet of paper and let his glittering eyes roam the room. The people of Moscow have never been present at such an exciting performance!

"Gentlemen! We are on the verge of an imminent event, the greatest in our history," he continued, in his velvety, rumbling tone. "Even now, it may be," here he held out his arm like the statue of Danton, "the dreams of so many generations are being realized there, and the dark martyrs of the Decembrists are being avenged..."

"Oh God!" a woman moaned with irrepressible excitement.

"Perhaps all of Russia will merge tomorrow into a bright, brotherly chorus - freedom!"

"Hurray! Freedom!" several voices shouted.

The gentleman fell back in his chair, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. A tall, narrow-faced man with long blond hair and a dead-looking reddish beard rose from his seat at the corner of the table. Without looking at anyone in the audience, he began to speak in an ironic tone:

“I just heard some comrades shout: 'Long live freedom!' Good! What could be better: arrest Nikolai II in Mogilev, impeach the ministers, expel the governors, liquidate the police... Unfurl the red flag of the revolution... A good start. According to the information received, the revolutionary process began well and energetically. Apparently, this time it will not fail. But the gentleman who spoke before me was very eloquent. He expressed, if I understand correctly, complete satisfaction with the imminence of the revolution, and proposed in the near future the merging of all Russia into a fraternal chorus..."

The redhead took the handkerchief and brought it to his lips, as if to hide a smile. But a flush spread across her cheekbones and she coughed, her bony shoulders heaving. Someone behind Dasha, who shared a chair with her sister, asked:

"Who is talking?"

"Comrade Kuzma," was the reply in a quick whisper. "He was a member of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies in 1905. He recently returned from exile."

“Personally, I would be inclined to temper my outbursts if I were the previous speaker,” continued Comrade Kuzma, his waxen countenance suddenly turning angry and resolute. "Twelve million peasants were prepared for slaughter, they are still at the front ... Millions of workers are panting in cellars and starving in bread rows. Do you pretend to sing in a fraternal choir, trampling the workers in the meantime?

Whistles were heard from the audience, and an indignant voice exclaimed: "This is a provocation!" The rosy-faced gentleman shrugged and rang the bell. Comrade Kuzma continued speaking:

"The imperialists have thrown Europe into a monstrous war; the bourgeois classes, from top to bottom, have declared it sacred: this war for world markets, for the unprecedented triumph of capital... Those yellow pigs, the social democrats, lent their support for the bosses, assiduously repeating: "That's right! It is a national, holy war." The peasants and workers were sent to the slaughter... Who, I ask you, raised his voice during these bloody days?"

"What does he say? Who is he anyway? Make him shut up!" they came with angry voices. There was a riot. Some jumped up, waving their hands.

"... The time has come... The flame of revolution is destined to spread among the peasants and workers..."

The rest of what he said could not be heard, because of the noise in the body of the room. A few men in tailcoats rushed to the table. Comrade Kuzma backed off the platform and disappeared behind a door. In his place came a famous authority on child rearing.

"The scandalous statements of the previous speaker..."

At this time, a tender, touched voice said in Dasha's ear:

"Hello, baby!"

Dasha got up instantly, without even looking around: in the doorway was Ivan Ilyich. She looked at him, the most handsome man in the world, her own man! Once again, as was always the case, her attention was drawn to the fact that Dasha was nothing like he had envisioned her by default, but infinitely more beautiful: a warm flush spread over her cheeks and her gray-blue eyes gleamed. . it seemed unfathomable: twin lakes. She was perfect, the way she was, she was perfect.

"How are you?" she said softly, taking his arm, and they walked out of the room and out into the street.

Outside, Dasha stood, smiling and looking at Ivan Ilyich. Then she sighed, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him full on the lips. The utterly feminine charm of a slightly acrid perfume washed off her. He silently took her arm again and they walked over the crackling ice sheet, gleaming in the light of the sickle moon, which hung low over the street in the distance.

"I love you so much, Ivan! I've been looking forward to seeing you!"

"I couldn't escape, you know..."

"You shouldn't be mad at me for writing those horrible letters, I don't know how to write..."

Ivan Ilyich stopped and looked into his smiling face, turned to him silently. The feather shawl made her look very sweet and simple, and her brow line was dark under it. He gently pulled her to him and she pressed against him, moving her feet and never leaving his eyes. He kissed her again, and then they continued walking.

"Are you going to be here long, Ivan?"

"I don't know, anything can happen..."

"Yes, it's the revolution, you know."

"Fantastic! I traveled in the engine cabin!"

Ivan, you know...

Dasha caught up with him and fixed her eyes on him. the toes of your boots.


"I'll go back with you, to your apartment",

Ivan Ilyich did not answer, but Dasha noticed that he took a deep breath. Tenderness and pity for him welled up in her.


The next day was notable only as confirmation of the theory of relativity of time. It took Ivan Ilyich more than a year to take a taxi from his hotel on Tverskaya Street to a street along the Arbat.

“You can't ride a droshky for fifty kopecks anymore, sir! the izvozchik told him. "The people took matters into their own hands in Petrograd. And soon we'll do the same in Moscow. Look at that policeman standing there! I'd like to go to him, motherfucker." , and cut him across the face with my whip! Just wait gentlemen, we'll settle for everyone!

Dasha met Ivan Ilyich on the threshold of the dining room.

In her bathrobe, her ash blonde hair piled high, she smelled like soap and water. The time signal rang and time stopped. Now there was nothing but Dasha's words, Dasha's laughter, Dasha's soft hair, radiant in the morning sun. Ivan Ilyich became uneasy when Dasha crossed to the other side of the table. Dasha opened the doors to the sideboard, raised her arms, and the wide sleeves of her dressing gown slid back. It seemed to Ivan Ilyich that people simply did not have such arms, but the two white vaccination marks below the shoulder showed that these were human arms after all. Dasha took a cup and, turning her blond head, said something remarkable and laughed.

He made Ivan Ilyich drink several cups of coffee. She spoke words, and Ivan Ilyich spoke words, but apparently human words meant something only when time behaved normally; today the words had no meaning. Katya, sitting in the dining room, listened to Dasha and Telegin talking anxiously, immediately forgetting what they had said, whether it was something trivial about coffee, a leather cosmetics bag, a head cut off in Petrograd, or Dasha's hair, so strangely golden in the bright sunlight.

The maid brought the papers. Katya unfolded theRussian registration,he gasped and began to read aloud the Tsar's order for the dissolution of the State Duma. Dasha and Telegin were perfectly surprised by this, but Katya had to continue reading to herself. "Come to my room," Dasha said to Telegin, leading him along the dark corridor. She went in first, saying in a quick tone, "Wait a minute, don't look!" and put something white in a drawer.

Ivan Ilyich had never been in Dasha's room until now: her dressing table, full of countless mysterious items, her narrow white bed with its two pillows, one big and one small (Dasha slept with her head on the big one, putting the smallest one). below the elbow before falling asleep). By the window was a spacious armchair with the familiar feather shawl slung over the back.

Making Telegin sit on this chair, Dasha pulled out a stool for her and sat down opposite him. Elbows on her knees, chin resting on her palms, she looked into his face and commanded him to tell her how much he loved her. For a moment, the time bell rang again.

"If they gave me everything that exists, Dasha," said Telegin, "all the land, it would be useless to me. Do you understand me?" Dasha nodded. "What am I good to myself for if I'm alone? What do I need myself for?" Dasha nodded. "Why should I eat, walk, sleep? What are these arms and legs for? Supposing I got fabulously rich, what good would it be? Think of the misery of being alone!" Dasha nodded. "But now, with you sitting there... It's not me anymore... I just feel you, it's happiness. You, that's all. I look at you and my head is spinning. I can't believe you're actually breathing, living and... my... Dasha, you know what I mean?

"I remember how we sat on the deck," said Dasha, "and the wind blew, the wine sparkled in the glasses, and suddenly I felt as if we were floating towards happiness..."

"Do you remember how blue the shadows were?"

Dasha nodded and it really seemed to her that she could remember some beautiful shades of blue. He remembered the gulls flying behind the steam, the low shores, the bright path of sunlight cutting across the water and ending, as it seemed to him, in a blue ocean radiant with happiness. Dasha even remembered the dress she wore... And how many exhausting years have passed since then...

That night, Ekaterina Dmitrevna came running back from the Lawyers' Club, excited and euphoric, and told them:

"In Petrograd, all power is in the hands of the Duma Committee; the ministers have been arrested, but terrible rumors are circulating. They say that the Tsar has abandoned the army headquarters and that General Ivanov is marching to quell the riots in Petrograd with a whole body." .... And tomorrow the Kremlin and Arsenal will be stormed .... Ivan Ilyich: Dasha and I will come to you in the morning to see the revolution!


From the hotel window one could see the black stream of people moving slowly along narrow Tverskaya Street: heads everywhere, hard-brimmed caps, common caps, shawls, yellow patches of faces, moving, moving. if ... Spectators everywhere windows, boys on rooftops....

Ekaterina Dmitrevna, with her veil raised over her eyebrows, stood by the window, stretching her hand now to Telegin's hand, now to Dasha's, and repeating:

"Isn't it terrible? Isn't it terrible?"

"I assure you, Ekaterina Dmitrevna, the feeling in the city is absolutely peaceful," said Ivan Ilyich. "Just before you arrived I ran to the Kremlin. Negotiations are underway there, it looks like the Arsenal will be surrounded without a shot being fired..."

"Why are they going there then? Look how many people! What are they going to do?"

Dasha's gaze wandered from the restless ocean of heads to the outlines of roofs and turrets. It was a mild, misty morning. A flock of crows circled in the distance, over the golden domes of the Kremlin churches and the imperial eagles on their pointed towers.

It seemed to Dasha that the ice had broken into great rivers that were now flooding the land, and that she and her beloved were caught in its current, and now all she could do was hold his hand tightly. Her heart was beating in alarm and joy, like the heart of a bird flying in the sky.

“I want to see everything, let's go out,” said Katya.

The Duma, the headquarters of the revolution, a somber brick building adorned with bottle-shaped pillars, balustrades, small balconies and turrets, was draped with red flags. Ribbons of red pennants were wrapped around the pillars and hung from the ledge above the main entrance. There were four gray cannons mounted on tall wheels on the frozen cobblestones in front of the porch. Machine gunners with bunches of red ribbon on their handles were crouched inside the porch. Large crowds looked with delighted horror at the red flags and the dark, dusty windows of the Duma. From time to time, a small excited figure would appear on the small balcony above the porch and shout something inaudible, gesticulating at the same time, and was greeted with roars of joy by the crowd.

Looking at the flags and machine guns, people walked through the dirty, thawed snow through the deep arch of the Iverskaya Gate, towards Red Square, where, in front of the Spassky and Nikolsky gates of the Kremlin, insurgent military divisions were negotiating with emissaries of the regiment. reserves locked inside.

The crowd brought Katya, Dasha and Telegin to the entrance to the Duma. A scream, growing louder, came from Tverskaya Street and filled the entire square.

"Comrades, let's go through! Observe the law, comrades!" was heard in youthful voices. Four students, brandishing rifles, and a pretty, disheveled girl wielding a sword, were making their way through the crowd, which reluctantly made way for them. They were the main prisoners, ten policemen, huge men with mustaches, hands tied behind their backs and faces somber and depressed. At the head was an inspector, with a shaved, bluish head and no cap, and the dried blood turned black at his temples. His bright auburn eyes darted over the jeering faces of the crowd; his coat straps had been violently ripped off, taking pieces of fabric with them.

"Now you're getting what you deserve, my money!" the crowd screamed.

"We've had enough of your intimidation!"

"Your day is over..."

"Damn gang! Bulls!"

Grab them and give them a taste of torture!

Come on guys, all together!

"Comrades, comrades, let's go through, let's observe the revolutionary order!" the students shouted hoarsely. They ran for the entrance, past the cops ahead of them, and disappeared behind the big doors. A few people, Katya, Dasha and Telegin among them, pushed after them.

In the bare, high, dimly lit entrance hall, the gunners crouched on the damp floor next to their guns. A chubby-faced student, apparently a bit dazed with the noise and exhaustion, shouted to everyone present:

"I don't know about that! Its pass!"

Some showed him their passes, others, with a wave of their hands, ascended the wide staircase to the second floor. There, in the wide corridors, against the walls, soldiers lay or crouched silently, dusty and sleepy, holding their rifles. Some were munching on bread, others were snoring, their legs wrapped in traditional bandages. Behind them crowded the crowds of onlookers, scrutinizing the strange notices nailed to the doors, watching the hoarse-voiced commissioners rush from room to room in the last stages of excitement.

Katya, Dasha and Telegin, having beheld all these wonders, made their way into a hall containing two rows of huge bay windows with faded purple curtains and purple upholstered benches, lined up in a semicircular amphitheater. On the main wall, empty gilded frames that once surrounded royal portraits, enclosed black patches six feet high, before which, with her bronze robe thrown back, stood a marble Catherine, smiling gracefully and subtly at his subjects.

On the benches of the amphitheater, with their chins in their hands, lounged tired, pale, unshaven men. Some were asleep, their heads resting on the table in front of them. Others, indifferent, peeled the skin off the sausage pieces and ate bread. A few thin young men in black shirts sat at a long table with a green tablecloth fringed with gold, facing the smiling Catherine. One of them had a reddish beard and long hair....

"Look, Dasha!" Katya screamed. "There is Comrade Kuzma at the table!"

At that moment, a girl with short hair and a pointed nose approached Comrade Kuzma and whispered something in his ear. He listened to her without turning his head and got up saying:

"Mayor Guchkov has declared for the second time that weapons will not be handed over to the workers. I propose to vote without debate for a protest against the action of the Revolutionary Committee."

Telegin finally learned, from interrogating a short schoolboy who was conscientiously smoking a cigarette, that a meeting of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies was taking place, which had lasted for two days.

At dinnertime, the soldiers of the reserve regiment stationed in the Kremlin, seeing the smoke from the Red Square field kitchens, surrendered and opened the gates. A scream echoed through the square and caps were thrown. To Lobnoye Mesto, where False Dmitri* lies (dead, naked, with a sheep's mask on his face and a fool's trumpet on his belly), where Tsars were hailed and anathematized, where favors and coercions for the Russian people were proclaimed, On top of this small mound, now covered with dalmatian leaves and soaked in blood, a little soldier in a shabby overcoat climbed, bending over and covering his ears with his tall cap with both hands, trying to say something that was lost in the noise. it was such a thin little soldier, dragged by the last mobilization from some godforsaken place, and yet a lady with her feathered hat crooked on her head, rushed forward to kiss him, and he was dragged from Lobnoye Mesto. , and carried on the shoulders with shouts of triumph.

At this time, a handsome guy made his way through the crowd on Tverskaya Street, right in front of the governor-general's mansion, climbed onto the monument to Skobelev and tied a piece of red cloth to the general's sword. There were shouts of "Viva!" Certain mysterious individuals proceeded down a side street towards the Secret Police Department, and soon the sound of falling glass could be heard and clouds of smoke rose. There were more shouts of "Viva!" A well-known writer shed tears at the foot of the monument to Pushkin on Tverskoi Boulevard and gave a speech about the dawn of a new life, after which, with the help of a student, she placed a red flag in the hand of the thoughtful Pushkin. Shouts of "Viva!" again came from the crowd. The whole city seemed drunk that day. No one went home late at night; people gathered in groups, chatted, shed tears of joy, hugged each other, expecting that at any moment telegrams would arrive from who knows where. After three years of misery, hatred and blood, the "man in the street" was taken, pouring out his soul without a brake.

[* The third claimant to the Russian throne to use the name Dmitri, son of Ivan the Terrible. He was executed in 1613.]

Katya, Dasha and Telegin went home at dusk. There they found that the maid Liza had gone to a meeting on Prechistensky Boulevard and that the cook had locked herself in the kitchen and uttered hollow cries. Katya had great difficulty getting him to open the door.

"What's wrong with you, Marfusha?"

"They killed our ts-s-sar," she exclaimed, covering her thick lips, swollen from crying, with one hand. She smelled like liquor.

"What nonsense you say," said Katya with annoyance. "Nobody killed him!"

She put the kettle on and went to set the table. Dasha threw herself on the sofa in the living room, and Telegin sat down at her feet.

"Ivan, dear," said Dasha, "if I go to sleep, wake me up when tea is ready. I really want tea."

She turned on her side, placed the palm of her hand under her cheek and murmured, in a sleepy voice:

"I love you lots!"

Dasha's feather shawl glowed in the dark. Her breathing became inaudible. Ivan Ilyich sat motionless, his heart was full. A light appeared at the back of the room through a crack in the door, and then the door opened and Katya came in and sat down beside Ivan Ilyich on the hard cushion at the end of the sofa, folding her hands on one knee.

"Dasha went to sleep?" he asked, after a pause.

"She asked to be woken up for tea."

"Marfusha is howling in the kitchen that the Tsar was killed. What will happen, Ivan Ilyich? It seems that all the dams have burst. My heart hurts, I am worried about Nikolai Ivanovich. Be a love and send him a telegram as soon as possible , tomorrow... And when do you and Dasha plan to go to Petrograd?

Ivan Ilyich did not answer, and Katya turned to him and looked into his face with big eyes, like Dasha's, only more feminine and serious; she then she smiled, drew Ivan Ilych close to her and kissed him on the forehead.

The next morning, the whole city took to the streets. Trucks full of soldiers, armed with bayonets and swords, rolled along Tverskaya Street amidst dense crowds, accompanied by incessant applause. Small children rode a roaring cannon. Girls with raised swords and tense faces and ruthless schoolchildren armed to the teeth stood between mounds of dirty snow at the edge of the sidewalk to maintain order: they were the volunteer militiamen. Shopkeepers climbed ladders and pulled Tsarist eagles from their signs. Sick-looking girls from a tobacco factory marched around the city with a portrait of Leo Tolstoy, who sternly looked at all these wonders with a frown. It didn't seem possible that there could be more war or hatred; it was enough to climb a little higher, in some high tower, and hang a red flag, and everyone would realize that we are all brothers, that the only power in the world is joy, freedom, love, life...

When the telegrams arrived with the astonishing news of the Tsar's abdication, the transfer of power to Grand Duke Mikhail and the latter's refusal of the crown, no one was particularly surprised: even greater marvels were expected now.

In the transparent depths of the sky, a star shone above the jagged lines of roofs and the orange sunset. The bare branches of the lime trees were black and still. It was quite dark below them, and the frozen puddles on the sidewalk crunched under their feet. Standing, still holding Ivan Ilyich's arm, Dasha looked through the low railing at a light on the small windowsill of the Church of St. Nicholas.

The little church and its courtyard were in the shade, under the lime trees. A door slammed in the distance, and a short man in a floor-length coat and a hat with the brim turned down crossed the courtyard, his felt boots squeaking in the snow. You could hear him rattle the keys and slowly climb the stairs to the bell tower.

“The sexton went to ring the bell,” Dasha whispered, raising her head. The setting sun was reflected in the gold of the small dome above the bell tower.

The bell that had for three hundred years summoned the congregation to commit their souls to God before night approached rang. In an instant, Ivan Ilyich remembered the shrine with the silently weeping woman in a white robe on the threshold, a dead child on her knees. She squeezed Dasha's hand tightly with her elbow. She looked at him, questioning in his eyes.

"Do you want to come in?" he asked in a quick whisper. "Let's go!"

Ivan Ilyich smiled broadly. Dasha frowned and kicked off her boots.

"It's so funny, when you walk arm in arm with the person you love most in the world and you see a light in the window, what do you think about going in and getting married?"

He grabbed Ivan Ilyich's arm again.

"Now you understand me?" she said.


"Citizens, soldiers of the now free Russian army, it fell to me the unusual honor of congratulating you on this happy day, on which the chains of slavery were broken. In three days, without shedding a drop of blood, the Russian people accomplished the greatest revolution in history. The crowned Tsar Nikolai abdicated, the Tsarist ministers were arrested, Mikhail, the heir to the throne, rejected the onerous burden of the crown. From now on, power in its entirety was transferred to The Provisional Government took its place at the head of the State to, in the shortest possible time, hold elections to an All-Russian Constituent Assembly, on the basis of a direct, universal, equal and secret ballot... We now salute the Russian Revolution, the Constituent Assembly, the Government Provisional..."

"Viva-aha-!" came in a drawn-out roar of voices from thousands of soldiers. Nikolai Ivanovich Smokovnikov took a long khaki handkerchief from the pocket of his suede jacket and wiped his neck, face and beard. He spoke of a makeshift platform, which could only be reached by climbing the steps. Behind him was the Tetkin battalion commander, recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His weather-beaten face, with its short beard and fleshy nose, expressed deep concentration. When the applause erupted, he raised his hand to the brim of his cap in a nervous wave. About two thousand soldiers stood before the platform in a flat field, where the earth showed here and there in black patches against the grimy snow. Unarmed, with tin hats, their crumpled cloaks hanging down, they listened with open mouths to the remarkable words of that gentleman, as red as a turkey. In the distance, in the gray mist, the chimneys of a half-ruined city could be seen. Beyond were the German positions. A few tattered crows flew over the desolate field.

"Soldiers!" continued Nikolai Ivanovich, holding out his hand with spread fingers. The blood had risen to his neck. "Just yesterday you were subordinate echelons, an inarticulate herd sent to the slaughter by the Tsarist General Staff. You were not asked why you were dying... You were flogged for petty crimes and shot without trial." (Lieutenant Colonel Tetkin cleared his throat, shifted from foot to foot, but was silent and again tilted his head to the side, listening attentively.) for you-", here Nikolai Ivanovich clenched his fingers as if holding a bridle, " -that there are no more subordinate ranks. The term has been abolished. From now on, soldiers, you are equal citizens of the Russian state: there is no longer any difference between soldiers and army commanders. The terms 'Your Excellency', 'Your Excellency', 'Your Highness' have been abolished. From now on he will say: 'Good morning, Mr. General', 'Yes, Mr. General', 'No, Mr. General'. The humiliating reply 'Yes, Your Excellency! No, Excellency! it was abolished. The requirement for a soldier to salute all officers of any rank was forever abolished. You can shake a general's hand if you like..."

"Ho Ho Ho!" the soldiers laughed happily. Tetkin himself smiled, blinking nervously.

"And last, and most important of all, is this, soldiers! Before it was the Tsarist government that waged war, henceforth the people, yourselves, will conduct it. The Provisional Government, therefore, He proposes to form Soldiers." Committees in all military units: company, battalion, regiment, etc., up to the Army Committee. Choose for your comrades Committees you can trust. From now on, a soldier's finger will hover over a military map next to the Army Commander's Pencil... Soldiers, I congratulate you on the greatest achievement of the revolution!”

Shouts of "Viva!" sounded again over the field. Tetkin turned his attention, saluting. His face turned gray. Shouts rose from the crowd:

"Are we going to make peace with the Germans soon?"

"How much soap will each man be given?"

"How about leaving? What are the instructions?"

"Mr. Commissioner, what will it be like now? Do we have to choose a king now? Who will continue the war?"

Nikolai Ivanovich descended from the platform to better answer questions and was immediately surrounded by enthusiastic soldiers. Lieutenant-Colonel Tetkin, leaning on the railing of the platform, watched the military commissar's shaved head and plump neck move, circle here and there, disappear into the mass of tin hats. One of the soldiers, a mocking red-haired man with a cape slung over his shoulders (Tetkin knew him well, he was from a telephone company), grabbed Nikolai Ivanovich by the belt of his tunic and began to walk towards him, looking at everyone. round:

"Commissioner, you spoke well to us and we listened to you just as well. Now give me an answer to my question."

the other soldiersbuzzin joyful anticipation and pressed closer. Lieutenant Colonel Tetkin frowned and anxiously descended from the platform.

"That's my question," said the soldier, his black nail almost touching Nikolai Ivanovich's nose. "I got a letter from my village telling me that my cow is dead. We don't have a horse anymore, and my wife and children have to go out and beg for crumbs... So now you have the right to shoot me for defect?" ? That's what I want to know."

"If your personal prosperity is dearer to you than freedom, then betray your cause, betray it like a Judas, and Russia will throw it in your face that you were not worthy to be a soldier in the Revolutionary Army. Go to House!" shouted Nikolai Ivanovich sharply.

"¡No me grites!"

"Who are you to yell at us?"

"Soldiers!" Nikolai Ivanovich stood on tiptoe. "There has been a misunderstanding... The first duty of the revolution is to be faithful to our allies... The Free Russian Revolutionary Army must launch itself with renewed strength against the worst enemy of freedom: Imperial Germany."

"Have you ever helped feed the lice in the trenches?" a rough voice shouted.

"He never saw a louse in his life!"

"Give him a pair to start breeding..."

"Don't talk to us about freedom, talk to us about war. ' We've been fighting for three years... Everything's too good for you, you're sitting at home stuffing your belly... We want to know how to stop the war."

"Soldiers!" shouted again Nikolai Ivanovich. "The flag of the revolution was raised: freedom and the fight to the victorious end..."

"Damn idiot idiot!"

"Look, we've been fighting for three years and we haven't seen any victories..."

"They got rid of the Tsar on purpose, he didn't let them continue the war..."

"You were bribed, comrades!"

Lieutenant Colonel Tetkin, elbowing his way through the soldiers, pushed towards Nikolai Ivanovich just in time to see a huge, black-haired, round-shouldered artilleryman grab the front of the commissar's jacket, shake him, and yell in his face. Meanwhile:

"What are you doing here? Tell me, what are you doing here? You came to sell us, you son of a bitch!"

The back of Nikolai Ivanovich's round head seemed to sink into his neck, and his raised beard, which seemed to be glued to his face, was trembling helplessly. In his effort to fend off his assailant, his convulsively trembling fingers tore at the collar of the soldier's tunic. Scowling, the man took off his tin helmet and hit Nikolai Ivanovich hard, repeatedly, on the head and face.


The night watchman and a militiaman were sitting outside Muraveichik's jewelry store, talking quietly. The street was empty, the shops closed. The March wind whistled through the bare branches of the acacia trees, whispering torn apart the "Liberty Loan" sign taped to the fence. The bright southern moon, shivering like a jellyfish, hung over the city.

"He was resting in his villa in Yalta," said the night watchman in a measured tone. He has just gone for a walk, dressed in white trousers, with all his medals, and someone passes him a telegram in the street: the abdication of His Majesty the Tsar. And he, dear soul, read the telegram and began to cry in front of everyone..."

"¡Tchk! ¡Tchk! ¡Tchk!"

"And within a week he was fired."

"For what?"

"Because he is governor, it is not allowed today."

"Tchk! Tchk! Tchk!" said the militiaman, watching a skinny cat sneak cautiously in the moonlight under the acacias on its own.

"... and His Majesty the Tsar lived in Mogilev at the time, among his troops. Well, there he was, with nothing to worry him about, sleeping during the day, reading dispatches about the battles at night... . "

"He's thirsty again, the beast, he's going for water," said the militiaman.

"Who is he?"

Sinopli tobacconist's cat has just gone for a walk.

"Very well. All of a sudden they call His Majesty the Tsar directly on the hotline and say: one thing and another, people are rioting in Petersburg, soldiers refuse to attack people, they want to go home." Well, the Tsar thinks. , 'that's not so bad!' Then he summons all the generals and goes to talk to them with all their medals and insignia. 'People are rioting in Petersburg', he tells them, 'the soldiers refuse to attack people, they want to go home. What should I do? ? Give me your opinion. What do you think? Look at the generals, and the generals, old man, don't give an opinion, they all turn around...."

"Tchk! Tchk! Tchk! What a terrible thing!"

"Only one of them did not turn away, a drunken old general. 'Your Majesty,' said he, 'just tell me, and I will give my life for you!' But the Tsar shook his head and smiled bitterly. "Of all my subjects," he said, "I have only one faithful servant left, and he is drunk from morning till night. I see that my reign is coming to an end." , I want to sign my abdication.' "

"And he did?"

"He signed and started crying."

"Tchk! Tchk! Tchk! What a terrible thing!"

At that moment, a tall man in a large peaked cap pulled down to his eyebrows walked past the store on the street. His empty tunic sleeve was tucked into his belt. He turned to face the men seated at the front of the tent, his white teeth showing clearly in the moonlight.

"This is the fourth time this man has passed," said the watchman in a low voice.

Must be a bandit.

"War begat them. Yes, old friend! They appeared where none were before. They are artists in their own way."

In the distance, a clock on a steeple struck three and the roosters immediately crowed for the second time. The one-armed man reappeared in the street. This time, he addressed the two men directly, heading straight for the store. They looked at him in silence. The watchman suddenly exclaimed in a hurried whisper:

We're lost, Ivan, whistle!

The militiaman started to blow the whistle, but the one-handed man advanced towards him and kicked him in the chest, shortly after hitting the night watchman in the head with the butt of his revolver. At that moment, another man ran towards the entrance. He was a stocky guy with a bristly mustache who wore a soldier's overcoat. He lunged at the militiaman, wringing his hands behind his back with strong, swift movements.

The one-armed man and the burly man began working on the lock in silence. They burst into the store, dragging the stunned guard and the tied up militiaman with them, and slamming the door behind them.

It was all over in a few minutes, and the jewels and gold were tied together in two bundles. Then the beefy guy said, "And that what?" and kicked the militiaman who was lying on the floor at the foot of the counter.

"Dear friends, please don't!" implored the militiaman in a low voice. "Please no, lovely friends!"

"Let's go!" said the one-armed one roughly.

"They will report, I tell you!"

"Come on, pig!"

Arkady Zhadov, taking one of the packages with his teeth, pointed his Mauser at his partner. He smiled and headed for the door. The street was empty as usual. They left quietly, turned the corner and headed towards the "Chateau Cabernet".

On the way, Zhadov irritated the stocky man again: "Pig, crook, dirty dog! None of that if you want to work with me! Understood?"

"He is well!"

"And now, give us the package. Go get the boat ready now. I'll fetch my wife. We should be out to sea by dawn."

"Let's go to Ialta?"

This is none of your business. It is I who will decide whether we go to Yalta or Constantinople.


Katya was alone. Telegin and Dasha went to Petrograd. Katya saw them off at the station - they behaved as if in a dream - and returned home at dusk.

The house was empty. Marfusha and Liza went to a maids meeting. In the dining room, where the smell of cigarette smoke and flowers still lingered, a vase of cherry blossoms lay among the garbage from the previous meal. Katya watered from a pitcher, collected her things, and sat at the table without turning on the light, with her face turned toward the window, through which she could see the fading light in the overcast sky. In the dining room, an antique clock stood against the wall. Someone's heart might burst with pain, but the clock would keep ticking anyway.

Katya was motionless for a long time, but finally she took her feather shawl from an armchair, threw it over her shoulders and went to Dasha's room.

The striped mattress on the dismantled bed was barely visible in the twilight, an empty hatbox sat on a chair, and the floor was littered with papers and scraps of fabric. When Katya saw that Dasha had taken all of her most insignificant belongings, leaving nothing behind and forgetting nothing, she was hurt to the point of tears. She sat down on the bed, on the striped mattress, and here too, as in the dining room, she remained motionless.

The clock in the dining room struck ten hollow chimes. Katya threw her shawl over her shoulders and went into the kitchen. She listened for a moment and, tiptoeing, grabbed the cleaning book from the shelf, tore an empty page and wrote in pencil: "Liza and Marfusha, you should be ashamed to leave the house." all day." A tear fell on the paper. Katya put the note on the kitchen table and went to the bedroom. There she hurriedly undressed, climbed into bed and was silent.

The kitchen door rang at midnight and Liza and Marfusha came in, stamping their feet and talking loudly. They were heard walking around the kitchen, then there was a moment of silence and they both laughed: they had read the note. Katya was blinking and motionless.

Finally, all was quiet in the kitchen. The clock struck one, hollow and sleepless as ever. Katya rolled onto her back, kicked off the blanket, gasped, as if she couldn't get enough air into her lungs, then jumped out of bed, turned on the light and, squinting, went to the large free-standing mirror. Her thin shirt ended above her knees. She looked at herself, eager and quick, like a familiar image, and with a trembling chin she approached the mirror, lifting a strand of hair to the right of her head. "Yes, of course, there it is! And there's another one!" He scanned her face everywhere. -Of course! A year from now I'll be quite gray, and then ... an old woman ... she Turned off the light and lay down, covering her eyes with her forearm, close to her elbow. "Not an hour of joy in all my life! And now it's over. No one has arms to wrap around me, no one to say 'my love', 'my sweet', 'my joy'..."

Amidst bitter thoughts and regrets, Katya suddenly remembered a wet, sandy path through a meadow, blue in the rain and large linden trees. She walked the path herself, Katya, in a brown dress and black apron. The sand creaked under her slippers. Katya felt how light, slender she was, her hair ruffled by the breeze, and next to her, not on the road, but on the wet grass, student Alyosha was walking, pushing his bicycle. Katya was turning to one side to hide a laugh... Alyosha said in a hushed voice: "Except that there is no hope for me. I just come to say that. My days will end at a railroad station in some abandoned place of my hand God's". Farewell... So he mounted his bicycle and began to pedal across the meadow, leaving behind him a wet footprint in the grass... His gray jacket's back was folded over the shoulder straps, and his white cap was hidden by the foliage of the trees. trees. "Alyosha, come back!" Katya cried.

... Was it possible that she, a victim of insomnia, had once been on that damp road, with the summer breeze, with a faint smell of rain, her black apron fluttering? Katya sat on the bed, holding her head, elbows on bare knees, while the dim light of the lanterns, the thin snow, the wind blowing through the bare trees, the sad, desperate screech of the sleigh skates, the cold eyes of Bessonov they closed. for her, everything came back to her. ...

The luxury of weakness, of impotence. . . . The sick thrill of curiosity. . . .

Katya sat back. In the silence of the house, a bell tolled stridently. Katya turned cold. The bell rang again. Liza, half asleep and panting, walked barefoot down the hall, touched the chain on the front door, and at another moment knocked on the bedroom door: "A telegram for you."

Katya, grimacing, took the narrow envelope, opened it and unfolded it. The words swam before her eyes.

"Liza," he said, looking at the girl, whose lips were beginning to tremble with fear, "Nikolai Ivanovich is dead."

Liza screamed and started to cry. "Go!" said Katia. Then he read the hateful letters on the telegraph banners a second time:

"Nikolai Ivanovich died of grievous wounds received at his glorious post while on duty; his body will be transferred to Moscow at Union expense. . . ."

Katya was overcome by a feeling of nausea; her head spun and, reaching for the pillows, he fell unconscious. . . .

The next day, he was visited by a well-known liberal public figure, Prince Kapustin-Unzhesky, the same bearded, pink-haired gentleman he had heard about at the Lawyers' Club on the first day of the revolution. Taking both hands and pressing them against his terry vest, he began to tell him that, on behalf of the organization in which he had worked with the late Nikolai Ivanovich, on behalf of the city of Moscow, of which he was now deputy commissioner, on behalf of Russia, I wished to express inconsolable sadness at the untimely death of a glorious principled champion.

Prince Kapustin-Unzhesky was by nature so happy, healthy and good-natured, he was so sincerely sad, such a comforting cigar smell emanated from his beard and waistcoat, that for a moment Katya actually felt a little comforted. Looking up at the face shining with insomnia, she parted her dry lips:

"Thank you for speaking so kindly of Nikolai Ivanovich."

The prince took a huge handkerchief and wiped his eyes. His painful task accomplished, he left, and the fantastic roar of his car was heard on the road. Katya once again began pacing the room. She stopped in front of some photographs of an unknown general with a lion's head, picked up an album, a book, a Chinese box with a crane holding a frog in its beak on the lid, and resumed walking, looking at the wallpaper, the curtains. . He didn't touch dinner. "Wouldn't you try fruit jelly?" urged Liza. Teeth clenched, Katya shook her head. He had written a short letter to Dasha, but he immediately destroyed it.

He thought about lying down and sleeping. But lying in bed was like lying in her own coffin: after last night, she was afraid to go to bed. The hardest thing to bear was her desperate pity for Nikolai Ivanovich. He had been a good, kind, foolish man...he should have been loved for his own sake, and she had tortured him. That's why it turned gray so early. Katya looked out the window at the pale, dismal sky, pulling her fingers together until the knuckles creaked.

There was a memorial service the next day, and two days later the remains of Nikolai Ivanovich Smokovnikov were interred. Splendid speeches were made at his tomb: the deceased was compared to an albatross that perishes in the depths, to a man who carried a flaming torch through a glorious life. A short, bespectacled individual who turned out to be a well-known socialist revolutionary was late for the funeral. "Let me pass, please, citizen!" he barked at Katya and, pushing to the grave, gave a speech proving that the death of Nikolai Ivanovich was new proof of the correctness of the land policy of his party, the orator. The earth crunched under his messy boots and a clod landed with a thud on the coffin. A nervous spasm took hold of Katya's throat. She slipped through the crowd unnoticed and went home.

He only had one desire: to shower and go to bed. But upon entering the house he was assailed by the horror of the striped wallpaper, the photographs, the heron on the lid of the Chinese box, the crumpled tablecloth in the dining room, the dusty windows. How miserable everything was! She ordered the tub filled and climbed into the warm water with a groan. Now he felt a deadly weariness in all his limbs. She barely managed to drag herself to the bedroom and fell asleep outside the covers. Bells, footsteps, voices, someone knocking on the door, mingled with her dream, and she didn't answer.

When he woke up it was very dark. Her heart contracted painfully.

"What, what?" she screamed in wild terror, sitting up in bed, hoping for a moment that all this horror was just a dream. Then, for another moment, she was overcome with a sense of the injustice of it all. Why should she be tormented like this? And at last, fully awake, she smoothed back her hair, put the slippers on her bare feet, and told herself with quiet clarity, "That's enough."

With slow movements, Katya opened the door to the overhead medicine cabinet and began to read the labels on the bottles. Opening a small bottle of opium, she sniffed it and went, clutching it tightly in her clenched hand, to find a glass in the dining room. On the way, however, she was stopped abruptly by a light in the living room. "Is that you Lisa?" Katya asked quietly. Opening the door a crack, she saw a tall man in military tunic, with a black bandage around his shaven head, sitting on the couch. He got up in a hurry. Katya's knees began to buckle and she felt a tightness in the pit of her stomach. The man looked at her with terrifying eyes, dilated and spectral. Her straight lips were tightly compressed. It was Roshchin, Vadim Petrovich. Katya clasped her hands to her chest. Roshchin, without taking his eyes off her, said in a slow, determined tone:

I have come to pay my respects to you. Your maid told me of your misfortune. I stayed because I felt I had to tell you that I am at your disposal, that I am willing to dedicate my whole life to you.

Her voice shook as she spoke the last words, and her thin face was suffused with a dark flush. Katya pressed her hands tightly to her chest. Something in her eyes told him he should go to her and help her. When he approached, Katya said chattering teeth: "How are you, Vadim Petrovich!" He involuntarily raised his arm as if he were going to wrap it around her-she looked so fragile and sad with the bottle in her clenched fist-but in the next moment she dropped it, looking down. With feminine intuition, Katya realized in an instant that she, small, unhappy, sinful, helpless, laden with unshed tears, clutching a wretched bottle of opium, was dear and indispensable to this man, who was waiting for him in grim silence. soul on its own. Holding back tears, unable to open her mouth to utter a single word, Katya bent over Vadim Petrovich's hand and hugged it. lips and face against her.


Dasha was sitting looking out the window, her elbows resting on the marble sill. Over the dark forest at the end of Kameno-Ostrov Street, the sky was half covered by the setting sun. Miracles were happening up there. Ivan Ilyich sat down next to Dasha and looked at her without moving, although now he could move as much as he wanted, because Dasha would not leave this room, with the crimson reflection of the sunset glow on its white walls.

"How sad and how sweet," said Dasha. "As if we were floating on a blimp..."

Ivan Ilyich agreed. Dasha withdrew her arms from the windowsill.

"I really want music," he said. "When was the last time I played? Not since the war started! And imagine, the war is still going on. And we..."

Ivan Ilyich stirred. Dasha hastily continued:

When the war is over, we'll listen to music... Do you remember how we used to lie on the beach, Ivan, and how the sea rose over the sand? Do you remember what the sea was like, a faded blue? ? I felt like I had loved you all my life..."

Ivan Ilyich moved again, as if about to say something, but Dasha hastily exclaimed: "The kettle is boiling!" and he ran out of the room, stopping, however, at the door. In the darkness, he could just make out her face, her hand holding the curtain, and one leg in a gray sock. Then Dasha disappeared. Ivan Ilyich clasped his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.

Dasha and Telegin arrived that day at two in the afternoon. They had to spend the whole night sitting on their luggage in the aisle of the crowded train. The moment they arrived, Dasha began unpacking, peeking around corners, cleaning everything; she was delighted with the apartment, but was determined to rearrange everything in it. And it had to be done at once. The hall porter was called, and with the help of Ivan Ilyich, cabinets and sofas were transferred from one room to another. When all the changes were made, Dasha asked Ivan Ilyich to open the fortochki* everywhere and went to take a shower. She sneezed for a long time, did something to her face and hair, and, as she left, forbade Ivan Ilyich to go now into this, now into the other room, although all day long her only desire was to go on meeting Dasha and looking at her. . from him. When night fell, Dasha finally calmed down. Ivan Ilyich, washed and shaved, entered the room and sat down next to her. It was the first time they had been alone in silence since leaving Moscow. As if afraid of this silence, Dasha continued to speak. Much later, she confessed to Ivan Ilyich that she was suddenly afraid that he would say to her in a "special" voice: "Well, Dasha, what do you think?"

[ Small hinged panels used for ventilation. ]

He went to see the kettle. Ivan Ilyich was sitting there with his eyes closed. Although he had left, the air was still filled with his presence. There was an indescribable delight in the tapping of her heels on the kitchen floor. Suddenly there was a clinking of broken china, and Dasha's voice exclaimed: "A cup!" Warm joy engulfed Ivan Ilych. "When I wake up tomorrow, it won't be just another morning, Dasha will be there!" He quickly got up, and Dasha reappeared in the doorway. "I broke a cup! Do you really want tea, Ivan?"

"Not even a little!"

She approached him and, as it was already quite dark in the room, she put her hands on his shoulders. "What were you thinking?" he asked softly.


"I know butwhatWere you thinking of me?"

In the dark, her barely discernible face looked grim, though in reality she was smiling, breathing regularly, and her chest rising and falling.

"I was just thinking about how weird this all sounds," he said. "It's you, and you're my wife. Then all of a sudden it seemed so simple, and I was going to tell you, but now I can't understand it again."

"O-oh!" Dasha said. "Sit down, I'll sit next to her."

Ivan Ilyich sank into a deep chair, and Dasha leaned on his arm. "What else were you thinking?"

“I sat there, while you were in the kitchen, and I said to myself, 'A wonderful being has come to live in this house.' That was wrong, I think."

"Yes," Dasha answered thoughtfully, "this is all wrong."

"Do you love me, Dasha?"

"Oh!" she threw back her head. "I love you to the birch tree."

"What birch?"

"Didn't you know? There's a mound at the end of every life, and in it a weeping birch."

Ivan Ilych took her in his arms, and she fell tenderly into his arms. Like that day long ago by the sea, their kiss was long and they were out of breath.

"Oh, Ivan!" Dasha screamed and threw her arms around his neck. She could hear the violent beating of his heart and felt sorry for him. She rose with a sigh from the arm of her chair and said, quite simply, "Come on, Ivan!"

Five days after her arrival, Dasha received a letter from Katya. Katya wrote to say that Nikolai Ivanovich was dead.

"...I went through a period of misery and despair. I realized clearly that I was now supposed to be alone forever. Oh, how terrible that was! It was so terrible that I decided to end it immediately. You know what I mean... went saved by a miracle. Maybe it was just a coincidence. But no, it was a real miracle. I can't write about it. I'll tell you when we meet.

Katya's letter and the news of her brother-in-law's death were a shock for Dasha. She had decided to go to Moscow immediately, when the next day she received another letter from Katya, who wrote that she was packing to move to Petrograd and hoped that Katya could find her an inexpensive room. In a postscript he added: "Vadim Petrovich Roshchin will come to you. He will tell you everything about me. He is a brother, a father to me, my friend for life."

Dasha and Telegin were walking along an alley on a beautiful April Sunday. In the cool spring blue of the sky floated the tattered fragment of a cloud, melting in the sunlight. Sunlight penetrated the alley as if through layers of water and glistened on Dasha's white dress. The dry reddish stems of the pines seemed to be advancing towards them, their crowns murmuring, their branches rustling. Dasha looked at Ivan Ilyich: he had taken off his cap and was smiling with a frown. He had a sense of total peace and a full heart, full of the beauty of the day, the joy of breathing and walking, of having given himself so completely to the day and the man he was walking with.

"Ivan," said Dasha, and smiled.

"What is it?" he asked, also smiling.

"It doesn't matter!"

"What were you about to say?"

"Another moment!"

"I know what you were going to say!"

Dasha quickly turned to him.

"I bet not!"

They came to a big pine tree. Ivan Ilyich tore off a piece of bark covered with soft drops of resin, broke it between his fingers and gently looked at Dasha from under his eyebrows.

"Oh yes I do!"

Dasha's hand was shaking.

"You see," he said in a whisper. "I feel like I have to overflow into some other greater joy. I'm filled to the brim..."

Ivan Ilyich agreed. Now they were walking through a clearing carpeted with tender green grass and yellow buttercups, swaying in the wind. The wind fluttered the skirt of Dasha's dress. From time to time, while walking, she bent down to lower her skirt, saying each time: "What a drag this wind is!"

Beyond the clearing rose the high iron palace gates, their gilded spear points dulled with age. Dasha has a stone in her shoe. Ivan Ilyich bent down, took the shoe off Dasha's warm white-socked foot, and kissed it near the toes. Putting the shoe back on and tapping her foot into place, Dasha said:

"I want to have your baby is what I was going to say."


Ekaterina Dmitrevna found a room not far from Dasha, in a wooden house managed by two old women - Klavdia Ivanovna and Sofochka. Klavdia Ivanovna had been a singer at some remote period, and Sofochka was her companion. In the morning, Klavdia Ivanovna would touch up her eyebrows, put on a raven-colored wig, and sit down to play solitaire. Sofochka, who worked in cleaning, had a masculine voice. The house was clean, full of all kinds of old-fashioned rugs, canvases and yellowing portraits that dated from the unrecoverable days of youth. In the morning there was a smell of good coffee in the rooms; Klavdia Ivanovna, who could not stand the smell of the kitchen, often sniffed salts while dinner was being prepared, and Sofochka shouted in a man's voice from the kitchen: "What can I do with the smell? You can't fry potatoes. " in cologne!" Oil lamps with frosted globes were lit at night The old women were very kind to Katya.

He dwelt in peace in this ancient comfort, untouched as it was by the storm of time. She got up early, tidied up her room, and sat by the window to straighten her clothes, mend her socks, or change her old fine clothes for something simpler. After breakfast, she would go to the Islands, taking a book or some needlework with her, and would sit on a bench in her favorite spot, near the pond, watching the children playing in the pile of sand, or reading, working , thinking. At six he came back and had dinner with Dasha. At eleven, Dasha and Telegin accompanied her home: the sisters walked arm in arm in front, Ivan Ilyich whistled, his cap around his neck, going after them, "to cover the rear", because it was not very safe for them. walking the streets at night now.

Every day Katya wrote to Roshchin, who was all this time on a special mission at the front. She told him in scrupulous detail everything she had done and thought during the day. Roshchin begged her to do this, assuring her in her replies: "Ekaterina Dmitrevna, I am grateful that you wrote that today, when you were crossing the Elagin Bridge, it started to drizzle and, as you did not have an umbrella, you waited under the trees until it stopped. I want to know every detail of your life, I don't know how I could go on living without them."

Katya knew that Roshchin was overreacting and that she could have gotten along just fine without knowing the "details of his life", but the idea of ​​having to be alone with herself for even a single day was so frightening that she tried not to think about it. , but simply to believe that her life was really dear and necessary for Vadim Petrovich. And so whatever he did now had special significance. Once he lost his thimble, and after looking for it for an hour he found it had been on his finger the whole time. How Vadim Petrovich would laugh when he found out how distracted she was! Katya now behaved as if she didn't just belong to her. Once, sitting thoughtfully at her window work, she noticed that her fingers were shaking. Lifting her head, she tucked the needle into the skirt that was in her lap and stared straight ahead for a long moment, until finally her gaze fell on her thin face in the closet mirror across the way, the big sad eyes and the softly combed hair gathered at the nape of the neck. "Can be me?" she wondered. Lowering her eyes, she continued to sew, but her heart was pounding and her finger was pricked; raising it to her mouth, she looked in the mirror again, but this time she saw herself reflected, and the image was less beautiful than the first... That same night she wrote to Roshchin: "I've been thinking about you all day I miss you so much, dear friend. I sit by the window and wait. Something long forgotten is coming to life inside me: girlish dreams..."

Even Dasha, who had become very distracted in her preoccupation with the subtle relations between herself and Ivan Ilyich, relations which she was convinced had been unparalleled since the creation of the world, noticed the change in Katya and one day, as they sat over afternoon tea, arguing long and hard that Katya should always wear simple black dresses with high necks. "You really should," she said. "You can't see yourself, Katya, you look nineteen. You look younger than me, don't you, Ivan?"

"Yeah, I mean, not exactly, but..."

"Doesn't understand anything!" Dasha said. "It's not age that counts for women, it's something very different. Age has nothing to do with it."

The small amount that Katya had left after the death of Nikolai Ivanovich soon came to an end. Telegin advised him to sell his apartment on Panteleimonov Street, which had been empty since March. Katya agreed, and she and Dasha went upstairs to get some things their partnerships had made expensive.

When she reached the second floor and saw the familiar oak door, with the brass plaque inscribed "Nikolai Ivanovich Smokovnikov", Katya felt that her life had been turned upside down. The well-remembered old porter who, panting furiously and sleepily, coat thrown over his shoulders and collar turned up to protect his throat, so often opened the front door for him after midnight, invariably putting out the light before Katya did. he had time to climb the stairs, now he raised his cap in front of them and opened the apartment door with his own key. Letting them pass before him, he said softly:

"You can be sure, Ekaterina Dmitrevna, not a crumb was lost, I watched my guests day and night. Their son was killed at the front, or they would continue to live here, they were very happy with the apartment." ." The room was dark and uninhabited, and the curtains were drawn in all the rooms. Katya went into the dining room and turned on the electric switch. The cut-glass chandelier gleamed above the table, with its gray fabric covering, in the one with the china flower basket still inside it with a dried twig of mimosa inside.High-backed leather upholstered chairs, indifferent witnesses to the joyous scenes once enacted here, lean against the walls.A door was ajar.carved sideboard, revealing upside-down wine glasses. The oval Venetian mirror was covered with dust, but at its top still slept a golden child, hand outstretched over a golden flourish...

Katya stood motionless in the doorway. "Dasha!" she cried softly. "Dasha, do you remember? Imagine, now there is no one left!"

So he went into the living room, turned on the big chandelier, and looked around with a shrug. The cubical, futuristic paintings that once looked so bold, so sinister, now hang on the walls, bleak and pitiful, like discarded carnival trimmings.

"Remember that one, Katya?" Dasha said, pointing to "Modern Venus", crouching with her flower in the yellow corner. "I used to think then that she was to blame for all our problems."

She laughed and started looking through a pile of sheet music. Katya went to her old room. Here everything was as it had been three years ago, when, dressed for travel, veiled, she ran back to her room to get her gloves.

But now there seemed to be a boring movie about everything, and everything was much smaller than he remembered. Katya opened a closet full of scraps of lace and silk, scraps of fabric, stockings, slippers. All these trifles that had seemed so important to her before, still smelled faintly of perfume. Katya began to look aimlessly through them, each one linked to memories of a life gone forever.

Suddenly, the silence of the house was broken and filled with the sound of music. It was Dasha playing that same sonata she had practiced while preparing for her exams three years earlier. Katya closed the closet door, went into the living room and sat down next to her sister.

"Isn't it adorable, Katya?" Dasha said, turning around.

He played a few more bars and picked up another song from the floor.

"Let's go," said Katya. "I have headache."

"What about your things?"

"I don't want to take anything from here. I'll have the piano taken to your apartment, and nothing else matters."

Katya came to dinner, spurred on by her quick, cheerful walk and a new hat with a blue veil.

"I almost got caught," she said, touching Dasha's face with warm lips, "and as it is, I got my shoes wet. Give me something to wear."

She took off her gloves and went to the living room window. The rain, which she had already threatened several times, now fell in a gray torrent, swirling in sudden gusts of wind, crashing down the pipes. Far below, running umbrellas could be seen. Something white flashed past the window through the growing darkness, followed by a crash that made Dasha gasp.

"Do you know who's coming to see you today?" Katya said, a smile hovering over her lips.

Before Dasha could ask who she meant, there was a buzz at the front door and she hurried to open it. Katya heard Ivan Ilyich laugh and wipe his feet on the rug, and then he and Dasha, talking and laughing loudly, walked through the door to the dining room and into the bedroom. Katya took off her gloves, took off her hat and smoothed her hair, the tender smile still floating on her lips.

Ivan Ilyich, flushed and cheerful, his hair still wet, told them the day's events over dinner. At the Baltic Works, as now at all factories and factories, the workers were in an uproar. The Soviets invariably supported their demands. Private companies closed one after the other and state companies worked at a loss, but in these times of war and revolution nobody cared about profit. There was another meeting at the factory. Some Bolsheviks spoke and they all said the same thing: "Stop the war! No compromise with the bourgeois government! No negotiations with the landlords! All power to the soviets.theyknow what to do!"

"I tried to speak too. But not at all! I was dragged off the platform. Vasili Rublev stood up and said: 'I know you are not our enemy, so why do you talk a lot of nonsense? You've filled yourself with idiots notions! "Vasya! I told him, 'The works will stop in six months, and there will be nothing to eat!' And then he answered me: "By the New Year, all the factories will be in the hands of the workers, comrade, there will not be a single bourgeois in the republic, not even for stallions! And there will be no more money. Work and live, everything is yours. It's yours. the social revolution, try to get that into your head! He promises all that for the New Year."

Ivan Ilyich laughed softly, shaking his head at the same time, however, and began picking up crumbs on the tablecloth. Dasha sighed.

"I feel there are big tests ahead," he said.

"Yes," said Ivan Ilyich, "the war is not over, that's it! After all, what has changed since February? They got rid of the Tsar, and now there is even more disorder. And a bunch of lawyers and professors - highly educated people, yeah of course! - are assuring the whole nation: be patient, keep fighting, and in time we will give you a British Constitution, or a better one. They don't know Russia, these professors. They have learned nothing. of Russian history. The people Russian is not just an abstract quantity. They are an emotional, talented, and strong people. See how the Russian peasant shoved his toothpick shoes all the way to the Pacific coast! A German will stay where he is, toiling and resisting for a hundred years. But the Russian peasant is not so patient. He may be inspired by dreams of conquering the universe. He will start with his home-made pants and cane shoes, an ax in his belt And the teachers believe that they can confine the raging sea of ​​people inside of a decent constitution. Yes, we are destined to witness very serious events!"

Standing at the table, Dasha poured coffee. Suddenly she dropped the coffeepot and pressed herself against Ivan Ilyich, burying her face in his chest.

"Come on, Dasha, don't be angry," he said, stroking her hair. "Nothing this terrible has happened so far... We've been in tighter quarters than this before. I remember, are you listening? We were approaching a place called The Rotten Limes'..."

He began to remember his misadventures during the war. Katya glanced at the antique clock and left the dining room. Her husband's strong, calm face and smiling gray eyes reassured Dasha: with such a man you shouldn't be afraid! He listened to the end of "The Rotten Files" story and went to his room to powder his face. Katya was sitting at her dressing table, putting on her makeup.

"Dasha," she said, her voice low. "Do you still have any perfume? You know, the Paris bottle!"

Dasha fell to the ground in front of her sister and looked at her in deep bewilderment. "Are you preening your feathers, Katya?" she whispered. Katya blushed and nodded. "What's wrong with you today, Katya?"

"I tried to tell you, but you didn't hear me, Vadim Petrovich is coming tonight, he'll come straight here from the station. He can't come to me, it's too late..."

At nine-thirty there was a knock on the door. Katya, Dasha and Telegin ran into the hall. Telegin opened the door and Roshchin came in, his coat crumpled and crumpled over his shoulders and his cap pulled down over his eyes. A smile softened his lean, dark, deeply tanned face when he saw Katya. She looked at him with gleeful confusion. He tossed his coat and cap onto a chair and, shaking hands with everyone, said in a powerful but slightly muffled voice, "Forgive me for bringing you in so late, I felt I should see you tonight, Ekaterina Dmitrevna, and you, Daria Dmitrevna." Katya's eyes filled with light.

"I'm glad you came, Vadim Petrovich," she said, kissing the top of his head with trembling lips as he bent over her hand.

"You should have brought your things," said Ivan Ilyich, "we won't let you go, that's for sure!" “He can sleep on the divan in the dining room,” said Dasha. We'll put a chair at one end if it's too short.

Roshchin heard as in a dream what these gracious and kind people told him. He had arrived in a state of exasperation engendered by sleepless nights on the train, days spent fighting his way through the carriage windows in search of food, and in ceaseless fighting amid deafening obscenities, for six inches of standing space. He couldn't shake the grotesqueness of the situation: there were these three almost unbearably clean and beautiful people, smelling so good, greeting him on a gleaming parquet floor, and it was him, Roshchin, they were so happy to see him. ... As in a dream, he looked into Katya's beautiful eyes, which seemed to say: happy, happy, happy...

Adjusting her belt and straightening her shoulders, she let out a deep breath.

"Thanks," he said. "Where should I go?"

They took him to the bathroom to wash up and then to the dining room for something to eat. He ate without noticing what was in front of him and, his hunger sated, he pushed his plate away and lit a cigarette.

His stern, lean, clean-shaven face, which had so alarmed Katya when he appeared in the doorway, now softened, but he looked even more exhausted. His large hands, on which the light from the orange shadow fell, trembled as he struck the match. Katya, her face shielded by the lamp, looked up at him and marveled at the hair on the back of his hands, the buttons on his dark brown tunic, wrinkled. She noticed that he used to clench his jaw when he spoke and let the words come out between clenched teeth. The sentences fell into a spasmodic jumble. It was obvious that, aware of all this, he was trying to drown out a long-standing angry excitement in himself ... Exchanging glances with her sister and her husband, Dasha told Roshchin that she was sure that he was tired and asked if not I would like to go to bed. She blushed suddenly and sat up straight in her chair. "I didn't come here to lie down... No... no..." He went out onto the porch and stood there at night in a drizzle. Dasha looked out onto the porch and shook her head. Outside, Roshchin shouted into the room:

"Forgive me, Darya Dmitrevna! It's those four sleepless nights..."

She reappeared, smoothing the hair on top of her head, and returned to her seat.

"I came directly from headquarters," he said. "I bring extremely discouraging information to the Minister of War... I was sad when I saw you all. Let me tell you everything: I have no one in the world as close to me as you are, Ekaterina Dmitrevna..."

Katya paled. Ivan Ilyich was leaning against the wall with his hands behind his back. Dasha looked at Roshchin with wide eyes.

"Unless a miracle happens," he said, "we are lost. The army is no more. The front is disintegrating. Soldiers are scattering from the roofs of the carriages... There is no human possibility of preventing the collapse of... . ahead. It's like a tidal wave... The Russian soldier has lost all idea of ​​\u200b\u200bwhat he is fighting for, has lost all respect for the war and everything connected with the war: the state, Russia. The soldiers firmly believe that someone just needs to shout the word: 'Peace!' and the war will end that very day...we gentry are the only ones who don't want it to end.he puts down his rifle and can no longer be forced to the autumn when all ten million have returned , Russia will have ceased to exist as a sovereign state".

His jaws clenched together so savagely that the muscles in his cheeks contracted. No one said a word, and he continued in the same hushed tone:

"I am bringing a plan to the Minister of War. Some generals have drawn up a plan for the salvation of the front... Very original it is... whatever happens, the Allies will not be able to reproachforagenerals of not wanting to continue the war. This is the plan: declare mass demobilization in the shortest possible time, that is, organize the existing desertion, and thus save rail transport, artillery, ammunition and food. To give our allies firm assurance that we intend to continue the war. At the same time, to form a defending army of loyal units, there are, in the Volga districts; start organizing a completely new army, the core will consist of volunteer divisions; simultaneously to support and form guerrilla bands... With the support of supplies from the Ural mills and with coal and grain from Siberia, to start the war again..."

"Expose our front to the Germans. Give our country up for plunder!" Telegin shouted.

"You and I don't have a country anymore, just the place where it used to be." Roshchin clenched his fists as he lay down on the tablecloth. "Great Russia ceased to exist the moment the people laid down their arms. You don't seem to realize what has already begun... Will Saint Nicholas help you now? They have forgotten how to pray to him. ... Great Russia now it is just manure for the fields. Everything will have to start anew; the army, the state, a new soul will have to be breathed into us."

He took a deep breath through his nose, dropped his head into his hands on the table and sobbed with hollow, heartbreaking sounds...

Katya didn't go home that night. Dasha forced her to sleep with her in her own bed, preparing a bed for Ivan Ilyich in her office. Roshchin went out onto the porch to recover from a scene that had shaken everyone's nerves, soaked himself in the rain and, returning to the dining room, apologized. After all, the wisest thing to do would be to go to bed. He could barely stay awake long enough to undress, and when Ivan Ilyich tiptoed in to put out the lamp, Roshchin was asleep, lying on his back with his hands crossed over his chest. His drawn face, the lids closed, the lines accentuated by the bluish light of dawn, was that of a man struggling with pain. Katya and Dasha, lying under the same blanket, had a long conversation in low voices. From time to time, Dasha stopped to listen. Ivan Ilyich had not yet settled into his office. "Walking up and down," said Dasha, "and he has to be at the factory by seven." She got up and ran barefoot to her husband's room. Ivan Ilyich was sitting on his sofa bed, shirtless and suspenders hanging down, reading a huge book open on his knees.

"Aren't you asleep yet?" he exclaimed, looking at Dasha with bright blind eyes. "Sit down. Look what I found! Listen to this!" He turned a page or two and began to read:

“Three hundred years ago, the wind ran free over the forests and plains of Russia, over the vast graveyard known as the Russian land. along the grassy paths, flocks of crows, and at night the howling of wolves. the pearls plucked from icon frames, which they stole over the course of ten years, Russia was robbed and plundered until there was nothing left to take.

"The country was devastated and depopulated. Even the Crimean Tatars had ceased their raids on the wild steppe: there was no more loot to steal. During the ten years of the Great Trouble, Polish usurpers, thieves and invaders began to cutthroats and fire. the tip of the Russian land. Famine stalked the land: people ate horse dung and salted human flesh. The Black Death raged. Survivors wandered north to the White Sea, the Urals, Siberia.

"In those terrible days, a shrunken boy, whom the patriarch had advised the impoverished boyars, the merchants who had no market for their wares, and the stern peasants of the northern and Volga districts, to become the Tsar of Moscow, was taken on a sleigh over the muddy roads of early spring, towards the charred walls of Moscow, that vast heap of ash, that ruined and devastated city, so hard cleared of the Polish invaders. The Tsar could do nothing but weep and pray. He prayed and wept, looking out of his carriage windows at the wild, ragged crowd of Russians who poured out to meet him at the gates of Moscow. The Russian people did not have much faith in their new Tsar. But life must go on. .. And they began to live. The Stroganov merchants were borrowed money. The townspeople began to build, the peasants - to plow the abandoned land. Good people were sent on horseback and on foot to clear the paths of thieves. Life was hard, austere. Deep bows were paid to Crimea, to Lithuania, to the Swedes. Faith was preserved. It was recognized that there was only one power: a strong, skillful and resourceful people. They expected to survive the hard times, and they did. And again the wastelands were populated, overgrown with burdock... Ivan Ilyich slammed the book shut. -You see! And we will win this time too. Great Russia was ruined! And the grandchildren of those same ragged peasants who went out with spears to save Moscow defeated Carl XII and Napoleon. And the grandson of that boy dragged by force to Moscow, built St. Petersburg. Ruined Great Russia indeed! As long as we had only one province, Russia would rise again on its soil. He snorted and looked out the window, through which the gray dawn heralded the day. Dasha rested her head on her shoulder and he stroked her, kissing her hair.

"Go back to bed, scared baby." Dasha laughed, kissed him good night, and left him, turning in the doorway to say, "Katya loves you so much, Ivan."

"Well, he's a nice guy."

The afternoon was hot and windless. There was a smell of gasoline in the air mixed with the smell of the tarred surface of the road. Along Nevsky Prospect, a motley crowd moved confusedly amid the smells, clouds of tobacco smoke and dust. Honking and rattling, official cars raced past, pennants waving. The shrill voices of newsboys announced shocking news that no one else believed. Sellers of cigarettes, matches, and stolen items moved in and out of the crowd. In the squares, soldiers lay on the grass between the flowerbeds, nibbling sunflower seeds.

Katya was returning alone from Nevsky Prospect. She and Roshchin made an appointment around eight o'clock on the embankment. Katya entered Palace Square. In the dark windows of the second floor of the gloomy blood-red palace, the yellow light of electric lamps glowed. Cars were parked in front of the main entrance, and soldiers and drivers were passing by, laughing and talking. A messenger flew past on a screeching motorcycle: a boy in a driver's cap, his shirt billowing out behind him. An old man with a long gray beard stood motionless on one of the corner balconies of the palace, his elbow resting on the banister. Rounding the palace, Katya looked back: the graceful bronze horses atop the General Staff archway still loomed in the setting sun. He crossed the bank and sat down on a stone bench near the water's edge. The bluish filigree outlines of the bridges loomed over the lazily flowing Neva. The spire of Peter-Paul Cathedral gleamed, its pale gold reflecting off the river. A fragile little boat moved over the bright reflections. The pale globe of the setting sun was descending behind the roofs and columns of smoke on the Petersburg side in an orange glow.

With her hands folded in her lap, Katya sat serenely watching the sunset, waiting patiently for Vadim Petrovich. He came up behind her, so she wouldn't notice, and he stood there, leaning against the stone parapet, watching her. Sensing his presence, she looked back and stood up, smiling. He was looking at her with a strange expression of admiration on her face. He climbed the stone steps to the embankment and took Roshchin's arm. They began to walk, and Katya said quietly:

"What is it?"

Her lips twitched and she lifted a shoulder in response. They crossed the Troitsky Bridge and, as they turned into Kameno-Ostrov Street, Roshchin nodded towards a large brown tiled mansion. The wide windows of her conservatory were brightly lit. A few motorcycles stopped at the entrance.

This was the home of a famous dancer, now used by the Bolsheviks as their headquarters. Day and night the click of typewriters could be heard. Every day a large crowd of workers, retired soldiers, sailors gathered in front of the house, and the leader of the Bolshevik Party appeared on a porch and said that workers and peasants must take power by storm, they must immediately put an end to it. , with war, and establish in their own land and throughout the world a new and just regime.

"I stood here in the crowd a little while ago and listened," Roshchin said through clenched teeth. "Fire and brimstone come down from this balcony and the crowd clears it. I no longer know who the strangers are in this city, ourselves or that group." He nodded toward the porch. "Nobody listens to us anymore. We mutter nonsense. When I got here I knew it was Russian. But now that I'm here, I feel strange. I don't understand..."

As they walked down the street, they were startled by a man in a torn coat and straw hat, a bucket in one hand and a packet of posters in the other.

"I'm only sure of one thing," said Roshchin, turning away so as not to see her distorted face, "one point of life and light in all this chaos, and that is your heart, Katya. You and I must never part. " ."

"I didn't dare tell you that," Katya replied calmly. "Of course we must never part, my dear."

They reached the place where the man with the bucket had just taped a small note to the wall and, both of them a little defeated, they stopped for a moment. In the light of the lamp the words could be made out: "Attention everyone! The revolution is in danger!"

"Ekaterina Dmitrevna," said Roshchin, taking her frail hand and leading her slowly along the wide street, which was growing silent in the twilight, the glow of the night still lingering in the sky beyond. "Years will pass, wars will die out, revolutions will calm down and only one thing will remain: your kind, tender and loving heart..."

The sound of happy voices, discussions, music, came through the open windows of the great houses. The hunched figure of the man with the bucket once again caught up with Katya and Roshchin. He tucked in another bill and turned it over. Under the brim of the torn straw hat, eyes burning with hatred glared at them.

August 1921.

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