Part 5 out of 5
A friendly cry of greeting answered him--not that all those young
people were inordinately delighted at the arrival of a distant and
almost forgotten relative, but simply because they were ready to
rejoice and make a noise over every pleasurable occurrence. They all
immediately surrounded Lavretsky. Lenochka, as his old acquaintance,
was the first to name herself, assuring him that, if she had had a
very little more time, she would most certainly have recognized him;
and then she introduced all the rest of the company to him, giving
them all, her betrothed included, their familiar forms of name. The
whole party then went through the dining-room into the drawing-room.
The paper on the walls of both rooms had been altered, but the
furniture remained just as it used to be. Lavretsky recognized the
piano. Even the embroidery-frame by the window remained exactly as it
had been, and in the very same position as of old; and even seemed
to have the same unfinished piece of work on it which had been there
eight years before. They placed him in a large arm-chair, and sat
down gravely around him. Questions, exclamations, anecdotes, followed
swiftly one after another.
"What a long time it is since we saw you last!" naively remarked
Lenochka; "and we haven't seen Varvara Pavlovna either."
"No wonder!" her brother hastily interrupted her--"I took you away
to St. Petersburg; but Fedor Ivanovich has lived all the time on his
"Yes, and mamma too is dead, since then."
"And Marfa Timofeevna," said Shurochka.
"And Nastasia Corpovna," continued Lenochka, "and Monsieur Lemm."
"What? is Lemm dead too?" asked Lavretsky.
"Yes," answered young Kalitine. "He went away from here to Odessa.
Some one is said to have persuaded him to go there, and there he
"You don't happen to know if he left any music behind?"
"I don't know, but I should scarcely think so."
A general silence ensued, and each one of the party looked at the
others. A shade of sadness swept over all the youthful faces.
"But Matros is alive," suddenly cried Lenochka.
"And Gedeonovsky is alive," added her brother.
The name of Gedeonovsky at once called forth a merry laugh.
"Yes, he is still alive; and he tells stories just as he used to
do," continued the young Kalitine--"only fancy! this mad-cap here"
(pointing to his wife's sister the Institute-girl) "put a quantity of
pepper into his snuff-box yesterday."
"How he did sneeze!" exclaimed Lenochka--and irrepressible laughter
again broke out on all sides.
"We had news of Liza the other day," said young Kalitine. And again
silence fell upon all the circle. "She is going on well--her health is
gradually being restored now."
"Is she still in the same convent?" Lavretsky asked, not without an
"Does she ever write to you?"
"No, never. We get news of her from other quarters."
A profound silence suddenly ensued. "An angel has noiselessly flown
past," they all thought.
"Won't you go into the garden?" said Kalitine, addressing Lavretsky.
"It is very pleasant now, although we have neglected it a little."
Lavretsky went into the garden, and the first thing he saw there was
that very bench on which he and Liza had once passed a few happy
moments--moments that never repeated themselves. It had grown black
and warped, but still he recognized it, and that feeling took
possession of his heart which is unequalled as well for sweetness as
for bitterness--the feeling of lively regret, for vanished youth, for
once familiar happiness.
He walked by the side of the young people along the alleys. The
lime-trees looked older than before, having grown a little taller
during the last eight years, and casting a denser shade. All the
underwood, also, had grown higher, and the raspberry-bushes had spread
vigorously, and the hazel copse was thickly tangled. From every side
exhaled a fresh odor from the forest and the wood, from the grass and
"What a capital place for a game at Puss in the Corner!" suddenly
cried Lenochka, as they entered upon a small grassy lawn surrounded by
lime-trees. "There are just five of us."
"But have you forgotten Fedor Ivanovich?" asked her brother; "or is it
yourself you have not counted?"
Lenochka blushed a little.
"But would Fedor Ivanovich like--at his age--" she began stammering.
"Please play away," hastily interposed Lavretsky; "don't pay any
attention to me. I shall feel more comfortable if I know I am not
boring you. And there is no necessity for your finding me something to
do. We old people have a resource which you don't know yet, and which
is better than any amusement--recollection."
The young people listened to Lavretsky with respectful, though
slightly humorous politeness, just as if they were listening to a
teacher who was reading them a lesson--then they all suddenly left
him, and ran off to the lawn. One of them stood in the middle, the
others occupied the four corners by the trees, and the game began.
But Lavretsky returned to the house, went into the dining-room,
approached the piano, and touched one of the notes. It responded with
a faint but clear sound, and a shudder thrilled his heart within him.
With that note began the inspired melody, by means of which, on that
most happy night long ago, Lemm, the dead Lemm, had thrown him into
such raptures. Then Lavretsky passed into the drawing-room, and did
not leave it for a long time.
In that room, in which he had seen Liza so often, her image floated
more distinctly before him; the traces of her presence seemed to make
themselves felt around him there. But his sorrow for her loss became
painful and crushing; it bore with it none of the tranquillity which
death inspires. Liza was still living somewhere, far away and lost to
sight. He thought of her as he had known her in actual life; he could
not recognize the girl he used to love in that pale, dim, ghostly
form, half-hidden in a nun's dark robe, and surrounded by waving
clouds of incense.
Nor would Lavretsky have been able to recognize himself, if he could
have looked at himself as he in fancy was looking at Liza. In
the course of those eight years his life had attained its final
crisis--that crisis which many people never experience, but without
which no man can be sure of maintaining his principles firm to the
last. He had really given up thinking about his own happiness, about
what would conduce to his own interests. He had become calm, and--why
should we conceal the truth?--he had aged; and that not in face
alone or frame, but he had aged in mind; for, indeed, not only is
it difficult, but it is even hazardous to do what some people speak
of--to preserve the heart young in bodily old age. Contentment, in old
age, is deserved by him alone who has not lost his faith in what
is good, his persevering strength of will, his desire for active
employment. And Lavretsky did deserve to be contented; he had really
become a good landlord; he had really learnt how to till the soil; and
in that he labored, he labored not for himself alone, but he had, as
far as in him lay the power, assured, and obtained guarantees for, the
welfare of the peasantry on his estates.
Lavretsky went out of the house into the garden, and sat down on the
bench he knew so well. There--on that loved spot, in sight of that
house in which he had fruitlessly, and for the last time, stretched
forth his hands towards that cup of promise in which foamed and
sparkled the golden wine of enjoyment,--he, a lonely, homeless
wanderer, while the joyous cries of that younger generation which had
already forgotten him came flying to his ears, gazed steadily at his
His heart became very sorrowful, but it was free now from any crushing
sense of pain. He had nothing to be ashamed of; he had many sources
of consolation. "Play on, young vigorous lives!" he thought--and his
thoughts had no taint of bitterness in them--"the future awaits you,
and your path of life in it will be comparatively easy for you. You
will not be obliged, as we were, to seek out your path, to struggle,
to fall, to rise again in utter darkness. We had to seek painfully
by what means we might hold out to the end--and how many there were
amongst us who did not hold out!--but your part is now to act, to
work--and the blessing of old men like me shall be with you. For my
part, after the day I have spent here, after the emotions I have here
experienced, nothing remains for me but to bid you a last farewell;
and, although sadly, yet without a tinge of envy, without a single
gloomy feeling, to say, in sight of death, in sight of my awaiting
God, 'Hail, lonely old age! Useless life, burn yourself out!'"
Lavretsky rose up quietly, and quietly went away. No one observed him,
no one prevented him from going. Louder than ever sounded the joyous
cries in the garden, behind the thick green walls of the lofty
lime-trees. Lavretsky got into his tarantass, and told his coachman to
drive him home without hurrying the horses.
* * * * *
"And is that the end?" the unsatisfied reader may perhaps ask. "What
became of Lavretsky afterwards? and of Liza?" But what can one say
about people who are still alive, but who have already quitted the
worldly stage? Why should we turn back to them? It is said that
Lavretsky has visited the distant convent in which Liza has hidden
herself--and has seen her. As she crossed from choir to choir, she
passed close by him--passed onwards steadily, with the quick but
silent step of a nun, and did not look at him. Only an almost
imperceptible tremor was seen to move the eyelashes of the eye which
was visible to him; only still lower did she bend her emaciated face;
and the fingers of her clasped hands, enlaced with her rosary, still
more closely compressed each other.
Of what did they both think? what did they both feel? Who can know?
who shall tell? Life has its moments--has its feelings--to which we
may be allowed to allude, but on which it is not good to dwell.