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A Nobleman's Nest
by Ivan Turgenieff
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[6] In the Government Institutes for girls, the chief prize is the Empress's initial, in jewels.—Translator.



XIV

The legs of the Spartan gave way beneath him when Mikhalevitch conducted him into the rather shabbily furnished drawing-room of the Korobyns, and presented him to the master and mistress of the house. But the feeling of timidity which had taken possession of him promptly disappeared: in the General the kindliness of nature innate in all Russians was greatly increased by that special sort of courtesy which is peculiar to all besmirched people; the Generaless soon disappeared, somehow; as for Varvara Pavlovna, she was so calm and self-possessedly amiable, that any one would immediately have felt himself at home in her presence; moreover, from the whole of her enchanting person, from her smiling eyes, from her innocently-sloping shoulders and faintly-rosy hands, from her light and, at the same time, rather languid gait, from the very sound of her voice, which was low and sweet,—there breathed forth an insinuating charm, as intangible as a delicate perfume, a soft and as yet modest intoxication, something which it is difficult to express in words, but which touched and excited,—and, of course, excited something which was not timidity. Lavretzky turned the conversation on the theatre, on the performance of the preceding evening; she immediately began, herself, to speak of Motchaloff, and did not confine herself merely to exclamations and sighs, but uttered several just and femininely-penetrating remarks concerning his acting. Mikhalevitch alluded to music; without any affectation she seated herself at the piano, and played with precision several mazurkas by Chopin, which had only just come into fashion. The dinner-hour arrived; Lavretzky made a motion to depart, but they kept him; at table, the General treated him to good claret, for which the General's lackey had galloped in a cab to Depre's. Late at night, Lavretzky returned home, and sat for a long time, without undressing, his eyes covered with his hand, in dumb enchantment. It seemed to him, that only now had he come to understand why life was worth living; all his hypotheses, his intentions, all that nonsense and rubbish, vanished instantaneously; his whole soul was merged in one sentiment, in one desire, in the desire for happiness, possession, love, the sweet love of woman. From that day forth, he began to go often to the Korobyns'. Six months later, he declared himself to Varvara Pavlovna, and offered her his hand. His proposal was accepted; the General had long since, almost on the eve of his first visit, inquired of Mikhalevitch how many serfs he, Lavretzky, had; and Varvara Pavlovna also, who, during the whole period of the young man's courtship and even at the moment of his declaration, had preserved her habitual tranquillity and clearness of soul,—Varvara Pavlovna also was well aware that her lover was rich; and Kalliope Karlovna said to herself: "Meine Tochter macht eine schoene Partie"—and bought herself a new turban.



XV

So his proposal was accepted, but on certain conditions. In the first place, Lavretzky must immediately leave the university: who marries a student? and what a dreadful idea,—for a landed proprietor, rich, and twenty-six years old, to take lessons like a school-boy! In the second place, Varvara Pavlovna took upon herself the labour of ordering and purchasing the trousseau, even of choosing the bridegroom's gifts. She had a great deal of practical sense, much taste, much love for comfort, and a great knack for securing for herself that comfort. This knack particularly astonished Lavretzky when, immediately after the wedding, he and his wife set out in a commodious carriage, which she had bought, for Lavriki. How everything which surrounded him had been planned, foreseen, provided for by Varvara Pavlovna! What charming travelling requisites, what fascinating toilet-boxes and coffeepots, made their appearance in divers snug nooks, and how prettily Varvara Pavlovna herself boiled the coffee in the mornings! But Lavretzky was not then in a mood for observation: he was in a beatific state, he was intoxicating himself with happiness; he gave himself up to it like a child.... And he was as innocent as a child, that young Alcides. Not in vain did witchery exhale from the whole being of his young wife; not in vain did she promise to the senses the secret luxury of unknown delights; she fulfilled more than she had promised. On arriving at Lavriki, in the very hottest part of the summer, she found the house dirty and dark, the servants ridiculous and antiquated, but she did not find it necessary even to hint at this to her husband. If she had been making preparations to settle down at Lavriki, she would have made over everything about it, beginning, of course, with the house; but the idea of remaining in that God-forsaken corner of the steppes never entered her mind for one moment; she lived in it, as though camping out, gently enduring all the inconveniences and making amusing jests over them. Marfa Timofeevna came to see her nursling; Varvara Pavlovna took a great liking for her, but she did not take a liking for Varvara Pavlovna. Neither did the new mistress of the house get on well with Glafira Petrovna; she would have left her in peace, but old Korobyn wanted to feather his nest from his son-in-law's affairs; "it was no shame, even for a General," said he, "to manage the estate of so near a relative." It must be assumed that Pavel Petrovitch would not have disdained to busy himself with the estate of an entire stranger. Varvara Pavlovna conducted her attack in a very artful manner: without thrusting herself forward, and still, to all appearances, wholly absorbed in the felicity of the honeymoon, in quiet country life, in music and reading, she little by little drove Glafira Petrovna to such a state, that one morning the latter rushed like a madwoman into Lavretzky's study, and, hurling her bunch of keys on the table, announced that it was beyond her power to occupy herself with the housekeeping, and that she did not wish to remain in the country. Having been properly prepared in advance, Lavretzky immediately consented to her departure.—Glafira Petrovna had not expected this. "Very well," said she, and her eyes grew dark,—"I see that I am not wanted here! I know who it is that is driving me hence—from my native nest. But do thou remember my words, nephew: thou shalt never be able to build thyself a nest anywhere, thou must wander all thy life. That is my legacy to thee."—That very day she departed to her own little estate, and a week later General Korobyn arrived, and with agreeable melancholy in his gaze and movements, took the management of the entire estate into his hands.

In September, Varvara Petrovna carried her husband off to Petersburg. She spent two winters in Petersburg (they removed to Tzarskoe Selo for the summer), in a beautiful, light, elegantly furnished apartment; they made many acquaintances in middle-class and even in the higher circles of society, they went out and received a great deal, and gave most charming musical and dancing parties. Varvara Pavlovna attracted guests as a flame attracts moths. Such a dissipated life did not altogether please Feodor Ivanitch. His wife advised him to enter the service; owing to his father's old memories, and his own conceptions, he would not serve, but to please his wife he remained in Petersburg. But he speedily divined that no one prevented his isolating himself, that it was not for nothing that he had the quietest and most comfortable study in all Petersburg, that his solicitous wife was even ready to help him to isolate himself,—and from that time forth all went splendidly. Once more he took up his own education, which, in his opinion, was unfinished, once more he began to read, he even began to study the English language. It was strange to see his mighty, broad-shouldered figure, eternally bent over his writing-table, his full, hairy, ruddy face half concealed by the pages of a dictionary or an exercise-book. Every morning he spent in work, dined capitally (Varvara Pavlovna was an excellent housewife), and in the evening he entered an enchanting, fragrant, brilliant world, all populated with young, merry faces,—and the central point of that world was also the zealous hostess, his wife. She gladdened him with the birth of a son, but the poor boy did not live long: he died in the spring, and in the summer, by the advice of the physicians, Lavretzky took his wife abroad, to the baths. Diversion was indispensable to her, after such a bereavement, and her health required a warm climate. They spent the summer and autumn in Germany and Switzerland, and in the winter, as might have been expected, they went to Paris. In Paris Varvara Pavlovna blossomed out like a rose, and managed to build a little nest for herself as promptly and as adroitly as in Petersburg. She found an extremely pretty apartment, in one of the quiet but fashionable Paris streets; she made her husband such a dressing-gown as he had never owned before; she hired a trim maid, a capital cook, a smart footman; she got an enchanting carriage, a charming little piano. A week had not passed before she crossed a street, wore her shawl, opened her parasol, and put on her gloves in a style equal to that of the purest-blooded Parisienne. And she soon provided herself with acquaintances. At first, only Russians went to her house, then Frenchmen began to make their appearance, very amiable, courteous, unmarried, with beautiful manners and euphonious family names; they all talked fast and much, bowed with easy grace, and screwed up their eyes in a pleasing way; all of them had white teeth which gleamed beneath rosy lips,—and how they did understand the art of smiling! Every one of them brought his friends, and "la belle Madame de Lavretzki" soon became known from the Chaussee d'Antin to the Rue de Lille. In those days (this took place in 1836), that tribe of feuilleton and chronicle writers, which now swarm everywhere, like ants in an ant-hill which has been cut open, had not multiplied; but even then, a certain M——r Jules presented himself in Varvara Pavlovna's salon, a gentleman of insignificant appearance, with a scandalous reputation, insolent and base, like all duellists and beaten men. This M—r Jules was extremely repulsive to Varvara Pavlovna, but she received him because he scribbled for various journals, and incessantly alluded to her, calling her now "Mme. de L * * * tzki," now "Mme. de * * * cette grande dame Russe si distinguee, qui demeure rue de P."; narrating to all the world, that is to say, to a few hundred subscribers, who cared nothing whatever about "Mme. de L * * * tzki," how that pretty and charming lady was a real Frenchwoman in mind (une vraie francaise par l'esprit),—there is no higher encomium for the French,—what a remarkable musician she was, and how wonderfully she waltzed (Varvara Pavlovna, in reality, did waltz in such a manner as to draw all hearts after the hem of her light, fluttering gown) ... in a word, he spread her fame throughout the world,—and assuredly that is agreeable, say what you will. Mlle. Mars had already left the stage, and Mlle. Rachel had not yet made her appearance; nevertheless, Varvara Pavlovna diligently frequented the theatres. She went into ecstasies over Italian music, and laughed at the ruins of Odra, yawned decorously at the Comedie Francaise, and wept at the acting of Mme. Dorval in some ultra-romantic melodrama or other; but, chief of all, Liszt played a couple of times at her house, and was so nice, so simple—it was delightful! In such pleasant sensations passed a winter, at the end of which Varvara Pavlovna was even presented at Court. Feodor Ivanitch, on his side, was not bored, although life, at times, weighed heavily on his shoulders,—heavily, because it was empty. He read the newspapers, he listened to lectures at the Sorbonne and the College de France, he kept track of the debates in parliament, he undertook the translation of a well-known scientific work on irrigation. "I am not wasting time,"—he said to himself,—"all this is useful; but next winter I must, without fail, return to Russia and set to work." It is difficult to say, whether he was clearly conscious in what that work consisted, and God knows whether he would have succeeded in returning to Russia for the winter,—in the meantime, he went with his wife to Baden-Baden.... An unexpected event destroyed all his plans.



XVI

One day, on entering Varvara Pavlovna's boudoir in her absence, Lavretzky beheld on the floor a tiny, carefully-folded scrap of paper. He mechanically picked it up, mechanically unfolded it, and read the following, written in French:

Dear angel Betsy! (I cannot possibly bring myself to call thee Barbe or Varvara). I waited in vain for thee at the corner of the Boulevard; come to-morrow, at half-past one, to our little apartment. Thy good fatty (ton gros bonhomme de mari) generally buries himself in his books at that hour; again we will sing the song of your poet Puskin (de votre poete Pouskine) which thou hast taught me: 'Old husband, menacing husband!'—A thousand kisses on thy hands and feet! I await thee. "Ernest."

Lavretzky did not, on the instant, understand what sort of thing it was he had read; he perused it a second time—and his head reeled, the floor swayed beneath his feet, like the deck of a steamer when it is pitching—he cried out, and sobbed and wept simultaneously.

He lost his senses. He had so blindly trusted his wife, that the possibility of deception, of treachery, had never presented itself to his mind. That Ernest, that lover of his wife's was a fair-haired, good-looking boy of three and twenty, with a small snub nose and thin moustache, almost the most insignificant of all her admirers. Several minutes passed, half an hour passed; Lavretzky still stood, crushing the fatal missive in his hand and staring senselessly at the floor; through a sort of dark whirlwind, visions of pale faces flitted before him; his heart sank within him, in anguish; it seemed to him that he was falling, falling, falling ... and that there was no end to it. The light, familiar rustle of a silken robe aroused him from his state of stupefaction; Varvara Pavlovna, in bonnet and shawl, had hastily returned from her stroll. Lavretzky trembled all over, and rushed out of the room; he felt that at that moment he was capable of tearing her to pieces, of beating her until she was half dead, in peasant fashion, of strangling her with his hands. The astonished Varvara Pavlovna tried to stop him; he could only whisper: "Betsy"—and fled from the house.

Lavretzky took a carriage, and ordered the man to drive him out of town. The entire remainder of the day, and the whole night long until the morning, he roamed about, incessantly halting and wringing his hands: now he raged, again it seemed rather ridiculous to him, even rather amusing. In the morning he was chilled through, and entered a wretched suburban inn, asked for a room, and seated himself on a chair by the window. A convulsive yawning seized hold upon him. He could hardly stand on his feet, his body was exhausted,—but he was conscious of no fatigue,—yet fatigue claimed its rights: he sat and stared, and understood nothing; he did not understand what had happened to him, why he found himself alone, with benumbed limbs, with a bitterness in his mouth, with a stone on his breast, in a bare, strange room; he did not understand what had made her, Varya, give herself to that Frenchman, and how she had been able, knowing herself to be unfaithful, to be as calm, amiable, and confiding toward him as before! "I understand nothing!" whispered his parched lips. "Who will guarantee me now, that in Petersburg...." And he did not finish the question, and yawned again, quivering and writhing all over. The bright and the dark memories tormented him equally; it suddenly occurred to him, that a few days previously, in his presence and in that of Ernest, she had seated herself at the piano and had sung: "Old husband, menacing husband!" He recalled the expression of her face, the strange glitter of her eyes, and the flush on her cheeks,—and he rose from his chair; he wanted to go and to say to them: "You have made a mistake in trifling with me; my great-grandfather used to hang the peasants up by the ribs, and my grandfather himself was a peasant"—and kill them both. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to him, that everything which was taking place with him was a dream, and not even a dream, but merely some nonsense or other: that all he had to do was to shake himself, to look about him.... He did look about him, and as the hawk buries his claws in the bird he has captured, anguish pierced more and more deeply into his heart. To crown all, Lavretzky was hoping at the end of a few months to become a father.... The past, the future, his whole life was poisoned. He returned, at last, to Paris, put up at a hotel, and sent Varvara Pavlovna the note of M—r Ernest, with the following letter:

"The accompanying document will explain everything to you. I will say to you, by the way, that I did not recognise you: you, always such a precise person, to drop such an important paper!" (This phrase poor Lavretzky had prepared and cherished for the space of several hours.) "I can see you no more; I assume that you, also, cannot wish to meet me. I have assigned fifteen thousand francs a year to you; I cannot give more. Send your address to the office of the estate. Do what you will, live where you please. I wish you happiness. No answer is necessary."

Lavretzky wrote to his wife, that no answer was necessary ... but he waited, he thirsted for an answer, an explanation of this incomprehensible, this incredible affair. Varvara Pavlovna, that very day, sent him a long letter in French. It made an end of him; his last doubts vanished,—and he felt ashamed that he had still cherished doubts. Varvara Pavlovna did not defend herself: she merely wished to see him, she entreated him not to condemn her irrevocably. The letter was cold and constrained, although the traces of tears were visible here and there. Lavretzky uttered a bitter laugh, and bade the messenger say that it was all very good. Three days later, he had quitted Paris: but he went, not to Russia, but to Italy. He himself did not know why he had chosen Italy, in particular; in reality, it made no difference to him whither he went,—provided it were not home. He sent instructions to his peasant-steward in regard to his wife's pension, ordered him, at the same time, to take all matters pertaining to the estate instantly out of the hands of General Korobyn, without awaiting the surrender of the accounts, and to make arrangements for the departure of His Excellency from Lavriki; he formed a vivid picture to himself, of the consternation, the fruitless haughtiness of the ejected General, and, with all his grief, he felt a certain malicious satisfaction. Then he invited Glafira Petrovna, in a letter also, to return to Lavriki, and sent her a power of attorney. Glafira Petrovna did not return to Lavriki, and herself published in the newspapers that she had destroyed the power of attorney, which was quite superfluous. Hiding himself in a small Italian town, it was a long time still before Lavretzky could force himself not to watch his wife. He learned from the newspapers, that she had quitted Paris, as it was supposed, for Baden-Baden: her name soon made its appearance in an article written by that same M'sieu Jules. In this article, a sort of friendly condolence pierced through the customary playfulness; Feodor Ivanitch's soul was in a very ugly state when he read that article. Later on, he learned that a daughter had been born to him; at the end of a couple of months, he was informed by his peasant-steward, that Varvara Pavlovna had demanded the first third of her allowance. Then more and more evil reports began to arrive; at last, a tragicomic tale made the rounds—creating a sensation—of the newspapers, wherein his wife played an unenviable part. All was at an end: Varvara Pavlovna had become "a celebrity."

Lavretzky ceased to follow her career; but he was not able speedily to conquer himself. At times, he was seized with such a longing for his wife, that it seemed to him, he would give everything—he would even, if necessary ... forgive her—if only he might again hear her caressing voice, again feel her hand in his hand. But time went on, and not in vain. He was not born to be a martyr; his healthy nature asserted its rights. Much became clear to him; the very blow which had assailed him, no longer seemed to him unforeseen; he understood his wife,—one understands a person who is near to one, when parted from him. Again he was able to occupy himself, to work, although with far less zeal than of yore: scepticism, for which the way had been prepared by the experiences of life, by his education, definitively took possession of his soul. He became extremely indifferent to everything. Four years elapsed, and he felt himself strong enough to return to his native land, to meet his own people. Without halting either in Petersburg or Moscow, he arrived in the town of O * * * where we took leave of him, and whither we now beg the indulgent reader to return with us.



XVII

On the morning following the day which we have described, at nine o'clock, Lavretzky ascended the porch of the Kalitin house. Liza emerged to meet him, in hat and gloves.

"Where are you going?" he asked her.

"To church. To-day is Sunday."

"And do you really care to go to the Liturgy?"

Liza said nothing, but gazed at him in amazement.

"Pardon me, please,"—said Lavretzky,—"I ... I did not mean to say that. I came to say good-bye to you: I am going to my country place an hour hence."

"It is not far from here, is it?"—inquired Liza.

"Twenty-five versts."

Lyenotchka made her appearance on the threshold of the door, accompanied by a maid.

"See that you do not forget us,"—said Liza, and descended the steps.

"And do not you forget me. And see here,"—he added,—"you are going to church: pray for me also, by the way."

Liza paused and turned toward him.

"Certainly,"—she said, looking him straight in the face:—"I will pray for you. Come along, Lyenotchka."

Lavretzky found Marya Dmitrievna alone in the drawing-room. An odour of eau de cologne and mint emanated from her. She had a headache, according to her own account, and she had passed a restless night. She welcomed him with her customary languid amiability, and gradually got to talking.

"What an agreeable young man Vladimir Nikolaitch is," she inquired:—"is he not?"

"What Vladimir Nikolaitch?"

"Why, Panshin, you know,—the one who was here yesterday evening. He took an immense liking to you; I will tell you, as a secret, mon cher cousin, he is simply beside himself over my Liza. What do you think of that? He comes of a good family, he discharges his service splendidly, he is clever, well, and a Junior Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and if it be God's will.... I, on my side, as a mother, shall be very glad. It is a great responsibility, of course: up to the present time, whether it be for good or evil, you see, I am always, everywhere, entirely alone: I have reared my children, I have taught them, I have done everything ... and now I have ordered a governess from Mme. Bolius...."

Marya Dmitrievna launched out into a description of her toils, her efforts, and her maternal feelings. Lavretzky listened to her in silence, and twirled his hat in his hands. His cold, heavy gaze disconcerted the loquacious lady.

"And how do you like Liza?"—she asked.

"Lizaveta Mikhailovna is an extremely beautiful girl,"—replied Lavretzky, rose, bowed, and went to Marfa Timofeevna. Marya Dmitrievna gazed after him with displeasure, and said to herself: "What a dolt, what a peasant! Well, now I understand why his wife could not remain faithful to him."

Marfa Timofeevna was sitting in her own room, surrounded by her suite. It consisted of five beings, almost equally near to her heart: a fat-jowled trained bullfinch, which she loved because he had ceased to whistle and draw water; a tiny, very timorous and peaceable dog, Roska; an angry cat Matros (Sailor); a black-visaged nimble little girl of nine, with huge eyes and a sharp little nose, who was named Schurotchka; and an elderly woman, fifty years of age, in a white cap, and a light brown, bob-tailed jacket over a dark gown, by name Nastasya Karpovna Ogarkoff. Schurotchka was of the petty burgher class, a full orphan. Marfa Timofeevna had taken charge of her out of pity, as she had of Roska: she had picked up both the dog and the girl in the street; both were thin and hungry, both were being drenched by the autumnal rain, no one had hunted up Roska, and Schurotchka's uncle, a drunken shoemaker, who had not enough to eat himself, and who did not feed his niece, though he beat her over the head with his last, gladly surrendered her to Marfa Timofeevna. With Nastasya Karpovna, Marfa Timofeevna had made acquaintance on a pilgrimage, in a monastery; she herself had gone up to her in church (Marfa Timofeevna liked her because, to use her own words, "she prayed tastily"), had herself begun the conversation, and had invited her to come to her for a cup of tea. From that day forth, she had never parted with her. Nastasya Karpovna was a woman of the merriest and gentlest disposition, a childless widow, member of a poverty-stricken family of the petty nobility; she had a round, grey head, soft white hands, a soft face, with large, kindly features, and a rather ridiculous snub nose; she fairly worshipped Marfa Timofeevna, and the latter loved her greatly, although she jeered at her tender heart: Nastasya Karpovna felt a weakness for all young people, and involuntarily blushed like a girl at the most innocent jest. Her entire capital consisted of twelve hundred paper rubles; she lived at the expense of Marfa Timofeevna, but on equal terms with her: Marfa Timofeevna would not have tolerated servility.

"Ah, Fedya!" she began, as soon as she caught sight of him:—"last night, thou didst not see my family: admire it. We are all assembled for tea; this is our second, feast-day tea. Thou mayest pet all: only Schurotchka will not allow thee, and the cat scratches. Art thou going away to-day?"

"Yes,"—Lavretzky seated himself on a narrow little chair.—"I have already said farewell to Marya Dmitrievna. I have also seen Lizaveta Mikhailovna."

"Call her Liza, my father,—why should she be Mikhailovna to thee! And sit still, or thou wilt break Schurotchka's chair."

"She has gone to church,"—pursued Lavretzky. "Is she pious?"

"Yes, Fedya,—very. More than thou and I, Fedya."

"But are not you pious?"—remarked Nastasya Karpovna, in a whisper. "And to-day: you did not get to the early Liturgy, but you will go to the later one."

"Not a bit of it—thou wilt go alone: I am lazy, my mother,"—retorted Marfa Timofeevna,—"I am pampering myself greatly with my tea."—She called Nastasya thou, although she lived on equal terms with her,—she was not a Pestoff for nothing: three Pestoffs are recorded with distinction in the Book of Remembrance of Ivan Vasilievitch, the Terrible;[7] Marfa Timofeevna knew it.

"Tell me, please,"—began Lavretzky again:—"Marya Dmitrievna has just been talking about that ... what's his name ... Panshin. What sort of a person is he?"

"What a chatterbox, the Lord forgive her!"—grumbled Marfa Timofeevna:—"I suppose she imparted to you, as a secret, what a fine suitor has turned up. She might do her whispering with her priest's son; but no, that is not enough for her. But there's nothing in it, as yet, and thank God for that! but she's babbling already."

"Why 'thank God'?"—asked Lavretzky.

"Why, because the young fellow does not please me; and what is there to rejoice about?"

"He does not please you?"

"Yes, he cannot fascinate everybody. It's enough that Nastasya Karpovna here should be in love with him."

The poor widow was thoroughly startled.

"What makes you say that, Marfa Timofeevna? You do not fear God!"—she exclaimed, and a blush instantly suffused her face and neck.

"And he certainly knows the rogue,"—Marfa Timofeevna interrupted her:—"he knows how to captivate her: he presented her with a snuff-box. Fedya, ask her to give thee a pinch of snuff; thou wilt see what a splendid snuff-box it is: on the lid is depicted a hussar on horseback. Thou hadst better not defend thyself, my mother."

Nastasya Karpovna merely repelled the suggestion with a wave of her hands.

"Well,"—inquired Lavretzky,—"and is Liza not indifferent to him?"

"Apparently, she likes him,—however, the Lord only knows. Another man's soul, thou knowest, is a dark forest, much more the soul of a young girl. Now, there's Schurotchka's soul—try to dissect that! Why has she been hiding herself, and yet does not go away, ever since thou camest?"

Schurotchka snorted with suppressed laughter and ran out of the room, and Lavretzky rose from his seat.

"Yes,"—he said slowly:—"a maiden's soul is not to be divined."

He began to take leave.

"Well? Shall we see thee again soon?"—asked Marfa Timofeevna.

"That's as it may happen, aunty; it is not far off."

"Yes, but thou art going to Vasilievskoe. Thou wilt not live at Lavriki:—well, that is thy affair; only, go and salute the tomb of thy mother, and the tomb of thy grandmother too, by the bye. Thou hast acquired all sorts of learning yonder abroad, and who knows, perchance they will feel it in their graves that thou hast come to them. And don't forget, Fedya, to have a requiem service celebrated for Glafira Petrovna also; here's a silver ruble for thee. Take it, take it, I want to pay for having a requiem service for her. During her lifetime I did not like her, but there's no denying it, the woman had plenty of character. She was a clever creature; and she did not wrong thee, either. And now go, with God's blessing, or thou wilt grow weary of me."

And Marfa Timofeevna embraced her nephew.

"And Liza shall not marry Panshin,—don't worry about that; that's not the sort of husband she deserves."

"Why, I am not worrying in the least," replied Lavretzky, and withdrew.

——-

[7] Ivan the Terrible left a long record of his distinguished victims, for the repose of whose souls he ordered prayers to be said in perpetuity. "Book of Remembrance" contains the names of persons who are to be prayed for at the general requiem services, and so forth. —Translator.



XVIII

Four hours later, he was driving homeward. His tarantas rolled swiftly along the soft country road. There had been a drought for a fortnight; a thin milky cloud was diffused through the air, and veiled the distant forests; it reeked with the odour of burning. A multitude of small, dark cloudlets, with indistinctly delineated edges, were creeping across the pale-blue sky; a fairly strong wind was whisking along in a dry, uninterrupted stream, without dispelling the sultriness. Leaning his head against a cushion, and folding his arms on his breast, Lavretzky gazed at the strips of ploughed land, in fan-shape, which flew past, at the willow-trees slowly flitting by, at the stupid crows and daws gazing with dull suspicion askance at the passing equipage, at the long strips of turf between the cultivated sections, overgrown with artemisia, wormwood, and wild tansy; he gazed ... and that fresh, fertile nakedness and wildness of the steppe, that verdure, those long hillocks, the ravines with stubby oak bushes, the grey hamlets, the flexible birch-trees,—this whole Russian picture, which he had not seen for a long time, wafted into his soul sweet and, at the same time, painful sensations, weighed on his breast with a certain agreeable oppression. His thoughts slowly roved about; their outlines were as indistinct and confused as the outlines of those lofty cloudlets, which, also, seemed to be roving. He recalled his childhood, his mother; he remembered how she died, how they had carried him to her, and how she, pressing his head to her bosom, had begun to sing feebly over him, but had cast a glance at Glafira Petrovna—and had relapsed into silence. He recalled his father, at first alert, dissatisfied with every one, and with a brazen voice,—then blind, tearful, and with a dirty grey beard; he recalled how, one day, at table, after drinking an extra glass of wine, and spilling the sauce over his napkin, he had suddenly burst out laughing, and had begun, winking his sightless eyes and flushing crimson, to tell stories of his conquests; he recalled Varvara Pavlovna,—and involuntarily screwed up his eyes, as a man does from momentary inward pain, and shook his head. Then his thoughts came to a pause on Liza.

"Here," he thought, "is a new being, who is only just entering upon life. A splendid young girl, what will become of her? She is comely. A pale, fresh face, such serious eyes and lips, and an honest and innocent gaze. It is a pity that she seems to be somewhat enthusiastic. A splendid figure, and she walks so lightly, and her voice is soft. I greatly like to see her pause suddenly, listen attentively, without a smile, and then meditate, and toss back her hair. Really, it strikes me that Panshin is not worthy of her. But what is there wrong about him? She will traverse the road which all traverse. I had better take a nap." And Lavretzky closed his eyes.

He could not get to sleep, but plunged into the dreamy stupor of the road. Images of the past, as before, arose in leisurely fashion, floated through his soul, mingling and entangling themselves with other scenes. Lavretzky, God knows why, began to think about Robert Peel ... about French history ... about how he would win a battle if he were a general; he thought he heard shots and shrieks.... His head sank to one side, he opened his eyes.... The same fields, the same views of the steppe; the polished shoes of the trace-horse flashed in turn through the billowing dust; the shirt of the postilion, yellow, with red gussets at the armpits, puffed out in the wind.... "A pretty way to return to my native land"—flashed through Lavretzky's head; and he shouted: "Faster!" wrapped himself up in his cloak, and leaned back harder against his pillow. The tarantas gave a jolt: Lavretzky sat upright, and opened his eyes wide. Before him, on a hillock, a tiny hamlet lay outspread; a little to the right, a small, ancient manor-house was to be seen, with closed shutters and a crooked porch; all over the spacious yard, from the very gates, grew nettles, green and thick as hemp; there, also, stood a small oaken store-house, still sound. This was Vasilievskoe.

The postilion turned up to the gate, and brought the horses to a standstill; Lavretzky's footman rose on the box, and, as though preparing to spring down, shouted: "Hey!" A hoarse, dull barking rang out, but not even the dog showed himself; the lackey again prepared to leap down, and again shouted: "Hey!" The decrepit barking was renewed, and, a moment later, a man ran out into the yard, no one could tell whence,—a man in a nankeen kaftan, with a head as white as snow; shielding his eyes with his hand, he stared at the tarantas, suddenly slapped himself on both thighs, at first danced about a little on one spot, then ran to open the gate. The tarantas drove into the yard, the wheels rustling against the nettles, and halted in front of the porch. The white-headed man, very nimble, to all appearances, was already standing, with his feet planted very wide apart and very crooked, on the last step; and having unbuttoned the apron, convulsively held up the leather and aided the master to descend to the earth, and then kissed his hand.

"Good-day, good-day, brother,"—said Lavretzky,—"I think thy name is Anton? Thou art still alive?"

The old man bowed in silence, and ran to fetch the keys. While he was gone, the postilion sat motionless, bending sideways and gazing at the locked door; but Lavretzky's lackey remained standing as he had sprung down, in a picturesque pose, with one hand resting on the box. The old man brought the keys, and quite unnecessarily writhing like a serpent, raising his elbows on high, he unlocked the door, stepped aside, and again bowed to his girdle.

"Here I am at home, here I have got back,"—said Lavretzky to himself, as he entered the tiny anteroom, while the shutters were opened, one after the other, with a bang and a squeak, and the daylight penetrated into the deserted rooms.



XIX

The tiny house where Lavretzky had arrived, and where, two years previously, Glafira Petrovna had breathed her last, had been built in the previous century, out of sturdy pine lumber; in appearance it was decrepit, but was capable of standing another fifty years or more. Lavretzky made the round of all the rooms, and, to the great discomfiture of the aged, languid flies, with white dust on their backs, who were sitting motionless under the lintels of the doors, he ordered all the windows to be opened; no one had opened them since the death of Glafira Petrovna. Everything in the house remained as it had been: the small, spindle-legged couches in the drawing-room, covered with glossy grey material, worn through and flattened down, vividly recalled the days of Katherine II; in the drawing-room, also, stood the mistress's favourite chair, with a tall, straight back, against which, even in her old age, she had not leaned. On the principal wall hung an ancient portrait of Feodor's great-grandfather, Andrei Lavretzky; the dark, sallow face was barely discernible against the warped and blackened background; the small, vicious eyes gazed surlily from beneath pendent, swollen lids; the black hair, devoid of powder, rose in a brush over the heavy, deeply-seamed brow. On the corner of the portrait hung a wreath of dusty immortelles. "Glafira Petrovna herself was pleased to weave it," announced Anton. In the bedchamber rose a narrow bed, under a tester of ancient, striped material, of very excellent quality; a mountain of faded pillows, and a thin quilted coverlet, lay on the bed, and by the head of the bed hung an image of the Presentation in the Temple of the All-Holy Birthgiver of God, the very same image to which the old spinster, as she lay dying alone and forgotten by every one, had pressed for the last time, her lips which were already growing cold. The toilet-table, of inlaid wood with brass trimmings and a crooked mirror with tarnished gilding, stood by the window. Alongside the bedroom was the room for the holy pictures, a tiny chamber, with bare walls and a heavy shrine of images in the corner; on the floor lay a small, threadbare rug, spotted with wax; Glafira Petrovna had been wont to make her prostrations upon it. Anton went off with Lavretzky's lackey to open the stable and carriage-house; in his stead, there presented herself an old woman, almost of the same age as he, with a kerchief bound round her head, down to her very brows; her head trembled, and her eyes gazed dully, but expressed zeal, and a long-established habit of serving with assiduity, and, at the same time, a certain respectful commiseration. She kissed Lavretzky's hand, and paused at the door, in anticipation of orders. He positively was unable to recall her name; he could not even remember whether he had ever seen her. It turned out that her name was Apraxyeya; forty years before, that same Glafira Petrovna had banished her from the manor-house service, and had ordered her to attend to the fowls; however, she said little,—as though she had outlived her mind,—and only looked on cringingly. In addition to these two old people, and three potbellied brats in long shirts, Anton's great-grandchildren, there dwelt in the service-rooms of the manor a one-armed little old peasant, who was exempt from compulsory service; he made a drumming noise like a woodcock when he spoke, and was not capable of doing anything. Not much more useful than he was the decrepit dog, who had welcomed Lavretzky's home-coming with his bark: it had already been fastened up for ten years with a heavy chain, bought by order of Glafira Petrovna, and was barely in a condition to move and drag its burden. After inspecting the house, Lavretzky went out into the park, and was satisfied with it. It was all overgrown with tall grass, burdock, and gooseberry and raspberry bushes; but there was much shade in it: there were many old linden-trees, which surprised the beholder by their huge size and the strange arrangement of their branches; they had been too closely planted, and at some time or other—a hundred years before—had been pollarded. The park ended in a small, clear pond, with a rim of tall, reddish reeds. The traces of human life fade away very quickly: Glafira Petrovna's farm had not succeeded in running wild, but it already seemed plunged in that tranquil dream wherewith everything on earth doth dream, where the restless infection of people does not exist. Feodor Ivanitch also strolled through the village; the women stared at him from the thresholds of their cottages, each with her cheek propped on one hand; the peasant men saluted him from afar; the children ran away; the dogs barked indifferently. At last he felt hungry, but he did not expect his servants and cook until toward evening; the cart with provisions from Lavriki had not yet arrived,—he was compelled to appeal to Anton. Anton immediately arranged matters: he caught an old hen, cut its throat, and plucked it; Apraxyeya rubbed and scrubbed it for a long time, and washed it, like linen, before she placed it in the stew-pan; when, at last, it was cooked, Anton put on the table-cloth and set the table, placed in front of the plate a blackened salt-cellar of plated ware on three feet, and a small faceted carafe with a round glass stopper and a narrow neck; then he announced to Lavretzky, in a chanting voice, that the meal was ready,—and took up his post behind his chair, having wound a napkin around his right fist, and disseminating some strong, ancient odour, which resembled the odour of cypress wood. Lavretzky tasted the soup, and came upon the hen; its skin was all covered with big pimples, a thick tendon ran down each leg, its flesh had a flavour of charcoal and lye. When he had finished his dinner, Lavretzky said that he would like some tea, if.... "This very moment, sir, I will serve it, sir,"—interrupted the old man,—and he kept his promise. A pinch of tea was hunted up, wrapped in a scrap of red paper, a small but very mettlesome and noisy samovar was searched out, also sugar, in very tiny bits, that seemed to have been melted around the edges. Lavretzky drank his tea out of a large cup; he remembered that cup in his childhood: playing-cards were depicted on it, only visitors drank out of it,—and he now drank out of it, like a visitor. Toward evening, his servants arrived; Lavretzky did not wish to sleep in his aunt's bed; he gave orders that a bed should be made up for him in the dining-room. Extinguishing the candle, he stared about him for a long time, and meditated on cheerless thoughts; he experienced the sensation familiar to every man who chances to pass the night, for the first time, in a place which has long been uninhabited; it seemed to him that the darkness which surrounded him on all sides could not accustom itself to the new inhabitant, that the very walls of the house were waxing indignant. At last he sighed, drew the coverlet up over him, and fell asleep. Anton remained afoot longer than the rest; for a long time he whispered with Apraxyeya, groaned in a low tone, and crossed himself a couple of times. Neither of them expected that the master would settle down among them at Vasilievskoe, when, near at hand, he owned such a magnificent estate, with a capitally-organised manor-house; they did not even suspect that it was precisely that manor-house which was repugnant to Lavretzky: it evoked in him oppressive memories. After having whispered his fill, Anton took his staff, and beat upon the board at the store-house which had long been hanging silent,[8] and immediately lay down for a nap in the yard, without covering up his grey head with anything. The May night was tranquil and caressing—and the old man slumbered sweetly.

——-

[8] It is the duty of the night-watchman to beat upon the board at regular intervals, to show that he is vigilant.—Translator.



XX

The next morning Lavretzky rose quite early, had a talk with the overseer, visited the threshing-floor, ordered the chain to be removed from the watch-dog, who only barked a little, but did not even move away from his kennel;—and on his return home, sank into a sort of peaceful torpor, from which he did not emerge all day. "I have sunk down to the very bottom of the river now," he said to himself more than once. He sat by the window, made no movement, and seemed to be listening to the current of tranquil life which surrounded him, to the infrequent noises of the country solitudes. Yonder, somewhere beyond the nettles, some one began to sing, in the shrillest of voices; a gnat seemed to be chiming in with the voice. Now it ceased, but the gnat still squeaked on; athwart the energetic, insistently-plaintive buzzing of the flies resounded the booming of a fat bumble-bee, which kept bumping its head against the ceiling; a cock on the road began to crow, hoarsely prolonging the last note; a peasant cart rumbled past; the gate toward the village creaked. "Well?" suddenly quavered a woman's voice.—"Okh, thou my dear little sweetheart," said Anton to a little girl of two years, whom he was dandling in his arms. "Fetch some kvas," repeats the same female voice,—and all at once a deathlike silence ensues; nothing makes any noise, nothing stirs; the breeze does not flutter a leaf; the swallows dart along near the ground, one after the other, without a cry, and sadness descends upon the soul from their silent flight.—"Here I am, sunk down to the bottom of the river," Lavretzky says to himself again.—"And life is at all times tranquil, leisurely here," he thinks:—"whoever enters its circle must become submissive: here there is nothing to agitate one's self about, nothing to disturb; here success awaits only him who lays out his path without haste, as the husbandman lays the furrow with his plough." And what strength there is all around, what health there is in this inactive calm! Yonder now, under the window, a sturdy burdock is making its way out from among the thick grass; above it, the lovage is stretching forth its succulent stalk, the Virgin's-tears[9] toss still higher their rosy tendrils; and yonder, further away, in the fields, the rye is gleaming, and the oats are beginning to shoot up their stalks, and every leaf on every tree, every blade of grass on its stalk, spreads itself out to its fullest extent. "My best years have been spent on the love of a woman," Lavretzky pursued his meditations:—"may the irksomeness here sober me, may it soothe me, prepare me so that I may understand how to do my work without haste"; and again he began to lend an ear to the silence, expecting nothing,—and, at the same time, as it were incessantly expecting something: the silence enfolds him on all sides, the sun glides quietly across the calm blue sky, a cloud floats gently in its wake; it seems as though they know whither and why they are floating. At that same moment, in other spots on earth, life was seething, bustling, roaring; here the same life was flowing on inaudibly, like water amid marsh-grass; and until the very evening, Lavretzky could not tear himself from the contemplation of that life fleeting, flowing onward; grief for the past melted in his soul like snows of springtime,—and, strange to say!—never had the feeling of his native land been so deep and strong within him.

——-

[9] This plant bears round seed-pods of mottled-grey, which are often used to make very pretty rosaries.—Translator.



XXI

In the course of a fortnight, Feodor Ivanitch brought Glafira Petrovna's little house into order; cleaned up the yard, the garden; comfortable furniture was brought to him from Lavriki, wine, books, newspapers from the town; horses made their appearance in the stables; in a word, Feodor Ivanitch provided himself with everything that was necessary and began to live—not exactly like a country squire, nor yet exactly like a recluse. His days passed monotonously, but he was not bored, although he saw no one; he occupied himself diligently and attentively with the farming operations, he rode about the neighbourhood on horseback, he read. He read but little, however: it was more agreeable for him to listen to the tales of old Anton. As a rule, Lavretzky would seat himself with a pipe of tobacco and a cup of cold tea near the window; Anton would stand near the door, with his hands clasped behind him, and begin his leisurely stories of olden times,—of those fabulous times—when the oats and barley were sold not by measures but by huge sacks, at two or three kopeks the sack; when in all directions, even close to the town, stretched impenetrable forests, untouched steppes. "And now," wailed the old man, who was already over eighty years of age:—"they have felled and ploughed up everything until there is no place to drive through." Anton, also, related many things concerning his mistress Glafira Petrovna: how sagacious and economical she had been; how a certain gentleman, a youthful neighbour, had attempted to gain her good-will, had taken to calling frequently,—and how she had been pleased, for his benefit, even to don her cap with rose-purple ribbons, and her yellow gown of tru-tru levantine; but how, later on, having flown into a rage with her neighbour, on account of the unseemly question: "What might your capital amount to, madam?" she had given orders that he should not be admitted, and how she had then commanded, that everything, down to the very smallest scrap, should be given to Feodor Ivanitch after her death. And, in fact, Lavretzky found all his aunt's effects intact, not excepting the festival cap, with the rose-purple ribbons, and the gown of yellow tru-tru levantine. The ancient papers and curious documents, which Lavretzky had counted upon, proved not to exist, with the exception of one tattered little old book, in which his grandfather, Piotr Andreitch, had jotted down, now—"Celebration in the city of Saint Petersburg of the peace concluded with the Turkish Empire by his Illustriousness Prince Alexander Alexandrovitch Prozorovsky"; now a recipe for a decoction for the chest, with the comment: "This instruction was given to Generaless Praskovya Feodorovna Saltykoff, by Feodor Avksentievitch, Archpriest of the Church of the Life-giving Trinity"; again, some item of political news, like the following: "In the 'Moscow News,' it is announced that Premier-Major Mikhail Petrovitch Kolytcheff has died. Was not he the son of Piotr Vasilievitch Kolytcheff?" Lavretzky also found several ancient calendars and dream-books, and the mystical works of Mr. Ambodik; many memories were awakened in him by the long-forgotten but familiar "Symbols and Emblems." In Glafira Petrovna's toilet-table Lavretzky found a small packet, tied with black ribbon, and sealed with black wax, thrust into the remotest recesses of the drawer. In the packet, face to face, lay a pastel portrait of his father in his youth, with soft curls tumbling over his brow, with long, languid eyes, and mouth half opened,—and the almost effaced portrait of a pale woman in a white gown, with a white rose in her hand,—his mother. Glafira Petrovna had never permitted her own portrait to be made.—"Dear little father Feodor Ivanitch,"—Anton was wont to say to Lavretzky:—"although I did not then have my residence in the manor-house of the masters, yet I remember your great-grandfather, Andrei Afanasievitch,—that I do; I was eighteen years of age when he died. Once I met him in the garden,—my very hamstrings shook; but he did nothing, only inquired my name,—and sent me to his chamber for a pocket-handkerchief. He was a real gentleman, there's no gainsaying that,—and he recognised no superior over him. For I must inform you, that your great-grandfather had a wonderful amulet,—a monk from Mount Athos gave him that amulet. And that monk said to him: 'I give thee this for thine affability, Boyarin; wear it—and fear not fate.' Well, and of course, dear little father, you know, what sort of times those were; what the master took a notion to do, that he did. Once in a while, some one, even one of the gentry, would take it into his head to thwart him; but no sooner did he look at him, than he would say: 'You're sailing in shoal water'—that was his favourite expression. And he lived, your great-grandfather of blessed memory, in a tiny wooden mansion; but what property he left behind him, what silver, and all sorts of supplies,—all the cellars were filled to the brim! He was a master. That little carafe, which you were pleased to praise,—belonged to him: he drank vodka from it. And then your grandfather, Piotr Ivanitch, built himself a stone mansion; but he acquired no property; with him everything went at sixes and sevens; and he lived worse than his papa, and got no pleasure for himself,—but wasted all the money, and there was none to pay for requiems for his soul; he left not even a silver spoon behind him, so it was lucky that Glafira Petrovna brought things into order."

"And is it true,"—Lavretzky interrupted him,—"that she was called an ill-tempered old hag?"

"Why, surely, some did call her that!"—returned Anton, in displeasure.

* * * * *

"WELL, little father,"—the old man one day summoned the courage to ask;—"and how about our young mistress; where is she pleased to have her residence?"

"I have separated from my wife,"—said Lavretzky, with an effort:—"please do not inquire about her."

"I obey, sir,"—replied the old man, sadly.

After the lapse of three weeks, Lavretzky rode into O * * * on horseback, to the Kalitins', and passed the evening with them. Lemm was there; Lavretzky conceived a great liking for him. Although, thanks to his father, he did not play on any instrument, yet he was passionately fond of music,—intelligent, classical music. Panshin was not at the Kalitins' that evening. The Governor had sent him off somewhere, out of town. Liza played alone, and with great precision; Lemm grew animated, excited, rolled a piece of paper into a baton, and beat time. Marya Dmitrievna laughed, at first, as she watched him, and then went off to bed; as she said, Beethoven was too agitating for her nerves. At midnight, Lavretzky escorted Lemm to his lodgings, and sat with him until three o'clock in the morning. Lemm talked a great deal; his bent shoulders straightened up, his eyes opened widely and sparkled; his very hair stood upright above his brow. It was such a very long time since any one had taken an interest in him, but Lavretzky evidently did take an interest, and interrogated him solicitously and attentively. This touched the old man; he ended by showing his visitor his music, he even played and sang to him, with his ghost of a voice, several selections from his compositions,—among others, the whole of Schiller's ballad "Fridolin," which he had set to music. Lavretzky lauded it, made him repeat portions of it, and invited him to visit him for a few days. Lemm, who was escorting him to the street, immediately accepted, and shook his hand warmly; but when he was left alone, in the cool, damp air of the day which was just beginning to dawn, he glanced around him, screwed up his eyes, writhed, and went softly to his tiny chamber, like a guilty creature: "Ich bin wohl nicht klug" (I'm not in my right mind),—he muttered, as he lay down on his hard, short bed. He tried to assert that he was ill when, a few days later, Lavretzky came for him in a calash; but Feodor Ivanitch went to him, in his room, and persuaded him. The circumstance which operated most powerfully of all on Lemm was, that Lavretzky had ordered a piano to be sent to his country-house from the town: a piano for his—Lemm's—use. Together they went to the Kalitins', and spent the evening, but not so agreeably as on the former occasion. Panshin was there, had a great deal to narrate about his journey, and very amusingly mimicked and illustrated in action the country squires he had seen; Lavretzky laughed, but Lemm did not emerge from his corner, maintained silence, quietly quivered all over like a spider, looked glum and dull, and grew animated only when Lavretzky began to take his leave. Even when he was seated in the calash, the old man continued to be shy and to fidget; but the quiet, warm air, the light breeze, the delicate shadows, the perfume of the grass, of the birch buds, the peaceful gleam of the starry, moonless heaven, the energetic hoof-beats and snorting of the horses, all the charms of the road, of spring, of night,—descended into the heart of the poor German, and he himself was the first to address Lavretzky.



XXII

He began to talk of music, of Liza, then again of music. He seemed, somehow, to utter his words more slowly when he spoke of Liza. Lavretzky turned the conversation on his compositions, and, half in jest, proposed to write a libretto for him.

"H'm, a libretto!"—rejoined Lemm:—"no, that is beyond me: I have not that animation, that play of fancy, which is indispensable for an opera; I have already lost my powers.... But if I could still do something,—I would be satisfied with a romance; of course, I should like some good words...."

He relapsed into silence, and sat for a long time motionless, with his eyes raised heavenward.

"For example," he said at last:—"something of this sort: 'Ye stars, O ye pure stars'?"...

Lavretzky turned his face slightly toward him and began to stare at him.

"'Ye stars, ye pure stars,'"—repeated Lemm.... "'Ye gaze alike upon the just and upon the guilty ... but only the innocent of heart,'—or something of that sort ... 'understand you,' that is to say, no,—'love you.' However, I am not a poet ... how should I be! But something in that style, something lofty."

Lemm pushed his hat back on the nape of his neck; in the delicate gloom of the light night, his face seemed whiter and more youthful.

"'And ye also,'"—he went on, with a voice which gradually grew quieter:—"'ye know who loves, who knows how to love, for ye are pure, ye, alone, can comfort.'... No, that's not right yet! I am not a poet,"—he said:—"but something of that sort...."

"I regret that I am not a poet,"—remarked Lavretzky.

"Empty visions!" retorted Lemm, and huddled in the corner of the calash. He closed his eyes, as though preparing to go to sleep.

Several moments elapsed.... Lavretzky listened.... "'Stars, pure stars, love,'"—the old man was whispering.

"Love,"—Lavretzky repeated to himself, became thoughtful, and his soul grew heavy within him.

"You have written some very beautiful music for 'Fridolin,' Christofor Feodoritch,"—he said aloud:—"and what think you; did that Fridolin, after the Count had led him to his wife, become her lover—hey?"

"That is what you think,"—returned Lemm: "because, probably, experience...." He suddenly fell silent, and turned away in confusion. Lavretzky laughed in a constrained way, turned away also, and began to stare along the road.

The stars had already begun to pale, and the sky was grey, when the calash rolled up to the porch of the little house at Vasilievskoe. Lavretzky conducted his guest to the chamber which had been assigned to him, returned to his study, and sat down by the window. In the park, a nightingale was singing its last lay before the dawn. Lavretzky remembered that a nightingale had been singing in the Kalitins' garden also; he recalled, too, the tranquil movement of Liza's eyes when, at the first sounds of it, they had turned toward the dark window. He began to think of her, and his heart grew calm within him. "Pure little star,"—he said to himself, in a low tone:—"pure stars,"—he added, with a smile, and calmly lay down to sleep.

But Lemm sat, for a long time, on his bed, with a book of music-paper on his knees. It seemed as though a strange, sweet melody were about to visit him: he was already burning and growing agitated, he already felt the lassitude and sweetness of its approach ... but it did not come.

"I am not a poet, and not a musician!"—he whispered at last....

And his weary head sank back heavily on the pillow.



XXIII

On the following morning, host and guest drank tea in the garden, under an ancient linden-tree.

"Maestro!"—said Lavretzky, among other things:—"you will soon have to compose a triumphal cantata."

"On what occasion?"

"On the occasion of the marriage of Mr. Panshin to Liza. Did you notice how he was paying court to her last evening? It seems as though everything were going smoothly with them."

"That shall not be!" exclaimed Lemm.

"Why not?"

"Because it is impossible. However,"—he added, after a pause:—"everything is possible in this world. Especially here, with you, in Russia."

"Let us leave Russia out of the question for the present; but what evil do you see in that marriage?"

"All is evil, all. Lizaveta Mikhailovna is an upright, serious maiden, with exalted sentiments,—but he ... he is a di-let-tante, in one word."

"But surely she loves him?"

Lemm rose from the bench.

"No, she does not love him, that is to say, she is very pure in heart, and does not know herself what 'love' means. Madam von Kalitin tells her, that he is a nice young man, and she listens to Madam von Kalitin, because she is still a perfect child, although she is nineteen years of age: she says her prayers in the morning, she says her prayers in the evening,—and that is very praiseworthy; but she does not love him. She can love only the fine, but he is not fine; that is, his soul is not fine."

Lemm uttered this whole speech coherently and with fervour, pacing back and forth, with short strides, in front of the tea-table, and with his eyes flitting over the ground.

"My dearest Maestro!"—exclaimed Lavretzky all at once:—"it strikes me, that you are in love with my cousin yourself."

Lemm came to a sudden halt.

"Please,"—he began in an uncertain voice:—"do not jest thus with me. I am not a lunatic."

Lavretzky felt sorry for the old man; he entreated his forgiveness. After tea, Lemm played him his cantata, and at dinner, being instigated thereto by Lavretzky himself, he again began to talk about Liza. Lavretzky listened to him with attention and curiosity.

"What think you, Christofor Feodoritch,"—he said at last—"everything appears to be in order with us now, the garden is in full bloom.... Shall not we invite her here for the day, together with her mother and my old aunt,—hey? Would that be agreeable to you?"

Lemm bent his head over his plate.

"Invite her,"—he said, almost inaudibly.

"And Panshin need not be asked?"

"He need not,"—replied the old man, with a half-childlike smile.

Two days later, Feodor Ivanitch set out for the town, to the Kalitins.



XXIV

He found them all at home, but he did not immediately announce to them his intention: he wished, first, to have a talk alone with Liza. Chance aided him: they were left alone together in the drawing-room. They fell into conversation: she had succeeded in getting used to him,—and, in general, she was not shy of any one. He listened to her, looked her straight in the face, and mentally repeated Lemm's words, and agreed with him. It sometimes happens, that two persons who are already acquainted, but not intimate, suddenly and swiftly draw near to each other in the course of a few minutes,—and the consciousness of this approach is immediately reflected in their glances, in their friendly, quiet smiles, in their very movements. Precisely this is what took place with Lavretzky and Liza. "So that's what he is like," she thought, gazing caressingly at him; "so that's what thou art like," he said to himself also. And therefore, he was not greatly surprised when she, not without a slight hesitation, however, announced to him, that she had long had it in her heart to say something to him, but had been afraid of annoying him.

"Have no fear; speak out,"—he said, and halted in front of her.

Liza raised her clear eyes to his.

"You are so kind,"—she began, and, at the same time, she said to herself:—"'yes, he really is kind' ... you will pardon me, but I ought not to speak of this to you ... but how could you ... why did you separate from your wife?"

Lavretzky shuddered, glanced at Liza, and seated himself beside her.

"My child," he began,—"please do not touch that wound; your hands are tender, but nevertheless I shall suffer pain."

"I know,"—went on Liza, as though she had not heard him:—"she is culpable toward you, I do not wish to defend her; but how is it possible to put asunder that which God has joined together?"

"Our convictions on that point are too dissimilar, Lizaveta Mikhailovna,"—said Lavretzky, rather sharply;—"we shall not understand each other."

Liza turned pale; her whole body quivered slightly; but she did not hold her peace.

"You ought to forgive,"—she said softly:—"if you wish to be forgiven."

"Forgive!"—Lavretzky caught her up:—"Ought not you first to know for whom you are pleading? Forgive that woman, take her back into my house,—her,—that empty, heartless creature! And who has told you, that she wishes to return to me? Good heavens, she is entirely satisfied with her position.... But what is the use of talking about it! Her name ought not to be uttered by you. You are too pure, you are not even in a position to understand what sort of a being she is."

"Why vilify her?"—said Liza, with an effort. The trembling of her hands became visible. "It was you yourself who abandoned her, Feodor Ivanitch."

"But I tell you,"—retorted Lavretzky, with an involuntary outburst of impatience:—"that you do not know what sort of a creature she is!"

"Then why did you marry her?"—whispered Liza, and dropped her eyes.

Lavretzky sprang up hastily from his seat.

"Why did I marry? I was young and inexperienced then; I was deceived, I was carried away by a beautiful exterior. I did not know women, I did not know anything. God grant that you may make a happier marriage! But, believe me, it is impossible to vouch for anything."

"And I may be just as unhappy,"—said Liza (her voice began to break): "but, in that case, I must submit; I do not know how to talk, but if we do not submit...."

Lavretzky clenched his fists and stamped his foot.

"Be not angry; forgive me!"—ejaculated Liza, hastily.

At that moment, Marya Dmitrievna entered. Liza rose, and started to leave the room.

"Stop!"—Lavretzky unexpectedly called after her. "I have a great favour to ask of your mother and of you: make me a visit to celebrate my new home. You know, I have set up a piano; Lemm is staying with me; the lilacs are now in bloom; you will get a breath of the country air, and can return the same day,—do you accept?"

Liza glanced at her mother, and Marya Dmitrievna assumed an air of suffering, but Lavretzky, without giving her a chance to open her mouth, instantly kissed both her hands. Marya Dmitrievna, who was always susceptible to endearments, and had not expected such amiability from "the dolt," was touched to the soul, and consented. While she was considering what day to appoint, Lavretzky approached Liza, and, still greatly agitated, furtively whispered to her: "Thank you, you are a good girl, I am to blame."... And her pale face flushed crimson with a cheerful—bashful smile; her eyes also smiled,—up to that moment, she had been afraid that she had offended him.

"May Vladimir Nikolaitch go with us?"—asked Marya Dmitrievna.

"Certainly,"—responded Lavretzky:—"but would it not be better if we confined ourselves to our own family circle?"

"Yes, certainly, but you see...." Marya Dmitrievna began. "However, as you like," she added.

It was decided to take Lyenotchka and Schurotchka. Marfa Timofeevna declined to make the journey.

"It is too hard for me, my dear,"—she said,—"my old bones ache: and I am sure there is no place at your house where I can spend the night; and I cannot sleep in a strange bed. Let these young people do the gallivanting."

Lavretzky did not succeed in being alone again with Liza; but he looked at her in such a way, that she felt at ease, and rather ashamed, and sorry for him. On taking leave of her, he pressed her hand warmly; when she was left alone, she fell into thought.



XXV

When Lavretzky reached home, he was met on the threshold of the drawing-room by a tall, thin man, in a threadbare blue coat, with frowzy grey side-whiskers, a long, straight nose, and small, inflamed eyes. This was Mikhalevitch, his former comrade at the university. Lavretzky did not recognise him at first, but embraced him warmly as soon as he mentioned his name. They had not seen each other since the Moscow days. There was a shower of exclamations, of questions; long-smothered memories came forth into the light of day. Hurriedly smoking pipe after pipe, drinking down tea in gulps, and flourishing his long arms, Mikhalevitch narrated his adventures to Lavretzky; there was nothing very cheerful about them, he could not boast of success in his enterprises,—but he laughed incessantly, with a hoarse, nervous laugh. A month previously, he had obtained a situation in the private counting-house of a wealthy distiller, about three hundred versts from the town of O * * *, and, on learning of Lavretzky's return from abroad, he had turned aside from his road, in order to see his old friend. Mikhalevitch talked as abruptly as in his younger days, was as noisy and effervescent as ever. Lavretzky was about to allude to his circumstances, but Mikhalevitch interrupted him, hastily muttering: "I've heard, brother, I've heard about it,—who could have anticipated it?"—and immediately turned the conversation into the region of general comments.

"I, brother,"—he said:—"must leave thee to-morrow; to-day, thou must excuse me—we will go to bed late—I positively must find out what are thy opinions, convictions, what sort of a person thou hast become, what life has taught thee." (Mikhalevitch still retained the phraseology of the '30s.) "So far as I myself am concerned, I have changed in many respects, brother: the billows of life have fallen upon my breast,—who the dickens was it that said that?—although, in important, essential points, I have not changed; I believe, as of yore, in the good, in the truth; but I not only believe,—I am now a believer, yes—I am a believer, a religious believer. Hearken, thou knowest that I write verses; there is no poetry in them, but there is truth. I will recite to thee my last piece: in it I have given expression to my most sincere convictions. Listen."—Mikhalevitch began to recite a poem; it was rather long, and wound up with the following lines:

"To new feeling I have surrendered myself with all my heart, I have become like a child in soul: And I have burned all that I worshipped. I have worshipped all that I burned."

As he declaimed these last two lines, Mikhalevitch was on the verge of tears; slight convulsive twitchings, the signs of deep feeling—flitted across his broad lips, his ugly face lighted up. Lavretzky listened and listened to him; the spirit of contradiction began to stir within him: the ever-ready, incessantly-seething enthusiasm of the Moscow student irritated him. A quarter of an hour had not elapsed, before a dispute flared up between them, one of those interminable disputes, of which only Russians are capable. After a separation of many years' duration, spent in two widely-different spheres, understanding clearly neither other people's thoughts nor their own,—cavilling at words and retorting with mere words, they argued about the most abstract subjects,—and argued as though it were a matter of life and death to both of them: they shouted and yelled so, that all the people in the house took fright, and poor Lemm, who, from the moment of Mikhalevitch's arrival, had locked himself up in his room, became bewildered, and began, in a confused way, to be afraid.

"But what art thou after this? disillusioned?"—shouted Mikhalevitch at one o'clock in the morning.

"Are there any such disillusioned people?"—retorted Lavretzky:—"they are all poor and ill,—and I'll pick thee up with one hand, shall I?"

"Well, if not a disillusioned man, then a sceptuik, and that is still worse." (Mikhalevitch's pronunciation still smacked of his native Little Russia.) "And what right hast thou to be a sceptic? Thou hast had bad luck in life, granted; that was no fault of thine: thou wert born with a passionate, loving soul, and thou wert forcibly kept away from women: the first woman that came in thy way was bound to deceive thee."

"And she did deceive me,"—remarked Lavretzky, gloomily.

"Granted, granted; I was the instrument of fate there,—but what nonsense am I talking?—there's no fate about it; it's merely an old habit of expressing myself inaccurately. But what does that prove?"

"It proves, that they dislocated me in my childhood."

"But set thy joints! to that end thou art a human being, a man; thou hast no need to borrow energy! But, at any rate, is it possible, is it permissible, to erect a private fact, so to speak, into a general law, into an immutable law?"

"Where is the rule?"—interrupted Lavretzky,—"I do not admit...."

"Yes, it is thy rule, thy rule," Mikhalevitch interrupted him in his turn....

"Thou art an egoist, that's what thou art!"—he thundered, an hour later:—"thou hast desired thine own personal enjoyment, thou hast desired happiness in life, thou hast desired to live for thyself alone...."

"What dost thou mean by personal enjoyment?"

"And everything has deceived thee; everything has crumbled away beneath thy feet."

"What is personal enjoyment,—I ask thee?"

"And it was bound to crumble. For thou hast sought support where it was not to be found, for thou hast built thy house on a quicksand...."

"Speak more plainly, without metaphors, because I do not understand thee."

"Because,—laugh if it pleases thee,—because there is no faith in thee, no warmth of heart; mind, merely a farthing mind; thou art simply a pitiful, lagging Voltairian—that's what thou art!"

"Who—I am a Voltairian?"

"Yes, just the same sort as thy father was, and dost not suspect it thyself."

"After that,"—cried Lavretzky,—"I have a right to say that thou art a fanatic!"

"Alas!"—returned Mikhalevitch, with contrition:—"unhappily, as yet I have in no way earned so lofty an appellation...."

"Now I have discovered what to call thee,"—shouted this same Mikhalevitch, at three o'clock in the morning;—"thou art not a sceptic, not a disillusioned man, not a Voltairian,—thou art a trifler, and thou art an evil-minded trifler, a conscious trifler, not an ingenuous trifler. Ingenuous triflers lie around on the oven and do nothing, because they do not know how to do anything; and they think of nothing. But thou art a thinking man,—and thou liest around; thou mightest do something—and thou dost nothing; thou liest with thy well-fed belly upward and sayest: 'It is proper to lie thus, because everything that men do is nonsense, and twaddle which leads to nothing.'"

"But what makes thee think that I trifle,"—insisted Lavretzky:—"why dost thou assume such thoughts on my part?"

"And more than that, all of you, all the people of your sort,"—pursued the obstreperous Mikhalevitch:—"are erudite triflers. You know on what foot the German limps, you know what is bad about the English and the French,—and your knowledge comes to your assistance, justifies your shameful laziness, your disgusting inactivity. Some men will even pride themselves, and say, 'What a clever fellow I am!—I lie around, but the others, the fools, bustle about.' Yes!—And there are such gentlemen among us,—I am not saying this with reference to thee, however,—who pass their whole lives in a sort of stupor of tedium, grow accustomed to it, sit in it like ... like a mushroom in sour cream," Mikhalevitch caught himself up, and burst out laughing at his own comparison.—"Oh, that stupor of tedium is the ruin of the Russians! The repulsive trifler, all his life long, is getting ready to work...."

"Come, what art thou calling names for?"—roared Lavretzky, in his turn.—"Work ... act ... Tell me, rather, what to do, but don't call names, you Poltava Demosthenes!"

"Just see what a freak he has taken! I'll not tell thee that, brother; every one must know that himself," retorted Demosthenes, ironically.—"A landed proprietor, a nobleman—and he doesn't know what to do! Thou hast no faith, or thou wouldst know; thou hast no faith—and there is no revelation."

"Give me a rest, at any rate, you devil: give me a chance to look around me,"—entreated Lavretzky.

"Not a minute, not a second of respite!"—retorted Mikhalevitch, with an imperious gesture of the hand.—"Not one second!—Death does not wait, and life ought not to wait."...

"And when, where did men get the idea of becoming triflers?"—he shouted, at four o'clock in the morning, but his voice had now begun to be rather hoarse: "among us! now! in Russia! when on every separate individual a duty, a great obligation is incumbent toward God, toward the nation, toward himself! We are sleeping, but time is passing on; we are sleeping...."

"Permit me to observe to thee,"—said Lavretzky,—"that we are not sleeping at all, now, but are, rather, preventing others from sleeping. We are cracking our throats like cocks. Hark, isn't that the third cock-crow?"

This sally disconcerted and calmed down Mikhalevitch. "Farewell until to-morrow,"—he said, with a smile,—and thrust his pipe into his tobacco-pouch. "Farewell until to-morrow," repeated Lavretzky. But the friends conversed for an hour longer. However, their voices were no longer raised, and their speeches were quiet, sad, and kind.

Mikhalevitch departed on the following day, in spite of all Lavretzky's efforts to detain him. Feodor Ivanitch did not succeed in persuading him to remain; but he talked with him to his heart's content. It came out, that Mikhalevitch had not a penny in the world. Already, on the preceding evening, Lavretzky, with compassion, had observed in him all the signs and habits of confirmed poverty; his boots were broken, a button was missing from the back of his coat, his hands were guiltless of gloves, down was visible in his hair; on his arrival, it had not occurred to him to ask for washing materials, and at supper he ate like a shark, tearing the meat apart with his hands, and cracking the bones noisily with his strong, black teeth. It appeared, also, that the service had been of no benefit to him, that he had staked all his hopes on the revenue-farmer, who had engaged him simply with the object of having in his counting-house "an educated man." In spite of all this, Mikhalevitch was not dejected, and lived on as a cynic, an idealist, a poet, sincerely rejoicing and grieving over the lot of mankind, over his own calling,—and troubled himself very little as to how he was to keep himself from dying with hunger. Mikhalevitch had not married, but had been in love times without number, and wrote verses about all his lady-loves; with especial fervour did he sing the praises of one mysterious "panna" with black and curling locks.... Rumours were in circulation, it is true, to the effect that the "panna" in question was a plain Jewess, well known to many cavalry officers ... but, when you come to think of it,—does that make any difference?

Mikhalevitch did not get on well with Lemm: his vociferous speeches, his harsh manners, frightened the German, who was not used to such things.... An unfortunate wretch always scents another unfortunate wretch from afar, but rarely makes up to him in old age,—and this is not in the least to be wondered at: he has nothing to share with him,—not even hopes.

Before his departure, Mikhalevitch had another long talk with Lavretzky, prophesied perdition to him, if he did not come to a sense of his errors, entreated him to occupy himself seriously with the existence of his peasants, set himself up as an example, saying, that he had been purified in the furnace of affliction,—and immediately thereafter, several times mentioned himself as a happy man, compared himself to the birds of heaven, the lilies of the field....

"A black lily, at any rate,"—remarked Lavretzky.

"Eh, brother, don't put on any of your aristocratic airs,"—retorted Mikhalevitch, good-naturedly:—"but thank God, rather, that in thy veins flows honest, plebeian blood. But I perceive, that thou art now in need of some pure, unearthly being, who shall wrest thee from this apathy of thine."

"Thanks, brother,"—said Lavretzky:—"I have had enough of those unearthly beings."

"Shut up, cuinuik!"—exclaimed Mikhalevitch.

"Cynic,"—Lavretzky corrected him.

"Just so, cuinuik,"—repeated Mikhalevitch, in no wise disconcerted.

Even as he took his seat in the tarantas, to which his flat, yellow, strangely light trunk was carried forth, he continued to talk; wrapped up in some sort of a Spanish cloak with a rusty collar, and lion's paws in place of clasps, he still went on setting forth his views as to the fate of Russia, and waving his swarthy hand through the air, as though he were sowing the seeds of its future welfare. At last the horses started.... "Bear in mind my last three words,"—he shouted, thrusting his whole body out of the tarantas, and balancing himself:—"religion, progress, humanity!... Farewell!" His head, with its cap pulled down to the very eyes, vanished. Lavretzky remained standing alone on the porch and staring down the road until the tarantas disappeared from his sight. "But I think he probably is right,"—he said to himself, as he reentered the house:—"probably I am a trifler." Many of Mikhalevitch's words had sunk indelibly into his soul, although he had disputed and had not agreed with him. If only a man be kindly, no one can repulse him.

——-

[10] Polish for "gentlewoman."—Translator.



XXVI

Two days later, Marya Dmitrievna arrived with all her young people at Vasilievskoe, in accordance with her promise. The little girls immediately ran out into the garden, while Marya Dmitrievna languidly traversed the rooms, and languidly praised everything. Her visit to Lavretzky she regarded as a token of great condescension, almost in the light of a good deed. She smiled affably when Anton and Apraxyeya, after the ancient custom of house-serfs, came to kiss her hand,—and in an enervated voice, through her nose, she asked them to give her some tea. To the great vexation of Anton, who had donned white knitted gloves, the newly-arrived lady was served with tea not by him, but by Lavretzky's hired valet, who, according to the assertion of the old man, knew nothing whatever about proper forms. On the other hand, Anton reasserted his rights at dinner: firm as a post he stood behind Marya Dmitrievna's chair—and yielded his place to no one. The long-unprecedented arrival of visitors at Vasilievskoe both agitated and rejoiced the old man: it pleased him to see, that his master knew nice people. However, he was not the only one who was excited on that day: Lemm, also, was excited. He put on a short, snuff-coloured frock-coat, with a sharp-pointed collar, bound his neckerchief tightly, and incessantly coughed and stepped aside, with an agreeable and courteous mien. Lavretzky noted, with satisfaction, that the close relations between himself and Liza still continued: no sooner did she enter, than she offered him her hand, in friendly wise. After dinner, Lemm drew forth, from the back pocket of his coat, into which he had been constantly thrusting his hand, a small roll of music, and pursing up his lips, he silently laid it on the piano. It was a romance, which he had composed on the preceding day to old-fashioned German words, in which the stars were alluded to. Liza immediately seated herself at the piano and began to decipher the romance.... Alas, the music turned out to be complicated, and disagreeably strained; it was obvious that the composer had attempted to express some passionate, profound sentiment, but nothing had come of it: so the attempt remained merely an attempt. Lavretzky and Liza both felt this,—and Lemm understood it: he said not a word, put his romance back in his pocket, and in reply to Liza's proposal to play it over again, he merely said significantly, with a shake of his head: "Enough—for the present!"—bent his shoulders, shrank together, and left the room.

Toward evening, they all went fishing together. The pond beyond the garden contained a quantity of carp and loach. They placed Marya Dmitrievna in an arm-chair near the bank, in the shade, spread a rug under her feet, and gave her the best hook; Anton, in the quality of an old and expert fisherman, offered his services. He assiduously spitted worms on the hook, slapped them down with his hand, spat on them, and even himself flung the line and hook, bending forward with his whole body. That same day, Marya Dmitrievna expressed herself to Feodor Ivanitch, with regard to him, in the following phrase, in the French language of girls' institutes: "Il n'y a plus maintenant de ces gens comme ca comme autrefois." Lemm, with the two little girls, went further away, to the dam; Lavretzky placed himself beside Liza. The fish bit incessantly, the carp which were caught were constantly flashing their sides, now gold, now silver, in the air; the joyous exclamations of the little girls were unceasing; Marya Dmitrievna herself gave vent to a couple of shrill, feminine shrieks. Lavretzky and Liza caught fewer than the others; this, probably, resulted from the fact that they paid less attention than the rest to their fishing, and allowed their floats to drift close inshore. The tall, reddish reeds rustled softly around them, in front of them the motionless water gleamed softly, and their conversation was soft also. Liza stood on a small raft; Lavretzky sat on the inclined trunk of a willow; Liza wore a white gown, girt about the waist with a broad ribbon, also white in hue; her straw hat was hanging from one hand, with the other, she supported, with some effort, the curved fishing-rod. Lavretzky gazed at the pure, rather severe profile, at her hair tucked behind her ears, at her soft cheeks, which were as sunburned as those of a child,—and said to himself: "O how charmingly thou standest on my pond!" Liza did not turn toward him, but stared at the water,—and half smiled, half screwed up her eyes. The shadow of a linden-tree near at hand fell upon both of them.

"Do you know,"—began Lavretzky:—"I have been thinking a great deal about my last conversation with you, and have come to the conclusion, that you are extraordinarily kind."

"I did not mean it in that way at all ..." Liza began,—and was overcome with shame.

"You are kind,"—repeated Lavretzky. "I am a rough man, but I feel that every one must love you. There's Lemm now, for example: he is simply in love with you."

Liza's brows quivered, rather than contracted; this always happened with her when she heard something disagreeable.

"I felt very sorry for him to-day,"—Lavretzky resumed:—"with his unsuccessful romance. To be young, and be able to do a thing—that can be borne; but to grow old, and not have the power—is painful. And the offensive thing about it is, that you are not conscious when your powers begin to wane. It is difficult for an old man to endure these shocks!... Look out, the fish are biting at your hook.... They say,"—added Lavretzky, after a brief pause,—"that Vladimir Nikolaitch has written a very pretty romance."

"Yes,"—replied Liza;—"it is a trifle, but it is not bad."

"And what is your opinion,"—asked Lavretzky:—"is he a good musician?"

"It seems to me that he has great talent for music; but up to the present time he has not cultivated it as he should."

"Exactly. And is he a nice man?"

Liza laughed, and cast a quick glance at Feodor Ivanitch.

"What a strange question!"—she exclaimed, drawing up her hook, and flinging it far out again.

"Why is it strange?—I am asking you about him as a man who has recently come hither, as your relative."

"As a relative?"

"Yes. I believe I am a sort of uncle to you."

"Vladimir Nikolaitch has a kind heart,"—said Liza:—"he is clever; mamma is very fond of him."

"And do you like him?"

"He is a nice man: why should not I like him?"

"Ah!"—said Lavretzky, and relapsed into silence. A half-mournful, half-sneering expression flitted across his face. His tenacious gaze discomfited Liza, but she continued to smile. "Well, God grant them happiness!"—he muttered, at last, as though to himself, and turned away his head.

Liza blushed.

"You are mistaken, Feodor Ivanitch,"—she said:—"there is no cause for your thinking.... But do not you like Vladimir Nikolaitch?"

"I do not."

"Why?"

"It seems to me, that he has no heart."

The smile vanished from Liza's face.

"You have become accustomed to judge people harshly,"—she said, after a long silence.

"I think not. What right have I to judge others harshly, when I myself stand in need of indulgence? Or have you forgotten that a lazy man is the only one who does not laugh at me?... Well,"—he added:—"and have you kept your promise?"

"What promise?"

"Have you prayed for me?"

"Yes, I have prayed, and I do pray for you every day. But please do not speak lightly of that."

Lavretzky began to assure Liza, that such a thing had never entered his head, that he entertained a profound respect for all convictions; then he entered upon a discussion of religion, its significance in the history of mankind, the significance of Christianity....

"One must be a Christian,"—said Liza, not without a certain effort:—"not in order to understand heavenly things ... yonder ... earthly things, but because every man must die."

Lavretzky, with involuntary surprise, raised his eyes to Liza's, and encountered her glance.

"What a word you have uttered!"—said he.

"The word is not mine,"—she replied.

"It is not yours.... But why do you speak of death?"

"I do not know. I often think about it."

"Often?"

"Yes."

"One would not say so, to look at you now: you have such a merry, bright face, you are smiling...."

"Yes, I am very merry now,"—returned Liza ingenuously.

Lavretzky felt like seizing both her hands, and clasping them tightly.

"Liza, Liza!"—called Marya Dmitrievna,—"come hither, look! What a carp I have caught!"

"Immediately, maman,"—replied Liza, and went to her, but Lavretzky remained on his willow-tree.

"I talk with her as though I were not a man whose life is finished," he said to himself. As she departed, Liza had hung her hat on a bough; with a strange, almost tender sentiment, Lavretzky gazed at the hat, at its long, rather crumpled ribbons. Liza speedily returned to him, and again took up her stand on the raft.

"Why do you think that Vladimir Nikolaitch has no heart?"—she inquired, a few moments later.

"I have already told you, that I may be mistaken; however, time will show."

Liza became thoughtful. Lavretzky began to talk about his manner of life at Vasilievskoe, about Mikhalevitch, about Anton; he felt impelled to talk to Liza, to communicate to her everything that occurred to his soul: she was so charming, she listened to him so attentively; her infrequent comments and replies seemed to him so simple and wise. He even told her so.

Liza was amazed.

"Really?"—she said;—"why, I have always thought that I, like my maid Nastya, had no words of my own. One day she said to her betrothed: 'Thou must find it tiresome with me; thou always sayest such fine things to me, but I have no words of my own.'"

"And thank God for that!" thought Lavretzky.



XXVII

In the meantime, evening drew on, and Marya Dmitrievna expressed a desire to return home. The little girls were, with difficulty, torn away from the pond, and made ready. Lavretzky announced his intention to escort his guests half way, and ordered his horse to be saddled. As he seated Marya Dmitrievna in the carriage, he remembered Lemm; but the old man was nowhere to be found. He had disappeared as soon as the angling was over. Anton slammed to the carriage door, with a strength remarkable for his years, and grimly shouted: "Drive on, coachman!" The carriage rolled off. On the back seat sat Marya Dmitrievna and Liza; on the front seat, the little girls and the maid. The evening was warm and still, and the windows were lowered on both sides. Lavretzky rode at a trot by Liza's side of the carriage, with his hand resting on the door,—he had dropped the reins on the neck of his steed, which was trotting smoothly,—and from time to time exchanged a few words with the young girl. The sunset glow vanished; night descended, and the air grew even warmer. Marya Dmitrievna soon fell into a doze; the little girls and the maid also dropped off to sleep. The carriage rolled swiftly and smoothly onward; Liza leaned forward; the moon, which had just risen, shone on her face, the fragrant night breeze blew on her cheeks and neck. She felt at ease. Her hand lay on the door of the carriage, alongside of Lavretzky's hand. And he, also, felt at ease: he was being borne along through the tranquil nocturnal warmth, never taking his eyes from the kind young face, listening to the youthful voice, which was ringing even in a whisper, saying simple, kindly things; he did not even notice that he had passed the half-way point. He did not wish to awaken Marya Dmitrievna, pressed Liza's hand lightly, and said:—"We are friends, now, are we not?" She nodded, he drew up his horse. The carriage rolled on, gently swaying and lurching: Lavretzky proceeded homeward at a footpace. The witchery of the summer night took possession of him; everything around him seemed so unexpectedly strange, and, at the same time, so long, so sweetly familiar; far and near,—and things were visible at a long distance, although the eye did not comprehend much of what it beheld,—everything was at rest; young, blossoming life made itself felt in that very repose. Lavretzky's horse walked briskly, swaying regularly to right and left; its huge black shadow kept pace alongside; there was something mysteriously pleasant in the tramp of its hoofs, something cheerful and wondrous in the resounding call of the quail. The stars were hidden in a sort of brilliant smoke; the moon, not yet at the full, shone with a steady gleam; its light flooded the blue sky in streams, and fell like a stain of smoky gold upon the thin cloudlets which floated past; the crispness of the air called forth a slight moisture in the eyes, caressingly enveloped all the limbs, poured in an abundant flood into the breast. Lavretzky enjoyed himself, and rejoiced at his enjoyment. "Come, life is still before us," he thought:—"it has not been completely ruined yet by...." He did not finish his sentence, and say who or what had ruined it.... Then he began to think of Liza, that it was hardly likely that she loved Panshin; that had he met her under different circumstances,—God knows what might have come of it; that he understood Lemm, although she had no "words of her own." Yes, but that was not true: she had words of her own.... "Do not speak lightly of that," recurred to Lavretzky's memory. He rode for a long time, with drooping head, then he straightened himself up, and slowly recited:

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