He sighed. "You see, Andrei, at no point in my life have I been touched with a fire which could either save me or destroy me. I have lived a life different from that of others. With me it has not been a morning dawn which, gradually broadening to a sultry, bustling noon, has faded, imperceptibly, naturally, into eventide. No, I began life with a quenching of the light of day, and, from the first moment that I realized myself, realized also that I was on the wane. I realized that fact as I sat at my desk in the chancellory, as I read, as I consorted with friends, as I squandered my means upon Minia, as I lounged on the Nevski Prospect, as I attended receptions where I was welcomed as an eligible parti, as I wasted my life and brains in fluctuating between town and country. Even my self-conceit--upon what was it flung away? Upon figuring in clothes made by a good tailor, upon gaining the entrée to well-known houses, upon having my hand shaken by Prince P---! Yet self-conceit ought to be the very salt of life. Whither is mine gone? Either I have never understood the life of which I speak or it was never suited to me. Oh, that I had never known or seen it, that no one had ever pointed it out to me For yourself, you entered and left my orbit like a bright, swift comet; and when you were gone I forgot everything, and began to fade
All at once he found his mind drawing a parallel between that destiny and his own existence; all at once questions of life arose before his vision, like owls in an ancient ruin flushed from sleep by a stray ray of sunlight. Somehow he felt pained and grieved at his arrested development, at the check which had taken place in his moral growth, at the weight which appeared to be pressing upon his every faculty. Also gnawing at his heart there was a sense of envy that others should be living a life so full and free, while all the time the narrow, pitiful little pathway of his own existence was being blocked by a great boulder. And in his hesitating soul there arose a torturing consciousness that many sides of his nature had never yet been stirred, that others had never even been touched, and that not one of them had attained complete formation. Yet with this there went an aching suspicion that, buried in his being, as in a tomb, there still remained a moribund element of sweetness and light, and that it was an element which, though hidden in his personality, as a nugget lies lurking in the bowels of the earth, might once have become minted into sterling coin. But the treasure was now overlaid with rubbish--was now thickly littered over with dust. 'Twas as though some one had stolen from him, and besmirched, the store of gifts with which life and the world had dowered him; so that always he would be prevented from entering life's field and sailing across it with the aid of intellect and of will.
Yes, at the very start a secret enemy had laid a heavy hand upon him and diverted him from the road of human destiny. And now he seemed to be powerless to leave the swamps and wilds in favour of that road.
All around him was a forest, and ever the recesses of his soul were growing dimmer and darker, and the path more and more tangled, while the consciousness of his condition kept awaking within him less and less frequently--to arouse only for a fleeting moment his slumbering faculties. Brain and volition alike had become paralysed, and, to all appearances, irrevocably--the events of his life had become whittled down to microscopical proportions. Yet even with them he was powerless to cope--he was powerless to pass from one of them to another. Consequently they bandied him to and fro like the waves of the ocean. Never was he able to oppose to any event elasticity of will; never was he able to conceive, as the result of any event, a reasoned-out impulse. Yet to confess this, even to himself, always cost him a bitter pang: his fruitless regrets for lost opportunities, coupled with burning reproaches of conscience, always pricked him like needles, and led him to strive to put away such reproaches and to discover a scapegoat.