Having parted ways with Maxim Maximych, I galloped quickly through the Terek Gorge and the Daryal, stopped for dinner at Kazbek, had tea at Lars, and made it to Vladikavkaz for supper. I will spare you from descriptions of the mountains, from exclamations that express nothing, from pictures that depict nothing—especially for those of you who have not been there—and from those statistical notes that nobody can bear to read.

I stopped at the inn where travelers always stop but where, nonetheless, there is no one of whom to request a roast pheasant or some cabbage soup, for the three veteran soldiers in charge of it are so stupid or so drunk that no sense can be got out of them.

I was informed that I would have to endure another three days here since the Opportunity from Ekaterinograd hadn’t yet arrived, and hence could not set off back again. What opportunity! . . . But a bad pun isn’t much comfort to a Russian man, and for amusement’s sake, I struck on the idea of writing down Maxim Maximych’s tale about Bela, not imagining that this would be the first link in a long chain of stories. How insignificant happenings sometimes have cruel consequences! . . . Perhaps you don’t know what the Opportunity is? It is a convoy, consisting of a half company of infantry and a cannon, which escorts transports through the Kabarde, from Vladikavkaz to Ekaterinograd.

The first day I spent there was very boring. The next day a cart rolled into the courtyard in the early morning . . . Ah! Maxim Maximych! . . . We greeted each other like old friends. I invited him to stay in my quarters. He didn’t stand on ceremony, and he even clapped me on the shoulder and twisted his mouth into the semblance of a smile. What an eccentric!

Maxim Maximych possessed a deep knowledge of the culinary arts: he roasted a pheasant amazingly well, and successfully added a cucumber brine to it, and I must admit that without him there would have only been dry food left to me. A bottle of Kakhetian wine helped us to forget the modest number of dishes, which amounted to all of one, and having smoked a pipe, we settled in—I sat by the window and he by the heated stove, because the day had been damp and cold. We were silent. What was there to talk about? . . . He had already told me everything that was of interest about himself, and I had nothing to tell. I looked through the window. A multitude of low dwellings twinkled among the trees, scattered along the banks of the Terek River, which runs more and more widely here; and in the distance a toothy wall of mountains shined blue, and from behind them the peak of Mount Kazbek emerged in its white cardinal’s hat. I said farewell to them in my thoughts and I was sorry to do so . . .

We sat like that for a long time. The sun had hidden itself behind the cold peaks, and a whitish mist had begun to disperse in the valley, when the sound of a harness bell and the shouts of cart drivers resounded in the street. Several carts of dirty-looking Armenians drove into the courtyard of the inn; an empty carriage arrived behind them, with an easy gait, a comfortable construction and dandified appearance—all of which gave it some sort of stamp of foreignness. A man with a large mustache walked behind it, wearing a dolman,1 looking rather well-dressed for a lackey. But it was impossible to mistake his position, seeing the rakish manner with which he shook the ash from his pipe and shouted at the coachman. He was clearly the spoiled servant of a lazy master—a sort of Russian Figaro.

“Tell me, my good man,” I cried to him from the window, “is this the Opportunity that has arrived?”

He looked at me impertinently, adjusted his tie and turned around. There was an Armenian walking next to him, smiling, who replied for him that the Opportunity had indeed arrived and tomorrow morning it would set off back again.

“Thank God!” said Maxim Maximych, walking up to the window at that moment. “What a marvelous carriage!” he added. “There’s probably some official heading to an inquiry in Tiflis. But he obviously doesn’t know our hills! No, he can’t be serious, the good man—these hills aren’t kind—they’ll give a good jolting even to an English carriage!”

“But who do you think he is? Let’s go and find out . . .” We went out into the corridor. At the end of the corridor, the door to a side room was open. The lackey and the coachman were dragging valises inside.

“Listen, my friend,” the staff captain asked him, “whose is this marvelous carriage, eh? It’s an excellent carriage!”

The lackey, not turning around, mumbled something to himself as he unfastened the valise. Maxim Maximych became angry; he touched the rude man on the shoulder and said:

“I’m talking to you, good man.”

“Whose carriage? . . . It’s my master’s . . .”

“And who is your master?”

“Pechorin . . .”

“Really? Really? Pechorin? . . . Oh good God! . . . Did he perhaps once serve in the Caucasus?” exclaimed Maxim Maximych, tugging at my sleeve. Joy was sparkling in his eyes.

“Yes, he did, I’d guess—but I haven’t been with him for long.”

“Well there you go! There it is! Grigory Alexandrovich? . . . That’s his name, right? . . . Your master and I were friends,” he added, slapping the lackey fraternally on the shoulder so hard that it caused the man to stagger . . .

“If you please, sir, you are getting in my way,” said the man, frowning.

“Well, look at that! . . . Do you understand? Your master and I were once the best of friends, we lived together . . . So, where is the man himself?”

The servant declared that Pechorin had stopped to dine and spend the night with Colonel N——.

“Won’t he drop by here this evening?” said Maxim Maximych. “Or will you, good man, be going to him for anything? . . . If you are, will you tell him that Maxim Maximych is here. Tell him that. He’ll understand . . . I’ll give you eighty kopecks for your vodka.”

The lackey assumed a contemptuous demeanor hearing such a modest pledge, but assured Maxim Maximych that he would fulfill his instructions.

“He’ll come running, you’ll see!” Maxim Maximych told me with a triumphant air, “I’ll go to the gate and wait for him . . . Eh! It’s a shame that I’m not acquainted with N____ . . .”

Maxim Maximych sat in front of the gate on a bench, and I went back to my room. I’ll admit I also awaited the appearance of this Pechorin with a certain amount of impatience, though from the staff captain’s tale I had formed an opinion of him that wasn’t very favorable. But several features of his character seemed remarkable to me. After an hour, one of the veterans brought a boiling samovar and a teapot.

“Maxim Maximych, would you like some tea?” I called to him through the window.

“I thank you, but I don’t really want any.”

“Come now, have some! Look here, it’s late already, and cold.”

“No, it’s fine, thank you.”

“As you like!”

I started drinking my tea alone, and about ten minutes later my old friend came in.

“Indeed, you’re right—it’s a good idea to have some tea. I just kept waiting . . . his man went to get him a while ago, and it seems something has kept them.”

He quickly drank down a teacup, refused a second and went out again to the gate in some agitation. Clearly the old man was distressed at Pechorin’s negligence, not least because he had recently told me about his friendship with Pechorin, and an hour or so ago he had been sure that Pechorin would come running at the mention of his name.

It was already late and dark when I opened the window again and started calling to Maxim Maximych, saying that it was time to retire. He muttered something between his teeth. I repeated my call and he didn’t reply.

I lay on the divan, wrapped in a greatcoat, and soon dozed off, leaving a candle on the stove-bench. And I would have slept soundly if it had not been for Maxim Maximych, who entered the room when it was already very late and awakened me. He threw his pipe on the table, and started to walk up and down the room, throwing logs into the stove, and finally he lay down, but coughed for a long time, spat a few times, tossed around . . .

“Have you got fleas perhaps?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s fleas,” he replied, exhaling heavily.

I woke early the next morning. But Maxim Maximych had anticipated me. I found him by the gate, sitting on the bench.

“I have to go to the commandant,” he said, “so please, if Pechorin arrives, send someone to get me . . .”

I promised. He ran off . . . as though his limbs had been newly endowed with youthful energy and flexibility.

The morning was cooler, but beautiful. Golden clouds towered over the hills: another row of mountains, made of air. A wide square extended in front of the gate, beyond which a bazaar seethed with people, since it was Sunday. Barefoot Ossetian boys carrying sacks of honeycombs circled around me again and again. I chased them off. I didn’t want anything from them, and I was starting to share the anxieties of the good staff captain.

Not ten minutes had passed before the person we had been waiting for appeared at one end of the square. He was walking with Colonel N——, who led him to the inn, said farewell and turned back to his fort. I immediately sent one of the veterans to get Maxim Maximych.

Pechorin’s lackey came out to meet his master and reported that they were harnessing the horses. He then gave him a box of cigars and, having received several orders, went off to take care of things. Pechorin lit a cigar, yawned a couple of times and sat on the bench on the other side of the gate. Now, I must paint a portrait of him for you.

He was of medium height and well-proportioned; his slim waist and broad shoulders indicated a strong physique, capable of withstanding all the hardships of a life wandering through varying climes, and which was neither defeated by the debauchery of life in the capital, nor by storms of the soul. His dusty velvet frock coat, fastened only by its two lowest buttons, allowed a view of his blindingly white linen, indicating the habits of a proper gentleman. His soiled gloves appeared to have been specially sewn for his small aristocratic hands, and when he took off one glove, I was surprised at the thinness of his pale fingers. His gait was careless and lazy, but I noticed that he didn’t swing his arms—a clear signal of a certain secretiveness of character. However, these are my own comments, based on my own observations, and I absolutely do not want to make you take them on blind faith. When he lowered himself onto the bench, his straight figure bent as though there wasn’t a bone in his back. The position of his body expressed a nervous feebleness. He sat the way Balzac’s thirty-year-old coquette2 would sit, on a chair stuffed with down, after an exhausting ball. From an initial glance at him, I wouldn’t have given him more than twenty-three years in age, but later, I would be prepared to give him thirty. There was something childlike in his smile. His skin had a sort of feminine delicacy to it; he had blond hair, wavy in nature, which outlined his pale, noble brow so picturesquely—a brow, which, upon long observation, revealed traces of wrinkles, criss-crossing each other, probably showing themselves much more distinctly in moments of anger or agitation of the soul. However blond his hair was, his whiskers and eyebrows were black—the mark of breeding in a person, as is the black mane and tail of a white horse. To complete the portrait, I will tell you that he had a slightly upturned nose, blindingly white teeth, and brown eyes. About his eyes, I must say a few more words.

First of all, they didn’t laugh when he laughed! Have you never noticed such an oddity in certain people? . . . This is a sign either of an evil disposition, or of deep and perpetual sorrow. From under half-lowered eyelashes, they shone with a sort of phosphorescent gleam (if you can call it that). It wasn’t the reflection of his soul’s fire or his imagination’s playfulness, but it was a glint similar to the glint of smooth steel: dazzling but cold. His gaze was fleeting but piercing and weighted, leaving you with the unpleasant impression that you have been asked an immodest question. And it might have seemed impertinent, had he not been so indifferent and calm. All these thoughts came to mind perhaps because I knew several details of his life, and maybe to someone else’s eyes he would produce a completely differing impression. But since you haven’t heard about him from anyone else but me, then you will have to suffice yourselves with this depiction. I will tell you, in conclusion, that he was altogether not at all bad-looking and had one of those original physiognomies, which is especially appealing to society ladies.

The horses were already harnessed; a small bell rang from time to time under the shaft-bow, and the lackey had already twice approached Pechorin with the report that everything was ready, and Maxim Maximych still hadn’t appeared. Fortunately, Pechorin was immersed in reverie, looking over at the blue teeth of the Caucasus, and it seems he was not hurrying in the least to take to the road. I walked up to him.

“If you don’t mind waiting a little longer,” I said, “then you will have the pleasure of encountering an old friend . . .”

“Yes, of course!” he quickly replied, “I was told yesterday—where is he after all?”

I turned toward the square and saw Maxim Maximych running with all his might . . . A few minutes later, he was by our side. He could barely breathe. Sweat rolled in torrents down his face. Wet wisps of gray hair, which had broken loose from under his hat, were sticking to his forehead. His knees were shaking . . . He wanted to throw his arms around Pechorin’s neck, but the latter was rather cold, albeit giving a friendly smile, and extended his hand to him. The staff captain was stopped in his tracks, but soon greedily grasped the hand with both his hands. He still couldn’t speak.

“How glad I am, dear Maxim Maximych! Well, how are you, sir?” said Pechorin.

“And you? And you . . . sir?” muttered the old man with tears in his eyes, “how many years it’s been . . . how many days . . . where are you going?”

“I am going to Persia, and beyond . . .”

“But not at this moment? . . . Come now, wait, my very dear friend! . . . Don’t tell me we’re to part now? . . . How long it has been since we last saw each other . . .”

“I must go, Maxim Maximych,” was the answer.

“Good God! Good God! Where are you going in such a rush? . . . I have so many things I’d like to tell you . . . so much to find out . . . But tell me—have you retired? . . . How are things? . . . What have you been doing?”

“Tedium!” Pechorin replied, smiling.

“And do you remember our days at the fortress? . . . Glorious countryside for hunting! . . . You were an ardent hunter . . . and Bela?”

Pechorin went slightly pale, and turned away . . .

“Yes, I remember!” he said, forcing a yawn almost immediately . . .

Maxim Maximych started to prevail upon him to remain for another couple of hours.

“We will have a splendid dinner,” he said, “I have two pheasants, and the Kakhetian wine here is excellent . . . well, it goes without saying that it’s not the same as the one you find in Georgia, but it’s a fine variety . . . We can talk . . . You can tell me about your life in Petersburg . . . Eh?”

“Really, I have nothing to tell, my dear Maxim Maximych . . . And farewell, it’s time I leave . . . I’m in a hurry . . . Thank you for not having forgotten . . .” he added, taking him by the hand.

The old man crossed his brows . . . He was sad and angry, though he tried to hide it.

“Forgotten!” he muttered, “I haven’t forgotten a thing . . . Well, godspeed . . . but this is not how I imagined our reunion . . .”

“Come, come!” said Pechorin, embracing him amiably, “have I changed so much? . . . What’s to be done? . . . To each his own path . . . May we meet again—God willing . . . !” And having said that, he seated himself in his carriage as the coachman began to gather up the reins.

“Wait! Wait” cried Maxim Maximych suddenly, grabbing at the doors of the carriage, “I completely forgot . . . I have, in my possession, your papers, Grigory Alexandrovich . . . I carry them with me . . . thinking I would find you in Georgia, and here God has granted us a meeting . . . What shall I do with them?”

“Whatever you like!” responded Pechorin, “Farewell . . .”

“So, you’re off to Persia . . . And when will you return?” Maxim Maximych cried in pursuit.

The carriage was already far off, but Pechorin made a gesture with his hand that could be translated as saying: It’s unlikely! What for, anyway?

The sounds of the small bells and the clattering of the wheels on the stony road had long fallen silent while the poor old man still stood in place, deep in thought.

“Yes,” he said at last, attempting to adopt an indifferent air, though the tears of vexation occasionally glittered on his eyelashes, “of course, we were friends—but, then, what are friends in this day and age? Who am I to him? I am not rich, not a person of rank, yes, and I don’t match him in age . . . Just look at what a dandy he has made of himself, since he visited Petersburg again . . . And what a carriage! . . . How much luggage! . . . And such a proud lackey!”

These words were enunciated with an ironic smile.

“So tell me,” he continued, addressing himself to me. “What do you think of all this? . . . What kind of demon is driving him to Persia? . . . Droll, oh Lord, it’s droll . . . Yes, I always knew that he was a fickle friend, on whom you couldn’t depend . . . And, really, it’s a shame, he shall come to a bad end . . . there’s no escaping it! . . . I always said that those who forget their old friends are no good!”

At that he turned around, in order to hide his emotion, and went off to pace in the courtyard by his cart, as though he was inspecting the wheels, his eyes filling with tears over and over again.

“Maxim Maximych,” I said, walking up to him, “and what are these papers that Pechorin has left with you?”

“God knows! Notes of some kind . . .”

“What will you do with them?”

“What? I’ll order cartridges to be made of them.”

“You’d do better to give them to me.” He looked at me with surprise, muttered something through his teeth and started to rummage in a valise. He then pulled out a book of diaries and threw it with contempt onto the ground. Then there was a second, a third and a tenth, all given the same treatment. There was something puerile in his vexation. It incited amusement, but my compassion too . . .

“That’s the lot,” he said, “I congratulate you on your find . . .”

“And may I do what I like with them?”

“Publish them in the newspapers if you like. What business is it of mine?! . . . Who am I to him—some kind of friend, a relative? . . . True, we lived under one roof for a long while . . . But there’s many a person I have shared roofs with!”

I grabbed the papers and quickly took them away, fearing that the staff captain might regret it. Soon after that we were told that the Opportunity would set off an hour later. I ordered the horses harnessed. The staff captain came into my room just as I had put on my hat. He, it seemed, was not getting ready for the departure. He had a tense and cold look to him.

“And you, Maxim Maximych, are you not coming?”

“No, sir.”

“And why not?”

“Well, I still haven’t seen the commandant, and I need to hand over some State property . . .”

“But weren’t you just with him?”

“I was, of course,” he said, stumbling over his words, “he wasn’t at home . . . and I didn’t wait.”

I understood him. The poor old man, for perhaps the first time since his birth, had abandoned official business for personal necessity—in the parlance of paper-pushing people—and look how he was rewarded!

“It’s a real pity,” I said to him, “a real pity, Maxim Maximych, that we must part sooner than originally planned.”

“What do you need with the likes of an ill-educated old man running behind you! You young folk are fashionable and pompous: it’s all right when you’re here under Circassian bullet-fire . . . but meet you later, and you’re too ashamed to even hold out your hand to a person like me.”

“I don’t deserve these reproaches, Maxim Maximych.”

“No, I was just talking by the by, as it were; but, anyway, I wish you every happiness and pleasant travels.”

We said our farewells with a certain dryness. The kind Maxim Maximych had turned into a stubborn, quarrelsome staff captain! And why? Because Pechorin, in his distraction or for some other reason, shook his hand when the staff captain would have liked to throw his arms around Pechorin’s neck! It is sad to see a youth lose his best hopes and aspirations, when the pink chiffon in front of him—through which he had seen the matters and feelings of humankind—is pulled aside. However, there is at least the hope that they will exchange their old misgivings for new ones, which are no less temporary yet no less sweet . . . But what can a man of Maxim Maximych’s years replace them with? The heart will harden without wishing to, and the soul will take cover . . .

I departed alone.