Half an hour later all the guests were crowding on the bank near
the pile to which the boats were fastened. They were all talking
and laughing, and were in such excitement and commotion that
they could hardly get into the boats. Three boats were crammed
with passengers, while two stood empty. The keys for unfastening
these two boats had been somehow mislaid, and messengers were
continually running from the river to the house to look for
them. Some said Grigory had the keys, others that the bailiff
had them, while others suggested sending for a blacksmith and
breaking the padlocks. And all talked at once, interrupting and
shouting one another down. Pyotr Dmitritch paced impatiently to
and fro on the bank, shouting:
"What the devil's the meaning of it! The keys ought always to be
lying in the hall window! Who has dared to take them away? The
bailiff can get a boat of his own if he wants one!"
At last the keys were found. Then it appeared that two oars were
missing. Again there was a great hullabaloo. Pyotr Dmitritch,
who was weary of pacing about the bank, jumped into a long,
narrow boat hollowed out of the trunk of a poplar, and, lurching
from side to side and almost falling into the water, pushed off
from the bank. The other boats followed him one after another,
amid loud laughter and the shrieks of the young ladies.
The white cloudy sky, the trees on the riverside, the boats with
the people in them, and the oars, were reflected in the water as
in a mirror; under the boats, far away below in the bottomless
depths, was a second sky with the birds flying across it. The
bank on which the house and gardens stood was high, steep, and
covered with trees; on the other, which was sloping, stretched
broad green water-meadows with sheets of water glistening in
them. The boats had floated a hundred yards when, behind the
mournfully drooping willows on the sloping banks, huts and a
herd of cows came into sight; they began to hear songs, drunken
shouts, and the strains of a concertina.
Here and there on the river fishing-boats were scattered about,
setting their nets for the night. In one of these boats was the
festive party, playing on home-made violins and violoncellos.
Olga Mihalovna was sitting at the rudder; she was smiling
affably and talking a great deal to entertain her visitors,
while she glanced stealthily at her husband. He was ahead of
them all, standing up punting with one oar. The light
sharp-nosed canoe, which all the guests called the "death-trap"
-- while Pyotr Dmitritch, for some reason, called it Penderaklia
-- flew along quickly; it had a brisk, crafty expression, as
though it hated its heavy occupant and was looking out for a
favourable moment to glide away from under his feet. Olga
Mihalovna kept looking at her husband, and she loathed his good
looks which attracted every one, the back of his head, his
attitude, his familiar manner with women; she hated all the
women sitting in the boat with her, was jealous, and at the same
time was trembling every minute in terror that the frail craft
would upset and cause an accident.
"Take care, Pyotr!" she cried, while her heart fluttered with
terror. "Sit down! We believe in your courage without all that!"
She was worried, too, by the people who were in the boat with
her. They were all ordinary good sort of people like thousands
of others, but now each one of them struck her as exceptional
and evil. In each one of them she saw nothing but falsity. "That
young man," she thought, "rowing, in gold-rimmed spectacles,
with chestnut hair and a nice-looking beard: he is a mamma's
darling, rich, and well-fed, and always fortunate, and every one
considers him an honourable, free-thinking, advanced man. It's
not a year since he left the University and came to live in the
district, but he already talks of himself as 'we active members
of the Zemstvo.' But in another year he will be bored like so
many others and go off to Petersburg, and to justify running
away, will tell every one that the Zemstvos are
good-for-nothing, and that he has been deceived in them. While
from the other boat his young wife keeps her eyes fixed on him,
and believes that he is 'an active member of the Zemstvo,' just
as in a year she will believe that the Zemstvo is
good-for-nothing. And that stout, carefully shaven gentleman in
the straw hat with the broad ribbon, with an expensive cigar in
his mouth: he is fond of saying, 'It is time to put away dreams
and set to work!' He has Yorkshire pigs, Butler's hives,
rape-seed, pine-apples, a dairy, a cheese factory, Italian
bookkeeping by double entry; but every summer he sells his
timber and mortgages part of his land to spend the autumn with
his mistress in the Crimea. And there's Uncle Nikolay
Nikolaitch, who has quarrelled with Pyotr Dmitritch, and yet for
some reason does not go home."
Olga Mihalovna looked at the other boats, and there, too, she
saw only uninteresting, queer creatures, affected or stupid
people. She thought of all the people she knew in the district,
and could not remember one person of whom one could say or think
anything good. They all seemed to her mediocre, insipid,
unintelligent, narrow, false, heartless; they all said what they
did not think, and did what they did not want to. Dreariness and
despair were stifling her; she longed to leave off smiling, to
leap up and cry out, "I am sick of you," and then jump out and
swim to the bank.
"I say, let's take Pyotr Dmitritch in tow!" some one shouted.
"In tow, in tow!" the others chimed in. "Olga Mihalovna, take
your husband in tow."
To take him in tow, Olga Mihalovna, who was steering, had to
seize the right moment and to catch bold of his boat by the
chain at the beak. When she bent over to the chain Pyotr
Dmitritch frowned and looked at her in alarm.
"I hope you won't catch cold," he said.
"If you are uneasy about me and the child, why do you torment
me?" thought Olga Mihalovna.
Pyotr Dmitritch acknowledged himself vanquished, and, not caring
to be towed, jumped from the Penderaklia into the boat which was
overful already, and jumped so carelessly that the boat lurched
violently, and every one cried out in terror.
"He did that to please the ladies," thought Olga Mihalovna; "he
knows it's charming." Her hands and feet began trembling, as she
supposed, from boredom, vexation from the strain of smiling and
the discomfort she felt all over her body. And to conceal this
trembling from her guests, she tried to talk more loudly, to
laugh, to move.
"If I suddenly begin to cry," she thought, "I shall say I have
toothache. . . ."
But at last the boats reached the "Island of Good Hope," as they
called the peninsula formed by a bend in the river at an acute
angle, covered with a copse of old birch-trees, oaks, willows,
and poplars. The tables were already laid under the trees; the
samovars were smoking, and Vassily and Grigory, in their
swallow-tails and white knitted gloves, were already busy with
the tea-things. On the other bank, opposite the "Island of Good
Hope," there stood the carriages which had come with the
provisions. The baskets and parcels of provisions were carried
across to the island in a little boat like the Penderaklia. The
footmen, the coachmen, and even the peasant who was sitting in
the boat, had the solemn expression befitting a name-day such as
one only sees in children and servants.
While Olga Mihalovna was making the tea and pouring out the
first glasses, the visitors were busy with the liqueurs and
sweet things. Then there was the general commotion usual at
picnics over drinking tea, very wearisome and exhausting for the
hostess. Grigory and Vassily had hardly had time to take the
glasses round before hands were being stretched out to Olga
Mihalovna with empty glasses. One asked for no sugar, another
wanted it stronger, another weak, a fourth declined another
glass. And all this Olga Mihalovna had to remember, and then to
call, "Ivan Petrovitch, is it without sugar for you?" or,
"Gentlemen, which of you wanted it weak?" But the guest who had
asked for weak tea, or no sugar, had by now forgotten it, and,
absorbed in agreeable conversation, took the first glass that
came. Depressed-looking figures wandered like shadows at a
little distance from the table, pretending to look for mushrooms
in the grass, or reading the labels on the boxes -- these were
those for whom there were not glasses enough. "Have you had
tea?" Olga Mihalovna kept asking, and the guest so addressed
begged her not to trouble, and said, "I will wait," though it
would have suited her better for the visitors not to wait but to
Some, absorbed in conversation, drank their tea slowly, keeping
their glasses for half an hour; others, especially some who had
drunk a good deal at dinner, would not leave the table, and kept
on drinking glass after glass, so that Olga Mihalovna scarcely
had time to fill them. One jocular young man sipped his tea
through a lump of sugar, and kept saying, "Sinful man that I am,
I love to indulge myself with the Chinese herb." He kept asking
with a heavy sigh: "Another tiny dish of tea more, if you
please." He drank a great deal, nibbled his sugar, and thought
it all very amusing and original, and imagined that he was doing
a clever imitation of a Russian merchant. None of them
understood that these trifles were agonizing to their hostess,
and, indeed, it was hard to understand it, as Olga Mihalovna
went on all the time smiling affably and talking nonsense.
But she felt ill. . . . She was irritated by the crowd of
people, the laughter, the questions, the jocular young man, the
footmen harassed and run off their legs, the children who hung
round the table; she was irritated at Vata's being like Nata, at
Kolya's being like Mitya, so that one could not tell which of
them had had tea and which of them had not. She felt that her
smile of forced affability was passing into an expression of
anger, and she felt every minute as though she would burst into
"Rain, my friends," cried some one.
Every one looked at the sky.
"Yes, it really is rain . . ." Pyotr Dmitritch assented, and
wiped his cheek.
Only a few drops were falling from the sky -- the real rain had
not begun yet; but the company abandoned their tea and made
haste to get off. At first they all wanted to drive home in the
carriages, but changed their minds and made for the boats. On
the pretext that she had to hasten home to give directions about
the supper, Olga Mihalovna asked to be excused for leaving the
others, and went home in the carriage.
When she got into the carriage, she first of all let her face
rest from smiling. With an angry face she drove through the
village, and with an angry face acknowledged the bows of the
peasants she met. When she got home, she went to the bedroom by
the back way and lay down on her husband's bed.
"Merciful God!" she whispered. "What is all this hard labour
for? Why do all these people hustle each other here and pretend
that they are enjoying themselves? Why do I smile and lie? I
don't understand it."
She heard steps and voices. The visitors had come back.
"Let them come," thought Olga Mihalovna; "I shall lie a little
But a maid-servant came and said:
"Marya Grigoryevna is going, madam."
Olga Mihalovna jumped up, tidied her hair and hurried out of the
"Marya Grigoryevna, what is the meaning of this?" she began in
an injured voice, going to meet Marya Grigoryevna. "Why are you
in such a hurry?"
"I can't help it, darling! I've stayed too long as it is; my
children are expecting me home."
"It's too bad of you! Why didn't you bring your children with
"If you will let me, dear, I will bring them on some ordinary
day, but to-day . . ."
"Oh, please do," Olga Mihalovna interrupted; "I shall be
delighted! Your children are so sweet! Kiss them all for me. . .
. But, really, I am offended with you! I don't understand why
you are in such a hurry!"
"I really must, I really must. . . . Good-bye, dear. Take care
of yourself. In your condition, you know . . ."
And the ladies kissed each other. After seeing the departing
guest to her carriage, Olga Mihalovna went in to the ladies in
the drawing-room. There the lamps were already lighted and the
gentlemen were sitting down to cards.