'Nikolai Artemyevitch has complained of me to you?' inquired Shubin, and with the same smile on his lips he looked at Stahov. The latter turned away, dropping his eyes.
'Yes, he complains of you. I don't know what you have done amiss, but you ought to apologise at once, because his health is very much deranged just now, and indeed we all ought when we are young to treat our benefactors with respect.'
'Ah, what logic!' thought Shubin, and he turned to Stahov. 'I am ready to apologise to you, Nikolai Artemyevitch,' he said with a polite half-bow, 'if I have really offended you in any way.'
'I did not at all... with that idea,' rejoined Nikolai Artemyevitch, still as before avoiding Shubin's eyes. 'However, I will readily forgive you, for, as you know, I am not an exacting person.'
'Oh, that admits of no doubt!' said Shubin. 'But allow me to be inquisitive; is Anna Vassilyevna aware precisely what constituted my offence?'
'No, I know nothing,' observed Anna Vassilyevna, craning forward her head expectantly.
'O Good Lord!' exclaimed Nikolai Artemyevitch hurriedly, 'how often have I prayed and besought, how often have I said how I hate these scenes and explanations! When one's been away an age, and comes home hoping for rest—talk of the family circle, interieur, being a family man—and here one finds scenes and unpleasantnesses. There's not a minute of peace. One's positively driven to the club... or, or elsewhere. A man is alive, he has a physical side, and it has its claims, but here——'
And without concluding his sentence Nikolai Artemyevitch went quickly out, slamming the door.
Anna Vassilyevna looked after him. 'To the club!' she muttered bitterly: 'you are not going to the club, profligate? You've no one at the club to give away my horses to—horses from my own stable—and the grey ones too! My favourite colour. Yes, yes, fickle-hearted man,' she went on raising her voice, 'you are not going to the club, As for you, Paul,' she pursued, getting up, 'I wonder you're not ashamed. I should have thought you would not be so childish. And now my head has begun to ache. Where is Zoya, do you know?'
'I think she's upstairs in her room. The wise little fox always hides in her hole when there's a storm in the air.'
'Come, please, please!' Anna Vassilyevna began searching about her. 'Haven't you seen my little glass of grated horse-radish? Paul, be so good as not to make me angry for the future.'
'How make you angry, auntie? Give me your little hand to kiss. Your horse-radish I saw on the little table in the boudoir.'
'Darya always leaves it about somewhere,' said Anna Vassilyevna, and she walked away with a rustle of silk skirts.
Shubin was about to follow her, but he stopped on hearing Uvar Ivanovitch's drawling voice behind him.
'I would... have given it you... young puppy,' the retired cornet brought out in gasps.
Shubin went up to him. 'And what have I done, then, most venerable Uvar Ivanovitch?'
'How! you are young, be respectful. Yes indeed.'
'Respectful to whom?'
'To whom? You know whom. Ay, grin away.'
Shubin crossed his arms on his breast.
'Ah, you type of the choice element in drama,' he exclaimed, 'you primeval force of the black earth, cornerstone of the social fabric!'
Uvar Ivanovitch's fingers began to work. 'There, there, my boy, don't provoke me.'
'Here,' pursued Shubin, 'is a gentleman, not young to judge by appearances, but what blissful, child-like faith is still hidden in him! Respect! And do you know, you primitive creature, what Nikolai Artemyevitch was in a rage with me for? Why I spent the whole of this morning with him at his German woman's; we were singing the three of us—"Do not leave me." You should have heard us—that would have moved you. We sang and sang, my dear sir—and well, I got bored; I could see something was wrong, there was an alarming tenderness in the air. And I began to tease them both. I was very successful. First she was angry with me, then with him; and then he got angry with her, and told her that he was never happy except at home, and he had a paradise there; and she told him he had no morals; and I murmured "Ach!" to her in German. He walked off and I stayed behind; he came here, to his paradise that's to say, and he was soon sick of paradise, so he set to grumbling. Well now, who do you consider was to blame?'
'You, of course,' replied Uvar Ivanovitch.
Shubin stared at him. 'May I venture to ask you, most reverend knight-errant,' he began in an obsequious voice, 'these enigmatical words you have deigned to utter as the result of some exercise of your reflecting faculties, or under the influence of a momentary necessity to start the vibration in the air known as sound?'
'Don't tempt me, I tell you,' groaned Uvar Ivanovitch.
Shubin laughed and ran away. 'Hi,' shouted Uvar Ivanovitch a quarter of an hour later, 'you there... a glass of spirits.'
A little page brought the glass of spirits and some salt fish on a tray. Uvar Ivanovitch slowly took the glass from the tray and gazed a long while with intense attention at it, as though he could not quite understand what it was he had in his hand. Then he looked at the page and asked him, 'Wasn't his name Vaska?' Then he assumed an air of resignation, drank off the spirit, munched the herring and was slowly proceeding to get his handkerchief out of his pocket. But the page had long ago carried off and put away the tray and the decanter, eaten up the remains of the herring and had time to go off to sleep, curled up in a great-coat of his master's, while Uvar Ivanovitch still continued to hold the handkerchief before him in his opened fingers, and with the same intense attention gazed now at the window, now at the floor and walls.
Shubin went back to his room in the lodge and was just opening a book, when Nikolai Artemyevitch's valet came cautiously into his room and handed him a small triangular note, sealed with a thick heraldic crest. 'I hope,' he found in the note, 'that you as a man of honour will not allow yourself to hint by so much as a single word at a certain promissory note which was talked of this morning. You are acquainted with my position and my rules, the insignificance of the sum in itself and the other circumstances; there are, in fine, family secrets which must be respected, and family tranquillity is something so sacred that only etres sans cour (among whom I have no reason to reckon you) would repudiate it! Give this note back to me.—N. S.'
Shubin scribbled below in pencil: 'Don't excite yourself, I'm not quite a sneak yet,' and gave the note back to the man, and again began upon the book. But it soon slipped out of his hands. He looked at the reddening-sky, at the two mighty young pines standing apart from the other trees, thought 'by day pines are bluish, but how magnificently green they are in the evening,' and went out into the garden, in the secret hope of meeting Elena there. He was not mistaken. Before him on a path between the bushes he caught a glimpse of her dress. He went after her, and when he was abreast with her, remarked:
'Don't look in my direction, I'm not worth it.'
She gave him a cursory glance, smiled cursorily, and walked on further into the depths of the garden. Shubin went after her.
'I beg you not to look at me,' he began, 'and then I address you; flagrant contradiction. But what of that? it's not the first time I've contradicted myself. I have just recollected that I have never begged your pardon as I ought for my stupid behaviour yesterday. You are not angry with me, Elena Nikolaevna, are you?'
She stood still and did not answer him at once—not because she was angry, but because her thoughts were far away.
'No,' she said at last, 'I am not in the least angry.' Shubin bit his lip.
'What an absorbed... and what an indifferent face!' he muttered. 'Elena Nikolaevna,' he continued, raising his voice, 'allow me to tell you a little anecdote. I had a friend, and this friend also had a friend, who at first conducted himself as befits a gentleman but afterwards took to drink. So one day early in the morning, my friend meets him in the street (and by that time, note, the acquaintance has been completely dropped) meets him and sees he is drunk. My friend went and turned his back on him. But he ran up and said, "I would not be angry," says he, "if you refused to recognise me, but why should you turn your back on me? Perhaps I have been brought to this through grief. Peace to my ashes!"'
'And is that all?' inquired Elena.
'Yes that's all.'
'I don't understand you. What are you hinting at? You told me just now not to look your way.'
'Yes, and now I have told you that it's too bad to turn your back on me.'
'But did I?' began Elena.
'Did you not?'
Elena flushed slightly and held out her hand to Shubin. He pressed it warmly.
'Here you seem to have convicted me of a bad feeling,' said Elena, 'but your suspicion is unjust. I was not even thinking of Avoiding you.'
'Granted, granted. But you must acknowledge that at that minute you had a thousand ideas in your head of which you would not confide one to me. Eh? I've spoken the truth, I'm quite sure?'
'And why is it? why?'
'My ideas are not clear to myself,' said Elena.
'Then it's just the time for confiding them to some one else,' put in Shubin. 'But I will tell you what it really is. You have a bad opinion of me.'
'Yes you; you imagine that everything in me is half-humbug because I am an artist, that I am incapable not only of doing anything—in that you are very likely right—but even of any genuine deep feeling; you think that I am not capable even of weeping sincerely, that I'm a gossip and a slanderer,—and all because I'm an artist. What luckless, God-forsaken wretches we artists are after that! You, for instance, I am ready to adore, and you don't believe in my repentance.'
'No, Pavel Yakovlitch, I believe in your repentance and I believe in your tears. But it seems to me that even your repentance amuses you—yes and your tears too.'
'Well, I see this is, as the doctors say, a hopeless case, casus incurabilis. There is nothing left but to bow the head and submit. And meanwhile, good Heavens, can it be true, can I possibly be absorbed in my own egoism when there is a soul like this living at my side? And to know that one will never penetrate into that soul, never will know why it grieves and why it rejoices, what is working within it, what it desires—whither it is going... Tell me,' he said after a short silence, 'could you never under any circumstances love an artist?'
Elena looked straight into his eyes.
'I don't think so, Pavel Yakovlitch; no.'
'Which was to be proved,' said Shubin with comical dejection. 'After which I suppose it would be more seemly for me not to intrude on your solitary walk. A professor would ask you on what data you founded your answer no. I'm not a professor though, but a baby according to your ideas; but one does not turn one's back on a baby, remember. Good-bye! Peace to my ashes!'
Elena was on the point of stopping him, but after a moment's thought she too said:
Shubin went out of the courtyard. At a short distance from the Stahov's house he was met by Bersenyev. He was walking with hurried steps, his head bent and his hat pushed back on his neck.
'Andrei Petrovitch!' cried Shubin.
'Go on, go on,' continued Shubin, 'I only shouted, I won't detain you—and you'd better slip straight into the garden—you'll find Elena there, I fancy she's waiting for you... she's waiting for some one anyway.... Do you understand the force of those words: she is waiting! And do you know, my dear boy, an astonishing circumstance? Imagine, it's two years now that I have been living in the same house with her, I'm in love with her, and it's only just now, this minute, that I've, not understood, but really seen her. I have seen her and I lifted up my hands in amazement. Don't look at me, please, with that sham sarcastic smile, which does not suit your sober features. Well, now, I suppose you want to remind me of Annushka. What of it? I don't deny it. Annushkas are on my poor level. And long life to all Annushkas and Zoyas and even Augustina Christianovnas! You go to Elena now, and I will make my way to—Annushka, you fancy? No, my dear fellow, worse than that; to Prince Tchikurasov. He is a Maecenas of a Kazan-Tartar stock, after the style of Volgin. Do you see this note of invitation, these letters, R.S.V.P.? Even in the country there's no peace for me. Addio!' Bersenyev listened to Shubin's tirade in silence, looking as though he were just a little ashamed of him. Then he went into the courtyard of the Stahovs' house. And Shubin did really go to Prince Tchikurasov, to whom with the most cordial air he began saying the most insulting things. The Maecenas of the Tartars of Kazan chuckled; the Maecenas's guests laughed, but no one felt merry, and every one was in a bad temper when the party broke up. So two gentlemen slightly acquainted may be seen when they meet on the Nevsky Prospect suddenly grinning at one another and pursing up their eyes and noses and cheeks, and then, directly they have passed one another, they resume their former indifferent, often cross, and generally sickly, expression.
Elena met Bersenyev cordially, though not in the garden, but the drawing-room, and at once, almost impatiently, renewed the conversation of the previous day. She was alone; Nikolai Artemyevitch had quietly slipped away. Anna Vassilyevna was lying down upstairs with a wet bandage on her head. Zoya was sitting by her, the folds of her skirt arranged precisely about her, and her little hands clasped on her knees. Uvar Ivanovitch was reposing in the attic on a wide and comfortable divan, known as a 'samo-son' or 'dozer.' Bersenyev again mentioned his father; he held his memory sacred. Let us, too, say a few words about him.
The owner of eighty-two serfs, whom he set free before his death, an old Gottingen student, and disciple of the 'Illuminati,' the author of a manuscript work on 'transformations or typifications of the spirit in the world'—a work in which Schelling's philosophy, Swedenborgianism and republicanism were mingled in the most original fashion—Bersenyev's father brought him, while still a boy, to Moscow immediately after his mother's death, and at once himself undertook his education. He prepared himself for each lesson, exerted himself with extraordinary conscientiousness and absolute lack of success: he was a dreamer, a bookworm, and a mystic; he spoke in a dull, hesitating voice, used obscure and roundabout expressions, metaphorical by preference, and was shy even of his son, whom he loved passionately. It was not surprising that his son was simply bewildered at his lessons, and did not advance in the least. The old man (he was almost fifty, he had married late in life) surmised at last that things were not going quite right, and he placed his Andrei in a school. Andrei began to learn, but he was not removed from his father's supervision; his father visited him unceasingly, wearying the schoolmaster to death with his instructions and conversation; the teachers, too, were bored by his uninvited visits; he was for ever bringing them some, as they said, far-fetched books on education. Even the schoolboys were embarrassed at the sight of the old man's swarthy, pockmarked face, his lank figure, invariably clothed in a sort of scanty grey dresscoat. The boys did not suspect then that this grim, unsmiling old gentleman, with his crane-like gait and his long nose, was at heart troubling and yearning over each one of them almost as over his own son. He once conceived the idea of talking to them about Washington: 'My young nurslings,' he began, but at the first sounds of his strange voice the young nurslings ran away. The good old Gottingen student did not lie on a bed of roses; he was for ever weighed down by the march of history, by questions and ideas of every kind. When young Bersenyev entered the university, his father used to drive with him to the lectures, but his health was already beginning to break up. The events of the year 1848 shook him to the foundation (it necessitated the re-writing of his whole book), and he died in the winter of 1853, before his son's time at the university was over, but he was able beforehand to congratulate him on his degree, and to consecrate him to the service of science. 'I pass on the torch to you,' he said to him two hours before his death. 'I held it while I could; you, too, must not let the light grow dim before the end.'
Bersenyev talked a long while to Elena of his father. The embarrassment he had felt in her presence disappeared, and his lisp was less marked. The conversation passed on to the university.
'Tell me,' Elena asked him, 'were there any remarkable men among your comrades?'
Bersenyev was again reminded of Shubin's words.
'No, Elena Nikolaevna, to tell you the truth, there was not a single remarkable man among us. And, indeed, where are such to be found! There was, they say, a good time once in the Moscow university! But not now. Now it's a school, not a university. I was not happy with my comrades,' he added, dropping his voice.
'Not happy,' murmured Elena.
'But I ought,' continued Bersenyev, 'to make an exception. I know one student—it's true he is not in the same faculty—he is certainly a remarkable man.'
'What is his name?' Elena inquired with interest.
'Insarov Dmitri Nikanorovitch. He is a Bulgarian.'
'Not a Russian?'
'No, he is not a Russian,'
'Why is he living in Moscow, then?'
'He came here to study. And do you know with what aim he is studying? He has a single idea: the liberation of his country. And his story is an exceptional one. His father was a fairly well-to-do merchant; he came from Tirnova. Tirnova is now a small town, but it was the capital of Bulgaria in the old days when Bulgaria was still an independent state. He traded with Sophia, and had relations with Russia; his sister, Insarov's aunt, is still living in Kiev, married to a senior history teacher in the gymnasium there. In 1835, that is to say eighteen years ago, a terrible crime was committed; Insarov's mother suddenly disappeared without leaving a trace behind; a week later she was found murdered.'
Elena shuddered. Bersenyev stopped.
'Go on, go on,' she said.
'There were rumours that she had been outraged and murdered by a Turkish aga; her husband, Insarov's father, found out the truth, tried to avenge her, but only succeeded in wounding the aga with his poniard.... He was shot.'
'Shot, and without a trial?'
'Yes. Insarov was just eight years old at the time. He remained in the hands of neighbours. The sister heard of the fate of her brother's family, and wanted to take the nephew to live with her. They got him to Odessa, and from there to Kiev. At Kiev he lived twelve whole years. That's how it is he speaks Russian so well.'
'He speaks Russian?'
'Just as we do. When he was twenty (that was at the beginning of the year 1848) he began to want to return to his country. He stayed in Sophia and Tirnova, and travelled through the length and breadth of Bulgaria, spending two years there, and learning his mother tongue over again. The Turkish Government persecuted him, and he was certainly exposed to great dangers during those two years; I once caught sight of a broad scar on his neck, from a wound, no doubt; but he does not like to talk about it. He is reserved, too, in his own way. I have tried to question him about everything, but I could get nothing out of him. He answers by generalities. He's awfully obstinate. He returned to Russia again in 1850, to Moscow, with the intention of educating himself thoroughly, getting intimate with Russians, and then when he leaves the university——'
'What then?' broke in Elena.
'What God wills. It's hard to forecast the future.'
For a while Elena did not take her eyes off Bersenyev.
'You have greatly interested me by what you have told me,' she said. 'What is he like, this friend of yours; what did you call him, Insarov?'
'What shall I say? To my mind, he's good-looking. But you will see him for yourself.'
'I will bring him here to see you. He is coming to our little village the day after tomorrow, and is going to live with me in the same lodging.'
'Really? But will he care to come to see us?'
'I should think so. He will be delighted.'
'He isn't proud, then?'
'Not the least. That's to say, he is proud if you like, only not in the sense you mean. He will never, for instance, borrow money from any one.'
'Is he poor?'
'Yes, he isn't rich. When he went to Bulgaria he collected some relics left of his father's property, and his aunt helps him; but it all comes to very little.'
'He must have a great deal of character,' observed Elena.
'Yes. He is a man of iron. And at the same time you will see there is something childlike and frank, with all his concentration and even his reserve. It's true, his frankness is not our poor sort of frankness—the frankness of people who have absolutely nothing to conceal.... But there, I will bring him to see you; wait a little.'
'And isn't he shy?' asked Elena again.
'No, he's not shy. It's only vain people who are shy.'
'Why, are you vain?'
He was confused and made a vague gesture with his hands.
'You excite my curiosity,' pursued Elena. 'But tell me, has he not taken vengeance on that Turkish aga?'
'Revenge is only to be found in novels, Elena Nikolaevna; and, besides, in twelve years that aga may well be dead.'
'Mr. Insarov has never said anything, though, to you about it?'
'Why did he go to Sophia?'
'His father used to live there.'
Elena grew thoughtful.
'To liberate one's country!' she said. 'It is terrible even to utter those words, they are so grand.'
At that instant Anna Vassilyevna came into the room, and the conversation stopped.
Bersenyev was stirred by strange emotions when he returned home that evening. He did not regret his plan of making Elena acquainted with Insarov, he felt the deep impression made on her by his account of the young Bulgarian very natural... had he not himself tried to deepen that impression! But a vague, unfathomable emotion lurked secretly in his heart; he was sad with a sadness that had nothing noble in it. This sadness did not prevent him, however, from setting to work on the History of the Hohenstaufen, and beginning to read it at the very page at which he had left off the evening before.
Two days later, Insarov in accordance with his promise arrived at Bersenyev's with his luggage. He had no servant; but without any assistance he put his room to rights, arranged the furniture, dusted and swept the floor. He had special trouble with the writing table, which would not fit into the recess in the wall assigned for it; but Insarov, with the silent persistence peculiar to him succeeded in getting his own way with it. When he had settled in, he asked Bersenyev to let him pay him ten roubles in advance, and arming himself with a thick stick, set off to inspect the country surrounding his new abode. He returned three hours later; and in response to Bersenyev's invitation to share his repast, he said that he would not refuse to dine with him that day, but that he had already spoken to the woman of the house, and would get her to send him up his meals for the future.
'Upon my word!' said Bersenyev, 'you will fare very badly; that old body can't cook a bit. Why don't you dine with me, we would go halves over the cost.'
'My means don't allow me to dine as you do,' Insarov replied with a tranquil smile.
There was something in that smile which forbade further insistence; Bersenyev did not add a word. After dinner he proposed to Insarov that he should take him to the Stahovs; but he replied that he had intended to devote the evening to correspondence with his Bulgarians, and so he would ask him to put off the visit to the Stahovs till next day. Bersenyev was already familiar with Insarov's unbending will; but it was only now when he was under the same roof with him, that he fully realised at last that Insarov would never alter any decision, just in the same way as he would never fail to carry out a promise he had given; to Bersenyev—a Russian to his fingertips—this more than German exactitude seemed at first odd, and even rather ludicrous; but he soon got used to it, and ended by finding it—if not deserving of respect—at least very convenient.
The second day after his arrival, Insarov got up at four o'clock in the morning, made a round of almost all Kuntsovo, bathed in the river, drank a glass of cold milk, and then set to work. And he had plenty of work to do; he was studying Russian history and law, and political economy, translating the Bulgarian ballads and chronicles, collecting materials on the Eastern Question, and compiling a Russian grammar for the use of Bulgarians, and a Bulgarian grammar for the use of Russians. Bersenyev went up to him and began to discuss Feuerbach. Insarov listened attentively, made few remarks, but to the point; it was clear from his observations that he was trying to arrive at a conclusion as to whether he need study Feuerbach, or whether he could get on without him. Bersenyev turned the conversation on to his pursuits, and asked him if he could not show him anything. Insarov read him his translation of two or three Bulgarian ballads, and was anxious to hear his opinion of them. Bersenyev thought the translation a faithful one, but not sufficiently spirited. Insarov paid close attention to his criticism. From the ballads Bersenyev passed on to the present position of Bulgaria, and then for the first time he noticed what a change came over Insarov at the mere mention of his country: not that his face flushed nor his voice grew louder—no! but at once a sense of force and intense onward striving was expressed in his whole personality, the lines of his mouth grew harder and less flexible, and a dull persistent fire glowed in the depths of his eyes. Insarov did not care to enlarge on his own travels in his country; but of Bulgaria in general he talked readily with any one. He talked at length of the Turks, of their oppression, of the sorrows and disasters of his countrymen, and of their hopes: concentrated meditation on a single ruling passion could be heard in every word he uttered.
'Ah, well, there's no mistake about it,' Bersenyev was reflecting meanwhile, 'that Turkish aga, I venture to think, has been punished for his father's and mother's death.'
Insarov had not had time to say all he wanted to say, when the door opened and Shubin made his appearance.
He came into the room with an almost exaggerated air of ease and good-humour; Bersenyev, who knew him well, could see at once that something had been jarring on him.
'I will introduce myself without ceremony,' he began with a bright and open expression on his face. 'My name is Shubin; I'm a friend of this young man here' (he indicated Bersenyev). 'You are Mr. Insarov, of course, aren't you?'
'I am Insarov.'
'Then give me your hand and let us be friends. I don't know if Bersenyev has talked to you about me, but he has told me a great deal about you. You are staying here? Capital! Don't be offended at my staring at you so. I'm a sculptor by trade, and I foresee I shall in a little time be begging your permission to model your head.'
'My head's at your service,' said Insarov.
'What shall we do to-day, eh?' began Shubin, sitting down suddenly on a low chair, with his knees apart and his elbows propped on them. 'Andrei Petrovitch, has your honour any kind of plan for to-day? It's glorious weather; there's a scent of hay and dried strawberries as if one were drinking strawberry-tea for a cold. We ought to get up some kind of a spree. Let us show the new inhabitant of Kuntsov all its numerous beauties.' (Something has certainly upset him, Bersenyev kept thinking to himself.) 'Well, why art thou silent, friend Horatio? Open your prophetic lips. Shall we go off on a spree, or not?'
'I don't know how Insarov feels,' observed Bersenyev. 'He is just getting to work, I fancy.'
Shubin turned round on his chair.
'You want to work?' he inquired, in a somewhat condescending voice.
'No,' answered Insarov; 'to-day I could give up to walking.'
'Ah!' commented Shubin. 'Well, that's delightful. Run along, my friend, Andrei Petrovitch, put a hat on your learned head, and let us go where our eyes lead us. Our eyes are young—they may lead us far. I know a very repulsive little restaurant, where they will give us a very beastly little dinner; but we shall be very jolly. Come along.'
Half an hour later they were all three walking along the bank of the Moskva. Insarov had a rather queer cap with flaps, over which Shubin fell into not very spontaneous raptures. Insarov walked without haste, and looked about, breathing, talking, and smiling with the same tranquillity; he was giving this day up to pleasure, and enjoying it to the utmost. 'Just as well-behaved boys walk out on Sundays,' Shubin whispered in Bersenyev's ear. Shubin himself played the fool a great deal, ran in front, threw himself into the attitudes of famous statues, and turned somersaults on the grass; Insarov's tranquillity did not exactly irritate him, but it spurred him on to playing antics. 'What a fidget you are, Frenchman!' Bersenyev said twice to him. 'Yes, I am French, half French,' Shubin answered, 'and you hold the happy medium between jest and earnest, as a waiter once said to me.' The young men turned away from the river and went along a deep and narrow ravine between two walls of tall golden rye; a bluish shadow was cast on them from the rye on one side; the flashing sunlight seemed to glide over the tops of the ears; the larks were singing, the quails were calling: on all sides was the brilliant green of the grass; a warm breeze stirred and lifted the leaves and shook the heads of the flowers. After prolonged wanderings, with rest and chat between (Shubin had even tried to play leap-frog with a toothless peasant they met, who did nothing but laugh, whatever the gentlemen might do to him), the young men reached the 'repulsive little' restaurant: the waiter almost knocked each of them over, and did really provide them with a very bad dinner with a sort of Balkan wine, which did not, however, prevent them from being very jolly, as Shubin had foretold; he himself was the loudest and the least jolly. He drank to the health of the incomprehensible but great Venelin, the health of the Bulgarian king Kuma, Huma, or Hroma, who lived somewhere about the time of Adam.
'In the ninth century,' Insarov corrected him.
'In the ninth century?' cried Shubin. 'Oh, how delightful!'
Bersenyev noticed that among all his pranks, and jests and gaiety, Shubin was constantly, as it were, examining Insarov; he was sounding him and was in inward excitement, but Insarov remained as before, calm and straightforward.
At last they returned home, changed their dress, and resolved to finish the day as they had begun it, by going that evening to the Stahovs. Shubin ran on before them to announce their arrival.
'The conquering hero Insarov will be here directly!' he shouted triumphantly, going into the Stahovs' drawing-room, where there happened at the instant to be only Elena and Zoya.
'Wer?' inquired Zoya in German. When she was taken unawares she always used her native language. Elena drew herself up. Shubin looked at her with a playful smile on his lips. She felt annoyed, but said nothing.
'You heard,' he repeated, 'Mr. Insarov is coming here.'
'I heard,' she replied; 'and I heard how you spoke of him. I am surprised at you, indeed. Mr. Insarov has not yet set foot in the house, and you already think fit to turn him into ridicule.'
Shubin was crestfallen at once.
'You are right, you are always right, Elena Nikolaevna,' he muttered; 'but I meant nothing, on my honour. We have been walking together with him the whole day, and he's a capital fellow, I assure you.'
'I didn't ask your opinion about that,' commented Elena, getting up.
'Is Mr. Insarov a young man?' asked Zoya.
'He is a hundred and forty-four,' replied Shubin with an air of vexation.
The page announced the arrival of the two friends. They came in. Bersenyev introduced Insarov. Elena asked them to sit down, and sat down herself, while Zoya went off upstairs; she had to inform Anna Vassilyevna of their arrival. A conversation was begun of a rather insignificant kind, like all first conversations. Shubin was silently watching from a corner, but there was nothing to watch. In Elena he detected signs of repressed annoyance against him—Shubin—and that was all. He looked at Bersenyev and at Insarov, and compared their faces from a sculptor's point of view. 'They are neither of them good-looking,' he thought, 'the Bulgarian has a characteristic face—there now it's in a good light; the Great-Russian is better adapted for painting; there are no lines, there's expression. But, I dare say, one might fall in love with either of them. She is not in love yet, but she will fall in love with Bersenyev,' he decided to himself. Anna Vassilyevna made her appearance in the drawing-room, and the conversation took the tone peculiar to summer villas—not the country-house tone but the peculiar summer visitor tone. It was a conversation diversified by plenty of subjects; but broken by short rather wearisome pauses every three minutes. In one of these pauses Anna Vassilyevna turned to Zoya. Shubin understood her silent hint, and drew a long face, while Zoya sat down to the piano, and played and sang all her pieces through. Uvar Ivanovitch showed himself for an instant in the doorway, but he beat a retreat, convulsively twitching his fingers. Then tea was served; and then the whole party went out into the garden.... It began to grow dark outside, and the guests took leave.
Insarov had really made less impression on Elena than she had expected, or, speaking more exactly, he had not made the impression she had expected. She liked his directness and unconstraint, and she liked his face; but the whole character of Insarov—with his calm firmness and everyday simplicity—did not somehow accord with the image formed in her brain by Bersenyev's account of him. Elena, though she did not herself suspect it, had anticipated something more fateful. 'But,' she reflected, 'he spoke very little to-day, and I am myself to blame for it; I did not question him, we must have patience till next time... and his eyes are expressive, honest eyes.' She felt that she had no disposition to humble herself before him, but rather to hold out her hand to him in friendly equality, and she was puzzled; this was not how she had fancied men, like Insarov, 'heroes.' This last word reminded her of Shubin, and she grew hot and angry, as she lay in her bed.
'How did you like your new acquaintances?' Bersenyev inquired of Insarov on their way home.
'I liked them very much,' answered Insarov, 'especially the daughter. She must be a nice girl. She is excitable, but in her it's a fine kind of excitability.'
'You must go and see them a little oftener,' observed Bersenyev.
'Yes, I must,' said Insarov; and he said nothing more all the way home. He at once shut himself up in his room, but his candle was burning long after midnight.
Bersenyev had had time to read a page of Raumer, when a handful of fine gravel came rattling on his window-pane. He could not help starting; opening the window he saw Shubin as white as a sheet.
'What an irrepressible fellow you are, you night moth——' Bersenyev was beginning.
'Sh—' Shubin cut him short; 'I have come to you in secret, as Max went to Agatha I absolutely must say a few words to you alone.'
'Come into the room then.'
'No, that's not necessary,' replied Shubin, and he leaned his elbows on the window-sill, 'it's better fun like this, more as if we were in Spain. To begin with, I congratulate you, you're at a premium now. Your belauded, exceptional man has quite missed fire. That I'll guarantee. And to prove my impartiality, listen—here's the sum and substance of Mr. Insarov. No talents, none, no poetry, any amount of capacity for work, an immense memory, an intellect not deep nor varied, but sound and quick, dry as dust, and force, and even the gift of the gab when the talk's about his—between ourselves let it be said—tedious Bulgaria. What! do you say I am unjust? One remark more: you'll never come to Christian names with him, and none ever has been on such terms with him. I, of course, as an artist, am hateful to him; and I am proud of it. Dry as dust, dry as dust, but he can crush all of us to powder. He's devoted to his country—not like our empty patriots who fawn on the people; pour into us, they say, thou living water! But, of course, his problem is easier, more intelligible: he has only to drive the Turks out, a mighty task. But all these qualities, thank God, don't please women. There's no fascination, no charm about them, as there is about you and me.'
'Why do you bring me in?' muttered Bersenyev. 'And you are wrong in all the rest; you are not in the least hateful to him, and with his own countrymen he is on Christian name terms—that I know.'
'That's a different matter! For them he's a hero; but, to make a confession, I have a very different idea of a hero; a hero ought not to be able to talk; a hero should roar like a bull, but when he butts with his horns, the walls shake. He ought not to know himself why he butts at things, but just to butt at them. But, perhaps, in our days heroes of a different stamp are needed.'
'Why are you so taken up with Insarov?' asked Bersenyev. 'Can you have run here only to describe his character to me?'
'I came here,' began Shubin, 'because I was very miserable at home.'
'Oh, that's it! Don't you want to have a cry again?'
'You may laugh! I came here because I'm at my wits' end, because I am devoured by despair, anger, jealousy.'
'Jealousy? of whom?'
'Of you and him and every one. I'm tortured by the thought that if I had understood her sooner, if I had set to work cleverly—But what's the use of talking! It must end by my always laughing, playing the fool, turning things into ridicule as she says, and then setting to and strangling myself.'
'Stuff, you won't strangle yourself,' observed Bersenyev.
'On such a night, of course not; but only let me live on till the autumn. On such a night people do die too, but only of happiness. Ah, happiness! Every shadow that stretches across the road from every tree seems whispering now: "I know where there is happiness... shall I tell you?" I would ask you to come for a walk, only now you're under the influence of prose. Go to sleep, and may your dreams be visited by mathematical figures! My heart is breaking. You, worthy gentlemen, see a man laughing, and that means to your notions he's all right; you can prove to him that he's humbugging himself, that's to say, he is not suffering.... God bless you!'
Shubin abruptly left the window. 'Annu-shka!' Bersenyev felt an impulse to shout after him, but he restrained himself; Shubin had really been white with emotion. Two minutes later, Bersenyev even caught the sound of sobbing; he got up and opened the window; everything was still, only somewhere in the distance some one—a passing peasant, probably—was humming 'The Plain of Mozdok.'
During the first fortnight of Insarov's stay in the Kuntsovo neighbourhood, he did not visit the Stahovs more than four or five times; Bersenyev went to see them every day. Elena was always pleased to see him, lively and interesting talk always sprang up between them, and yet he often went home with a gloomy face. Shubin scarcely showed himself; he was working with feverish energy at his art; he either stayed locked up in his room, from which he would emerge in a blouse, smeared all over with clay, or else he spent days in Moscow where he had a studio, to which models and Italian sculptors, his friends and teachers, used to come to see him. Elena did not once succeed in talking with Insarov, as she would have liked to do; in his absence she prepared questions to ask him about many things, but when he came she felt ashamed of her plans. Insarov's very tranquillity embarrassed her; it seemed to her that she had not the right to force him to speak out; and she resolved to wait; for all that, she felt that at every visit however trivial might be the words that passed between them, he attracted her more and more; but she never happened to be left alone with him—and to grow intimate with any one, one must have at least one conversation alone with him. She talked a great deal about him to Bersenyev. Bersenyev realised that Elena's imagination had been struck by Insarov, and was glad that his friend had not 'missed fire' as Shubin had asserted. He told her cordially all he knew of him down to the minutest details (we often, when we want to please some one, bring our friends into our conversation, hardly ever suspecting that we are praising ourselves in that way), and only at times, when Elena's pale cheeks flushed a little and her eyes grew bright and wide, he felt a pang in his heart of that evil pain which he had felt before.
One day Bersenyev came to the Stahovs, not at the customary time, but at eleven o'clock in the morning. Elena came down to him in the parlour.
'Fancy,' he began with a constrained smile, 'our Insarov has disappeared.'
'Disappeared?' said Elena.
'He has disappeared. The day before yesterday he went off somewhere and nothing has been seen of him since.'
'He did not tell you where he was going?'
Elena sank into a chair.
'He has most likely gone to Moscow,' she commented, trying to seem indifferent and at the same time wondering that she should try to seem indifferent.
'I don't think so,' rejoined Bersenyev. 'He did not go alone.'
'With whom then?'
'Two people of some sort—his countrymen they must have been—came to him the day before yesterday, before dinner.'
'Bulgarians! what makes you think so?'
'Why as far as I could hear, they talked to him in some language I did not know, but Slavonic... You are always saying, Elena Nikolaevna, that there's so little mystery about Insarov; what could be more mysterious than this visit? Imagine, they came to him—and then there was shouting and quarrelling, and such savage, angry disputing.... And he shouted too.'
'He shouted too?'
'Yes. He shouted at them. They seemed to be accusing each other. And if you could have had a peep at these visitors. They had swarthy, heavy faces with high cheek bones and hook noses, both about forty years old, shabbily dressed, hot and dusty, looking like workmen—not workmen, and not gentlemen—goodness knows what sort of people they were.'
'And he went away with them?'
'Yes. He gave them something to eat and went off with them. The woman of the house told me they ate a whole huge pot of porridge between the two of them. They outdid one another, she said, and gobbled it up like wolves.'
Elena gave a faint smile.
'You will see,' she said, 'all this will be explained into something very prosaic.'
'I hope it may! But you need not use that word. There is nothing prosaic about Insarov, though Shubin does maintain——'
'Shubin!' Elena broke in, shrugging her shoulders. 'But you must confess these two good men gobbling up porridge——'
'Even Themistocles had his supper on the eve of Salamis,' observed Bersenyev with a smile.
'Yes; but then there was a battle next day. Any way you will let me know when he comes back,' said Elena, and she tried to change the subject, but the conversation made little progress. Zoya made her appearance and began walking about the room on tip-toe, giving them thereby to understand that Anna Vassilyevna was not yet awake.
Bersenyev went away.
In the evening of the same day a note from him was brought to Elena. 'He has come back,' he wrote to her, 'sunburnt and dusty to his very eyebrows; but where and why he went I don't know; won't you find out?'
'Won't you find out!' Elena whispered, 'as though he talked to me!'
The next day, at two o'clock, Elena was standing in the garden before a small kennel, where she was rearing two puppies. (A gardener had found them deserted under a hedge, and brought them to the young mistress, being told by the laundry-maids that she took pity on beasts of all sorts. He was not wrong in his reckoning. Elena had given him a quarter-rouble.) She looked into the kennel, assured herself that the puppies were alive and well, and that they had been provided with fresh straw, turned round, and almost uttered a cry; down an alley straight towards her was walking Insarov, alone.
'Good-morning,' he said, coming up to her and taking off his cap. She noticed that he certainly had got much sunburnt during the last three days. 'I meant to have come here with Andrei Petrovitch, but he was rather slow in starting; so here I am without him. There is no one in your house; they are all asleep or out of doors, so I came on here.'
'You seem to be apologising,' replied Elena. 'There's no need to do that. We are always very glad to see you. Let us sit here on the bench in the shade.'
She seated herself. Insarov sat down near her.
'You have not been at home these last days, I think?' she began.
'No,' he answered. 'I went away. Did Andrei Petrovitch tell you?'
Insarov looked at her, smiled, and began playing with his cap. When he smiled, his eyes blinked, and his lips puckered up, which gave him a very good-humoured appearance.
'Andrei Petrovitch most likely told you too that I went away with some—unattractive people,' he said, still smiling.
Elena was a little confused, but she felt at once that Insarov must always be told the truth.
'Yes,' she said decisively.
'What did you think of me?' he asked her suddenly.
Elena raised her eyes to him.
'I thought,' she said, 'I thought that you always know what you're doing, and you are incapable of doing anything wrong.'
'Well—thanks for that. You see, Elena Nikolaevna,' he began, coming closer to her in a confidential way, 'there is a little family of our people here; among us there are men of little culture; but all are warmly devoted to the common cause. Unluckily, one can never get on without dissensions, and they all know me, and trust me; so they sent for me to settle a dispute. I went.'
'Was it far from here?'
'I went about fifty miles, to the Troitsky district. There, near the monastery, there are some of our people. At any rate, my trouble was not thrown away; I settled the matter.'
'And had you much difficulty?'
'Yes. One was obstinate through everything. He did not want to give back the money.'
'What? Was the dispute over money?'
'Yes; and a small sum of money too. What did you suppose?'
'And you travelled over fifty miles for such trifling matters? Wasted three days?'
'They are not trifling matters, Elena Nikolaevna, when my countrymen are involved. It would be wicked to refuse in such cases. I see here that you don't refuse help even to puppies, and I think well of you for it. And as for the time I have lost, that's no great harm; I will make it up later. Our time does not belong to us.'
'To whom does it belong then?'
'Why, to all who need us. I have told you all this on the spur of the moment, because I value your good opinion. I can fancy how Andrei Petrovitch must have made you wonder!'
'You value my good opinion,' said Elena, in an undertone, 'why?'
Insarov smiled again.
'Because you are a good young lady, not an aristocrat... that's all.'
A short silence followed.
'Dmitri Nikanorovitch,' said Elena, 'do you know that this is the first time you have been so unreserved with me?'
'How's that? I think I have always said everything I thought to you.'
'No, this is the first time, and I am very glad, and I too want to be open with you. May I?'
Insarov began to laugh and said: 'You may.'
'I warn you I am very inquisitive.'
'Never mind, tell me.'
'Andrei Petrovitch has told me a great deal of your life, of your youth. I know of one event, one awful event.... I know you travelled afterwards in your own country.... Don't answer me for goodness sake, if you think my question indiscreet, but I am fretted by one idea.... Tell me, did you meet that man?'
Elena caught her breath. She felt both shame and dismay at her own audacity. Insarov looked at her intently, slightly knitting his brows, and stroking his chin with his fingers.
'Elena Nikolaevna,' he began at last, and his voice was much lower than usual, which almost frightened Elena, 'I understand what man you are referring to. No, I did not meet him, and thank God I did not! I did not try to find him. I did not try to find him: not because I did not think I had a right to kill him—I would kill him with a very easy conscience—but because now is not the time for private revenge, when we are concerned with the general national vengeance—or no, that is not the right word—when we are concerned with the liberation of a people. The one would be a hindrance to the other. In its own time that, too, will come... that too will come,' he repeated, and he shook his head.
Elena looked at him from the side.
'You love your country very dearly?' she articulated timidly.
'That remains to be shown,' he answered. 'When one of us dies for her, then one can say he loved his country.'
'So that, if you were cut off all chance of returning to Bulgaria,' continued Elena, 'would you be very unhappy in Russia?'
Insarov looked down.
'I think I could not bear that,' he said.
'Tell me,' Elena began again, 'is it difficult to learn Bulgarian?'
'Not at all. It's a disgrace to a Russian not to know Bulgarian. A Russian ought to know all the Slavonic dialects. Would you like me to bring you some Bulgarian books? You will see how easy it is. What ballads we have! equal to the Servian. But stop a minute, I will translate to you one of them. It is about... But you know a little of our history at least, don't you?'
'No, I know nothing of it,' answered
'Wait a little and I will bring you a book. You will learn the principal facts at least from it. Listen to the ballad then.... But I had better bring you a written translation, though. I am sure you will love us, you love all the oppressed. If you knew what a land of plenty ours is! And, meanwhile, it has been downtrodden, it has been ravaged,' he went on, with an involuntary movement of his arm, and his face darkened; 'we have been robbed of everything; everything, our churches, our laws, our lands; the unclean Turks drive us like cattle, butcher us——'
'Dmitri Nikanorovitch!' cried Elena.
'I beg your pardon. I can't speak of this coolly. But you asked me just now whether I love my country. What else can one love on earth? What is the one thing unchanging, what is above all doubts, what is it—next to God—one must believe in? And when that country needs. ... Think; the poorest peasant, the poorest beggar in Bulgaria, and I have the same desire. All of us have one aim. You can understand what strength, what confidence that gives!'
Insarov was silent for an instant; then he began again to talk of Bulgaria. Elena listened to him with absorbed, profound, and mournful attention. When he had finished, she asked him once more:
'Then you would not stay in Russia for anything?'
And when he went away, for a long time she gazed after him. On that day he had become a different man for her. When she walked back with him through the garden, he was no longer the man she had met two hours before.
From that day he began to come more and more often, and Bersenyev less and less often. A strange feeling began to grow up between the two friends, of which they were both conscious, but to which they could not give a name, and which they feared to analyse. In this way a month passed.
Anna Vassilyevna, as the reader knows already, liked staying at home; but at times she manifested, quite unexpectedly, an irresistible longing for something out of the common, some extraordinary partie du plaisir, and the more troublesome the partie du plaisir was, the more preparations and arrangements it required, and the greater Anna Vassilyevna's own agitation over it, the more pleasure it gave her. If this mood came upon her in winter, she would order two or three boxes to be taken side by side, and, inviting all her acquaintances, would set off to the theatre or even to a masquerade; in summer she would drive for a trip out of town to some spot as far off as possible. The next day she would complain of a headache, groan and keep her bed; but within two months the same craving for something 'out of the common' would break out in her again. That was just what happened now. Some one chanced to refer to the beautiful scenery of Tsaritsino before her, and Anna Vassilyevna suddenly announced an intention of driving to Tsaritsino the day after tomorrow. The household was thrown into a state of bustle; a messenger galloped off to Moscow for Nikolai Artemyevitch; with him galloped the butler to buy wines, pies, and all sorts of provisions; Shubin was commissioned to hire an open carriage—the coach alone was not enough—and to order relays of horses to be ready; a page was twice despatched to Bersenyev and Insarov with two different notes of invitation, written by Zoya, the first in Russian, the second in French; Anna Vassilyevna herself was busy over the dresses of the young ladies for the expedition. Meanwhile the partie du plaisir was very near coming to grief. Nikolai Artemyevitch arrived from Moscow in a sour, ill-natured, frondeurish frame of mind. He was still sulky with Augustina Christianovna; and when he heard what the plan was, he flatly declared that he would not go; that to go trotting from Kuntsovo to Moscow and from Moscow to Tsaritsino, and then from Tsaritsino again to Moscow, from Moscow again to Kuntsovo, was a piece of folly; and, 'in fact,' he added, 'let them first prove to my satisfaction, that one can be merrier on one spot of the globe than another spot, and I will go.' This, of course, no one could prove to his satisfaction, and Anna Vassilyevna was ready to throw up the partie du plaisir for lack of a solid escort; but she recollected Uvar Ivanovitch, and in her distress she sent to his room for him, saying: 'a drowning man catches at straws.' They waked him up; he came down, listened in silence to Anna Vassilyevna's proposition, and, to the general astonishment, with a flourish of his fingers, he consented to go. Anna Vassilyevna kissed him on the cheek, and called him a darling; Nikolai Artemyevitch smiled contemptuously and said: quelle bourde! (he liked on occasions to make use of a 'smart' French word); and the following morning the coach and the open carriage, well-packed, rolled out of the Stahovs' court-yard. In the coach were the ladies, a maid, and Bersenyev; Insarov was seated on the box; and in the open carriage were Uvar Ivanovitch and Shubin. Uvar Ivanovitch had himself beckoned Shubin to him; he knew that he would tease him the whole way, but there existed a queer sort of attachment, marked by abusive candour, between the 'primeval force' and the young artist. On this occasion, however, Shubin left his fat friend in peace; he was absent-minded, silent, and gentle.
The sun stood high in a cloudless blue sky when the carriage drove up to the ruins of Tsaritsino Castle, which looked gloomy and menacing, even at mid-day. The whole party stepped out on to the grass, and at once made a move towards the garden. In front went Elena and Zoya with Insarov; Anna Vassilyevna, with an expression of perfect happiness on her face, walked behind them, leaning on the arm of Uvar Ivanovitch. He waddled along panting, his new straw hat cut his forehead, and his feet twinged in his boots, but he was content; Shubin and Bersenyev brought up the rear. 'We will form the reserve, my dear boy, like veterans,' whispered Shubin to Bersenyev. 'Bulgaria's in it now!' he added, indicating Elena with his eyebrows.
The weather was glorious. Everything around was flowering, humming, singing; in the distance shone the waters of the lakes; a light-hearted holiday mood took possession of all. 'Oh, how beautiful; oh, how beautiful!' Anna Vassilyevna repeated incessantly; Uvar Ivanovitch kept nodding his head approvingly in response to her enthusiastic exclamations, and once even articulated: 'To be sure! to be sure!' From time to time Elena exchanged a few words with Insarov; Zoya held the brim of her large hat with two fingers while her little feet, shod in light grey shoes with rounded toes, peeped coquettishly out from under her pink barege dress; she kept looking to each side and then behind her. 'Hey!' cried Shubin suddenly in a low voice, 'Zoya Nikitishna is on the lookout, it seems. I will go to her. Elena Nikolaevna despises me now, while you, Andrei Petrovitch, she esteems, which comes to the same thing. I am going; I'm tired of being glum. I should advise you, my dear fellow, to do some botanising; that's the best thing you could hit on in your position; it might be useful, too, from a scientific point of view. Farewell!' Shubin ran up to Zoya, offered her his arm, and saying: 'Ihre Hand, Madame' caught hold of her hand, and pushed on ahead with her. Elena stopped, called to Bersenyev, and also took his arm, but continued talking to Insarov. She asked him the words for lily-of-the-valley, clover, oak, lime, and so on in his language... 'Bulgaria's in it!' thought poor Andrei Petrovitch.
Suddenly a shriek was heard in front; every one looked up. Shubin's cigar-case fell into a bush, flung by Zoya's hand. 'Wait a minute, I'll pay you out!' he shouted, as he crept into the bushes; he found his cigar-case, and was returning to Zoya; but he had hardly reached her side when again his cigar-case was sent flying across the road. Five times this trick was repeated, he kept laughing and threatening her, but Zoya only smiled slyly and drew herself together, like a little cat. At last he snatched her fingers, and squeezed them so tightly that she shrieked, and for a long time afterwards breathed on her hand, pretending to be angry, while he murmured something in her ears.
'Mischievous things, young people,' Anna Vassilyevna observed gaily to Uvar Ivanovitch.
He flourished his fingers in reply.
'What a girl Zoya Nikitishna is!' said Bersenyev to Elena.
'And Shubin? What of him?' she answered.
Meanwhile the whole party went into the arbour, well known as Pleasant View arbour, and stopped to admire the view of the Tsaritsino lakes. They stretched one behind the other for several miles, overshadowed by thick woods. The bright green grass, which covered the hill sloping down to the largest lake, gave the water itself an extraordinarily vivid emerald colour. Even at the water's edge not a ripple stirred the smooth surface. One might fancy it a solid mass of glass lying heavy and shining in a huge font; the sky seemed to drop into its depths, while the leafy trees gazed motionless into its transparent bosom. All were absorbed in long and silent admiration of the view; even Shubin was still; even Zoya was impressed. At last, all with one mind, began to wish to go upon the water. Shubin, Insarov, and Bersenyev raced each other over the grass. They succeeded in finding a large painted boat and two boatmen, and beckoned to the ladies. The ladies stepped into the boat; Uvar Ivanovitch cautiously lowered himself into it after them. Great was the mirth while he got in and took his seat. 'Look out, master, don't drown us,' observed one of the boatmen, a snubnosed young fellow in a gay print shirt. 'Get along, you swell!' said Uvar Ivanovitch. The boat pushed off. The young men took up the oars, but Insarov was the oniy one of them who could row. Shubin suggested that they should sing some Russian song in chorus, and struck up: 'Down the river Volga'... Bersenyev, Zoya, and even Anna Vassilyevna, joined in—Insarov could not sing—but they did not keep together; at the third verse the singers were all wrong. Only Bersenyev tried to go on in the bass, 'Nothing on the waves is seen,' but he, too, was soon in difficulties. The boatmen looked at one another and grinned in silence.
'Eh?' said Shubin, turning to them, 'the gentlefolks can't sing, you say?' The boy in the print shirt only shook his head. 'Wait a little snubnose,' retorted Shubin, 'we will show you. Zoya Nikitishna, sing us Le lac of Niedermeyer. Stop rowing!' The wet oars stood still, lifted in the air like wings, and their splash died away with a tuneful drip; the boat drifted on a little, then stood still, rocking lightly on the water like a swan. Zoya affected to refuse at first.... 'Allons' said Anna Vassilyevna genially.... Zoya took off her hat and began to sing: 'O lac, l'annee a peine a fini sa carriere!'
Her small, but pure voice, seemed to dart over the surface of the lake; every word echoed far off in the woods; it sounded as though some one were singing there, too, in a distinct, but mysterious and unearthly voice. When Zoya finished, a loud bravo was heard from an arbour near the bank, from which emerged several red-faced Germans who were picnicking at Tsaritsino. Several of them had their coats off, their ties, and even their waistcoats; and they shouted 'bis!' with such unmannerly insistence that Anna Vassilyevna told the boatmen to row as quickly as possible to the other end of the lake. But before the boat reached the bank, Uvar Ivanovitch once more succeeded in surprising his friends; having noticed that in one part of the wood the echo repeated every sound with peculiar distinctness, he suddenly began to call like a quail. At first every one was startled, but they listened directly with real pleasure, especially as Uvar Ivanovitch imitated the quail's cry with great correctness. Spurred on by this, he tried mewing like a cat; but this did not go off so well; and after one more quail-call, he looked at them all and stopped. Shubin threw himself on him to kiss him; he pushed him off. At that instant the boat touched the bank, and all the party got out and went on shore.
Meanwhile the coachman, with the groom and the maid, had brought the baskets out of the coach, and made dinner ready on the grass under the old lime-trees. They sat down round the outspread tablecloth, and fell upon the pies and other dainties. They all had excellent appetites, while Anna Vassilyevna, with unflagging hospitality, kept urging the guests to eat more, assuring them that nothing was more wholesome than eating in the open air. She even encouraged Uvar Ivanovitch with such assurances. 'Don't trouble about me!' he grunted with his mouth full. 'Such a lovely day is a God-send, indeed!' she repeated constantly. One would not have known her; she seemed fully twenty years younger. Bersenyev said as much to her. 'Yes, yes.' she said; 'I could hold my own with any one in my day.' Shubin attached himself to Zoya, and kept pouring her out wine; she refused it, he pressed her, and finished by drinking the glass himself, and again pressing her to take another; he also declared that he longed to lay his head on her knee; she would on no account permit him 'such a liberty.' Elena seemed the most serious of the party, but in her heart there was a wonderful sense of peace, such as she had not known for long. She felt filled with boundless goodwill and kindness, and wanted to keep not only Insarov, but Bersenyev too, always at her side.... Andrei Petrovitch dimly understood what this meant, and secretly he sighed.
The hours flew by; the evening was coming on. Anna Vassilyevna suddenly took alarm. 'Ah, my dear friends, how late it is!' she cried. 'All good things must have an end; it's time to go home.' She began bustling about, and they all hastened to get up and walk towards the castle, where the carriages were. As they walked past the lakes, they stopped to admire Tsaritsino for the last time. The landscape on all sides was glowing with the vivid hues of early evening; the sky was red, the leaves were flashing with changing colours as they stirred in the rising wind; the distant waters shone in liquid gold; the reddish turrets and arbours scattered about the garden stood out sharply against the dark green of the trees. 'Farewell, Tsaritsino, we shall not forget to-day's excursion!' observed Anna Vassilyevna.... But at that instant, and as though in confirmation of her words, a strange incident occurred, which certainly was not likely to be forgotten.
This was what happened. Anna Vassilyevna had hardly sent her farewell greeting to Tsaritsino, when suddenly, a few paces from her, behind a high bush of lilac, were heard confused exclamations, shouts, and laughter; and a whole mob of disorderly men, the same devotees of song who had so energetically applauded Zoya, burst out on the path. These musical gentlemen seemed excessively elevated. They stopped at the sight of the ladies; but one of them, a man of immense height, with a bull neck and a bull's goggle eyes, separated from his companions, and, bowing clumsily and staggering unsteadily in his gait, approached Anna Vassilyevna, who was petrified with alarm.
'Bonzhoor, madame,' he said thickly, 'how are you?'
Anna Vassilyevna started back.
'Why wouldn't you,' continued the giant in vile Russian, 'sing again when our party shouted bis, and bravo?'
'Yes, why?' came from the ranks of his comrades.
Insarov was about to step forward, but Shubin stopped him, and himself screened Anna Vassilyevna.
'Allow me,' he began, 'honoured stranger, to express to you the heartfelt amazement, into which you have thrown all of us by your conduct. You belong, as far as I can judge, to the Saxon branch of the Caucasian race; consequently we are bound to assume your acquaintance with the customs of society, yet you address a lady to whom you have not been introduced. I assure you that I individually should be delighted another time to make your acquaintance, since I observe in you a phenomenal development of the muscles, biceps, triceps and deltoid, so that, as a sculptor, I should esteem it a genuine happiness to have you for a model; but on this occasion kindly leave us alone.'
The 'honoured stranger' listened to Shubin's speech, his head held contemptuously on one side and his arms akimbo.
'I don't understand what you say,' he commented at last. 'Do you suppose I'm a cobbler or a watchmaker? Hey! I'm an officer, an official, so there.'
'I don't doubt that——' Shubin was beginning.
'What I say is,' continued the stranger, putting him aside with his powerful arm, like a twig out of the path—'why didn't you sing again when we shouted bis? And I'll go away directly, this minute, only I tell you what I want, this fraulein, not that madam, no, not her, but this one or that one (he pointed to Elena and Zoya) must give me einen Kuss, as we say in German, a kiss, in fact; eh? That's not much to ask.'
'Einen Kuss, that's not much,' came again from the ranks of his companions, 'Ih! der Stakramenter!' cried one tipsy German, bursting with laughter.
Zoya clutched at Insarov's arm, but he broke away from her, and stood directly facing the insolent giant.
'You will please to move off,' he said in a voice not loud but sharp.
The German gave a heavy laugh, 'Move off? Well, I like that. Can't I walk where I please? Move off? Why should I move off?'
'Because you have dared to annoy a lady,' said Insarov, and suddenly he turned white, 'because you're drunk.'
'Eh? me drunk? Hear what he says. Horen Sie das, Herr Provisor? I'm an officer, and he dares... Now I demand satisfaction. Einen Kuss will ich.'
'If you come another step nearer——' began Insarov.
'Well? What then'
'I'll throw you in the water!'
'In the water? Herr Je! Is that all? Well, let us see that, that would be very curious, too.'
The officer lifted his fists and moved forward, but suddenly something extraordinary happened. He uttered an exclamation, his whole bulky person staggered, rose from the ground, his legs kicking in the air, and before the ladies had time to shriek, before any one had time to realise how it had happened, the officer's massive figure went plop with a heavy splash, and at once disappeared under the eddying water.
'Oh!' screamed the ladies with one voice. 'Mein Gott!' was heard from the other side. An instant passed... and a round head, all plastered over with wet hair, showed above water, it was blowing bubbles, this head; and floundering with two hands just at its very lips. 'He will be drowned, save him! save him!' cried Anna Vassilyevna to Insarov, who was standing with his legs apart on the bank, breathing heavily.
'He will swim out,' he answered with contemptuous and unsympathetic indifference. 'Let us go on,' he added, taking Anna Vassilyevna by the arm. 'Come, Uvar Ivanovitch, Elena Nikolaevna.'
'A—a—o—o' was heard at that instant, the plaint of the hapless German who had managed to get hold of the rushes on the bank.
They all followed Insarov, and had to pass close by the party. But, deprived of their leader, the rowdies were subdued and did not utter a word; but one, the boldest of them, muttered, shaking his head menacingly: 'All right... we shall see though... after that'; but one of the others even took his hat off. Insarov struck them as formidable, and rightly so; something evil, something dangerous could be seen in his face. The Germans hastened to pull out their comrade, who, directly he had his feet on dry ground, broke into tearful abuse and shouted after the 'Russian scoundrels,' that he would make a complaint, that he would go to Count Von Kizerits himself, and so on.
But the 'Russian scoundrels' paid no attention to his vociferations, and hurried on as fast as they could to the castle. They were all silent, as they walked through the garden, though Anna Vassilyevna sighed a little. But when they reached the carriages and stood still, they broke into an irrepressible, irresistible fit of Homeric laughter. First Shubin exploded, shrieking as if he were mad, Bersenyev followed with his gurgling guffaw, then Zoya fell into thin tinkling little trills, Anna Vassilyevna too suddenly broke down, Elena could not help smiling, and even Insarov at last could not resist it. But the loudest, longest, most persistent laugh was Uvar Ivanovitch's; he laughed till his sides ached, till he choked and panted. He would calm down a little, then would murmur through his tears: 'I—thought—what's that splash—and there—he—went plop.' And with the last word, forced out with convulsive effort, his whole frame was shaking with another burst of laughter. Zoya made him worse. 'I saw his legs,' she said, 'kicking in the air.' 'Yes, yes,' gasped Uvar Ivanovitch, 'his legs, his legs—and then splash!—there he plopped in!'
'And how did Mr. Insarov manage it? why the German was three times his size?' said Zoya.
'I'll tell you,' answered Uvar Ivanovitch, rubbing his eyes, 'I saw; with one arm about his waist, he tripped him up, and he went plop! I heard—a splash—there he went.'
Long after the carriages had started, long after the castle of Tsaritsino was out of sight, Uvar Ivanovitch was still unable to regain his composure. Shubin, who was again with him in the carriage, began to cry shame on him at last.
Insarov felt ashamed. He sat in the coach facing Elena (Bersenyev had taken his seat on the box), and he said nothing; she too was silent. He thought that she was condemning his action; but she did not condemn him. She had been scared at the first minute; then the expression of his face had impressed her; afterwards she pondered on it all. It was not quite clear to her what the nature of her reflections was. The emotion she had felt during the day had passed away; that she realised; but its place had been taken by another feeling which she did not yet fully understand. The partie de plaisir had been prolonged too late; insensibly evening passed into night. The carriage rolled swiftly along, now beside ripening cornfields, where the air was heavy and fragrant with the smell of wheat; now beside wide meadows, from which a sudden wave of freshness blew lightly in the face. The sky seemed to lie like smoke over the horizon. At last the moon rose, dark and red. Anna Vassilyevna was dozing; Zoya had poked her head out of window and was staring at the road. It occurred to Elena at last that she had not spoken to Insarov for more than an hour. She turned to him with a trifling question; he at once answered her, delighted. Dim sounds began stirring indistinctly in the air, as though thousands of voices were talking in the distance; Moscow was coming to meet them. Lights twinkled afar off; they grew more and more frequent; at last there was the grating of the cobbles under their wheels. Anna Vassilyevna awoke, every one in the carriage began talking, though no one could hear what was said; everything was drowned in the rattle of the cobbles under the two carriages, and the hoofs of the eight horses. Long and wearisome seemed the journey from Moscow to Kuntsovo; all the party were asleep or silent, leaning with their heads pressed into their respective corners; Elena did not close her eyes; she kept them fixed on Insarov's dimly-outlined figure. A mood of sadness had come upon Shubin; the breeze was blowing into his eyes and irritating him; he retired into the collar of his cloak and was on the point of tears. Uvar Ivanovitch was snoring blissfully, rocking from side to side. The carriages came to a standstill at last. Two men-servants lifted Anna Vassilyevna out of the carriage; she was all to pieces, and at parting from her fellow travellers, announced that she was 'nearly dead'; they began thanking her, but she only repeated, 'nearly dead.' Elena for the first time pressed Insarov's hand at parting, and for a long while she sat at her window before undressing; Shubin seized an opportunity to whisper to Bersenyev:
'There, isn't he a hero; he can pitch drunken Germans into the river!'
'While you didn't even do that,' retorted Bersenyev, and he started homewards with Insarov.
The dawn was already showing in the sky when the two friends reached their lodging. The sun had not yet risen, but already the chill of daybreak was in the air, a grey dew covered the grass, and the first larks were trilling high, high up in the shadowy infinity of air, whence like a solitary eye looked out the great, last star.
Soon after her acquaintance with Insarov, Elena (for the fifth or sixth time) began a diary. Here are some extracts from it:
'June.... Andrei Petrovitch brings me books, but I can't read them. I'm ashamed to confess it to him; but I don't like to give back the books, tell lies, say I have read them. I feel that would mortify him. He is always watching me. He seems devoted to me. A very good man, Andrei Petrovitch.... What is it I want? Why is my heart so heavy, so oppressed? Why do I watch the birds with envy as they fly past? I feel that I could fly with them, fly, where I don't know, but far from here. And isn't that desire sinful? I have here mother, father, home. Don't I love them? No, I don't love them, as I should like to love. It's dreadful to put that in words, but it's the truth. Perhaps I am a great sinner; perhaps that is why I am so sad, why I have no peace. Some hand seems laid on me, weighing me down, as though I were in prison, and the walls would fall on me directly. Why is it others don't feel this? Whom shall I love, if I am cold to my own people? It's clear, papa is right; he reproaches me for loving nothing but cats and dogs. I must think about that. I pray very little; I must pray.... Ah, I think I should know how to love!... I am still shy with Mr. Insarov. I don't know why; I believe I'm not schoolgirlish generally, and he is so simple and kind. Sometimes he has a very serious face. He can't give much thought to us. I feel that, and am ashamed in a way to take up his time. With Andrei Petrovitch it's quite a different thing. I am ready to chat with him the whole day long. But he too always talks of Insarov. And such terrible facts he tells me about him! I saw him in a dream last night with a dagger in his hand. And he seemed to say to me, "I will kill you and I will kill myself!" What silliness!
'Oh, if some one would say to me: "There, that's what you must do!" Being good—isn't much; doing good... yes, that's the great thing in life. But how is one to do good? Oh, if I could learn to control myself! I don't know why I am so often thinking of Mr. Insarov. When he comes and sits and listens intently, but makes no effort, no exertion himself, I look at him, and feel pleased, and that's all, and when he goes, I always go over his words, and feel vexed with myself, and upset even. I can't tell why. (He speaks French badly and isn't ashamed of it—I like that.) I always think a lot about new people, though. As I talked to him, I suddenly was reminded of our butler, Vassily, who rescued an old cripple out of a hut that was on fire, and was almost killed himself. Papa called him a brave fellow, mamma gave him five roubles, and I felt as though I could fall at his feet. And he had a simple face—stupid-looking even—and he took to drink later on....
'I gave a penny to-day to a beggar woman, and she said to me, "Why are you so sorrowful?" I never suspected I looked sorrowful. I think it must come from being alone, always alone, for better, for worse! There is no one to stretch out a hand to me. Those who come to me, I don't want; and those I would choose—pass me by.
'... I don't know what's the matter with me to-day; my head is confused, I want to fall on my knees and beg and pray for mercy. I don't know by whom or how, but I feel as if I were being tortured, and inwardly I am shrieking in revolt; I weep and can't be quiet.... O my God, subdue these outbreaks in me! Thou alone canst aid me, all else is useless; my miserable alms-giving, my studies can do nothing, nothing, nothing to help me. I should like to go out as a servant somewhere, really; that would do me good.
'What is my youth for, what am I living for, why have I a soul, what is it all for?
'... Insarov, Mr. Insarov—upon my word I don't know how to write—still interests me, I should like to know what he has within, in his soul? He seems so open, so easy to talk to, but I can see nothing. Sometimes he looks at me with such searching eyes—or is that my fancy? Paul keeps teasing me. I am angry with Paul. What does he want? He's in love with me... but his love's no good to me. He's in love with Zoya too. I'm unjust to him; he told me yesterday I didn't know how to be unjust by halves... that's true. It's very horrid.
'Ah, I feel one needs unhappiness, or poverty or sickness, or else one gets conceited directly.
'... What made Andrei Petrovitch tell me to-day about those two Bulgarians! He told me it as it were with some intention. What have I to do with Mr. Insarov? I feel cross with Andrei Petrovitch.
'... I take my pen and don't know how to begin. How unexpectedly he began to talk to me in the garden to-day! How friendly and confiding he was! How quickly it happened! As if we were old, old friends and had only just recognised each other. How could I have not understood him before? How near he is to me now! And—what's so wonderful—I feel ever so much calmer now. It's ludicrous; yesterday I was angry with Andrei Petrovitch, and angry with him, I even called him Mr. Insarov, and to-day... Here at last is a true man; some one one may depend upon. He won't tell lies; he's the first man I have met who never tells lies; all the others tell lies, everything's lying. Andrei Petrovitch, dear good friend, why do I wrong you? No! Andrei Petrovitch is more learned than he is, even, perhaps more intellectual. But I don't know, he seems so small beside him. When he speaks of his country he seems taller, and his face grows handsome, and his voice is like steel, and... no... it seems as though there were no one in the world before whom he would flinch. And he doesn't only talk.... he has acted and he will act I shall ask him.... How suddenly he turned to me and smiled!... It's only brothers that smile like that! Ah, how glad I am! When he came the first time, I never dreamt that we should so soon get to know each other. And now I am even pleased that I remained indifferent to him at first. Indifferent? Am I not indifferent then now?... It's long since I have felt such inward peace. I feel so quiet, so quiet. And there's nothing to write? I see him often and that's all. What more is there to write?
'... Paul shuts himself up, Andrei Petrovitch has taken to coming less often.... poor fellow! I fancy he... But that can never be, though. I like talking to Andrei Petrovitch; never a word of self, always of something sensible, useful. Very different from Shubin. Shubin's as fine as a butterfly, and admires his own finery; which butterflies don't do. But both Shubin and Andrei Petrovitch.... I know what I mean.
'... He enjoys coming to us, I see that. But why? what does he find in me? It's true our tastes are alike; he and I, both of us don't care for poetry; neither of us knows anything of art. But how much better he is than I! He is calm, I am in perpetual excitement; he has chosen his path, his aim—while I—where am I going? where is my home? He is calm, but all his thoughts are far away. The time will come, and he will leave us for ever, will go home, there over the sea. Well? God grant he may! Any way I shall be glad that I knew him, while he was here.
'Why isn't he a Russian? No, he could not be Russian.
'Mamma too likes him; she says: an unassuming young man. Dear mamma! She does not understand him. Paul says nothing; he guessed I didn't like his hints, but he's jealous of him. Spiteful boy! And what right has he? Did I ever... All that's nonsense! What makes all that come into my head?
'... Isn't it strange though, that up till now, up to twenty, I have never loved any one! I believe that the reason why D.'s (I shall call him D.—I like that name Dmitri) soul is so clear, is that he is entirely given up to his work, his ideal. What has he to trouble about? When any one has utterly... utterly... given himself up, he has little sorrow, he is not responsible for anything. It's not I want, but it wants. By the way, he and I both love the same flowers. I picked a rose this morning, one leaf fell, he picked it up.... I gave him the whole rose.
'... D. often comes to us. Yesterday he spent the whole evening. He wants to teach me Bulgarian. I feel happy with him, quite at home, more than at home.
'... The days fly past.... I am happy, and somehow discontent and I am thankful to God, and tears are not far off. Oh these hot bright days!
'... I am still light-hearted as before, and only at times, and only a little, sad. I am happy. Am I happy?
'... It will be long before I forget the expedition yesterday. What strange, new, terrible impressions when he suddenly took that great giant and flung him like a ball into the water. I was not frightened ... yet he frightened me. And afterwards—what an angry face, almost cruel! How he said, "He will swim out!" It gave me a shock. So I did not understand him. And afterwards when they all laughed, when I was laughing, how I felt for him! He was ashamed, I felt that he was ashamed before me. He told me so afterwards in the carriage in the dark, when I tried to get a good view of him and was afraid of him. Yes, he is not to be trifled with, and he is a splendid champion. But why that wicked look, those trembling lips, that angry fire in his eyes? Or is it, perhaps, inevitable? Isn't it possible to be a man, a hero, and to remain soft and gentle? "Life is a coarse business," he said to me once lately. I repeated that saying to Andrei Petrovitch; he did not agree with D. Which of them is right? But the beginning of that day! How happy I was, walking beside him, even without speaking. ... But I am glad of what happened. I see that it was quite as it should be.
'... Restlessness again... I am not quite well.... All these days I have written nothing in this book, because I have had no wish to write. I felt, whatever I write, it won't be what is in my heart. ... And what is in my heart? I have had a long talk with him, which revealed a great deal. He told me his plan (by the way, I know now how he got the wound in his neck.... Good God! when I think he was actually condemned to death, that he was only just saved, that he was wounded.... ) He prophesies war and will be glad of it. And for all that, I never saw D. so depressed. What can he... he!... be depressed by? Papa arrived home from town and came upon us two. He looked rather queerly at us. Andrei Petrovitch came; I noticed he had grown very thin and pale. He reproved me, saying I behave too coldly and inconsiderately to Shubin. I had utterly forgotten Paul's existence. I will see him, and try to smooth over my offence. He is nothing to me now... nor any one else in the world. Andrei Petrovitch talked to me in a sort of commiserating way. What does it all mean? Why is everything around me and within me so dark? I feel as if about me and within me, something mysterious were happening, for which I want to find the right word.... I did not sleep all night; my head aches. What's the good of writing? He went away so quickly to-day and I wanted to talk to him.... He almost seems to avoid me. Yes, he avoids me.
'... The word is found, light has dawned on me! My God, have pity on me.... I love him!'
On the very day on which Elena had written this last fatal line in her diary, Insarov was sitting in Bersenyev's room, and Bersenyev was standing before him with a look of perplexity on his face. Insarov had just announced his intention of returning to Moscow the next day.
'Upon my word!' cried Bersenyev. 'Why, the finest part of the summer is just beginning. What will you do in Moscow? What a sudden decision! Or have you had news of some sort?'
'I have had no news,' replied Insarov; 'but on thinking things over, I find I cannot stop here.'
'How can that be?'
'Andrei Petrovitch,' said Insarov, 'be so kind... don't insist, please, I am very sorry myself to be leaving you, but it can't be helped.'
Bersenyev looked at him intently.
'I know,' he said at last, 'there's no persuading you. And so, it's a settled matter.'
'Absolutely settled,' replied Insarov, getting up and going away.
Bersenyev walked about the room, then took his hat and set off for the Stahovs.
'You have something to tell me,' Elena said to him, directly they were left alone.
'Yes, how did you guess?'
'Never mind; tell me what it is.'
Bersenyev told her of Insarov's intention.
Elena turned white.
'What does it mean?' she articulated with effort
'You know,' observed Bersenyev, 'Dmitri Nikanorovitch does not care to give reasons for his actions. But I think... let us sit down, Elena Nikolaevna, you don't seem very well.... I fancy I can guess what is the real cause of this sudden departure.'
'What—what cause?' repeated Elena, and unconsciously she gripped tightly Bersenyev's hand in her chill ringers.
'You see,' began Bersenyev, with a pathetic smile, 'how can I explain to you? I must go back to last spring, to the time when I began to be more intimate with Insarov. I used to meet him then at the house of a relative, who had a daughter, a very pretty girl I thought that Insarov cared for her, and I told him so. He laughed, and answered that I was mistaken, that he was quite heart-whole, but if anything of that sort did happen to him, he should run away directly, as he did not want, in his own words, for the sake of personal feeling, to be false to his cause and his duty. "I am a Bulgarian," he said, "and I have no need of a Russian love——"
'Well—so—now you——' whispered Elena. She involuntarily turned away her head, like a man expecting a blow, but she still held the hand she had clutched.
'I think,' he said, and his own voice sank, 'I think that what I fancied then has really happened now.'
'That is—you think—don't torture me!' broke suddenly from Elena.
'I think,' Bersenyev continued hurriedly, 'that Insarov is in love now with a Russian girl, and he is resolved to go, according to his word.'