Petersburg He Appeared, He Appeared

A certain gloomy building37 towered up on a certain gloomy street. It was just getting dark; the street lamps had begun to shine palely, lighting up the entrance porch; the fourth storeys were still crimson with the sunset.

It was to here that from every end of Petersburg individuals made their way; their complement was of a dual nature; their complement was, in the first place, enlisted from the working-class, shaggy-headed individual – in hats that had been brought from the bloodstained fields of Manchuria; in the second place, that complement was enlisted from protesters in general: the protester walked abundantly on long legs; he was pale and fragile; sometimes he fed on phytin,38 sometimes he also fed on cream; today he was walking with a most enormous gnarled stick; if my protester were to be placed in one pan of the scales, and his gnarled stick to be placed in the other, then the said implement would without doubt outweigh the protester; it was not quite clear who was following whom; whether the cudgel was capering in front of the protester, or whether he himself was walking along behind the cudgel; but most probable of all was that the cudgel hopped all on its own from Nevsky, Pushkin, the Vyborg Side, even from Izmailovskaya Rota; the protester was dragged after it; and he was panting, he could barely keep up; and the pert boy who was rushing about at the hour when the evening supplement of the newspaper came out – that pert boy could have toppled the protester, had the protester not been a worker, but only what he was – a protester.

This protester who was what he was had begun, not without purpose, to stroll about of late: around Petersburg, Saratov, Tsarevokokshaisk, Kineshma; not every day did he stroll thus … What happened was that one went out in the evening for a walk: quiet and harmonious was the sunset; and so harmoniously did a young lady laugh in the street; with the young lady my individual laughed softly and harmoniously – without any cudgel: chaffed, smoked; with a most good-natured air chatted with the yardkeeper, with a most good-natured air chatted with constable Brykachev.

‘Well now, Brykachev, I dare say you’re fed up standing here?’

‘Of course, barin: the work isn’t easy.’

‘Just wait: soon it will change.’

‘God grant that it will be to something good, sir; you can’t go against the evil spirit, as you yourself know.’

‘No, indeed, one can’t …’

The individual was not a bad sort; and constable Brykachev was not a bad sort either: and they both laughed; and a five-copeck piece flew into Brykachev’s fist.

The following day what happened again was that one went out for a walk – and what? Quiet and harmonious was the sunset; there was still the same contentment in nature; the theatres and the circuses were all in action; the urban water supply was also in good working order; and – yet no: everything was all wrong.

Cutting across a public garden, a street, a square, shifting dolefully from one foot to the other in front of the monument to a great man, yesterday’s good-natured individual began to walk with his enormous cudgel; sternly, silently, solemnly, so to speak, with emphasis, the individual advances his feet in galoshes and lacing boots with turned-up flaps; sternly, silently, solemnly the individual strikes his cudgel on the pavement; with constable Brykachev not a word; and constable Brykachev does not say a word, either, but just stares into space, with determination.

‘Move along now, gentleman, move along, don’t block the thoroughfare.’

And one looks: somewhere superintendent Podbrizhny is circulating.

My protester’s eye fairly jumps: this way and that way; have any other protesters like himself gathered in a little group in front of the monument to the great man? Have they gathered on the square in front of the transit prison? But the monument to the great man is surrounded by police; while on the square there is no one.

He walks, he walks, my individual, sighs with commiseration; and returns to his quarters; and his mother gives him tea with cream to drink. – You may as well know: that day the newspapers had criticized something: something – some: measure – of prevention, so to speak: whatever it was; if they criticized a measure – the individual would begin to ferment.

The following day there is no measure: and the individual is not on the streets either; and my individual is content, and my constable Brykachev is content; and superintendent Podbrizhny is content. The monument to the great man is not surrounded by police.

Did my protesting individual appear on this nice October day? He appeared, he appeared! In the street the shaggy Manchurian hats also appeared; both those individuals and those hats dissolved in the crowd; but this way and that way the crowd wandered aimlessly; while the individuals and the Manchurian hats made their way in one direction – to the gloomy building with the crimson summit; and outside the gloomy building that was crimson with sunset the crowd was exclusively made up of individuals and hats; a young lady from an educational establishment was also involved in it all.

But now they were barging, and barging at the entrance-porch doors – how they barged, how they barged! And how could it be otherwise? A working man has no time to spend on propriety: and there was a bad smell; while the crush began on the pavement.

Along the corner, near the pavement, good-naturedly embarrassed, a small detachment of police stamped their feet up and down (it was cold); while the officer in charge was even more embarrassed; grey himself, in a little grey coat, he was shouting like an unnoticed shadow, deferentially tucking up his sabre and keeping his eyes down; while to his back he received verbal comments, reprimands, laughter and even: indecent abuse – from the artisan Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, from his spouse, Ivanikha, from his worthiness the merchant of the First Guild Puzanov (fishery and steamship company on the Volga) who had been passing here and had risen up together with the rest. The grey little officer in charge was shouting ever more timidly:

‘Move along, gentlemen, move along!’

But the dimmer he grew, the more insistently did the many-legged horses snort there behind the fence: from behind the teeth made of logs – no, no – a shaggy head rose; and if one were to peep over the fence, one would be able to see that it was only some kind of folk who had been driven in from the steppes who had whips in their fists and rifles behind their backs and who were angry about something, angry: impatiently, angrily, silently those ragged fellows danced on their saddles; and their shaggy little horses – they also danced.

It was a detachment of Orenburg Cossacks.

Inside the gloomy building there was a saffron-yellow darkness; here everything was lit by candles; it was impossible to see anything except bodies, bodies and bodies: bent, half-bent, barely bent and not bent at all: those bodies were sitting round, standing round everything that could be sat and stood round; they occupied an amphitheatre of seats that soared aloft; the rostrum was not visible, nor was the voice that bequeathed from the rostrum:

‘Ooo-ooo-ooo.’ There was a hooting in space and through this ‘ooo’ one heard from time to time:

‘Revolution … Evolution … Proletariat … Strike …’ And then again: ‘Strike …’ And again: ‘Strike.’

‘Strike …’ – a voice blurted out; the hooting grew even louder: between two loudly uttered strikes there just barely stole out: ‘Social democracy.’ And again disappeared into the bass-voiced, continuous, dense ooo-ooo …

Obviously what was being said was that in this place and that place and this place there already was a strike; that in this place and that place and this place a strike was being prepared, and so they ought to strike – here and here: to strike right in this very place; and – not to budge!