I thanked her, took the cup and inquired, “Of what malady did Mikhail Andreitch die?—Probably....”
Here I bit my tongue, but the young woman understood my unspoken thought.... She darted a swift glance at me, then dropped her eyes, smiled sadly, and immediately said, “Akh, no! He had abandoned that entirely from the time he made my acquaintance.... Only, what health had he?!... It was utterly ruined. As soon as he gave up drinking, his malady immediately manifested itself. He became so steady, he was always wanting to help my father, either in the household affairs, or in the vegetable garden ... or whatever other work happened to be on hand ... in spite of the fact that he was of noble birth. Only, where was he to get the strength?... And he would have liked to busy himself in the department of writing also,—he knew how to do that beautifully, as you are aware; but his hands shook so, and he could not hold the pen properly.... He was always reproaching himself: ‘I’m an idle dog,’ he said. ’I have done no one any good, I have helped no one, I have not toiled!’ He was very much afflicted over that same.... He used to say, ‘Our people toil, but what are we doing?...’ Akh, Nikolai Nikolaitch, he was a fine man—and he loved me ... and I.... Akh, forgive me....”
Here the young woman actually burst into tears. I would have liked to comfort her, but I did not know how.
“Have you a baby?” I asked at last.
She sighed.—“No, I have not.... How could I have?”—And here tears streamed worse than before.
So this was the end of Misha’s wanderings through tribulations [old P. concluded his story].—You will agree with me, gentlemen, as a matter of course, that I had a right to call him reckless; but you will probably also agree with me that he did not resemble the reckless fellows of the present day, although we must suppose that any philosopher would find traits of similarity between him and them. In both cases there is the thirst for self-annihilation, melancholy, dissatisfaction.... And what that springs from I will permit precisely that philosopher to decide.
I was living with my mother at the time, in a small seaport town. I was just turned seventeen, and my mother was only thirty-five; she had married very young. When my father died I was only seven years old; but I remembered him well. My mother was a short, fair-haired woman, with a charming, but permanently-sad face, a quiet, languid voice, and timid movements. In her youth she had borne the reputation of a beauty, and as long as she lived she remained attractive and pretty. I have never beheld more profound, tender, and melancholy eyes. I adored her, and she loved me.... But our life was not cheerful; it seemed as though some mysterious, incurable and undeserved