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
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
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
"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
"It will be easier to slip by the patrol ships in the fog," was
"What if he's drowned?"
"Well, what of it? You'll go to church on Sunday without a new
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
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
"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
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
I memorized the song word for word:
Over boundless billows green,
Over billows surging,
Fly the ships with sails a-spread,
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
"Tell me, my pretty one," I asked, "what were you doing on the
"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
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
Conclusion of Pechorin's Journal
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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?"
"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 . . ."
"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
"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
"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.
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
"You are sure you do not wish to meet the Ligovskoys?" he asked me
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"And you wish to remain in the Caucasus all your life?" said the
"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
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
"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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
"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
"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
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
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, 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
"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
"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
"I did better," I replied, "I saved her from fainting at the
"What happened? Tell me!"
"No, you will have to guess. Oh you, who can divine everything
under the sun!"
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
"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.
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
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
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
"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
"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!"
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
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
"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
"I have been very friendly today, have I not?" the princess said
with a forced smile when we returned from our walk.
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.
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
I promised, and the very same day sent a message to rent the
Grushnitsky dropped in at six in the evening and announced that
his uniform would be ready the next day, just in time for the
"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
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.
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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.
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
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!
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
"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
"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!
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
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.
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
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!"
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
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
"Look up!" I
whispered to her. "Don't be afraid, it's quite all right; I am
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"Toss the coin, doctor!" said the captain.
The doctor produced a silver coin from his pocket and held it
"Tails!" cried Grushnitsky suddenly, like a man just awakened by a
"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
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
He looked at me in amazement.
"Oh, that's another matter! Only don't blame me in the next
Meanwhile the captain had loaded his pistols. One he gave
Grushnitsky, smilingly whispering something to him, the other to
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
"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
"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
"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..."
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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 . . .