Mimotchka is getting thin, Mimotchka looks pale, Mimotchka is dull….

Mamma is anxious and fusses; Spiridon Ivanovitch grunts and frowns;
baby is tiresome and roars….

Such, in its general features, is Mimotchka’s life–and yet it had
seemed to begin so well!

Directly after the wedding the young couple went abroad. The doctor had
long advised Spiridon Ivanovitch to take a course of waters, and even
before meeting his bride he had intended to pass the summer abroad.
His unexpected marriage had not changed previous plans, and, having
obtained three months’ leave, Spiridon Ivanovitch started with his
young wife for Vichy.

They travelled with every possible comfort, and Spiridon Ivanovitch
was so careful and attentive during the journey, that Mimotchka was
obliged to own that it was much nicer and pleasanter travelling with
him than with mamma. However, in spite of it all, on their arrival in
Paris she was so tired out, and above all so enervated, so enervated,
that she cried the whole day long, and even thought she would like to
kill herself, because it seemed to her that she cared for nothing in
life. Paris was so dark, so gloomy, horrible, and disgusting…. The
sun never shone, and the rain poured and poured…. And she cried and
cried…. The tears certainly rather troubled Spiridon Ivanovitch, but
after all what could he do?… The rain–what rain it was to be sure!
But it was God’s will…. And he only drummed on the table with his
fingers and swore at the servants.

But when the young people arrived at Vichy, where the comfortable
rooms, that had been ordered beforehand and had a balcony overlooking
the crowded boulevard, were awaiting them, when they had dined both
savourily and satisfactorily in these bright, cheerful rooms, and
when, above all, they had unpacked their trunks and bags, then again
everything looked nice and bright. Mimotchka saw that, in spite of
everything, life was still endurable and might even be very pleasant.
She wiped away her tears and occupied herself in hanging up her new

Then they sent for a doctor. And there came a dark-eyed young
Frenchman, good-looking and chatty. And how he spoke French–gracious
heavens, how he spoke! What a doctor! Everyone, everyone all round,
beginning with the grey-haired landlady, and ending with Joseph, the
_concierge’s_ fourteen-year-old son, every one was so amiable, elegant,
attentive, and lively…. It seemed to Mimotchka as if she had come to
her native land. The chemist, to whom the young people went, directly
after their arrival, for some rhubarb and magnesia, was as like as two
peas to the _jeune premier_ of the Théâtre Michel, so that Mimotchka
quite blushed when Spiridon Ivanovitch, having got his magnesia, began
to inquire of the young man about some further remedies…. And the
postman was very like the well-known _coiffeur_ from the Bolshaia

Spiridon Ivanovitch set about his cure without delay and with
great zeal. He liked being doctored and understood all about it.
Not satisfied with the punctilious fulfilment of his own doctor’s
prescriptions, he secretly consulted other doctors, consulted the
invalids with whom he made acquaintance at the baths and springs,
consulted the chemist and other tradespeople, bought heaps of medical
works, pamphlets, and manuals, bought medicinal wines and medicines
advertised in the papers, discovered that he had some fresh malady
every day, and expounded the symptoms of his illness to his doctor
so significantly and with so many details, that the young Frenchman,
while listening to him with profound and polite attention, could not
help glancing stealthily and with tender commiseration at pretty pale
Mimotchka, and twirling the end of his silky moustaches, said to her in
a look, “Poor little thing! and so pretty!” …

Spiridon Ivanovitch decided that Mimotchka should make a cure for
anæmia and nerves. Mamma had asked him so much about it! So Mimotchka
drank the “source Mesdames” and took baths, and Walked up and down
in the park. But, as her cure was less complicated and serious than
Spiridon Ivanovitch’s cure, she still had a good deal of spare time,
which she employed in watching the people and in looking at her new
dresses. And as both these occupations were very congenial to her
tastes, she was not dull. The season was one of the most successful
and most brilliant. At the waters there was Strauss, there was Patti;
there was an English royal personage with his wife; there were American
millionaires with their daughters, and lots of cocottes and aristocrats
besides…. There were no end of stories about and two or three
scandals…. The weather was lovely and warm, perhaps even too warm.
But what walks there were, what riding parties in the evening on the
shores of the Allier, what concerts and dances in the evening at the
Casino! Of course Mimotchka did not make any acquaintances–society
is so mixed at watering-places!–but still, without knowing anyone,
it was amusing to look at other people’s toilettes and watch others’
intrigues. Altogether she Was very much amused. And in answer to her
cousin Zina and her friends, the three sisters Poltavsteff, who asked
her if she was happy, Mimotchka wrote: “So happy, so happy…. Jamais
je ne me suis tant amusée qu’à Vichy. Figurez-vous …” and so on.

Time flew on quickly and imperceptibly. Spiridon Ivanovitch’s cure was
finished. He had got thinner, but felt brisker and healthier. Mimotchka
was blooming, and had grown even prettier in the pure air of the South
of France. One month’s leave yet remained. Spiridon Ivanovitch asked
his wife to decide where they should spend this last month–in Italy,
Switzerland, or Paris?… Doctor Souly’s pamphlet recommends some quiet
corner in Switzerland for an after-cure, but Mimotchka preferred Paris.
Spiridon Ivanovitch willingly submitted to this decision, and, having
liberally paid the landlady, the dark-eyed doctor, and others, the
young people packed up their baggage and went back to Paris, where the
honeymoon really began. Just at that time Spiridon Ivanovitch received
a good round sum from his tenants, and Mimotchka was in a state of
perfect bliss, buying right and left everything that took her fancy.
Oh, her honeymoon!… They stayed at an expensive and very good hotel.
In the morning the general got up first and read the Russian and
French newspapers while he drank his coffee, but Mimotchka lay in bed a
long time after. Then she got up when she liked, and without hurrying
began her toilet. Every day she had a new kind of soap, new kinds of
scents, toilet waters and pomatums. And what stockings, boots, and
garters she bought herself!… Oh, her honeymoon!…

When she was dressed Mimotchka went in to her husband, who kissed her
per-fumed hand, and, holding it in his, bent down his bald forehead
for her to kiss. They breakfasted off _hors d’œuvre,_ lobster, and
_côtelettes en papillottes,_ and, having thus fortified themselves,
they went out walking or driving to see museums or the environs of
Paris…. Before dinner Spiridon Ivanovitch returned home to have a
nap, while Mimotchka went shopping and bought more and more…. Then
came dinner, and afterwards a theatre, cirque, or café concert….
Spiridon Ivanovitch knew Paris well, and was particularly well
acquainted with its places of amusement; and, as he held the opinion
that abroad a respectable woman might go anywhere, because nobody knew
her, he took his wife to both “Mabille” and “Bullier,” and to all the
Eldorados besides, so as to show her the cocottes of both sides of the

Having thus spent their honeymoon, the young couple returned to
Petersburg with empty purses, with an increased number of trunks and
bandboxes, with a store of amusing and agreeable reminiscences, and on
much more intimate and friendly terms with each other than when they
had started.

All the relations met Mimotchka with open arms. She was no longer a
portionless girl, looking out for a husband, whom the aunts could
keep in the background and snub if they liked…. Now she was the wife
of a general commanding a division, the wife of a highly-respected and
wealthy man, a lady with fresh toilettes from Paris and a position in

Besides her position in society, Mimotchka was before long in what is
termed an “interesting position.” To tell the truth, this last position
was somewhat burdensome to her, and, if mamma and Spiridon Ivanovitch
had not watched over her like a goddess, Mimotchka would have made away
with herself. But, when all the suffering and misery were over, when
the heir of Spiridon Ivanovitch occupied his appointed place in this
world of grief and tears, when his screams began to resound through the
general’s large house, and Mimotchka was up and well again, then she
was glad in her heart and well satisfied. Glad both because she had
grown prettier and plumper, and because now she has a real live baby of
her own, while her friends, the three sisters Poltavsteff, are still
painting on china and singing Italian arias and gipsy songs, in the
vain hope of attracting some one who can give them _une position dans
le monde_ and a real, live baby.

And Mimotchka possesses both the one and the other. And although all
the three sisters Poltavsteff, when they come to see Mimotchka and
admire the baby, kissing his soft, dimpled little hands and feet, say
with one accord that they can only understand marrying for love, and
that not one of them would marry except for love; still Mimotchka
knows perfectly well that this is only talk, and that, had Spiridon
Ivanovitch taken a fancy to one of them instead of her, any of the
three would have married him directly. It’s no laughing matter. He is
in command of a division, and a whole division is under his inspection.
And even more awaits him in the future. Spiridon Ivanovitch’s career is
not nearly finished…. It would have been indeed stupid to refuse such
a _partie._

Why then, now, six years after marriage, is Mimotchka dull? Why does
she get thin and pale? What can she want? She has her family. She
has her son, her husband, and her mother. She has plenty of money,
carriages, and a box at the opera. What more can she desire? Mimotchka
herself does not know what she wants. She does not want anything. She
is simply tired of life. It is quite immaterial to her whether she
lives or dies. Dies? Oh yes, and even now, directly. So she says, and
poor mamma cannot hear it without tears and sighs. She sees that her
daughter is really ill, that she is hiding something, and that she
gets weaker and more irritable every day…. Mamma implores Mimotchka
to consult Doctor Variashski (mamma believes in him as she does in the
Almighty). But Mimotchka is obstinate and angry, and says, “Ah, laissez
done! je me porte à merveille! Je suis tout à fait bien.” And mamma
sighs and Mimotchka gets paler and thinner.

The aunts are much concerned at the change in Mimotchka’s appearance.

“But how plain Mimi is growing,” said Aunt Sophy. “And why is she
getting so sickly?”

“She has an old husband,” says Aunt Mary shortly.

“Oh, how can you talk like that?” says Aunt Julia reproachfully. “And,
after all; old, old … Enfin elle a un enfant. Qu’est ce qu’elle a à
se plaindre?”

“Annette thinks that she has never been quite strong since her
confinement, her confinement and the chloroform, and..

“That’s an old story! On the contrary, she improved so much then.”

“And I am convinced that she is simply ill from want of something
to do,” says Aunt Julia severely. “Why, for whole days she doesn’t
move one finger over another. Look at my Zina; she orders the dinner
and pours out the tea, then she attends classes, then she practises
her voice…. Every minute is occupied. And look what a colour the
girl has, how healthy she is. People say, Petersburg, Petersburg….
Rubbish! You can be healthy anywhere. But Mimotchka…. If I led such
a life I should have been dead long ago.”

And the aunts are perfectly right. Mimotchka is getting plain,
Mimotchka is dull, and Mimotchka does nothing.

Mamma loves her so tenderly that she considers every occupation, even
of the slightest and easiest description, to be beyond Mimi’s strength
and too much for her. All the cares of the housekeeping, all the care
of the child, mamma takes upon herself, leaving Mimotchka to drive,
dress, go out, and receive. At first these occupations had satisfied
Mimotchka, but now they wearied her. Yes, nothing satisfies her now….
To quote the words of Schopenhauer–she had lost appetite for life….

And by the side of the apathy taking possession of her there grows
an instinctive feeling of irritation against mamma and Spiridon
Ivanovitch–a feeling of irritation very near to antipathy. She does
not know in what way they interfere with her or of what they deprive
her. She only knows that each day they become stranger and more
wearisome to her. She feels confusedly that the life they have made
for themselves is warm and pleasant to them, while she is entangled
in it and struggles like a fly in a spider’s web. And she cannot
extricate herself from this spider’s web because it is woven of the
tenderest care for her. If she goes to the theatre, or to an evening
party, either mamma or Spiridon Ivanovitch invariably accompanies her,
and she cannot say a word, or make a step that is not known to them
and commented upon. Mimotchka sees that Spiridon Ivanovitch is simply
jealous–of course he is, even the aunts notice it. But he will not
own to it, and his distrust is disguised in phrases such as, “That is
not usual in society…. It will look awkward…. People don’t do so.”
So that altogether Mimotchka becomes daily more and more indifferent to

Mamma and Spiridon Ivanovitch get on very well together, and soon
become fast friends. They understand each other almost without
speaking. Spiridon Ivanovitch’s reviews, committees, and projects
deeply interest mamma, who, even during her late husband’s lifetime,
had been accustomed to hearing about military matters. Mimotchka
considers everything relating to her husband’s military service
stupid and dull. It seems to her that he talks on purpose before
mamma about “Committees, re-or-ga-ni-sa-tion…. With bayonets or
without bayonets.” And mamma actually replies as if it interests her!
Besides conversations about the service they have conversations about
the education of children, which she also detests. Mimotchka knows
that however you may educate children, whatever books you may read,
they will scream and soil their pinafores just the same, and then be
tiresome and disobedient. And theories are no use at all. You must have
a good nurse and be able to pay her good wages. What is the use of
saying the same things over and over again?

But the worst of all, the most unbearable of all, is their conversation
about politics. Politics–Mimotchka’s _bête noire._ In the newspapers
she only reads the last sheet, because only the deaths and
advertisements of sales interest her, but mamma and Spiridon Ivanovitch
devour the whole paper from A to Z, so that every day at dinner they go
over all the articles in it again. All this talk about Bismarck, about
the Emperor William, about Italy and Austria, and about that most
boring Bulgaria, will certainly drive Mimotchka out of her mind or into
her grave! What does she care about the Coburgs or about Battenberg!
She is twenty-six; she is at an age to enjoy life, to laugh and
amuse herself, and not to sit here between her grey-haired mamma and
bald-headed Spiridon Ivanovitch, who sniffs, and coughs, and spits, and
pours himself out bitters. And Mimotchka, irritated beyond all bearing
by Battenberg, capriciously pushes her plate of cutlets away from her
as if they had offended her as well as everything else in the house,
and says, “Encore ce Battenberg! Il m’agace à la fin!”

And mamma sighs and Spiridon Ivanovitch frowns.

Well now, for instance, there is her friend, Nettie Poltavsteff, she
is married to a young man; perhaps rather a thoughtless young fellow,
without any prospects, but how they enjoy themselves! my goodness, how
they enjoy themselves! True, they are squandering their capital, and
the old Poltavsteffs shake their heads fearfully and disapprovingly.
True, that Nettie’s admirer takes root more and more firmly in the
house, so that many people smile meaningly when they speak of him;
true, that Mimotchka herself repeats after mamma and the aunts that
Nettie is in a dangerous way; true, that Mimotchka, by Aunt Julia’s
advice, purposely lets a long period elapse before she returns Nettie’s
visits, but what of that? anyhow, Nettie amuses herself, Nettie really
enjoys life … Nettie dresses eccentrically, Nettie goes to see
burlesques, goes to masquerades and restaurants, laughs at everything
and everybody, and contents herself with men’s society. She is a good
deal talked about, and not always Well spoken of, but she laughs at
that too. Her husband tolerates her doings, and so do others…. And
around Nettie life and gaiety play and sparkle like the champagne that
is always on her table.

Formerly she and Mimotchka were great friends, but now mamma and
Spiridon Ivanovitch have put a veto on their friendship. They consider
Nettie too frivolous, and look on her as a bad example for Mimotchka.
And so Mimotchka does not return her visits because, of course, she
is in a dangerous way…. But, all the same, Mimotchka is very sorry
that Nettie is in a dangerous way, because if she were not it would be
very amusing to go and see her…. She is very nice, Nettie is, and
so full of fun…. And, even putting Nettie aside, anyhow Mimotchka
finds it livelier at the three sisters Poltavsteff’s house than at her
own home. They sing, dance, play, and build castles in the air….
They are always in love with somebody or other, always talking about
captains and lieutenants, or about Nettie’s admirers…. They have
dreams, hopes, and plans for the future, everything to look forward to.
But she? What can she expect? What can she hope for? Her life is over.
She has no illusions left. She knows what life is, knows what men are,
what marriage is, what this much-vaunted love is–_une horreur!_ And
yet Aunt Mary says to her, “Mind you don’t fall in love with anyone!”
She–fall in love! Why, she does not even care to live…. And her best
years have gone, irrevocably gone…. She is already an old woman. She
is twenty-six. Yes, quite an old woman…. She feels so old, so old,
so tired of life….

And Mimotchka is dull and gets thin and pale.

By the spring her nervous depression reaches such a pitch that one
fine evening, when Spiridon Ivanovitch proposes to the ladies to
decide whether they would like to spend the summer in the country on
his estates or take a _datcha_[1] elsewhere, Mimotchka goes off into
a fit of hysterics, a real fit of hysterics, laughing, crying, and
screaming…. Mamma is in despair. This is what it has come to! And
what had she been thinking of to allow it to go on?…

[1] Villa residences let for the summer season in the environs of St.

Energetic measures must be immediately taken; yes, immediately. Mimi
gives way, she agrees to consult Doctor Variashski. Mamma has such
confidence in Variashski! He had attended Mimotchka before, once he
had even saved her life, he understands her nature…. And such a nice
man besides, so attentive and amusing…. No mere boy either, but a
reliable, respectable man, a professor too…. Mamma believes in him as
she does in the Almighty. Now they can only look to Doctor Variashski
to save Mimotchka. They will do whatever he tells them. If he says, Go
to Madeira, they will go to Madeira…. Spiridon Ivanovitch is ready to
provide the money. It’s impossible to stop at any expense when it comes
to a question of saving life, and the life of one near and dear to you.
They will do whatever Variashski tells them to.

“Whom do I see! My humble respects “says Doctor Variashski,
introducing mamma and Mimotchka into his consulting-room and rapidly
glancing, through his spectacles, round the reception-room, full of
patients of every age and description, whispering in the corners or
turning over the leaves of the newspapers as they await their turn.

Mimotchka, on entering the consulting-room, throws herself wearily
into a soft armchair near the writing-table, and in a languid voice
replies mono-syllabically and unwillingly to the doctor’s questions,
while mamma, turning her anxious gaze from the doctor to her daughter
and back again, tries to gather something from the expression
of his countenance. And in her terrified and loving imagination
she already sees behind her beloved daughter fearful, menacing
spectres–consumption, or death from exhaustion…. But no, the doctor
seems calm, he is even cheerful.

“So you really think, Krondide Feodorovitch, that this dreadful
weakness can be conquered?”

“Yes, I think there is no impossibility whatever in it.”

“Ah, God grant it, God grant it!… But you must know she is not
telling you everything. She is so patient, so patient; but of course I
can see how she suffers!”

And mamma, in spite of her daughter, begins in an agitated and
lugubrious voice to relate to Krondide Feodorovitch in the most
detailed manner how Mimotchka gets out of breath going upstairs, how
she cries without any cause, how cross she gets with her maid and with
baby, how thin she is getting, which is evident from the bodices of
her dresses, how yesterday at dinner she only ate half a cutlet, and
to-day–and so on and on.

“So,” says the doctor, writing out a prescription, “and what do you
think of doing this summer?”

“Ah, Krondide Feodorovitch, that is the chief reason why we came to
you. We will do whatever you tell us. Wherever you send us…. You know
that we have both money and time to spare. I had already thought that
perhaps sea-bathing … abroad …”

“Yes, of course; abroad is all very well. But what would you say to the
Caucasus? You were never in the Caucasus?”

“No; but I have heard from many people that it is still very primitive
there, nothing properly arranged … no lodgings nor doctors…. They
say there are only most awful veterinary surgeons there…. And
nothing whatever to eat.” …

“Oh, well, that’s all very much exaggerated. And you can always find
something to eat if you are not too dainty. And as to doctors, you
apparently do me the honour of having some confidence in me?”

“Oh, Krondide Ivanovitch, you! I believe in you as I do in God!… All
my hope is in you!”

“Well, then, you see no other doctor will be required. I myself will
attend Marie Ilinishna.” …

“What, you will be there? Oh, that alters the question…. Once you are
there…. When will you be there?”

“At the beginning of the season; you know, where the ladies are, there
I am to be found too. And all the ladies go there. Jeleznovodsk is
called the ladies’ spring.”

Mimotchka brightens up a little. She would like to go to the Caucasus.
Nettie had spent last summer at Kislovodsk and had come back with
very pleasant remembrances of it. There she had completely emancipated
herself, and from there she had brought back her present adorer. And,
sitting here, all at once Mimotchka recognises clearly for the first
time exactly what she wants. She wants to go somewhere alone. She will
take her maid Katia with her and start off, and the others can all do
what they like. The doctor inwardly makes a note of this brightening
up, and, glancing occasionally at Mimotchka, continues giving mamma
some indispensable information about Jeleznovodsk. Mimotchka is to
drink iron water and take baths for two months, and then go for another
month to Kislovodsk to, so to say, polish off, and by the autumn she
will be so much better that it will be quite impossible to recognise

“God grant it, God grant it!” says mamma, with a sad, doubting smile,
and delicately slipping a little pinkish paper[2] into the doctor’s
hand, she follows Mimotchka out of the consulting-room, letting the
next patient pass in in his turn.

[2] A ten-rouble bank-note, equal to about a guinea in English money.

“Well, Mimi,” says mamma, taking her seat in the carriage by the side
of her daughter, “what do you say to his idea? I think we ought to go.
As he is going to be there himself…. Will you go?”

Mimotchka is silent. Her momentary animation has again changed into an
expression of suffering and apathy. Mamma looks at her and is silent
for five minutes, at the end of which she repeats her question.

“What is the use of talking about it?” answers Mimotchka. “It matters
little what I wish…. He will only say … He will say again….”
(Mimotchka sighs.) “He will say, ‘Let’s go to the country!'”

And Mimotchka sheds bitter tears.

Mamma is in despair, but tries to smile.

“Oh, do stop, stop crying; don’t excite yourself so, darling!… Of
course we won’t go to the country…. He is so fond of you. He will do
anything you like. Hier encore, il m’a dit…. Do stop crying, Mimi;
it’s so bad for you! Where is your _sel de vinaigre?_ … Smell it,
dear; it’s all because you are so tired…. Where are we going: to
Julia’s or shopping?”

“To Knopps’,” says Mimotchka, “I want to go to Knopps’.”

They drive to Knopps’. On the way the ladies continue to discuss Doctor
Variashski’s advice. Sniffing at the smelling-salts and blowing her
nose, Mimotchka explains herself more definitely. She would of course
go without Spiridon Ivanovitch (it would anyhow be impossible for him
to go). Baby also might stay with mamma. Mimotchka could not take him
with her. She was already so sick of the child’s crying that if she
had to drag him everywhere after her she would never get any better.
Besides, taking baby means taking nurse and the under-nurse and a
doctor. Variashski does not attend children. What would become of them
without a children’s doctor? Does mamma want to kill baby? No; let her
remain here with him, and Mimotchka will go alone with Katia….

Mamma agrees with Mimotchka in everything but one point. To let her
daughter go without her, her daughter who has fainting fits and
hysterical attacks, to let her go with only a young and inexperienced
girl–no, this is not to be thought of…. Mamma herself will go with
her. But who will stay with baby? Perhaps Aunt Julia would take him and
his nurse with her to the country? Oh yes, she will take him!… At
Knopps all other anxieties are momentarily lost sight of in the anxiety
of choosing an umbrella. Mimotchka turns over the whole shop in search
of an umbrella with a handle the like of which she can only have seen
in her dreams. In the meantime she comes across many new, useful, and
practical objects which may be serviceable to her on her approaching
journey, and Which she buys. So that, when she takes her seat with
mamma in the carriage, quite a pile of parcels and boxes is carried
after them. Mimotchka looks refreshed and calmer.

“You’re not too tired, Mimi? Perhaps we had better leave Julia for
another time?” asks mamma.

“No, no, better do it all at once,” says Mimotchka, closing her eyes.

Aunt Julia receives on Wednesdays. Visitors and tea in the afternoon;
cards and now and then a dance for Zina and the young people in the

Aunt Julia is a much respected, clever woman, with a great deal of
character. Her sisters say of her: “Julie est une femme de beaucoup
d’esprit, mais elle manque de cœur. C’est tout le contraire d’Annette.”

Aunt Julia is an irreproachable wife, housewife, and mother. She has
brought up her two elder children extremely well–Vova, a rosy-faced
cavalry officer, and Zina, who has been educated at Trouba’s.[3] And
Vova and Zina are the pride and joy of their mother’s life, to whom,
however, the Lord has sent a trial in the person of her youngest
daughter Vava, a sickly, capricious, fanciful girl. They doctor her
up and correct her, but all to no purpose. Up to now Vava is the
nightmare, plague, and cross of Aunt Julia’s life.

[3] A famous ladies’ school, that was under the patronage of the late
Grand Duchess Helen.

When mamma and Mimotchka enter Aunt Julia’s lilac drawing-room, they
find a great many ladies there and a few young men, friends of Vova’s.
A cross-fire of conversation is going on in the room.

“And so you’re going again to Merekule?”[4]

“Yes, to Merekule. We’re always faithful to Merekule. And you?”

“Oh, je n’aime pas à avoir une _datcha;_ j’aime mieux rester ici. Then
I can go to one place one day and another the next.”

[4] A seaside resort in Finland.

“Et Louise?… Elle est toujours à Naples?”

“Comment? Le bordeaux avec le rose pâle…. Oh, mais quand c’est fait
par une française, par une bonne faiseuse, … c’est délicieux comme
mélange.” …

“And so yesterday I went to the exhibition.” …

“What did you think of the exhibition?”

“Oh dear, how we laughed!… We go in and whom do we meet….”

“Et tous les soirs elles vont aux îles. Et tous les soirs c’est la même
chose. C’est triste.” …

Mimotchka is met with inquiries about her health. Mamma informs her
nearest neighbours that they have only just come from Variashski’s.

“How can you have any confidence in Variashski?” says Aunt Mary in
horror, as she shakes the ash off her cigarette. “He simply murdered a
friend of mine. She died under the knife. And afterwards it appeared
that there Was no need at all of an operation…. It was all a
mistake.” …

“You’re mixing it up, Mary. You told us that story of Lisinski.”

“Really? Well, perhaps. It’s all the same. One’s as bad as the other.”

“Why don’t you try homœopathy?” says a homœopathic lady. “I am sure it
Would do your daughter good; especially in cases of nervous illnesses.”

“Yes; I really do not understand,” continues Aunt Mary, finishing
another cigarette, “why you go to Variashski. Isn’t he an _accoucheur?_
… Si c’est une maladie de nerfs, why don’t you consult Merjeffsky?”

“And I should have taken her straight to Botkin,” says Aunt Julia. “She
could not have got so thin without some cause. He would have determined
what her illness is, and would have recommended you a specialist if he
thought necessary. I only believe in Botkin.”

“And even Botkin makes mistakes,” says the homœopathic lady. “No,
seriously, try homœopathy. Why, I myself am a living advertisement for
homœopathy. Just think how many doctors I have consulted, how many
remedies I have tried…. And only since I consulted Brazolle …”

“Brazolle, oh yes, Brazolle! Why, I have met him in society. Il est
très bien.”

“Is he married? Who is he married to?”

The medical conversation becomes general.

“Brazolle? Yes, who did he marry? And Solovieff, what a wonderfully
conscientious doctor he is. Of course, of course…. He has a hospital
of his own…. And he is so busy, so very busy…. And Baron
Vreffski…. You’re joking _f_ Not in the least…. An extraordinary
case…. He cured a blind man, a real blind man, perfectly blind,
whom I saw with my own eyes, … with that water of his, or by
electricity…. Enfin il réussit. Of course faith has a great deal to
do with it…. Oh, I should think so!… For instance, Father John[5]
… Oh, ce n’est plus du tout la même chose…. Vous croyez? Mais,
c’est un saint! Oh, he’s only a sinful man like the rest of us, je ne
crois pas à sa sainteté. C’est la mode, voilà tout…. Oh, don’t say
so…. If you only saw him, … a little, thin man, … and with such
a look in his eyes, something so heavenly!… He took tea with us and
ate some fruit…. He is very fond of grapes…. Of course you must
have faith…. Oh yes, faith–that’s all!… But who works wonders–is
Batmaieff…. Qu’est ce que ce Batmaieff? est-ce que c’est encore un
saint? Non, non, c’est un médecin…. I can give you his address if you
like.” …

[5] A priest at the cathedral of Cronstadt, famous for his faith

Under cover of the noise mamma tells Aunt Julia about Variashski’s
sending them to Jeleznovodsk, and tries to sound her about taking
charge of baby and his nurse for the summer. Aunt Julia will take
charge of them with pleasure for the whole summer if mamma will consent
to take Vava with her to Jeleznovodsk. Merjeffsky has advised that she
should be separated from her family for a time, and has ordered her
to take iron waters this summer. And they will all breathe more freely
when Vava is gone. She is getting unbearable. She sets every one in the
house at loggerheads. Her brother has predicted that she will finish
on the gallows, and advises her being sent for two or three years to
France, or perhaps to Switzerland to some _pension._ Her father won’t
hear of it; he always takes Vava’s part. Good heavens, if only some one
would take charge of her!… One service in return for another. Vava
for baby, baby for Vava. And so the matter is settled.

At dinner mamma informs Spiridon Ivanovitch of the results of their
visit to Variashski and of their negotiations with Aunt Julia. At the
mention of the Caucasus Spiridon Ivanovitch brightens up and gets
quite good-humoured. In the Caucasus were passed the best years of
his life, the best years of his military service. Even now he has
many friends both in Tiflis and Piatigorsk–a wonderful land of which
he has wonderful reminiscences. _Shaslik, katchetinsk, narzan,_[6]
and riding-parties through the moonlight nights! If only Spiridon
Ivanovitch were free, he himself would go with the ladies. Of course
Mimotchka must go and make a cure there. The sun and the iron waters
will certainly restore her to health. Perhaps in August he might be
able to join them there himself. Oh yes, yes; she must go. Of course it
would never do for her to go alone. Goodness knows what sort of society
is to be found at the springs. But with mamma and Vava she might
venture. About how much will the journey cost?