Bitter is unjust reproach in the mouths of people whom one loves.... But even that can be endured....
“Beat me—but hear me out!” said the Athenian chieftain to the Spartan chieftain.
“Beat me—but be healthy and full fed!” is what we ought to say.
Along a street of the capital is skipping a man who is still young.—His movements are cheerful, alert; his eyes are beaming, his lips are smiling, his sensitive face is pleasantly rosy.... He is all contentment and joy.
What has happened to him? Has he come into an inheritance? Has he been elevated in rank? Is he hastening to a love tryst? Or, simply, has he breakfasted well, and is it a sensation of health, a sensation of full-fed strength which is leaping for joy in all his limbs? Or they may have hung on his neck thy handsome, eight-pointed cross, O Polish King Stanislaus!
No. He has concocted a calumny against an acquaintance, he has assiduously disseminated it, he has heard it—that same calumny—from the mouth of another acquaintance—and has believed it himself.
Oh, how contented, how good even at this moment is that nice, highly-promising young man.
“If you desire thoroughly to mortify and even to injure an opponent,” said an old swindler to me, “reproach him with the very defect or vice of which you feel conscious in yourself.—Fly into a rage ... and reproach him!
“In the first place, that makes other people think that you do not possess that vice.
“In the second place, your wrath may even be sincere.... You may profit by the reproaches of your own conscience.
“If, for example, you are a renegade, reproach your adversary with having no convictions!
“If you yourself are a lackey in soul, say to him with reproof that he is a lackey ... the lackey of civilisation, of Europe, of socialism!”
“You may even say, the lackey of non-lackeyism!” I remarked.
“You may do that also,” chimed in the old rascal.
It seems to me as though I am somewhere in Russia, in the wilds, in a plain country house.
The chamber is large, low-ceiled, with three windows; the walls are smeared with white paint; there is no furniture. In front of the house is a bare plain; gradually descending, it recedes into the distance; the grey, monotoned sky hangs over it like a canopy.
I am not alone; half a score of men are with me in the room. All plain folk, plainly clad; they are pacing up and down in silence, as though by stealth. They avoid one another, and yet they are incessantly exchanging uneasy glances.