This text was taken from the 1st edition of Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 1899.
MEMOIRS OF A REVOLUTIONIST
A HIGH, spacious bedroom, the corner room of our house, with a white bed upon which our mother is lying, our baby chairs and tables standing close by, and the neatly served tables covered with sweets and jellies in pretty glass jars, --- a room into which we children are ushered at a strange hour, --- this is the first half-distinct reminiscence of my life.
Our mother was dying of consumption; she was only thirty-five years old. Before parting with us forever, she had wished to have us by her side, to caress us, to feel happy for a moment in our joys, and she had arranged this little treat by the side of her bed, which she could leave no more. I remember her pale thin face, her large, dark brown eyes. She looked at us with love, and invited us to eat, to climb upon her bed; then all of a sudden she burst into tears and began to cough, and we were told to go.
Some time after, we children --- that is, my brother Alexander and myself --- were removed from the big house to a small side house in the court-yard. The April sun filled the little rooms with its rays, but our German nurse, Madame Búrman, and Uliána our Russian nurse, told us to go to bed. Their faces wet with tears, they were sewing for us black shirts fringed with broad white tassels. We could not sleep: the unknown frightened us, and we listened to their subdued talk. They said something about our mother which we could not understand. We jumped out of our beds, asking, "Where is mamma? Where is mamma?"
Both of them burst into sobs, and began to pat our curly heads, calling us "poor orphans," until Uliána could hold out no longer, and said, "Your mother is gone there, --- to the sky, to the angels."
"How to the sky? Why?" our infantile imagination in vain demanded.
This was in April, 1846. I was only three and a half years old, and my brother Sásha not yet five. Where our elder brother and sister, Nicholas and Hélène, had gone I do not know: perhaps they were already at school. Nicholas was twelve years old, Hélène was eleven; they kept together, and we knew them but little. So we remained, Alexander and I, in this little house, in the hands of Madame Búrman and Uliána. The good old German lady, homeless and absolutely alone in the wide world, took toward us the place of our mother. She brought us up as well as she could, buying us from time to time some simple toys, and over-feeding us with ginger cakes when ever another old German, who used to sell such cakes, --- probably as homeless and solitary as herself, --- paid an occasional visit to our house. We seldom saw our father, and the next two years passed without leaving any impression on my memory.
Go To Chapter 1, Part III
Return to Contents
Return to Anarchist Archives