Saturday, February 02, 2013

Vadim Alive and Dead

Vadim married Herzen's cousin Tatyana.  He went to Kharkov on the promise of s professor's chair, "but his name had come to the ears of the police, and the University refused to appoint him."  Vadim has no other income.  "Black want began for him....suffering from contact with rough manners and hard hearts."  His wife Tatyana picks up the story:
 One day we had spent all our money to the last penny ... . I had tried to borrow ten roubles the day before, but I failed, because I had borrowed already in every possible quarter.  The shops refused to give us any further credit, and our one thought was--what will the children get to eat tomorrow?  Vadim sat in sorrow near the window; then he got up, took his hat, and said he meant to take as walk.  I saw that he was very low, and I felt frightened; and yet I was glad that he should have something to divert his thoughts.  When he went out, I threw myself upon the bed and wept bitter tears, and then I  began to think what was to be done.  Everything of any value, rings and spoons, had been pawned long ago.  I could see no resources but one--to go to our relations and beg their cold charity, their bitter alms.  Meanwhile Vadim was walking aimlessly about the streets till he cme to the Petrovsky Boulevard.  As he passed a bookseller's shop there, it occurred to him to ask whether a single copy of his book had been sold.  Five days earlier he had enquired, with no result; and he was full of apprehension when he entered the shop.  "Very glad to see you," said the man; "I have heard from my Petersburg agent tht he has sold 300 roubles' worth of your books.  Would you like payment now?"  And the man there and then counted out fifteen gold pieces.  Vadim's joy was so great that he was bewildered.  He hurried to the nearest eating-house, bought food,  fruit, and a bottle of wine, hired a cab, and drove home in triumph.   I was adding water to some remnants of soup to feed my children, and I meant to give him a little, pretending that I had eaten some already; and then suddenly he came in, carrying his parcel and the bottle of wine, and looking as happy and cheerful as in times past.
 Vadim lived on; he kept his old convictions, "but he kept them like a warrior, feeling that he is mortally wounded, still grasps his sword."  In time consumption overtook Vadim.  The abbot of a monastery, once a furious dissenter but now Orthodox, arranges that he be buried within the convent walls.

Source:  Alexander Herzen, Childhood, Youth and Exile 115-6 (Oxford World's Classics Paperback, 1980). 

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