Notes From The Underground 62

Notes From The Underground 62

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I suddenly began to feel provoked.

‘Why, there must have been water at the bottom a foot deep. You can’t dig a dry grave in Volkovo Cemetery.’ ‘Why?’

‘Why? Why, the place is waterlogged. It’s a regular marsh. So they bury them in water. I’ve seen it myself ... many times.’

(I had never seen it once, indeed I had never been in Volkovo, and had only heard stories of it.)

‘Do you mean to say, you don’t mind how you die?’

‘But why should I die?’ she answered, as though defend-ing herself.

‘Why, some day you will die, and you will die just the same as that dead woman. She was ... a girl like you. She died of consumption.’

‘A wench would have died in hospital ...’ (She knows all about it already: she said ‘wench,’ not ‘girl.’)

‘She was in debt to her madam,’ I retorted, more and more provoked by the discussion; ‘and went on earning money for her up to the end, though she was in consump-tion. Some sledge-drivers standing by were talking about her to some soldiers and telling them so. No doubt they knew her. They were laughing. They were going to meet in a pot-house to drink to her memory.’

A great deal of this was my invention. Silence followed, profound silence. She did not stir.

‘And is it better to die in a hospital?’

‘Isn’t it just the same? Besides, why should I die?’ she add-ed irritably.

‘If not now, a little later.’

‘Why a little later?’ ‘Why, indeed? Now you are young, pretty, fresh, you fetch a high price. But after another year of this life you will be very different—you will go off.’

‘In a year?’

‘Anyway, in a year you will be worth less,’ I continued malignantly. ‘You will go from here to something lower, an-other house; a year later— to a third, lower and lower, and in seven years you will come to a basement in the Haymarket. That will be if you were lucky. But it would be much worse if you got some disease, consumption, say ... and caught a chill, or something or other. It’s not easy to get over an ill-ness in your way of life. If you catch anything you may not get rid of it. And so you would die.’

To be contd..

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