- The Murder
On the morning of the Monday before Good
Friday, Matvey heard from his room Dashutka say to Aglaia:
"Uncle Matvey said, the other day, that there is no need to
Matvey remembered the whole conversation he had had the evening
before with Dashutka, and he felt hurt all at once.
"Girl, don't do wrong!" he said in a moaning voice, like a sick
man. "You can't do without fasting; our Lord Himself fasted
forty days. I only explained that fasting does a bad man no
"You should just listen to the factory hands; they can teach you
goodness," Aglaia said sarcastically as she washed the floor
(she usually washed the floors on working days and was always
angry with everyone when she did it). "We know how they keep the
fasts in the factory. You had better ask that uncle of yours --
ask him about his 'Darling,' how he used to guzzle milk on fast
days with her, the viper. He teaches others; he forgets about
his viper. But ask him who was it he left his money with -- who
Matvey had carefully concealed from everyone, as though it were
a foul sore, that during that period of his life when old women
and unmarried girls had danced and run about with him at their
prayers he had formed a connection with a working woman and had
had a child by her. When he went home he had given this woman
all he had saved at the factory, and had borrowed from his
landlord for his journey, and now he had only a few roubles
which he spent on tea and candles. The "Darling" had informed
him later on that the child was dead, and asked him in a letter
what she should do with the money. This letter was brought from
the station by the labourer. Aglaia intercepted it and read it,
and had reproached Matvey with his "Darling" every day since.
"Just fancy, nine hundred roubles," Aglaia went on. "You gave
nine hundred roubles to a viper, no relation, a factory jade,
blast you!" She had flown into a passion by now and was shouting
shrilly: "Can't you speak? I could tear you to pieces, wretched
creature! Nine hundred roubles as though it were a farthing You
might have left it to Dashutka -- she is a relation, not a
stranger -- or else have it sent to Byelev for Marya's poor
orphans. And your viper did not choke, may she be thrice
accursed, the she-devil! May she never look upon the light of
Yakov Ivanitch called to her: it was time to begin the "Hours."
She washed, put on a white kerchief, and by now quiet and meek,
went into the prayer-room to the brother she loved. When she
spoke to Matvey or served peasants in the tavern with tea she
was a gaunt, keen-eyed, ill-humoured old woman; in the
prayer-room her face was serene and softened, she looked younger
altogether, she curtsied affectedly, and even pursed up her
Yakov Ivanitch began reading the service softly and dolefully,
as he always did in Lent. After he had read a little he stopped
to listen to the stillness that reigned through the house, and
then went on reading again, with a feeling of gratification; he
folded his hands in supplication, rolled his eyes, shook his
head, sighed. But all at once there was the sound of voices. The
policeman and Sergey Nikanoritch had come to see Matvey. Yakov
Ivanitch was embarrassed at reading aloud and singing when there
were strangers in the house, and now, hearing voices, he began
reading in a whisper and slowly. He could hear in the
prayer-room the waiter say:
"The Tatar at Shtchepovo is selling his business for fifteen
hundred. He'll take five hundred down and an I.O.U. for the
rest. And so, Matvey Vassilitch, be so kind as to lend me that
five hundred roubles. I will pay you two per cent a month."
"What money have I got?" cried Matvey, amazed. "I have no
"Two per cent a month will be a godsend to you," the policeman
explained. "While lying by, your money is simply eaten by the
moth, and that's all that you get from it."
Afterwards the visitors went out and a silence followed. But
Yakov Ivanitch had hardly begun reading and singing again when a
voice was heard outside the door:
"Brother, let me have a horse to drive to Vedenyapino."
It was Matvey. And Yakov was troubled again. "Which can you go
with?" he asked after a moment's thought. "The man has gone with
the sorrel to take the pig, and I am going with the little
stallion to Shuteykino as soon as I have finished."
"Brother, why is it you can dispose of the horses and not I?"
Matvey asked with irritation.
"Because I am not taking them for pleasure, but for work."
"Our property is in common, so the horses are in common, too,
and you ought to understand that, brother."
A silence followed. Yakov did not go on praying, but waited for
Matvey to go away from the door.
"Brother," said Matvey, "I am a sick man. I don't want
possession -- let them go; you have them, but give me a small
share to keep me in my illness. Give it me and I'll go away."
Yakov did not speak. He longed to be rid of Matvey, but he could
not give him money, since all the money was in the business;
besides, there had never been a case of the family dividing in
the whole history of the Terehovs. Division means ruin.
Yakov said nothing, but still waited for Matvey to go away, and
kept looking at his sister, afraid that she would interfere, and
that there would be a storm of abuse again, as there had been in
the morning. When at last Matvey did go Yakov went on reading,
but now he had no pleasure in it. There was a heaviness in his
head and a darkness before his eyes from continually bowing down
to the ground, and he was weary of the sound of his soft
dejected voice. When such a depression of spirit came over him
at night, he put it down to not being able to sleep; by day it
frightened him, and he began to feel as though devils were
sitting on his head and shoulders.
Finishing the service after a fashion, dissatisfied and ill-humoured,
he set off for Shuteykino. In the previous autumn a gang of
navvies had dug a boundary ditch near Progonnaya, and had run up
a bill at the tavern for eighteen roubles, and now he had to
find their foreman in Shuteykino and get the money from him. The
road had been spoilt by the thaw and the snowstorm; it was of a
dark colour and full of holes, and in parts it had given way
altogether. The snow had sunk away at the sides below the road,
so that he had to drive, as it were, upon a narrow causeway, and
it was very difficult to turn off it when he met anything. The
sky had been overcast ever since the morning and a damp wind was
blowing. . . .
A long train of sledges met him; peasant women were carting
bricks. Yakov had to turn off the road. His horse sank into the
snow up to its belly; the sledge lurched over to the right, and
to avoid falling out he bent over to the left, and sat so all
the time the sledges moved slowly by him. Through the wind he
heard the creaking of the sledge poles and the breathing of the
gaunt horses, and the women saying about him, "There's Godly
coming," while one, gazing with compassion at his horse, said
"It looks as though the snow will be lying till Yegory's Day!
They are worn out with it!"
Yakov sat uncomfortably huddled up, screwing up his eyes on
account of the wind, while horses and red bricks kept passing
before him. And perhaps because he was uncomfortable and his
side ached, he felt all at once annoyed, and the business he was
going about seemed to him unimportant, and he reflected that he
might send the labourer next day to Shuteykino. Again, as in the
previous sleepless night, he thought of the saying about the
camel, and then memories of all sorts crept into his mind; of
the peasant who had sold him the stolen horse, of the drunken
man, of the peasant women who had brought their samovars to him
to pawn. Of course, every merchant tries to get as much as he
can, but Yakov felt depressed that he was in trade; he longed to
get somewhere far away from this routine, and he felt dreary at
the thought that he would have to read the evening service that
day. The wind blew straight into his face and soughed in his
collar; and it seemed as though it were whispering to him all
these thoughts, bringing them from the broad white plain. . . .
Looking at that plain, familiar to him from childhood, Yakov
remembered that he had had just this same trouble and these same
thoughts in his young days when dreams and imaginings had come
upon him and his faith had wavered.
He felt miserable at being alone in the open country; he turned
back and drove slowly after the sledges, and the women laughed
"Godly has turned back."
At home nothing had been cooked and the samovar was not heated
on account of the fast, and this made the day seem very long.
Yakov Ivanitch had long ago taken the horse to the stable,
dispatched the flour to the station, and twice taken up the
Psalms to read, and yet the evening was still far off. Aglaia
has already washed all the floors, and, having nothing to do,
was tidying up her chest, the lid of which was pasted over on
the inside with labels off bottles. Matvey, hungry and
melancholy, sat reading, or went up to the Dutch stove and
slowly scrutinized the tiles which reminded him of the factory.
Dashutka was asleep; then, waking up, she went to take water to
the cattle. When she was getting water from the well the cord
broke and the pail fell in. The labourer began looking for a
boathook to get the pail out, and Dashutka, barefooted, with
legs as red as a goose's, followed him about in the muddy snow,
repeating: "It's too far!" She meant to say that the well was
too deep for the hook to reach the bottom, but the labourer did
not understand her, and evidently she bothered him, so that he
suddenly turned around and abused her in unseemly language.
Yakov Ivanitch, coming out that moment into the yard, heard
Dashutka answer the labourer in a long rapid stream of choice
abuse, which she could only have learned from drunken peasants
in the tavern.
"What are you saying, shameless girl!" he cried to her, and he
was positively aghast. "What language!"
And she looked at her father in perplexity, dully, not
understanding why she should not use those words. He would have
admonished her, but she struck him as so savage and benighted;
and for the first time he realized that she had no religion. And
all this life in the forest, in the snow, with drunken peasants,
with coarse oaths, seemed to him as savage and benighted as this
girl, and instead of giving her a lecture he only waved his hand
and went back into the room.
At that moment the policeman and Sergey Nikanoritch came in
again to see Matvey. Yakov Ivanitch thought that these people,
too, had no religion, and that that did not trouble them in the
least; and human life began to seem to him as strange, senseless
and unenlightened as a dog's. Bareheaded he walked about the
yard, then he went out on to the road, clenching his fists. Snow
was falling in big flakes at the time. His beard was blown about
in the wind. He kept shaking his head, as though there were
something weighing upon his head and shoulders, as though devils
were sitting on them; and it seemed to him that it was not
himself walking about, but some wild beast, a huge terrible
beast, and that if he were to cry out his voice would be a roar
that would sound all over the forest and the plain, and would
frighten everyone. . . .