By Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translated by Eva Martin
Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o'clock one morning,
a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was approaching the latter
city at full speed. The morning was so damp and misty that it was only
with great difficulty that the day succeeded in breaking; and it was
impossible to distinguish anything more than a few yards away from the
|2||Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning from
abroad; but the third-class carriages were the best filled, chiefly with
insignificant persons of various occupations and degrees, picked up at
the different stations nearer town. All of them seemed weary, and
most of them had sleepy eyes and a shivering expression, while their
complexions generally appeared to have taken on the colour of the fog
|3||When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class carriages
found themselves opposite each other. Both were young fellows, both
were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable faces, and both were
evidently anxious to start a conversation. If they had but known why,
at this particular moment, they were both remarkable persons, they would
undoubtedly have wondered at the strange chance which had set them down
opposite to one another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway
|4||One of them was a young fellow of about twenty-seven, not tall, with
black curling hair, and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose was broad
and flat, and he had high cheek bones; his thin lips were constantly
compressed into an impudent, ironical--it might almost be called a
malicious--smile; but his forehead was high and well formed, and atoned
for a good deal of the ugliness of the lower part of his face.
feature of this physiognomy was its death-like pallor, which gave to
the whole man an indescribably emaciated appearance in spite of his hard
look, and at the same time a sort of passionate and suffering expression
which did not harmonize with his impudent, sarcastic smile and
keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur--or rather
astrachan--overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his
neighbour had been obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian
November night entirely unprepared.
|6||His wide sleeveless mantle with a
large cape to it--the sort of cloak one sees upon travellers during the
winter months in Switzerland or North Italy--was by no means adapted to
the long cold journey through Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg.
The wearer of this cloak was a young fellow, also of about twenty-six or
twenty-seven years of age, slightly above the middle height, very fair,
with a thin, pointed and very light coloured beard; his eyes were large
and blue, and had an intent look about them, yet that heavy expression
which some people affirm to be a peculiarity as well as evidence, of an
|7||His face was decidedly a pleasant one for all that;
refined, but quite colourless, except for the circumstance that at this
moment it was blue with cold. He held a bundle made up of an old faded
silk handkerchief that apparently contained all his travelling wardrobe,
and wore thick shoes and gaiters, his whole appearance being very
His black-haired neighbour inspected these peculiarities, having nothing
better to do, and at length remarked, with that rude enjoyment of the
discomforts of others which the common classes so often show:
"Very," said his neighbour, readily, "and this is a thaw, too.
it had been a hard frost! I never thought it would be so cold in the old
country. I've grown quite out of the way of it."
"What, been abroad, I suppose?"
"Yes, straight from Switzerland."
"Wheugh! my goodness!" The black-haired young fellow whistled, and then
The conversation proceeded. The readiness of the fair-haired young
man in the cloak to answer all his opposite neighbour's questions
was surprising. He seemed to have no suspicion of any impertinence
or inappropriateness in the fact of such questions being put to him.
|9||Replying to them, he made known to the inquirer that he certainly had
been long absent from Russia, more than four years; that he had been
sent abroad for his health; that he had suffered from some strange
nervous malady--a kind of epilepsy, with convulsive spasms. His
interlocutor burst out laughing several times at his answers; and
more than ever, when to the question, "whether he had been cured?" the
"No, they did not cure me."
"Hey! that's it! You stumped up your money for nothing, and we
believe in those fellows, here!" remarked the black-haired individual,
|10||"Gospel truth, sir, Gospel truth!" exclaimed another passenger, a
shabbily dressed man of about forty, who looked like a clerk, and
possessed a red nose and a very blotchy face. "Gospel truth! All they do
is to get hold of our good Russian money free, gratis, and for nothing."
"Oh, but you're quite wrong in my particular instance," said the Swiss
patient, quietly. "Of course I can't argue the matter, because I
know only my own case; but my doctor gave me money--and he had very
little--to pay my journey back, besides having kept me at his own
expense, while there, for nearly two years."