Part 2 out of 5
time he at once began to apply his system to him.
"I want, above all, to make a man of him--_un homme_," he said to
Glafira Petrovna "and not only a man, but a Spartan." This plan he
began to carry out by dressing his boy in Highland costume. The
twelve-year-old little fellow had to go about with bare legs, and with
a cock's feather in his cap. The Swedish governess was replaced by a
young tutor from Switzerland, who was acquainted with all the niceties
of gymnastics. Music was utterly forbidden, as an accomplishment
unworthy of a man. Natural science, international law, and
mathematics, as well as carpentry, which was selected in accordance
with the advice of Jean Jacques Rousseau; and heraldry, which was
introduced for the maintenance of chivalrous ideas--these were the
subjects to which the future "man" had to give his attention. He had
to get up at four in the morning and take a cold bath immediately,
after which he had to run round a high pole at the end of a cord. He
had one meal a day, consisting of one dish; he rode on horseback, and
he shot with a cross-bow. On every fitting occasion he had to exercise
himself, in imitation of his father, in gaining strength of will; and
every evening he used to write, in a book reserved for that purpose,
an account of how he had spent the day, and what were his ideas on the
subject. Ivan Petrovich, on his side, wrote instructions for him
in French, in which he styled him _mon fils_, and addressed him as
_vous_. Fedia used to say "thou" to his father in Russian, but he did
not dare to sit down in his presence.
The "system" muddled the boy's brains, confused his ideas, and cramped
his mind; but, as far as his physical health was concerned, the new
kind of life acted on him beneficially. At first he fell ill with a
fever, but he soon recovered and became a fine fellow. His father grew
proud of him, and styled him in his curious language, "the child of
nature, my creation." When Fedia reached the age of sixteen, Ivan
Petrovich considered it a duty to inspire him in good time with
contempt for the female sex--and so the young Spartan, with the first
down beginning to appear upon his lips, timid in feeling, but with a
body full of blood, and strength, and energy, already tried to seem
careless, and cold, and rough.
Meanwhile time passed by. Ivan Petrovich spent the greater part of the
year at Lavriki--that was the name of his chief hereditary estate; but
in winter he used to go by himself to Moscow, where he put up at a
hotel, attended his club assiduously, aired his eloquence freely,
explained his plans in society, and more than ever gave himself out as
an Anglomaniac, a grumbler, and a statesman. But the year 1825 came
and brought with it much trouble[A]. Ivan Petrovich's intimate friends
and acquaintances underwent a heavy tribulation. He made haste to
betake himself far away into the country, and there he shut himself up
in his house. Another year passed and Ivan Petrovich suddenly broke
down, became feeble, and utterly gave way. His health having deserted
him, the freethinker began to go to church, and to order prayers to be
said for him[B]; the European began to steam himself in the Russian
bath, to dine at two o'clock, to go to bed at nine, to be talked to
sleep by the gossip of an old house-steward; the statesman burnt all
his plans and all his correspondence, trembled before the governor,
and treated the _Ispravnik_[C] with uneasy civility; the man of iron
will whimpered and complained whenever he was troubled by a boil, or
when his soup had got cold before he was served with it. Glafira again
ruled supreme in the house; again did inspectors, overseers[D],
and simple peasants begin to go up the back staircase to the rooms
occupied by the "old witch"--as she was called by the servants of the
[Footnote A: Arising from the conspiracy of the "Decembrists" and
their attempts at a revolution, on the occasion of the death of
Alexander I., and the accession of Nicholas to the throne.]
[Footnote B: _Molebni_: prayers in which the name of the person who
has paid for them is mentioned.]
[Footnote C: Inspector of rural police.]
[Footnote D: _Prikashchiki_ and _Burmistrui_: two classes of
overseers, the former dealing with economical matters only, the latter
having to do with the administrative department also.]
The change which had taken place in Ivan Petrovich, produced a strong
impression on the mind of his son. He had already entered on his
nineteenth year; and he had begun to think for himself, and to shake
off the weight of the hand which had been pressing him down. Even
before this he had remarked how different were his father's deeds from
his words; the wide and liberal theories he professed from the hard
and narrow despotism he practiced; but he had not expected so abrupt
a transformation. In his old age the egotist revealed himself in his
full nature. The young Lavretsky was just getting ready to go to
Moscow, with a view to preparing himself for the university, when a
new and unexpected misfortune fell on the head of Ivan Petrovich. In
the course of a single day the old man became blind, hopelessly blind.
Distrusting the skill of Russian medical men, he did all he could to
get permission to travel abroad. It was refused. Then, taking his son
with him, he wandered about Russia for three whole years, trying one
doctor after another, incessantly journeying from place to place, and,
by his impatient fretfulness, driving his doctors, his son, and his
servants to the verge of despair. Utterly used up[A], he returned to
Lavriki a weeping and capricious infant. Days of bitterness ensued,
in which all suffered at his hands. He was quiet only while he was
feeding. Never had he eaten so much, nor so greedily. At all other
moments he allowed neither himself nor any one else to be at peace. He
prayed, grumbled at fate, found fault with himself, with his system,
with politics, with all which he used to boast of, with all that he
had ever set up as a model for his son. He would declare that he
believed in nothing, and then he would betake himself again to prayer;
he could not bear a single moment of solitude, and he compelled
his servants constantly to sit near his bed day and night, and to
entertain him with stories, which he was in the habit of interrupting
by exclamations of, "You're all telling lies!" or, "What utter
[Footnote A: Literally, "a regular rag."]
Glafira Petrovna had the largest share in all the trouble he gave. He
was absolutely unable to do without her; and until the very end she
fulfilled all the invalid's caprices, though sometimes she was unable
to reply immediately to what he said, for fear the tone of her voice
should betray the anger which was almost choking her. So he creaked
on for two years more, and at length one day in the beginning of the
month of May, he died. He had been carried out to the balcony, and
planed there in the sun. "Glasha! Glashka! broth, broth, you old
idi--," lisped his stammering tongue; and then, without completing the
last word, it became silent forever. Glafira, who had just snatched
the cup of broth from the hands of the major-domo, stopped short,
looked her brother in the face, very slowly crossed herself, and went
silently away. And his son, who happened also to be on the spot, did
not say a word either, but bent over the railing of the balcony, and
gazed for a long time into the garden, all green and fragrant, all
sparkling in the golden sunlight of spring. He was twenty-three years
old; how sadly, how swiftly had those years passed by unmarked! Life
opened out before him now.
After his father's burial, having confided to the never-changing
Glafira Petrovna the administration of his household, and the
supervision of his agents, the young Lavretsky set out for Moscow,
whither a vague but powerful longing attracted him. He knew in what
his education had been defective, and he was determined to supply its
deficiencies as far as possible. In the course of the last five years
he had read much, and he had see a good deal with his own eyes. Many
ideas had passed through his mind, many a professor might have envied
him some of his knowledge; yet, at the same time, he was entirely
ignorant of much that had long been familiar to every school-boy.
Lavretsky felt that he was not at his ease among his fellow-men;
he had a secret inkling that he was an exceptional character. The
Anglomaniac had played his son a cruel trick; his capricious education
had borne its fruit. For many years he had implicitly obeyed his
father; and when at last he had learned to value him aright, the
effects of his father's teaching were already produced. Certain habits
had become rooted in him. He did not know how to comport himself
towards his fellow-men; at the age of twenty-three, with an eager
longing after love in his bashful heart, he had not yet dared to look
a woman in the face. With his clear and logical, but rather sluggish
intellect, with his stubbornness, and his tendency towards inactivity
and contemplation, he ought to have been flung at an early age into
the whirl of life, instead of which he had been deliberately kept
in seclusion. And now the magic circle was broken, but he remained
standing on the same spot, cramped in mind and self-absorbed.
At his age it seemed a little ridiculous to put on the uniform of a
student[A], but he did not fear ridicule. His Spartan education had at
all events been so far useful, inasmuch as it had developed in him a
contempt for the world's gossiping. So he donned a student's uniform
without being disconcerted, enrolling himself in the faculty of
physical and mathematical science. His robust figure, his ruddy
face, his sprouting beard, his taciturn manner, produced a singular
impression on his comrades. They never suspected that under the rough
exterior of this man, who attended the lectures so regularly, driving
up in a capacious rustic sledge, drawn by a couple of horses,
something almost childlike was concealed. They thought him an
eccentric sort of pedant, and they made no advances towards him, being
able to do very well without him. And he, for his part, avoided them.
During the first two years he passed at the university, he became
intimate with no one except the student from whom she took lessons in
Latin. This student, whose name was Mikhalevich, an enthusiast, and
somewhat of a poet, grew warmly attached to Lavretsky, and quite
accidentally became the cause of a serious change in his fortunes.
[Footnote A: The students at the Russian universities used to wear a
uniform, but they no longer do so.]
One evening, when Lavretsky was at the theatre--he never missed a
single representation, for Mochalof was then at the summit of his
glory--he caught sight of a young girl in a box on the first tier.
Never before had his heart beaten so fast, though at that time no
woman ever passed before his stern eyes without sending its pulses
flying. Leaning on the velvet border of the box, the girl sat very
still. Youthful animation lighted up every feature of her beautiful
face; artistic feeling shone in her lovely eyes, which looked out with
a soft, attentive gaze from underneath delicately pencilled eyebrows,
in the quick smile of her expressive lips, in the bearing of her head,
her arms, her neck. As to her dress, it was exquisite. By her side sat
a sallow, wrinkled woman of five-and-forty, wearing a low dress and a
black cap, with an unmeaning smile on her vacant face, to which she
strove to give an aspect of attention. In the background of the box
appeared an elderly man in a roomy coat, and with a high cravat. His
small eyes had an expression of stupid conceit, modified by a kind of
cringing suspicion; his mustache and whiskers were dyed, he had an
immense meaningless forehead, and flabby cheeks: his whole appearance
was that of a retired general.
Lavretsky kept his eyes fixed on the girl who had made such an
impression on him. Suddenly the door of the box opened, and
Mikhalevich entered. The appearance of the man who was almost his only
acquaintance in all Moscow--his appearance in the company of the very
girl who had absorbed his whole attention, seemed to Lavretsky strange
and significant. As he continued looking at the box, he remarked that
all its occupants treated Mikhalevich like an old friend. Lavretsky
lost all interest in what was going on upon the stage; even Mochalof,
although he was that evening "in the vein," did not produce his wonted
impression upon him. During one very pathetic passage, Lavretsky
looked almost involuntarily at the object of his admiration. She was
leaning forward, a red glow coloring her cheeks. Her eyes were bent
upon the stage, but gradually, under the influence of his fixed look,
they turned and rested on him. All night long those eyes haunted him.
At last, the carefully constructed dam was broken through. He
shivered and he burnt by turns, and the very next day he went to see
Mikhalevich. From him he learned that the name of the girl he admired
so much was Varvara Pavlovna Korobine, that the elderly people who
were with her in the box were her father and her mother, and that
Mikhalevich had become acquainted with them the year before, during
the period of his stay as tutor in Count N.'s family, near Moscow. The
enthusiast spoke of Varvara Pavlovna in the most eulogistic terms.
"This girl, my brother," he exclaimed, in his peculiar, jerking kind
of sing-song, "is an exceptional being, one endowed with genius, an
artist in the true sense of the word, and besides all that, such an
amiable creature." Perceiving from Lavretsky's questions how great an
impression Varvara Pavlovna had made upon him, Mikhalevich, of his own
accord, proposed to make him acquainted with her, adding that he was
on the most familiar terms with them, that the general was not in the
least haughty, and that the mother was as unintellectual as she well
Lavretsky blushed, muttered something vague, and took himself off.
For five whole days he fought against his timidity; on the sixth, the
young Spartan donned an entirely new uniform, and placed himself at
the disposal of Mikhalevich, who, as an intimate friend of the
family, contented himself with setting his hair straight--and the two
companions set off together to visit the Karobines.
Varvara Pavlovna's father, Pavel Petrovich Korobine, a retired
major-general, had been on duty at St. Petersburg during almost the
whole of his life. In his early years he had enjoyed the reputation of
being an able dancer and driller; but as he was very poor he had
to act as aide-de-camp to two or three generals of small renown in
succession, one of whom gave him his daughter in marriage, together
with a dowry of 25,000 roubles. Having made himself master of all the
science of regulations and parades, even to their subtlest details,
he "went on stretching the girth" until at last, after twenty years
service, he became a general, and obtained a regiment. At that point
he might have reposed, and have quietly consolidated his fortune. He
had indeed counted upon doing so, but he managed his affairs rather
imprudently. It seems he had discovered a new method of speculating
with the public money. The method turned out an excellent one, but he
must needs practise quite unreasonable economy,[A] so information was
laid against him, and a more than disagreeable, a ruinous scandal
ensued. Some how or other the general managed to get clear of the
affair; but his career was stopped, and he was recommended to retire
from active service. For about a couple of years he lingered on at St.
Petersburg, in hopes that a snug civil appointment might fall to
his lot; but no such appointment did fall to his lot. His daughter
finished her education at the Institute; his expenses increased day by
day. So he determined, with suppressed indignation, to go to Moscow
for economy's sake; and there, in the Old Stable Street, he hired a
little house with an escutcheon seven feet high on the roof, and began
to live as retired generals do in Moscow on an income of 2,700 roubles
[Footnote A: In other words, he stole, but he neglected to bribe.]
[Footnote B: Nearly L400, the roubles being "silver" ones. The
difference in value between "silver" and "paper" roubles exists no
Moscow is an hospitable city, and ready to welcome any one who appears
there, especially if he is a retired general. Pavel Petrovich's form,
which, though heavy, was not devoid of martial bearing, began to
appear in the drawing-rooms frequented by the best society of Moscow.
The back of his head, bald, with the exception of a few tufts of dyed
hair, and the stained ribbon of the Order of St. Anne, which he wore
over a stock of the color of a raven's wing, became familiar to all
the young men of pale and wearied aspect, who were wont to saunter
moodily around the card tables while a dance was going on.
Pavel Petrovich understood how to hold his own in society. He said
little, but always, as of old, spoke through the nose--except, of
course, when he was talking to people of superior rank. He played at
cards prudently, and when he was at home he ate with moderation. At a
party he seemed to be feeding for six. Of his wife scarcely anything
more can be said than that her name was Calliope Carlovna--that a
tear always stood in her left eye, on the strength of which Calliope
Carlovna, who to be sure was of German extraction, considered
herself a woman of feeling--that she always seemed frightened about
something--that she looked as if she never had enough to eat--and that
she always wore a tight velvet dress, a cap, and bracelets of thin,
As to Varvara Pavlovna, the general's only daughter, she was but
seventeen years old when she left the Institute in which she had been
educated. While within its walls she was considered, if not the most
beautiful, at all events the most intelligent of the pupils, and the
best musician, and before leaving it she obtained the Cipher[A]. She
was not yet nineteen when Lavretsky saw her for the first time.
[Footnote A: The initial letter of the name of the Empress, worn as a
kind of decoration by the best pupils in the Imperial Institutes.]
The Spartan's legs trembled when Mikhalevich led him into the
Korobines' not over-well furnished drawing-room, and introduced him to
its occupants. But he overcame his timidity, and soon disappeared. In
General Korobine that kindliness which is common to all Russians, was
enhanced by the special affability which is peculiar to all persons
whose fair fame has been a little soiled. As for the General's wife,
she soon became as it were ignored by the whole party. But Varvara
Pavlona was so calmly, so composedly gracious, that no one could be,
even for a moment, in her presence without feeling himself at his
ease. And at the same time from all her charming form, from her
smiling eyes, from her faultlessly sloping shoulders, from the
rose-tinged whiteness of her hands, from her elastic, but at the same
time as it were, irresolute gait, from the very sound of her sweet and
languorous voice--there breathed, like a delicate perfume, a subtle
and incomprehensible charm--something which was at once tender and
voluptuous and modest--something which it was difficult to express
in words, which stirred the imagination and disturbed the mind, but
disturbed it with sensations which were not akin to timidity.
Lavretsky introduced the subject of the theatre and the preceding
night's performance; she immediately began to talk about Mochalof
of her own accord, and did not confine herself to mere sighs and
exclamations, but pronounced several criticisms on his acting, which
were as remarkable for sound judgment as for womanly penetration.
Mikhalevich mentioned music; she sat down to the piano without
affectation, and played with precision several of Chopin's mazurkas,
which were then only just coming into fashion. Dinner time came.
Lavretsky would have gone away, but they made him stop, and the
General treated him at table with excellent Lafitte, which the footman
had been hurriedly sent out to buy at Depre's.
It was late in the evening before Lavretsky returned home; and then
he sat for a longtime without undressing, covering his eyes with his
hand, and yielding to the torpor of enchantment. It seemed to him that
he had not till now understood what makes life worth having. All his
resolutions and intentions, all the now valueless ideas of other days,
had disappeared in a moment. His whole soul melted within him into one
feeling, one desire; into the desire of happiness, of possession, of
love, of the sweetness of a woman's love.
From that day he began to visit the Korobines frequently. After six
months had passed, he proposed to Varvara Pavlovna, and his offer
was accepted. Long, long before, even if it was not the night before
Lavretsky's first visit, the General had asked Mikhalevich how many
serfs[A] his friend had. Even Varvara Pavlona, who had preserved her
wonted composure and equanimity during the whole period of her
young admirer's courtship, and even at the very moment of his
declaration--even Varvara Pavlovna knew perfectly well that her
betrothed was rich. And Calliope Carlovna thought to herself, "_Meine
Tochter macht eine schoene Partie_[B]"--and bought herself a new cap.
[Footnote A: Literally, "souls," _i.e._, male peasants.]
[Footnote B: My daughter is going to make a capital match.]
And so his offer was accepted, but under certain conditions. In the
first place, Lavretsky must immediately leave the university. Who
could think of marrying a student? And what an extraordinary idea,
a landed proprietor, a rich man, at twenty-six years of age, to be
taking lessons like a schoolboy! In the second place, Varvara Pavlovna
was to take upon herself the trouble of ordering and buying her
trousseau. She even chose the presents the bridegroom was to give.
She had very good taste, and a great deal of common sense, and she
possessed a great liking for comfort, and no small skill in getting
herself that comfort. Lavretsky was particularly struck by this talent
when, immediately after the wedding, he and his wife set off for
Lavriki, travelling in a convenient carriage which she had chosen
herself. How carefully all their surroundings had been meditated over
by Varvara Pavlovna! what prescience she had shown in providing them!
What charming travelling contrivances made their appearance in
the various convenient corners! what delicious toilet boxes! what
excellent coffee machines! and how gracefully did Varvara Pavlovna
herself make the coffee in the morning! But it must be confessed that
Lavretsky was little fitted for critical observation just then. He
revelled in his happiness, he was intoxicated by his good fortune, he
abandoned himself to it like a child--he was, indeed, as innocent as a
child, this young Hercules. Not in vain did a charmed influence attach
itself to the whole presence of his young wife; not in vain did she
promise to the imagination a secret treasure of unknown delights. She
was even better than her promise.
When she arrived at Lavriki, which was in the very hottest part of the
summer, the house seemed to her sombre and in bad order, the servants
antiquated and ridiculous; but she did not think it necessary to say
a word about this to her husband. If she had intended to settle at
Lavriki, she would have altered every thing there, beginning of course
with the house; but the idea of staying in that out-of-the-way corner
never, even for an instant, came into her mind. She merely lodged
in it, as she would have done in a tent, putting up with all its
discomforts in the sweetest manner, and laughing at them pleasantly.
When Marfa Timofeevna came to see her old pupil, she produced a
favorable impression on Varvara Pavlovna. But Varvara was not at all
to the old lady's liking. Nor did the young mistress of the house get
on comfortably with Glafira Petrovna. She herself would have been
content to leave Glafira in peace, but the general was anxious to get
his hand into the management of his son-in-law's affairs. To see after
the property of so near a relative, he said, was an occupation that
even a general might adopt without disgrace. It is possible that Pavel
Petrovich would not have disdained to occupy himself with the affairs
of even an utter stranger.
Varvara Pavlovna carried out her plan of attack very skillfully.
Although never putting herself forward, but being to all appearance
thoroughly immersed in the bliss of the honeymoon, in the quiet life
of the country, in music, and in books, she little by little worked
upon Glafira, until that lady, one morning, burst into Lavretsky's
study like a maniac, flung her bunch of keys on the table, and
announced that she could no longer look after the affairs of the
household, and that she did not wish to remain on the estate. As
Lavretsky had been fitly prepared for the scene, he immediately gave
his consent to her departure. This Glafira Petrovna had not expected.
"Good," she said, and her brow grew dark. "I see that I am not wanted
here. I know that I am expelled hence, driven away from the family
nest. But, nephew, remember my words--nowhere will you be able to
build you a nest; your lot will be to wander about without ceasing.
There is my parting legacy to you." That same day she went off to her
own little property: a week later General Korobine arrived, and, with
a pleasantly subdued air, took the whole management of the estate into
his own hands.
In September Varvara Pavlovna carried off her husband to St.
Petersburg. There the young couple spent two winters--migrating in
the summer to Tsarskoe Selo. They lived in handsome, bright,
admirably-furnished apartments; they made numerous acquaintances in
the upper and even the highest circles of society; they went out a
great deal and received frequently, giving very charming musical
parties and dances. Varvara Pavlovna attracted visitors as a light
Such a distracting life did not greatly please Fedor Ivanich. His
wife wanted him to enter the service; but, partly in deference to his
father's memory, partly in accordance with his own ideas, he would
not do so, though he remained in St. Petersburg to please his wife.
However, he soon found out that no one objected to his isolating
himself, that it was not without an object that his study had been
made the quietest and the most comfortable in the whole city, that his
attentive wife was ever ready to encourage him in isolating himself;
and from that time all went well. He again began to occupy himself
with his as yet, as he thought, unfinished education. He entered upon
anew course of reading; he even began the study of English. It was
curious to see his powerful, broad-shouldered figure constantly
bending over his writing-table, his full, ruddy, bearded face,
half-hidden by the leaves of a dictionary or a copy-book. His mornings
were always spent over his work; later in the day he sat down to an
excellent dinner--for Varvara Pavlovna always managed her household
affairs admirably; and in the evening he entered an enchanted,
perfumed, brilliant world, all peopled by young and joyous beings, the
central point of their world being that extremely attentive manager of
the household, his wife.
She made him happy with a son; but the poor child did not live long.
It died in the spring; and in the summer, in accordance with the
advice of the doctors, Lavretsky and his wife went the round of the
foreign watering-places. Distraction was absolutely necessary for her
after such a misfortune; and, besides, her health demanded a warmer
climate. That summer and autumn they spent in Germany and Switzerland;
and in the winter, as might be expected, they went to Paris.
In Paris Varvara Pavlovna bloomed like a rose; and there, just as
quickly and as skilfully as she had done in St. Petersburg, she learnt
how to build herself a snug little nest. She procured a very pretty
set of apartments in one of the quiet but fashionable streets, she
made her husband such a dressing-gown as he had never worn before; she
secured an elegant lady's maid, an excellent cook, and an energetic
footman; and she provided herself with an exquisite carriage, and a
charming cabinet piano. Before a week was over she could already cross
a street, put on a shawl, open a parasol, and wear gloves, as well as
the most pure-blooded of Parisian women.
She soon made acquaintances also. At first only Russians used to
come to her house; then Frenchmen began to show themselves--amiable
bachelors, of polished manners, exquisite in demeanor, and bearing
high-sounding names. They all talked a great deal and very fast,
they bowed gracefully, their eyes twinkled pleasantly. All of them
possessed teeth which gleamed white between rosy lips; and how
beautifully they smiled! Each of them brought his friends; and before
long _La belle Madame de Lavretski_ became well known from the
_Chausee d' Antin_ to the _Rue de Lille_. At that time--it was in
1836--the race of _feuilletonists_ and journalists, which now swarms
everywhere, numerous as the ants one sees when a hole is made in an
ant-hill, had not yet succeeded in multiplying in numbers. Still,
there used to appear in Varvara Pavlovna's drawing-room a certain M.
Jules, a gentleman who bore a very bad character, whose appearance
was unprepossessing, and whose manner was at once insolent and
cringing--like that of all duellists and people who have been
horsewhipped. Varvara disliked this M. Jules very much; but she
received him because he wrote in several newspapers, and used to be
constantly mentioning her, calling her sometimes Madame de L ... tski,
sometimes Madame de * * *, _cette grande dame Russe si distinguee, qui
demeure rue de P----_, and describing to the whole world, that is to
say to some few hundreds of subscribers, who had nothing whatever to
do with Madame de L ... tski, how loveable and charming was that lady,
_une vraie francaise par l'esprit_,--the French have no higher
praise than this,--what an extraordinary musician she was, and how
wonderfully she waltzed. (Varvara Pavlovna did really waltz so as to
allure all hearts to the skirt of her light, floating robe.) In fact,
he spread her fame abroad throughout the world; and this we know,
whatever people may say, is pleasant.
Mademoiselle Mars had by that time quitted the stage, and Mademoiselle
Rachel had not yet appeared there; but for all that Varvara Pavlovna
none the less assiduously attended the theatres. She went into
raptures about Italian music, and laughed over the ruins of Odry,
yawned in a becoming manner at the legitimate drama, and cried at the
sight of Madame Dorval's acting in some ultra-melodramatic piece.
Above all, Liszt played at her house twice, and was so gracious, so
unaffected! It was charming!
Amid such pleasurable sensations passed the winter, at the end of
which Varvara Pavlovna was even presented at Court. As for Fedor
Ivanovich, he was not exactly bored, but life began to weigh heavily
on his shoulders at times--heavily because of its very emptiness. He
read the papers, he listened to the lectures at the _Sorbonne_ and
the _College de France_, he followed the debates in the Chambers,
he occupied himself in translating a famous scientific work on
irrigation. "I am not wasting my time," he thought; "all this is of
use; but next winter I really must return to Russia, and betake myself
to active business." It would be hard to say if he had any clear idea
of what were the special characteristics of that business, and only
Heaven could tell whether he was likely to succeed in getting back to
Russia in the winter. In the meanwhile he was intending to go with his
wife to Baden. But an unexpected occurrence upset all his plans.
One day when he happened to go into Varvara Pavlovna's boudoir during
her absence, Lavretsky saw a carefully folded little piece of paper
lying on the floor. Half mechanically he picked it up and opened
it--and read the following lines written in French:--
* * * * *
"MY DEAR ANGEL BETTY,
"(I really cannot make up my mind to call you Barbe or Varvara). I
have waited in vain for you at the corner of the Boulevard. Come to
our rooms to-morrow at half-past one. That excellent husband of yours
is generally absorbed in his books at that time--we will sing over
again that song of your poet Pushkin which you taught me, 'Old
husband, cruel husband!' A thousand kisses to your dear little hands
and feet. I await you.
* * * * *
At first Lavretsky did not comprehend the meaning of what he had read.
He read it a second time--and his head swam, and the ground
swayed beneath his feet like the deck of a ship in a storm, and a
half-stifled sound issued from his lips, that was neither quite a cry
nor quite a sob.
He was utterly confounded. He had trusted his wife so blindly; the
possibility of deceit or of treachery on her part had never entered
into his mind. This Ernest, his wife's lover, was a pretty boy of
about three-and-twenty, with light hair, a turned-up nose, and a small
moustache--probably the most insignificant of all his acquaintances.
Several minutes passed; a half hour passed. Lavretsky still stood
there, clenching the fatal note in his hand, and gazing unmeaningly on
the floor. A sort of dark whirlwind seemed to sweep round him, pale
faces to glimmer through it.
A painful sensation of numbness had seized his heart. He felt as if he
were falling, falling, falling--into a bottomless abyss.
The soft rustle of a silk dress roused him from his torpor by its
familiar sound. Varvara Pavlovna came in hurriedly from out of doors.
Lavretsky shuddered all over and rushed out of the room. He felt that
at that moment he was ready to tear her to pieces, to strangle her
with his own hands, at least to beat her all but to death in peasant
fashion. Varvara Pavlovna, in her amazement, wanted to stay him. He
just succeeded in whispering "Betty"--and then he fled from the house.
Lavretsky took a carriage and drove outside the barriers. All the rest
of the day, and the whole of the night he wandered about, constantly
stopping and wringing his hands above his head. Sometimes he was
frantic with rage, at others every thing seemed to move him to
laughter, even to a kind of mirth. When the morning dawned he felt
half frozen, so he entered a wretched little suburban tavern, asked
for a room, and sat down on a chair before the window. A convulsive
fit of yawning seized him. By that time he was scarcely able to keep
upright, and his bodily strength was utterly exhausted. Still he was
not conscious of fatigue. But fatigue had its own way. He continued
sitting there and gazing vacantly, but he comprehended nothing. He
could not make out what had happened to him, why he found himself
there, alone, in an empty, unknown room, with numbed limbs, with a
sense of bitterness in his mouth, with a weight like that of a great
stone on his heart. He could not understand what had induced her, his
Varvara, to give herself to that Frenchman, and how, knowing herself
to be false to him, she could have remained as calm as ever in his
presence, as confiding and caressing as ever towards him. "I cannot
make it out," whispered his dry lips. "And how can I be sure now that
even at St. Petersburg--?" but he did not complete the question; a
fresh gaping fit seized him, and his whole frame shrank and shivered.
Sunny and sombre memories equally tormented him. He suddenly
recollected how a few days before, she had sat at the piano, when both
he and Ernest were present, and had sung "Old husband, cruel husband!"
He remembered the expression of her face, the strange brilliance of
her eyes, and the color in her cheeks--and he rose from his chair,
longing to go to them and say, "You were wrong to play your tricks on
me. My great grandfather used to hang his peasants on hooks by their
ribs, and my grandfather was a peasant himself,"--and then kill them
both. All of a sudden it would appear to him as if every thing that
had happened were a dream, even not so much as a dream, but just some
absurd fancy; as if he had only to give himself a shake and take a
look round--and he did look round; and as a hawk claws a captured
bird, so did his misery strike deeper and deeper into his heart. What
made things worse was that Lavretsky had hoped, in the course of a few
months, to find himself once more a father. His past, his future, his
whole life was poisoned.
At last he returned to Paris, went to a hotel, and sent Varvara
Pavlovna M. Ernest's note with the following letter:--
"The scrap of paper which accompanies this will explain every thing to
you. I may as well tell you that you do not seem to have behaved in
this matter with your usual tact. You, so careful a person, to drop
such important papers (poor Lavretsky had been preparing this phrase,
and fondling it, as it were, for several hours). I can see you no
more, and I suppose that you too can have no wish for an interview
with me. I assign you fifteen thousand roubles a year. I cannot give
you more. Send your address to the steward of my estate. And now do
what you like; live where you please. I wish you all prosperity. I
want no answer."
Lavretsky told his wife that he wanted no answer; but he did expect,
he even longed for an answer--an explanation of this strange, this
incomprehensible affair. That same day Varvara Pavlovna sent him
a long letter in French. It was the final blow. His last doubts
vanished, and he even felt ashamed of having retained any doubts.
Varvara Pavlovna did not attempt to justify herself. All that
she wanted was to see him; she besought him not to condemn her
irrevocably. The letter was cold and constrained, though marks of
tears were to be seen on it here and there. Lavretsky smiled bitterly,
and sent a message by the bearer, to the effect that the letter needed
Three days later he was no longer in Paris; but he went to Italy, not
to Russia. He did not himself know why he chose Italy in particular.
In reality, it was all the same to him where he went--so long as
he did not go home. He sent word to his steward about his wife's
allowance, ordering him, at the same time, to withdraw the whole
management of the estate from General Korobine immediately, without
waiting for any settlement of accounts, and to see to his Excellency's
departure from Lavriki. He indulged in a vivid picture of the
confusion of the expelled general, the useless airs which he would
put on, and, in spite of his sorrow, he was conscious of a certain
malicious satisfaction. At the same time he wrote to Glafira Petrovna,
asking her to return to Lavriki, and drew up a power-of-attorney in
her name. But Glafira Petrovna would not return to Lavriki; she
even advertised in the newspapers that the power-of-attorney was
cancelled,--a perfectly superfluous proceeding on her part.
Lavretsky hid himself in a little Italian town; but for a long time
he could not help mentally following his wife's movements. He learned
from the newspapers that she had left Paris for Baden, as she had
intended. Her name soon appeared in a short article signed by the M.
Jules of whom we have already spoken. The perusal of that article
produced a very unpleasant effect on Lavretsky's mind. He detected in
it, underneath the writer's usual sprightliness, a sort of tone of
charitable commiseration. Next he learned that a daughter had been
born to him. Two months later he was informed by his steward that
Varvara Pavlovna had drawn her first quarter's allowance. After that,
scandalous reports about her began to arrive; then they became more
and more frequent; at last a tragicomic story, in which she played a
very unenviable part, ran the round of all the journals, and created
a great sensation. Affairs had come to a climax. Varvara Pavlovna was
now "a celebrity."
Lavretsky ceased to follow her movements. But it was long before he
could master his own feelings. Sometimes he was seized by such a
longing after his wife, that he fancied he would have been ready to
give every thing he had--that he could, perhaps, even have forgiven
her--if only he might once more have heard her caressing voice, have
felt once more her hand in his. But time did not pass by in vain. He
was not born for suffering. His healthy nature claimed its rights.
Many things became intelligible for him. The very blow which had
struck him seemed no longer to have come without warning. He
understood his wife now. We can never fully understand persons with
whom we are generally in close contact, until we have been separated
from them. He was able to apply himself to business again, and
to study, although now with much less than his former ardor; the
scepticism for which both his education and his experience of life
had paved the way, had taken lasting hold upon his mind. He became
exceedingly indifferent to every thing. Four years passed by, and he
felt strong enough to return to his home, to meet his own people.
Without having stopped either at St. Petersburg or at Moscow, he
arrived at O., where we left him, and whither we now entreat the
reader to return with us.
About ten o'clock in the morning, on the day after that of which
we have already spoken, Lavretsky was going up the steps of the
Kalitines' house, when he met Liza with her bonnet and gloves on.
"Where are you going?" he asked her.
"To church. To-day is Sunday."
"And so you go to church?"
Liza looked at him in silent wonder.
"I beg your pardon," said Lavretsky. "I--I did not mean to say that.
I came to take leave of you. I shall start for my country-house in
"That isn't far from here, is it?" asked Liza.
"About five-and-twenty versts."
At this moment Lenochka appeared at the door, accompanied by a
"Mind you don't forget us," said Liza, and went down the steps.
"Don't forget me either. By the way," he continued, "you are going to
church; say a prayer for me too, while you are there."
Liza stopped and turned towards him.
"Very well," she said, looking him full in the face. "I will pray for
you, too. Come, Lenochka."
Lavretsky found Maria Dmitrievna alone in the drawing-room, which was
redolent of Eau de Cologne and peppermint. Her head ached, she said,
and she had spent a restless night.
She received him with her usual languid amiability, and by degrees
began to talk.
"Tell me," she asked him, "is not Vladimir Nikolaevich a very
agreeable young man?"
"Who is Vladimir Nikolaevich?"
"Why Panshine, you know, who was here yesterday. He was immensely
delighted with you. Between ourselves I may mention, _mon cher
cousin_, that he is perfectly infatuated with my Liza. Well, he is of
good family, he is getting on capitally in the service, he is clever,
and besides he is a chamberlain; and if such be the will of God--I,
for my part, as a mother, shall be glad of it. It is certainly a great
responsibility; most certainly the happiness of children depends upon
their parents. But this much must be allowed. Up to the present time,
whether well or ill, I have done every thing myself, and entirely by
myself. I have brought up my children and taught them every thing
myself--and now I have just written to Maclame Bulous for a
Maria Dmitrievna launched out into a description of her cares, her
efforts, her maternal feelings. Lavretsky listened to her in silence,
and twirled his hat in his hands. His cold, unsympathetic look at last
disconcerted the talkative lady.
"And what do you think of Liza?" she asked.
"Lizaveta Mikhailovna is an exceedingly handsome girl," replied
Lavretsky. Then he got up, said good-bye, and went to pay Marfa
Timofeevna a visit. Maria Dmitrievna looked after him with an
expression of dissatisfaction, and thought to herself, "What a bear!
what a moujik! Well, now I understand why his wife couldn't remain
faithful to him."
Marfa Timofeevna was sitting in her room, surrounded by her court.
This consisted of five beings, almost equally dear to her heart--an
educated bullfinch, to which she had taken an affection because it
could no longer whistle or draw water, and which was afflicted with a
swollen neck; a quiet and exceedingly timid little dog, called Roska;
a bad-tempered cat, named Matros; a dark-complexioned, lively little
girl of nine, with very large eyes and a sharp nose, whose name was
Shurochka[A]; and an elderly lady of about fifty-five, who wore a
white cap and a short, cinnamon-colored _katsaveika_[B] over a dark
gown, and whose name was Nastasia Carpovna Ogarkof.
[Footnote A: One of the many diminutives of Alexandrina.]
[Footnote B: A kind of jacket worn by women.]
Shurochka was a fatherless and motherless girl, whose relations
belonged to the lowest class of the bourgeoisie. Marfa Timofeevna had
adopted her, as well as Roska, out of pity. She had found both the dog
and the girl out in the streets. Both of them were thin and cold; the
autumn rain had drenched them both. No one ever claimed Roska, and as
to Shurochka, she was even gladly given up to Marfa Timofeevna by her
uncle, a drunken shoemaker, who never had enough to eat himself, and
could still less provide food for his niece, whom he used to hit over
the head with his last.
As to Nastasia Carpovna, Marfa Timofeevna had made acquaintance with
her on a pilgrimage, in a monastery. She went up to that old lady in
church one day,--Nastasia Carpovna had pleased Marfa Timofeevna by
praying as the latter lady said, "in very good taste"--began to talk
to her, and invited her home to a cup of tea. From that day she parted
with her no more. Nastasia Carpovna, whose father had belonged to the
class of poor gentry, was a widow without children. She was a woman of
a very sweet and happy disposition; she had a round head, grey hair,
and soft, white hands. Her face also was soft, and her features,
including a somewhat comical snub nose, were heavy, but pleasant. She
worshipped Marfa Timofeevna, who loved her dearly, although she teased
her greatly about her susceptible heart. Nastasia Carpovna had a
weakness for all young men, and never could help blushing like a girl
at the most innocent joke. Her whole property consisted of twelve
hundred paper roubles.[A] She lived at Marfa Timofeevna's expense, but
on a footing of perfect equality with her. Marfa Timofeevna could not
have endured any thing like servility.
[Footnote A: About _L50_.]
"Ah, Fedia!" she began, as soon as she saw him
"You didn't see my family last night. Please to admire them now; we
are all met together for tea. This is our second, our feast-day tea.
You may embrace us all. Only Shurochka wouldn't let you, and the cat
would scratch you. Is it to-day you go?"
"Yes," said Lavretsky, sitting down on a low chair. "I have just taken
leave of Maria Dmitrievna. I saw Lizaveta Mikhailovna too."
"Call her Liza, my dear. Why should she be Mikhailovna for you? But do
sit still, or you will break Shurochka's chair."
"She was on her way to church," continued Lavretsky. "Is she seriously
"Yes, Fedia, very much so. More than you or I, Fedia."
"And do you mean to say you are not seriously inclined?" lisped
Nastasia Carpovna. "If you have not gone to the early mass to-day, you
will go to the later one."
"Not a bit of it. Thou shalt go alone. I've grown lazy, my mother,"
answered Marfa Timofeevna. "I am spoiling myself terribly with tea
She said _thou_ to Nastasia Carpovna, although she lived on a footing
of equality with her--but it was not for nothing that she was a
Pestof. Three Pestofs occur in the Sinodik[A] of Ivan the Terrible.
Marfa Timofeevna was perfectly well aware of the fact.
[Footnote A: "_I.e._, in the list of the nobles of his time, in the
"Tell me, please," Lavretsky began again. "Maria Dmitrievna was
talking to me just now about that--what's his name?--Panshine. What
sort of a man is he?"
"Good Lord! what a chatter-box she is!" grumbled Marfa Timofeevna.
"I've no doubt she has communicated to you as a secret that he hangs
about here as a suitor. She might have been contented to 'Whisper
about it with her _popovich_[A] But no, it seems that is not enough
for her. And yet there is nothing settled so far, thank God! but she's
[Footnote A: The priest's son. _i.e._, Gedeonovsky.]
"Why do you say 'Thank God?'" asked Lavretsky.
"Why, because this fine young man doesn't please me. And what is there
in the matter to be delighted about, I should like to know?"
"Doesn't he please you?"
"No; he can't fascinate every one. It's enough for him that Nastasia
Carpovna here is in love with him."
The poor widow was terribly disconcerted.
"How can you say so, Marfa Timofeevna? Do not you fear God?" she
exclaimed, and a blush instantly suffused her face and neck.
"And certainly the rogue knows how to fascinate her," broke in Marfa
Timofeevna. "He has given her a snuff-box. Fedia, ask her for a pinch
of snuff. You will see what a splendid snuff-box it is. There is
a hussar on horseback on the lid. You had much better not try to
exculpate yourself, my mother."
Nastasia Carpovna could only wave her hands with a deprecatory air.
"Well, but about Liza?" asked Lavretsky. "Is he indifferent to her?"
"She seems to like him--and as to the rest, God knows. Another
person's heart, you know, is a dark forest, and more especially a
young girl's. Look at Shurochka there! Come and analyze her's. Why has
she been hiding herself, but not going away, ever since you came in?"
Shurochka burst into a laugh she was unable to stifle, and ran out of
the room. Lavretsky also rose from his seat.
"Yes," he said slowly; "one cannot fathom a girl's heart."
As he was going to take leave.
"Well; shall we see you soon?" asked Marfa Timofeevna.
"Perhaps, aunt. It's no great distance to where I'm going."
"Yes; you're going, no doubt, to Vasilievskoe. You won't live at
Lavriki. Well, that's your affair. Only go and kneel down at your
mother's grave, and your grandmother's, too, while you are there. You
have picked up all kinds of wisdom abroad there, and perhaps, who can
tell, they may feel, even in their graves, that you have come to visit
them. And don't forget, Fedia, to have a service said for Glafira
Petrovna, too. Here is a rouble for you. Take it, take it please; it
is I who wish to have the service performed for her. I didn't love
her while she lived, but it must be confessed that she was a girl of
character. She was clever. And then she didn't hurt you. And now go,
and God be with you--else I shall tire you."
And Marfa Timofeevna embraced her nephew.
"And Liza shall not marry Panshine; don't make yourself uneasy about
that. He isn't the sort of man she deserves for a husband."
"But I am not in the least uneasy about it," remarked Lavretsky as he
Four hours later he was on his way towards his home. His tarantass
rolled swiftly along the soft cross-road. There had been no rain for
a fortnight. The atmosphere was pervaded by a light fog of milky hue,
which hid the distant forests from sight, while a smell or burning
filled the air. A number of dusky clouds with blurred outlines stood
out against a pale blue sky, and lingered, slowly drawn. A strongish
wind swept by in an unbroken current, bearing no moisture with it, and
not dispelling the great heat. His head leaning back on the cushions,
his arms folded across his breast, Lavretsky gazed at the furrowed
plains which opened fanwise before him, at the cytisus shrubs, at the
crows and rooks which looked sideways at the passing carriage with
dull suspicion, at the long ridges planted with mugwort, wormwood, and
mountain ash. He gazed--and that vast level solitude, so fresh and
so fertile, that expanse of verdure, and those sweeping slopes, the
ravines studded with clumps of dwarfed oaks, the grey hamlets, the
thinly-clad birch trees--all this Russian landscape, so-long by him
unseen, filled his mind with feelings which were sweet, but at the
same time almost sad, and gave rise to a certain heaviness of heart,
but one which was more akin to a pleasure than to a pain. His thoughts
wandered slowly past, their forms as dark and ill-defined as those
of the clouds, which also seemed vaguely wandering there on high. He
thought of his childhood, of his mother, how they brought him to her
011 her death-bed, and how, pressing his head to her breast, she
began to croon over him, but looked up at Glafira Petrovna and became
silent. He thought of his father, at first robust, brazen-voiced,
grumbling at every thing--then blind, querulous, with white,
uncared-for beard. He remembered how one day at dinner, when he had
taken a little too much wine, the old man suddenly burst out laughing,
and began to prate about his conquests, winking his blind eyes
the while, and growing red in the face. He thought of Varvara
Pavlovna--and his face contracted involuntarily, like that of a man
who feels some sudden pain, and he gave his head an impatient toss.
Then his thoughts rested on Liza. "There," he thought, "is a new life
just beginning. A good creature! I wonder what will become of her. And
she's pretty, too, with her pale, fresh face, her eyes and lips so
serious, and that frank and guileless way she has of looking at you.
It's a pity she seems a little enthusiastic. And her figure is good,
and she moves about lightly, and she has a quiet voice. I like her
best when she suddenly stands still, and listens attentively and
gravely, then becomes contemplative and shakes her hair back. Yes, I
agree, Panshine isn't worthy of her. Yet what harm is there in him?
However, as to all that, why am I troubling my head about it? She will
follow the same road that all others have to follow. I had better go
to sleep." And Lavretsky closed his eyes.
He could not sleep, but he sank into a traveller's dreamy reverie.
Just as before, pictures of by-gone days slowly rose and floated
across his mind, blending with each other, and becoming confused with
other scenes. Lavretsky began to think--heaven knows why--about Sir
Robert Peel; then about French history; lastly, about the victory
which he would have gained if he had been a general. The firing and
the shouting rang in his ears. His head slipped on one side; he opened
his eyes--the same fields stretched before him, the same level views
met his eyes. The iron shoes of the outside horses gleamed brightly by
turns athwart the waving dust, the driver's yellow[A] shirt swelled
with the breeze. "Here I am, returning virtuously to my birth-place,"
suddenly thought Lavretsky, and he called out, "Get on there!" drew
his cloak more closely around him, and pressed himself still nearer
to the cushion. The tarantass gave a jerk. Lavretsky sat upright
and opened his eyes wide. On the slope before him extended a small
village. A little to the right was to be seen an old manor house of
modest dimensions, its shutters closed, its portico awry. On one
side stood a barn built of oak, small, but well preserved. The wide
court-yard was entirely overgrown by nettles, as green and thick as
hemp. This was Vasilievskoe.
[Footnote A: Yellow, with red pieces let in under the armpits.]
The driver turned aside to the gate, and stopped his horses.
Lavretsky's servant rose from his seat, ready to jump down, and
shouted "Halloo!" A hoarse, dull barking arose in reply, but no dog
made its appearance. The lackey again got ready to descend, and
again cried "Halloo!" The feeble barking was repeated, and directly
afterwards a man, with snow-white hair, dressed in a nankeen caftan,
ran into the yard from one of the comers. He looked at the tarantass,
shielding his eyes from the sun, then suddenly struck both his hands
upon his thighs, fidgeted about nervously for a moment, and finally
ran to open the gates. The tarantass entered the court-yard, crushing
the nettles under its wheels, and stopped before the portico. The
white-headed old man, who was evidently of a very active turn, was
already standing on the lowest step, his legs spread awkwardly apart.
He unbuttoned the apron of the carriage, pulling up the leather with a
jerk, and kissed his master's hand while assisting him to alight.
"Good day, good day, brother," said Lavretsky. "Your name is Anton,
isn't it. So you're still alive?"
The old man bowed in silence, and then ran to fetch the keys. While he
ran, the driver sat motionless, leaning sideways and looking at the
closed door; and Lavretsky's man-servant remained in the picturesque
attitude in which he found himself after springing clown to the
ground, one of his arms resting on the box seat. The old man brought
the keys and opened the door, lifting his elbows high the while, and
needlessly wriggling his body--then he stood on one side, and again
bowed down to his girdle.
"Here I am at home, actually returned!" thought Lavretsky, as he
entered the little vestibule, while the shutters opened, one after
another, with creak and rattle, and the light of day penetrated into
the long-deserted rooms.
The little house at which Lavretsky had arrived, and in which Glafira
Petrovna had died two years before, had been built of solid pine
timber in the preceding century. It looked very old, but it was good
for another fifty years or more. Lavretsky walked through all the
rooms, and, to the great disquiet of the faded old flies which clung
to the cornices without moving, their backs covered with white dust,
he had the windows thrown open everywhere. Since the death of Glafira
Petrovna, no one had opened them. Every thing had remained precisely
as it used to be in the house. In the drawing-room the little white
sofas, with their thin legs, and their shining grey coverings, all
worn and rumpled, vividly recalled to mind the times of Catharine. In
that room also stood the famous arm-chair of the late proprietress, a
chair with a high, straight back, in which, even in her old age, she
used always to sit bolt upright. On the wall hung an old portrait
of Fedor's great-grandfather, Andrei Lavretsky. His dark, sallow
countenance could scarcely be distinguished against the cracked and
darkened background. His small, malicious eyes looked out morosely
from beneath the heavy, apparently swollen eyelids. His black hair,
worn without powder, rose up stiff as a brush above his heavy,
wrinkled forehead. From the corner of the portrait hung a dusky wreath
of _immortelles_. "Glafira Petrovna deigned to weave it herself,"
observed Anthony. In the bed-room stood a narrow bedstead, with
curtains of some striped material, extremely old, but of very good
quality. On the bed lay a heap of faded cushions and a thin, quilted
counterpane; and above the bolster hung a picture of the Presentation
of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, the very picture which the old
lady, when she lay dying, alone and forgotten, pressed for the last
time with lips which were already beginning to grow cold. Near the
window stood a toilet table, inlaid with different kinds of wood and
ornamented with plates of copper, supporting a crooked mirror in
a frame of which the gilding had turned black. In a line with the
bed-room was the oratory, a little room with bare walls; in the corner
stood a heavy case for holding sacred pictures, and on the floor lay
the scrap of carpet, worn threadbare, and covered with droppings from
wax candles, on which Glafira Petrovna used to prostrate herself when
Anton went out with Lavretsky's servant to open the stable and
coach-house doors. In his stead appeared an old woman, almost as old
as himself, her hair covered by a handkerchief, which came down to her
very eyebrows. Her head shook and her eyes seemed dim; but they wore,
also, an expression of zealous obedience, habitual and implicit, and,
at the same time, of a kind of respectful condolence. She kissed
Lavretsky's hand, and then remained near the door, awaiting his
orders. He could not remember what her name was, nor even whether he
had ever seen her before. It turned out that her name was Apraxia.
Some forty years previously, Glafira Petrovna had struck her off the
list of the servants who lived in the house, and had ordered her to
become a poultry-maid. She seldom spoke, seemed half idiotic, and
always wore a servile look. Besides this old couple, and three paunchy
little children in long shirts, Anton's great-grandchildren, there
lived also in the seigniorial household an untaxable[A] moujik, who
had only one arm. He cackled like a black-cock, and was fit for
nothing. Of very little more use was the infirm old hound which had
saluted Lavretsky's return by its barking. For ten whole years it
had been fastened to a heavy chain, purchased by order of Glafira
Petrovna, a burden under which it was now scarcely able to move.
[Footnote A: One who had not received the usual grant of land from the
community, and was not subject to rates like the rest.]
Having examined the house, Lavretsky went out into the garden, and was
well pleased with it. It was all overgrown with steppe grass, with
dandelions, and with gooseberry and raspberry bushes; but there was
plenty of shade in it, a number of old lime-trees growing there, of
singularly large stature, with eccentrically ordered branches. They
had been planted too close together, and a hundred years seemed to
have elapsed since they were pruned. At the end of the garden was a
small, clear lake, surrounded by a fringe of high, reddish-colored
rushes. The traces of a human life that is past soon disappear.
Glafira's manor-house had not yet grown wild, but it seemed to have
become already immersed in that quiet slumber which all that is
earthly sleeps, whenever it is not affected by the restlessness of
Lavretsky also went through the village. The women looked at him from
the door-ways of their cottages, each resting her cheek upon her hand.
The men bowed low from afar, the children ran Out of sight, the dogs
barked away at their ease. At last he felt hungry, but he did not
expect his cook and the other servants till the evening. The waggon
bringing provisions from Lavriki had not yet arrived. It was
necessary to have recourse to Anton. The old man immediately made his
arrangements. He caught an ancient fowl, and killed and plucked it.
Apraxia slowly squeezed and washed it, scrubbing it as if it had been
linen for the wash, before putting it into the stewpan. When at
last it was ready, Anton laid the table, placing beside the dish a
three-footed plated salt-cellar, blackened with age, and a cut glass
decanter, with a round glass stopper in its narrow neck. Then, in a
kind of chant, he announced to Lavretsky that dinner was ready, and
took his place behind his master's chair, a napkin wound around
his right hand, and a kind of air of the past, like the odor of
cypress-wood hanging about him. Lavretsky tasted the broth, and took
the fowl out of it. The bird's skin was covered all over with round
blisters, a thick tendon ran up each leg, and the flesh was as tough
as wood, and had a flavor like that which pervades a laundry. After
dinner Lavretsky said that he would take tea if--
"I will bring it in a moment," broke in the old man, and he kept his
promise. A few pinches of tea were found rolled up in a scrap of red
paper. Also a small, but very zealous and noisy little _samovar_[A]
was discovered, and some sugar in minute pieces, which looked as if
they had been all but melted away. Lavretsky drank his tea out of a
large cup. From his earliest childhood he remembered this cup, on
which playing cards were painted, and from which only visitors were
allowed to drink; and now he drank from it, like a visitor.
[Footnote A: Urn.]
Towards the evening came the servants. Lavretsky did not like to sleep
in his aunt's bed, so he had one made up for him in the dining-room.
After putting out the candle, he lay for a long time looking around
him, and thinking what were not joyous thoughts. He experienced the
sensations which every one knows who has had to spend the night
for the first time in a long uninhabited room. He fancied that the
darkness which pressed in upon him from all sides could not accustom
itself to the new tenant--that the very walls of the house were
astonished at him. At last he sighed, pulled the counterpane well over
him, and went to sleep. Anton remained on his legs long after every
one else had gone to bed. For some time he spoke in a whisper to
Apraxia, sighing low at intervals, and three times he crossed himself.
The old servants had never expected that their master would settle
down among them at Vasilievskoe, when he had such a fine estate, with
a well-appointed manor-house close by. They did not suspect what was
really the truth, that Lavriki was repugnant to its owner, that
it aroused in his mind too painful recollections. After they had
whispered to each other enough, Anton took a stick, and struck the
watchman's board, which had long hung silently by the barn. Then
he lay down in the open yard, without troubling himself about any
covering for his white head. The May night was calm and soothing, and
the old man slept soundly.
The next day Lavretsky rose at a tolerably early hour, chatted with
the _starosta_,[A] visited the rick-yard, and had the chain taken off
the yard dog, which just barked a little, but did not even come out
of its kennel. Then, returning home, he fell into a sort of quiet
reverie, from which he did not emerge all day. "Here I am, then, at
the very bottom of the river!"[B] he said to himself more than once.
He sat near the window without stirring, and seemed to listen to the
flow of the quiet life which surrounded him, to the rare sounds which
came from the village solitude. Behind the nettles some one was
singing with a thin, feeble voice; a gnat seemed to be piping a second
to it The voice stopped, but the gnat still went on piping. Through
the monotonous and obtrusive buzzing of the flies might be heard the
humming of a large humble bee, which kept incessantly striking its
head against the ceiling. A cock crowed in the street, hoarsely
protracting its final note, a cart rattled past, a gate creaked in the
village. "What?" suddenly screeched a woman's voice. "Ah, young lady!"
said Anton to a little girl of two years old whom he was carrying in
his arms. "Bring the _kvass_ here," continued the same woman's voice.
Then a death-like silence suddenly ensued.
[Footnote A: The head of the village.]
[Footnote B: A popular phrase, to express a life quiet as the depths
of a river are.]
Nothing stirred, not a sound was audible. The wind did not move the
leaves. The swallows skimmed along he ground one after another without
a cry, and their silent flight made a sad impression upon the heart of
the looker-on. "Here I am, then, at the bottom of the river," again
thought Lavretsky. "And here life is always sluggish and still;
whoever enters its circle must resign himself to his fate. Here there
is no use in agitating oneself, no reason why one should give oneself
trouble. He only will succeed here who traces his onward path as
patiently as the plougher traces the furrow with his plough. And what
strength there is in all around; what robust health dwells in the
midst of this inactive stillness! There under the window climbs the
large-leaved burdock from the thick grass. Above it the lovage extends
its sappy stalk, while higher still the Virgin's tears hang out their
rosy tendrils. Farther away in the fields shines the rye, and the oats
are already in ear, and every leaf or its tree, every blade of grass
on its stalk, stretches itself out to its full extent. On a woman's
love my best years have been wasted!" (Lavretsky proceeded to think.)
"Well, then, let the dulness here sober me and calm me down; let it
educate me into being able to work like others without hurrying." And
he again betook himself to listening to the silence, without expecting
anything, and yet, at the same time, as if incessantly expecting
something. The stillness embraced him on all sides; the sun went down
quietly in a calm, blue sky, on which the clouds floated tranquilly,
seeming as if they knew why and whither they were floating. In the
other parts of the world, at that very moment, life was seething,
noisily bestirring itself. Here the same life flowed silently along,
like water over meadow grass. It was late in the evening before
Lavretsky could tear himself away from the contemplation of this life
so quietly welling forth--so tranquilly flowing past. Sorrow for the
past melted away in his mind as the snow melts in spring; but, strange
to say, never had the love of home exercised so strong or so profound
an influence upon him.
In the course of a fortnight Lavretsky succeeded in setting Glafira
Petrovna's little house in order, and in trimming the court-yard
and the garden. Its stable became stocked with horses; comfortable
furniture was brought to it from Lavriki; and the town supplied it
with wine, and with books and newspapers. In short, Lavretsky provided
himself with every thing he wanted, and began to lead a life which was
neither exactly that of an ordinary landed proprietor, nor exactly
that of a regular hermit. His days passed by in uniform regularity,
but he never found them dull, although he had no visitors. He occupied
himself assiduously and attentively with the management of his estate;
he rode about the neighborhood, and he read. But he read little. He
preferred listening to old Anton's stories.
Lavretsky generally sat at the window, over a pipe and a cup of cold
tea. Anton would stand at the door, his hands crossed behind his back,
and would begin a deliberate narrative about old times, those fabulous
times when oats and rye were sold, not By measure, but in large sacks,
and for two or three roubles the sack; when on all sides, right up to
the town, there stretched impenetrable forests and untouched steppes.
"But now," grumbled the old man, over whose head eighty years had
already passed, "everything has been so cut down and ploughed up that
one can't drive anywhere." Anton would talk also at great length
about his late mistress, Glafira Petrovna, saying how judicious
and economical she was, how a certain gentleman, one of her young
neighbors, had tried to gain her good graces for a time, and had begun
to pay her frequent visits; and how in his honor she had deigned even
to put on her gala-day cap with massacas ribbons, and her yellow dress
made of _tru-tru-levantine_; but how, a little later, having become
angry with her neighbor, that gentleman, on account of his indiscreet
question, "I suppose, madam, you doubtless have a good sum of money
in hand?" she told her servants never to let him enter her house
again--and how she then ordered that, after her death, every thing,
even to the smallest rag, should be handed over to Lavretsky. And, in
reality, Lavretsky found his aunt's property quite intact, even down
to the gala-day cap with the massacas ribbons, and the yellow dress of
As to the old papers and curious documents on which Lavretsky had
counted, he found nothing of the kind except one old volume in which
his grandfather, Peter Andreich, had made various entries. In one
place might be read, "Celebration in the city of St. Petersburg, of
the Peace concluded with the Turkish Empire by his Excellency, Prince
Alexander Alexandrovich Prozorovsky". In another, "Recipe of a
decoction for the chest," with the remark. "This prescription
was given the Generaless Prascovia Fedorovna Saltykof, by the
Archpresbyter of the Life-beginning Trinity, Fedor Avksentevich."
Sometimes there occurred a piece of political information, as
"About the French tigers there is somehow silence"--and close by, "In
the _Moscow Gazette_ there is an announcement of the decease of the
First-Major Mikhail Petrovich Kolychef. Is not this the son of Peter
Lavretsky also found some old calendars and dream-books, and the
mystical work of M. Ambodik. Many a memory did the long-forgotten but
familiar "Symbols and Emblems" recall to his mind. In the furthest
recess of one of the drawers in Glafira's toilette-table, Lavretsky
found a small packet, sealed with black wax, and tied with a narrow
black ribbon. Inside the packet were two portraits lying face to face,
the one, in pastel, of his father as a young man, with soft curls
falling over his forehead, with long, languid eyes, and with a
half-open mouth; the other an almost obliterated picture of a pale
woman, in a white dress, with a white rose in her hand--his mother. Of
herself Glafira never would allow a portrait to be taken.
"Although I did not then live in the house," Anton would say to
Lavretsky, "yet I can remember your great grandfather, Andrei
Afanasich. I was eighteen years old when he died. One day I met him
in the garden--then my very thighs began to quake. But he didn't do
anything, only asked me what my name was, and sent me to his bed-room
for a pocket-handkerchief. He was truly a seigneur--every one must
allow that; and he wouldn't allow that any one was better than
himself. For I may tell you, your great grandfather had such a
wonderful amulet--a monk from Mount Athos had given him that
amulet--and that monk said to him, 'I give thee this, O Boyar, in
return for thy hospitality. Wear it, and fear no judge.' Well, it's
true, as is well known, that times were different then. What a
seigneur wanted to do, that he did. If ever one of the gentry took it
into his head to contradict him, he would just look at him, and say,
'Thou swimmest in shallow water'[A]--that was a favorite phrase with
him. And he lived, did your great grandfather of blessed memory, in
small, wooden rooms. But what riches he left behind him! What silver,
what stores of all kinds! All the cellars were crammed full of them.
He was a real manager. That little decanter which you were pleased to
praise was his. He used to drink brandy out of it. But just see! your
grandfather, Peter Andreich, provided himself with a stone mansion,
but he lived worse than his father, and got himself no satisfaction,
but spent all his money, and now there is nothing to remember him
by--not so much as a silver spoon has come down to us from him; and
for all that is left, one must thank Glafira Petrovna's care."
[Footnote A: Part of a Russian proverb.]
"But is it true," interrupted Lavretsky, "that people used to call her
an old witch?"
"But, then, who called her so?" replied Anton, with an air of
"But what is our mistress doing now, _batyushka_?" the old man
ventured to ask one day. "Where does she please to have her
"I am separated from my wife," answered Lavretsky, with an effort.
"Please don't ask me about her."
"I obey," sadly replied the old man.
At the end of three weeks Lavretsky rode over to O., and spent the
evening at the Kalitines' house. He found Lemm there, and took a great
liking to him. Although, thanks to his father, Lavretsky could not
play any instrument, yet he was passionately fond of music--of
classical, serious music, that is to say. Panshine was not at the
Kalitines' that evening, for the Governor had sent him somewhere into
the country. Liza played unaccompanied, and that with great accuracy.
Lemm grew lively and animated, rolled up a sheet of paper, and
conducted the music. Maria Dmitrievna looked at him laughingly for a
while, and then went off to bed. According to her, Beethoven was too
agitating for her nerves.
At midnight Lavretsky saw Lemm home, and remained with him till three
in the morning. Lemm talked a great deal. He stooped less than usual,
his eyes opened wide and sparkled, his very hair remained pushed off
from his brow. It was so long since any one had shown any sympathy
with him, and Lavretsky was evidently interested in him, and
questioned him carefully and attentively. This touched the old man. He
ended by showing his music to his guest, and he played, and even sang,
in his worn-out voice, some passages from his own works; among others,
an entire ballad of Schiller's that he had set to music--that of
Fridolin. Lavretsky was loud in its praise, made him repeat several
parts, and, on going away, invited him to spend some days with him.
Lemm, who was conducting him to the door, immediately consented,
pressing his hand cordially. But when he found himself alone in the
fresh, damp air, beneath the just-appearing dawn, he looked round,
half-shut his eyes, bent himself together, and crept back, like a
culprit, to his bed-room. "_Ich bin wohl nicht klug_"--("I must be out
of my wits"), he murmured, as he lay down on his short, hard bed.
He tried to make out that he was ill when, a few days later,
Lavretsky's carriage came for him. But Lavretsky went up into his
room, and persuaded him to go. Stronger than every other argument with
him was the fact that Lavretsky had ordered a piano to be sent out to
the country-house on purpose for him. The two companions went to the
Kalitines' together, and spent the evening there, but not quite so
pleasantly as on the previous occasion. Panshine was there, talking a
great deal about his journey, and very amusingly mimicking the various
proprietors he had met, and parodying their conversation. Lavretsky
laughed, but Lemm refused to come out of his corner, where he remained
in silence, noiselessly working his limbs like a spider, and wearing
a dull and sulky look. It was not till he rose to take leave that he
became at all animated. Even when sitting in the carriage, the old man
at first seemed still unsociable and absorbed in his own thoughts. But
the calm, warm air, the gentle breeze, the dim shadows, the scent of
the grass and the birch buds, the peaceful light of the moonless,
starry sky, the rhythmical tramp and snorting of the horses, the
mingled fascinations of the journey, of the spring, of the night--all
entered into the soul of the poor German, and he began to talk with
Lavretsky of his own accord.
He began to talk about music, then about Liza, and then again about
music. He seemed to pronounce his words more slowly when he spoke
of Liza. Lavretsky turned the conversation to the subject of his
compositions, and offered, half in jest, to write a libretto for him.
"Hm! a libretto!" answered Lemm. "No; that is beyond me. I no longer
have the animation, the play of fancy, which are indispensable for an
opera. Already my strength has deserted me. But if I could still do
something, I should content myself with a romance. Of course I should
like good words."
He became silent, and sat for a long time without moving, his eyes
fixed on the sky.
"For instance," he said at length, "something in this way--'O stars,
Lavretsky turned a little, and began to regard him attentively.
"'O stars, pure stars!'" repeated Lemm, "'you look alike on the just
and the unjust. But only the innocent of heart'--or something of that
kind--'understand you'--that is to say, no--'love you.' However, I
am not a poet. What am I thinking about! But something of that
Lemm pushed his hat back from his forehead. Seen by the faint twilight
of the clear night, his face seemed paler and younger.
"'And you know also,'" he continued, in a gradually lowered voice,
"'you know those who love, who know how to love; for you are pure, you
alone can console.' No; all that is not what I mean. I am not a poet.
But something of that kind."--
"I am sorry that I am not a poet either," remarked Lavretsky.
"Empty dreams!" continued Lemm, as he sank into the corner of the
carriage. Then he shut his eyes as if he had made up his mind to go to
Several minutes passed. Lavretsky still listened.
"Stars, pure stars ... love'" whispered the old man.
"Love!" repeated Lavretsky to himself. Then he fell into a reverie,
and his heart grew heavy within him.
"You have set 'Fridolin' to charming music, Christopher Fedorovich,"
he said aloud after a time. But what is your opinion? This Fridolin,
after he had been brought into the presence of the countess by her
husband, didn't he then immediately become her lover--eh?"
"You think so," answered Lemm, "because, most likely, experience--"
He stopped short, and turned away in confusion.
Lavretsky uttered a forced laugh. Then he too turned away from his
companion, and began looking out along the road.
The stars had already begun to grow pale, and the sky to turn grey,
when the carriage arrived before the steps of the little house at
Vasilievskoe. Lavretsky conducted his guest to his allotted room, then
went to his study, and sat down in front of the window. Out in the
garden a nightingale was singing its last song before the dawn.
Lavretsky remembered that at the Kalitines' also a nightingale had
sung in the garden. He remembered also the quiet movement of Liza's
eyes when, at its first notes, she had turned toward the dark
casement. He began to think of her, and his heart grew calm.
"Pure maiden," he said, in a half-whisper, "pure stars," he added,
with a smile, and then quietly lay down to sleep.
But Lemm sat for a long time on his bed, with a sheet of music on his
knees. It seemed as if some sweet melody, yet unborn, were intending
to visit him. He already underwent the feverish agitation, he already
felt the fatigue and the delight, of its vicinity; but it always
"Neither poet nor musician!" he whispered at last; and his weary head
sank heavily upon the pillow.
* * * * *
The next morning Lavretsky and his guest drank their tea in the
garden, under an old lime-tree.
"Maestro," said Lavretsky, among other things, "you will soon have to
compose a festal cantata."
"On what occasion?"
"Why, on that of Mr. Panshine's marriage with Liza. Didn't you observe
what attention he paid her yesterday? All goes smoothly with them
"That will never be!" exclaimed Lemm.
"Because it's impossible. However," he added after pausing awhile,
"in this world everything is possible. Especially in this country of
"Let us leave Russia out of the question for the present. But what do
you see objectionable in that marriage?"
"Every thing is objectionable--every thing. Lizaveta Mikhailovna is a
serious, true-hearted girl, with lofty sentiments. But he--he is, to
describe him by one word, a _dil-le-tante_"
"But doesn't she love him?"
Lemm rose from his bench.
"No, she does not love him. That is to say, she is very pure of heart,
and does not herself know the meaning of the words, 'to love.' Madame
Von Kalitine tells her that he is an excellent young man; and she
obeys Madame Von Kalitine because she is still quite a child, although
she is now nineteen. She says her prayers every morning; she says her
prayers every evening--and that is very praiseworthy. But she does not
love him. She can love only what is noble. But he is not noble; that
is to say, his soul is not noble."
Lemm uttered the whole of this speech fluently, and with animation,
walking backwards and forwards with short steps in front of the
tea-table, his eyes running along the ground meanwhile.
"Dearest Maestro!" suddenly exclaimed Lavretsky, "I think you are in
love with my cousin yourself."
Lemm suddenly stopped short.
"Please do not jest with me in that way," he began, with faltering
voice. "I am not out of my mind. I look forward to the dark grave, and
not to a rosy future."
Lavretsky felt sorry for the old man, and begged his pardon. After
breakfast Lemm played his cantata, and after dinner, at Lavretsky's
own instigation, he again began to talk about Liza. Lavretsky listened
to him attentively and with curiosity.
"What do you say to this, Christopher Fedorovitch?" he said at last.
"Every thing seems in order here now, and the garden is in full bloom.
Why shouldn't I invite her to come here for the day, with her mother
and my old aunt--eh? Will that be agreeable to you?"
Lemm bowed his head over his plate.
"Invite her," he said, in a scarcely audible voice.
"But we needn't ask Panshine."
"No, we needn't," answered the old man, with an almost childlike
Two days later Lavretsky went into town and to the Kalatines'.
He found them all at home, but he did not tell them of his plan
immediately. He wanted to speak to Liza alone first. Chance favored
him, and he was left alone with her in the drawing-room. They began to
talk. As a general rule she was never shy with any one, and by this
time she had succeeded in becoming accustomed to him. He listened to
what she said, and as he looked at her face, he musingly repeated
Lemm's words, and agreed with him. It sometimes happens that
two persons who are already acquainted with each other, but not
intimately, after the lapse of a few minutes suddenly become familiar
friends--and the consciousness of this familiarity immediately
expresses itself in their looks, in their gentle and kindly smiles, in
their gestures themselves. And this happened now with Lavretsky and
Liza. "Ah, so that's what's you're like!" thought she, looking at him
with friendly eyes. "Ah, so that's what's you're like!" thought he
also; and therefore he was not much surprised when she informed him,
not without some little hesitation, that she had long wanted to say
something to him, but that she was afraid of vexing him.
"Don't be afraid, speak out," he said, standing still in front of her.
Liza raised her clear eyes to his.
"You are so good," she began--and at the same time she thought, "yes,
he is really good"--"I hope you will forgive me. I scarcely ought to
have ventured to speak to you about it--but how could you--why did you
separate from your wife?"
Lavretsky shuddered, then looked at Liza, and sat down by her side.
"My child," he began to say, "I beg you not to touch upon that wound.
Your touch is light, but--in spite of all that, it will give me pain."
"I know," continued Liza, as if she had not heard him, "that she is
guilty before you. I do not want to justify her. But how can they be
separated whom God has joined together?"
"Our convictions on that score are widely different, Lizaveta
Mikhailovna," said Lavretsky, somewhat coldly. "We shall not be able
to understand one another."
Liza grew pale. Her whole body shuddered slightly, but she was not
"You ought to forgive," she said quietly, "if you wish also to be
"Forgive!" cried Lavretsky; you ought first to know her for whom
you plead. Forgive that woman, take her back to my house, her, that
hollow, heartless, creature! And who has told you that she wants to
return to me? Why, she is completely satisfied with her position. But
why should we talk of her? Her name ought never to be uttered by you.
You are too pure, you are not in a position even to understand such a
"Why speak so bitterly?" said Liza, with an effort. The trembling of
her hands began to be apparent. "You left her of your own accord,
"But I tell you," replied Lavretsky, with an involuntary burst of
impatience, "you do not know the sort of creature she is."
"Then why did you marry her?" whispered Liza, with downcast eyes.
Lavretsky jumped up quickly from his chair.
"Why did I marry her? I was young and inexperienced then. I was taken
in. A beautiful exterior fascinated me. I did not understand women;
there was nothing I did understand. God grant you may make a happier
marriage! But take my word for it, it is impossible to be certain
"I also may be unhappy," said Liza, her voice beginning to waver, "but
then I shall have to be resigned. I cannot express myself properly,
but I mean to say that if we are not resigned--"
Lavretsky clenched his hands and stamped his foot.
"Don't be angry; please forgive me," hastily said Liza. At that moment
Maria Dmitrievna came into the room. Liza stood up and was going away,
when Lavretsky unexpectedly called after her:
"Stop a moment. I have a great favor to ask of your mother and you. It
is that you will come and pay me a visit in my new home. I've got a
piano, you know; Lemm is stopping with me; the lilacs are in bloom.
You will get a breath of country air, and be able to return the same
day. Do you consent?"
Liza looked at her mother, who immediately assumed an air of
suffering. But Lavretsky did not give Madame Kalatine time to open her
mouth. He instantly took both of her hands and kissed them, and Maria
Dmitrievna, who always responded to winning ways, and had never for
a moment expected such a piece of politeness from "the bear," felt
herself touched, and gave her consent. While she was considering
what day to appoint, Lavretsky went up to Liza, and, still under the
influence of emotion, whispered aside to her, "Thanks. You are a good
girl. I am in the wrong." Then a color came into her pale face, which
lighted up with a quiet but joyous smile. Her eyes also smiled. Till
that moment she had been afraid that she had offended him.
"M. Panshine can come with us, I suppose?" asked Maria Dmitrievna.
"Of course," replied Lavretsky. "But would it not be better for us to
keep to our family circle?"
"But I think--" began Maria Dmitrievna, adding, however, "Well, just
as you like."
It was settled that Lenochka and Shurochka should go. Marfa Timofeevna
refused to take part in the excursion.
"It's a bore to me, my dear," she said, "to move my old bones; and
there's nowhere, I suppose, in your house where I could pass the
night; besides, I never can sleep in a strange bed. Let these young
folks caper as they please."
Lavretsky had no other opportunity of speaking with Liza alone, but he
kept looking at her in a manner that pleased her, and at the same time
confused her a little. She felt very sorry for him. When he went away,
he took leave of her with a warm pressure of the hand. She fell into a
reverie as soon as she found herself alone.
[Footnote A: Omitted in the French translation.]
On entering the drawing-room, after his return home, Lavretsky met
a tall, thin man, with a wrinkled but animated face, untidy grey
whiskers, a long, straight nose, and small, inflamed eyes. This
individual, who was dressed in a shabby blue surtout, was Mikhalevich,
his former comrade at the University. At first Lavretsky did not
recognize him, but he warmly embraced him as soon as he had made
himself known. The two friends had not seen each other since the old
Moscow days. Then followed exclamations and questions. Memories long
lost to sight came out again into the light of day. Smoking pipe after
pipe in a hurried manner, gulping down his tea, and waving his long
hands in the air, Mikhalevich related his adventures. There was
nothing very brilliant about them, and he could boast of but little
success in his various enterprises; but he kept incessantly laughing a
hoarse, nervous laugh. It seemed that about a month previously he
had obtained a post in the private counting-house of a rich
brandy-farmer,[A] at about three hundred versts from O., and having
heard of Lavretsky's return from abroad, he had turned out of his
road for the purpose of seeing his old friend again. He spoke just
as jerkingly as he used to do in the days of youth, and he became as
noisy and as warm as he was in the habit of growing then. Lavretsky
began to speak about his own affairs, but Mikhalevich stopped him,
hastily stammering out, "I have heard about it, brother; I have heard
about it. Who could have expected it?" and then immediately turned the
conversation on topics of general interest.
[Footnote A: One of the contractors who used to purchase the right of
supplying the people with brandy.]
"I must go away again to-morrow, brother," he said. "To-day, if you
will allow it, we will sit up late. I want to get a thoroughly
good idea of what you are now, what your intentions are and your
convictions, what sort of man you have become, what life has taught
you" (Mikhalevich still made use of the phraseology current in the
year 1830). "As for me, brother, I have become changed in many
respects. The waters of life have gone over my breast. Who was it
said that? But in what is important, what is substantial, I have not
changed. I believe, as I used to do, in the Good, in the True. And
not only do I believe, but I feel certain now--yes, I feel certain,
certain. Listen; I make verses, you know. There's no poetry in them,
but there is truth. I will read you my last piece. I have expressed in
it my most sincere convictions. Now listen."
Mikhalevich began to read his poem, which was rather a long one. It
ended with the following lines:--
"With my whole heart have I given myself up to new feelings;
In spirit I have become like unto a child,
And I have burnt all that I used to worship,
I worship all that I used to burn."
Mikhalevich all but wept as he pronounced these last two verses. A
slight twitching, the sign of a strong emotion, affected his large
lips; his plain face lighted up. Lavretsky went on listening until
at last the spirit of contradiction was roused within him. He became
irritated by the Moscow student's enthusiasm, so perpetually on the
boil, so continually ready for use. A quarter of an hour had not
elapsed before a dispute had been kindled between the two friends, one
of those endless disputes of which only Russians are capable. They
two, after a separation which had lasted for many years, and those
passed in two different worlds, neither of them clearly understanding
the other's thoughts, not even his own, holding fast by words, and
differing in words alone, disputed about the most purely abstract
ideas--and disputed exactly as if the matter had been one of life and
death to both of them. They shouted and cried aloud to such an extent
that every one in the house was disturbed, and poor Lemm, who had shut
himself up in his room the moment Mikhalevich arrived, felt utterly
perplexed, and even began to entertain some vague form of fear.
"But after all this, what are you? _blase_!"[A] cried Mikhalevich at
[Footnote A: Literally, "disillusioned."]
"Does a _blase_ man ever look like me?" answered Lavretsky. "He is
always pale and sickly; but I, if you like, will lift you off the
ground with one hand."
"Well then, if not _blase_, at least a sceptic,[A] and that is still
worse. But what right have you to be a sceptic? Your life has not been
a success, I admit. That wasn't your fault. You were endowed with a
soul full of affection, fit for passionate love, and you were kept
away from women by force. The first woman you came across was sure to
take you in."
[Footnote A: He says in that original _Skyeptuik_ instead of
_Skeptik_, on which the author remarks, "Mikhalevich's accent
testified to his birth-place having been in Little Russia."]
"She took you in, too," morosely remarked Lavretsky.
"Granted, granted. In that I was the tool of fate. But I'm talking
nonsense. There's no such thing as fate. My old habit of expressing
myself inaccurately! But what does that prove?"
"It proves this much, that I have been distorted from childhood."
"Well, then, straighten yourself. That's the good of being a man.
You haven't got to borrow energy. But, however that may be, is it
possible, is it allowable, to work upwards from an isolated fact, so
to speak, to a general law--to an invariable rule?"
"What rule?" said Lavretsky, interrupting him. "I do not admit--"
"No, that is your rule, that is your rule," cried the other,
interrupting him in his turn.
"You are an egotist, that's what it is!" thundered Mikhalevich an hour
later. "You wanted self-enjoyment; you wanted a happy life; you wanted
to live only for yourself--"
"What is self-enjoyment?"
"--And every thing has failed you; everything has given way under your
"But what is self-enjoyment, I ask you?"
"--And it ought to give way. Because you looked for support there,
where it is impossible to find it; because you built your house on the
"Speak plainer, without metaphor, _because_ I do not understand you."
"--Because--laugh away if you like--because there is no faith in you,
no hearty warmth--and only a poor farthingsworth of intellect;[A]
you are simply a pitiable creature, a behind--your--age disciple of
Voltaire. That's what you are."
[Footnote A: Literally, "intellect, in all merely a copeck
"Who? I a disciple of Voltaire?"
"Yes, just such a one as your father was; and you have never so much
as suspected it."
"After that," exclaimed Lavretsky, "I have a right to say that you are
"Alas!" sorrowfully replied Mikhalevich, "unfortunately, I have not
yet in any way deserved so grand a name--"
"I have found out now what to call you!" cried the self-same
Mikhalevich at three o'clock in the morning.
"You are not a sceptic, nor are you a _blase_, nor a disciple of
Voltaire; you are a marmot,[A] and a culpable marmot; a marmot with a
conscience, not a naive marmot. Naive marmots lie on the stove[B]
and do nothing, because they can do nothing. They do not even think
anything. But you are a thinking man, and yet you lie idly there. You
could do something, and you do nothing. You lie on the top with full
paunch and say, 'To lie idle--so must it be; because all that people
ever do--is all vanity, mere nonsense that conduces to nothing.'"
[Footnote A: A _baibak_, a sort of marmot or "prairie dog."]
[Footnote B: The top of the stove forms the sleeping place in a
Russian peasant's hut.]
"But what has shown you that I lie idle?" insisted Lavretsky. "Why do
you suppose I have such ideas?"
"--And, besides this, all you people, all your brotherhood," continued
Mikhalevich without stopping, "are deeply read marmots. You all
know where the German's shoe pinches him; you all know what faults
Englishmen and Frenchmen have; and your miserable knowledge only
serves to help you to justify your shameful laziness, your abominable
idleness. There are some who even pride themselves on this, that 'I,
forsooth, am a learned man. I lie idle, and they are fools to give
themselves trouble.' Yes! even such persons as these do exist among
us; not that I say this with reference to you; such persons as will
spend all their life in a certain languor of ennui, and get accustomed
to it, and exist in it like--like a mushroom in sour cream"
(Mikhalevich could not help laughing at his own comparison). "Oh, that
languor of ennui! it is the ruin of the Russian people. Throughout all
time the wretched marmot is making up its mind to work--"
"But, after all, what are you scolding about?" cried Lavretsky in his
turn. "To work, to do. You had better say what one should do, instead
of scolding, O Demosthenes of Poltava."[A]
[Footnote A: Poltava is a town of Little Russia. It will be remembered
that Mikhalovich is a Little Russian.]
"Ah, yes, that's what you want! No, brother, I will not tell you that.
Every one must teach himself that," replied Demosthenes in an ironical
tone. "A proprietor, a noble, and not know what to do! You have no
faith, or you would have known. No faith and no divination."[A]
[Footnote A: _Otkrovenie_, discovery or revelation.]
"At all events, let me draw breath for a moment, you fiend," prayed
Lavretsky. "Let me take a look round me!"
"Not a minute's breathing-time, not a second's," replied Mikhalevich,
with a commanding gesture of the hand. "Not a single second. Death
does not tarry, and life also ought not to tarry."
"And when and where have people taken it into their heads to make
marmots of themselves?" he cried at four in the morning, in a voice
that was now somewhat hoarse, "Why, here! Why, now! In Russia! When on
every separate individual there lies a duty, a great responsibility,
before God, before the nation, before himself! We sleep, but time goes
by. We sleep--"
"Allow me to point, out to you," observed Lavretsky, "that we do
not at all sleep at present, but rather prevent other persons from
sleeping. We stretch our throats like barn-door cocks. Listen, that
one is crowing for the third time."
This sally made Mikhalevich laugh, and sobered him down. "Good night,"
he said with a smile, and put away his pipe in its bag. "Good night,"
said Lavretsky also. However, the friends still went on talking for
more than an hour. But their voices did not rise high any longer, and
their talk was quiet, sad, kindly talk.
Mikhalevich went away next day, in spite of all his host could do to
detain him. Lavretsky did not succeed in persuading him to stay, but
he got as much talk as he wanted out of him.
It turned out that Mikhalevich was utterly impecunious. Lavretsky had
already been sorry to see in him, on the preceding evening, all the
characteristics of a poverty of long standing. His shoes were trodden
down, his coat wanted a button behind, his hands were strangers to
gloves, one or two bits of feather were sticking in his hair. When he
arrived, he did not think of asking for a wash; and at supper he ate
like a shark, tearing the meat to pieces with his fingers, and noisily
gnawing the bones with his firm, discolored teeth.
It turned out, also, that he had not thriven in the civil service, and
that he had pinned all his hopes on the brandy-farmer, who had given
him employment simply that he might have an "educated man" in his
counting-house. In spite of all this, however, Mikhalevich had not
lost courage, but kept on his way leading the life of a cynic, an
idealist, and a poet; fervently caring for, and troubling himself
about, the destinies of humanity and his special vocation in life--and
giving very little heed to the question whether or no he would die of
Mikhalevich had never married; but he had fallen in love countless
times, and he always wrote poetry about all his loves: with especial
fervor did he sing about a mysterious, raven-haired "lady." It was
rumored, indeed, that this "lady" was nothing more than a Jewess, and
one who had numerous friends among cavalry officers; but, after all,
if one thinks the matter over, it is not one of much importance.
With Lemm, Mikhalevich did not get on well. His extremely loud way of
talking, his rough manners, frightened the German, to whom they
were entirely novel. One unfortunate man immediately and from afar
recognizes another, but in old age he is seldom willing to associate
with him. Nor is that to be wondered at. He has nothing to share with
him--not even hopes.
Before he left, Mikhalevich had another long talk with Lavretsky, to
whom he predicted utter ruin if he did not rouse himself, and whom
he entreated to occupy himself seriously with the question of the
position of his serfs. He set himself up as a pattern for imitation,
saying that he had been purified in the furnace of misfortune; and
then he several times styled himself a happy man, comparing himself to
a bird of the air, a lily of the valley.
"A dusky lily, at all events," remarked Lavretsky.
"Ah, brother, don't come the aristocrat," answered Mikhalevich
good-humoredly; "but rather thank God that in your veins also there
flows simple plebeian blood. But I see you are now in need of some
pure, unearthly being, who might rouse you from your apathy."
"Thanks, brother," said Lavretsky; "I have had quite enough of those
"Silence, cyneec!"[A] exclaimed Mikhalevich.
[Footnote A: He says _Tsuinnik_ instead of _Tsinik_.]