It began in the seminary while I was studying philosophy. It is a dreadful condition, Mr. Savva. I have grown somewhat accustomed to it now, but at first it was unendurable. I tried to hang myself once, and they cut me down. Then I tried a second time, and they cut me down again. Then they turned me out of the seminary. “Go hang yourself in some other place, you madman,” they said. As if there were any other place! As if all places were not the same!
Mr. Savva, let’s go fishing to-morrow at the mill.
I don’t like fishing. It bores me.
I’m sorry. Well then, let’s go into the woods and knock down the dry branches of trees. It’s fine sport to walk about in the forest and knock off the branches with a stick. And when you shout “Ho-ho-ho!” the echo from the ravine answers back “Ho-ho-ho!” Do you like swimming?
Yes, I like it. I am a good swimmer.
I like it too.
SPERANSKY (with a deep sigh)
Yes, it’s a strange condition.
SAVVA (smiling at the Friar)
Eh? Well, how are you now?
When my uncle took me to his house, he made me promise I would never attempt suicide again. That was the only condition oh which he would consent to let me live with him. “All right,” I said; “if we really exist, then I won’t make any further attempt to hang myself.”
Why do you want to know whether you exist or not? There is the sky. Look, how beautiful it is. There are the swallows and the sweet-scented grass. It’s fine! (To the Friar) Fine, isn’t it, Vassya?
Mr. Savva, do you like to tear up ant-hills?
I don’t know. I never tried.
I like it. Do you like to fly kites?
It’s a long time since I tried to. I used to like it very much.
SPERANSKY (patiently awaiting the end of their conversation)
Swallows! What good is their flying to me? Anyhow, maybe swallows don’t exist either, and it’s all a dream.
Suppose it is a dream. Dreams are very beautiful sometimes, you know.