Katenka was with me in the britchka;
her lovely head inclined as she gazed pensively at
the roadway. I looked at her in silence and wondered
what had brought the unchildlike expression of sadness
to her face which I now observed for the first time
“We shall soon be in Moscow,”
I said at last. “How large do you suppose
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“Well, but how large do you imagine?
As large as Serpukhov?”
“What do you say?”
Yet the instinctive feeling which
enables one person to guess the thoughts of another
and serves as a guiding thread in conversation soon
made Katenka feel that her indifference was disagreeable
to me; wherefore she raised her head presently, and,
turning round, said:
“Did your Papa tell you that
we girls too were going to live at your Grandmamma’s?”
“Yes, he said that we should all live there.”
“All live there?”
“Yes, of course. We shall
have one half of the upper floor, and you the other
half, and Papa the wing; but we shall all of us dine
together with Grandmamma downstairs.”
“But Mamma says that your Grandmamma
is so very grave and so easily made angry?”
“No, she only seems like
that at first. She is grave, but not bad-tempered.
On the contrary, she is both kind and cheerful.
If you could only have seen the ball at her house!”
“All the same, I am afraid of
her. Besides, who knows whether we ”
Katenka stopped short, and once again became thoughtful.
“What?” I asked with some anxiety.
“Nothing, I only said that ”
“No. You said, ‘Who knows whether
“And you said, didn’t
you, that once there was ever such a ball at Grandmamma’s?”
“Yes. It is a pity you
were not there. There were heaps of guests about
a thousand people, and all of them princes or generals,
and there was music, and I danced But,
Katenka” I broke off, “you are not listening
“Oh yes, I am listening. You said that
you danced ?”
“Why are you so serious?”
“Well, one cannot always be gay.”
“But you have changed tremendously
since Woloda and I first went to Moscow. Tell
me the truth, now: why are you so odd?”
My tone was resolute.
“Am I so odd?” said
Katenka with an animation which showed me that my
question had interested her. “I don’t
see that I am so at all.”
“Well, you are not the same
as you were before,” I continued. “Once
upon a time any one could see that you were our equal
in everything, and that you loved us like relations,
just as we did you; but now you are always serious,
and keep yourself apart from us.”
“Oh, not at all.”
“But let me finish, please,”
I interrupted, already conscious of a slight tickling
in my nose the precursor of the tears which
usually came to my eyes whenever I had to vent any
long pent-up feeling. “You avoid us, and
talk to no one but Mimi, as though you had no wish
for our further acquaintance.”
“But one cannot always remain
the same one must change a little sometimes,”
replied Katenka, who had an inveterate habit of pleading
some such fatalistic necessity whenever she did not
know what else to say.
I recollect that once, when having
a quarrel with Lubotshka, who had called her “a
stupid girl,” she (Katenka) retorted that everybody
could not be wise, seeing that a certain number of
stupid people was a necessity in the world. However,
on the present occasion, I was not satisfied that
any such inevitable necessity for “changing sometimes”
existed, and asked further:
“Why is it necessary?”
“Well, you see, we may
not always go on living together as we are doing now,”
said Katenka, colouring slightly, and regarding Philip’s
back with a grave expression on her face. “My
Mamma was able to live with your mother because she
was her friend; but will a similar arrangement always
suit the Countess, who, they say, is so easily offended?
Besides, in any case, we shall have to separate some
day. You are rich you have Petrovskoe,
while we are poor Mamma has nothing.”
“You are rich,” “we
are poor” both the words and the ideas
which they connoted seemed to me extremely strange.
Hitherto, I had conceived that only beggars and peasants
were poor and could not reconcile in my mind the idea
of poverty and the graceful, charming Katenka.
I felt that Mimi and her daughter ought to live with
us always and to share everything that we possessed.
Things ought never to be otherwise. Yet, at this
moment, a thousand new thoughts with regard to their
lonely position came crowding into my head, and I
felt so remorseful at the notion that we were rich
and they poor, that I coloured up and could not look
Katenka in the face.
“Yet what does it matter,”
I thought, “that we are well off and they are
not? Why should that necessitate a separation?
Why should we not share in common what we possess?”
Yet, I had a feeling that I could not talk to Katenka
on the subject, since a certain practical instinct,
opposed to all logical reasoning, warned me that,
right though she possibly was, I should do wrong to
tell her so.
“It is impossible that you should
leave us. How could we ever live apart?”
“Yet what else is there to be
done? Certainly I do not want to do it;
yet, if it has to be done, I know what my plan
in life will be.”
“Yes, to become an actress!
How absurd!” I exclaimed (for I knew that to
enter that profession had always been her favourite
“Oh no. I only used to
say that when I was a little girl.”
“Well, then? What?”
“To go into a convent and live
there. Then I could walk out in a black dress
and velvet cap!” cried Katenka.
Has it ever befallen you, my readers,
to become suddenly aware that your conception of things
has altered as though every object in life
had unexpectedly turned a side towards you of which
you had hitherto remained unaware? Such a species
of moral change occurred, as regards myself, during
this journey, and therefore from it I date the beginning
of my boyhood. For the first time in my life,
I then envisaged the idea that we i.e.
our family were not the only persons in
the world; that not every conceivable interest was
centred in ourselves; and that there existed numbers
of people who had nothing in common with us, cared
nothing for us, and even knew nothing of our existence.
No doubt I had known all this before only
I had not known it then as I knew it now; I had never
properly felt or understood it.
Thought merges into conviction through
paths of its own, as well as, sometimes, with great
suddenness and by methods wholly different from those
which have brought other intellects to the same conclusion.
For me the conversation with Katenka striking
deeply as it did, and forcing me to reflect on her
future position constituted such a path.
As I gazed at the towns and villages through which
we passed, and in each house of which lived at least
one family like our own, as well as at the women and
children who stared with curiosity at our carriages
and then became lost to sight for ever, and the peasants
and workmen who did not even look at us, much less
make us any obeisance, the question arose for the
first time in my thoughts, “Whom else do they
care for if not for us?” And this question was
followed by others, such as, “To what end do
they live?” “How do they educate their
children?” “Do they teach their children
and let them play? What are their names?”
and so forth.