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He went to the “old man” straight from Varvara Petrovna's, and he was in such haste simply from spite, that he might revenge himself for an insult of which I had no idea at that time. The fact is that at their last interview on the Thursday of the previous week, Stepan Trofimovitch, though the dispute was one of his own beginning, had ended by turning Pyotr Stepanovitch out with his stick. He concealed the incident from me at the time. But now, as soon as Pyotr Stepanovitch ran in with his everlasting grin, which was so naively condescending, and his unpleasantly inquisitive eyes peering into every corner, Stepan Trofimovitch at once made a signal aside to me, not to leave the room. This was how their real relations came to be exposed before me, for on this occasion I heard their whole conversation.
Stepan Trofimovitch was sitting stretched out on a lounge. He had grown thin and sallow since that Thursday. Pyotr Stepanovitch seated himself beside him with a most familiar air, unceremoniously tucking his legs up under him, and taking up more room on the lounge than deference to his father should have allowed. Stepan Trofimovitch moved aside, in silence, and with dignity.
On the table lay an open book. It was the novel, “What's to be done?” Alas, I must confess one strange weakness in my friend; the fantasy that he ought to come forth from his solitude and fight a last battle was getting more and more hold upon his deluded imagination. I guessed that he had got the novel and was studying it solely in order that when the inevitable conflict with the “shriekers” came about he might know their methods and arguments beforehand, from their very “catechism,” and in that way be prepared to confute them all triumphantly, before her eyes. Oh, how that book tortured him! He sometimes flung it aside in despair, and leaping up, paced about the room almost in a frenzy.
“I agree that the author's fundamental idea is a true one,” he said to me feverishly, “but that only makes it more awful. It's just our idea, exactly ours; we first sowed the seed, nurtured it, prepared the way, and, indeed, what could they say new, after us? But, heavens! How it's all expressed, distorted, mutilated!” he exclaimed, tapping the book with his fingers. “Were these the conclusions we were striving for. Who can understand the original idea in this?”
“Improving your mind?” sniggered Pyotr Stepanovitch, taking the book from the table and reading the title. “It's high time. I'll bring you better, if you like.”
Stepan Trofimovitch again preserved a dignified silence. I was sitting on a sofa in the corner.
Pyotr Stepanovitch quickly explained the reason of his coming. Of course, Stepan Trofimovitch was absolutely staggered, and he listened in alarm, which was mixed with extreme indignation.
“And that Yulia Mihailovna counts on my coming to read for her!”
“Well, they're by no means in such need of you. On the contrary, it's by way of an attention to you, so as to make up to Varvara Petrovna. But, of course, you won't dare to refuse, and I expect you want to yourself,” he added with a grin. “You old fogies are all so devilishly ambitious. But, I say though, you must look out that it's not too boring. What have you got? Spanish history, or what is it? You'd better let me look at it three days beforehand, or else you'll put us to sleep perhaps.”
The hurried and too barefaced coarseness of these thrusts was obviously premeditated. He affected to behave as though it were impossible to talk to Stepan Trofimovitch in different and more delicate language. Stepan Trofimovitch resolutely persisted in ignoring his insults, but what his son told him made a more and more overwhelming impression upon him.
“And she, she herself sent me this message through you? ” he asked, turning pale.
“Well, you see, she means to fix a time and place for a mutual explanation, the relics of your sentimentalising. You've been coquetting with her for twenty years and have trained her to the most ridiculous habits. But don't trouble yourself, it's quite different now. She keeps saying herself that she's only beginning now to 'have her eyes opened.' I told her in so many words that all this friendship of yours is nothing but a mutual pouring forth of sloppiness. She told me lots, my boy. Foo! what a flunkey's place you've been filling all this time. I positively blushed for you.”
“I filling a flunkey's place?” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, unable to restrain himself.
“Worse, you've been a parasite, that is, a voluntary flunkey too lazy to work, while you've an appetite for money. She, too, understands all that now. It's awful the things she's been telling me about you, anyway. I did laugh, my boy, over your letters to her; shameful and disgusting. But you're all so depraved, so depraved! There's always something depraving in charity— you're a good example of it!”
“She showed you my letters!”
“All; though, of course, one couldn't read them all. Foo, what a lot of paper you've covered! I believe there are more than two thousand letters there. And do you know, old chap, I believe there was one moment when she'd have been ready to marry you. You let slip your chance in the silliest way. Of course, I'm speaking from your point of view, though, anyway, it would have been better than now when you've almost been married to 'cover another man's sins,' like a buffoon, for a jest, for money.”
“For money! She, she says it was for money!” Stepan Trofimovitch wailed in anguish.
“What else, then? But, of course, I stood up for you. That's your only line of defence, you know. She sees for herself that you needed money like every one else, and that from that point of view maybe you were right. I proved to her as clear as twice two makes four that it was a mutual bargain. She was a capitalist and you were a sentimental buffoon in her service. She's not angry about the money, though you have milked her like a goat. She's only in a rage at having believed in you for twenty years, at your having so taken her in over these noble sentiments, and made her tell lies for so long. She never will admit that she told lies of herself, but you'll catch it the more for that. I can't make out how it was you didn't see that you'd have to have a day of reckoning. For after all you had some sense. I advised her yesterday to put you in an almshouse, a genteel one, don't disturb yourself; there'll be nothing humiliating; I believe that's what she'll do. Do you remember your last letter to me, three weeks ago?”
“Can you have shown her that?” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, leaping up in horror.
“Rather! First thing. The one in which you told me she was exploiting you, envious of your talent; oh, yes, and that about 'other men's sins.' You have got a conceit though, my boy! How I did laugh. As a rule your letters are very tedious.
You write a horrible style. I often don't read them at all, and I've one lying about to this day, unopened. I'll send it to you to-morrow. But that one, that last letter of yours was the tiptop of perfection! How I did laugh! Oh, how I laughed!”
“Monster, monster!” wailed Stepan Trofimovitch.
“Foo, damn it all, there's no talking to you. I say, you're getting huffy again as you were last Thursday.”
Stepan Trofimovitch drew himself up, menacingly.
“How dare you speak to me in such language?”
“What language? It's simple and clear.”
“Tell me, you monster, are you my son or not?”
“You know that best. To be sure all fathers are disposed to be blind in such cases.”
“Silence! Silence!” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, shaking all over.
“You see you're screaming and swearing at me as you did last Thursday. You tried to lift your stick against me, but you know, I found that document. I was rummaging all the evening in my trunk from curiosity. It's true there's nothing definite, you can take that comfort. It's only a letter of my mother's to that Pole. But to judge from her character . . .”
“Another word and I'll box your ears.”
“What a set of people!” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, suddenly addressing himself to me. “You see, this is how we've been ever since last Thursday. I'm glad you're here this time, anyway, and can judge between us. To begin with, a fact: he reproaches me for speaking like this of my mother, but didn't he egg me on to it? In Petersburg before I left the High School, didn't he wake me twice in the night, to embrace me, and cry like a woman, and what do you suppose he talked to me about at night I Why, the same modest anecdotes about my mother! It was from him I first heard them.”
“Oh, I meant that in a higher sense! Oh, you didn't understand me! You understood nothing, nothing.”
“But, anyway, it was meaner in you than in me, meaner, acknowledge that. You see, it's nothing to me if you like. I'm speaking from your point of view. Don't worry about my point of view. I don't blame my mother; if it's you, then it's you, if it's a Pole, then it's a Pole, it's all the same to me. I'm not to blame because you and she managed so stupidly in Berlin. As though you could have managed things better. Aren't you an .absurd set, after that? And does it matter to you whether I'm your son or not? Listen,” he went on, turning to me again, “he's never spent a penny on me all his life; till I was sixteen he didn't know me at all; afterwards he robbed me here, and now he cries out that his heart has been aching over me all his life, and carries on before me like an actor. I'm not Varvara Petrovna, mind you.”
He got up and took his hat.
“I curse you henceforth!”
Stepan Trofimovitch, as pale as death, stretched out his hand above him.
“Ach, what folly a man will descend to!” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, actually surprised. “Well, good-bye, old fellow, I shall never come and see you again. Send me the article beforehand, don't forget, and try and let it be free from nonsense. Facts, facts, facts. And above all, let it be short. Good-bye.”
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Outside influences, too, had come into play in the matter, however. Pyotr Stepanovitch certainly had some designs on his parent. In my opinion he calculated upon reducing the old man to despair, and so to driving him to some open scandal of a certain sort. This was to serve some remote and quite other object of his own, of which I shall speak hereafter. All sorts of plans and calculations of this kind were swarming in masses in his mind at that time, and almost all, of course, of a fantastic character. He had designs on another victim beside Stepan Trofimovitch. In fact, as appeared afterwards, his victims were not few in number, but this one he reckoned upon particularly, and it was Mr. von Lembke himself.
Andrey Antonovitch von Lembke belonged to that race, so favoured by nature, which is reckoned by hundreds of thousands at the Russian census, and is perhaps unconscious that it forms throughout its whole mass a strictly organised union. And this union, of course, is not planned and premeditated, but exists spontaneously in the whole race, without words or agreements as a moral obligation consisting in mutual support given by all members of the race to one another, at all times and places, and 'Under all circumstances. Andrey Antonovitch had the honour of being educated in one of those more exalted Russian educational institutions which are filled with the youth from families well provided with wealth or connections. Almost immediately on finishing their studies the pupils were appointed to rather important posts in one of the government departments. Andrey Antonovitch had one uncle a colonel of engineers, and another a baker. But he managed to get into this aristocratic school, and met many of his fellow-countrymen in a similar position. He was a good-humoured companion, was rather stupid at his studies, but always popular. And when many of his companions in the upper forms—chiefly Russians—had already learnt to discuss the loftiest modern questions, and looked as though they were only waiting to leave school to settle the affairs of the universe, Andrey Antonovitch was still absorbed in the most innocent schoolboy interests. He amused them all, it is true, by his pranks, which were of a very simple character, at the most a little coarse, but he made it his object to be funny. At one time he would blow his nose in a wonderful way when the professor addressed a question to him, thereby making his schoolfellows and the professor laugh. Another time, in the dormitory, he would act some indecent living picture, to the general applause, or he would play the overture to “Fra Diavolo” with his nose rather skilfully. He was distinguished, too, by intentional untidiness, thinking this, for some reason, witty. In his very last year at school he began writing Russian poetry.
Of his native language he had only an ungrammatical knowledge, like many of his race in Russia. This turn for versifying drew him to a gloomy and depressed schoolfellow, the son of a poor Russian general, who was considered in the school to be a great future light in literature. The latter patronised him. But it happened that three years after leaving school this melancholy schoolfellow, who had flung up his official career for the sake of Russian literature, and was consequently going about in torn boots, with his teeth chattering with cold, wearing a light summer overcoat in the late autumn, met, one day on the Anitchin bridge, his former protege, “Lembka,” as he always used to be called at school. And, what do you suppose? He did not at first recognise him, and stood still in surprise. Before him stood an irreproachably dressed young man with wonderfully well-kept whiskers of a reddish hue, with pince-nez, with patent-leather boots, and the freshest of gloves, in a full overcoat from Sharmer's, and with a portfolio under his arm. Lembke was cordial to his old schoolfellow, gave him his address, and begged him to come and see him some evening. It appeared, too, that he was by now not “Lembka” but “Von Lembke.” The schoolfellow came to see him, however, simply from malice perhaps. On the staircase, which was covered with red felt and was rather ugly and by no means smart, he was met and questioned by the house-porter. A bell rang loudly upstairs. But instead of the wealth which the visitor expected, he found Lembke in a very little side-room, which had a dark and dilapidated appearance, partitioned into two by a large dark green curtain, and furnished with very old though comfortable furniture, with dark green blinds on high narrow windows. Von Lembke lodged in the house of a very distant relation, a general who was his patron. He met his visitor cordially, was serious and exquisitely polite. They talked of literature, too, but kept within the bounds of decorum. A manservant in a white tie brought them some weak tea and little dry, round biscuits. The schoolfellow, from spite, asked for some seltzer water. It was given him, but after some delays, and Lembke was somewhat embarrassed at having to summon the footman a second time and give him orders. But of himself he asked his visitor whether he would like some supper, and was obviously relieved when he refused and went away. In short, Lembke was making his career, and was living in dependence on his fellow-countryman, the influential general.
He was at that time sighing for the general's fifth daughter, and it seemed to him that his feeling was reciprocated. But Amalia was none the less married in due time to an elderly factory-owner, a German, and an old comrade of the general's. Andrey Antonovitch did not shed many tears, but made a paper theatre. The curtain drew up, the actors came in, and gesticulated with their arms. There were spectators in the boxes, the orchestra moved their bows across their fiddles by machinery, the conductor waved his baton, and in the stalls officers and dandies clapped their hands. It was all made of cardboard, it was all thought out and executed by Lembke himself. He spent six months over this theatre. The general arranged a friendly party on purpose. The theatre was exhibited, all the general's five daughters, including the newly married Amalia with her factory-owner, numerous fraus and frauleins with their men folk, attentively examined and admired the theatre, after which they danced. Lembke was much gratified and was quickly consoled.
The years passed by and his career was secured. He always obtained good posts and always under chiefs of his own race; and he worked his way up at last to a very fine position for a man of his age. He had, for a long time, been wishing to marry and looking about him carefully. Without the knowledge of his superiors he had sent a novel to the editor of a magazine, but it had not been accepted. On the other hand, he cut out a complete toy railway, and again his creation was most successful. Passengers came on to the platform with bags and portmanteaux, with dogs and children, and got into the carriages. The guards and porters moved away, the bell was rung, the signal was given, and the train started off. He was a whole year busy over this clever contrivance. But he had to get married all the same. The circle of his acquaintance was fairly wide, chiefly in the world of his compatriots, but his duties brought him into Russian spheres also, of course. Finally, when he was in his thirty-ninth year, he came in for a legacy. His uncle the baker died, and left him thirteen thousand roubles in his will. The one thing needful was a suitable post. In spite of the rather elevated style of his surroundings in the service, Mr. von Lembke was a very modest man. He would have been perfectly satisfied with some independent little government post, with the right to as much government timber as he liked, or something snug of that sort, and he would have been content all his life long. But now, instead of the Minna or Ernestine he had expected, Yulia Mihailovna suddenly appeared on the scene. His career was instantly raised to a more elevated plane. The modest and precise man felt that he too was capable of ambition.
Yulia Mihailovna had a fortune of two hundred serfs, to reckon in the old style, and she had besides powerful friends. On the other hand Lembke was handsome, and she was already over forty. It is remarkable that he fell genuinely in love with her by degrees as he became more used to being betrothed to her. On the morning of his wedding day he sent her a poem. She liked all this very much, even the poem; it's no joke to be forty. He was very quickly raised to a certain grade and received a certain order of distinction, and then was appointed governor of our province.
Before coming to us Yulia Mihailovna worked hard at moulding her husband. In her opinion he was not without abilities, he knew how to make an entrance and to appear to advantage, he understood how to listen and be silent with profundity, had acquired a quite distinguished deportment, could make a speech, indeed had even some odds and ends of thought, and had caught the necessary gloss of modern liberalism. What worried her, however, was that he was not very open to new ideas, and after the long, everlasting plodding for a career, was unmistakably beginning to feel the need of repose. She tried to infect him with her own ambition, and he suddenly began making a toy church: the pastor came out to preach the sermon, the congregation listened with their hands before them, one lady was drying her tears with her handkerchief, one old gentleman was blowing his nose; finally the organ pealed forth. It had been ordered from Switzerland, and made expressly in spite of all expense. Yulia Mihailovna, in positive alarm, carried off the whole structure as soon as she knew about it, and locked it up in a box in her own room. To make up for it she allowed him to write a novel on condition of its being kept secret. From that time she began to reckon only upon herself. Unhappily there was a good deal of shallowness and lack of judgment in her attitude. Destiny had kept her too long an old maid. Now one idea after another fluttered through her ambitious and rather over-excited brain. She cherished designs, she positively desired to rule the province, dreamed of becoming at once the centre of a circle, adopted political sympathies. Von Lembke was actually a little alarmed, though, with his official tact, he quickly divined that he had no need at all to be uneasy about the government of the province itself. The first two or three months passed indeed very satisfactorily. But now Pyotr Stepanovitch had turned up, and something queer began to happen.
The fact was that young Verhovensky, from the first step, had displayed a flagrant lack of respect for Andrey Antonovitch, and had assumed a strange right to dictate to him; while Yulia Mihailovna, who had always till then been so jealous of her husband's dignity, absolutely refused to notice it; or, at any rate, attached no consequence to it. The young man became a favourite, ate, drank, and almost slept in the house. Von Lembke tried to defend himself, called him “young man” before other people, and slapped him patronisingly on the shoulder, but made no impression. Pyotr Stepanovitch always seemed to be laughing in his face even when he appeared on the surface to be talking seriously to him, and he would say the most startling things to him before company. Returning home one day he found the young man had installed himself in his study and was asleep on the sofa there, uninvited. He explained that he had come in, and finding no one at home had “had a good sleep.”
Von Lembke was offended and again complained to his wife. Laughing at his irritability she observed tartly that he evidently did not know how to keep up his own dignity; and that with her, anyway, “the boy” had never permitted himself any undue familiarity, “he was naive and fresh indeed, though not regardful of the conventions of society.” Von Lembke sulked. This time she made peace between them. Pyotr Stepanovitch did not go so far as to apologise, but got out of it with a coarse jest, which might at another time have been taken for a fresh offence, but was accepted on this occasion as a token of repentance. The weak spot in Andrey Antonovitch's position was that he had blundered in the first instance by divulging the secret of his novel to him. Imagining him to be an ardent young man of poetic feeling and having long dreamed of securing a listener, he had, during the early days of their acquaintance, on one occasion read aloud two chapters to him. The young man had listened without disguising his boredom, had rudely yawned, had vouchsafed no word of praise; but on leaving had asked for the manuscript that he might form an opinion of it at his leisure, and Andrey Antonovitch had given it him. He had not returned the manuscript since, though he dropped in every day, and had turned off all inquiries with a laugh. Afterwards he declared that he had lost it in the street. At the time Yulia Mihailovna was terribly angry with her husband when she heard of it.
“Perhaps you told him about the church too?” she burst out almost in dismay.
Von Lembke unmistakably began to brood, and brooding was bad for him, and had been forbidden by the doctors. Apart from the fact that there were signs of trouble in the province, of which we will speak later, he had private reasons for brooding, his heart was wounded, not merely his official dignity. When Andrey Antonovitch had entered upon married life, he had never conceived the possibility of conjugal strife, or dissension in the future. It was inconsistent with the dreams he had cherished all his life of his Minna or Ernestine. He felt that he was unequal to enduring domestic storms. Yulia Mihailovna had an open explanation with him at last.
“You can't be angry at this,” she said, “if only because you've still as much sense as he has, and are immeasurably higher in the social scale. The boy still preserves many traces of his old free-thinking habits; I believe it's simply mischief; but one can do nothing suddenly, in a hurry; you must do things by degrees. We must make much of our young people; I treat them with affection and hold them back from the brink.”
“But he says such dreadful things,” Von Lembke objected. “I can't behave tolerantly when he maintains in my presence and before other people that the government purposely drenches the people with vodka in order to brutalise them, and so keep them from revolution. Fancy my position when I'm forced to listen to that before every one.”
As he said this, Von Lembke recalled a conversation he had recently had with Pyotr Stepanovitch. With the innocent object of displaying his Liberal tendencies he had shown him his own private collection of every possible kind of manifesto, Russian and foreign, which he had carefully collected since the year 1859, not simply from a love of collecting but from a laudable interest in them. Pyotr Stepanovitch, seeing his object, expressed the opinion that there was more sense in one line of some manifestoes than in a whole government department, “not even excluding yours, maybe.”
“But this is premature among us, premature,” he pronounced almost imploringly, pointing to the manifestoes.
“No, it's not premature; you see you're afraid, so it's not premature.”
“But here, for instance, is an incitement to destroy churches.”
“And why not? You're a sensible man, and of course you don't believe in it yourself, but you know perfectly well that you need religion to brutalise the people. Truth is honester than falsehood. . . .”
“I agree, I agree, I quite agree with you, but it is premature, premature in this country . . .” said Von Lembke, frowning.
“And how can you be an official of the government after that, when you agree to demolishing churches, and marching on Petersburg armed with staves, and make it all simply a question of date?”
Lembke was greatly put out at being so crudely caught.
“It's not so, not so at all,” he cried, carried away and more and more mortified in his amour-propre. “You're young, and know nothing of our aims, and that's why you're mistaken. You see, my dear Pyotr Stepanovitch, you call us officials of the government, don't you? Independent officials, don't you? But let me ask you, how are we acting? Ours is the responsibility, but in the long run we serve the cause of progress just as you do. We only hold together what you are unsettling, and what, but for us, would go to pieces in all directions. We are not your enemies, not a bit of it. We say to you, go forward, progress, you may even unsettle things, that is, things that are antiquated and in need of reform. But we will keep you, when need be, within necessary limits, and so save you from yourselves, for without us you would set Russia tottering, robbing her of all external decency, while our task is to preserve external decency. Understand that we are mutually essential to one another. In England the Whigs and Tories are in the same way mutually essential to one another. Well, you're Whigs and we're Tories. That's how I look at it.”
Andrey Antonovitch rose to positive eloquence. He had been fond of talking in a Liberal and intellectual style even in Petersburg, and the great thing here was that there was no one to play the spy on him.
Pyotr Stepanovitch was silent, and maintained an unusually grave air. This excited the orator more than ever.
“Do you know that I, the 'person responsible for the province,'” he went on, walking about the study, “do you know I have so many duties I can't perform one of them, and, on the other hand, I can say just as truly that there's nothing for me to do here. The whole secret of it is, that everything depends upon the views of the government. Suppose the government were ever to found a republic, from policy, or to pacify public excitement, and at the same time to increase the power of the governors, then we governors would swallow up the republic; and not the republic only. Anything you like we'll swallow up. I, at least, feel that I am ready. In one word, if the government dictates to me by telegram, activite devorante, I'll supply activite devorante. I've told them here straight in their faces: 'Dear sirs, to maintain the equilibrium and to develop all the provincial institutions one thing is essential; the increase of the power of the governor.' You see it's necessary that all these institutions, the zemstvos, the law-courts, should have a two-fold existence, that is, on the one hand, it's necessary they should exist (I agree that it is necessary), on the other hand, it's necessary that they shouldn't. It's all according to the views of the government. If the mood takes them so that institutions seem suddenly necessary, I shall have them at once in readiness. The necessity passes and no one will find them under my rule. That's what I understand by activite devorante, and you can't have it without an increase of the governor's power. We're talking tete-a-tete. You know I've already laid before the government in Petersburg the necessity of a special sentinel before the governor's house. I'm awaiting an answer.”
“You ought to have two,” Pyotr Stepanovitch commented.
“Why two?” said Von Lembke, stopping short before him.
“One's not enough to create respect for you. You certainly ought to have two.”
Andrey Antonovitch made a wry face.
“You . . . there's no limit to the liberties you take, Pyotr Stepanovitch. You take advantage of my good-nature, you say cutting things, and play the part of a bourru bienfaisant. . . .”
“Well, that's as you please,” muttered Pyotr Stepanovitch; “anyway you pave the way for us and prepare for our success.”
“Now, who are 'we,' and what success?” said Von Lembke, staring at him in surprise. But he got no answer.
Yulia Mihailovna, receiving a report of the conversation, was greatly displeased.
“But I can't exercise my official authority upon your favourite,” Andrey Antonovitch protested in self-defence, “especially when we're tete-a-tete. . . . I may say too much . . . in the goodness of my heart.”
“From too much goodness of heart. I didn't know you'd got a collection of manifestoes. Be so good as to show them to me.”
“But . . . he asked to have them for one day.”
“And you've let him have them, again!” cried Yulia Mihailovna getting angry. “How tactless!”
“I'll send some one to him at once to get them.”
“He won't give them up.”
“I'll insist on it,” cried Von Lembke, boiling over, and he jumped up from his seat. “Who's he that we should be so afraid of him, and who am I that I shouldn't dare to do any thing?”
“Sit down and calm yourself,” said Yulia Mihailovna, checking him. “I will answer your first question. He came to me with the highest recommendations. He's talented, and sometimes says extremely clever things. Karmazinov tells me that he has connections almost everywhere, and extraordinary influence over the younger generation in Petersburg and Moscow. And if through him I can attract them all and group them round myself, I shall be saving them from perdition by guiding them into a new outlet for their ambitions. He's devoted to me with his whole heart and is guided by me in everything.”
“But while they're being petted . . . the devil knows what they may not do. Of course, it's an idea . . .” said Von Lembke, vaguely defending himself, “but . . . but here I've heard that manifestoes of some sort have been found in X district.”
“But there was a rumour of that in the summer—manifestoes, false bank-notes, and all the rest of it, but they haven't found one of them so far. Who told you?”
“I heard it from Von Blum.”
“Ah, don't talk to me of your Blum. Don't ever dare mention him again!”
Yulia Mihailovna flew into a rage, and for a moment could not speak. Von Blum was a clerk in the governor's office whom she particularly hated. Of that later.
“Please don't worry yourself about Verhovensky,” she said in conclusion. “If he had taken part in any mischief he wouldn't talk as he does to you, and every one else here. Talkers are not dangerous, and I will even go so far as to say that if anything were to happen I should be the first to hear of it through him. He's quite fanatically devoted to me.”
I will observe, anticipating events that, had it not been for Tulia Mihailovna's obstinacy and self-conceit, probably nothing of all the mischief these wretched people succeeded in bringing about amongst us would have happened. She was responsible for a great deal
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Chapter V On the eve op the fete
the date of the fete which Yulia Mihailovna was getting up for the benefit of the governesses of our province had been several times fixed and put off. She had invariably bustling round her Pyotr Stepanovitch and a little clerk, Lyamshin, who used at one time to visit Stepan Trofimovitch, and had suddenly found favour in the governor's house for the way he played the piano and now was of use running errands. Liputin was there a good deal too, and Yulia Mihailovna destined him to be the editor of a new independent provincial paper. There were also several ladies, married and single, and lastly, even Karmazinov who, though he could not be said to bustle, announced aloud with a complacent air that he would agreeably astonish every one when the literary quadrille began. An extraordinary multitude of donors and subscribers had turned up, all the select society of the town; but even the unselect were admitted, if only they produced the cash. Yulia Mihailovna observed that sometimes it was a positive duty to allow the mixing of classes, “for otherwise who is to enlighten them?”
A private drawing-room committee was formed, at which it was decided that the fete was to be of a democratic character. The enormous list of subscriptions tempted them to lavish expenditure. They wanted to do something on a marvellous scale—that's why it was put off. They were still undecided where the ball was to take place, whether in the immense house belonging to the marshal's wife, which she was willing to give up to them for the day, or at Varvara Petrovna's mansion at Skvoreshniki. It was rather a distance to Skvoreshniki, but many of the committee were of opinion that it would be “freer” there. Varvara Petrovna would dearly have liked it to have been in her house. It's difficult to understand why this proud woman seemed almost making up to Yulia Mihailovna. Probably what pleased her was that the latter in her turn seemed almost fawning upon Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch and was more gracious to him than to anyone. I repeat again that Pyotr Stepanovitch was always, in continual whispers, strengthening in the governor's household an idea he had insinuated there already, that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was a man who had very mysterious connections with very mysterious circles, and that he had certainly come here with some commission from them.
People here seemed in a strange state of mind at the time. Among the ladies especially a sort of frivolity was conspicuous, and it could not be said to be a gradual growth. Certain very free-and-easy notions seemed to be in the air. There was a sort of dissipated gaiety and levity, and I can't say it was always quite pleasant. A lax way of thinking was the fashion. Afterwards when it was all over, people blamed Yulia Mihailovna, her circle, her attitude. But it can hardly have been altogether due to Yulia Mihailovna. On the contrary; at first many people vied with one another in praising the new governor's wife for her success in bringing local society together, and for making things more lively. Several scandalous incidents took place, for which Yulia Mihailovna was in no way responsible, but at the time people were amused and did nothing but laugh, and there was no one to check them. A rather large group of people, it is true, held themselves aloof, and had views of their own on the course of events. But even these made no complaint at the time; they smiled, in fact.
I remember that a fairly large circle came into existence, as it were, spontaneously, the centre of which perhaps was really to be found in Yulia Mihailovna's drawing-room. In this intimate circle which surrounded her, among the younger members of it, of course, it was considered admissible to play all sorts of pranks, sometimes rather free-and-easy ones, and, in fact, such conduct became a principle among them. In this circle there were even some very charming ladies. The young people arranged picnics, and even parties, and sometimes went about the town in a regular cavalcade, in carriages and on horseback. They sought out adventures, even got them up themselves, simply for the sake of having an amusing story to tell. They treated our town as though it were a sort of Glupov. People called them the jeerers or sneerers, because they did not stick at anything. It happened, for instance, that the wife of a local lieutenant, a little brunette, very young though she looked worn out from her husband's ill-treatment, at an evening party thoughtlessly sat down to play whist for high stakes in the fervent hope of winning enough to buy herself a mantle, and instead of winning, lost fifteen roubles. Being afraid of her husband, and having no means of paying, she plucked up the courage of former days and ventured on the sly to ask for a loan, on the spot, at the party, from the son of our mayor, a very nasty youth, precociously vicious. The latter not only refused it, but went laughing aloud to tell her husband. The lieutenant, who certainly was poor, with nothing but his salary, took his wife home and avenged himself upon her to his heart's content in spite of her shrieks, wails, and entreaties on her knees for forgiveness. This revolting story excited nothing but mirth all over the town, and though the poor wife did not belong to Yulia Mihailovna's circle, one of the ladies of the “cavalcade,” an eccentric and adventurous character who happened to know her, drove round, and simply carried her off to her own house. Here she was at once taken up by our madcaps, made much of, loaded with presents, and kept for four days without being sent back to her husband. She stayed at the adventurous lady's all day long, drove about with her and all the sportive company in expeditions about the town, and took part in dances and merry-making. They kept egging her on to haul her husband before the court and to make a scandal. They declared that they would all support her and would come and bear witness. The husband kept quiet, not daring to oppose them. The poor thing realised at last that she had got into a hopeless position and, more dead than alive with fright, on the fourth day she ran off in the dusk from her protectors to her lieutenant. It's not definitely known what took place between husband and wife, but two shutters of the low-pitched little house in which the lieutenant lodged were not opened for a fortnight. Yulia Mihailovna was angry with the mischief-makers when she heard about it all, and was greatly displeased with the conduct of the adventurous lady, though the latter had presented the lieutenant's wife to her on the day she carried her off. However, this was soon forgotten.
Another time a petty clerk, a respectable head of a family, married his daughter, a beautiful girl of seventeen, known to every one in the town, to another petty clerk, a young man who came from a different district. But suddenly it was learned that the young husband had treated the beauty very roughly on the wedding night, chastising her for what he regarded as a stain on his honour. Lyamshin, who was almost a witness of the affair, because he got drunk at the wedding and so stayed the night, as soon as day dawned, ran round with the diverting intelligence.
Instantly a party of a dozen was made up, all of them on horseback, some on hired Cossack horses, Pyotr Stepanovitch, for instance, and Liputin, who, in spite of his grey hairs, took part in almost every scandalous adventure of our reckless youngsters. When the young couple appeared in the street in a droshky with a pair of horses to make the calls which are obligatory in our town on the day after a wedding, in spite of anything that may happen, the whole cavalcade, with merry laughter, surrounded the droshky and followed them about the town all the morning. They did not, it's true, go into the house, but waited for them outside, on horseback. They refrained from marked insult to the bride or bridegroom, but still they caused a scandal. The whole town began talking of it. Every one laughed, of course. But at this Von Lembke was angry, and again had a lively scene with Yulia Mihailovna. She, too, was extremely angry, and formed the intention of turning the scapegraces out of her house. But next day she forgave them all after persuasions from Pyotr Stepanovitch and some words from Karmazinov, who considered the affair rather amusing.
“It's in harmony with the traditions of the place,” he said. “Anyway it's characteristic and . . . bold; and look, every one's laughing, you're the only person indignant.”
But there were pranks of a certain character that were absolutely past endurance.
A respectable woman of the artisan class, who went about selling gospels, came into the town. People talked about her, because some interesting references to these gospel women had just appeared in the Petersburg Capers. Again the same buffoon, Lyamshin, with the help of a divinity student, who was taking a holiday while waiting for a post in the school, succeeded, on the pretence of buying books from the gospel woman, in thrusting into her bag a whole bundle of indecent and obscene photographs from abroad, sacrificed expressly for the purpose, as we learned afterwards, by a highly respectable old gentleman (I will omit his name) with an order on his breast, who, to use his own words, loved “a healthy laugh and a merry jest.” When the poor woman went to take out the holy books in the bazaar, the photographs were scattered about the place. There were roars of laughter and murmurs of indignation. A crowd collected, began abusing her, and would have come to blows if the police had not arrived in the nick of time. The gospel woman was taken to the lock-up, and only in the evening, thanks to the efforts of Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who had learned with indignation the secret details of this loathsome affair, she was released and escorted out of the town. At this point Yulia Mihailovna would certainly have forbidden Lyamshin her house, but that very evening the whole circle brought him to her with the intelligence that he had just composed a new piece for the piano, and persuaded her at least to hear it. The piece turned out to be really amusing, and bore the comic title of “The Franco-Prussian War.” It began with the menacing strains of the “Marseillaise “:
“Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons.”
There is heard the pompous challenge, the intoxication of future victories. But suddenly mingling with the masterly variations on the national hymn, somewhere from some corner quite close, on one side come the vulgar strains of “Mein lieber Augustin.” The “Marseillaise” goes on unconscious of them. The “Marseillaise” is at the climax of its intoxication with its own grandeur; but Augustin gains strength; Augustin grows more and more insolent, and suddenly the melody of Augustin begins to blend with the melody of the “Marseillaise.” The latter begins, as it were, to get angry; becoming aware of Augustin at last she tries to fling him off, to brush him aside like a tiresome insignificant fly. But “Mein lieber Augustin” holds his ground firmly, he is cheerful and self-confident, he is gleeful and impudent, and the “Marseillaise” seems suddenly to become terribly” stupid. She can no longer conceal her anger and mortification; it is a wail of indignation, tears, and curses, with hands outstretched to Providence.
“Pas un police de noire, terrain; pas une de nos forteresses.”
But she is forced to sing in time with “Mein lieber Augustin.” Her melody passes in a sort of foolish way into Augustin; she yields and dies away. And only by snatches there is heard again:
“Qu'un sang impur ...”
But at once it passes very offensively into the vulgar waltz. She submits altogether. It is Jules Favre sobbing on Bismarck's bosom and surrendering every thing. . . . But at this point Augustin too grows fierce; hoarse sounds are heard; there is a suggestion of countless gallons of beer, of a frenzy of self-glorification, demands for millions, for fine cigars, champagne, and hostages. Augustin passes into a wild yell. . . . “The Franco-Prussian War” is over. Our circle applauded, Yulia Mihailovna smiled, and said, “Now, how is one to turn him out?” Peace was made. The rascal really had talent. Stepan Trofimovitch assured me on one occasion that the very highest artistic talents may exist in the most abominable blackguards, and that the one thing does not interfere with the other. There was a rumour afterwards that Lyamshin had stolen this burlesque from a talented and modest young man of his acquaintance, whose name remained unknown. But this is beside the mark. This worthless fellow who had hung about Stepan Trofimovitch for years, who used at his evening parties, when invited, to mimic Jews of various types, a deaf peasant woman making her confession, or the birth of a child, now at Yulia Mihailovna's caricatured Stepan Trofimovitch himself in a killing way, under the title of “A Liberal of the Forties.” Everybody shook with laughter, so that in the end it was quite impossible to turn him out: he had become too necessary a person. Besides he fawned upon Pyotr Stepanovitch in a slavish way, and he, in his turn, had obtained by this time a strange and unaccountable influence over Yulia Mihailovna.
I wouldn't have talked about this scoundrel, and, indeed, he would not be worth dwelling upon, but there was another revolting story, so people declare, in which he had a hand, and this story I cannot omit from my record.
One morning the news of a hideous and revolting sacrilege was all over the town. At the entrance to our immense marketplace there stands the ancient church of Our Lady's Nativity, which was a remarkable antiquity in our ancient town. At the gates of the precincts there is a large ikon of the Mother of God fixed behind a grating in the wall. And behold, one night the ikon had been robbed, the glass of the case was broken, the grating was smashed and several stones and pearls (I don't know whether they were very precious ones) had been removed from the crown and the setting. But what was worse, besides the theft a senseless, scoffing sacrilege had been perpetrated. Behind the broken glass of the ikon they found in the morning, so it was said, a live mouse. Now, four months since, it has been established beyond doubt that the crime was committed by the convict Fedka, but for some reason it is added that Lyamshin took part in it. At the time no one spoke of Lyamshin or had any suspicion of him. But now every one says it was he who put the mouse there. I remember all our responsible officials were rather staggered. A crowd thronged round the scene of the crime from early morning. There was a crowd continually before it, not a very huge one, but always about a hundred people, some coming and some going. As they approached they crossed themselves and bowed down to the ikon. They began to give offerings, and a church dish made its appearance, and with the dish a monk. But it was only about three o'clock in the afternoon it occurred to the authorities that it was possible to prohibit the crowds standing about, and to command them when they had prayed, bowed down and left their offerings, to pass on. Upon Von Lembke this unfortunate incident made the gloomiest impression. As I was told, Yulia Mihailovna said afterwards it was from this ill-omened morning that she first noticed in her husband that strange depression which persisted in him until he left our province on account of illness two months ago, and, I believe, haunts him still in Switzerland, where he has gone for a rest after his brief career amongst us.
I remember at one o'clock in the afternoon I crossed the marketplace; the crowd was silent and their faces solemn and gloomy. A merchant, fat and sallow, drove up, got out of his carriage, made a bow to the ground, kissed the ikon, offered a rouble, sighing, got back into his carriage and drove off. Another carriage drove up with two ladies accompanied by two of our scapegraces. The young people (one of whom was not quite young) got out of their carriage too, and squeezed their way up to the ikon, pushing people aside rather carelessly. Neither of the young men took off his hat, and one of them put a pince-nez on his nose. In the crowd there was a murmur, vague but unfriendly. The dandy with the pince-nez took out of his purse, which was stuffed full of bank-notes, a copper farthing and flung it into the dish. Both laughed, and, talking loudly, went back to their carriage. At that moment Lizaveta Nikolaevna galloped up, escorted by Mavriky Nikolaevitch. She jumped off her horse, flung the reins to her companion, who, at her bidding, remained on his horse, and approached the ikon at the very moment when the farthing had been flung down. A flush of indignation suffused her cheeks; she took off her round hat and her gloves, fell straight on her knees before the ikon on the muddy pavement, and reverently bowed down three times to the earth. Then she took out her purse, but as it appeared she had only a few small coins in it she instantly took off her diamond ear-rings and put them in the dish.
“May I? May I? For the adornment of the setting?” she asked the monk.
“It is permitted,” replied the latter, “every gift is good.” The crowd was silent, expressing neither dissent nor approval.
Liza got on her horse again, in her muddy riding-habit, and galloped away.
Ne tece to reka,nego voda!Ne prolazi vreme,već mi!
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Two days after the incident I have described I met her in a numerous company, who were driving out on some expedition in three coaches, surrounded by others on horseback. She beckoned to me, stopped her carriage, and pressingly urged me to join their party. A place was found for me in the carriage, and she laughingly introduced me to her companions, gorgeously attired ladies, and explained to me that they were all going on a very interesting expedition. She was laughing, and seemed somewhat excessively happy. Just lately she had been very lively, even playful, in fact.
The expedition was certainly an eccentric one. They were all going to a house the other side of the river, to the merchant Sevastyanov's. In the lodge of this merchant's house our saint and prophet, Semyon Yakovlevitch, who was famous not only amongst us but in the surrounding provinces and even in Petersburg and Moscow, had been living for the last ten years, in retirement, ease, and Comfort. Every one went to see him, especially visitors to the neighbourhood, extracting from him some crazy utterance, bowing down to him, and leaving an offering. These offerings were sometimes considerable, and if Semyon Yakovlevitch did not himself assign them to some other purpose were piously sent to some church or more often to the monastery of Our Lady. A monk from the monastery was always in waiting upon Semyon Yakovlevitch with this object.
All were in expectation of great amusement. No one of the party had seen Semyon Yakovlevitch before, except Lyamshin, who declared that the saint had given orders that he should be driven out with a broom, and had with his own hand flung two big baked potatoes after him. Among the party I noticed Pyotr Stepanovitch, again riding a hired Cossack horse, on which he sat extremely badly, and Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, also on horseback. The latter did not always hold aloof from social diversions, and on such occasions always wore an air of gaiety, although, as always, he spoke little and seldom. When our party had crossed the bridge and reached the hotel of the town, some one suddenly announced that in one of the rooms of the hotel they had just found a traveller who had shot himself, and were expecting the police. At once the suggestion was made that they should go and look at the suicide. The idea met with approval: our ladies had never seen a suicide. I remember one of them said aloud on the occasion, “Everything's so boring, one can't be squeamish over one's amusements, as long as they're interesting.” Only a few of them remained outside. The others went in a body into the dirty corridor, and amongst the others I saw, to my amazement, Lizaveta Nikolaevna. The door of the room was open, and they did not, of course, dare to prevent our going in to look at the suicide. He was quite a young lad, not more than nineteen. He must have been very good-looking, with thick fair hair, with a regular oval face, and a fine, pure forehead. The body was already stiff, and his white young face looked like marble. On the table lay a note, in his handwriting, to the effect that no one was to blame for his death, that he had killed himself because he had “squandered” four hundred roubles. The word “squandered” was used in the letter; in the four lines of his letter there were three mistakes in spelling, A stout country gentleman, evidently a neighbour, who had been staying in the hotel on some business of his own, was particularly distressed about it. From his words it appeared that the boy had been sent by his family, that is, a widowed mother, sisters, and aunts, from the country to the town in order that, under the supervision of a female relation in the town, he might purchase and take home with him various articles for the trousseau of his eldest sister, who was going to be married. The family had, with sighs of apprehension, entrusted him with the four hundred roubles, the savings of ten years, and had sent him on his way with exhortations, prayers, and signs of the cross. The boy had till then been well-behaved and trustworthy. Arriving three days before at the town, he had not gone to his relations, had put up at the hotel, and gone straight to the club in the hope of finding in some back room a “travelling banker,” or at least some game of cards for money. But that evening there was no “banker” there or gambling going on. Going back to the hotel about midnight he asked for champagne, Havana cigars, and ordered a supper of six or seven dishes. But the champagne made him drunk, and the cigar made him sick, so that he did not touch the food when it was brought to him, and went to bed almost unconscious. Waking next morning as fresh as an apple, he went at once to the gipsies' camp, which was in a suburb beyond the river, and of which he had heard the day before at the club. He did not reappear at the hotel for two days. At last, at five o'clock in the afternoon of the previous day, he had returned drunk, had at once gone to bed, and had slept till ten o'clock in the evening. On waking up he had asked for a cutlet, a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem, and some grapes, paper, and ink, and his bill. No one noticed anything special about him; he was quiet, gentle, and friendly. He must have shot himself at about midnight, though it was strange that no one had heard the shot, and they only raised the alarm at midday, when, after knocking in vain, they had broken in the door. The bottle of Chateau d'Yquem was half empty, there was half a plateful of grapes left too. The shot had been fired from a little three-chambered revolver, straight into the heart. Very little blood had flowed. The revolver had dropped from his hand on to the carpet. The boy himself was half lying in a corner of the sofa. Death must have been instantaneous. There was no trace of the anguish of death in the face; the expression was serene, almost happy, as though there were no cares in his life. All our party stared at him with greedy curiosity. In every misfortune of one's neighbour there is always something cheering for an onlooker—whoever he may be. Our ladies gazed in silence, their companions distinguished themselves by their wit and their superb equanimity. One observed that his was the best way out of it, and that the boy could not have hit upon anything more sensible; another observed that he had had a good time if only for a moment. A third suddenly blurted out the inquiry why people had begun hanging and shooting themselves among us of late, as though they had suddenly lost their roots, as though the ground were giving way under every one's feet. People looked coldly at this raisonneur. Then Lyamshin, who prided himself on playing the fool, took a bunch of grapes from the plate; another, laughing, followed his example, and a third stretched out his hand for the Chateau d'Yquem. But the head of police arriving checked him, and even ordered that the room should be cleared. As every one had seen all they wanted they went out without disputing, though Lyamshin began pestering the police captain about something. The general merrymaking, laughter, and playful talk were twice as lively on the latter half of the way.
We arrived at Semyon Yakovlevitch's just at one o'clock. The gate of the rather large house stood unfastened, and the approach to the lodge was open. We learnt at once that Semyon Yakovlevitch was dining, but was receiving guests. The whole crowd of us went in. The room in which the saint dined and received visitors had three windows, and was fairly large. It was divided into two equal parts by a wooden lattice-work partition, which ran from wall to wall, and was three or four feet high. Ordinary visitors remained on the outside of this partition, but lucky ones were by the saint's invitation admitted through the partition doors into his half of the room. And if so disposed he made them sit down on the sofa or on his old leather chairs. He himself invariably sat in an old-fashioned shabby Voltaire arm-chair. He was a rather big, bloated-looking, yellow-faced man of five and fifty, with a bald head and scanty flaxen hair. He wore no beard; his right cheek was swollen, and his mouth seemed somehow twisted awry. He had a large wart on the left side of his nose; narrow eyes, and a calm, stolid, sleepy expression. He was dressed in European style, in a black coat, but had no waistcoat or tie. A rather coarse, but white shirt, peeped out below his coat. There was something the matter with his feet, I believe, and he kept them in slippers. I've heard that he had at one time been a clerk, and received a rank in the service. He had just finished some fish soup, and was beginning his second dish of potatoes in their skins, eaten with salt. He never ate anything else, but he drank a great deal of tea, of which he was very fond. Three servants provided by the merchant were running to and fro about him. One of them was in a swallow-tail, the second looked like a workman, and the third like a verger. There was also a very lively boy of sixteen. Besides the servants there was present, holding a jug, a reverend, grey-headed monk, who was a little too fat. On one of the tables a huge samovar was boiling, and a tray with almost two dozen glasses was standing near it. On another table opposite offerings had been placed: some loaves and also some pounds of sugar, two pounds of tea, a pair of embroidered slippers, a foulard handkerchief, a length of cloth, a piece of linen, and so on. Money offerings almost all went into the monk's jug. The room was full of people, at least a dozen visitors, of whom two were sitting with Semyon Yakovlevitch on the other side of the partition. One was a grey-headed old pilgrim of the peasant class, and the other a little, dried-up monk, who sat demurely, with his eyes cast down. The other visitors were all standing on the near aide of the partition, and were mostly, too, of the peasant class, except one elderly and poverty-stricken lady, one landowner, and a stout merchant, who had come from the district town, a man with a big beard, dressed in the Russian style, though he was known to be worth a hundred thousand.
All were waiting for their chance, not daring to speak of themselves. Four were on their knees, but the one who attracted most attention was the landowner, a stout man of forty-five, kneeling right at the partition, more conspicuous than any one, waiting reverently for a propitious word or look from Semyon Yakovlevitch. He had been there for about an hour already, but the saint still did not notice him.
Our ladies crowded right up to the partition, whispering gaily and laughingly together. They pushed aside or got in front of all the other visitors, even those on their knees, except the landowner, who remained obstinately in his prominent position even holding on to the partition. Merry and greedily inquisitive eyes were turned upon Semyon Yakovlevitch, as well as lorgnettes, pince-nez, and even opera-glasses. Lyamshin, at any rate, looked through an opera-glass. Semyon Yakovlevitch calmly and lazily scanned all with his little eyes.
“Milovzors! Milovzors!” he deigned to pronounce, in a hoarse bass, and slightly staccato.
All our party laughed: '' What's the meaning of 'Milovzors'?” But Semyon Yakovlevitch relapsed into silence, and finished his potatoes. Presently he wiped his lips with his napkin, and they handed him tea.
As a rule, he did not take tea alone, but poured out some for his visitors, but by no means for all, usually pointing himself to those he wished to honour. And his choice always surprised people by its unexpectedness. Passing by the wealthy and the high-placed, he sometimes pitched upon a peasant or some decrepit old woman. Another time he would pass over the beggars to honour some fat wealthy merchant. Tea was served differently, too, to different people, sugar was put into some of the glasses and handed separately with others, while some got it without any sugar at all. This time the favoured one was the monk sitting by him, who had sugar put in; and the old pilgrim, to whom it was given without any sugar. The fat monk with the jug, from the monastery, for some reason had none handed to him at all, though up till then he had had his glass every day.
“Semyon Yakovlevitch, do say something to me. I've been longing to make your acquaintance for ever so long,” carolled the gorgeously dressed lady from our carriage, screwing up her eyes and smiling. She was the lady who had observed that one must not be squeamish about one's amusements, so long as they were interesting. Semyon Yakovlevitch did not even look at her. The kneeling landowner uttered a deep, sonorous sigh, like the sound of a big pair of bellows.
“With sugar in it!” said Semyon Yakovlevitch suddenly, pointing to the wealthy merchant. The latter moved forward and stood beside the kneeling gentleman.
“Some more sugar for him!” ordered Semyon Yakovlevitch, after the glass had already been poured out. They put some more in. “More, more, for him!” More was put in a third time, and again a fourth. The merchant began submissively drinking his syrup.
“Heavens!” whispered the people, crossing themselves. The kneeling gentleman again heaved a deep, sonorous sigh.
“Father! Semyon Yakovlevitch!” The voice of the poor lady rang out all at once plaintively, though so sharply that it was startling. Our party had shoved her back to the wall. “A whole hour, dear father, I've been waiting for grace. Speak to me. Consider my case in my helplessness.”
“Ask her,” said Semyon Yakovlevitch to the verger, who went to the partition.
“Have you done what Semyon Yakovlevitch bade you last time?” he asked the widow in a soft and measured voice.
“Done it! Father Semyon Yakovlevitch. How can one do it with them?” wailed the widow. “They're cannibals; they're lodging a complaint against me, in the court; they threaten to take it to the senate. That's how they treat their own mother!”
“Give her!” Semyon Yakovlevitch pointed to a sugar-loaf. The boy skipped up, seized the sugar-loaf and dragged it to the widow.
“Ach, father; great is your merciful kindness. What am I to do with so much?” wailed the widow.
“More, more,” said Semyon Yakovlevitch lavishly.
They dragged her another sugar-loaf. “More, more!” the saint commanded. They took her a third, and finally a fourth. The widow was surrounded with sugar on all sides. The monk from the monastery sighed; all this might have gone to the monastery that day as it had done on former occasions.
“What am I to do with so much,” the widow sighed obsequiously. “It's enough to make one person sick! ... Is it some sort of a prophecy, father?”
“Be sure it's by way of a prophecy,” said some one in the crowd.
“Another pound for her, another!” Semyon Yakovlevitch persisted.
There was a whole sugar-loaf still on the table, but the saint ordered a pound to be given, and they gave her a pound.
“Lord have mercy on us!” gasped the people, crossing themselves. “It's surely a prophecy.”
“Sweeten your heart for the future with mercy and loving kindness, and then come to make complaints against your own children; bone of your bone. That's what we must take this emblem to mean,” the stout monk from the monastery, who had had no tea given to him, said softly but self-complacently, taking upon himself the role of interpreter in an access of wounded vanity.
“What are you saying, father?” cried the widow, suddenly infuriated. “Why, they dragged me into the fire with a rope round me when the Verhishins' house was burnt, and they locked up a dead cat in my chest. They are ready to do any villainy. . . .”
“Away with her! Away with her!” Semyon Yakovlevitch said suddenly, waving his hands.
The verger and the boy dashed through the partition. The verger took the widow by the arm, and without resisting she trailed to the door, keeping her eyes fixed _ on the loaves of sugar that had been bestowed on her, which the boy dragged after her.
“One to be taken away. Take it away,” Semyon Yakovlevitch commanded to the servant like a workman, who remained with him. The latter rushed after the retreating woman, and the three servants returned somewhat later bringing back one loaf of sugar which had been presented to the widow and now taken away from her. She carried off three, however.
“Semyon Yakovlevitch,” said a voice at the door. “I dreamt of a bird, a jackdaw; it flew out of the water and flew into the fire. What does the dream mean?”
“Frost,” Semyon Yakovlevitch pronounced.
“Semyon Yakovlevitch, why don't you answer me all this time? I've been interested in you ever so long,” the lady of our party began again.
“Ask him!” said Semyon Yakovlevitch, not heeding her, but pointing to the kneeling gentleman.
The monk from the monastery to whom the order was given moved sedately to the kneeling figure.
“How have you sinned? And was not some command laid upon you?”
“Not to fight; not to give the rein to my hands,” answered the kneeling gentleman hoarsely.
“Have you obeyed?” asked the monk.
“I cannot obey. My own strength gets the better of me.”
“Away with him, away with him! With a broom, with a broom!” cried Semyon Yakovlevitch, waving his hands. The gentleman rushed out of the room without waiting for this penalty.
“He's left a gold piece where he knelt,” observed the monk, picking up a half-imperial.
“For him!” said the saint, pointing to the rich merchant. The latter dared not refuse it, and took it.
“Gold to gold,” the monk from the monastery could not refrain from saying.
“And give him some with sugar in it,” said the saint, pointing to Mavriky Nikolaevitch. The servant poured out the tea and took it by mistake to the dandy with the pince-nez.
“The long one, the long one!” Semyon Yakovlevitch corrected him.
Mavriky Nikolaevitch took the glass, made a military half-bow, and began drinking it. I don't know why, but all our party burst into peals of laughter.
“Mavriky Nikolaevitch,” cried Liza, addressing him suddenly.” That kneeling gentleman has gone away. You kneel down in his place.”
Mavriky Nikolaevitch looked at her in amazement.
“I beg you to. You'll do me the greatest favour. Listen, Mavriky Nikolaevitch,” she went on, speaking in an emphatic, obstinate, excited, and rapid voice. “You must kneel down; I must see you kneel down. If you won't, don't come near me. I insist, I insist!”
I don't know what she meant by it; but she insisted upon it relentlessly, as though she were in a fit. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, as we shall see later, set down these capricious impulses, which had been particularly frequent of late, to outbreaks of blind hatred for him, not due to spite, for, on the contrary, she esteemed him, loved him, and respected him, and he knew that himself—- but from a peculiar unconscious hatred which at times she could not control.
In silence he gave his cup to an old woman standing behind him, opened the door of the partition, and, without being invited, stepped into Semyon Yakovlevitch's private apartment, and knelt down in the middle of the room in sight of all. I imagine that he was deeply shocked in his candid and delicate heart by Liza's coarse and mocking freak before the whole company. Perhaps he imagined that she would feel ashamed of herself, seeing his humiliation, on which she had so insisted. Of course no one but he would have dreamt of bringing a woman to reason by so naive and risky a proceeding. He remained kneeling with his imperturbable gravity—long, tall, awkward, and ridiculous. But our party did not laugh. The unexpectedness of the action produced a painful shock. Every one looked at Liza.
“Anoint, anoint!” muttered Semyon Yakovlevitch.
Liza suddenly turned white, cried out, and rushed through the partition. Then a rapid and hysterical scene followed. She began pulling Mavriky Nikolaevitch up with all her might, tugging at his elbows with both hands.
“Get up! Get up!” she screamed, as though she were crazy. “Get up at once, at once. How dare you?”
Mavriky Nikolaevitch got up from his knees. She clutched his arms above the elbow and looked intently into his face. There was terror in her expression.
She dragged Mavriky Nikolaevitch back to the other part of the room at last. There was some commotion in all our company. The lady from our carriage, probably intending to relieve the situation, loudly and shrilly asked the saint for the third time, with an affected smile:
“Well, Semyon Yakovlevitch, won't you utter some saying for me I I've been reckoning so much on you.”
“Out with the——, out with the——,” said Semyon Yakovlevitch, suddenly addressing her, with an extremely indecent word. The words were uttered savagely, and with horrifying distinctness. Our ladies shrieked, and rushed headlong away, while the gentlemen escorting them burst into Homeric laughter. So ended our visit to Semyon Yakovlevitch.
At this point, however, there took place, I am told, an extremely enigmatic incident, and, I must own, it was chiefly on account of it that I have described this expedition so minutely.
I am told that when all nocked out, Liza, supported by Mavriky Nikolaevitch, was jostled against Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch in the crush in the doorway. I must mention that since that Sunday morning when she fainted they had not approached each other, nor exchanged a word, though they had met more than once. I saw them brought together in the doorway. I fancied they both stood still for an instant, and looked, as it were, strangely at one another, but I may not have seen rightly in the crowd. It is asserted, on the contrary, and quite seriously, that Liza, glancing at Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, quickly raised her hand to the level of his face, and would certainly have struck him if he had not drawn back in time. Perhaps she was displeased with the expression of his face, or the way he smiled, particularly just after such an episode with Mavriky Nikolaevitch. I must admit I saw nothing myself, but all the others declared they had, though they certainly could not all have seen it in such a crush, though perhaps some may have. But I did not believe it at the time. I remember, however, that Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch was rather pale all the way home.
Ne tece to reka,nego voda!Ne prolazi vreme,već mi!
Mozilla Firefox 126.96.36.199
Almost at the same time, and certainly on the same day, the interview at last took place between Stepan Trofimovitch and Varvara Petrovna. She had long had this meeting in her mind, and had sent word about it to her former friend, but for some reason she had kept putting it off till then. It took place at Skvoreshniki: Varvara Petrovna arrived at her country house all in a bustle: it had been definitely decided the evening before that the fete was to take place at the marshal's, but Varvara Petrovna's rapid brain at once grasped that no one could prevent her from afterwards giving her own special entertainment at Skvoreshniki, and again assembling the whole town. Then every one could see for themselves whose house was best, and in which more taste was displayed in receiving guests and giving a ball. Altogether she was hardly to be recognised. She seemed completely transformed, and instead of the unapproachable “noble lady” (Stepan Trofimovitch's expression) seemed changed into the most commonplace, whimsical society woman. But perhaps this may only have been on the surface.
When she reached the empty house she had gone through all the rooms, accompanied by her faithful old butler, Alexey Yegorytch, and by Fomushka, a man who had seen much of life and was a specialist in decoration. They began to consult and deliberate: what furniture was to be brought from the town house, what things, what pictures, where they were to be put, how the conservatories and flowers could be put to the best use, where to put new curtains, where to have the refreshment rooms, whether one or two, and so on and so on. And, behold, in the midst of this exciting bustle she suddenly took it into her head to send for Stepan Trofimovitch.
The latter had long before received notice of this interview and was prepared for it, and he had every day been expecting just such a sudden summons. As he got into the carriage he crossed himself: his fate was being decided. He found his friend in the big drawing-room on the little sofa in the recess, before a little marble table with a pencil and paper in her hands. Fomushka, with a yard measure, was measuring the height of the galleries and the windows, while Varvara Petrovna herself was writing down the numbers and making notes on the margin. She nodded in Stepan Trofimovitch's direction without breaking off from what she was doing, and when the latter muttered some sort of greeting, she hurriedly gave him her hand, and without looking at him motioned him to a seat beside her.
“I sat waiting for five minutes, 'mastering my heart,'” he told me afterwards. “I saw before me not the woman whom I had known for twenty years. An absolute conviction that all was over gave me a strength which astounded even her. I swear that she was surprised at my stoicism in that last hour.”
Varvara Petrovna suddenly put down her pencil on the table and turned quickly to Stepan Trofimovitch.
“Stepan Trofimovitch, we have to talk of business. I'm sure you have prepared all your fervent words and various phrases, but we'd better go straight to the point, hadn't we?”
She had been in too great a hurry to show the tone she meant to take. And what might not come next?
“Wait, be quiet; let me speak. Afterwards you shall, though really I don't know what you can answer me,” she said in a rapid patter. “The twelve hundred roubles of your pension I consider a sacred obligation to pay you as long as you live. Though why a sacred obligation, simply a contract; that would be a great deal more real, wouldn't it? If you like, we'll write it out. Special arrangements have been made in case of my death. But you are receiving from me at present lodging, servants, and your maintenance in addition. Reckoning that in money it would amount to fifteen hundred roubles, wouldn't it? I will add another three hundred roubles, making three thousand roubles in all. Will that be enough a year for you? I think that's not too little? In any extreme emergency I would add something more. And so, take your money, send me back my servants, and live by yourself where you like in Petersburg, in Moscow, abroad, or here, only not with me. Do you hear?”
“Only lately those lips dictated to me as imperatively and as suddenly very different demands,” said Stepan Trofimovitch slowly and with sorrowful distinctness. “I submitted . . . and danced the Cossack dance to please you. Oui, la comparaison peut etre permise. C'etait comme un petit Cosaque du Don qui sautait sur sa propre tombe. Now . . .”
“Stop, Stepan Trofimovitch, you are horribly long-winded. You didn't dance, but came to see me in a new tie, new linen, gloves, scented and pomatumed. I assure you that you were very anxious to get married yourself; it was written on your face, and I assure you a most unseemly expression it was. If I did not mention it to you at the time, it was simply out of delicacy. But you wished it, you wanted to be married, in spite of the abominable things you wrote about me and your betrothed. Now it's very different. And what has the Cosaque du Don to do with it, and what tomb do you mean? I don't understand the comparison. On the contrary, you have only to live. Live as long as you can. I shall be delighted.”
“In an almshouse?”
“In an almshouse? People don't go into almshouses with three thousand roubles a year. Ah, I remember,” she laughed. “Pyotr Stepanovitch did joke about an almshouse once. Bah, there certainly is a special almshouse, which is worth considering. It's for persons who are highly respectable; there are colonels there, and there's positively one general who wants to get into it. If you went into it with all your money, you would find peace, comfort, servants to wait on you. There you could occupy yourself with study, and could always make up a party for cards.”
“Passons?" Varvara Petrovna winced. “But, if so, that's all. You've been informed that we shall live henceforward entirely apart.”
“And that's all?” he said. “All that's left of twenty years? Our last farewell?”
“You're awfully fond of these exclamations, Stepan Trofimovitch. It's not at all the fashion. Nowadays people talk roughly but simply. You keep harping on our twenty years! Twenty years of mutual vanity, and nothing more. Every letter you've written me was written not for me but for posterity. You're a stylist, and not a friend, and friendship is only a splendid word. In reality—a mutual exchange of sloppiness. . . .”
“Good heavens! How many sayings not your own! Lessons learned by heart! They've already put their uniform on you too. You, too, are rejoicing; you, too, are basking in the sunshine. Chere. chere, for what a mess of pottage you have sold them your freedom!”
“I'm not a parrot, to repeat other people's phrases!” cried Varvara Petrovna, boiling over. “You may be sure I have stored up many sayings of my own. What have you been doing for me all these twenty years? You refused me even the books I ordered for you, though, except for the binder, they would have remained uncut. What did you give me to read when I asked you during those first years to be my guide? Always Kapfig, and nothing but Kapfig. You were jealous of my culture even, and took measures. And all the while every one's laughing at you. I must confess I always considered you only as a critic. You are a literary critic and nothing more. When on the way to Petersburg I told you that I meant to found a journal and to devote my whole life to it, you looked at me ironically at once, and suddenly became horribly supercilious.”
“That was not that, not that. ... we were afraid then of persecution. ...”
“It was just that. And you couldn't have been afraid of persecution in Petersburg at that time. Do you remember that in February, too, when the news of the emancipation came, you ran to me in a panic, and demanded that I should at once give you a written statement that the proposed magazine had nothing to do with you; that the young people had been coming to see me and not you; that you were only a tutor who lived in the house, only because he had not yet received his salary. Isn't that so? Do remember that? You have distinguished yourself all your life, Stepan Trofimovitch.”
“That was only a moment of weakness, a moment when we were alone,” he exclaimed mournfully. “But is it possible, is it possible, to break off everything for the sake of such petty impressions? Can it be that nothing more has been left between us after those long years?”
“You are horribly calculating; you keep trying to leave me in your debt. When you came back from abroad you looked down upon me and wouldn't let me utter a word, but when I came back myself and talked to you afterwards of my impressions of the Madonna, you wouldn't hear me, you began smiling condescendingly into your cravat, as though I were incapable of the same feelings as you.”
“It was not so. It was probably not so. J'ai oublie!”
“No; it was so,” she answered, “and, what's more, you've nothing to pride yourself on. That's all nonsense, and one of your fancies. Now, there's no one, absolutely no one, in ecstasies over the Madonna; no one wastes time over it except old men who are hopelessly out of date. That's established.”
“Established, is it?”
“It's of no use whatever. This jug's of use because one can pour water into it. This pencil's of use because you can write anything with it. But that woman's face is inferior to any face in nature. Try drawing an apple, and put a real apple beside it. Which would you take? You wouldn't make a mistake, I'm sure. This is what all our theories amount to, now that the first light of free investigation has dawned upon them.”
'' You laugh ironically. And what used you to say to me about charity? Yet the enjoyment derived from charity is a haughty and immoral enjoyment. The rich man's enjoyment in his wealth, his power, and in the comparison of his importance with the poor. Charity corrupts giver and taker alike; and, what's more, does not attain it's object, as it only increases poverty. Fathers who don't want to work crowd round the charitable like gamblers round the gambling-table, hoping for gain, while the pitiful farthings that are flung them are a hundred times too little. Have you given away much in your life? Less than a rouble, if you try and think. Try to remember when last you gave away anything; it'll be two years ago, maybe four. You make an outcry and only hinder things. Charity ought to be forbidden by law, even in the present state of society. In the new regime there will be no poor at all.”
“Oh, what an eruption of borrowed phrases! So it's come to the new regime already? Unhappy woman, God help you!”
“Yes; it has, Stepan Trofimovitch. You carefully concealed all these new ideas from me, though every one's familiar with them nowadays. And you did it simply out of jealousy, so as to have power over me. So that now even that Yulia is a hundred miles ahead of me. But now my eyes have been opened. I have defended you, Stepan Trofimovitch, all I could, but there is no one who does not blame you.”
“Enough!” said he, getting up from his seat. “Enough! And what can I wish you now, unless it's repentance?”
“Sit still a minute, Stepan Trofimovitch. I have another question to ask you. You've been told of the invitation to read at the literary matinee. It was arranged through me. Tell me what you're going to read?”
“Why, about that very Queen of Queens, that ideal of humanity, the Sistine Madonna, who to your thinking is inferior to a glass or a pencil.”
“So you're not taking something historical?'” said Varvara Petrovna in mournful surprise. “But they won't listen to you. You've got that Madonna on your brain. You seem bent on putting every one to sleep! Let me assure you, Stepan Trofimovitch, I am speaking entirely in your own interest. It would be a different matter if you would take some short but interesting story of mediaeval court life from Spanish history, or, better still, some anecdote, and pad it out with other anecdotes and witty phrases of your own. There were magnificent courts then; ladies, you know, poisonings. Karmazinov says it would be strange if you couldn't read something interesting from Spanish history.”
“Karmazinov—that fool who has written himself out—looking for a subject for me!” .
“Karmazinov, that almost imperial intellect. You are too free in your language, Stepan Trofimovitch.”
“Your Karmazinov is a spiteful old woman whose day is over. Chere, chere, how long have you been so enslaved by them? Oh God!”
“I can't endure him even now for the airs he gives himself. But I do justice to his intellect. I repeat, I have done my best to defend you as far as I could. And why do you insist on being absurd and tedious? On the contrary, come on to the platform with a dignified smile as the representative of the last generation, and tell them two or three anecdotes in your witty way, as only you can tell things sometimes. Though you may be an old man now, though you may belong to a past age, though you may have dropped behind them, in fact, yet you'll recognise it yourself, with a smile, in your preface, and all will see that you're an amiable, good-natured, witty relic ... in brief, a man of the old savour, and so far advanced as to be capable of appreciating at their value all the absurdities of certain ideas which you have hitherto followed. Come, as a favour to me, I beg you.”
“Chere, enough. Don't ask me. I can't. I shall speak of the Madonna, but I shall raise a storm that will either crush them all or shatter me alone.”,
“It will certainly be you alone, Stepan Trofimovitch.”
“Such is my fate. I will speak of the contemptible slave, of the stinking, depraved flunkey who will first climb a ladder with scissors in his hands, and slash to pieces the divine image of the great ideal, in the name of equality, envy, and . . . digestion. Let my curse thunder out upon them, and then—then ...”
“Perhaps. But in any case, whether I shall be left vanquished or victorious, that very evening I shall take my bag, my beggar's bag. I shall leave all my goods and chattels, all your presents, all your pensions and promises of future benefits, and go forth on foot to end my life a tutor in a merchant's family or to die somewhere of hunger in a ditch. I have said it. Alea jacta eat.” He got up again.
“I've been convinced for years,” said Varvara Petrovna, getting up with flashing eyes, “that your only object in life is to put me and my house to shame by your calumnies! What do you mean by being a tutor in a merchant's family or dying in a ditch? It's spite, calumny, and nothing more.”
“You have always despised me. But I will end like a knight, faithful to my lady. Your good opinion has always been dearer I to me than anything. From this moment I will take nothing, but will worship you disinterestedly.”
” How stupid that is!”
“You have never respected me. I may have had a mass of weaknesses. Yes, I have sponged on you. I speak the language of nihilism, but sponging has never been the guiding motive of my action. It has happened so of itself. I don't know how. ... I always imagined there was something higher than meat and drink between us, and—I've never, never been a scoundrel! And so, to take the open road, to set things right. I set off late, late autumn out of doors, the mist lies over the fields, the hoarfrost of old age covers the road before me, and the wind howls about the approaching grave. . . . But so forward, forward, on my new way
' Filled with purest love and fervour,
Faith which my sweet dream did yield.'
Oh, my dreams. Farewell. Twenty years. Alea jacta est!”
His face was wet with a sudden gush of tears. He took his hat.
“I don't understand Latin,” said Varvara Petrovna, doing her best to control herself.
Who knows, perhaps, she too felt like crying. But caprice and indignation once more got the upper hand.
“I know only one thing, that all this is childish nonsense. You will never be capable of carrying out your threats, which are a mass of egoism. You will set off nowhere, to no merchant; you'll end very peaceably on my hands, taking your pension, and receiving your utterly impossible friends on Tuesdays. Good-bye, Stepan Trofimovitch.”
“Alea—jacta est!” He made her a deep bow, and returned home, almost dead with emotion.
Велики инквизитор (одломак из романа ,,Браћа Карамазови'')
...Радња се збива у Шпанији, у Севиљи, у најстрашније време инквизиције, када су, у славу Божију у земљи сваки дан гореле гломаче и кад су "У великолепним аутодафеима спаљивали опасне јеретике".
То, наравно не беше онај силазак у коме ће се јавити Он, по обећању Своме, у последња времена, у свој слави небеској, и који ће бити изненадан и тренутан "као муња која заблиста од истока до запада". Не, Он зажеле да на један тренутак посети децу Своју, и то баш онде где су у тај мах спаљивали јеретике. По неизмерном милосрђу Свом, Он долази још једаред међу људе у оном истом лику човечанском у ком је ишао тридесет и три године међу људима, пре петнаест векова. Силази на "вреле улице" јужне вароши, у којој је таман синоћ, у "великолепном аутодафеу", у присуству краља, двора, витезова, кардинала и дивних дворских дама, пред многобројним становништвом целе Севиље, кардинал, велеки инквизитор, спалио мало те не читаву стотину јеретика - за велику славу Божију. Он се појави тихо, неприметно, но - за чудо! сви га одмах познаду. То би могло бити једно од најлепших места поеме, - то јест: зашто су га одмах сви познали. Народ с неодољивом силом лети к Њему, окружава га, купи се око Њега гомилама, следује Му. Он ћутећки пролази поред њих са тихим осмехом бесконачне патње. Сунце љубави гори у његовом срцу, зраци Светлости, Просвећености и Силе бију Му из очију, и, изливајући се на људе, потресају њихова срца љубављу која се на све одазива. Он простире према њима руке, благосиља их, и од додира са Њим, чак само са хаљинама Његовим, излази лековита сила. У један мах, из гомиле кличе један старац, слеп још од детињства: "Господе, исцели ме да Те и ја видим!" И гле, као нека љуска спаде са очију његових, и слепи Га угледа. Народ плаче и љуби земљу по којој Он иде. Деца бацају пред њега цвеће, певају и узвикују Му: "Осана!" "То је Он, то је баш Он!" - понављају сви; - "то мора бити Он, то није нико други до Он". Он застаје на паперти Севиљске саборне цркве, баш у тренутку кад у храм са плачем уносе дечији отворен бели мртвачки ковчежић; у њему лежи седмогодишња девојчица, јединица ћерка неког знатног грађанина. Мртво дете, све у цвећу.
"Он ће васкрснути твоје дете" довикују из гомиле уплаканој матери.
...Патер саборне цркве, који је изишао у сретање детињем ковчегу, гледа у недоумици и мршти обрве. Али гле, разлеже се вапај матере умрлог детета. Она се баци к Његовим ногама: "Ако си то Ти, васкрсни дете моје!" - кличе она, пружајући према њему руке.
...Спровод застаје, ковчежић спуштају на паперту код ногу Његових. Он гледа са сажаљењем, а уста Његова тихо, и још једаред изговарају: "Талита куми" - "и уста девојка". Девојчица се диже у ковчегу, седа, гледа смешећи се задивљеним отвореним очицама, око себе. У рукама јој кита белих ружа с којима је лежала у ковчегу. У народу збуњеност, узвици, ридања; и гле, баш у том тренутку, наједаред, пролази поред саборне цркве преко трга сам кардинал, велики инквизитор.
...То је један скоро деведесетогодишњи старац, висок и прав, са исушеним лицем, са упалим очима, али из којих још сија жар, као огњена искрица. О, није сад у великолепним кардиналским хаљинама својим у којима је блистао јуче пред народом, када спаљиваху непријатеље Римске вере, - не, у овај мах он је само у својој старој, грубој монашкох раси. За њима, на извесном растојању, следују мргодни помоћници и слуге његове, и "света" стража.
...Он се зауставља пред гомилом народа и посматра из даљине. Све је видео, видео је како су спустили ковчег код ногу Његових, видео је како је васкрсла девојчица; и лице се његово намргодило и натуштило. Мршти седе густе обрве своје, а поглед му сева злослутним огњем. Пружа прст, заповеда стражарима да Га ухвате.
...И гле, каква је његова сила, и толико је већ научен тај покорни и уздрхтано му послушни пук, да се гомила света онога часа склања испред стражара, а ови, посред гробовског ћутања које наједаред наступи, мећу руке на Њега, хватају Га и одводе Га. Гомила, у тренутку, сва као један човек, сагиба се главом до земље пред старцем - инквизитором; овај ћутећки благосиља народ и пролази даље.
...Стража доводи Заробљеника у тесну и мрачну тамницу са сводовима, у стародревној згради Светога Судилишта, и затвара Га у њу. Пролази дан, настаје тамна, врела и мртва Севиљска ноћ. Ваздух "на ловор и на лимун мирише". Посред дубоког мрака наједаред се отварају гвоздена тамничка врата, и старац, велики инквизитор, са светиљком у руци улази у тамницу. Он је сам, врата се за њим одмах затварају. Застаје на улазу, и дуго се, читав минут или два, загледа у лице Његово. Најзад тихо приђе, метну светилник на сто и рече Му:
- "Јеси ли то Ти? Јеси ли Ти? - Али, не добивши одговора, брзо додаје: - "Не одговарај, ћути! А и шта би Ти могао казати? И сувише добро знам шта ћеш Ти казати. И Ти немаш ни права да што додајеш ономе што си већ казао пре. Што си сад долазио, да нам сметаш? Јер Ти си дошао да нам сметаш, то и сам знаш. А знаш ли шта ће бити сутра? Ја не знам ко си Ти, нити хоћу да знам: да ли си то баш Ти, или само слика Његова; али ја ћу те већ сутра осудити, и спалићу Те на гломачи као најгорег јеретика, а овај исти народ који је данас љубио Твоје ноге, већ сутра ће, само на један знак моје руке, полетети да згрће жеравицу око Твоје гломаче - знаш ли Ти то? Него Ти то можда и знаш"; - додаде он у дубоком размишљању, ни на тренутак се не одвајајући погледом од свога Заробљеника...
"Имаш ли Ти право да нам објавиш макар једну од тајана онога света, из кога си дошао?" - пита Га старац, па Му он одмах и одговара у Његово име: - "Не, немаш право, - да не би на тај начин додавао ономе што си већ једаред казао, и да не одузмеш од људи слободу коју су тако бранио док си био на земљи. Све што наново прогласиш, биће напад на слободу људске вере, јер ће се јавити као чудо; а слобода њихове вере је Теби била драгоценија од свега на свету - још тада, пре хиљаду и пет стотина година. Зар ниси Ти тако често говорио: "Хоћу да вас учиним слободнима".
"Но, ето Ти, сад си видео те "слободне"људе!" - додаје старац са замишљеним осмејком. - "Да, та ствар је нас скупо стала, - наставља он строго гледајући у Њега, - али ми смо довршили најзад то дело - у Твоје име. Петнаест векова мучили смо се с том слободом, али сад је то довршено, и довршено је чврсто. Ти не верујеш да је довршено чврсто? Гледаш на мене кротко и не удостојаваш ме чак ни негодовања? Знај да су сад, и баш сад, ти људи јаче него икада уверени да су потпуно слободни; међутим, сами они донели су нам своју слободу и покорно је положили пред наше ноге. То је наше дело, а да ли си Ти то желео, - да ли такву слободу?"
"Страшни и паметни дух, дух самоуништавања и небића, - наставља старац, - велики дух говорио је с Тобом у пустињи, а нама је саопштено у књигама да Те је он "кушао". Је ли тако било? И је ли се могло казати шта је било истинитије од онога што ти је он објавио у три питања, и што си Ти одбацио, а што је у књигама названо "искушењима?" Међутим, ако се икада на земљи свршило право, громовито чудо, онда је то било тога дана, на дан та три искушења. Баш у појави тих трију питања се и састојало чудо.
"Кад би могућно било помислити, само за пробу и као пример, да су та три питања страшнога духа без трага изгубљена у књигама, и да их треба наново васпоставити, наново измислити и сачинити, да се опет унесу у свете књиге, па због тога скупити све мудраце земаљске - управљаче, првосвештенике, научнике, филозофе, песнике, и дати им задатак: смислите, створите три питања, али таква која не само да би одговорила величини догађаја, него би осим тога, у три речи, само у три реченице човечанске, изражавала сву будућу историју света и човечанства - мислиш ли Ти да би сва премудрост земаљска, кад би се на једно место скупила, могла измислити ма шта слично по сили и дубини оним трима питањима, која Ти је тада дао јаки и праведни дух у пустињи.
"Већ само по тим питањима, по самој чудноватости њихове појаве, могао си разумети да имаш посла не са текућим, обичним човечанским умом, него са вековечитим и апсолутним. Јер у та три питања, као да је скупљена у једну целину, и предсказана, сва потоња историја човечанства; у њима као да су јављена три обличја у којима ће се саставити све неразрешиве историјске противуречности човечанске природе на целој земљи. Тада се то још није могло тако видети, није било тако јасно, јер је будућност била непозната, али сад, кад је прошло петнаест векова, ми видимо да је у та три питања све у толикој мери погођено и предсказано, и тако се показало као истинито, да се питањима ништа више не може додати нити што од њих одузети...
"Одлучи дакле Сам, ко је имао право: Ти или онај, који Те је тада питао? Сети се првога питања. И ако не буквално, али смисао је тог питања овај: "Ти хоћеш да идеш у свет, и идеш голих шака, са некаквим заветом слободе, који људи, у својој простоти и у својој урођеној тупости, не могу схватити, и којега се они боје и страше - јер ништа и никада није било за човека и човечанско друштво несносније, од слободе! А видиш ли ово камење у овој голој и врелој пустињи? Претвори га у хлебове, и за Тобом ће потрчати човечанство као стадо, благодарно и послушно, премда вечно у страху да ћеш повући руку своју од њих и да ће им нестати Твојих хлебова.
"Али Ти не хтеде лишити човека слободе и одбио си предлог, јер каква би то била слобода, - пресудио си Ти, - кад би послушност била купљена хлебовима? Ти си одговорио да човек не живи само од хлеба. Али знаш ли Ти да ће се баш у име тог истог хлеба земаљског дићи на Тебе дух земаљски, и судариће се с Тобом, и победиће Те, и сви ће поћи за њим, кличући: "Ко је сличан овоме зверу? он нам даде огањ с небеса!"
"Знаш ли Ти, проћи ће векови, и човечанство ће прогласити устима своје премудрости и науке: да нема злочинства, дакле да нема ни греха, него има само - гладних. "Нахрани, па тада можеш захтевати од њих врлину и честитост!" - ето шта ће бити написано на застави која ће се подићи против Тебе, и којом ће се разрушити храм Твој. На месту храма Твога подићи ће се нова зграда, подићи ће се наново Вавилонска кула; и премда се ни она неће довршити, као ни некадашња, али Ти би ипак могао избећи ту нову кулу, и за хиљаде година смањити патње људске; - јер они ће и тако доћи к нама, пошто се најпре хиљаду година напате и намуче са својом кулом! Они ће нас тада опет пронаћи под замљом, у катакомбама, где се скривамо, (јер ћемо наново бити гоњени и мучени), наћи ће нас и завапиће: "Нахраните нас, јер они што нам обећаше огањ с неба, не дадоше нам га". И тада ћемо ми дозидати њихову кулу, јер ће је дозидати онај, ко њих нахрани, а нахранићемо их ми у Твоје име, а слагаћемо да је у Твоје име.
"О, никада, никада они неће себе без нас нахранити! Никаква им наука неће дати хлеба, догод буду остајали слободни; него ће се свршити тим што ће донети своју слободу пред наше ноге, па ће нам казати: "Нахраните нас, па макар нас и заробили!" Разумеће најзад и сами, да се не да ни замислити: да слободе и хлеба буде довољно за све у исто време, јер никада, никада они неће бити кадри правично међу собом поделити оно што имају! А увериће се и о том: да не могу никад ни слободни бити, зато што су слабачки, порочни, ништавни и бунџије.
"Ти си им обећао хлеб небески, али, понављам опет, може ли се небески хлеб, у очима слабог, вечно порочног и вечно неблагодарног људског племена, упоредити са земаљским хлебом? И ако за Тобом, у име хлеба небеског, и пођу хиљаде и десетине хиљада, шта ће бити са милионима и са десетинама хиљада милиона бића, која неће бити кадра да презру и одбаце земаљски хлеб за љубав небеског? Или су ваљда Теби миле само оне десетине хиљада великих и силних, а остали, као песак морски многобројни милиони слабих, али љубећих Тебе - треба само да послуже као материјал за оне велике и јаке? Не, нама су мили и слаби. Они су порочни и бунтовници, али, на крају крајева, они ће баш и постати послушни.
Они ће се чудити нама и сматраће нас за богове зато што смо им се ставили на чело, и што смо пристали да издржимо слободу од које су се они уплашили, па да над њима господаримо, - тако ће им напослетку бити страшно што су слободни! А ми ћемо им рећи да смо послушни Теби, и да господаримо у Твоје име. Ми ћемо их обманути опет, јер Тебе већ нећемо пустити код нас. У тој ће се обмани и састојати наша патња, јер ћемо морати лагати.
"Ето шта је значило оно прво питање у пустињи, и ето шта си Ти одбацио у име слободе коју си ставио изнад свега. А међутим, у том питању се садржаваше велика тајна овога света. Да си пристао и примио "хлебове", Ти би тим одговорио и задовољио свеопштем и вековечитом душевном терету и муци човековој - како сваког појединог бића, тако и васцелог човечанства скупа: терету због неизвесности: "коме да се поклони?" Јер нема непрекидније и мучније бриге за човека него, кад остане слободан, да што пре пронађе онога коме ће се поклонити.
"Али човек тражи да се поклони оном што је већ неоспорно, и то у толикој мери неоспорно да сви људи наједаред признаду да се томе сви могу клањати. Јер брига тих бедних створова не састоји се у томе да се пронађе оно пред чим ћу се ја или неко други поклонити, него да се нађе нешто такво, да сви поверују у то и да се поклоне, неизоставно сви заједно.
"Ето, та потреба заједничког клањања јесте најглавније мучење свакога човека лично, као и целога човечанства, од почетка векова. Да би настало опште и заједничко клањање, то јест, да би се сви клањали баш једном и истом, људи су уништавали један другог мачем. Они су стварали богове и довикивали један другом: "Оставите ваше богове па дођите да се поклоните нашима, иначе смрт и вама и боговима вашим!" И тако ће то бити до скончања света, чак и кад нестане богова са света: заједно, људи ће пасти на колена макар и пред идолима.
"Ти си знао, ти ниси могао не знати ту основну тајну природе човечанске, али Ти си одбацио једину апсолутну заставу која Ти се нудила, да њоме доведеш све људе дотле да Ти се поклоне без поговора: - заставу хлеба земаљског; а одбацио си је у име слободе и хлеба небеског. И погледај шта си даље учинио. И све опет у име слободе! Кажем ти, да човек нема мучније бриге него да нађе онога коме би што пре могао предати тај дар слободе, с којим се несрећно биће, човек, рађа. Али слободом људском овлађује само онај ко умиири њихову савест. Са хлебом Ти се давала неоспорна застава" даш хлеб, а човек Ти се поклони, јер нема ничег неоспорнијег од хлеба. Али ако у исти мах ма ко овлада његовом савешћу помимо Тебе, - о, тада ће он бацити чак и хлебац Твој, и поћи ће за оним ко му превари и збуни савест. У том си Ти имао право. Јер тајна бића човечанског није само у живљењу, већ и у том: зашто да живи. Док не утврди и не одреди себи представу: зашто живи, човек неће престати да живи, и пре ће уништити сам себе, него што ће остати на земљи, па макар сами хлебови били око њега. То је истина, али гле како је испало: место да владаш слободом људском, Ти си им је још више повећао! Или си ваљда заборавио: да је спокојство човеку милије, чак и смрт му је милија, него слободан избор у ствари познања добра и зла? "Нема ничег примамљивијег за човека од слобода његове савести, али нема ничега ни мучнијег. И онда, место чврстих основа за умирење савести човечанске једаред за свагда, Ти си изабрао све што има необично, загонетно, и неодређено, изабрао си све што је изнад снаге људске, и стога си са људима поступио као да их никако не волиш!... И ко је све то учинио: Онај, Који је пошао да чак и живот Свој жртвује за њих!
"Место да овладаш људском слободом, Ти си је још умножио, и оптеретио за навек њеним мукама духовно царство човека. Ти си пожелео слободну љубав човекову, да слободно пође за Тобом, занет и плењен Тобом. Место чврстог стародревног закона, човек је имао сад слободним срцем да решава сам: шта је добро и шта је зло, имајући за руководство само Твој лик пред собом; - али зар је могуће да се Ти ниси сетио и помислио: да ће он одбацити најзад, и оспорити чак и Твој лик и Твоју истину, ако га пригњечи тако страшан терет као што је слобода избора?
"Људи ће ускликнути дакле: да није у Теби истина, јер би немогућно било већма их оставити у забуну и мучење, него што си учинио Ти оставивши им толико брига и неразрешених задатака. На тај начин, Ти си Сам положио темељ за разорење Свог рођеног царства, и не за то никога више. Међутим, Теби је било нуђено нешто много више и боље - шта то?
"Има три силе, једине три силе на земљи које су могле занавек победити и пленити савест тих немоћних бунтовника, и за њихову срећу - те су силе: чудо, тајна, ауторитет. Ти си одбацио и једно и друго и треће, и сам си дао пример за то. Када Те је страшни и премудри дух одвео на врх храма, и казао ти: "Ако хоћеш да дознаш јеси ли Ти син Божији, скочи доле, јер је речено за Онога: да ће га анђели прихватити и понети, и неће пасти нити ће се угрувати, па ћеш дознати тада да ли си Ти Син Божји, и доказаћеш каква је вера Твоја у Оца Твога; - Ти си саслушао то, и одбацио си понуду; ниси се подао, нити си скочио доле.
"О, наравно, поступио си понисито у великолепно, као Бог; али људи, то слабо бунтовничко племе, - да ли су и они богови? Ти, Ти си, наравно, разумео тада да, учинивши само један корак, само један покрет да се бациш доле, тиме би онога часа кушао Господа, и сву би веру у Њега изгубио, и разбио би се о земљу коју си дошао да спасаваш, и обрадовао би се онај племенити дух који те је кушао. Али, понављам, колико има таквих као Ти? И зар си Ти збиља могао помислити, макар само за један тренутак, да ће и људи бити кадри издржати такво искушење? Зар је природа човечанска тако створена да одбаци чудо, и да у тако страшним животним моментима, у моментима најстрашнијих, основних и мучних питања својих, остане само са слободним решењем срца? Да, Ти си знао да ће се велики подвиг твој сачувати у књигама, да ће достићи до дубине времена и до последњих граница земаљских, и надао си се да ће, следујући за Тобом, и човек остати са Богом, немајући потребе за чудесима.
"Али Ти ниси знао да човек, тек што одбаци чудо, да ће одмах одбацити и Бога; јер човек тражи не толико Бога, колико чуда. Па пошто човек није кадар да остане без чуда, он ће понастварати себи мноштво нових чудеса, својих рођених чудеса, и поклониће се врачарском чуду, бапским враxбинама, макар стопута био бунтовник, јеретик и безбожник...
"Ти ниси сишао с крста, кад су Ти викали, ругајући Ти се и исмевајући Те: "Сиђи се с крста, па ћемо поверовати да си то Ти". Ниси сишао стога, што ниси желео да чудом поработиш и заробиш човека; жудео си за слободном вером, а не за "чудом". Жудео си за слободном љубављу, а не за ропским усхићењима једног заробљеника пред силом која га је за навек ужаснула.
"Па и ту си судио о људима и сувише високо, јер, наравно, они су робови, макар што су створени као бунxије. Осврни се и погледај унатраг, па пресуди. Прошло је петнаест векова; иди, погледај на њих: кога си подигао и узвисио до Себе? Кунем Ти се, човек је створен слабији и нижи него што си Ти о њему мислио! Може ли он извршити оно што и Ти? Тиме што си га тако много ценио и уважавао, тиме баш као да си га престао волети, јер си и сувише много од њега захтевао; - и ко то беше? - Онај Који је човека волео већма него самога себе! Да си га мање уважавао, Ти би мање од њега и тражио, а то би било ближе и сличније љубави, јер би његов терет био лакши.
"Човек је слаб и низак. Шта значи што се он сад на све стране буни против наше власти, и што се поноси тиме што се буни? То је гордост детета и ђачића. То су мала деца која се побунила у школи и истерала учитеља. Но доћи ће крај и одушевљењу дечијем, и оно ће их скупо стати. Она ће пообарати и испретурати храмове и прелиће земљу крвљу. Али ће се досетити, најзад, та глупа деца, да, премда су они бунтовници, ипак су и немоћни бунтовници, који ни своју сопствену побуну не могу да издрже. Купајући се у глупим сузама својим, они ће признати, најзад, да онај, који их је створио као бунтовнике, мора бити да се исмевао са њима. Они ће то казати у очајању, и што буду казали, биће хула на Бога, од које ће они постати још несрећнији, јер природа човечанска не може да поднесе хуљење на Бога, и, на крају крајева, сама се себи свагда освети за то хуљење.
"Еле, немир, забуна и несрећа - то је данашња баштина људи, пошто си Ти онолико страдао за њихову слободу! Велики пророк Твој, у привиђењу и слици говори: да је видео све који ће бити учесници првога васкрсења, и да их је било из сваког поколења по дванаест хиљада. Али ако их је било само толико, то као да нису људи, него богови. Они су издржали и отрпели крст Твој, они су отрпели десетине година глади и голотиње у пустињи, хранећи се скакавцима и корењем, и, наравна ствар, Ти сад са поносом можеш указати на ту децу слободе, слободне љубави, слободне и великолепне жртве њихове у име Твоје. Али имај на уму да је њих било свега неколико хиљада, па и то богова, а остали?
А као чиме су криви ти остали слаби људи, што нису могли да издрже што и они јаки? Шта је крива слаба душа, што није кадра да смести толико страшних дарова? И зар си Ти збиља долазио само изабранима и за изабране? А ако је тако, онда је ту тајна, коју ми не можемо разумети. А ако је тајна, онда смо и ми били у праву проповедати тајну, и учити људе: да није важна слободна одлука њихових срдаца, нити љубав, него тајна, којој се они морају покоравати слепо, чак и против своје савести. Тако смо и учинили. Исправили смо велики подвиг Твој, и засновали смо га на "чуду, на тајни и на ауторитету". И људи се обрадоваше што су их наново повели као стадо, и што је, напослетку, са њихових срдаца скинут страшни дар који им је донео толико муке.
Јесмо ли били у праву, учећи и радећи тако, кажи ми? Зар нисмо волели човечанство кад смо тако смирено признали његову слабост и немоћ; кад смо са љубављу олакшали његов терет, и кас смо одобрили његовој немоћној природи да макар и греши... И што си сад Ти дошао да нам сметаш? И што ћутећки и тако продирући гледаш у мене кротким очима Својим? Разљути се! ја нећу Твоје љубави, стога што и ја тебе не волим! И шта имам да кријем од Тебе? Зар не знам с ким говорим? Оно што имам да Ти кажем, све Ти је већ познато, ја то читам у очима Твојима. И зар ћу ја сакрити од Тебе тајну нашу? Можда Ти баш хоћеш да је чујеш из мојих уста? Е па ево Ти, чуј је: ми нисмо с Тобом, него с њим, ето ти наше тајне! Ми већ одавно нисмо с Тобом, него с њим; већ осам векова. Равно пре осам векова узели смо ми од њега оно што си Ти с негодовањем одбацио, онај последњи дар који ти је он нудио кад Ти је оно показао сва царства земаљска: ми смо узели од њега Рим и мач ћесаров, и објавили смо себе за цареве земаљске, за цареве једине, премда нам све до сад још није пошло за руком да доведемо наше дело до потпуног завршетка. Али ко је крив? О, дело наше је непрестано само у почетку, али је бар почето. Дуго ће се још чекати на завршетак тог дела, и много ће земља за то време препатити, али ми ћемо свој циљ постићи, и бићемо ћесари, и онда ћемо мислити о свеопштој срећи људској. А Ти си могао већ тада узети мач ћесаров. Зашто си одбацио тај последњи дар? Да си примио тај трећи савет моћнога духа, Ти би створио био све што човек на земљи тражи: дао би му био: пред ким да се клања, коме савест своју да открије, и на који начин да се најзад сви људи уједине у један општи и једнодушни мравињак - јер, потреба свеопштег уједињења је трећа и последња мука човечанства.
"Човечанство је одувек у целини својој тежило да свој живот удеси неизоставно васионски, свесветски. Много је било великих народа са великом историјом; али, што су виши били ти народи, тим су били и несрећнији, јер су јаче од других осећали потребу свеопштег сједињења људи. Велики завојевачи, Тимури и Xингисхани, пролетели су као вихор по земљи тражећи да освоје васиону; али и они су, премда несвесно, изражавали ону исту велику потребу човечанства - потребу васионског и свеопштег уједињења. Да си примио мач и ћесарски плашт, Ти би основао светско царство и светски мир. Јер ко да влада људима ако не они који владају њиховом савешћу, и у чијим су рукама хлебови њиови!
"Ми узесмо мач ћесаров! а узевши га, наравно, одбацисмо Тебе, и пођосмо за њим. О, проћи ће још читави векови лутања и лудовања слободног ума, људске науке и људождерства; - јер зато што су почели дизати своју вавилонску кулу без нас, они ће свршити људождерством. Али тада ће допузити звер до нас, и лизаће нам ноге и покапаће их крвавим сузама из очију својих. А ми ћемо узјахати на звера, и подићи ћемо чашу, а на њој ће бити написано: "Тајна"! И тада, и само тада ће настати за људе царство мира и среће.
"Ти се поносиш Својим избраницима. Али Ти имаш само избранике, а ми ћемо задовољити - све. Него и са тим Твојим избраницима не стоји баш најбоље: колико ли њих између тих Твојих избраника - између јаких који би могли постати избраници - колико ли се њих уморило и посустало, очекујући Тебе, те су пренели, и још ће преносити силе духа свога и жар срца свога на неку другу њиву, и свршити тиме што ће баш против Тебе подићи слободну заставу своју.
"Али ти си сам подигао ту заставу. Код нас ће пак сви бити срећни и неће више дизати буну, нити уништавати један другог на све стране, као у Твојој слободи. О, ми ћемо их убедити да ће тек тада постати слободни кад се одрекну своје слободе ради нас, и кад се нама покоре. И, хоћемо ли тада бити у праву, или ћемо лагати? Они ће се сами уверити да смо у праву, јер ће се сетити до каквих их је страхота и заблуда доводила Твоја слобода. Слобода, слободан ум и наука завешће их у такве думаче и халуге, и ставиће их пред таква чуда и неразрешиве тајне, да ће једни између њих, непокорни и свирепи, сами себе уништити; други непокорни али слабачки, уништаваће једни друге; а трећи, који остану, слабомоћни и несрећни, допузиће до ногу наших и завапиће нам: "Да, ви сте били у праву, ви сте једини владали Његовом тајном, и ми се враћамо вама - спасите нас од нас самих".
"Добијајући од нас хлеб, они ће, наравно, јасно видети да ми њихове хлебове, њиховим рукама зарађене, узимамо од њих, да бисмо их опет њима раздали, без икаквог чуда; увидеће да ми камење у хлебове претварамо; али ће већма волети што хлебац добијају из наших руку, него и сам хлебац. Јер ће се и сувише добро сећати да су им се пре, без нас, хлебови што су их они зарађивали, претварали у њиховим рукама у камење; а кад су се вратили к нама, онда се камење у њиховим рукама претворило у хлебове. И сувише, и сувише ће они оценити шта значи то: потчинити се једаред за свагда! Докле год људи не схвате то, биће несрећни!
"Ко је највише потпомагао то неразумевање, реци? Ко је раздробио стадо и растурио га по незнаним путевима? Али стадо ће се наново скупити, и наново ће се покорити, и тада једаред за свагда. Тада ћемо им ми дати тиху, смирену срећу, срећу слабачких створова - онаквих како их је Бог створио. О, ми ћемо њих напослетку уверити: да не буду охоли зато што си их Ти уздигао, и тиме их научио да буду охоли. Доказаћемо им, да су слабачки, да су само сажаљења достојна деца, али да је дечија срећа слађа од сваке друге. Они ће постати бојажљиви и почеће гледати у нас и прибијати се уз нас у страху, као птичићи уз своју мајку. Они ће се дивити и ужасавати гледајући нас, и поносиће се што смо ми тако снажни и тако паметни да смо могли умирити бујно стадо од хиљада милиона. Они ће раслабљено дрхтати од гњева нашега, умови ће се њехови уплашити и клонути, очи ће им се напунити сузама као у деце и у жена - али ће исто тако лако, кад им дамо знак, прелазити на весеље и на смеј, на светлу радост и на срећну дечију песмицу.
"Да, нагнаћемо их и да раде. Али у часове слободне од рада, ми ћемо им удесити живот као дечију игру, са дечијим песмама, хором, са невиним играма. О, ми ћемо им допустити и да греше. Они су слаби и немоћни, и они ће нас волети као деца зато што ћемо им дозволити да греше. А ми ћемо им казати да ће сваки грех бити искупљен и опроштен, ако буде учињен са нашом дозволом; а дозвољавамо им да греше стога, што их волимо, а казну за те грехе узећемо, најпосле, на себе. И узећемо је на себе, а они ће нас обожавати као добротворе који су пред Богом узели на себе њихове грехе. И неће имати никаквих тајана од нас. Ми ћемо им дозвољавати, или забрањивати, да живе са својим женама и љубазницама, да имају или немају деце. - Све ће то зависити од њихове послушности - и они ће нам се покоравати радо и весело.
"Најмучније тајне њихове савести, све, све ће то пред нас доносити, а ми ћемо све одобрити, и они ће поверовати нашој одлуци и пресуди са радошћу, јер ће их она избављати од велике бриге и страшних садањих мука личног и слободног одлучивања. И сви ће бити срећни, сви милиони створова, осим нас - стотине хиљада њихових управљача. Јер само ми, ми који чувамо тајну, само ћемо ми бити несрећни. Постојаће хиљаде милиона срећне дечице, и сто хиљада нас страдалника који смо узели на себе проклетство добра и зла.
"Они ће тихо умирати, тихо ће се гасити у име Твоје, и иза гроба ће налазити само смрт. Али ми ћемо сачувати тајну, и зарад њихове среће ћемо их мамити наградом небеском и вечном. Јер, кад би чега и било на ономе свету, онда наравно не за такве као што су они.
"Говори се и пророкује да ћеш Ти доћи и да ћеш наново победити, да ћеш доћи са својим избраницима, са својим гордима и снажнима; а ми ћемо казати: да су спасли само себе, и ми смо спасили - све.
"Кажу да ће осрамоћена бити блудница (црква) која седи на зверу и држи у рукама својима тајну; да ће се немоћни и слаби побунити, да ће раздерати њену порфиру, и разголити њено "гадно" тело. А ја ћу тада устати, и указаћу на хиљаду милиона срећне дечице која нису знала за грех. А ми који смо узели на себе грехе њихове, за срећу њихову , ми ћемо стати пред Тебе и казаћемо: "Суди нам, ако можеш и смеш"... Знај да Те се ја не бојим! Знај да сам и ја био у пустињи, да сам се и ја хранио скакавцима и корењем, да сам и ја благосиљао слободу којом си Ти благословио људе; и ја сам се спремао да станем у број избраника Твојих, у број снажних и јаких, са жудњом "да испуним број". Али се тргох и дођох к себи, и не хтедох служити безумљу. Вратих се и придружих се оној дружини која је поправила подвиг Твој. Одох од гордих, и вратих се смиренима, зарад среће тих смирених.
"То што говорим Теби, збиће се, и царство ће се наше саздати. Понављам Ти, већ сутра ћеш угледати послушно стадо које ће, на први знак моје руке, полетети да згрће жеравицу око гломаче на којој ћу Те спалити зато што си дошао да нам сметаш. Јер ако постоји ико, ко је већма заслужио нашу гломачу, онда си то - Ти! Сутра ћу те спалити! Dixi.
...Кад је инквизитор ућутао, он неко време чека да чује шта ће му Заробљеник одговорити. Тешко му пада његово ћутање. Он је видео како га је Заробљеник за све време слушао дубоко и тихо му гледајући у очи, и очигледно не желећи ништа да му одговори. Старац би желео да му Овај што рекне, па макар и што горко, страшно. А Он се наједаред приближава старцу, и тихо га пољуби у његова бескрвна деведесетогодишња уста. И то му је сав одговор. Старац уздрхти, нешто заигра на крајевима усана његових; он иде к вратима, отвара их и говори Му: Иди, и не долази више... не долази никако... никада, никада! И пропушта га "у тамне градске улице". Заробљеник одлази.
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