Mikhail Lermotov 1840-1841

CC-Culture and Art Department



Recently I learned that Pechorin had died while returning from Persia. This news pleased me very much, for it gave me the right to publish these notes, and I took advantage of the opportunity to sign my name to another man's work. God forbid that the reader should cast blame on me for such an innocent forgery!


Now I have to explain briefly what it was that prompted me to make public the innermost secrets of a man I never knew. It might've been understandable had I been his friend, for the perfidious indiscretion of the true friend is something everyone can understand. But I saw him only once, on my travels, and hence can't regard him with that inexplicable hatred which, concealed under the mask of friendship, only waits for death or misfortune to overtake the object of affection in order to bring down upon his head a hailstorm of arguments, advice, mockery and sympathy.

Reading over these notes, I became convinced that the man must've been sincere in so mercilessly laying bare his own weaknesses and vices. The story of a human soul, even the pettiest of souls, can hardly be less interesting and instructive than the story of a nation, especially if it is the result of the observation of a mature mind and written without the vain desire to evoke compassion or to amaze. One of the defects of Rousseau's Confessions is that he read them to his friends.

Thus it was purely the desire to do some good that impelled me to publish excerpts from a journal which I just happened to acquire. Though I've changed all proper names, those mentioned in it will no doubt recognize themselves and perhaps find justification for deeds they have held against a man who is no longer of this world. For we nearly always forgive that which we understand.

I have included in this book only excerpts bearing on Pechorin's stay in the Caucasus. This still leaves me with a fat notebook in which he tells the story of his whole life. Some day it too will be submitted to public judgment. Now, however, I dare not take the responsibility upon myself for many important reasons.

Some readers will probably want to know what I think of Pechorin's character. My reply may be found in the title of this book. "But that is wicked irony!" they'll say.

I don't know about that.


Taman is the most miserable dump of all the seaboard towns in Russia. I very nearly died of hunger there, and was almost drowned in the bargain. I arrived by stage coach late at night. The coachman stopped his tired troika at the gate of the only brick building, which stood at the entrance to the town. Roused from a doze by the tinkling of the carriage bell, the Black Sea Cossack on sentry duty shouted wildly: "Who goes there?" A Cossack sergeant and a corporal emerged from the building. I explained that I was an officer on my way to join an active service unit on official business and demanded housing for the night. The corporal took us around town. All the cottages we stopped at were occupied. It was chilly, and not having slept for three nights running, I was exhausted and began to lose my temper. "Take me anywhere you want, you good-for-nothing! To hell, if you please, as long as there's a place to stay!" I shouted. "There is still one place left," the corporal replied, scratching the back of his head. "Only you won't like it, sir; there are strange goings on there . . ." Failing to understand the precise meaning of the last remark, I told him to go ahead, and after wandering about for a long time in muddy alleys lined with rickety fences, we drove up to a small hut on the seashore.

A full moon lit up the reed roof and white walls of my prospective dwelling. In the courtyard, which was fenced in by a crude stone wall, stood another miserable, crooked hut, smaller and older than the first. A cliff dropped abruptly to the sea from the very walls of the hut, and down below the dark-blue waves broke against the shore with an incessant roar. The moon looked down serenely upon the restless ships at anchor far from the shore, their black rigging a motionless cobweb against the paler background of the skyline. "There are ships in the anchorage," thought I. "Tomorrow I'll leave for Gelendzhik."

A Cossack from a front-line unit served as my valet. Telling him to take down my suitcase and dismiss the driver, I called for the master of the house. There was no answer. I knocked, and still there was no reply. What could it mean? Finally a boy of about fourteen appeared from the porch.

"Where is the master?" "No master." "What? You mean there is no master at all?" "None at all." "And the mistress?" "Gone to town." "Who's going to open the door for me?" said I, kicking at it. The door opened by itself, and a damp smell came from the hut. I struck a sulfur match and brought it close to the youngster's nose, and in its light I saw two white eyes. He was blind, totally blind from birth. As he stood motionless before me I looked closely into his face.

I admit that I'm greatly prejudiced against all the blind, squint-eyed, deaf, mute, legless, armless, hunch-backed and so on. I've observed that there's always some strange relationship between the external appearance of a man and his soul, as if with the loss of a limb the soul too has lost some faculty of sensation.

So I examined the blind lad's face, but what would you have me read on a face without eyes? I looked at him long with involuntary pity, when a faint smile flitted across his thin lips, making, I know not why, the most unpleasant impression on me. A suspicion that he wasn't as blind as he seemed flashed through my mind, and in vain I tried to assure myself that it's impossible to pretend to have a cataract. And why would anyone do that? But I couldn't help suspecting, for I am often inclined to preconceived notions.

"Are you the master's son?" I asked him at last. "Nay." "Then who are you?" "Orphan, a poor orphan." "Has the mistress any children?" "Nay. There was a daughter but she ran away across the sea with a Tatar." "What kind of a Tatar?" "The devil knows! A Crimean Tatar, a boatman from Kerch."

I walked into the hut. Two benches, a table and a huge trunk next to the stove were the sole furnishings. Not a single icon was there on the wall--a bad sign that! The sea wind blew in through a broken window. I took out the stub of a wax candle from my suitcase and lighting it began to lay out my things. I put my sword and gun in a corner, laid my pistols on the table, and spread out my cloak on a bench while the Cossack laid out his on the other. In ten minutes he was snoring, but I couldn't sleep. The lad with the white eyes kept twirling before me in the darkness.

About an hour passed in this way. The moon shone into the window and a beam of light played on the earth floor of the hut. Suddenly a shadow darted across the bright strip on the floor. I got up and looked out of the window. Someone again ran past and disappeared, God knows where. It didn't seem possible that the somebody could have run down the cliff to the shore, yet he could not have gone anywhere else. I got up, put on my shirt, fastened a knife to my belt, and softly went out of the hut. The blind boy was coming towards me. I moved close to the fence, and he went past with sure though cautious tread. He carried a bundle under his arm. Turning toward the boat landing, he began down along a narrow, steep path. "On that day shall the mute sing out and the blind shall see," . . . I thought, following close enough not to lose sight of him.

In the meantime clouds began to close around the moon and a fog came up at sea. The stern light of the ship nearest the shore was barely visible through it. On the shore gleamed the foam of the breakers, which threatened to submerge it at any moment. Picking my way with difficulty down the steep slope, I saw the blind boy stop, then turn to the right and proceed so close to the water that it seemed the waves must surely grab him and carry him out to sea. It was obvious, however, that this was not the first time he was taking this stroll, judging by the confidence with which he stepped from stone to stone and avoided the holes. At last he stopped as if listening for something, then sat down on the ground with his bundle beside him. Hidden behind a projecting cliff I watched his movements. A few minutes later a figure in white appeared from the other side, walked up to the blind boy and sat down beside him. The wind carried fragments of their conversation to me.

"What do you say, blind one?" a woman's voice said. "The storm is too heavy; Yanko won't come."

"Yanko is not afraid of storms," the other replied.

"The fog's thickening," came the woman's voice again with a note of sadness.

"It will be easier to slip by the patrol ships in the fog," was the reply.

"What if he's drowned?"

"Well, what of it? You'll go to church on Sunday without a new ribbon."

A silence followed. I was struck, however, by one thing: the blind boy had spoken to me in the Ukrainian dialect, and now he was speaking pure Russian.

"You see, I'm right," said the blind boy again, clapping his hands. "Yanko does not fear the sea, or the winds, or the fog, or yet the coast patrols. Listen, that's not the waves splashing, you can't fool me; those are his long oars."

The woman jumped up and peered anxiously into the distance.

"You're raving, blind one," she said. "I don't see anything."

I must admit that, strain as I did, I couldn't detect anything like a boat in the distance. Some ten minutes had passed that way when a black speck now growing larger, now smaller, appeared among the mountainous billows, Slowly climbing to the crests of the waves and sharply dropping into the troughs, the boat approached the shore. It was an very brave oarsman who ventured on a night like this to cross the fifteen miles of the strait, and the reason that was behind it must have been important indeed. Thus thinking, my heart involuntarily quickening its beat, I watched the frail craft dive with the dexterity of a duck and then leap up from the watery chasm through the flying foam with a swift movement of the oars that recalled the thrust of wings. I thought it would have to crash full force against the shore and be dashed to pieces, but it neatly swung around and slipped safely into a tiny bay. A man of medium size, wearing a Tatar sheepskin cap, stepped from the boat. He motioned with his hand and all three began to haul something from the craft. The cargo was so great that to this day I can't understand why the boat hadn't sunk. Each shouldering a bundle, they set out along the shore and I soon lost sight of them. I had to return to my lodgings. I must admit, however, that all these strange doings alarmed me, and I could hardly wait for the morning.

My Cossack was very much surprised when upon waking up he found me fully dressed, but I gave him no explanation. After admiring for some time the blue sky mottled with ragged little clouds and the Crimean coast which spread out in a line of mauve in the distance and ended in a crag topped by the white tower of a lighthouse, I set out for the Phanagoria fort to inquire at the commandant's when I could leave for Gelendzhik.

But, alas, the commandant was unable to tell me anything definite. The vessels in the harbor were either coast guard ships or merchant boats which hadn't even begun loading. "Perhaps there'll be a packet boat in three or four days," the commandant said, "and then we'll see." I returned to my lodgings sad and angry. My Cossack met me at the door with a scared look on his face.

"Looks bad, sir!" he said.

"Yes, my friend. The Lord knows when we will get away!" Now he looked still more worried. Bending toward me, he whispered: "It's an unclean place here! Today I met a Cossack sergeant I know--we were in the same detachment last year. When I told him where we'd stopped he said to me: 'Brother, it's unclean there; the people are no good!' And, come to think of it, what sort of a fellow is this blind man? Goes everywhere alone, to the market, for bread, and to fetch water. You can see they're used to that sort of thing here."

"What of it? Has the mistress of the house appeared at least?"

"While you were out today an old woman came with her daughter."

"What daughter? She has no daughter."

"God knows who she is then, if she's not. The old woman is in the hut now."

I went inside. The stove had been stoked up until it was hot and a dinner rather sumptuous for poor folk was cooking. To all my questions the old woman replied that she was deaf and couldn't hear me. What could I do? I addressed the blind boy, who was sitting in front of the stove feeding brushwood into the fire. "Now tell me, you blind imp," said I, taking hold of his ear, "where did you go last night with that bundle, eh?" He burst into tears and began howling and wailing: "Where'd I go? Nowhere. And I don't know of any bundle." This time the old woman heard what was going on and began to grumble: "Of all the things to imagine, and about a poor boy like him, too! Why can't you leave him alone? What has he done to you?" I got tired of this and I walked out firmly resolved to find the key to the riddle.

I wrapped my cloak around me and sat down on a boulder beside the wall, looking into the distance. Before me spread the sea agitated by last night's gale, and its monotonous roar like the murmuring of a city falling into slumber reminded me of bygone years, carrying my thoughts to the North, to our frigid capital. Stirred by memories I forgot all else. An hour and perhaps more passed that way. Suddenly something like a song caught my ear. It was indeed a song, and the voice was pleasant, feminine, but where did it come from? I listened to it. It was a strange melody, now slow and plaintive, now fast and lively. I looked around, but saw no one. I listened again, and the sound seemed to drop from the heavens. I looked up, and on the roof of the hut I saw a girl in a striped dress, a real mermaid with loose long hair. Shading her eyes from the sun with her hand, she was looking into the distance, now smiling and talking to herself, now starting up the song again.

I memorized the song word for word:

Over boundless billows green,
Over billows surging,
Fly the ships with sails a-spread,
Onward urging.
There among those ships at sea,
Sails my shallop sprightly,
Curtsying to wind and wave,
Kissed by combers lightly.
Stormy winds begin to blow,
Stately ships a-rocking,
Widely do they spread their wings--
To leeward flocking.
The angry ocean then I pray,
Bending low before him:
"Spare my bark, Oh fearsome one!"--
Thus I do implore him.--
"Precious goods are stowed on board!--
The sea foam is a fright!--
Keep her safe--a crazy one steers
Through the darkening night!"

It occurred to me that I had heard the same voice the night before. For a moment I was lost in thought, and when I looked up at the roof again, the girl was no longer there. Suddenly she skipped past me, singing a different tune. Snapping her fingers, she ran in to the old woman, and I heard their voices rise in argument. The old woman grew very angry but the girl merely laughed aloud. A short while later my mermaid came skipping along again. As she approached me she paused and looked me straight in the eyes, as if surprised at finding me there. Then she turned away carelessly and went quietly down to the boat landing. This, however, wasn't the end of it: all day long she hovered around near me, singing and skipping about without a moment's rest. She was a strange creature indeed. There was nothing foolish about her expression--on the contrary, her eyes inspected me with keen penetration, they seemed to be endowed with some magnetic power, and each glance appeared to invite a question, but as soon as I opened my mouth to speak she ran away, smiling artfully.

Never had I seen a woman like her. She was far from beautiful, though I have my preconceived notions as regards beauty as well. There was much of the thoroughbred in her, and in women as in horses that is a great thing--this is something discovered by Young France. It (I mean breeding, not Young France) is betrayed mainly by the walk and by the hands and feet, and particularly characteristic is the nose. In Russia a classic straight, Roman nose is rarer than small feet. My songstress looked no more than eighteen. Her extraordinarily supple figure, the peculiar way she had of tilting her head, her long auburn hair, the golden sheen of her slightly sun-tanned neck and shoulders, and especially her finely chiseled straight nose enchanted me. Though I could read something wild and suspicious in her sidelong glances and though there was something indefinable in her smile, the preconceived notions got the better of me. The chiseled nose knocked me off my feet, and I fancied I had found Goethe's Mignon, that fanciful figment of his German imagination. And indeed, there was much in common between the two, the same swift transitions from supreme agitation to utter immobility, the same enigmatic conversation, the same gambolling and the same strange songs . . .

Toward evening I stopped her in the doorway and engaged her in the following conversation:

"Tell me, my pretty one," I asked, "what were you doing on the roof today?"

"Looking where the wind blows from."


"Whence the wind blows, thence blows happiness."

"Indeed, were you invoking happiness by song?"

"Where there is song there is also good fortune."

"Supposing you sing in grief for yourself?"

"What of it? If things will not be better, they'll be worse, and then it's not so far from bad to good."

"Who taught you that song?"

"No one taught it to me. I sing whatever comes to my mind; he to whom I sing will hear; he to whom I don't won't understand."

"What is your name, my nightingale?"

"Whoever named me knows."

"And who named you?"

"How should I know?"

"You are furtive! But I've learned something about you." There was no change in her expression, not even a trembling of her lips, as if it all were no concern of hers. "I've learned that you went down to the shore last night." Assuming an air of importance I told her everything I had seen, hoping to disconcert her, but no way! She only burst out laughing. "You saw a lot but you know little--and what you do know you'd best keep under lock and key."

"Supposing I took it into my head to report to the commandant?" And here I adopted a very serious, even severe face. Suddenly she bounded off and began singing, disappearing like a bird frightened into flight. My last remark was entirely out of place, though at the time I did not suspect its full significance and only later had occasion to regret ever having made it.

It was already just dark and I told the Cossack to put on the kettle, lit a candle and sat at the table smoking my traveling pipe. I was already finishing my second glass of tea when the door suddenly creaked and I heard the soft rustle of a dress and light footsteps behind me. I was startled and turned around: it was she, my mermaid! She sat down opposite me without a word and looked at me with eyes that for some unfathomable reason seemed full of sweet tenderness. They reminded me of eyes that years before had so despotically played with my life. She seemed to wait for me to speak, but I was too confused to say a word. The deathly white of her face betrayed the tumult within her. Her hand aimlessly wandered over the table and I noticed that it trembled--now her bosom rose high, now she seemed to be holding her breath. The comedy began to fade and I was ready to cut it short in the most ordinary fashion by offering her a glass of tea when she jumped up, twisted her arms around my neck and planted a moist, fiery kiss on my lips. Everything went dark before my eyes, my head swam, and I embraced her with all my youthful passion, but she slipped like a snake from my arms, whispering in my ear: "Meet me on the shore tonight after everyone is asleep", and ran out of the room as swift as an arrow. In the hallway she upset the tea-kettle and the candle standing on the floor. "She-devil!" shouted the Cossack, who had made himself comfortable on some straw and was intending to warm himself with the tea I had left. I came to myself suddenly.

Some two hours later when all was quiet in the harbor I woke up my Cossack. "If you hear a pistol shot," I told him, "run down to the waterfront." He opened his eyes wide but replied mechanically: "Yes, sir." I stuck a pistol under my belt and went out. She was waiting for me at the top of the slope, flimsily clad to say the least, a small shawl tied around her supple waist.

"Follow me," she said, taking me by the hand, and we started down the slope. I do not know how I managed not to break my neck. At the bottom we turned to the right and took the same path along which I had followed the blind boy the night before. The moon had not risen yet, and only two stars like two distant lighthouses shone in the dark blue sky. The swell came in at even, regular intervals, barely lifting the lone boat moored to the shore. "Let's get into the boat," said my companion. I hesitated, for I have no predilection for sentimental sea jaunts, but this was not the time to retreat. She jumped into the boat and I followed, and before I knew it we had cast off. "What does this mean?" I asked, angrily now. "It means," she said as she pushed me on to a seat and wrapped her arms around me, "that I love you." She pressed her cheek against mine and I felt her breath hot on my face. Suddenly something splashed into the water; I reached for my belt, but the pistol was gone. Now a terrible suspicion crept into my heart and the blood rushed to my head. Looking around, I saw we were already some hundred yards from the shore, and there am I unable to swim! I wanted to push her away but she clung to my clothes like a cat, then gave me a sharp push that nearly threw me overboard. The boat rocked dangerously, but I regained my balance, and a desperate struggle began between us. Fury gave me strength, but I soon noticed that my opponent was more agile than I. "What do you want?" I shouted, gripping her small hands. I could hear her fingers crack, but she didn't cry out--her snakelike nature was superior to the pain.

"You saw us," she replied, "and you will tell on us." With a superhuman effort she forced me against the gunwale until we both hung perilously over the water and her hair dipped into it. The moment was decisive. I braced my knee against the side of the boat and held her by the hair with one hand and the throat with the other. She let go of my clothes and in a flash I had hurled her into the sea.

It was already quite dark and after seeing her head bob up a couple of times in the foam I lost sight of her completely.

I found a piece of an old oar at the bottom of the boat, and after a great deal of effort managed to reach the landing. As I was making my way along the shore back to the hut, my eyes turned involuntarily toward the spot where the blind boy had waited for the nocturnal boatman the night before. The moon was coming up and in its light I thought I saw someone with white clothes sitting on the shore. Spurred on by curiosity I crept towards it and lay down in the grass on top of a hill rising from the shore. By raising my head slightly I could observe everything that happened below, and I was neither too surprised nor too sorry to find my mermaid there. She was wringing the sea water from her long hair, and I noticed how her wet shift outlined her lithe form and raised breasts. Soon a boat appeared in the distance and quickly approached the shore. Like the night before, a man stepped out of it wearing a Tatar cap, though his hair was cut in Cossack fashion, and he had a large knife stuck under his belt. "Yanko," she said, "everything is lost!" They continued talking, but in so low a voice that I could not hear a word. "And where is the blind one?" Yanko finally asked in a louder tone. "I sent him for something," was the reply. A few minutes later the blind boy appeared carrying a bag on his back. This was put into the boat.

"Listen, blind one," said Yanko, "take care of that spot, you know what I mean? There's a wealth of goods there . . . And tell (the name I could not make out) that I am no longer his servant. Things have turned out badly and he'll see me no more. It's dangerous to go on. I'm going to look for work elsewhere; he won't find another daredevil like me. And tell him that had he paid more generously, Yanko wouldn't have left him. I can always make my way wherever the wind blows and the sea roars!" After a brief pause, Yanko continued: "I'll take her with me, for she can't stay behind, and tell the old woman it's time she died. She's lived long enough and ought to know when her time's up. She'll never see us again."

"What about me?" the blind boy whimpered.

"What do I need you for?" was the answer.

In the meantime my mermaid had jumped into the boat and was making signs to the other to come. Yanko put something into the blind boy's hand and muttered: "Here, buy yourself some ginger cakes." "Is that all?" asked the blind one. "All right, take this too." The coin rang as it fell on the stones. The blind boy didn't pick it up. Yanko got into the boat, and as the wind was blowing out to sea, they raised a small sail and quickly slipped into the distance. For a long time the white sail flashed among the dark waves in the moonlight. The blind boy remained sitting on the shore, and I heard something that sounded like sobbing: it was the blind boy crying, and he cried for a long, long time . . . A sadness came over me. Why did fate have to throw me into the peaceful lives of honest smugglers? Like a stone hurled into the placid surface of a pond I had disturbed their tranquillity, and like a stone had nearly gone to the bottom myself!

I returned to where I was staying. In the hall a candle spluttered its last on a wooden platter, while my Cossack, orders notwithstanding, was fast asleep, gripping a gun with both hands. I didn't disturb him, and picking up the candle went into the room. But alas, my box, my silver-inlaid saber and a Daghestan dagger that I'd received as a present from a friend had all disappeared. Now I guessed what the confounded blind boy had been carrying. Waking up the Cossack with little ceremony, I swore at him and vented my anger, but there was nothing that could be done about it any more. And wouldn't it have been idiotic for me to complain to my superiors that I'd been robbed by a blind boy and that an eighteen-year-old girl had all but drowned me?

Thank God an opportunity offered itself the following morning to travel on, and I left Taman. What became of the old woman and the poor blind boy, I don't know. And, after all, what have human joys and sorrows to do with me, an officer who travels around on official business!



Part II

Conclusion of Pechorin's Journal

 Princess Mary

11 May
Yesterday I arrived in Pyatigorsk and rented quarters in the outskirts at the foot of Mount Mashuk; this is the highest part of the town, so high that the clouds will reach down to my roof during thunderstorms. When I opened the window at five o'clock this morning the fragrance of the flowers growing in the modest little front garden flooded my room. The flower-laden branches of the cherry trees peep into my windows, and now and then the wind sprinkles my writing desk with the white petals. I have a marvelous view on three sides. Five-peaked Beshtau looms blue in the west like "the last cloud of the storm blown over." In the north rises Mashuk like a shaggy Persian cap, concealing this part of the horizon. To the east the view is more cheerful: down below, the clean new town spreads colorfully before me, the medicinal fountains babble, and so do the multilingual crowds. Further in the distance the massive amphitheater of mountains grows ever bluer and mistier, while on the fringe of the horizon stretches the silvery chain of snow-capped peaks beginning with Kazbek and ending with twin-peaked Elbrus . . . It is a joy to live in a place like this! A feeling of elation flows in all my veins. The air is pure and fresh like the kiss of a child, the sun is bright and the sky blue--what more could one desire? What place is there here for passions, yearnings and regrets? But it's time to go. I'll walk down to Elizabeth Spring, where they say the spa society congregates in the mornings.

On reaching the center of the town I took the boulevard, where I encountered several melancholy groups slowly climbing the hill. That most of them were land-owning families from the steppes was obvious from the worn, old-fashioned coats of the men and the dainty dress of the wives and daughters. They evidently had all the eligible young men at the spa marked out, for they looked at me with fond curiosity. The Petersburg cut of my coat deceived them at first, but in discovering my army epaulets they soon turned away in disgust.

The wives of the local officials, the hostesses of the springs, so to speak, were more graciously inclined. They carry eyeglasses with handles and pay less attention to the uniform, for in the Caucasus they have learned to find ardent hearts under brass buttons and enlightened minds under white army caps. These ladies are very charming, and remain charming for a long time! Their admirers are renewed every year, which. perhaps explains the secret of their endless good nature. As I climbed up the narrow path leading to Elizabeth Spring I passed a crowd of men, both civilians and military, who, as I discovered later, form a class in itself among those who wait for the movement of the waters. They drink, but not water, go out but little, make love for amusement in a half-hearted way--they gamble and complain of boredom. They are dandies. They assume affected poses as they dip their wickered glasses into the sulfur water. The civilians show off pale-blue neckties, and the army men, ruffs showing above their collars. They express a deep disdain for provincial society and sigh at the thought of the aristocratic drawing rooms of the capital, which don't accept them.

Here at last is the well . . . On a site nearby, a little red-roofed building has been raised over the baths, and further on, a porch to shelter the promenaders when it rains. Several wounded officers--pale, sad-looking men--sat on a bench holding their crutches in front of them. Several ladies were briskly pacing back and forth, waiting for the water to take effect. Among them were two or three pretty faces. Through the avenues of vines that cover the slope of Mashuk I caught occasional glimpses of variegated bonnets that evidently belonged to seekers of solitude for two, since each bonnet was invariably accompanied by an army cap or an ugly round hat. On a steep cliff where there is a pavilion named the Aeolian Harp, sightseers were training a telescope on Elbrus. Among them were two tutors with their charges who had come here in search of a cure for scrofula.

Panting, I had stopped at the brow of the hill and was leaning against a corner of the building surveying the picturesque scene, when I suddenly heard a familiar voice behind me: "Pechorin! Been here long?"

I turned around and saw Grushnitsky. We embraced. I had met him in a front-line unit. He had a bullet wound in the leg and had left for the watering place a week earlier than I.

Grushnitsky is a cadet. He has served only a year and wears a heavy soldier's overcoat which he shows off as his particular brand of foppery. He has a soldier's Cross of St George. He is well-built, dark-faced and dark-haired, and looks twenty-five though he can scarcely be more than twenty-one. He has a way of throwing his head back when talking, and he constantly twirls his mustache with his left hand, for with his right he leans on his crutch. His speech is glib and florid; he is one of those people who have a pompous phrase ready for every occasion, who are unmoved by simple beauty and who grandly assume a wrap of extraordinary emotions, exalted passions and exquisite anguish. They delight in creating an impression, and romantic provincial ladies are infatuated with them to the point of distraction. In their old age they become either peaceable landlords or drunkards, sometimes both. They are often endowed with many good qualities, but they have not an ounce of poetry in their souls. Grushnitsky used to have a passion for declaiming--he would shower you with words as soon as the conversation transcended the bounds of everyday matters, and I could never argue with him. He neither answers your rebuttal nor listens to what you have to say. As soon as you stop, he launches upon a long tirade which on the face of it seems to have some bearing on what you have said, but actually amounts only to a continuation of his own argument.

He is rather witty and his epigrams are frequently amusing but never pointed or malicious--he will never annihilate a person with a single word. He knows neither people nor their weak spots, for all his life he has been preoccupied with himself alone. His object in life is to become the hero of a romance. So often has he tried to make others believe he is a being never intended for this world and hence doomed to some kind of occult suffering that he has practically convinced himself of it. That is why he shows off his heavy soldier's overcoat. I see through him and he dislikes me for it, though on the face of it we are on the friendliest of terms. Grushnitsky has a reputation for superb courage. I have seen him in action: he brandishes his saber, and dashes forward shouting with his eyes shut. There is something very un-Russian in that brand of gallantry!

I don't like him either, and I feel we are bound to fall foul of each other one day with sorry consequences for one of us.

His coming to the Caucasus too was the result of his romantic fanaticism. I am certain that on the eve of his departure from his father's village he tragically announced to some pretty neighbor that he was not going merely to serve in the army, but to seek death, because . . . at this point he probably covered his eyes with his hand and went on like this: "No, you must not know the reason! Your pure soul would shudder at the thought! And why should you? What am I to you? Could you understand me?" and so on and so forth.

He told me himself that the reason why he enlisted in the K---- regiment will forever remain a secret between him and his Maker.

And yet when he discards his tragic role, Grushnitsky can be quite pleasant and amusing. I would like to see him in the company of women, for I imagine that's when he'd try to be at his best.

We greeted each other as old friends. I began to ask him many questions concerning life at the spa and the interesting people there were to be met.

"We lead a rather prosaic life," he sighed. "Those who drink the waters in the mornings are listless like all invalids, and those who drink wine in the evenings are unbearable like all people who enjoy good health. There is feminine company, but it offers little consolation. They play whist, dress badly and speak terrible French. This year Princess Ligovskaya with her daughter are the only visitors from Moscow, but I haven't met them. My overcoat is like a brand of ostracism. The sympathy it evokes is as unwelcome as charity."

Just then two ladies walked past us toward the spring, one middle-aged, the other young and slender. I couldn't see their faces for the bonnets, but they were dressed in strict conformity with the very best taste: everything was as it should be. The young woman wore a high-necked pearl-gray dress. A dainty silk scarf encircled her supple neck. A pair of dark-brown shoes encased her slender little feet up to the ankles so daintily that even one uninitiated into the mysteries of beauty would have caught his breath, if only in amazement. Her light but dignified gait had something virginal about it that eluded definition yet was tangible enough to the eye. As she walked past us, that subtle fragrance was wafted from her which sometimes is exhaled by a billet-doux from a charming woman.

"That's Princess Ligovskaya," said Grushnitsky, "and her daughter, whom she calls Mary in the English manner. They've been here only three days."

"You seem to know her name already."

"Heard it quite by accident," he replied, blushing. "I must confess I have no desire to meet them. These haughty aristocrats look upon us army men as savages. What's it to them if there's an intellect under a numbered cap and a heart beneath a thick overcoat?"

"Poor overcoat," said I, smiling. "And who is the gentleman going up to them and so obligingly offering them a glass?"

"Oh, that's the Moscow dandy Rayevich! He's a gambler, as you can see by the heavy gold chain across his blue vest. And look at that thick cane--just like Robinson Crusoe's! Or the beard he sports, and the haircut à la moujik."

"You seem to bear a grudge against the whole human race."

"And with good reason . . ."


By this time the ladies had left the well and were again passing us. Grushnitsky hurried to strike a dramatic pose with the help of his crutch and replied loudly to me in French: "Mon cher, je haïs les hommes pour ne pas les mépriser, car autrement la vie serait une farce trop dégoûtante."

The attractive young princess turned and bestowed on the speaker a long and searching glance. It was an obscure kind of look, but without a trace of mockery. I mentally congratulated him on it from the bottom of my heart.

"This Princess Mary's extremely pretty," I said to him. "Her eyes are like velvet, yes, velvet. I'd advise you to adopt this expression when you talk about her eyes: the eyelashes, both upper and lower, are so long that the sunbeams find no reflection in her pupils. I love eyes like that--without a shine in them, and so soft that they seem to be caressing you . . . By the way, I think they are the only good point in her face . . . And are her teeth white? That's very important! It's a pity she didn't smile at your grandiloquence."

"You talk about a pretty woman as if she were an English thoroughbred," said Grushnitsky indignantly.

"Mon cher," I replied, trying to fall into his tone, "je méprise les femmes pour ne pas les aimer, car autrement la vie serait un mélodrame trop ridicule."

I turned and walked off. For half an hour I strolled along the vine-clad walks, along the limestone rocks and among the low bushes between them, until it grew hot and I hurried home. As I passed by the sulfur spring I stopped to rest in the shade of the covered gallery and thus became a witness of a rather interesting spectacle. This is how the actors were placed. The elder princess was sitting with the Moscow dandy on a bench in the gallery and seemed to be engaged in a serious conversation. The young princess, having apparently drunk her last glass full of water, was strolling thoughtfully up and down by the spring. Grushnitsky was standing at the well. There was no one else around.

I went up closer and hid behind a corner of the gallery. Just then Grushnitsky dropped his glass on the sand and tried to stoop to pick it up, but his wounded leg made it hard for him. Poor man! How he tried, leaning on his crutch, but failed. His expressive face actually registered pain.

Princess Mary saw all this better than I did.



Quicker than a bird she was at his side, bent down, picked up the glass and handed it to him with an inexpressibly sweet gesture. Then she blushed furiously and cast a glance in the direction of the gallery, but, seeing that her mother had not noticed anything, immediately regained her composure. When Grushnitsky opened his mouth to thank her she was already far away. A minute later she left the gallery in the company of her mother and the dandy, but as she passed Grushnitsky she assumed a most prim and proper air, not even turning her head in his direction or noticing the fervent gaze with which he escorted her until she disappeared behind the lime trees of the boulevard at the foot of the hill . . . He caught a last glimpse of her bonnet on the other side of the street as she hurried into the gateway of one of the finest houses in Pyatigorsk. Behind her walked her mother, who bid farewell to Rayevich at the gate.

Only now did the poor smitten cadet become aware of my presence.

"Did you see that?" he asked, gripping my hand firmly. "She's simply an angel!"

"Why?" asked I, pretending utter innocence.

"Didn't you see?"

"Of course, I saw her picking up your glass. If there had been a park keeper around he would have done the same, only quicker in hopes of getting a tip. Though it is not surprising that she took pity on you: you made such an awful face when you put your weight on your wounded leg..."

"Weren't you moved at all, the moment that you saw her soul shining in her eyes?"


I was lying, but I wanted to stir him up. I have an inborn urge to contradict. My whole life has been a mere chain of sad and futile opposition to the dictates of either heart or reason. The presence of an enthusiast makes me as cold as a midwinter's day, and, I believe, frequent association with a listless phlegmatic would make me an impassioned dreamer. I must also admit that at that moment an unpleasant but familiar sensation lightly crept over my heart; that sensation was envy. I say "envy" frankly, because I am accustomed to being honest with myself. And it is unlikely that any young man (a man of the world accustomed to indulging his vanities, of course), who, having met a woman who attracted his idle fancy, would not be unpleasantly impressed upon seeing her favor another man no less a stranger than he.

Grushnitsky and I descended the hill in silence and walked down the boulevard past the windows of the house which our enchantress had entered. She was sitting at the window. Tugging at my sleeve, Grushnitsky gave her one of those mistily tender looks that evoke so little response in women. I directed my eyeglass at her and saw that Grushnitsky's glance brought a smile to her face while my impertinent examination made her very angry. Indeed, how dare a Caucasian army officer level an eyeglass at a princess from Moscow?

13 May
The doctor dropped in to see me this morning. His name is Werner, but he is a Russian. There is nothing surprising in that. I once knew an Ivanov who was a German.

Werner is in many respects a remarkable man. He's a skeptic and a materialist like most medical men, but he's also a poet, and that quite seriously--a poet in all his deeds and frequently in words, though he never wrote two verses in his life. He has studied the vital chords of the human heart the way men study the ligaments of a corpse, but he had never been able to make use of his knowledge just as a splendid anatomist may not be able to cure a fever. As a rule, Werner secretly laughed at his patients, yet once I saw him cry over a dying soldier. He was poor and dreamed of possessing millions, but he would not have gone a step out of his way for the sake of money. Once he told me that he would rather do an enemy a favor than a friend, because in the latter case it would amount to profiting by one's charity, whereas hatred grows in proportion to the generosity of the enemy. He had a malicious tongue, and branded by his epigrams, more than one kindly soul came to be regarded as a vulgar fool. His competitors, envious practitioners at the spa, spread a rumor that he drew caricatures of his patients--the latter were furious and he lost practically all his clientele. His friends, that is, all the really decent people serving in the Caucasus, tried in vain to boost his fallen prestige.

His appearance was of the kind that strikes one disagreeably at first sight but subsequently becomes likeable, when the eye has learned to find in the irregular features the imprint of suffering and nobility. There have been cases when women have fallen madly in love with men like him and would not have exchanged their ugliness for the beauty of the freshest and pinkest of Endymions. Women must be given credit for possessing an instinct for spiritual beauty. Perhaps that is why men like Werner love women so passionately.

Werner was short, thin, and as frail as a child. Like Byron, he had one leg shorter than the other. His head was disproportionately large. He wore his hair cut very short, and the irregularities of his skull thus exposed would have astounded a phrenologist by their queer combination of contradictory inclinations. His small, black, ever restless eyes probed your thoughts. He dressed immaculately and with good taste, and his lean, small, sinewy hands were neatly gloved in pale yellow. His coat, necktie and vest were invariably black. The young set called him Mephistopheles, and though he pretended to be displeased by the name, in reality it flattered his vanity. We soon understood each other and became companions--for I am incapable of friendship. Between two friends one is always the slave of the other, though frequently neither will admit it--the slave I cannot be, and to dominate is an hard job since one has to use deception as well. Besides, I have the servants and the money! This is how we became acquainted: I met Werner in the town of S----, at a large and boisterous gathering of the young set. Toward the end of the evening the conversation took a philosophical and metaphysical turn. We spoke about convictions, of which each had his own.

"As for me, I am convinced of only one thing ..." said the doctor.

"And what is that?" I asked, wishing to hear the opinion of a man who had been silent till then.

"That some fine morning, sooner or later, I will die," he replied.

"I am better off than you," said I. "I have another conviction besides, which is that one exceedingly foul night I had the misfortune to be born."

Everyone else was of the opinion that we were talking nonsense, but really nobody had anything more clever to say. From that moment we singled each other out from among the crowd. We used to meet frequently and discuss abstract matters in all seriousness until we both noticed that we were pulling each other's leg. Then, after looking each other in the eye significantly--the way Cicero tells us the Roman augurs did--we would burst out laughing and leave separately, satisfied with an evening well spent.

I was lying on a couch, my eyes fixed upon the ceiling and my hands behind my head, when Werner walked into my room. He sat down in a chair, stood his cane in a corner, yawned and observed that it was getting hot outdoors. I replied that the flies were bothering me, and we both fell silent.

"You will have noticed, my dear doctor," said I, "that without fools the world would be very boring . . . Now here we are, two intelligent people. We know in advance that it's possible to argue about everything endlessly, and so we don't argue. We each know nearly all the other's innermost thoughts. A single word tells us a whole story, and we see the kernel of each of our thoughts through a triple husk: Sad things strike us as funny, funny things as sad, and generally speaking, if you want to know, we are rather indifferent to everything except ourselves. Hence there can be no exchange of emotions and ideas between us. We know all we want to know about each other and don't wish to know more. That leaves only one thing to talk about: the latest news. Haven't you any news to tell me?"

Tired by the long speech, I closed my eyes and yawned.

"There is one idea in the trash you are talking," he replied after a pause for thought.

"Two!" I replied.

"Tell me one of them and I will say what the other is."

"Good. You begin," said I, continuing to inspect the ceiling and smiling inwardly.

"You would like to know some details about someone who has arrived at the spa, and I can guess who it is you have in mind because that person has already been inquiring about you.

"Doctor! We definitely don't need to converse; we can read each other's minds."

"Now the other one . . ."

"The second idea is this: I'd like to induce you to tell me something; firstly, because listening is less tiring than talking, secondly, because in listening one doesn't give anything away, thirdly, because you may learn another man's secret, and, fourthly, because clever people like you prefer a listener to a talker. Now let's come to the point: what did Princess Ligovskaya have to say to you about me?"

"Are you sure it was not Princess Mary?"

"Quite certain."


"Because Princess Mary asked about Grushnitsky."

"You possess a rare sagacity. The young princess said she was certain that this young man in the ordinary soldier's overcoat has been degraded to the ranks on account of a duel ..."

"I hope you didn't disabuse her of that pleasant illusion . . ."

"Naturally not."

"The plot thickens," I cried in elation, "and we'll see to the dénouement of the comedy. Fate apparently doesn't wish me to be bored."

"I have a notion that poor Grushnitsky will end up as your victim," said the doctor.

"And then what happened, doctor?"

"Princess Ligovskaya said your face was familiar. I observed that she must have met you somewhere in Petersburg society, and mentioned your name. She knew about you. It seems that your story made a sensation there. Then the princess went on to recount your adventures, probably spicing the society gossip with her own opinions. Her daughter listened with interest, visualizing you as the hero of a novel written in the modern style. I didn't contradict the princess though I knew she was talking nonsense.

"Worthy friend!" said I, extending my hand to him. The doctor gripped it with feeling and continued.

"If you wish me to, I'll introduce you . . ."

"My dear fellow!" said I, spreading my hands. "Have you ever heard of heroes being formally presented? They make the acquaintance of their beloved by rescuing her from certain death..."

"Do you really intend to court Princess Mary?"

"Not at all, quite the contrary! Doctor, I score at last, for you don't understand me! Yet it's rather annoying just the same," I continued after a moment's silence. "I make it a rule never to disclose my own plans, and I'm very glad when others speculate about them, because that leaves me a loophole for denying them when necessary. But you must describe mama and daughter to me. What sort of people are they?"

"In the first place, Princess Ligovskaya is a woman of forty-five," replied Werner. "She has a splendid digestion, and a blood disorder--you can tell by the red spots on her cheeks. The latter half of her life she's spent in Moscow, where inactivity has caused her to put on weight. She likes spicy anecdotes and says improper things when her daughter is out of the room. She told me that her daughter was as innocent as a dove--though what it had to do with me, I don't know. I wanted to tell her that she might rest assured, I would tell no one about it! The princess is taking the cure for rheumatism, and the daughter the Lord knows what for. I told them both to drink two glasses of sulfur water daily and bathe twice weekly in it. The old princess apparently is not used to ordering people about, and she respects the brains and knowledge of her daughter, who has read Byron in English and knows algebra, for it seems that the young ladies of Moscow have taken up learning--good for them, I would say. In general our men have such bad manners that intelligent women probably find it unbearable to flirt with them. The elder princess is very fond of young men, but Princess Mary regards them with a certain contempt--an old Moscow habit. In Moscow they go in for forty-year-old wits only."

"Were you ever in Moscow, doctor?"

"Yes, I was. Had a sort of practice there."

"Please go on.

"I believe I have said everything there is to say . . . Oh yes, one more thing: Princess Mary appears to love discussing sentiments, emotions, and the like. She spent a winter in Petersburg, but the city, and particularly its society, didn't please her. Evidently she was given a cool reception."

"You didn't meet anybody else at their place today, did you?"

"Yes, I did. There was an adjutant, a stuck-up guards officer, and a lady, one of the new arrivals, some relative of the princess by marriage, a very pretty woman but a very sick one, I believe. You didn't happen to see her at the spring? She is of medium height, blonde, with regular features, a consumptive complexion, and a little dark mole on her right cheek. I was struck by the expressiveness of her face."

"A mole?" I muttered. "Is it possible?"

The doctor looked at me and, laying his hand on my heart, said solemnly: "You know her." My heart indeed was beating faster than usual.

"It's your turn to exult now," said I. "Only I trust that you won't give me away. I haven't seen her yet, but I believe I recognize in the portrait you've painted a woman I loved in the old days . . . Don't tell her a thing about me, and if she asks you, talk bad things about me."

"As you wish," said Werner, shrugging his shoulders.

When he left, a terrible sadness came over me. Was it fate that had brought us together in the Caucasus, or had she come on purpose, knowing she would find me here? What would the meeting be like? And was it she, after all? My vague fears had never deceived me. There isn't another person on earth over whom the past holds such sway as over me. Every memory of a past sorrow or joy sends a pang through my heart and invariably strikes the very same chords. I am stupidly made up, for I forget nothing--nothing!

After dinner I went down to the boulevard at about six and found a crowd there. The princess and her daughter were seated on a bench surrounded by a flock of young men who were paying them constant attention. I found myself another bench some distance away, stopped two D---- regiment officers I knew and began telling them a story. Apparently it amused them, because they roared with laughter like crazy men. Curiosity drew to my bench some of the gallants who had clustered around Princess Mary--then little by little the rest too deserted her and joined my group. I talked without stop, telling anecdotes that were witty to the point of stupidity and ridiculing passing eccentrics with a malice bordering on viciousness . . . Thus I continued to amuse my audience until sunset. Several times the young princess strolled arm-in-arm with her mother past me, along with a limping old man, and several times her gaze rested on me, expressing frustration while trying to communicate indifference.

"What was he talking about?" she asked one of the young men who returned to her out of sheer politeness. "It must have been a very thrilling story--about his battle exploits no doubt?" She spoke rather loudly, obviously with the intention of needling me. "Aha!" thought I, "you are thoroughly annoyed, my dear princess! Wait, there is more to come!"

Grushnitsky has been stalking her like a wild beast, never letting her out of his sight. I predict that tomorrow he will ask someone to present him to Princess Ligovskaya. She'll be very glad to meet him, for she's bored.

16 May
During the past two days things have been moving fast. Princess Mary definitely hates me. I've already been told of two or three rather biting, but nevertheless very flattering, epigrams pointed at me. It strikes her as very odd that I, who am so accustomed to good society and on such intimate terms with her Petersburg cousins and aunts, would make no effort to make her acquaintance. We see each other every day at the spring and on the boulevard, and I do my best to entice her admirers, the glittering adjutants, white-faced Muscovites and others--with almost invariable success. I have always hated entertaining, but now I have a full house every day, for dinner, supper and a game of cards, and, there we are, my champagne triumphs over the magnetism of her eyes!

Yesterday I met her at Chelakhov's shop where she was bargaining for a splendid Persian rug. The princess pleaded with her mother not to refuse to spend the money, for the rug would look so well in her room . . . I overbid her by forty rubles and walked away with the rug, and was rewarded with a look of the most bewitching fury. At dinner time, I deliberately had my Circassian horse led past her windows with the rug thrown over its back. Werner, who was visiting them at the time, told me that the effect of the spectacle was most dramatic. Princess Mary wants to mount a campaign against me; I have already noticed that in her presence two of the adjutants give me very curt nods, though they dine at my table every day.

Grushnitsky has assumed a mysterious air--he walks with his hands behind his back oblivious of everybody. His leg has suddenly healed, so that he scarcely limps. He found an occasion to engage the old princess in conversation and to pay a compliment to Princess Mary. The latter apparently is not too discriminating, for ever since she has been responding to his bows with the most charming smile.

"You are sure you do not wish to meet the Ligovskoys?" he asked me yesterday. .


"Really! It's the most pleasant house at the spa. All the best local society . . ."

"My dear friend, I'm frightfully fed up with non-local society, let alone the local. Have you been calling on them?"

"Not yet. I've no more than spoken with Princess Mary once or twice. You know how unpleasant it is to fish for an invitation, though it is done here . . . It'd be another matter if I had my epaulets."

"My dear fellow! You are far more interesting as you are. You simply do not know how to take advantage of your favorable position. Don't you know that a soldier's overcoat makes you a hero and a martyr in the eyes of any sensitive young lady?"

Grushnitsky smiled complacently.

"What nonsense!" he said.

"I am sure," I went on, "that the young princess has already fallen in love with you."

He blushed to the roots of his hair and puffed himself up.

Oh vanity! Thou art the lever with which Archimedes hoped to raise the globe! . . .

"You're always joking," he said, pretending to be angry. "In the first place, she hardly knows me . . ."

"Women love only the men they don't know."

"But I make no pretense toward pleasing her. I merely wish to get to know a pleasant household, and it would indeed be absurd to entertain any hopes whatsoever . . . Now you Petersburg lady killers are another matter: you only have to look once for a woman to melt . . . By the way, Pechorin, do you know what the young princess said about you?"

"What? Has she already spoken to you about me?"

"You have no reason to rejoice, though. Once, quite by chance, I entered into conversation with her at the spring; almost her first remark was, 'Who is that gentleman with the unpleasant, heavy-eyed expression? He was with you when . . .' She blushed and was reluctant to mention the day, recalling her charming little exploit. 'You need not mention the day,' I replied, 'for I will always remember it . . .' Pechorin, my friend, I cannot congratulate you, for you are in her bad books . . . It's a pity, really, because my Mary is very charming!"

It must be noted that Grushnitsky is one of those who in speaking of a woman they hardly know call her "my Mary" or "my Sophie", if she has had the good fortune to attract them.

Taking on a serious face, I replied: "Yes, she is rather good-looking . . . Only be careful, Grushnitsky! Russian young ladies for the most part go in only for Platonic love with no intention of marriage, and Platonic love is the most disturbing. It seems to me that Princess Mary is one of those women who wish to be amused. If she is bored for two minutes in your company, you are doomed forever. Your silence must arouse her curiosity, your conversation must never completely satisfy her. You must keep her in a state of suspense all the time. Ten times she will defy public opinion for your sake and call it sacrifice, and in return she will begin to torment you and end up saying simply that she cannot tolerate you. If you don't get the advantage over her, even her first kiss will not give you the right to a second. She'll flirt with you to her heart's content and a year or two later marry an ugly man in obedience to her mother's will; then she will begin to assure you that she is unhappy, that she had loved only one man--that is, you--but that fate had not ordained that she be joined to him because he wore a soldier's overcoat, though beneath that thick gray garment there beat an ardent and noble heart . . . ."

Grushnitsky hit the table with his fist and began to pace up and down the room.

I shook with laughter inwardly and even smiled a couple of times, but luckily he didn't notice. He's clearly in love, for he has become more credulous than ever: he even wears a new niello-silver ring of local workmanship, which struck me as suspicious. On closer inspection what do you think I saw? The name Mary engraved in small letters on the inside and next to it the date when she picked up that famous glass. I said nothing of my discovery. I don't want to extract any confessions from him; I want him to make me his confidant by his own choice--and that's when I am going to enjoy myself . . .

Today I got up late, and by the time I reached the spring no one was there. It was getting hot. White fluffy clouds raced across the sky, away from the snow-capped mountains and promising a thunderstorm. Mashuk's summit was smoking like an extinguished torch, and around it gray pieces of clouds, stopped in their flight and seemingly caught in the mountain brambles, writhed and crawled like serpents. The atmosphere was charged with electricity. I took the vine-flanked avenue leading to the grotto--I felt depressed. I was thinking of the young woman with the mole on her cheek, whom the doctor had mentioned. What was she doing here? And was it she? And why'd I think it was she? Why was I so certain about it? Are there so few women with moles on their cheeks? Thinking all this over, I reached the grotto. A woman sat on a stone bench in the cool shade of its roof. She was wearing a straw hat. A black shawl was wrapped round her shoulders, and her head was lowered so that the hat concealed her face. I was about to turn back, so as not to disturb her meditations, when she looked up at me.




"Vera!" I cried out involuntarily.

She jumped and turned pale. "I knew you were here," she said. I sat down next to her and took her hands. A long-forgotten tremor shot through my veins at the sound of that sweet voice. Her deep, tranquil eyes looked straight into mine. In them I could read distress and something like a reproach.

"We have not seen each other for so long," said I.

"Yes, and we both have changed a great deal."

"You mean, you do not love me any more?"

"I am married!" she said.

"Again? Some years ago there was the same reason, but in spite of that . . ."

She snatched her hand away and her cheeks flamed.

"Perhaps you are in love with your second husband?"

She made no reply and turned away.

"Or maybe he is very jealous?"


"Well, he must be a fine, handsome young fellow, very rich, I suppose, and you are afraid that ..." I looked at her and was startled. Her face expressed dire distress, and tears glistened in her eyes.

"Tell me," she whispered at last, "does it give you so much pleasure to torment me? I ought to hate you. Ever since we have known each other, you have brought me nothing but pain . . ." Her voice shook, and she leaned towards me, resting her head on my chest.

"Perhaps," I thought, "that is why you loved me, for joy is forgotten, but sorrow never . . ."

I pressed her close to me and we remained that way for a long time. Then our lips met and merged in a burning, rapturous kiss. Her hands were ice-cold, her head feverishly hot. There began one of those conversations that make no sense on paper, that cannot be repeated or even remembered, for the significance of words is substituted and enriched by that of sounds, just as in Italian opera.

She is resolved that I should not meet her husband, who is the lame old man I caught a glimpse of on the boulevard. She married him for the sake of her son. He is rich and suffers from rheumatism. I didn't allow myself a single disparaging remark about him, for she respects him like a father--and will deceive him as a husband . . . A strange thing, the human heart, and a woman's heart in particular!

Vera's husband, Semyon Vasilyevich G----v, is a distant relative of Princess Ligovskaya. They are next-door neighbors, and Vera is often at the princess's. I promised her that I would meet the Ligovskoys and pay court to the young princess so as to divert attention from Vera. This doesn't interfere with my plans at all and I'll have a good time . . .

A good time! Yes, I've already passed that period of spiritual life when people seek happiness alone and when the heart feels the need to love someone passionately. Now I only want to be loved, and then only by the very few. As a matter of fact, I believe one constant attachment would be enough for me--a sentimental fashion only to be pitied!

It has always struck me as odd that I had never become the slave of the woman I loved. On the contrary, I've always acquired an invincible sway over their will and heart, without any effort on my part. Why is that? Was it because I've never particularly treasured anything and they've been afraid to let me slip out of their hands for a moment? Or was it the magnetic appeal of a strong personality? Or simply because I've never met a woman with enough strength of character?

I must admit that I don't care for women with a mind of their own--it doesn't suit them!

Though I recall now that once, but only once, I loved a woman with a strong will, whom I never could conquer . . . We separated enemies, yet had I met her five years later the parting might have been quite different . . .

Vera is ill, very ill, although she won't admit it; I am afraid she has consumption or the disease they call fièvre lente--not a Russian ailment at all and hence it has no name in our language.

The thunderstorm overtook us in the grotto and kept us there another half an hour. She didn't make me promise to be faithful to her, nor did she ask me whether I had loved others since we separated . . . She trusted me again as wholeheartedly as before. And I won't deceive her--she is the only woman in the world I would not have the heart to deceive. I know that we'll part again soon, perhaps forever. We'll both go our different ways to the grave, but I'll always cherish her memory. I've always told her so and she believes me, though she says she doesn't.

At length we separated, and I stood there following her with my eyes until her hat disappeared behind the bushes and rocks. My heart contracted painfully, just as when we separated the first time. Oh, how I was glad to experience this feeling! Was it youth with its beneficent tempests reasserting itself, or merely its farewell glance, a parting gift--a souvenir? Yet it's absurd--to think, I still look like a boy. Though my face is pale, it is still fresh, my limbs are supple and graceful, my hair thick and curly, eyes flashing, and the blood courses swiftly through my veins . . .

On coming home, I got up on my horse and galloped into the steppe, for I love riding a spirited horse through the tall grass, with the desert wind in my face, greedily drinking in the fragrant air and looking into the blue distance to see hazy outlines of objects that grow more distinct every moment. Whatever sorrow weighs down the heart or anxiety plagues the mind, it is all immediately dispersed, and a peace settles over the soul as physical fatigue prevails over mental unrest. There are no feminine eyes I would not forget when gazing on the mountains covered with curly shrubs, bathed in the southern sunshine, contemplating the blue sky, or listening to the roar of the torrent falling from crag to crag.

I would imagine the Cossack sentinels standing drowsily in their watchtowers must have been greatly puzzled on seeing me galloping along without aim or purpose, for they most likely took me for a Circassian on account of my costume. As a matter of fact I had been told that mounted and wearing Circassian costume I look more like a Kabardian than many Kabardians. And indeed, as far as this noble battle dress is concerned I am a perfect dandy: not an extra piece of braiding, costly weapons with the simplest finish, the fur on my cap neither too long nor too short, leggings and soft-leather boots fitting perfectly, white beshmet and dark-brown Circassian coat. I practiced long the mountain people's way of sitting a horse--nothing so flatters my vanity as praise for my ability to ride a horse as the Caucasians do. I keep four horses, one for myself and three for my friends, so as to avoid the boredom of riding out alone through the fields, but though they are pleased to have my horses to ride they never ride with me. It was already six o'clock in the afternoon when I remembered that it was time for dinner--moreover, my horse was exhausted. I rode out on to the road leading from Pyatigorsk to the German colony where the spa society frequently goes en piquenique. The road winds its way through the scrub land, dipping into shallow gullies where noisy creeks flow in the shadow of the tall grasses. All around is the towering blue amphitheater of Beshtau, Zmeinaya, Zheleznaya and Lysaya mountains. I had stopped in one of these gullies [balki] to water my horse when a noisy and glittering cavalcade appeared down the road. There were ladies in black and sky-blue riding clothes and gentlemen in a costume that was a mixture of Circassian and Nizhni-Novgorodan style. Grushnitsky and Princess Mary rode in front.

Ladies who come to take the waters still believe the stories of Circassian raids in broad daylight, and that probably explained why Grushnitsky had belted a saber and a pair of pistols over his soldier's overcoat--he looked rather ridiculous in these heroic vestments. A tall bush concealed me from them, but I had a perfect view through the foliage and could tell by the expression of their faces that the conversation was in a sentimental vein. Finally they neared the dip in the road. Grushnitsky gripped the reins of the young princess's horse, and now I could hear the end of their conversation:

"And you wish to remain in the Caucasus all your life?" said the princess.

"What is Russia to me?" replied her escort. "A country where thousands of people will despise me because they are wealthier than I, whereas here--why here this thick overcoat was no obstacle to my making your acquaintance . . ."

"On the contrary . . ." said the princess, blushing.

Grushnitsky looked pleased. He continued:

"Here my days will flow past thick and fast under the bullets of the barbarians, and if only God would send me each year one radiant feminine glance, one like..."

By this time they drew level with me; I struck my horse with my whip and rode out from behind the bushes.

"Mon Dieu, un Circassien!" cried the princess in terror.

To reassure her I replied in French, with a slight bow: "Ne craignez rien, madame, je ne suis pas plus dangereux que votre cavalier."

She was thrown into confusion--I wonder why? Because of her mistake, or because she thought my reply insolent? I wish indeed that the latter supposition were the case. Grushnitsky glanced at me with displeasure.

Late that night, that is, about eleven o'clock, I went for a walk along the lime-tree avenue of the boulevard. The town was fast asleep, and only here and there a light shone in a window. On three sides loomed the black ridges of the spurs of Mashuk, on whose summit lay an ominous cloud; the moon was rising in the east; in the distance the snow-capped summits glistened in a silvery fringe. The cries of sentries intermingled with the noise of the hot springs now running freely for the night. At times ringing hoof beats echoed down the street, accompanied by the creaking of a covered ox wagon and the plaintive chant of a Tatar refrain. I sat down on a bench and sank into thought. I felt a need to unburden my thoughts in a friendly talk . . . but with whom? What was Vera doing now, I wondered. I would have given much to press her hand just then.

Suddenly I heard quick, uneven steps . . . Probably Grushnitsky . . . and so it was!

"Where have you been?"

"At Princess Ligovskaya's," he said, full of importance. "How beautifully Mary sings!"

"You know what," said I, "I'll bet she doesn't know you're a cadet, but thinks you're a demoted officer."

"Maybe. What do I care!" he said absently.

"Well, I just mentioned it . . ."

"Do you know that you just made her terribly angry? She thought it was downright insolence on your part. I had a hard time trying to assure her that you are so well-bred and so much at home in society that you couldn't have had any intention of insulting her. She says you have an impudent look and must be very conceited."

"She's right . . . You seem to be taking her part, don't you?"

"I'm sorry to say I haven't that right yet."

"Oho!" thought I. "Evidently he already has hopes..."

"It'll only be the worse for you," Grushnitsky went on. "Now it'll be hard for you to meet them--what a pity! It's one of the pleasantest houses I know. . ."

I smiled inwardly.

"The pleasantest house for me just now is my own," said I yawning, and rose to go.

"Still you must admit that you regret it?"

"What nonsense! I could be at the princess's tomorrow night if I wished . . ."

"We'll see about that . .

"To please you, I will even pay court to the Princess Mary . . . ."

"That is, if she is willing to speak to you . . . ."

"I'll wait till she gets bored with your conversation . . . Good night!"

"And I'm going for a prowl--couldn't fall asleep for anything now . . . Look here, let's go to the restaurant, to the gambling tables . . . Violent sensations are what I need tonight."

"I hope you lose..."

I went home.

21 May
Nearly a week has passed and I've still not met the Ligovskoys. I'm waiting for my opportunity. Grushnitsky follows Princess Mary about like a shadow, and they talk incessantly. I wonder when she'll get tired of him? Her mother takes no notice of what's going on because he's not eligible. That is the logic of mothers for you! I have noticed two or three tender looks--must put a stop to this.

Yesterday Vera made her first appearance at the spring. Since our meeting in the grotto, she's not left the house. We dipped our glasses into the water at the same time and, as she bent down, she whispered to me: "You don't want to get to know the Ligovksoys? It is the only place where we can meet."

A reproach--how boring! But I deserved it.

By the way, tomorrow there's a subscription ball at the restaurant hall, and I intend to dance the mazurka with Princess Mary.

22 May
The restaurant ballroom turned into a Nobles' Club hall. By nine o'clock everybody was there. Princess Ligovskaya and her daughter were among the last to arrive. Many of the ladies eyed Princess Mary with envy and ill will, for she dresses with very good taste. Those who consider themselves the local aristocrats concealed their envy and attached themselves to her. What else could be expected? Wherever there is feminine society, there is an immediate division into the upper and lower circles. Grushnitsky stood among the crowd outside the window, pressing his face to the glass and eating his goddess with his eyes; in passing she gave him a barely noticeable nod. He beamed like the sun . . . The first dance was a polonaise, then the orchestra struck up a waltz. Spurs jingled and coat tails whirled.

I stood behind a fat lady sprouting rose-colored feathers. The splendor of her gown was reminiscent of the farthingale age and the blotchiness of her coarse skin of the happy epoch of the black-taffeta beauty spot. The biggest wart on her neck was concealed beneath a clasp. She was saying to her partner, a captain of dragoons: "This young Princess Ligovskaya is an unbearable minx. Think of it, she bumped into me and didn't bother to apologize, and actually turned round to look at me through her eyeglass. . . C'est impayable! What cause has she to give herself airs? It would do her good to be taught a lesson . . ."

"Leave it to me!" replied the obliging captain and repaired to another room.

I went over at once to Princess Mary and asked for the waltz, taking advantage of the freedom of the local customs which allow one to dance with strangers.

She was scarcely able to suppress a smile and thus conceal her triumph, but quickly enough she managed to assume a totally indifferent and even severe appearance. She carelessly laid her hand on my shoulder, tilted her head a bit to one side, and off we started. I know no other waist so voluptuous and supple. Her sweet breath caressed my face. Now and then a ringlet of hair broke loose from its companions in the whirl of the dance and brushed my burning cheek . . . I made three turns round the room. (She waltzes delightfully.) She was panting, her eyes looked blurred and her separated lips could hardly whisper the necessary "Merci, monsieur".

After a few minutes of silence I said, assuming the humblest of expressions: "I have heard, Princess, that while still an utter stranger to you, I had the misfortune to evoke your displeasure, that you found me impertinent . . . Is that really true?"

"And you would like to strengthen that opinion now?" she replied, with an ironical little grimace that, incidentally, matched well the quick mobility of her features.

"If I had the audacity to offend you in any way, will you allow me the greater audacity of asking your forgiveness? Really, I'd like very much to prove that you were mistaken in your opinion of me . . ."

"That will be a rather difficult task for you .


"Because you don't come to our house and these balls probably won't be repeated frequently."

"That means," thought I, "their doors are closed to me for all time."

"Do you know, Princess," said I with a shade of annoyance, "that one should never spurn a repentant sinner, for out of sheer desperation he may become twice as sinful . . . and then . . ."

Laughter and whispering around us made me break off and look round. A few paces away stood a group of men, among them the captain of dragoons who had expressed his hostile intentions toward the charming princess. He seemed to be highly pleased with something, rubbing his hands, laughing loudly and exchanging winks with his comrades. Suddenly a gentleman in a tail coat and with long mustaches and a red face stepped out of their midst and walked unsteadily towards Princess Mary. He was obviously drunk. Stopping in front of the bewildered princess, with his hands behind his back, he directed his bleary gray eyes at her and said in a wheezy high-pitched voice: "Permettez . . . oh, to heck with it . . . I'll just take you for the mazurka. . ."

"What do you want, sir?" she said with a tremor in her voice, casting about a glance for help from somebody. But, alas, her mother was far away, nor were there any of the gallants she knew nearby, except one adjutant who, I believe, saw what was going on, but hid behind the crowd to avoid being involved in an unpleasant scene.

"Well, well!" said the drunken gentleman, winking at the captain of dragoons who was spurring him on with encouraging signals. "You would rather not? I once more have the honor of inviting you pour mazurk . . . Maybe you think I'm drunk? That's all right! Dance all the better, I assure you . . ."

I saw she was on the verge of fainting from terror and shame.

I stepped up to the intoxicated gentleman, gripped him firmly enough by the arm and, looking him straight in the eyes, asked him to go away, because, I added, the princess had long since promised me the mazurka.

"Oh, I see! Another time, then!" he said, with a laugh, and rejoined his cronies who, looking rather crestfallen, guided him out of the room.

I was rewarded with a deeply charming glance.

Princess Mary went over to her mother and told her what had happened, and the latter sought me out in the crowd to thank me. She told me that she knew my mother and was a friend of a half a dozen of my aunts.

"I simply can't understand how it is we haven't met before," she added, "though you must admit that it's your own fault. You hold yourself so aloof you know, you really do. I hope the atmosphere of my drawing room will dispel your spleen . . . Don't you think so?"

I replied with one of those polite phrases everyone must have in store for occasions like this.

The quadrilles dragged out as if they would never end.

Finally the mazurka struck up and I sat down beside the young princess.

I made no reference to the drunken gentleman, nor to my previous conduct, nor yet to Grushnitsky. The impression the unpleasant incident had made on her gradually faded, her face glowed, and she chatted charmingly. Her conversation was sharp without pretensions to wit, it was vivacious and free of restraint, and some of her observations were profound indeed . . . I let her understand in a confused, rambling sort of way that I had long been attracted by her. She bent her head and blushed faintly.

"You are a strange man!" she said presently with a constrained laugh and smile, raising her velvety eyes to me.

"I didn't want to be introduced to you," I continued, "because you are surrounded by too great a crowd of admirers and I was afraid I might get completely lost in them."

"You had nothing to fear. They are all exceedingly dull . . ."

"All of them? Really, all?"

She looked at me closely as if trying to recall something, then blushed faintly again and finally said in a definite tone of voice: "All of them!"

"Even my friend Grushnitsky?"

"Is he your friend?" she asked with some doubt.

"He is."

"He, of course, cannot be classed as a bore."

"But as an unfortunate, perhaps?" said I, laughingly.

"Of course! Why are you amused? I would like to see you in his place."

"Why? I was a cadet once myself, and believe me, that was the finest period of my life!"

"Is he a cadet?" she asked quickly, adding a moment later: "And I thought..."

"What did you think?"

"Nothing, nothing at all . . . Who is that lady?"

The conversation took a different turn and this subject was not brought up again.

The mazurka ended and we separated--until we meet again. The ladies went home. Going in for supper, I met Werner.

"Aha," he said, "so that's it! And you said you would only make the young princess's acquaintance by rescuing her from certain death?"

"I did better," I replied, "I saved her from fainting at the ball!"

"What happened? Tell me!"

"No, you will have to guess. Oh you, who can divine everything under the sun!"

23 May
I was walking on the boulevard about seven o'clock in the evening. Grushnitsky, seeing me from afar, came over, a ridiculously rapturous light gleaming in his eyes. He clasped my hand tightly and said in a tragic tone: "I thank you, Pechorin . . . You understand me, don't you?"

"No, I don't. In any case there's nothing to thank me for," I replied, for I really had no good deed on my conscience.

"Why, what about yesterday? Have you forgotten? Mary told me everything..."

"You don't say you already share everything? And gratitude too?"

"Listen," said Grushnitsky with an impressive air. "Please don't make fun of my love if you wish to remain my friend . . . You see, I love her madly . . . and I believe, I hope, that she loves me too. I have a favor to ask of you: you will be visiting them this evening, promise me to observe everything. I know you are experienced in these matters and you know women better than I do. Oh women, women! Who really does understand them? Their smiles contradict their glances, their words promise and beguile, but their tone of voice repulses. They either figure out in a flash your innermost thought or they don't get the most obvious hint . . . Take the young princess, for instance: yesterday her eyes glowed with passion when they dwelt on me, but now they're dull and cold . . ."

"That perhaps is the effect of the waters," replied I.

"You always look at the seamy side of things . . . you materialist!" he added scornfully. "But let us get down to another matter." Pleased with this bad pun, his spirits rose.

Around nine o'clock we went together to the princess's house. On passing Vera's windows, I saw her looking out, and we exchanged a very short glance. She entered the Ligovskoys' drawing room soon after us. The old princess introduced her to me as a relative of hers. Tea was served, there were many guests, and the conversation went around. I did my best to charm the old princess, told jokes and made her laugh heartily several times. Her daughter too wanted to laugh more than once, but she suppressed the desire so as not to abandon the role she had assumed. She believes that a pose of languor becomes her--and perhaps she's right. I believe Grushnitsky was very glad that my gaiety did not infect her.

After tea we all went into the sitting room.

"Are you pleased with my obedience, Vera?" I asked as I passed her.

She gave me a look full of love and gratitude. I am used to these glances; but there was a time when they were my heart's delight. Princess Ligovskaya made her daughter sit down to the piano and everybody begged her to sing. I said nothing, and taking advantage of the hubbub retreated to a window with Vera, who hinted that she had something to say of great importance to both of us. It turned out to be nonsense.

My indifference did not please the young princess, however, as I could guess by the one angry flashing glance she gave me . . . How well do I understand this mute but eloquent way of communicating, so brief yet so forceful!

She sang; her voice is pleasant but she sings badly . . . as a matter of fact, I didn't listen. But Grushnitsky, with his elbows on the piano facing the princess, ate her up her with his eyes, mumbling "Charmant! Déclicieux!" over and over again.

"Listen," Vera was saying, "I don't want you to meet my husband, but you must get into the old princess's good graces. You can do it easily, you can do anything you want to. We will meet only here..."

"Nowhere else?"

She blushed and went on: "You know I am your slave, I never could resist you. And I'll be punished for it. Because you'll stop loving me! At least, I want to save my reputation . . . not because of myself, you know that very well. But please don't torment me as you used to with idle doubts and pretended indifference. I may die soon, for I feel I am growing weaker day by day . . . but in spite of that I can't think of the future, I think only of you. You men don't understand the rapture one can find in a glance or a touch of hands, but, I swear to you, the sound of your voice fills me with a deep, strange bliss that no passionate kisses ever could replace."

In the meantime Princess Mary had stopped singing. A chorus of praise broke out around her. I walked up to her last and said something very casual about her voice.

She pouted and made a mock curtsy.

"It is all the more flattering to me," she said, "because you weren't listening at all. But perhaps you don't care for music?"

"On the contrary, I do, particularly after dinner."

"Grushnitsky is right when he says that your tastes are most prosaic. Even I can see that you appreciate music from the point of view of the gourmand. . ."

"You are wrong again. I am no gourmand and I have a poor digestion. Nevertheless music after dinner lulls you to sleep and a nap after dinner is good for you; hence I like music in the medical sense. In the evening, on the contrary, it excites my nerves too much, and I find myself either too depressed or too gay. Both are tedious when there is no good reason either to mope or to rejoice. Besides, to be downcast in company is ridiculous and excessive gaiety is in bad taste . . . ."

She walked off without waiting for me to finish and sat down beside Grushnitsky. The two engaged in a sentimental conversation: the princess seemed to respond to his wise sayings in an absent-minded and rather inept way, though she simulated interest, and he glanced at her every now and then with a look of surprise as if trying to determine the cause of the inner turmoil reflected in her troubled eyes.

But I have unraveled your secret, my charming princess, so beware! You wish to repay me in the same currency by wounding my vanity--but you won't succeed! And if you declare war on me, I'll be ruthless.

Several times in the course of the evening I deliberately tried to join in their conversation, but she countered my remarks rather drily, and I finally withdrew pretending resentment. The princess was triumphant, and so was Grushnitsky. Triumph, my friends, while you may . . . you have not long to triumph! What will happen? I have a presentiment . . . Upon meeting a woman I have always been able to tell for certain whether she'll fall in love with me or not . . .

The remainder of the evening I spent with Vera, and we talked our fill about the past. I really don't know why she loves me so. Especially since she's the only woman who has ever completely understood me with all my petty frailties and evil passions . . . Can evil indeed be so attractive?

I left together with Grushnitsky. Outside he took my arm and after a long silence said: "Well, what do you say?"

I wanted to tell him, "You are a fool," but restrained myself and merely shrugged my shoulders.

29 May
All these days I have not once departed from my systematic plan. The young princess is beginning to enjoy my conversation. I told her some of the strange incidents of my life, and she's beginning to regard me as an unusual person. I mock at everything under the sun, emotions in particular, and this is beginning to frighten her. She doesn't dare to launch upon sentimental debates with Grushnitsky when I'm present, and already on several occasions she's replied to his efforts with an ironical smile. Yet each time Grushnitsky approaches her, I assume a humble air and leave the two alone. The first time I did so she was glad, or tried to look pleased; the second time she lost patience with me, and the third time with Grushnitsky.

"You have very little pride!" she told me yesterday. "Why do you think I prefer Grushnitsky's society?"

I replied that I was sacrificing my own pleasure for a friend's happiness.

"And my pleasure as well," she added.

I looked at her intently and put on a serious face. Then for the rest of the day I didn't talk to her . . . She was thoughtful last night, and even more wistful this morning at the spring. As I walked up to her, she was hardly listening to Grushnitsky who, I believe, was going on and on about the beauties of nature, but as soon as she saw me she began to laugh heartily (rather irrelevantly), pretending not to notice me. I went away a little distance and watched her out of the corner of my eye. She turned away from her companion and yawned twice. There is no doubt about it: she's bored with Grushnitsky. But I won't speak to her for another two days.

3 June
I often ask myself why it is that I so persistently seek to win the love of a young girl whom I do not wish to seduce and whom I will never marry. Why this feminine coquetry? Vera loves me better than Princess Mary ever will. Were she an unconquerable beauty, the difficulty of the undertaking might serve as an inducement . . .

But far from it! Hence this is not the restless craving for love that torments us in the early years of our youth and casts us from one woman to another until we meet one who cannot endure us; this is the beginning of our constancy--the true unending passion that may mathematically be represented by a line extending from a point into space, the secret of whose endlessness consists merely in the impossibility of attaining the goal, that is, the end.

What is it that spurs me on? Envy of Grushnitsky? Poor man! He doesn't deserve it. Or is it the result of that malicious but indomitable impulse to annihilate the blissful illusions of a fellow man in order to have the petty satisfaction of telling him when in desperation he asks what he should believe: "My friend, the same thing happened to me! Yet as you see, I dine, sup and sleep well, and, I hope, will be able to die without any fuss or tears!"

And yet to possess a young soul that has barely developed is a source of very deep delight. It is like a flower whose richest perfume goes out to meet the first ray of the sun. One must pluck it at that very moment and, after inhaling its perfume to one's heart's content, discard it along the wayside on the chance that someone will pick it up. I sense in myself that insatiable avidity that devours everything in its path. And I regard the sufferings and joys of others merely in relation to myself, as food to sustain my spiritual strength. Passion is no longer capable of robbing me of my sanity. My ambition has been crushed by circumstances, but it has manifested itself in a new form, for ambition is nothing but lust for power, and my greatest pleasure I derive from subordinating everything around me to my will. Is it not both the first token of power and its supreme triumph to inspire in others the emotions of love, devotion and fear? Is it not the sweetest fare for our vanity to be the cause of pain or joy for someone without the least claim thereto? And what is happiness? Pride gratified. Could I consider myself better and more powerful than anyone else in the world, I would be happy. Were everybody to love me, I'd find in myself unending wellsprings of love. Evil begets evil; one's first suffering awakens a realization of the pleasure of tormenting another. The idea of evil cannot take root in the mind of man without his desiring to apply it in practice. Someone has said that ideas are organic entities: their very birth imparts them form, and this form is action. He in whose brain the most ideas are born is more active than others, and because of this a genius shackled to an office desk must either die or lose his mind, just as a man with a powerful body who leads a modest, sedentary life dies from an apoplectic stroke.

Passions are nothing more than ideas at the first stage of their development. They belong to the heart's youth, and he is foolish who thinks they will stir him all his life. Many a placid river beglns as a roaring waterfall, but not a single stream leaps and froths all the way to the sea. Frequently this placidity is a symptom of great though latent force. The fullness and depth of emotions and thought precludes furious impulses, for the soul in its suffering or rejoicing is fully alive to what is taking place and conscious that so it must be. It knows that were there no storms the constant heat of the sun would shrivel it. It is imbued with its own life, fostering and chastising itself as a mother does her beloved child. Only in this state of supreme self-knowledge can a man appreciate divine judgment.

Reading over this page I notice that I have digressed far from my subject. But what of it? For I am writing this diary for myself and hence anything I jot down will in time become a precious memory to me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Grushnitsky came and flung himself on my neck--he had received his commission. We ordered some champagne. Doctor Werner came in immediately after.

"I don't offer you my congratulations," he said to Grushnitsky.


"Because the soldier's overcoat suits you very well and you will have to admit that an infantry officer's uniform tailored here at the spa will not add anything of interest to you . . . You see, so far you have been an exception, whereas now you will be quite commonplace."

"Say what you will, doctor, you can't prevent me from rejoicing. He doesn't know," Grushnitsky whispered in my ear, "what hopes I attach to these epaulets. Oh epaulets, epaulets! Your stars are little guiding stars . . . No! I'm perfectly happy now."

"Are you coming with us for a walk to the ravine?" I asked him.

"Oh no! I wouldn't show myself to Princess Mary for anything until my new uniform is ready."

"Shall I tell her about your good fortune?"

"Please don't, I want it to be a surprise."

"Tell me though, how are you getting along with her?"

He was embarrassed and thought awhile. He would have liked to brag about it and lie, but his conscience wouldn't let him, and at the same time he was ashamed to confess the truth.

"Do you think she loves you?"

"Does she love me? For goodness sake, Pechorin, what ideas you have! How can you expect it so soon? And even if she did, a respectable woman would not say so . . ."

"Good! You probably believe that a respectable man too must conceal his passion."

"Ah, my good fellow, there is a proper way to do everything. Many things are not said but guessed..."

"True enough . . . Only the love we read in a woman's eyes is noncommittal, whereas words . . . Take care, Grushnitsky, she isn't truthful with you. . . "

"She?" he replied, raising his eyes to the sky and smiling complacently. "I pity you, Pechorin!"

He left.

In the evening a large company set out on foot for the ravine.

The local experts are of the opinion that this chasm is nothing but an extinct crater. It is located on the slopes of Mashuk within a mile of the town. It is approached by a narrow path, winding through the brush and crags. As we climbed the mountainside I offered my arm to Princess Mary, who didn't let go of it through the entire walk.

Our conversation started with scandal. I began to go through the people we knew, both present and absent, first describing their ridiculous features, then their bad habits. My gall was up and after starting off in jest I finished in deadly earnest. At first she was amused, then alarmed.

"You are a dangerous man!" she told me. "I would rather risk a murderer's knife in the forest than be flayed by your tongue. I beg of you quite earnestly--if you should ever take it into your mind to speak badly of me, take a knife instead and kill me. I believe you would not find it too difficult to do."

"Do I look like a murderer?"

"You are worse . . ."

I thought for a moment and then said, taking on a deeply touched face: "Yes, such has been my lot since childhood. Everyone read signs of non-existent evil traits in my features. But since they were expected to be there, they did make their appearance. Because I was reserved, they said I was sly, so I grew reticent. I was keenly aware of good and evil, but instead of being indulged I was insulted and so I became spiteful. I was sulky while other children were merry and talkative, but though I felt superior to them I was considered inferior. So I grew envious. I was ready to love the whole world, but no one understood me, and I learned to hate. My cheerless youth passed in conflict with myself and society, and fearing ridicule I buried my finest feelings deep in my heart, and there they died. I spoke the truth, but nobody believed me, so I began to practice duplicity. Having come to know society and its mainsprings, I became versed in the art of living and saw how others were happy without that proficiency, enjoying for free the favors I had so painfully striven for. It was then that despair was born in my heart--not the despair that is cured with a pistol, but a cold, impotent desperation, concealed under a polite exterior and a good-natured smile. I became a moral cripple; I had lost one half of my soul, for it had shriveled, dried up and died, and I had cut it off and cast it away, while the other half stirred and lived, adapted to serve every comer. No one noticed this, because no one suspected there had been another half. Now, however, you have awakened memories of it in me, and what I have just done is to read its epitaph to you. Many regard all epitaphs as ridiculous, but I do not, particularly when I remember what rests beneath them. Of course, I am not asking you to share my opinion; if what I have said seems ridiculous to you, please laugh, though I warn you that it will not annoy me in the slightest."

At that moment our eyes met, and I saw that hers swam with tears. Her arm resting on mine trembled, her cheeks were red hot. She was sorry for me! Compassion--that emotion which all women so easily yield to--had sunk its claws into her inexperienced heart. Throughout the walk she was absent-minded and flirted with no one--and that is a great omen indeed!

We reached the ravine. The other ladies left their escorts, but she didn't release my arm. The witticisms of the local dandies didn't amuse her. The steepness of the bluff on the brink of which she stood didn't alarm her, though the other young ladies squealed and closed their eyes.

On the way back I did not resume our sad conversation, but to my idle questions and jests she gave only brief and distracted answers.

"Have you ever been in love?" I finally asked her.

She looked at me intently, shook her head and again was lost in thought. It was evident that she wanted to say something but didn't know where to begin. Her chest heaved . . . Indeed, a muslin sleeve affords but slight protection, and an electric tremor ran from my arm to hers--most passions begin that way, and we frequently deceive ourselves when we think that a woman loves us for our physical or moral qualities. True, they prepare the ground, dispose the heart to receive the sacred flame, but nevertheless it is the first physical contact that decides the issue.

"I have been very friendly today, have I not?" the princess said with a forced smile when we returned from our walk.

We parted.

She is displeased with herself; she accuses herself of being cool. Ah, this is the first and most important triumph! Tomorrow she'll want to reward me. I know it all by rote--and that is what makes it all so boring.

4 June
I have just seen Vera. She nagged me to death with jealousy. I figure Princess Mary has chosen to confide her secrets of the heart to Vera. An appropriate choice, that's for sure!

"I can guess what it all will lead to," Vera said to me. "It'd be better if you told me frankly now that you love her."

"But supposing I don't love her?"

"Then why pursue her, disturb her and stir her imagination? Oh, I know you too well! If you want me to believe you, come to Kislovodsk a week from now. We are going there the day after tomorrow. Princess Ligovskaya is remaining here a little longer. Rent the apartment next door to ours. We'll stay in the large house near the spring, on the mezzanine floor. Princess Ligovskaya will occupy the floor below, and next door there's another house belonging to the same owner which hasn't been taken yet--Will you come?"

I promised, and the very same day sent a message to rent the apartment.

Grushnitsky dropped in at six in the evening and announced that his uniform would be ready the next day, just in time for the ball.

"At last I'll dance with her all evening . . . And talk to my heart's content," he added.

"When is the ball?"

"Tomorrow. Didn't you know? It's quite a gala event, and the local authorities are sponsoring it."

"Let's go out on the boulevard."

"Goodness no, not in this hideous overcoat . . ."

"What? Do you mean to say you don't like it any more?"

I went out alone, and, encountering Princess Mary, asked her for the mazurka. She looked surprised and pleased.

"I thought you danced only when necessary, like the last time," she said, smiling very prettily.

She seemed to be totally unaware of Grushnitsky's absence.

"You'll have a pleasant surprise tomorrow," I said to her.

"What is it?"

"It's a secret . . . You'll see for yourself at the ball."

I wound up the evening at Princess Ligovskaya's. There were no guests besides Vera and a very amusing old man. I was in good form and improvised all kinds of fantastic stories. Princess Mary sat opposite me listening to my chatter with an attention so great, intense and even tender, that I felt a pang of remorse. What had become of her vivacity, her coquetry, her caprices, her haughty air, her contemptuous smile and absent gaze?

Vera noticed it all and a deep sadness was reflected on her thin face. She sat in the shadows at the window, sunk in a large armchair. I was sorry for her . . .

Then I told them the whole dramatic story of our friendship and love, naturally using fictitious names.

So vividly did I describe my tender feelings, anxieties and raptures, and portrayed her actions and character in so favorable a light that she could not but forgive me my flirtation with the young princess.

She got up, moved to a seat closer to us and recovered her spirits . . . and only at two o'clock in the morning did we recollect that her physician's orders were to retire at eleven.

5 June
Half an hour before the ball, Grushnitsky came to my apartment in the full splendor of an infantry officer's uniform. A bronze chain on which a double eyeglass dangled was attached to his third button. He wore epaulets of incredible size which curled up like Cupid's wings. His boots squeaked. In his left hand he carried both a pair of brown kid gloves and his cap, while with his right he kept twirling his frizzled forelock into tiny curls. Complacency tinged with a certain hesitancy was written on his face. His festive appearance and his proud carriage would have made me roar with laughter had that been in keeping with my intentions.

He threw his cap and gloves on the table and began to pull at his coat-tails and preen himself in front of the mirror. An enormous black scarf twisted into a high stiffener for his necktie, with bristles that supported his chin, stuck up a half an inch above the collar; he thought that too little and pulled it up to his ears. The exertion made his face grow purple, for the collar of his uniform coat was very tight and uncomfortable.

"They say you have been hot on the heels of my princess lately," he said rather nonchalantly, without looking at me.

"'Fools should be so deep-contemplative,'" replied I, repeating a favorite saying by one of the cleverest rakes of the past, once praised by Pushkin.

"I say, does this thing fit me well? Oh, damn that Jew! It's tight under the arms! . . . Have you any perfume at all?"

"For goodness sake, how much more do you want? You already reek of rose pomade."

"Never mind. Let's have some . . ."

He poured half a bottle on his necktie, handkerchief and sleeves.

"Will you be dancing?" he asked.

"I don't think so."

"I'm afraid the princess and I will have to start the mazurka, and I scarcely know a single figure . . ."

"Did you ask her for the mazurka?"

"No, not yet . . .."

"Take care no one gets there before you . . .".

"You're right, by gad!" he said, slapping his forehead. "Good-bye, I'll go and wait for her at the entrance." He took his cap and ran off.

Half an hour later I too set out. The streets were dark and deserted. Around the club rooms or inn--whichever you want to call it--the crowds were gathering. The windows were ablaze with light, and the strains of the regimental band wafted toward me on the evening wind. I walked slowly, steeped in melancholy. Can it be, thought I, that my sole mission on earth is to destroy the hopes of others? Ever since I began to live and act, fate has somehow associated me with the last act of other people's tragedies, as if without me no one could either die or give way to despair! I have been the inevitable character who comes in at the final act, involuntarily playing the detestable role of the hangman or the traitor. What has been fate's object in all this? Has it destined me to be the author of middle-class tragedies and family romances--or a purveyor of tales for, say, the Reader's Library? Who knows? Are there not many who begin life by aspiring to end it like Alexander the Great, or Lord Byron, and yet remain petty civil servants all their lives?

On entering the hall I mingled with the crowd of men and began making my observations. Grushnitsky was standing beside Princess Mary and talking with great ardor. She was listening to him absent-mindedly, looking around and pressing her fan to her lips. Her face expressed impatience and her eyes searched for someone. I quietly slipped behind them so as to overhear the conversation.

"You are tormenting me, Princess," Grushnitsky said. "You have changed terribly since I saw you last."

"You too have changed," she replied, throwing him a swift look whose veiled scorn was lost on him.

"I? Changed? Never! You know that is impossible! Whoever has seen you once will carry your divine image with him to the grave . . ."

"Stop . . ."

"Why will you not listen now, when you so recently and so often lent a favorable ear?"

"Because I don't like repetition," she replied, laughing.

"Oh, I have been bitterly mistaken! I thought, fool that I am, that at least these epaulets would give me the right to hope . . . Yes, it would have been better to spend the rest of my life in that despicable soldier's overcoat, to which I perhaps owed your attention."

"In fact, the overcoat made you look far better . . ."

At that moment I came up and bowed to the princess. She blushed slightly, saying hurriedly: "Don't you think, M'sieu Pechorin, that the gray overcoat suits M'sieu Grushnitsky much better?"

"I don't agree with you," replied I. "He looks even younger in this uniform."

Grushnitsky could not bear this thrust, for like all boys he lays claim to being a man of some years. He thinks that the deep traces of passion on his face can pass for the stamp of age. He threw a furious look at me, stamped his foot, and strode away.

"You must admit," I said to the princess, "that although he has always been very ridiculous he struck you as interesting only a short while ago . . . in his gray overcoat."

She dropped her eyes and said nothing.

Grushnitsky pursued the princess the whole evening, dancing either with her or vis-à-vis. He devoured her with his eyes, sighed and wearied her with his supplications and reproaches. By the end of the third quadrille she already hated him.

"I didn't expect this of you," he said, coming up to me and taking me by the arm.

"What are you talking about?"

"Are you going to dance the mazurka with her?" he asked me in a solemn tone. "She admitted as much to me . . ."

"Well, what of it? Is it a secret?"

"Of course . . . I should have expected it from that hussy, that flirt . . . Never mind, I'll take my revenge!"

"Blame your overcoat or your epaulets, but why accuse her? Is it her fault that she no longer likes you?"

"Why did she give me reason to hope?"

"Why did you hope? To want something and to strive for it, that I can understand, but whoever hopes?"

"You have won the bet, but not entirely," he said, with a spiteful sneer.

The mazurka began. Grushnitsky invited none but Princess Mary. Other cavaliers chose her every minute. It was obviously a conspiracy against me--but that was all for the better. She wanted to talk with me; she was prevented from doing so--good! She would want to all the more.

I pressed her hand once or twice; the second time she pulled her hand away without a word.

"I will sleep badly tonight," she said to me when the mazurka was over.

"Grushnitsky is to blame for that."

"Oh no!" And her face grew so thoughtful, so sad, that I promised myself I would certainly kiss her hand that night.

Everybody began to disperse. Having helped the princess into her carriage, I quickly pressed her little hand to my lips. It was dark and no one could see.

I returned to the ballroom, highly pleased with myself.

The young gallants were having supper around a large table, Grushnitsky among them. When I entered they all fell silent; they must have been talking about me. Ever since the previous ball many of them, the captain of dragoons in particular, have had a bone to pick with me, and now it seems that a hostile band is being organized against me under Grushnitsky's command. He wears such a cocky air of bravura.

I am very glad of it, for I love enemies, though not in the Christian way. They amuse me and quicken my pulse. To be always on one's guard, to catch every look and the significance of every word, to guess intentions, foil conspiracies, pretend to be deceived and then to overthrow with a single blow the whole vast edifice of artifice and design raised with so much effort--that is what I call life.

Throughout the meal Grushnitsky spoke in whispers and exchanged winks with the captain of dragoons.

6 June
This morning Vera left for Kislovodsk with her husband. Their carriage passed me as I was on my way to Princess Ligovskaya's. She nodded to me--there was reproach in her eyes.

Who is to blame, after all? Why doesn't she not want to give me an opportunity to see her alone? Love, like fire, dies out without fuel. Perhaps jealousy will succeed where my pleadings have failed.

I stayed a whole hour at the princess's. Mary didn't come down--she was indisposed. In the evening she didn't appear on the boulevard. The newly formed gang had armed itself with eyeglasses with little handles and looked formidable indeed. I am glad that the young princess was ill, for they would have affronted her in some way. Grushnitsky's hair was messed up, and he looked desperate; he actually seems to be embittered, his vanity especially has been wounded. But some people are really amusing even in despair!

On returning home I felt a vague longing. I had not seen her! She was ill! Have I actually fallen in love? What nonsense!

7 June
At eleven o'clock in the morning, at which hour Princess Ligovskaya usually sweats it out at the Yermolov baths, I walked past her house. Princess Mary was sitting at the window lost in thought. On seeing me, she jumped to her feet.

I walked into the waiting room. There was no one around and, taking advantage of the freedom of the local customs, I went straight to the drawing room without being announced.

A dull white had spread over the princess's charming features. She stood by the piano, leaning with one arm on the back of a chair; the hand trembled slightly. Quietly I walked up to her and said: "Are you angry with me?"

She raised her eyes to me with a deep, languorous look and shook her head. Her lips wanted to say something, but could not. Her eyes filled with tears. She sank into a chair and covered her face with her hands.

"What is the matter?" I said, taking her hand.

"You don't respect me! Oh, leave me alone!"

I stepped back a few paces. She stiffened in the chair and her eyes flashed . . .

I paused, my hand on the door knob, and said: "I beg your pardon, Princess! I acted rashly . . . it will not happen again, I'll see to it. Why should you know what has been going on in my heart? You'll never know it, which is all the better for you. Farewell."

As I went out I thought I heard her sobbing.

Until evening I wandered about the outskirts of Mashuk, tired myself out thoroughly and, on returning home, flung myself on the bed in utter exhaustion.

Werner dropped in to see me.

"Is it true," he asked, "that you intend to marry the young Princess Ligovskaya?"

"Why do you ask?"

"The whole town is talking about it. All my patients can think of nothing else but this important news, and these watering-place people know everything!"

"This is Grushnitsky's little joke!" thought I.

"To prove to you, doctor, how unfounded these rumors are, I will tell you in confidence that I am moving on to Kislovodsk tomorrow."

"And Princess Mary as well?"

"No, she will remain here another week."

"So you don't intend to marry?"

"Doctor, doctor! Look at me: do I look like a bridegroom or anything of the kind?"

"I am not saying you do . . . But, you know, it sometimes happens," he added, smiling slyly, "that a man of honor is obliged to marry, and that there are fond mamas who at any rate do not prevent such things from arising . . . So as a friend, I advise you to be more cautious. The air is highly dangerous here at the waters. How many splendid young men worthy of a better fate have I seen leave here bound straight for the altar. Believe it or not, they even wanted to marry me off too. It was the doing of one provincial mama with a very pale daughter. I had the misfortune to tell her that the girl would regain her color after marriage; whereupon, with tears of gratitude in her eyes, she offered me her daughter's hand and all her property--fifty souls, I believe it was. I told her, however, that I was quite unfit for matrimony."

Werner left fully confident that he had given me a timely warning.

From what he had said I gathered that many malicious rumors had been spread all over town about Princess Mary and myself: Grushnitsky will have to pay for this!

10 June
It is three days since I arrived in Kislovodsk. I see Vera every day at the spring or on the promenade. When I wake up in the morning I sit at the window and direct eyeglasses at her balcony. Having dressed long before, she waits for the signal agreed upon, and we meet as if by accident in the garden, which slopes down to the spring from our houses. The invigorating mountain air has brought the color back to her cheeks and given her strength. It is not for nothing that Narzan is called the source of heroes. The local inhabitants claim that the air in Kislovodsk is conducive to love and that all the love affairs that ever began at the foot of Mashuk have invariably reached their ending here. And, indeed, everything here breathes of seclusion. Everything is mysterious--the dense shadows of the lime trees bordering the torrent which, falling noisily and frothily from flag to flag, cuts its way through the green mountains, and the gorges, full of gloom and silence, that branch out from here in all directions. And the freshness of the fragrant air, laden with the aroma of the tall southern grasses and the white acacia, and the incessant deliciously drowsy babble of the cool brooks which, mingling at the end of the valley, rush onward to hurl their waters into the Podkumok River. On this side the gorge is wider and spreads out into a green depression, and through it meanders a dusty road. Each time I look at it, I seem to see a carriage approaching and a pretty rosy-cheeked face looking out of its window. Many a carriage has already rolled along that road--but there still is no sign of that particular one. The settlement beyond the fort is now densely populated; from the restaurant, built on a hill a few paces from my apartment, lights have begun to glimmer in the evenings through the double row of poplars, and the noise and the clinking of glasses can be heard until late at night.

Nowhere is there so much Kakhetian wine and mineral water drunk up as here.

To jumble up such various kinds of fun
There's many take delight: for me, I am not one.

Grushnitsky and his gang whoop it up daily in the saloon. He barely acknowledges me now.

He arrived only yesterday, but he's already managed to pick a quarrel with three old men who wanted to take their baths before him. Bad luck's decidedly developing a bellicose spirit in him.

11 June
At last they've arrived. I was sitting at the window when I heard their carriage drive up, and my heart jumped. What does it mean? Could I be in love? So senselessly am I constructed that it might indeed be expected of me.

I had dinner with them. Princess Ligovskaya eyed me very tenderly and did not leave her daughter's side--a bad sign that! But Vera is jealous of Princess Mary. I have managed to bring about that happy state after all! What would a woman not do to hurt a rival! I recall one woman who loved me simply because I was in love with another. Nothing is more paradoxical than the feminine mind. It is hard to convince women of anything--they must be brought to a point where they will convince themselves. The means of supplying evidence by which they finish off their prejudices is highly original, and to get to know their dialectic one must rid the mind of all academic rules of logic. For example, the ordinary method is this:

This man loves me; but I am married; hence, I must not love him.

The feminine method is this:

I must not love him because I am married; but he loves me, and hence . . .

Here follows a pregnant pause, for reason is now dumb, and all the talking is mainly done by the tongue, eyes, and eventually the heart, if there is one.

What if these notes should fall into a woman's hands some day? "Slander!" she will cry indignantly.

Ever since poets began to write and women to read them (for which they must be heartily thanked), the latter have been called angels so often that in the simplicity of their hearts they have actually come to believe in this compliment, forgetting that for money the very same poets exalted Nero as a semigod.

It might appear not quite right that I should speak of them with such malice--I, who have never loved anything else under the sun--I, who have always been ready to sacrifice my peace of mind, ambition and life for their sake . . . Yet it is not in a fit of annoyance or injured vanity that I try hard to draw aside that magic veil which only the accustomed eye can penetrate. No, all that I say about them is only the result of

The cold reflections of the mind
And bitter insights of the heart.

Women should wish all men to know them as well as I do, for I have loved them a hundred times more since I overcame my fear of them and discovered their petty frailties.

Incidentally, Werner the other day compared women with the enchanted forest described by Tasso in his Jerusalem Delivered.

"You have but to approach it," he said, "to be assaulted from all sides by ungodly terrors: duty, pride, respectability, public opinion, ridicule, contempt . . . You must not heed them, but go straight on. Little by little the monsters vanish and before you opens a quiet, sunny glade with green myrtle blooming in its midst. But woe to you if your heart quails when you take those first steps and you turn back!"

12 June
This evening was full of many events. Some two miles out of Kislovodsk, in the gorge where the Podkumok flows, there is a crag called The Ring, forming a natural gateway that towers above a high hill. Through it the setting sun casts its last fiery glance at the world. A large cavalcade set out to watch the sunset through the rocky window. To tell the truth, though, none of us was thinking of the sunset. I rode next to Princess Mary. On the way back we had to ford the Podkumok. Even the shallowest mountain streams are dangerous, chiefly because their beds are a perfect kaleidoscope, changing day by day under the action of the current--where there was a rock yesterday, there may be a pit today. I took the princess's horse by the bridle and led it to the water, which did not rise above the knees. We started crossing slowly at an angle against the current. It is a well-known fact that in crossing rapids one should not look down at the water because it makes you dizzy. I forgot to warn Princess Mary of this.

We were already in midstream, where the current is the swiftest, when she suddenly swayed in the saddle. "I feel faint!" she gasped. Quickly I bent over toward her and put my arm around her supple waist.




"Look up!" I whispered to her. "Don't be afraid, it's quite all right; I am with you."

She felt better and wanted to free herself from my arm, but I tightened my embrace about her soft slender waist. My cheek almost touched hers. I could feel a fiery glow from her.

"What are you doing to me? My God!"

I paid no heed to her quivering confusion and my lips touched her soft cheek. She jumped, but said nothing. We were riding behind the others--no one saw us. When we clambered ashore, everyone set off at a trot. The princess, however, reined in her horse, and I remained with her. It was obvious that she was worried by my silence, but I swore to myself not to say a word--out of sheer curiosity. I wanted to see how she would get herself out of this embarrassing situation.

"Either you despise me, or you love me very much," she said at last in a voice that shook with tears. "Perhaps you wish to mock me, to play on my feelings, and then leave me . . . That would be so vile, so low, that the very thought . . . Oh no! Surely," she added with an air of tender trustfulness, "there is nothing in me that would preclude respect, is there? Your presumptuous conduct . . . I must, I must forgive you because I permitted it . . . Answer me, speak to me, I want to hear your voice!" There was so much feminine impetuosity in her last words that I could not suppress a smile; luckily, it was growing dark. I did not reply.

"You have nothing to say?" she continued. "Perhaps you wish me to be the first to say that I love you?"

I was silent.

"Do you want me to do that?" she went on, swiftly turning toward me. There was something awe-inspiring in the earnestness of her eyes and voice.

"Why should I?" I replied, shrugging my shoulders.

She struck her horse with her riding stick and set off at full gallop along the narrow, dangerous road. It all happened so quickly that I was hardly able to overtake her, and did so only when she had already joined the rest of the company. All the way home she talked and laughed incessantly. There was a feverishness in her movements, and not once did she look at me. Everybody noticed this unusual gaiety. Princess Ligovskaya rejoiced inwardly as she watched her daughter, but her daughter was merely suffering a fit of nerves and would spend a sleepless night crying. The very thought gives me infinite pleasure. There are moments when I understand the Vampire . . . And yet I have the reputation of being a good fellow and try to live up to it!

Having got down from the horses, the ladies went in to Princess Ligovskaya's. I was agitated and galloped into the hills to get rid of the thoughts that crowded into my mind. The dewy evening breathed a delicious coolness. The moon was rising from behind the darkly looming mountains. Every step my unshod horse took echoed dully in the silence of the gorges. I watered my horse at a waterfall, eagerly drank in a few breaths of the invigorating air of the southern night, and retraced my steps. I rode through the settlement. Lights were going out in the windows; sentries on the ramparts of the fort and Cossack pickets on the outposts yelled to each other on a sustained note.

I noticed that one of the houses in the village which had been built on the brink of a gully was unusually brightly lit, and every now and then I could hear a babble of voices and shouting which meant a military carousal. I dismounted and crept up to the window. A loose shutter made it possible for me to see the revelers and overhear what they were saying. They were talking about me.

The captain of dragoons, red-faced with wine, pounded the table with his fist to command attention.

"Gentlemen!" he said. "This won't do at all. Pechorin must be taught a lesson. These Petersburg upstarts get uppity until they're rapped on the knuckles! Just because he always wears clean gloves and shiny boots he thinks he's the only society man around."

"And that supercilious smile of his! Yet I'm certain he's a coward--yes, a coward!"

"I believe so too," said Grushnitsky. "He turns everything into a joke. Once I told him off in such terms that another man would have cut me down on the spot, but Pechorin just laughed it off. I, of course, didn't challenge him, because it was up to him to do so; besides I didn't want the bother . . ."

"Grushnitsky has it in for him because he got ahead of him with the young princess," said someone.

"What nonsense! True, I did run after the princess a bit, but I gave it up soon enough because I have no desire to marry and I do not believe in compromising a girl."

"Yes, I assure you he is a coward of the first water--Pechorin, I mean, not Grushnitsky. Grushnitsky is a fine man and a good friend of mine to boot!" said the captain of dragoons. "Gentlemen! Does anyone here want to stand up for him? No one? All the better! Do you wish to test his courage? It will be amusing..."

"Yes, we do. But how?"

"Now listen to me: since Grushnitsky's grievance is the biggest, his will be the leading role. He will take exception to some trifle and challenge Pechorin to a duel . . . Wait, this is the point . . . He will challenge Pechorin--so far so good! Everything, the challenge, the preparations and the conditions will be made in as solemn and formidable a fashion as possible--I will take care of that, for I'll be your second, my poor friend! Very well! Now this is the trick: we won't load the pistols. I give you my word, Pechorin will show the cowardly white feather--six paces from one another, I'll place them, damn it! Are you agreeable, gentlemen?"

"Grand idea, splendid! What fun!" came from all sides.

"And you, Grushnitsky?"

I awaited Grushnitsky's reply with a little fear. A cold fury gripped me at the thought that mere chance had saved me from being made the butt of these fools' jest. Had Grushnitsky not agreed to it, I would have flung my arms around him. After a brief silence, however, he rose from his seat, extended his hand to the captain and said very pompously: "Very well, I agree."

The elation of the whole honorable company defies description.

I returned home a prey to two conflicting emotions. One was sadness. "Why do they all hate me?" I thought. "Why? Had I offended anybody? No. Can it be that I am one of those whose mere appearance excites ill will?" And I felt a poisonous wrath gradually take possession of me. "Take care, Mr. Grushnitsky," I said to myself as I paced up and down the room, "you cannot trifle thus with me. You might have to pay dearly for the approval of your stupid friends. I am not a toy for you to play with!..."

I lay awake all night. In the morning I looked as yellow as a wild orange.

Early in the day I met Princess Mary at the spring.

"Are you sick?" she asked, looking at me intently.

"I didn't sleep all night."

"Neither did I . . . I blamed you . . . unjustly perhaps? But if you'd only explain, I could forgive you everything."


"Yes, everything . . . Only you have to tell the truth . . . be quick . . . You see, I've gone over it again and again, trying to find some explanation that would justify your conduct. Perhaps you fear opposition on the part of my relatives? You don't have to worry about that; when they hear of it"--her voice trembled--"I'll persuade them. Or perhaps it's your own position . . . but I want you to know that I'm capable of sacrificing everything for the sake of the man I love . . . Oh, answer me quickly--have pity on me . . . Tell me, you don't despise me, do you?"

She held my hand.

Princess Ligovskaya was walking ahead of us with Vera's husband and saw nothing. But we could have been observed by the strolling convalescents, and they are the most inquisitive of all inquisitive gossips, so I quickly disengaged my hand from her passionate hold.

"I will tell you the whole truth," I said, "without trying to justify myself or to explain my actions. I do not love you."

Her lips paled slightly.

"Leave me," she said in a barely audible voice. I shrugged my shoulders, turned, and walked away.

14 June
Sometimes I despise myself; is that why I despise others too? I am no longer capable of noble impulses; I am afraid of appearing ridiculous to myself. Another in my place would have offered the princess son coeur et sa fortune but for me the verb "to marry" has an ominous ring: no matter how passionately I might love a woman, it's farewell to love if she as much as hints at my marrying her. My heart turns to stone, and nothing can warm it again. I'd make any sacrifice but this--twenty times I can stake my life, even my honor, but my freedom I'll never sell. Why do I prize it so much? What do I find in it? What am I aiming at? What have I to expect from the future? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It's some innate fear, an inexplicable foreboding . . . After all, some people have an unreasoning fear of spiders, cockroaches, mice . . . Shall I confess? When I was still a child, some old woman told my fortune for my mother, predicting that I'd die through a wicked wife. It made a deep impression on me at the time, and an insuperable abhorrence for marriage grew within me. And yet something tells me that her prophecy will come true--but at least I'll do my best to put off its fulfilment for as long as possible.

15 June
Apfelbaum, the conjurer, arrived here yesterday. A long poster appeared on the restaurant doors informing the worthy public that the above-named amazing magician, acrobat, chemist and optician would have the honor to present a magnificent spectacle this day at eight o'clock in the evening in the hall of the Nobles' Club (in other words, the restaurant); admission two rubles and a half.

Everybody intends to go and see the amazing conjurer. Even Princess Ligovskaya has taken a ticket for herself, although her daughter is sick.

As I was walking past Vera's windows today after dinner--she was sitting on the balcony alone--a note fell at my feet:

Come tonight at ten o'clock in the evening by the main staircase; my husband has gone to Pyatigorsk and will not be back until tomorrow morning. My menservants and chambermaids will not be in: I gave them all, as well as the princess's servants, tickets to the show. I will wait for you; come without fail.

"Aha!" thought I. "At last things are going my way."

At eight o'clock I went to see the conjurer. It was nearly nine when the audience had assembled and the performance began. In the back rows I recognized the lackeys and chambermaids of both Vera and Princess Ligovskaya. They were all accounted for. Grushnitsky was sitting in the first row with his opera glass. The conjurer turned to him each time he needed a handkerchief, watch, ring or the like.

Grushnitsky has not bowed to me for some time, and now he eyed me rather insolently once or twice. He will be sorry for it all when the time comes to settle scores.

It was nearly ten when I rose and went out.

It was pitch dark outside. Heavy, chill clouds lay on the summits of the surrounding mountains, and only now and then did the dying breeze rustle the tops of the poplars around the restaurant. People were crowding round the windows. I went down the hill and, after turning into the gate, walked faster. Suddenly I felt that someone was following me. I stopped and looked around. It was too dark to see anything, but for the sake of caution I walked around the house as if merely out for a stroll. As I passed Princess Mary's windows I again heard footsteps behind me, and a man wrapped in a overcoat ran past me. This worried me--nevertheless I crept up to the porch and hurried up the dark staircase. The door opened, a little hand grabbed mine . . .

"No one saw you?" Vera whispered, clinging to me.


"Now do you believe that I love you? Oh, I have hesitated so long, tormented myself so long . . . but I am as clay in your hands."

Her heart pounded, and her hands were cold as ice. Then followed reproaches and jealous recriminations--she demanded a full confession, vowing she would meekly endure my faithlessness, for her only desire was to see me happy. I didn't quite believe that but nevertheless reassured her with vows, promises, and so on.

"So you're not going to marry Mary? You don't love her? And she thinks . . . do you know she is madly in love with you, the poor thing! . . ."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

At about two o'clock in the morning I opened the window and, knotting two shawls together, let myself down from the upper balcony to the lower, holding on to a column as I did so. A light was still burning in Princess Mary's room. Something attracted me toward that window. The curtains were not drawn tight and I was able to cast a curious glance into the interior of the room. Mary was sitting on her bed, her hands crossed on her knees. Her abundant tresses had been gathered under a lace nightcap, a large scarlet shawl covered her white shoulders, and her tiny feet were concealed in a pair of brightly colored Persian slippers. She sat motionless, her head sunk on her breast; on a table before her lay an open book, but her fixed gaze, full of inexpressible sadness, seemed to be skimming one and the same page for the hundredth time, while her thoughts were far away . . .

Just then someone moved behind a bush. I jumped down to the lawn from the balcony. An invisible hand clamped down on my shoulder. "Aha!" said a gruff voice. "Got you! I'll teach you to go prowling in princesses' rooms at night!"

"Hold him fast!" yelled another, leaping from behind the corner.

It was Grushnitsky and the captain of dragoons.

I struck the latter on the head with my fist, knocking him down, and ran for the bushes. I knew all the paths in the garden covering the slope opposite our houses.

"Thieves! Help!" they shouted; a shot was fired; the glowing wad fell almost at my feet.

A minute later I was in my own room, undressed and in bed. My manservant had scarcely locked the door, when Grushnitsky and the captain began pounding on it.

"Pechorin! Are you asleep? Are you there?" the captain shouted.

"I'm in bed," I replied irritably.

"Get up! Thieves! The Circassians!"

"I have a cold," I replied, "I don't want to catch pneumonia."

They went away. I shouldn't have answered them. They'd have spent another hour searching for me in the garden. In the meantime the big alarm went up. A Cossack galloped down from the fort. All was astir, Circassians were being hunted in every bush, but of course, none were found. Many people, however, probably remained firmly convinced that had the garrison displayed greater courage and speed at least a dozen or two marauders could have been left for dead.

16 June
The Circassian night raid was the sole subject of conversation at the spring this morning. Having drunk the prescribed number of glasses of Narzan and walked some ten times up and down the long linden avenue, I met Vera's husband, who had just returned from Pyatigorsk. He took my arm and we went into the restaurant for breakfast. He was exceedingly worried about his wife. "She had a terrible fright last night!" he said. "A thing like this would have to happen, just when I was away!" We sat down for breakfast near the door leading to the corner room which was occupied by a dozen gallants, Grushnitsky among them. And for the second time Destiny offered me an opportunity to overhear a conversation that was to decide his fate. He didn't see me, and hence I couldn't conclude that he was talking deliberately for my benefit--but that only enhanced his guilt in my eyes.

"Could it really have been the Circassians?" said someone. "Did anyone see them?"

"I'll tell you the whole truth," replied Grushnitsky, "only I ask you not to give me away. This is what happened: last night a man, whose name I will not mention, came to me with the story that he had seen someone sneaking into the Ligovskoy house at about ten at night. Let me remind you that Princess Ligovskaya was here at the time, and Princess Mary at home. So I set out with him to lie in wait for the lucky fellow under her window."

I admit I was alarmed lest my companion, engrossed though he was with his breakfast, might hear some rather unpleasant things, supposing Grushnitsky had guessed the truth. Blinded by jealousy, however, the latter did not even suspect what had happened.

"So you see," Grushnitsky continued, "we set off taking along a gun loaded with a blank charge in order to give the fellow a fright. Until two o'clock we waited in the garden. Finally he appeared, the Lord knows from where, only it wasn't through the window because it didn't open--he probably came through the glass door hidden behind a column--finally, as I say, we saw somebody climbing down from the balcony . . . What do you think of the young princess, eh? I must admit, these Moscow ladies are incredible! What can you believe in after this? We tried to hold him, but he broke loose and scurried for the bushes like a rabbit--that's when I shot at him."

A murmur of incredulity broke out around Grushnitsky.

"You don't believe me?" he continued. "I give you my word of honor that this is the downright truth, and to prove it, perhaps I will mention the name of the gentleman in question."

"Who was it, who was it?" came from all sides.

"Pechorin," replied Grushnitsky.

At that moment he raised his eyes--to see me standing in the doorway facing him. He turned scarlet. I stepped up to him and said very slowly and distinctly: "I am very sorry that I entered after you had already given your word of honor in confirmation of the most abominable piece of slander. My presence might have saved you from that added villainy."

Grushnitsky leapt to his feet, all ready to flare up.

"I beg of you," I continued in the same tone of voice, "I beg of you to retract at once what you have said; you are very well aware that it is a lie. I do not believe that the indifference of a woman to your brilliant qualities deserves such dreadful retaliation. Think it over well: if you persist in your opinion, you forfeit any right to your reputation as a man of honor and risk your life."

Grushnitsky stood before me, eyes downcast, in violent agitation. But the struggle between conscience and vanity was brief. The captain of dragoons, who was sitting next to him, nudged him with his elbow. He twitched and quickly replied to me without raising his eyes: "My dear sir, when I say something, I mean it, and am ready to repeat it . . . Your threats do not intimidate me and I'll stop at nothing."

"The last you have already proved," I replied coldly, and taking the arm of the captain of dragoons, led him out of the room.

"What do you want with me?" asked the captain.

"You are a friend of Grushnitsky's and will probably be his second?"

The captain bowed with much hauteur.

"You've guessed right," he replied. "Moreover, I'm obliged to be his second, for the insult you have offered him concerns me too . . . I was with him last night," he added, squaring his stooping shoulders.

"Ah, so it was you I hit so clumsily on the head?"

He went yellow, then blue. Suppressed anger showed on his face.

"I will have the honor to send my second to you shortly," I added, bowing very politely and pretending to ignore his fury.

On the steps of the restaurant I met Vera's husband. He had evidently been waiting for me.

He grabbed my hand with something like rapture.

"Noble-minded young man!" he said with tears in his eyes. "I heard everything. What a scoundrel! The ingratitude! Just think of admitting them into a respectable house after this! Thank God I have no daughters! But she for whom you are risking your life will reward you. You may be assured of my discretion for the time being," he continued. "I was young once myself and served in the army; I know one mustn't interfere in affairs like this. Goodbye!"

Poor fellow! He is glad that he has no daughters . . .

I went straight to Werner, whom I found at home, and told him everything--my relations with Vera and Princess Mary and the conversation I had overheard, which showed me these gentlemen's intentions to make a fool of me by having us shoot it out with blank charges. Now, however, that affair had overstepped the bounds of a joke. They probably had not expected it to end like this.

The doctor agreed to act as my second. I gave him a few instructions concerning the conditions of the duel--he was to insist on the greatest secrecy, for, though I am always ready to risk my life, I am not disposed in the slightest to spoil my future in this world for all time to come.

Afterwards I went home. An hour later the doctor returned from his expedition.

"There is indeed a conspiracy against you," he said. "I found the captain of dragoons and another gentleman, whose name I do not remember, at Grushnitsky's. I stopped for a moment in the hallway to take off my galoshes. Inside there was a terrific noise and argument going on. 'I will not agree on any account!' Grushnitsky was saying. 'He insulted me publicly; previously it was an entirely different matter . . .' 'Why should it concern you?' replied the captain. 'I'm taking everything upon myself. I've been a second in five duels and know how these things are arranged. I've thought it out in every detail. Only be so good as not to interfere with me. It'll do him good to give him a fright. So why should you run a risk if you don't have to? . . ." At that point I walked in. They immediately fell silent. Our negotiations lasted for quite a while, and finally we came to the following arrangement: about three miles from here there is a lonely gorge. They'll go there tomorrow morning at four o'clock, and we are to leave half an hour later. You'll fire at six paces--Grushnitsky insisted on that distance himself. The dead man is to be credited to the Circassians. Now I'll tell you what I suspect: they, the seconds, I mean, have apparently amended the earlier scheme somewhat and want to put a bullet only into Grushnitsky's pistol. It looks rather like murder, but cunning is permitted in wartime, particularly in an Asiatic war. I dare say, though, that Grushnitsky is a slightly better man than his comrades. What do you think? Should we let them know that we have guessed their stratagem?"

"Not for anything in the world, doctor! You can rest assured I won't give in to them."

"What do you intend to do?"

"That's my secret."

"Take care you don't fall into a trap . . . Remember the distance is only six paces!"

"Doctor, I'll expect you tomorrow at four. The horses will be saddled. Goodbye!"

I sat at home until evening, locked up in my room. A footman came with an invitation from Princess Ligovskaya, but I said I was ill.

It is two o'clock in the morning, but I can't fall asleep. I know I should rest, so that my hand will be steady tomorrow. It'll be hard to miss at six paces though. Ah, Mr. Grushnitsky, your plots won't succeed! We will exchange roles, and now it'll be for me to look for signs of secret terror on your pale face. Why did you insist on these fatal six paces? You think that I'll submissively offer you my brow as a target . . . but we'll draw lots! And then . . . then . . . but what if fortune smiles on him? What if my star fails me at last? And little wonder if it did--it has faithfully served my caprices long enough: there is no more constancy in the heavens than on earth.

Ah, well! If I must die, I must! The world will lose little, and I am weary enough of it all. I am like a man who yawns at a ball and doesn't go home to sleep only because his carriage hasn't come. But now the carriage is here--goodbye!

I run through my past life in my mind and involuntarily ask myself: Why have I lived? For what purpose was I born? There must have been a purpose, and certainly fate must have something noble in store for me, for I am conscious of untapped powers within me . . . But I didn't figure out my destination. I allowed myself to be carried away by the temptation of vain and frivolous passions. I emerged from their crucible hard and cold like iron, but gone forever was the ardor of noble aspirations--life's finest flower. How often since then have I played the role of an ax in the hands of fate! Like an instrument of execution I have fallen upon the heads of the condemned, often without malice, always without regret . . . My love has never made anyone happy, for I have never sacrificed anything for those I loved; I have loved only for myself, for my own pleasure. I have striven only to satisfy a strange craving of the heart, greedily absorbing their emotions, their tenderness, their joys and sufferings--and have never been fully satisfied. I have been like the starving man who falls into a stupor from sheer exhaustion and dreams of luxurious foods and sparkling wines--exultingly he shovels in these ephemeral gifts of the imagination, and seems to feel better--but when he awakes the vision is gone . . . and redoubled hunger and despair remain!

Perhaps I will die tomorrow, and there won't be anyone left on earth who understands me fully. Some think of me worse, others better, than I really am. Some will say: he was a good fellow; others: he was a scoundrel. And both will be wrong. Is it worth the trouble to live after this? And yet you go on living--out of curiosity, in expectation of something new . . . How ludicrous and how vexatious!

A month and a half has passed since I arrived at the fort of N----. Maksim Maksimich has gone out hunting . . . I am all alone. I am sitting at the window. Outside, the gray clouds have concealed the mountains to their very base. The sun looks like a yellow blotch through the mist. It is cold. The wind is sighing and rattling the shutters . . . How wearisome it all is! I'll resume writing my journal, which has been interrupted by so many strange events.

Reading over the last page, it strikes me as amusing. I thought I would die--but that was out of the question, for I have not yet drained my cup of misery to the dregs and now I feel that I still have long to live.

How clearly and sharply everything that has happened is imprinted in my memory! Time hasn't obliterated a single line or nuance.



I recall that on the night before the duel I didn't sleep a wink. A mysterious uneasiness took hold of me and I couldn't write for long. For about an hour I paced the room, then I sat down and opened a novel by Walter Scott that had lain on my table: it was Old Mortality. At first I read with an effort, then, carried away by the enchanting fiction, I was soon oblivious to everything. Surely, the Scottish bard is rewarded in heaven for every joyous minute his book gives to the reader . . .

At last day broke. My nerves had grown calm. I examined my face in the mirror; a dull white had spread over my features, which still showed traces of a racking sleepless night, but my eyes, though encircled by dark shadows, shone proudly and remorselessly. I was satisfied with myself.

Ordering the horses to be saddled, I dressed and hurried to the baths. As I immersed myself in the cold Narzan water, I felt my physical and spiritual strength returning. I left the baths as refreshed and vigorous as if about to attend a ball. After this, no one can tell me that the soul is not dependent on the body!

On returning home, I found the doctor there. He was wearing gray riding pants, a light jacket gathered in at the waist and a Circassian cap. I burst out laughing at the sight of his slight body beneath the enormous shaggy cap. His face is anything but warlike, and this time he looked more dejected than usual.

"Why so sad, doctor?" I said to him. "Haven't you seen people off to the next world a hundred times with the greatest indifference? Imagine that I have a bilious fever, and that I have equal chances of recovering or succumbing. Both outcomes are in the order of things. Try to regard me as a patient stricken with a disease you have not yet diagnosed--that will stimulate your curiosity to the utmost. You may now make some important physiological observations on me . . . Isn't expectation of death by violence a real illness in itself?"

This thought impressed the doctor and his spirits rose.

We mounted. Werner clung to the reins with both hands and we set off. In a flash we had galloped through the settlement, past the fort, and entered the gorge, through which a road wound its way. It was half overgrown with tall grass and crossed at short intervals by noisy brooks which we had to ford, much to the despair of the doctor, whose horse would halt each time in the water.

I can't remember a bluer or fresher morning. The sun had barely peeped over the green summits and the merging of the first warmth of its rays with the dying coolness of the night brought a sweet languor to the senses. The exultant rays of the new day hadn't yet penetrated into the gorge. Now they gilded only the tops of the crags that towered above us on both sides. The dense foliage of the bushes growing in the deep crevices of the cliffs showered a silvery rain upon us at the slightest breath of wind. I remember that at that moment I loved nature as never before. With what curiosity did I gaze at each dewdrop that trembled on the broad vine leaves, reflecting millions of rainbow glints! How eagerly my eyes sought to pierce the hazy distance! There the path grew narrower and narrower, the crags bluer and more awesome, seeming to merge at last into an impregnable wall. We rode along in silence.

"Have you made your will?" Werner asked all of a sudden.


"What if you are killed?"

"The heirs will turn up themselves."

"Have you no friends to whom you would wish to send your last farewell?"

I shook my head.

"Is there no woman in the world to whom you would want to leave something to remember you by?"

"Do you want me to lay bare my soul to you, doctor?" I replied. "You see, I'm past the age when people die with the names of their beloved on their lips and bequeath a lock of pomaded, or unpomaded, hair to a friend. When I think of imminent and possible death, I think only of myself; some do not even do that. Friends, who will forget me tomorrow, or, worse still, who will weave God knows what fantastic yarns about me; and women, who in the embrace of another man will laugh at me in order that he might not be jealous of the departed--what do I care for them? From life's turmoil I've drawn a few ideas, but no feeling. For a long time now I have been living by my reason, not my heart. I weigh and analyze my own emotions and actions with stern curiosity, but without sympathy. There are two men in me--one lives in the full sense of the word, the other reasons and passes judgment on the first. The first will perhaps take leave of you and the world forever in an hour now; and the second . . . the second? Look, doctor, do you see the three dark figures on the cliff to the right? I believe those are our adversaries."

We spurred our horses on.

Three horses were tethered in the bushes at the foot of the cliff. We tied up ours there too and continued on foot up a narrow path to a ledge where Grushnitsky was waiting for us with the captain of dragoons and another second, by the name of Ivan Ignatyevich--his last name I never heard.

"We have been waiting a long time for you," said the captain of dragoons, with an ironical smile.

I pulled out my watch and showed it to him.

He apologized, saying that his watch was fast.

For several minutes there was an awkward silence. At last the doctor broke it, turning to Grushnitsky: "I believe," he said, "that having both shown your readiness to fight and thereby duly discharged your debt of honor, you might, gentlemen, come to an understanding and end this affair in a friendly fashion."

"I am ready to do so," said I.

The captain winked at Grushnitsky, who, thinking that I was showing the white feather, assumed a haughty air, although his face had been sickly gray until that moment. Now, for the first time since our arrival, he looked at me; the glance was uneasy and it betrayed his inner conflict.

"Tell me your conditions," he said, "and you may rest assured that I will do all I can for you..."

"These are my conditions: you will today publicly retract your false insult and apologize to me . . ."

"My dear sir, I am amazed that you dare suggest anything of the kind..."

"What else could I suggest?"

"We'll shoot it out."

I shrugged my shoulders.

"So be it. Only remember that one of us is bound to be killed."

"I hope it'll be you."

"I'm quite certain of the contrary."

He moved involuntarily and flushed red, and then he forced a laugh.

The captain took him by the arm and led him aside. They spoke in whispers at some length. I had arrived quite peaceably disposed, but now these proceedings were beginning to infuriate me.

The doctor came up to me.

"Look here," he said, obviously worried, "have you forgotten about their conspiracy? I don't know how to load a pistol, and if that's the case . . . You are a strange man! Tell them you are aware of their intentions, and they won't dare . . . Where's the sense of it? They will shoot you down like a sitting duck..."

"Please, doctor, do not alarm yourself, and wait a little . . . I'll handle the whole thing so that they won't have any advantage. Let them whisper..."

"Gentlemen, this is becoming tiresome!" I said to them in a loud voice. "If we are to fight, let us do so; you had time enough yesterday to talk it over . . ."

"We are ready," replied the captain. "Take your places, gentlemen! Doctor, will you measure out six paces?"

"Take your places!" repeated Ivan Ignatyevich in a squeaky voice.

"I beg your pardon!" I said. "There is one more condition. Inasmuch as we intend to fight to the death, we are obliged to take every precaution that this encounter should remain a secret and that our seconds should bear no responsibility. Do you agree?"

"We agree fully."

"This is what I have worked out. Do you see the narrow ledge on top of that sheer cliff to the right? The drop from there to the bottom is a good two hundred feet, if not more; down below there are jagged rocks. Each of us will take his position on the very edge of the shelf, which will make even a slight wound deadly. That should coincide with your wishes, since you yourselves set the distance at six paces. If one of us is wounded he will inevitably go over and be dashed to pieces. The doctor will remove the bullet, and the sudden death can easily be explained as an accident. We will draw lots to see who is to shoot first. In conclusion I wish to make it clear that I will fight on no other terms."

"Let it be so!" said the captain after a meaningful look at Grushnitsky, who nodded his agreement. His facial expression changed every moment. I had placed him in a difficult position. Under ordinary conditions, he could have aimed at my leg and wounded me lightly, thus getting his revenge without laying too heavy a burden on his conscience. Now, however, he either had to fire into the air or become a murderer, or, finally, abandon his dastardly scheme and run the same risk as I. I wouldn't have wished to be in his boots at that moment. He led the captain aside and began to talk to him very heatedly. I noticed how his lips, now turned bluish, quivered. The captain, however, turned away from him with a contemptuous smile. "You're a fool!" he said to Grushnitsky rather loudly. "You don't understand anything. Let's go, gentlemen!"

A narrow path winding between the bushes led up the steep incline. Broken fragments of rock formed the precarious steps of this natural staircase. Clutching at the bushes, we began climbing. Grushnitsky went ahead, followed by his seconds, and the doctor and I came last.

"You amaze me," said the doctor, clasping my hand warmly. "Let me feel your pulse. Oho, it's pounding feverishly! But your face betrays nothing; only your eyes shine brighter than usual."

Suddenly small stones rolled noisily down to our feet. What had happened? Grushnitsky had stumbled; the branch he had been holding snapped and he would have fallen backwards had his seconds not supported him.

"Take care!" I called out to him. "Don't fall too soon; it's an ill omen. Remember Julius Caesar!"

And so we reached the top of the projecting cliff. The ledge was covered with fine sand as if specially spread there for the duel. All around, wrapped in the golden mist of morning, the mountain peaks clustered like a numberless herd, while in the south Elbrus loomed white, bringing up the rear of a chain of icy summits among which roamed the feathery clouds blown in from the east. I walked to the brink of the ledge and looked down. My head nearly swam. Down below it was dark and cold as the grave, and the moss-grown jagged rocks, hurled down by storm and time, awaited their prey.

The ledge on which we were to fight was an almost regular triangle. Six paces were measured off from the projecting angle, and it was decided that he who would first have to face his opponent's fire would stand at the very edge with his back to the abyss. If he were not killed, the adversaries would change places.

I decided to give Grushnitsky every advantage, for I wanted to test him--a spark of generosity might have been awakened in his soul, in which case everything would have turned out for the best, but vanity and weakness of character were bound to triumph . . . I wanted to give myself full justification for not sparing him if fate showed mercy to me. Who has not thus struck a bargain with his conscience?

"Toss the coin, doctor!" said the captain.

The doctor produced a silver coin from his pocket and held it aloft.

"Tails!" cried Grushnitsky suddenly, like a man just awakened by a friendly nudge.

"Heads!" said I.

The coin rose into the air and came down with a clink. We all rushed over to look at it.

"You're lucky," I said to Grushnitsky, "you're to shoot first. But remember, if you don't kill me, I won't miss--I give you my word of honor."

He turned red. The thought of killing an unarmed man filled him with shame. I looked at him intently, and for a moment I thought he would throw himself at my feet and beg my forgiveness; but how could he confess to a scheme so vile? One way out remained for him: to fire into the air. I was certain he would fire into the air! Only one thing might prevent him from doing so: the thought that I might demand a second duel.

"It's time now!" the doctor whispered to me, tugging at my sleeve. "If you will not tell them now that we know their intention, all will be lost. See, he is loading already. If you won't, I'll tell them . . ."

"Certainly not, doctor!" I replied, restraining him by the arm. "You'll spoil everything; you gave me your word you wouldn't interfere . . . And why should it concern you? Perhaps I want to be killed."

He looked at me in amazement.

"Oh, that's another matter! Only don't blame me in the next world..."

Meanwhile the captain had loaded his pistols. One he gave Grushnitsky, smilingly whispering something to him, the other to me.

I took my place at the far corner of the ledge, firmly bracing my left foot against the rock and leaning slightly forward so as not to fall backwards in case I was lightly wounded.

Grushnitsky took his place opposite me, and when the signal was given, started to raise the pistol. His knees shook. He aimed straight at my forehead . . .

Savage anger sprang up in my heart.

Suddenly he lowered the muzzle of his pistol and, going as white as a sheet, turned to his second.

"I can't do it," he said hoarsely.

"Coward!" replied the captain.

The shot rang out. The bullet scratched my knee. Involuntarily, I took a few steps forward, to get away from the brink as quickly as possible.

"Well, brother Grushnitsky, it's a pity you missed!" said the captain. "Now it's your turn; take your place! Embrace me before you go, for we will meet no more!" They embraced, the captain scarcely able to restrain himself from laughter. "Don't be afraid," he added, with a sly look at Grushnitsky, "everything in the world's a pack of nonsense! Nature, fate, life itself: all are naught but worthless pelf!"

This tragic utterance made with due solemnity, the captain withdrew to his place. With tears in his eyes, Ivan Ignatyevich also embraced Grushnitsky, and now the latter remained alone facing me. To this day I have tried to explain to myself the emotion that then surged in my breast: it was the vexation of injured vanity, and contempt, and wrath born of the realization that this man, who was now eyeing me so coolly, with such calm insolence, two minutes before had sought to kill me like a dog without endangering himself in the slightest--for had I been wounded a little more severely in the leg, I would certainly have toppled over the cliff.

I looked him squarely in the face for a few minutes, trying to detect the slightest sign of repentance. Instead I thought I saw him suppressing a smile.

"I advise you to say your prayers before you die," I told him then.

"You need not be more concerned about my soul than about your own. I only beg of you to fire with the least delay."

"And you will not retract your slander? Or apologize to me? Think well, has your conscience nothing to say to you?"

"Mr Pechorin!" shouted the captain of dragoons. "You are not here to take confession, allow me to observe . . . Let us get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Someone might ride through the gorge and see us."

"Very well. Doctor, will you come to me?"

The doctor came over. Poor doctor! He was paler than Grushnitsky had been ten minutes before.

I spoke the following words with deliberation, loudly and distinctly, as sentences of death are pronounced: "Doctor, these gentlemen, no doubt in their haste, forgot to put a bullet into my pistol. Would you please reload it--and do it thoroughly!"

"It can't be!" cried the captain. "It can't be! I loaded both pistols; the bullet may have rolled out of yours . . . That's not my fault! And you have no right to reload . . . no right whatsoever . . . it is most decidedly against the rules. I will not allow it..."

"Very good!" I said to the captain. "In that case, you and I will shoot it out on the same terms . . . ."

He didn't know what to say.

Grushnitsky stood there, his head sunk on his breast, embarrassed and gloomy.

"Let them do as they wish!" he finally said to the captain, who was trying to grab my pistol from the doctor's hand. "You know yourself that they are right."

In vain did the captain make signs to him. Grushnitsky did not even look up.

Meanwhile the doctor loaded the pistol and handed it to me.

Seeing this, the captain spat and stamped his foot. "You are a fool, my friend," he said, "a darned fool. If you're counting on me, you should do everything I say . . . You're getting what you deserve, so go ahead and be wiped out like a fly!" He turned away, muttering: "But it's altogether against the rules."

"Grushnitsky!" said I. "There's still time; retract your false insult and I'll forgive you everything. You've failed to make a fool of me, and my vanity is satisfied. Remember that once we were friends . . ."

His face twisted with passion, his eyes flashed.

"Fire!" he replied. "I despise myself and hate you. If you don't kill me, I'll stab you in the back some night. The world is too small to hold us both..."

I fired.

When the smoke cleared, there was no Grushnitsky on the ledge. Only a thin pillar of dust curled over the brink of the precipice.

Everybody cried out at once.

"Finita la commedia!" I said to the doctor.

He did not reply, but turned away in horror.

I shrugged my shoulders and bowed to Grushnitsky's seconds.

As I came down the path I saw Grushnitsky's bloodstained corpse between the clefts in the rocks. Involuntarily I closed my eyes.



Untying my horse, I set out for home at a walking pace. My heart was heavy within me. The sun seemed to have lost its brilliance and its rays did not warm me.

Before reaching the settlement I turned into a gorge on my right. I could not have endured the sight of anyone just then--I wanted to be alone. With the reins hanging loose and my head sunk on my breast, I rode on for some time, until I found myself in an entirely unfamiliar spot. I turned back and sought the road. The sun was setting when I reached Kislovodsk, a spent man on a spent horse.

My manservant told me that Werner had called and gave me two notes, one from him, and the other from Vera.

I opened the first; it contained the following:

Everything has been arranged as well as possible. The mutilated body has been brought in and the bullet removed from the chest. Everybody believes that his death was accidental. Only the commandant, who probably knows of your quarrel, shook his head, but said nothing. There is no evidence against you and you may sleep peacefully . . . if you can. Goodbye . . .

I hesitated long before opening the second note. What could she have to write to me? An ominous presentiment racked my soul.

Here it is, that letter whose every word ineffaceably seared itself into my memory:

I am writing to you quite certain that we will never see each other again. When we parted several years ago, I thought the same; but it pleased heaven to try me a second time; I did not withstand the test, my weak heart was again conquered by that familiar voice . . . but you will not despise me for this, will you? This lerter is at once a farewell and a confession: I must tell you everything that has been stored in my heart ever since it first learned to love you. I will not accuse you--you behaved to me as any other man might have done: you loved me as your property, as a source of the reciprocal joys, fears and sorrows without which life would be wearisome and monotonous. I realized this from the very beginning . . . But you were unhappy, and I sacrificed myself in the hope that some day you would appreciate my sacrifice, that some day you would understand my infinite tenderness which nothing could affect. Much time has passed since then. I have fathomed all the secrets of your soul . . . and I see that mine was a vain hope. How it hurt me! But my love and my soul have melted into one: the flame is dimmer, but it has not died.

We are parting forever, yet you may be certain that I will never love another. My soul has spent all its treasures, its tears and hopes on you. She who has once loved you cannot but regard other men with some measure of contempt, not because you are better than they--oh no!--but because there is something unique in your nature, something peculiar to you alone, something so proud and unfathomable. Whatever you may be saying, your voice holds an invincible power. In no one is the desire to be loved so constant as in you. In no one is evil so attractive. In no one's glance is there such a promise of bliss. Nobody knows better than you how to use his advantages, and no one else can be so genuinely unhappy as you, because nobody tries so hard as you to convince himself of the contrary.

Now I must explain the reason for my hasty departure; it will strike you as of little consequence, because it concerns me alone.

This morning my husband came to me and told me about your quarrel with Grushnitsky. My face must have given me away, for he looked me straight in the eye long and searchingly. I nearly fainted at the thought that you were having to fight a duel and that I was the cause. I thought I would lose my mind . . . Now, however, when I can reason clearly, I am certain that you will live--it is impossible that you would die without me, impossible! My husband paced the room for a long time; I don't know what he said to me, nor do I remember what I replied . . . I probably told him that I loved you . . . I only remember that at the end of our conversation he insulted me with a terrible word and left the room. I heard him order the carriage . . . For three hours now I have been sitting at the window and awaiting your return . . . But you're alive, you can't die! The carriage is almost ready . . . Farewell, farewell! I'm lost--but what of it? If I could be certain that you will always remember me--I say nothing of loving me, no--only remember . . . Goodbye! Someone is coming . . . I have to hide this letter . . .

You don't love Mary, do you? You won't marry her? Oh, but you must make this sacrifice for me--I have given up everything in the world for your sake . . .

Like a madman I dashed outside, leapt into the saddle of my horse who was being led across the courtyard, and set off at full gallop along the road to Pyatigorsk. I mercilessly spurred on the exhausted beast, which, panting and covered with froth, sped me along the rocky road.

The sun had vanished into a black cloud resting on the mountain range in the west, and it turned dark and damp in the gorge. The Podkumok River picked its way through the rocks with a dull and monotonous roar. Breathless with impatience I galloped on. The thought that I might not find her in Pyatigorsk pounded like a sledgehammer at my heart. Oh, but to see her for a minute, only one more minute, to say goodbye, to clasp her hand . . . I prayed, I cursed, I cried, I laughed . . . no, no words can express my anxiety, my despair! Now that I realized I might lose her forever, Vera became for me the most precious thing on earth, more precious than life, honor or happiness! God only knows what odd, wild ideas swarmed in my head . . . And all the while I rode on, spurring my horse mercilessly. Finally I noticed that the animal was breathing more laboriously, and once or twice he stumbled on a level stretch. There still remained three miles to Essentuki, a Cossack hamlet where I could get another mount.

Everything would have been redeemed had my horse had the strength to carry on for another ten minutes. But suddenly, at a sharp bend in the road coming up from a shallow ravine as we were emerging from the hills, he crashed to the ground. I leapt nimbly out of the saddle, but try as I might to get him up, pull as I might at the reins, my efforts were in vain. A scarcely audible groan escaped from between his clenched teeth and a few minutes later he was dead. I was left alone in the steppe, my last hope gone. I tried to continue on foot, but my knees gave way and, exhausted by the day's anxieties and the sleepless night, I fell on to the wet grass and sobbed like a child.

I lay there for a long time motionless and cried bitterly, without trying to check the tears and sobs. I thought my heart would be torn apart. All my resolution, all my composure vanished like smoke--my spirit was impotent, my reason paralyzed, and had someone seen me at that moment he would have turned away in contempt.

When the night dew and mountain breeze had cooled my fevered brow and I had collected my thoughts once more, I realized that it was useless and senseless to pursue a happiness that was lost. What more did I want? To see her? Why? Wasn't everything over between us? One bitter farewell kiss wouldn't make my memories sweeter, and it'd be only the harder to part.

It's pleasant for me to know, however, that I can weep! Although the real reason was perhaps frayed nerves, the sleepless night, the two minutes I had stood looking into the muzzle of a pistol, and an empty stomach.

Everything works out for the best. As for this new sensation of pain, it served as a happy diversion, to employ a military term. It does one good to cry, and had I not ridden my horse to death and then been compelled to walk the ten miles back, I perhaps would not have closed my eyes that night either.

I returned to Kislovodsk at five o'clock in the morning, threw myself on the bed and slept like Napoleon after Waterloo.

When I awoke, it was dark outside. Unfastening my jacket, I sat at an open window--and the breeze from the mountains cooled my breast, which was not yet becalmed even by the sleep of heavy fatigue. Far away beyond the river the lights of the fort and the village twinkled through the thick crowns of the overshadowing lindens. The courtyard was deadly still, and in the Princess Ligovskaya's house all was in darkness.

The doctor entered. His brow was furrowed, and contrary to his usual practice he did not offer me his hand.

"Where have you come from, doctor?"

"From Princess Ligovskaya's. Her daughter is ill--nervous breakdown . . . But that's not why I am here. The trouble is that the authorities are beginning to suspect, and though nothing definite can be proved I would advise you to be more cautious. The princess just told me that she was aware you fought a duel over her daughter. That old man--what's his name?--told her. He witnessed your altercation with Grushnitsky in the restaurant. I came to warn you. So goodbye--perhaps we will not see each other again--very likely you'll be sent away."

He paused on the threshold. He wanted to shake my hand. And had I given him the slightest encouragement he would have flung himself on my neck, but I remained as cold as a stone, and he went away.

That is just like human beings! They are all alike; though fully aware in advance of all the evil aspects of a deed, they aid and abet and even give their approval to it when they see there is no other way out--and then they wash their hands of it and turn away with disapproval from him who dared assume the full burden of responsibility. They are all alike, even the kindest and wisest of them!

The following morning, when I had received orders from my superiors to report at the fort of N----, I dropped in at Princess Ligovskaya's to say goodbye.

Princess Ligovskaya was taken aback when in reply to her question whether I had anything important to tell her I merely said that I wished her all the best, and so forth.

"I must have a very serious talk with you, however."

I sat down without saying a word.

She was obviously at a loss how to begin. Her face turned red and she drummed her pudgy fingers on the table. Finally she began haltingly: "Monsieur Pechorin, I believe you are an honorable man."

I bowed.

"I am even certain of it," she continued, "though your conduct has been somewhat questionable. You may have your reasons, however, of which I am not aware, and if so, you must share them with me now. You protected my daughter's reputation, engaged in a duel on her behalf, and risked your life in doing so . . . Pray do not reply, for I know you will not admit it because Grushnitsky is dead." (She crossed herself.) "God forgive him, and you too, I hope! That is none of my concern . . . I have no right to condemn you, for it was my daughter, blameless though she is, who was the cause. She has told me everything . . . everything, I am sure. You have declared you love her, and she has confessed her love for you." (Here the princess drew a deep sigh.) "But she is ill and I am certain that it is not an ordinary malady. Some secret grief is killing her--she doesn't admit it, but I am certain that you are the cause . . . Listen to me: you perhaps think that I am after rank and immense riches--if so, you are mistaken. I seek only my daughter's happiness. Your present position is unenviable, but it may mend. You are wealthy. My daughter loves you, and her upbringing is such that she can make her husband happy. I am rich, and she is my only child . . . Tell me, what is it that is stopping you? I would not have told you all this, but I rely upon your heart and honor--remember that I have only one daughter . . . only one. . ."

She began to sob.

"Princess," I said, "I cannot answer you--allow me to speak to your daughter alone."

"Never!" she cried, rising from her chair in great agitation.

"As you wish," replied I, preparing to leave.

She thought it over, motioned me to wait, and left the room.

Some five minutes passed; my heart pounded, but my thoughts were orderly and my head cool. Search as I might in my heart for even the tiniest spark of love for the charming Mary, my efforts were hopeless.

The door opened and she entered. Heavens! How she had changed since I saw her last--and that but a short while ago!

When she reached the middle of the room, she swayed. I leapt to her side, offered her my arm and led her to an armchair.

I stood facing her. For a long time neither of us said a word. Her big eyes full of ineffable sorrow seemed to search mine for something akin to hope. In vain her pale lips tried to smile. Her delicate hands folded on her knees were so fragile and transparent that I began to feel sorry for her.

"Princess," said I, "you know I have mocked you, do you not? You must despise me."

A feverish red colored her cheeks.

"Hence, you cannot love me . . ." I continued.

She turned away, leaned her elbows on the table and covered her eyes with her hand, and I thought I saw tears glistening in them.

"Oh God!" she said scarcely audibly.

The situation was growing unbearable. In another minute I would have thrown myself at her feet.

"So you see for yourself," I said in as steady a voice as I could, forcing a smile, "you see for yourself that I can't marry you. Even if you wished to do so now, you'd regret the decision very soon. The talk I had with your mother compels me to speak to you now so frankly and brutally. I hope she is mistaken, but you can easily undeceive her. As you can see I am playing a most contemptible and disgusting role in your eyes, and I admit it--that is the most I can do for you. However bad your opinion may be of me, I'll accept it. You see I am abasing myself before you . . . Even if you did love me, you would despise me from this moment--now, wouldn't you?"

She turned to me a face as white as marble but with eyes flashing wondrously.

"I hate you . . ." she said.

I thanked her, bowed respectfully and walked out.

An hour later a stage coach troika was carrying me rapidly from Kislovodsk. A few miles from Essentuki I saw the carcass of my spirited steed by the roadside. The saddle had been removed--probably by some passing Cossack--and in its place two ravens now sat. I sighed and turned away . . .

And now, here in this dreary fort, as my mind dwells on the past, I frequently ask myself: why did I not wish to tread the path fate held open to me with a promise of tranquil joys and peace of mind? No, I could never have reconciled myself to such a fate. I am like a mariner born and bred on board a buccaneer brig whose soul has become so used to storm and strife that, if cast ashore, he would weary and fade away, no matter how alluring the shady groves and how bright the gentle sun. All day long he walks up and down the sandy beach, listening to the monotonous roar of the breakers and looking into the hazy distance to catch, in the pale strip dividing the blue deep from the gray clouds, the flash of the long-awaited sail that at first is like the wing of a seagull and then gradually stands out from the white of the spray, as it steadily makes for its lonely anchorage . . .