7. CHAPTER VII.
"It seems to me that you have been too painfully impressed by the
news of what happened to your good benefactor," said the old
dignitary, kindly, and with the utmost calmness of demeanour.
"You are excitable, perhaps as the result of your solitary life.
If you would make up your mind to live more among your fellows in
society, I trust, I am sure, that the world would be glad to
welcome you, as a remarkable young man; and you would soon find
yourself able to look at things more calmly. You would see that
all these things are much simpler than you think; and, besides,
these rare cases come about, in my opinion, from ennui and from
"Exactly, exactly! That is a true thought!" cried the prince.
"From ennui, from our ennui but not from satiety! Oh, no, you are
wrong there! Say from THIRST if you like; the thirst of fever!
And please do not suppose that this is so small a matter that we
may have a laugh at it and dismiss it; we must be able to foresee
our disasters and arm against them. We Russians no sooner arrive
at the brink of the water, and realize that we are really at the
brink, than we are so delighted with the outlook that in we
plunge and swim to the farthest point we can see. Why is this?
You say you are surprised at Pavlicheff's action; you ascribe it
to madness, to kindness of heart, and what not, but it is not so.
"Our Russian intensity not only astonishes ourselves; all Europe
wonders at our conduct in such cases! For, if one of us goes over
to Roman Catholicism, he is sure to become a Jesuit at once, and
a rabid one into the bargain. If one of us becomes an Atheist, he
must needs begin to insist on the prohibition of faith in God by
force, that is, by the sword. Why is this? Why does he then
exceed all bounds at once? Because he has found land at last, the
fatherland that he sought in vain before; and, because his soul
is rejoiced to find it, he throws himself upon it and kisses it!
Oh, it is not from vanity alone, it is not from feelings of
vanity that Russians become Atheists and Jesuits! But from
spiritual thirst, from anguish of longing for higher things, for
dry firm land, for foothold on a fatherland which they never
believed in because they never knew it. It is easier for a
Russian to become an Atheist, than for any other nationality in
the world. And not only does a Russian 'become an Atheist,' but
he actually BELIEVES IN Atheism, just as though he had found a
new faith, not perceiving that he has pinned his faith to a
negation. Such is our anguish of thirst! 'Whoso has no country
has no God.' That is not my own expression; it is the expression
of a merchant, one of the Old Believers, whom I once met while
travelling. He did not say exactly these words. I think his