Petersburg The Guest

Aleksandr Ivanovich Dudkin heard a strange thundering noise; the strange noise thundered downstairs; and was then repeated (he had begun to repeat himself) on the staircase; crash after crash resounded amidst intervals of silence. As though someone were overturning a heavy, many-pood weight of metal on the stone with all his might; and the blows of the metal, shattering the stone, resounded higher and higher, closer and closer. Aleksandr Ivanovich realized that some kind of rough intruder was smashing the staircase to pieces downstairs. He listened closely to ascertain whether someone would open a door on the staircase and put an end to the nocturnal vagrant’s disgraceful behaviour …

And crash thundered upon crash; step after step was being shattered to pieces down there; and stone showered down beneath the blows of the heavy tread: to the dark yellow garret, from landing to landing, some fearsome being made of metal was stubbornly coming upstairs; from step to step many thousand poods were falling now with a shaking din; the steps were crumbling; and – now: with a shaking din the landing flew away from the door.

The door split apart and burst: there was a swift cracking sound – and it flew off its hinges; dim, melancholy emanations spilled from there in cloudy green billows; there the moon’s expanses began – at the shattered door, at the landing, so that the garret room itself was revealed in its ineffability, while in the centre of the threshold, from walls that let through expanses the colour of vitriol – inclining a crowned, green-coloured head, stretching forth a heavy green-coloured arm, stood an enormous body, burning with phosphorus.

It was the Bronze Guest.

The lustreless metal cloak hung down heavily – from shoulders that were shot with brilliance and from armour that was like fish-scales; cast-metal lip melted and trembled ambiguously, because once again now Yevgeny’s fate17 was being repeated; thus did the past century repeat itself – now, at the very moment when beyond the threshold of a wretched entrance the walls of an old building were falling apart in vitriol-coloured expanses; in precisely similar fashion was Aleksandr Ivanovich’s past dismantled; he exclaimed:

‘I remembered … I’ve been waiting for you …’

The bronze-headed giant had been racing through periods of time right up to this moment, completing an iron-forged circle; quarter-centuries had flowed by; and Nicholas had ascended the throne; and the Alexanders had ascended the throne; while Aleksandr Ivanych, a shadow, had tirelessly been traversing that same circle, all the periods of time, fleeting through the days, the years, the minutes, through the damp Petersburg prospects, fleeting – in his dreams, awake, fleeting … tormentingly; and in pursuit of him, and in pursuit of everyone – the blows of metal had crashed, shattering lives: the blows of metal had crashed – in vacant lots, in towns; they had crashed – on entrance porches, landings, the steps of midnight staircases.

The periods of time had crashed; I have heard that crashing. Have you heard it?

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov is a blow of crashing stone; Petersburg is the blow of a stone; the caryatid of the entrance porch that is going to break loose over there is that same blow; the pursuits are inevitable; and so are the blows; you will not find sanctuary in a garret; the garret has been prepared by Lippanchenko; and the garret is a trap; one must break out of it, break out of it with blows … on Lippanchenko!

Then everything will take a different turn; under the blow of the metal that shattered stones, Lippanchenko will fly into pieces, the garret will come crashing down and Petersburg will be destroyed; the caryatid will be destroyed under the blow of the metal; and the blow to Lippanchenko will make Ableukhov’s bare head split in two.

Everything, everything, everything was illumined now, when after ten decades the Bronze Guest himself came on a visit and said to him resonantly:

‘Greetings, dear offspring!’

Only three steps: the cracks of three beams splitting under the feet of the enormous guest; with his metal rear the emperor cast in bronze resonantly clanged against a chair; his green elbow fell with all the heaviness of bronze on the cheap little table from under the fold of his cloak, with bell-like, booming sounds; and with slow absent-mindedness, the emperor removed his bronze laurels from his head; and the bronze laurel crown fell, with a crash, from his brow.

And, jangling and clanking, a hand weighing many hundreds of poods took from the folds of the camisole a small, red-glowing pipe, and, indicating the pipe with his eyes, winked at it:

‘Petro Primo Catharina Secunda …’18

Stuck it into his strong lips, and the green smoke of unsoldered bronze began to rise beneath the moon.

Aleksandr Ivanych, Yevgeny, now understood for the first time that he had fled for a century in vain, that behind him the blows had crashed without any anger – in villages, towns, entrance porches, staircases; he had been pardoned from time immemorial, and all that had been, combined with all that was coming towards him – was only a series of ghostly passages through trials and torments before the trump of the Archangel.

And – he fell at the feet of the Guest:


In the Guest’s bronze eye sockets shone a bronze melancholy; on to his shoulder amicably fell a hand that shattered stones and broke collar-bones, glowing red-hot.

‘It’s all right: die, be patient a little while …’

The metal Guest, glowing beneath the moon with a thousand-degree fever, now sat before him burning, red-purple; now, annealed, he turned a dazzling white and flowed towards the inclining Aleksandr Ivanovich in an incinerating flood; in complete delirium Aleksandr Ivanovich trembled in an embrace of many poods: the Bronze Horseman flowed with metals into his veins.