By Ivan Turgenev
Translated from the Russian By Constance Garnett
[With an introduction by S. Stepniak]
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN 1894
Turgenev is an author who no longer belongs to Russia only. During the last fifteen years of his life he won for himself the reading public, first in France, then in Germany and America, and finally in England.
In his funeral oration the spokesman of the most artistic and critical of European nations, Ernest Renan, hailed him as one of the greatest writers of our times: 'The Master, whose exquisite works have charmed our century, stands more than any other man as the incarnation of a whole race,' because 'a whole world lived in him and spoke through his mouth.' Not the Russian world only, we may add, but the whole Slavonic world, to which it was 'an honour to have been expressed by so great a Master.'
This recognition was, however, of slow growth. It had nothing in it of the sudden wave of curiosity and gushing enthusiasm which in a few years lifted Count Tolstoi to world-wide fame. Neither in the personality of Turgenev, nor in his talent, was there anything to strike and carry away popular imagination.
By the fecundity of his creative talent Turgenev stands with the greatest authors of all times. The gallery of living people, men, and especially women, each different and perfectly individualised, yet all the creatures of actual life, whom Turgenev introduces to us; the vast body of psychological truths he discovers, the subtle shades of men's feelings he reveals to us, is such as only the greatest among the great have succeeded in leaving as their artistic inheritance to their country and to the world.
As regards his method of dealing with his material and shaping it into mould, he stands even higher than as a pure creator. Tolstoi is more plastical, and certainly as deep and original and rich in creative power as Turgenev, and Dostoevsky is more intense, fervid, and dramatic. But as an artist, as master of the combination of details into a harmonious whole, as an architect of imaginative work, he surpasses all the prose writers of his country, and has but few equals among the great novelists of other lands. Twenty-five years ago, on reading the translation of one of his short stories (Assya), George Sand, who was then at the apogee of her fame, wrote to him: 'Master, all of us have to go to study at your school.' This was, indeed, a generous compliment, coming from the representative of French literature which is so eminently artistic. But it was not flattery. As an artist, Turgenev in reality stands with the classics who may be studied and admired for their perfect form long after the interest of their subject has disappeared. But it seems that in his very devotion to art and beauty he has purposely restricted the range of his creations.
To one familiar with all Turgenev's works it is evident that he possessed the keys of all human emotions, all human feelings, the highest and the lowest, the noble as well as the base. From the height of his superiority he saw all, understood all: Nature and men had no secrets hidden from his calm, penetrating eyes. In his latter days, sketches such as Clara Militch, The Song of Triumphant Love, The Dream, and the incomparable Phantoms, he showed that he could equal Edgar Poe, Hofmann, and Dostoevsky in the mastery of the fantastical, the horrible, the mysterious, and the incomprehensible, which live somewhere in human nerves, though not to be defined by reason.
But there was in him such a love of light, sunshine, and living human poetry, such an organic aversion for all that is ugly, or coarse and discordant, that he made himself almost exclusively the poet of the gentler side of human nature. On the fringe of his pictures or in their background, just for the sake of contrast, he will show us the vices, the cruelties, even the mire of life. But he cannot stay in these gloomy regions, and he hastens back to the realms of the sun and flowers, or to the poetical moonlight of melancholy, which he loves best because in it he can find expression for his own great sorrowing heart.
Even jealousy, which is the black shadow of the most poetical of human feelings, is avoided by the gentle artist. He hardly ever describes it, only alluding to it cursorily. But there is no novelist who gives so much room to the pure, crystalline, eternally youthful feeling of love. We may say that the description of love is Turgenev's speciality. What Francesco Petrarca did for one kind of love—the romantic, artificial, hot-house love of the times of chivalry—Turgenev did for the natural, spontaneous, modern love in all its variety of forms, kinds, and manifestations: the slow and gradual as well as the sudden and instantaneous; the spiritual, the admiring and inspiring, as well as the life-poisoning, terrible kind of love, which infects a man as a prolonged disease. There is something prodigious in Turgenev's insight into, and his inexhaustible richness, truthfulness, and freshness in the rendering of those emotions which have been the theme of all poets and novelists for two thousand years.
In the well-known memoirs of Caroline Bauer one comes across a curious legend about Paganini. She tells that the great enchanter owed his unique command over the emotions of his audiences to a peculiar use of one single string, G, which he made sing and whisper, cry and thunder, at the touch of his marvellous bow.
There is something of this in Turgenev's description of love. He has many other strings at his harp, but his greatest effect he obtains in touching this one. His stories are not love poems. He only prefers to present his people in the light of that feeling in which a man's soul gathers up all its highest energies, and melts as in a crucible, showing its dross and its pure metal.
Turgenev began his literary career and won an enormous popularity in Russia by his sketches from peasant life. His Diary of a Sportsman contains some of the best of his short stories, and his Country Inn, written a few years later, in the maturity of his talent, is as good as Tolstoi's little masterpiece, Polikushka.
He was certainly able to paint all classes and conditions of Russian people. But in his greater works Turgenev lays the action exclusively with one class of Russian people. There is nothing of the enormous canvas of Count Tolstoi, in which the whole of Russia seems to pass in review before the readers. In Turgenev's novels we see only educated Russia, or rather the more advanced thinking part of it, which he knew best, because he was a part of it himself.
We are far from regretting this specialisation. Quality can sometimes hold its own against quantity. Although small numerically, the section of Russian society which Turgenev represents is enormously interesting, because it is the brain of the nation, the living ferment which alone can leaven the huge unformed masses. It is upon them that depend the destinies of their country. Besides, the artistic value of his works could only be enhanced by his concentrating his genius upon a field so familiar to him, and engrossing so completely his mind and his sympathies. What he loses in dimensions he gains in correctness, depth, wonderful subtlety and effectiveness of every minute detail, and the surpassing beauty of the whole. The jewels of art he left us are like those which nations store in the sanctuaries of their museums and galleries to be admired, the longer they are studied. But we must look to Tolstoi for the huge and towering monuments, hewn in massive granite, to be put upon some cross way of nations as an object of wonder and admiration for all who come from the four winds of heaven.
Turgenev did not write for the masses but for the elite among men. The fact that he has won such a fame among foreigners, and that the number of his readers is widening every year, proves that great art is international, and also, I may say, that artistic taste and understanding is growing everywhere.
It is written that no man is a prophet in his own country, and from time immemorial all the unsuccessful aspirants to the profession have found their consolation in this proverbial truth. But for aught we know this hard limitation has never been applied to artists. Indeed it seems absurd on the face of it that the artist's countrymen, for whom and about whom he writes, should be less fit to recognise him than strangers. Yet in certain special and peculiar conditions, the most unlikely things will sometimes occur, as is proved in the case of Turgenev.
The fact is that as an artist he was appreciated to his full value first by foreigners. The Russians have begun to understand him, and to assign to him his right place in this respect only now, after his death, whilst in his lifetime his artistic genius was comparatively little cared for, save by a handful of his personal friends.
This supreme art told upon the Russian public unconsciously, as it was bound to tell upon a nation so richly endowed with natural artistic instinct. Turgenev was always the most widely read of Russian authors, not excepting Tolstoi, who came to the front only after his death. But full recognition he had not, because he happened to produce his works in a troubled epoch of political and social strife, when the best men were absorbed in other interests and pursuits, and could not and would not appreciate and enjoy pure art. This was the painful, almost tragic, position of an artist, who lived in a most inartistic epoch, and whose highest aspirations and noblest efforts wounded and irritated those among his countrymen whom he was most devoted to, and whom he desired most ardently to serve.
This strife embittered Turgenev's life.
At one crucial epoch of his literary career the conflict became so vehement, and the outcry against him, set in motion by his very artistic truthfulness and objectiveness, became so loud and unanimous, that he contemplated giving up literature altogether. He could not possibly have held to this resolution. But it is surely an open question whether, sensitive and modest as he was, and prone to despondency and diffidence, he would have done so much for the literature of his country without the enthusiastic encouragement of various great foreign novelists, who were his friends and admirers: George Sand, Gustave Flaubert, in France; Auerbach, in Germany; W. D. Howells, in America; George Eliot, in England.
We will tell the story of his troubled life piece by piece as far as space will allow, as his works appear in succession. Here we will only give a few biographical traits which bear particularly upon the novel before us, and account for his peculiar hold over the minds of his countrymen.
Turgenev, who was born in 1818, belonged to a set of Russians very small in his time, who had received a thoroughly European education in no way inferior to that of the best favoured young German or Englishman. It happened, moreover, that his paternal uncle, Nicholas Turgenev, the famous 'Decembrist,' after the failure of that first attempt (December 14, 1825) to gain by force of arms a constitutional government for Russia, succeeded in escaping the vengeance of the Tsar Nicholas I., and settled in France, where he published in French the first vindication of Russian revolution.
Whilst studying philosophy in the Berlin University, Turgenev paid short visits to his uncle, who initiated him in the ideas of liberty, from which he never swerved throughout his long life.
In the sixties, when Alexander Hertzen, one of the most gifted writers of our land, a sparkling, witty, pathetic, and powerful journalist and brilliant essayist, started in London his Kolokol, a revolutionary, or rather radical paper, which had a great influence in Russia, Turgenev became one of his most active contributors and advisers,—almost a member of the editorial staff.
This fact has been revealed a few years ago by the publication, which we owe to Professor Dragomanov, of the private correspondence between Turgenev and Hertzen. This most interesting little volume throws quite a new light upon Turgenev, showing that our great novelist was at the same time one of the strongest—perhaps the strongest—and most clear-sighted political thinkers of his time. However surprising such a versatility may appear, it is proved to demonstration by a comparison of his views, his attitude, and his forecasts, some of which have been verified only lately, with those of the acknowledged leaders and spokesmen of the various political parties of his day, including Alexander Hertzen himself. Turgenev's are always the soundest, the most correct and far-sighted judgments, as latter-day history has proved.
A man with so ardent a love of liberty, and such radical views, could not possibly banish them from his literary works, no matter how great his devotion to pure art. He would have been a poor artist had he inflicted upon himself such a mutilation, because freedom from all restraints, the frank, sincere expression of the artist's individuality, is the life and soul of all true art.
Turgenev gave to his country the whole of himself, the best of his mind and of his creative fancy. He appeared at the same time as a teacher, a prophet of new ideas, and as a poet and artist. But his own countrymen hailed him in the first capacity, remaining for a long time obtuse to the latter and greater.
Thus, during one of the most important and interesting periods of our national history, Turgenev was the standard-bearer and inspirer of the Liberal, the thinking Russia. Although the two men stand at diametrically opposite poles, Turgenev's position can be compared to that of Count Tolstoi nowadays, with a difference, this time in favour of the author of Dmitri Rudin. With Turgenev the thinker and the artist are not at war, spoiling and sometimes contradicting each other's efforts. They go hand in hand, because he never preaches any doctrine whatever, but gives us, with an unimpeachable, artistic objectiveness, the living men and women in whom certain ideas, doctrines, and aspirations were embodied. And he never evolves these ideas and doctrines from his inner consciousness, but takes them from real life, catching with his unfailing artistic instinct an incipient movement just at the moment when it was to become a historic feature of the time. Thus his novels are a sort of artistic epitome of the intellectual history of modern Russia, and also a powerful instrument of her intellectual progress.
Rudin is the first of Turgenev's social novels, and is a sort of artistic introduction to those that follow, because it refers to the epoch anterior to that when the present social and political movements began. This epoch is being fast forgotten, and without his novel it would be difficult for us to fully realise it, but it is well worth studying, because we find in it the germ of future growths.
It was a gloomy time. The ferocious despotism of Nicholas I.—overweighing the country like the stone lid of a coffin, crushed every word, every thought, which did not fit with its narrow conceptions. But this was not the worst. The worst was that progressive Russia was represented by a mere handful of men, who were so immensely in advance of their surroundings, that in their own country they felt more isolated, helpless, and out of touch with the realities of life than if they had lived among strangers.
But men must have some outlet for their spiritual energies, and these men, unable to take part in the sordid or petty pursuits of those around them, created for themselves artificial life, artificial pursuits and interests.
The isolation in which they lived drew them naturally together. The 'circle,' something between an informal club and a debating society, became the form in which these cravings of mind or heart could be satisfied. These people met and talked; that was all they were able to do.
The passage in which one of the heroes, Lezhnyov, tells the woman he loves about the circle of which Dmitri Rudin and himself were members, is historically one of the most suggestive. It refers to a circle of young students. But it has a wider application. All prominent men of the epoch—Stankevitch, who served as model to the poetic and touching figure of Pokorsky; Alexander Hertzen, and the great critic, Belinsky—all had their 'circles,' or their small chapels, in which these enthusiasts met to offer worship to the 'goddess of truth, art, and morality.'
They were the best men of their time, full of high aspirations and knowledge, and their disinterested search after truth was certainly a noble pursuit. They had full right to look down upon their neighbours wallowing in the mire of sordid and selfish materialism. But by living in that spiritual hothouse of dreams, philosophical speculations, and abstractions, these men unfitted themselves only the more completely for participation in real life; the absorption in interests having nothing to do with the life of their own country, estranged them still more from it. The overwhelming stream of words drained them of the natural sources of spontaneous emotion, and these men almost grew out of feeling by dint of constantly analysing their feelings.
Dmitri Rudin is the typical man of that generation, both the victim and the hero of his time—a man who is almost a Titan in word and a pigmy in deed. He is eloquent as a young Demosthenes. An irresistible debater, he carries everything before him the moment he appears. But he fails ignominiously when put to the hard test of action. Yet he is not an impostor. His enthusiasm is contagious because it is sincere, and his eloquence is convincing because devotion to his ideals is an absorbing passion with him. He would die for them, and, what is more rare, he would not swerve a hair's-breadth from them for any worldly advantage, or for fear of any hardship. Only this passion and this enthusiasm spring with him entirely from the head. The heart, the deep emotional power of human love and pity, lay dormant in him. Humanity, which he would serve to the last drop of his blood, is for him a body of foreigners—French, English, Germans—whom he has studied from books, and whom he has met only in hotels and watering-places during his foreign travels as a student or as a tourist.
Towards such an abstract, alien humanity, a man cannot feel any real attachment. With all his outward ardour, Rudin is cold as ice at the bottom of his heart. His is an enthusiasm which glows without warmth, like the aurora borealis of the Polar regions. A poor substitute for the bountiful sun. But what would have become of a God-forsaken land if the Arctic nights were deprived of that substitute? With all their weaknesses, Rudin and the men of his stamp—in other words, the men of the generation of 1840—have rendered an heroic service to their country. They inculcated in it the religion of the ideal; they brought in the seeds, which had only to be thrown into the warm furrow of their native soil to bring forth the rich crops of the future.
The shortcomings and the impotence of these men were due to their having no organic ties with their own country, no roots in the Russian soil. They hardly knew the Russian people, who appeared to them as nothing more than an historic abstraction. They were really cosmopolitan, as a poor makeshift for something better, and Turgenev, in making his hero die on a French barricade, was true to life as well as to art.
The inward growth of the country has remedied this defect in the course of the three generations which have followed. But has the remedy been complete? No; far from it, unfortunately. There are still thousands of barriers preventing the Russians from doing something useful for their countrymen and mixing freely with them. The spiritual energies of the most ardent are still compelled—partially at least—to run into the artificial channels described in Turgenev's novel.
Hence the perpetuation of Rudin's type, which acquires more than an historical interest.
In discussing the character of Hlestakov, the hero of his great comedy, Gogol declared that this type is pretty nigh universal, because 'every Russian,' he says, 'has a bit of Hlestakov in him.' This not very flattering opinion has been humbly indorsed and repeated since, out of reverence to Gogol's great authority, although it is untrue on the face of it. Hlestakov is a sort of Tartarin in Russian dress, whilst simplicity and sincerity are the fundamental traits of all that is Russian in character, manner, art, literature. But it may be truly said that every educated Russian of our time has a bit of Dmitri Rudin in him.
This figure is undoubtedly one of the finest in Turgenev's gallery, and it is at the same time one of the most brilliant examples of his artistic method.
Turgenev does not give us at one stroke sculptured figures made from one block, such as rise before us from Tolstoi's pages. His art is rather that of a painter or musical composer than of a sculptor. He has more colour, a deeper perspective, a greater variety of lights and shadows—a more complete portraiture of the spiritual man. Tolstoi's people stand so living and concrete that one feels one can recognise them in the street. Turgenev's are like people whose intimate confessions and private correspondence, unveiling all the secrets of their spiritual life, have been submitted to one.
Every scene, almost every line, opens up new deep horizons, throwing upon his people some new unexpected light.
The extremely complex and difficult character of the hero of this story, shows at its highest this subtle psychological many-sidedness. Dmitri Rudin is built up of contradictions, yet not for a moment does he cease to be perfectly real, living, and concrete.
Hardly less remarkable is the character of the heroine, Natalya, the quiet, sober, matter-of-fact girl, who at the bottom is an enthusiastic and heroic nature. She is but a child fresh to all impressions of life, and as yet undeveloped. To have used the searching, analytical method in painting her would have spoiled this beautiful creation. Turgenev describes her synthetically by a few masterly lines, which show us, however, the secrets of her spirit; revealing what she is and also what she might have become under other circumstances.
This character deserves more attention than we can give it here. Turgenev, like George Meredith, is a master in painting women, and his Natalya is the first poetical revelation of a very striking fact in modern Russian history; the appearance of women possessing a strength of mind more finely masculine than that of the men of their time. By the side of weak, irresolute, though highly intellectual men we see in his first three novels energetic, earnest, impassioned women, who take the lead in action, whilst they are but the man's modest pupils in the domain of ideas. Only later on, in Fathers and Children, does Turgenev show us in Bazarov a man essentially masculine. But of this interesting peculiarity of Russian intellectual life, in the years 1840 to 1860, I will speak more fully when analysing another of Turgenev's novels in which this contrast is most conspicuous.
I will say nothing of the minor characters of the story before us: Lezhnyov, Pigasov, Madame Lasunsky, Pandalevsky, who are all excellent examples of what may be called miniature-painting.
As to the novel as a whole, I will make here only one observation, not to forestall the reader's own impressions.
Turgenev is a realist in the sense that he keeps close to reality, truth, and nature. But in the pursuit of photographic faithfulness to life, he never allows himself to be tedious and dull, as some of the best representatives of the school think it incumbent upon them to be. His descriptions are never overburdened with wearisome details; his action is rapid; the events are never to be foreseen a hundred pages beforehand; he keeps his readers in constant suspense. And it seems to me in so doing he shows himself a better realist than the gifted representatives of the orthodox realism in France, England, and America. Life is not dull; life is full of the unforeseen, full of suspense. A novelist, however natural and logical, must contrive to have it in his novels if he is not to sacrifice the soul of art for the merest show of fidelity.
The plot of Dmitri Rudin is so exceedingly simple that an English novel-reader would say that there is hardly any plot at all. Turgenev disdained the tricks of the sensational novelists. Yet, for a Russian at least, it is easier to lay down before the end a novel by Victor Hugo or Alexander Dumas than Dmitri Rudin, or, indeed, any of Turgenev's great novels. What the novelists of the romantic school obtain by the charm of unexpected adventures and thrilling situations, Turgenev succeeds in obtaining by the brisk admirably concentrated action, and, above all, by the simplest and most precious of a novelist's gifts: his unique command over the sympathies and emotions of his readers. In this he can be compared to a musician who works upon the nerves and the souls of his audience without the intermediary of the mind; or, better still, to a poet who combines the power of the word with the magic spell of harmony. One does not read his novels; one lives in them.
Much of this peculiar gift of fascination is certainly due to Turgenev's mastery over all the resources of our rich, flexible, and musical language. The poet Lermontov alone wrote as splendid a prose as Turgenev. A good deal of its charm is unavoidably lost in translation. But I am happy to say that the present one is as near an approach to the elegance and poetry of the original as I have ever come across.
BEDFORD PARK, April 20, 1894.
THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK
DMITRI NIKOLA'ITCH RU'DIN.
DAR-YA MIHA'ILOVNA LASU'NSKY.
MIHA'ILO MIHA'ILITCH LE'ZH-NYOV (MISHA).
ALEXANDRA PA'VLOVNA LI'PIN (SASHA).
SERGEI (pron, Sergay) PA'VLITCH VOLI'NT-SEV (SEREZHA).
KONSTANTIN DIOMIDITCH PANDALE'VSKY.
AFRICAN SEME'NITCH PIGA'SOV.
In transcribing the Russian names into English—
a has the sound of a in father. er,, air. i,, ee. u,, oo. y is always consonantal except when it is the last letter of the word. g is always hard.
IT was a quiet summer morning. The sun stood already pretty high in the clear sky but the fields were still sparkling with dew; a fresh breeze blew fragrantly from the scarce awakened valleys and in the forest, still damp and hushed, the birds were merrily carolling their morning song. On the ridge of a swelling upland, which was covered from base to summit with blossoming rye, a little village was to be seen. Along a narrow by-road to this little village a young woman was walking in a white muslin gown, and a round straw hat, with a parasol in her hand. A page boy followed her some distance behind.
She moved without haste and as though she were enjoying the walk. The high nodding rye all round her moved in long softly rustling waves, taking here a shade of silvery green and there a ripple of red; the larks were trilling overhead. The young woman had come from her own estate, which was not more than a mile from the village to which she was turning her steps. Her name was Alexandra Pavlovna Lipin. She was a widow, childless, and fairly well off, and lived with her brother, a retired cavalry officer, Sergei Pavlitch Volintsev. He was unmarried and looked after her property.
Alexandra Pavlovna reached the village and, stopping at the last hut, a very old and low one, she called up the boy and told him to go in and ask after the health of its mistress. He quickly came back accompanied by a decrepit old peasant with a white beard.
'Well, how is she?' asked Alexandra Pavlovna.
'Well, she is still alive,' began the old man.
'Can I go in?'
'Of course; yes.'
Alexandra Pavlovna went into the hut. It was narrow, stifling, and smoky inside. Some one stirred and began to moan on the stove which formed the bed. Alexandra Pavlovna looked round and discerned in the half darkness the yellow wrinkled face of the old woman tied up in a checked handkerchief. Covered to the very throat with a heavy overcoat she was breathing with difficulty, and her wasted hands were twitching.
Alexandra Pavlovna went close up to the old woman and laid her fingers on her forehead; it was burning hot.
'How do you feel, Matrona?' she inquired, bending over the bed.
'Oh, oh!' groaned the old woman, trying to make her out, 'bad, very bad, my dear! My last hour has come, my darling!'
'God is merciful, Matrona; perhaps you will be better soon. Did you take the medicine I sent you?'
The old woman groaned painfully, and did not answer. She had hardly heard the question.
'She has taken it,' said the old man who was standing at the door.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned to him.
'Is there no one with her but you?' she inquired.
'There is the girl—her granddaughter, but she always keeps away. She won't sit with her; she's such a gad-about. To give the old woman a drink of water is too much trouble for her. And I am old; what use can I be?'
'Shouldn't she be taken to me—to the hospital?'
'No. Why take her to the hospital? She would die just the same. She has lived her life; it's God's will now seemingly. She will never get up again. How could she go to the hospital? If they tried to lift her up, she would die.'
'Oh!' moaned the sick woman, 'my pretty lady, don't abandon my little orphan; our master is far away, but you——'
She could not go on, she had spent all her strength in saying so much.
'Do not worry yourself,' replied Alexandra Pavlovna, 'everything shall be done. Here is some tea and sugar I have brought you. If you can fancy it you must drink some. Have you a samovar, I wonder?' she added, looking at the old man.
'A samovar? We haven't a samovar, but we could get one.'
'Then get one, or I will send you one. And tell your granddaughter not to leave her like this. Tell her it's shameful.'
The old man made no answer but took the parcel of tea and sugar with both hands.
'Well, good-bye, Matrona!' said Alexandra Pavlovna, 'I will come and see you again; and you must not lose heart but take your medicine regularly.'
The old woman raised her head and drew herself a little towards Alexandra Pavlovna.
'Give me your little hand, dear lady,' she muttered.
Alexandra Pavlovna did not give her hand; she bent over her and kissed her on the forehead.
'Take care, now,' she said to the old man as she went out, 'and give her the medicine without fail, as it is written down, and give her some tea to drink.'
Again the old man made no reply, but only bowed.
Alexandra Pavlovna breathed more freely when she came out into the fresh air. She put up her parasol and was about to start homewards, when suddenly there appeared round the corner of a little hut a man about thirty, driving a low racing droshky and wearing an old overcoat of grey linen, and a foraging cap of the same. Catching sight of Alexandra Pavlovna he at once stopped his horse and turned round towards her. His broad and colourless face with its small light grey eyes and almost white moustache seemed all in the same tone of colour as his clothes.
'Good-morning!' he began, with a lazy smile; 'what are you doing here, if I may ask?'
'I have been visiting a sick woman... And where have you come from, Mihailo Mihailitch?'
The man addressed as Mihailo Mihailitch looked into her eyes and smiled again.
'You do well,' he said, 'to visit the sick, but wouldn't it be better for you to take her into the hospital?'
'She is too weak; impossible to move her.'
'But don't you intend to give up your hospital?'
'Give it up? Why?'
'Oh, I thought so.'
'What a strange notion! What put such an idea into your head?'
'Oh, you are always with Madame Lasunsky now, you know, and seem to be under her influence. And in her words—hospitals, schools, and all that sort of things, are mere waste of time—useless fads. Philanthropy ought to be entirely personal, and education too, all that is the soul's work... that's how she expresses herself, I believe. From whom did she pick up that opinion I should like to know?'
Alexandra Pavlovna laughed.
'Darya Mihailovna is a clever woman, I like and esteem her very much; but she may make mistakes, and I don't put faith in everything she says.'
'And it's a very good thing you don't,' rejoined Mihailo Mihailitch, who all the while remained sitting in his droshky, 'for she doesn't put much faith in what she says herself. I'm very glad I met you.'
'That's a nice question! As though it wasn't always delightful to meet you? To-day you look as bright and fresh as this morning.'
Alexandra Pavlovna laughed again.
'What are you laughing at?'
'What, indeed! If you could see with what a cold and indifferent face you brought out your compliment! I wonder you didn't yawn over the last word!'
'A cold face.... You always want fire; but fire is of no use at all. It flares and smokes and goes out.'
'And warms,'... put in Alexandra Pavlovna.
'Yes... and burns.'
'Well, what if it does burn! That's no great harm either! It's better anyway than——'
'Well, we shall see what you will say when you do get nicely burnt one day,' Mihailo Mihailitch interrupted her in a tone of vexation and made a cut at the horse with the reins, 'Good-bye.'
'Mihailo Mihailitch, stop a minute!' cried Alexandra Pavlovna, 'when are you coming to see us?'
'To-morrow; my greetings to your brother.'
And the droshky rolled away.
Alexandra Pavlovna looked after Mihailo Mihailitch.
'What a sack!' she thought. Sitting huddled up and covered with dust, his cap on the back of his head and tufts of flaxen hair straggling from beneath it, he looked strikingly like a huge sack of flour.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned tranquilly back along the path homewards. She was walking with downcast eyes. The tramp of a horse near made her stop and raise her head.... Her brother had come on horseback to meet her; beside him was walking a young man of medium height, wearing a light open coat, a light tie, and a light grey hat, and carrying a cane in his hand. He had been smiling for a long time at Alexandra Pavlovna, even though he saw that she was absorbed in thought and noticing nothing, and when she stopped he went up to her and in a tone of delight, almost of emotion, cried:
'Good-morning, Alexandra Pavlovna, good-morning!'
'Ah! Konstantin Diomiditch! good-morning!' she replied. 'You have come from Darya Mihailovna?'
'Precisely so, precisely so,' rejoined the young man with a radiant face, 'from Darya Mihailovna. Darya Mihailovna sent me to you; I preferred to walk.... It's such a glorious morning, and the distance is only three miles. When I arrived, you were not at home. Your brother told me you had gone to Semenovka; and he was just going out to the fields; so you see I walked with him to meet you. Yes, yes. How very delightful!'
The young man spoke Russian accurately and grammatically but with a foreign accent, though it was difficult to determine exactly what accent it was. In his features there was something Asiatic. His long hook nose, his large expressionless prominent eyes, his thick red lips, and retreating forehead, and his jet black hair,—everything about him suggested an Oriental extraction; but the young man gave his surname as Pandalevsky and spoke of Odessa as his birthplace, though he was brought up somewhere in White Russia at the expense of a rich and benevolent widow.
Another widow had obtained a government post for him. Middle-aged ladies were generally ready to befriend Konstantin Diomiditch; he knew well how to court them and was successful in coming across them. He was at this very time living with a rich lady, a landowner, Darya Mihailovna Lasunsky, in a position between that of a guest and of a dependant. He was very polite and obliging, full of sensibility and secretly given to sensuality, he had a pleasant voice, played well on the piano, and had the habit of gazing intently into the eyes of any one he was speaking to. He dressed very neatly, and wore his clothes a very long time, shaved his broad chin carefully, and arranged his hair curl by curl.
Alexandra Pavlovna heard his speech to the end and turned to her brother.
'I keep meeting people to-day; I have just been talking to Lezhnyov.'
'Oh, Lezhnyov! was he driving somewhere?'
'Yes, and fancy; he was in a racing droshky, and dressed in a kind of linen sack, all covered with dust.... What a queer creature he is!'
'Perhaps so; but he's a capital fellow.'
'Who? Mr. Lezhnyov?' inquired Pandalevsky, as though he were surprised.
'Yes, Mihailo Mihailitch Lezhnyov,' replied Volintsev. 'Well, good-bye; it's time I was off to the field; they are sowing your buckwheat. Mr. Pandalevsky will escort you home.' And Volintsev rode off at a trot.
'With the greatest of pleasure!' cried Konstantin Diomiditch, offering Alexandra Pavlovna his arm.
She took it and they both turned along the path to her house.
Walking with Alexandra Pavlovna on his arm seemed to afford Konstantin Diomiditch great delight; he moved with little steps, smiling, and his Oriental eyes were even be-dimmed by a slight moisture, though this indeed was no rare occurrence with them; it did not mean much for Konstantin Diomiditch to be moved and dissolve into tears. And who would not have been pleased to have on his arm a pretty, young and graceful woman? Of Alexandra Pavlovna the whole of her district was unanimous in declaring that she was charming, and the district was not wrong. Her straight, ever so slightly tilted nose would have been enough alone to drive any man out of his senses, to say nothing of her velvety dark eyes, her golden brown hair, the dimples in her smoothly curved cheeks, and her other beauties. But best of all was the sweet expression of her face; confiding, good and gentle, it touched and attracted at the same time. Alexandra Pavlovna had the glance and the smile of a child; other ladies found her a little simple.... Could one wish for anything more?
'Darya Mihailovna sent you to me, did you say?' she asked Pandalevsky.
'Yes; she sent me,' he answered, pronouncing the letter s like the English th. 'She particularly wishes and told me to beg you very urgently to be so good as to dine with her to-day. She is expecting a new guest whom she particularly wishes you to meet.'
'Who is it?'
'A certain Muffel, a baron, a gentleman of the bed-chamber from Petersburg. Darya Mihailovna made his acquaintance lately at the Prince Garin's, and speaks of him in high terms as an agreeable and cultivated young man. His Excellency the baron is interested, too, in literature, or more strictly speaking——ah! what an exquisite butterfly! pray look at it!——more strictly speaking, in political economy. He has written an essay on some very interesting question, and wants to submit it to Darya Mihailovna's criticism.'
'An article on political economy?'
'From the literary point of view, Alexandra Pavlovna, from the literary point of view. You are well aware, I suppose, that in that line Darya Mihailovna is an authority. Zhukovsky used to ask her advice, and my benefactor, who lives at Odessa, that benevolent old man, Roxolan Mediarovitch Ksandrika——No doubt you know the name of that eminent man?'
'No; I have never heard of him.'
'You never heard of such a man? surprising! I was going to say that Roxolan Mediarovitch always had the very highest opinion of Darya Mihailovna's knowledge of Russian!
'Is this baron a pedant then?' asked Alexandra Pavlovna.
'Not in the very least. Darya Mihailovna says, on the contrary, that you see that he belongs to the best society at once. He spoke of Beethoven with such eloquence that even the old prince was quite delighted by it. That, I own, I should like to have heard; you know that is in my line. Allow me to offer you this lovely wild-flower.'
Alexandra Pavlovna took the flower, and when she had walked a few steps farther, let it drop on the path. They were not more than two hundred paces from her house. It had been recently built and whitewashed, and looked out hospitably with its wide light windows from the thick foliage of the old limes and maples.
'So what message do you give me for Darya Mihailovna?' began Pandalevsky, slightly hurt at the fate of the flower he had given her. 'Will you come to dinner? She invites your brother too.'
'Yes; we will come, most certainly. And how is Natasha?'
'Natalya Alexyevna is well, I am glad to say. But we have already passed the road that turns off to Darya Mihailovna's. Allow me to bid you good-bye.'
Alexandra Pavlovna stopped. 'But won't you come in?' she said in a hesitating voice.
'I should like to, indeed, but I am afraid it is late. Darya Mihailovna wishes to hear a new etude of Thalberg's, so I must practise and have it ready. Besides, I am doubtful, I must confess, whether my visit could afford you any pleasure.'
'Oh, no! why?'
Pandalevsky sighed and dropped his eyes expressively.
'Good-bye, Alexandra Pavlovna!' he said after a slight pause; then he bowed and turned back.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned round and went home.
Konstantin Diomiditch, too, walked homewards. All softness had vanished at once from his face; a self-confident, almost hard expression came into it. Even his walk was changed; his steps were longer and he trod more heavily. He had walked about two miles, carelessly swinging his cane, when all at once he began to smile again: he saw by the roadside a young, rather pretty peasant girl, who was driving some calves out of an oat-field. Konstantin Diomiditch approached the girl as warily as a cat, and began to speak to her. She said nothing at first, only blushed and laughed, but at last she hid her face in her sleeve, turned away, and muttered:
'Go away, sir; upon my word...'
Konstantin Diomiditch shook his finger at her and told her to bring him some cornflowers.
'What do you want with cornflowers?—to make a wreath?' replied the girl; 'come now, go along then.'
'Stop a minute, my pretty little dear,' Konstantin Diomiditch was beginning.
'There now, go along,' the girl interrupted him, 'there are the young gentlemen coming.'
Konstantin Diomiditch looked round. There really were Vanya and Petya, Darya Mihailovna's sons, running along the road; after them walked their tutor, Bassistoff, a young man of two-and-twenty, who had only just left college. Bassistoff was a well-grown youth, with a simple face, a large nose, thick lips, and small pig's eyes, plain and awkward, but kind, good, and upright. He dressed untidily and wore his hair long—not from affectation, but from laziness; he liked eating and he liked sleeping, but he also liked a good book, and an earnest conversation, and he hated Pandalevsky from the depths of his soul.
Darya Mihailovna's children worshipped Bassistoff, and yet were not in the least afraid of him; he was on a friendly footing with all the rest of the household, a fact which was not altogether pleasing to its mistress, though she was fond of declaring that for her social prejudices did not exist.
'Good-morning, my dears,' began Konstantin Diomiditch, 'how early you have come for your walk to-day! But I,' he added, turning to Bassistoff, 'have been out a long while already; it's my passion—to enjoy nature.'
'We saw how you were enjoying nature,' muttered Bassistoff.
'You are a materialist, God knows what you are imagining! I know you.' When Pandalevsky spoke to Bassistoff or people like him, he grew slightly irritated, and pronounced the letter s quite clearly, even with a slight hiss.
'Why, were you asking your way of that girl, am I to suppose?' said Bassistoff, shifting his eyes to right and to left.
He felt that Pandalevsky was looking him straight in the face, and this fact was exceedingly unpleasant to him. 'I repeat, a materialist and nothing more.'
'You certainly prefer to see only the prosaic side in everything.'
'Boys!' cried Bassistoff suddenly, 'do you see that willow at the corner? let's see who can get to it first. One! two! three! and away!'
The boys set off at full speed to the willow. Bassistoff rushed after them.
'What a lout!' thought Pandalevsky, 'he is spoiling those boys. A perfect peasant!'
And looking with satisfaction at his own neat and elegant figure, Konstantin Diomiditch struck his coat-sleeve twice with his open hand, pulled up his collar, and went on his way. When he had reached his own room, he put on an old dressing-gown and sat down with an anxious face to the piano.
Darya Mihailovna's house was regarded as almost the first in the whole province. It was a huge stone mansion, built after designs of Rastrelli in the taste of last century, and in a commanding position on the summit of a hill, at whose base flowed one of the principal rivers of central Russia. Darya Mihailovna herself was a wealthy and distinguished lady, the widow of a privy councillor. Pandalevsky said of her, that she knew all Europe and all Europe knew her! However, Europe knew her very little; even at Petersburg she had not played a very prominent part; but on the other hand at Moscow every one knew her and visited her. She belonged to the highest society, and was spoken of as a rather eccentric woman, not wholly good-natured, but excessively clever. In her youth she had been very pretty. Poets had written verses to her, young men had been in love with her, distinguished men had paid her homage. But twenty-five or thirty years had passed since those days and not a trace of her former charms remained. Every one who saw her now for the first time was impelled to ask himself, if this woman—skinny, sharp-nosed, and yellow-faced, though still not old in years—could once have been a beauty, if she was really the same woman who had been the inspiration of poets.... And every one marvelled inwardly at the mutability of earthly things. It is true that Pandalevsky discovered that Darya Mihailovna had preserved her magnificent eyes in a marvellous way; but we have seen that Pandalevsky also maintained that all Europe knew her.
Darya Mihailovna went every summer to her country place with her children (she had three: a daughter of seventeen, Natalya, and two sons of nine and ten years old). She kept open house in the country, that is, she received men, especially unmarried ones; provincial ladies she could not endure. But what of the treatment she received from those ladies in return?
Darya Mihailovna, according to them, was a haughty, immoral, and insufferable tyrant, and above all—she permitted herself such liberties in conversation, it was shocking! Darya Mihailovna certainly did not care to stand on ceremony in the country, and in the unconstrained frankness of her manners there was perceptible a slight shade of the contempt of the lioness of the capital for the petty and obscure creatures who surrounded her. She had a careless, and even a sarcastic manner with her own set; but the shade of contempt was not there.
By the way, reader, have you observed that a person who is exceptionally nonchalant with his inferiors, is never nonchalant with persons of a higher rank? Why is that? But such questions lead to nothing.
When Konstantin Diomiditch, having at last learnt by heart the etude of Thalberg, went down from his bright and cheerful room to the drawing-room, he already found the whole household assembled. The salon was already beginning. The lady of the house was reposing on a wide couch, her feet gathered up under her, and a new French pamphlet in her hand; at the window behind a tambour frame, sat on one side the daughter of Darya Mihailovna, on the other, Mlle. Boncourt, the governess, a dry old maiden lady of sixty, with a false front of black curls under a parti-coloured cap and cotton wool in her ears; in the corner near the door was huddled Bassistoff reading a paper, near him were Petya and Vanya playing draughts, and leaning by the stove, his hands clasped behind his back, was a gentleman of low stature, with a swarthy face covered with bristling grey hair, and fiery black eyes—a certain African Semenitch Pigasov.
This Pigasov was a strange person. Full of acerbity against everything and every one—especially against women—he was railing from morning to night, sometimes very aptly, sometimes rather stupidly, but always with gusto. His ill-humour almost approached puerility; his laugh, the sound of his voice, his whole being seemed steeped in venom. Darya Mihailovna gave Pigasov a cordial reception; he amused her with his sallies. They were certainly absurd enough. He took delight in perpetual exaggeration. For example, if he were told of any disaster, that a village had been struck by lightning, or that a mill had been carried away by floods, or that a peasant had cut his hand with an axe, he invariably asked with concentrated bitterness, 'And what's her name?' meaning, what is the name of the woman responsible for this calamity, for according to his convictions, a woman was the cause of every misfortune, if you only looked deep enough into the matter. He once threw himself on his knees before a lady he hardly knew at all, who had been effusive in her hospitality to him and began tearfully, but with wrath written on his face, to entreat her to have compassion on him, saying that he had done her no harm and never would come to see her for the future. Once a horse had bolted with one of Darya Mihailovna's maids, thrown her into a ditch and almost killed her. From that time Pigasov never spoke of that horse except as the 'good, good horse,' and he even came to regard the hill and the ditch as specially picturesque spots. Pigasov had failed in life and had adopted this whimsical craze. He came of poor parents. His father had filled various petty posts, and could scarcely read and write, and did not trouble himself about his son's education; he fed and clothed him and nothing more. His mother spoiled him, but she died early. Pigasov educated himself, sent himself to the district school and then to the gymnasium, taught himself French, German, and even Latin, and, leaving the gymnasiums with an excellent certificate, went to Dorpat, where he maintained a perpetual struggle with poverty, but succeeded in completing his three years' course. Pigasov's abilities did not rise above the level of mediocrity; patience and perseverance were his strong points, but the most powerful sentiment in him was ambition, the desire to get into good society, not to be inferior to others in spite of fortune. He had studied diligently and gone to the Dorpat University from ambition. Poverty exasperated him, and made him watchful and cunning. He expressed himself with originality; from his youth he had adopted a special kind of stinging and exasperated eloquence. His ideas did not rise above the common level; but his way of speaking made him seem not only a clever, but even a very clever, man. Having taken his degree as candidate, Pigasov decided to devote himself to the scholastic profession; he understood that in any other career he could not possibly be the equal of his associates. He tried to select them from a higher rank and knew how to gain their good graces; even by flattery, though he was always abusing them. But to do this he had not, to speak plainly, enough raw material. Having educated himself through no love for study, Pigasov knew very little thoroughly. He broke down miserably in the public disputation, while another student who had shared the same room with him, and who was constantly the subject of his ridicule, a man of very limited ability who had received a careful and solid education, gained a complete triumph. Pigasov was infuriated by this failure, he threw all his books and manuscripts into the fire and went into a government office. At first he did not get on badly, he made a fair official, not very active, extremely self-confident and bold, however; but he wanted to make his way more quickly, he made a false step, got into trouble, and was obliged to retire from the service. He spent three years on the property he had bought himself and suddenly married a wealthy half-educated woman who was captivated by his unceremonious and sarcastic manners. But Pigasov's character had become so soured and irritable that family life was unendurable to him. After living with him a few years, his wife went off secretly to Moscow and sold her estate to an enterprising speculator; Pigasov had only just finished building a house on it. Utterly crushed by this last blow, Pigasov began a lawsuit with his wife, but gained nothing by it. After this he lived in solitude, and went to see his neighbours, whom he abused behind their backs and even to their faces, and who welcomed him with a kind of constrained half-laugh, though he did not inspire them with any serious dread. He never took a book in his hand. He had about a hundred serfs; his peasants were not badly off.
'Ah! Constantin,' said Darya Mihailovna, when Pandalevsky came into the drawing-room, 'is Alexandrine coming?'
'Alexandra Pavlovna asked me to thank you, and they will be extremely delighted,' replied Konstantin Diomiditch, bowing affably in all directions, and running his plump white hand with its triangular cut nails through his faultlessly arranged hair.
'And is Volintsev coming too?'
'So, according to you, African Semenitch,' continued Darya Mihailovna, turning to Pigasov, 'all young ladies are affected?'
Pigasov's mouth twitched, and he plucked nervously at his elbow.
'I say,' he began in a measured voice—in his most violent moods of exasperation he always spoke slowly and precisely. 'I say that young ladies, in general—of present company, of course, I say nothing.'
'But that does not prevent your thinking of them,' put in Darya Mihailovna.
'I say nothing of them,' repeated Pigasov. 'All young ladies, in general, are affected to the most extreme point—affected in the expression of their feelings. If a young lady is frightened, for instance, or pleased with anything, or distressed, she is certain first to throw her person into some such elegant attitude (and Pigasov threw his figure into an unbecoming pose and spread out his hands) and then she shrieks—ah! or she laughs or cries. I did once though (and here Pigasov smiled complacently) succeed in eliciting a genuine, unaffected expression of emotion from a remarkably affected young lady!'
'How did you do that?'
Pigasov's eyes sparkled.
'I poked her in the side with an aspen stake, from behind. She did shriek, and I said to her, "Bravo, bravo! that's the voice of nature, that was a genuine shriek! Always do like that for the future!"'
Every one in the room laughed.
'What nonsense you talk, African Semenitch,' cried Darya Mihailovna. 'Am I to believe that you would poke a girl in the side with a stake!'
'Yes, indeed, with a stake, a very big stake, like those that are used in the defence of a fort.'
'Mais c'est un horreur ce que vous dites la, Monsieur,' cried Mlle. Boncourt, looking angrily at the boys, who were in fits of laughter.
'Oh, you mustn't believe him,' said Darya Mihailovna. 'Don't you know him?'
But the offended French lady could not be pacified for a long while, and kept muttering something to herself.
'You need not believe me,' continued Pigasov coolly, 'but I assure you I told the simple truth. Who should know if not I? After that perhaps you won't believe that our neighbour, Madame Tchepuz, Elena Antonovna, told me herself, mind herself, that she had murdered her nephew?'
'What an invention!'
'Wait a minute, wait a minute! Listen and judge for yourselves. Mind, I don't want to slander her, I even like her as far as one can like a woman. She hasn't a single book in her house except a calendar, and she can't read except aloud, and that exercise throws her into a violent perspiration, and she complains then that her eyes feel bursting out of her head.... In short, she's a capital woman, and her servant girls grow fat. Why should I slander her?'
'You see,' observed Darya Mihailovna, 'African Semenitch has got on his hobbyhorse, now he will not be off it to-night.'
'My hobby! But women have three at least, which they are never off, except, perhaps, when they're asleep.'
'What three hobbies are those?'
'Reproof, reproach, recrimination.'
'Do you know, African Semenitch,' began Darya Mihailovna, 'you cannot be so bitter against women for nothing. Some woman or other must have——'
'Done me an injury, you mean?' Pigasov interrupted.
Darya Mihailovna was rather embarrassed; she remembered Pigasov's unlucky marriage, and only nodded.
'One woman certainly did me an injury,' said Pigasov, 'though she was a good, very good one.'
'Who was that?'
'My mother,' said Pigasov, dropping his voice.
'Your mother? What injury could she have done you?'
'She brought me into the world.'
Darya Mihailovna frowned.
'Our conversation,' she said, 'seems to have taken a gloomy turn. Constantin, play us Thalberg's new etude. I daresay the music will soothe African Semenitch. Orpheus soothed savage beasts.'
Konstantin Diomiditch took his seat at the piano, and played the etude very fairly well. Natalya Alexyevna at first listened attentively, then she bent over her work again.
'Merci, c'est charmant,' observed Darya Mihailovna, 'I love Thalberg. Il est si distingue. What are you thinking of, African Semenitch?'
'I thought,' began African Semenitch slowly, 'that there are three kinds of egoists; the egoists who live themselves and let others live; the egoists who live themselves and don't let others live; and the egoists who don't live themselves and don't let others live. Women, for the most part, belong to the third class.'
'That's polite! I am very much astonished at one thing, African Semenitch; your confidence in your convictions; of course you can never be mistaken.'
'Who says so? I make mistakes; a man, too, may be mistaken. But do you know the difference between a man's mistakes and a woman's? Don't you know? Well, here it is; a man may say, for example, that twice two makes not four, but five, or three and a half; but a woman will say that twice two makes a wax candle.'
'I fancy I've heard you say that before. But allow me to ask what connection had your idea of the three kinds of egoists with the music you have just been hearing?'
'None at all, but I did not listen to the music.'
'Well, "incurable I see you are, and that is all about it,"' answered Darya Mihailovna, slightly altering Griboyedov's line. 'What do you like, since you don't care for music? Literature?'
'I like literature, only not our contemporary literature.'
'I'll tell you why. I crossed the Oka lately in a ferry boat with a gentleman. The ferry got fixed in a narrow place; they had to drag the carriages ashore by hand. This gentleman had a very heavy coach. While the ferrymen were straining themselves to drag the coach on to the bank, the gentleman groaned so, standing in the ferry, that one felt quite sorry for him.... Well, I thought, here's a fresh illustration of the system of division of labour! That's just like our modern literature; other people do the work, and it does the groaning.'
Darya Mihailovna smiled.
'And that is called expressing contemporary life,' continued Pigasov indefatigably, 'profound sympathy with the social question and so on. ... Oh, how I hate those grand words!'
'Well, the women you attack so—they at least don't use grand words.'
Pigasov shrugged his shoulders.
'They don't use them because they don't understand them.'
Darya Mihailovna flushed slightly.
'You are beginning to be impertinent, African Semenitch!' she remarked with a forced smile.
There was complete stillness in the room.
'Where is Zolotonosha?' asked one of the boys suddenly of Bassistoff.
'In the province of Poltava, my dear boy,' replied Pigasov, 'in the centre of Little Russia.' (He was glad of an opportunity of changing the conversation.) 'We were talking of literature,' he continued, 'if I had money to spare, I would at once become a Little Russian poet.'
'What next? a fine poet you would make!' retorted Darya Mihailovna. 'Do you know Little Russian?'
'Not a bit; but it isn't necessary.'
'Oh no, it's not necessary. You need only take a sheet of paper and write at the top "A Ballad," then begin like this, "Heigho, alack, my destiny!" or "the Cossack Nalivaiko was sitting on a hill and then on the mountain, under the green tree the birds are singing, grae, voropae, gop, gop!" or something of that kind. And the thing's done. Print it and publish it. The Little Russian will read it, drop his head into his hands and infallibly burst into tears—he is such a sensitive soul!'
'Good heavens!' cried Bassistoff. 'What are you saying? It's too absurd for anything. I have lived in Little Russia, I love it and know the language... "grae, grae, voropae" is absolute nonsense.'
'It may be, but the Little Russian will weep all the same. You speak of the "language."... But is there a Little Russian language? Is it a language, in your opinion? an independent language? I would pound my best friend in a mortar before I'd agree to that.'
Bassistoff was about to retort.
'Leave him alone!' said Darya Mihailovna, 'you know that you will hear nothing but paradoxes from him.'
Pigasov smiled ironically. A footman came in and announced the arrival of Alexandra Pavlovna and her brother.
Darya Mihailovna rose to meet her guests.
'How do you do, Alexandrine?' she began, going up to her, 'how good of you to come!... How are you, Sergei Pavlitch?'
Volintsev shook hands with Darya Mihailovna and went up to Natalya Alexyevna.
'But how about that baron, your new acquaintance, is he coming to-day?' asked Pigasov.
'Yes, he is coming.'
'He is a great philosopher, they say; he is just brimming over with Hegel, I suppose?'
Darya Mihailovna made no reply, and making Alexandra Pavlovna sit down on the sofa, established herself near her.
'Philosophies,' continued Pigasov, 'are elevated points of view! That's another abomination of mine; these elevated points of view. And what can one see from above? Upon my soul, if you want to buy a horse, you don't look at it from a steeple!'
'This baron was going to bring you an essay?' said Alexandra Pavlovna.
'Yes, an essay,' replied Darya Mihailovna, with exaggerated carelessness, 'on the relation of commerce to manufactures in Russia. ... But don't be afraid; we will not read it here.... I did not invite you for that. Le baron est aussi aimable que savant. And he speaks Russian beautifully! C'est un vrai torrent... il vous entraine!
'He speaks Russian so beautifully,' grumbled Pigasov, 'that he deserves a eulogy in French.'
'You may grumble as you please, African Semenitch.... It's in keeping with your ruffled locks.... I wonder, though, why he does not come. Do you know what, messieurs et mesdames' added Darya Mihailovna, looking round, 'we will go into the garden. There is still nearly an hour to dinner-time and the weather is glorious.'
All the company rose and went into the garden.
Darya Mihailovna's garden stretched right down to the river. There were many alleys of old lime-trees in it, full of sunlight and shade and fragrance and glimpses of emerald green at the ends of the walks, and many arbours of acacias and lilacs.
Volintsev turned into the thickest part of the garden with Natalya and Mlle. Boncourt. He walked beside Natalya in silence. Mlle. Boncourt followed a little behind.
'What have you been doing to-day?' asked Volintsev at last, pulling the ends of his handsome dark brown moustache.
In features he resembled his sister strikingly; but there was less movement and life in his expression, and his soft beautiful eyes had a melancholy look.
'Oh! nothing,' answered Natalya, 'I have been listening to Pigasov's sarcasms, I have done some embroidery on canvas, and I've been reading.'
'And what have you been reading?'
'Oh! I read—a history of the Crusades,' said Natalya, with some hesitation.
Volintsev looked at her.
'Ah!' he ejaculated at last, 'that must be interesting.'
He picked a twig and began to twirl it in the air. They walked another twenty paces.
'What is this baron whom your mother has made acquaintance with?' began Volintsev again.
'A Gentleman of the Bedchamber, a new arrival; maman speaks very highly of him.'
'Your mother is quick to take fancies to people.'
'That shows that her heart is still young,' observed Natalya.
'Yes. I shall soon bring you your mare. She is almost quite broken in now. I want to teach her to gallop, and I shall manage it soon.'
'Merci!... But I'm quite ashamed. You are breaking her in yourself ... and they say it's so hard!'
'To give you the least pleasure, you know, Natalya Alexyevna, I am ready... I... not in such trifles——'
Volintsev grew confused.
Natalya looked at him with friendly encouragement, and again said 'merci!'
'You know,' continued Sergei Pavlitch after a long pause, 'that not such things.... But why am I saying this? you know everything, of course.'
At that instant a bell rang in the house.
'Ah! la cloche du diner!' cried Mlle. Boncourt, 'rentrons.'
'Quel dommage,' thought the old French lady to herself as she mounted the balcony steps behind Volintsev and Natalya, 'quel dommage que ce charmant garcon ait si peu de ressources dans la conversation,' which may be translated, 'you are a good fellow, my dear boy, but rather a fool.'
The baron did not arrive to dinner. They waited half-an-hour for him. Conversation flagged at the table. Sergei Pavlitch did nothing but gaze at Natalya, near whom he was sitting, and zealously filled up her glass with water. Pandalevsky tried in vain to entertain his neighbour, Alexandra Pavlovna; he was bubbling over with sweetness, but she hardly refrained from yawning.
Bassistoff was rolling up pellets of bread and thinking of nothing at all; even Pigasov was silent, and when Darya Mihailovna remarked to him that he had not been very polite to-day, he replied crossly, 'When am I polite? that's not in my line;' and smiling grimly he added, 'have a little patience; I am only kvas, you know, du simple Russian kvas; but your Gentleman of the Bedchamber——'
'Bravo!' cried Darya Mihailovna, 'Pigasov is jealous, he is jealous already!'
But Pigasov made her no rejoinder, and only gave her a rather cross look.
Seven o'clock struck, and they were all assembled again in the drawing-room.
'He is not coming, clearly,' said Darya Mihailovna.
But, behold, the rumble of a carriage was heard: a small tarantass drove into the court, and a few instants later a footman entered the drawing-room and gave Darya Mihailovna a note on a silver salver. She glanced through it, and turning to the footman asked:
'But where is the gentleman who brought this letter?'
'He is sitting in the carriage. Shall I ask him to come up?'
'Ask him to do so.'
The man went out.
'Fancy, how vexatious!' continued Darya Mihailovna, 'the baron has received a summons to return at once to Petersburg. He has sent me his essay by a certain Mr. Rudin, a friend of his. The baron wanted to introduce him to me—he speaks very highly of him. But how vexatious it is! I had hoped the baron would stay here for some time.'
'Dmitri Nikolaitch Rudin,' announced the servant
A man of about thirty-five entered, of a tall, somewhat stooping figure, with crisp curly hair and swarthy complexion, an irregular but expressive and intelligent face, a liquid brilliance in his quick, dark blue eyes, a straight, broad nose, and well-curved lips. His clothes were not new, and were somewhat small, as though he had outgrown them.
He walked quickly up to Darya Mihailovna, and with a slight bow told her that he had long wished to have the honour of an introduction to her, and that his friend the baron greatly regretted that he could not take leave of her in person.
The thin sound of Rudin's voice seemed out of keeping with his tall figure and broad chest.
'Pray be seated... very delighted,' murmured Darya Mihailovna, and, after introducing him to the rest of the company, she asked him whether he belonged to those parts or was a visitor.
'My estate is in the T—— province,' replied Rudin, holding his hat on his knees. 'I have not been here long. I came on business and stayed for a while in your district town.'
'With the doctor. He was an old chum of mine at the university.'
'Ah! the doctor. He is highly spoken of. He is skilful in his work, they say. But have you known the baron long?'
'I met him last winter in Moscow, and I have just been spending about a week with him.'
'He is a very clever man, the baron.'
Darya Mihailovna sniffed at her little crushed-up handkerchief steeped in eau de cologne.
'Are you in the government service?' she asked.
'No. I have retired.'
There followed a brief pause. The general conversation was resumed.
'If you will allow me to be inquisitive,' began Pigasov, turning to Rudin, 'do you know the contents of the essay which his excellency the baron has sent?'
'Yes, I do.'
'This essay deals with the relations to commerce—or no, of manufactures to commerce in our country.... That was your expression, I think, Darya Mihailovna?'
'Yes, it deals with'... began Darya Mihailovna, pressing her hand to her forehead.
'I am, of course, a poor judge of such matters,' continued Pigasov, 'but I must confess that to me even the title of the essay seems excessively (how could I put it delicately?) excessively obscure and complicated.'
'Why does it seem so to you?'
Pigasov smiled and looked across at Darya Mihailovna.
'Why, is it clear to you?' he said, turning his foxy face again towards Rudin.
'To me? Yes.'
'H'm. No doubt you must know better.'
'Does your head ache?' Alexandra Pavlovna inquired of Darya Mihailovna.
'No. It is only my—c'est nerveux.'
'Allow me to inquire,' Pigasov was beginning again in his nasal tones, 'your friend, his excellency Baron Muffel—I think that's his name?'
'Does his excellency Baron Muffel make a special study of political economy, or does he only devote to that interesting subject the hours of leisure left over from his social amusements and his official duties?'
Rudin looked steadily at Pigasov.
'The baron is an amateur on this subject,' he replied, growing rather red, 'but in his essay there is much that is interesting and just.'
'I am not able to dispute it with you; I have not read the essay. But I venture to ask—the work of your friend Baron Muffel is no doubt founded more upon general propositions than upon facts?'
'It contains both facts and propositions founded upon the facts.'
'Yes, yes. I must tell you that, in my opinion—and I've a right to give my opinion, on occasion; I spent three years at Dorpat... all these, so-called general propositions, hypotheses, these systems—excuse me, I am a provincial, I speak the truth bluntly—are absolutely worthless. All that's only theorising—only good for misleading people. Give us facts, sir, and that's enough!'
'Really!' retorted Rudin, 'why, but ought not one to give the significance of the facts?'
'General propositions,' continued Pigasov, 'they're my abomination, these general propositions, theories, conclusions. All that's based on so-called convictions; every one is talking about his convictions, and attaches importance to them, prides himself on them. Ah!'
And Pigasov shook his fist in the air. Pandalevsky laughed.
'Capital!' put in Rudin, 'it follows that there is no such thing as conviction according to you?'
'No, it doesn't exist.'
'Is that your conviction?'
'How do you say that there are none then? Here you have one at the very first turn.'
All in the room smiled and looked at one another.
'One minute, one minute, but——,' Pigasov was beginning.
But Darya Mihailovna clapped her hands crying, 'Bravo, bravo, Pigasov's beaten!' and she gently took Rudin's hat from his hand.
'Defer your delight a little, madam; there's plenty of time!' Pigasov began with annoyance. 'It's not sufficient to say a witty word, with a show of superiority; you must prove, refute. We had wandered from the subject of our discussion.'
'With your permission,' remarked Rudin, coolly, 'the matter is very simple. You do not believe in the value of general propositions—you do not believe in convictions?'
'I don't believe in them, I don't believe in anything!'
'Very good. You are a sceptic.'
'I see no necessity for using such a learned word. However——'
'Don't interrupt!' interposed Darya Mihailovna.
'At him, good dog!' Pandalevsky said to himself at the same instant, and smiled all over.
'That word expresses my meaning,' pursued Rudin. 'You understand it; why not make use of it? You don't believe in anything. Why do you believe in facts?'
'Why? That's good! Facts are matters of experience, every one knows what facts are. I judge of them by experience, by my own senses.'
'But may not your senses deceive you? Your senses tell you that the sun goes round the earth,... but perhaps you don't agree with Copernicus? You don't even believe in him?'
Again a smile passed over every one's face, and all eyes were fastened on Rudin. 'He's by no means a fool,' every one was thinking.
'You are pleased to keep on joking,' said Pigasov. 'Of course that's very original, but it's not to the point.'
'In what I have said hitherto,' rejoined Rudin, 'there is, unfortunately, too little that's original. All that has been well known a very long time, and has been said a thousand times. That is not the pith of the matter.'
'What is then?' asked Pigasov, not without insolence.
In discussions he always first bantered his opponent, then grew cross, and finally sulked and was silent.
'Here it is,' continued Rudin. 'I cannot help, I own, feeling sincere regret when I hear sensible people attack——'
'Systems?' interposed Pigasov.
'Yes, with your leave, even systems. What frightens you so much in that word? Every system is founded on a knowledge of fundamental laws, the principles of life——'
'But there is no knowing them, no discovering them.'
'One minute. Doubtless they are not easy for every one to get at, and to make mistakes is natural to man. However, you will certainly agree with me that Newton, for example, discovered some at least of these fundamental laws? He was a genius, we grant you; but the grandeur of the discoveries of genius is that they become the heritage of all. The effort to discover universal principles in the multiplicity of phenomena is one of the radical characteristics of human thought, and all our civilisation——'
'That's what you're driving at!' Pigasov broke in in a drawling tone. 'I am a practical man and all these metaphysical subtleties I don't enter into and don't want to enter into.'
'Very good! That's as you prefer. But take note that your very desire to be exclusively a practical man is itself your sort of system—your theory.'
'Civilisation you talk about!' blurted in Pigasov; 'that's another admirable notion of yours! Much use in it, this vaunted civilisation! I would not give a brass farthing for your civilisation!'
'But what a poor sort of argument, African Semenitch!' observed Darya Mihailovna, inwardly much pleased by the calmness and perfect good-breeding of her new acquaintance. 'Cest un homme comme il faut,' she thought, looking with well-disposed scrutiny at Rudin; 'we must be nice to him!' Those last words she mentally pronounced in Russian.
'I will not champion civilisation,' continued Rudin after a short pause, 'it does not need my championship. You don't like it, every one to his own taste. Besides, that would take us too far. Allow me only to remind you of the old saying, "Jupiter, you are angry; therefore you are in the wrong." I meant to say that all those onslaughts upon systems—general propositions—are especially distressing, because together with these systems men repudiate knowledge in general, and all science and faith in it, and consequently also faith in themselves, in their own powers. But this faith is essential to men; they cannot exist by their sensations alone they are wrong to fear ideas and not to trust in them. Scepticism is always characterised by barrenness and impotence.'
'That's all words!' muttered Pigasov.
'Perhaps so. But allow me to point out to you that when we say "that's all words!" we often wish ourselves to avoid the necessity of saying anything more substantial than mere words.'
'What?' said Pigasov, winking his eyes.
'You understood what I meant,' retorted Rudin, with involuntary, but instantly repressed impatience. 'I repeat, if man has no steady principle in which he trusts, no ground on which he can take a firm stand, how can he form a just estimate of the needs, the tendencies and the future of his country? How can he know what he ought to do, if——'
'I leave you the field,' ejaculated Pigasov abruptly, and with a bow he turned away without looking at any one.
Rudin stared at him, and smiled slightly, saying nothing.
'Aha! he has taken to flight!' said Darya Mihailovna. 'Never mind, Dmitri...! I beg your pardon,' she added with a cordial smile, 'what is your paternal name?'
'Never mind, my dear Dmitri Nikolaitch, he did not deceive any of us. He wants to make a show of not wishing to argue any more. He is conscious that he cannot argue with you. But you had better sit nearer to us and let us have a little talk.'
Rudin moved his chair up.
'How is it we have not met till now?' was Darya Mihailovna's question. 'That is what surprises me. Have you read this book? C'est de Tocqueville, vous savez?'
And Darya Mihailovna held out the French pamphlet to Rudin.
Rudin took the thin volume in his hand, turned over a few pages of it, and laying it down on the table, replied that he had not read that particular work of M. de Tocqueville, but that he had often reflected on the question treated by him. A conversation began to spring up. Rudin seemed uncertain at first, and not disposed to speak out freely; his words did not come readily, but at last he grew warm and began to speak. In a quarter of an hour his voice was the only sound in the room, All were crowding in a circle round him.
Only Pigasov remained aloof, in a corner by the fireplace. Rudin spoke with intelligence, with fire and with judgment; he showed much learning, wide reading. No one had expected to find in him a remarkable man. His clothes were so shabby, so little was known of him. Every one felt it strange and incomprehensible that such a clever man should have suddenly made his appearance in the country. He seemed all the more wonderful and, one may even say, fascinating to all of them, beginning with Darya Mihailovna. She was pluming herself on having discovered him, and already at this early date was dreaming of how she would introduce Rudin into the world. In her quickness to receive impressions there was much that was almost childish, in spite of her years. Alexandra Pavlovna, to tell the truth, understood little of all that Rudin said, but was full of wonder and delight; her brother too was admiring him. Pandalevsky was watching Darya Mihailovna and was filled with envy. Pigasov thought, 'If I have to give five hundred roubles I will get a nightingale to sing better than that!' But the most impressed of all the party were Bassistoff and Natalya. Scarcely a breath escaped Bassistoff; he sat the whole time with open mouth and round eyes and listened—listened as he had never listened to any one in his life—while Natalya's face was suffused by a crimson flush, and her eyes, fastened unwaveringly on Rudin, were both dimmed and shining.
'What splendid eyes he has!' Volintsev whispered to her.
'Yes, they are.'
'It's only a pity his hands are so big and red.'
Natalya made no reply.
Tea was brought in. The conversation became more general, but still by the sudden unanimity with which every one was silent, directly Rudin opened his mouth, one could judge of the strength of the impression he had produced. Darya Mihailovna suddenly felt inclined to tease Pigasov. She went up to him and said in an undertone, 'Why don't you speak instead of doing nothing but smile sarcastically? Make an effort, challenge him again,' and without waiting for him to answer, she beckoned to Rudin.
'There's one thing more you don't know about him,' she said to him, with a gesture towards Pigasov,—'he is a terrible hater of women, he is always attacking them; pray, show him the true path.'
Rudin involuntarily looked down upon Pigasov; he was a head and shoulders taller. Pigasov almost withered up with fury, and his sour face grew pale.
'Darya Mihailovna is mistaken,' he said in an unsteady voice, 'I do not only attack women; I am not a great admirer of the whole human species.'
'What can have given you such a poor opinion of them?' inquired Rudin.
Pigasov looked him straight in the face.
'The study of my own heart, no doubt, in which I find every day more and more that is base. I judge of others by myself. Possibly this too is erroneous, and I am far worse than others, but what am I to do? it's a habit!'
'I understand you and sympathise with you!' was Rudin's rejoinder. 'What generous soul has not experienced a yearning for self-humiliation? But one ought not to remain in that condition from which there is no outlet beyond.'
'I am deeply indebted for the certificate of generosity you confer on my soul,' retorted Pigasov. 'As for my condition, there's not much amiss with it, so that even if there were an outlet from it, it might go to the deuce, I shouldn't look for it!'
'But that means—pardon the expression—to prefer the gratification of your own pride to the desire to be and live in the truth.'
'Undoubtedly,' cried Pigasov, 'pride—that I understand, and you, I expect, understand, and every one understands; but truth, what is truth? Where is it, this truth?'
'You are repeating yourself, let me warn you,' remarked Darya Mihailovna.
Pigasov shrugged his shoulders.
'Well, where's the harm if I do? I ask: where is truth? Even the philosophers don't know what it is. Kant says it is one thing; but Hegel—no, you're wrong, it's something else.'
'And do you know what Hegel says of it?' asked Rudin, without raising his voice.
'I repeat,' continued Pigasov, flying into a passion, 'that I cannot understand what truth means. According to my idea, it doesn't exist at all in the world, that is to say, the word exists but not the thing itself.'
'Fie, fie!' cried Darya Mihailovna, 'I wonder you're not ashamed to say so, you old sinner! No truth? What is there to live for in the world after that?'
'Well, I go so far as to think, Darya Mihailovna,' retorted Pigasov, in a tone of annoyance, 'that it would be much easier for you, in any case, to live without truth than without your cook, Stepan, who is such a master hand at soups! And what do you want with truth, kindly tell me? you can't trim a bonnet with it!'
'A joke is not an argument,' observed Darya Mihailovna, 'especially when you descend to personal insult.'
'I don't know about truth, but I see speaking it does not answer,' muttered Pigasov, and he turned angrily away.
And Rudin began to speak of pride, and he spoke well. He showed that man without pride is worthless, that pride is the lever by which the earth can be moved from its foundations, but that at the same time he alone deserves the name of man who knows how to control his pride, as the rider does his horse, who offers up his own personality as a sacrifice to the general good.
'Egoism,' so he ended, 'is suicide. The egoist withers like a solitary barren tree; but pride, ambition, as the active effort after perfection, is the source of all that is great.... Yes! a man must prune away the stubborn egoism of his personality to give it the right of self-expression.'
'Can you lend me a pencil?' Pigasov asked Bassistoff.
Bassistoff did not at once understand what Pigasov had asked him.
'What do you want a pencil for?' he said at last
'I want to write down Mr. Rudin's last sentence. If one doesn't write it down, one might forget it, I'm afraid! But you will own, a sentence like that is such a handful of trumps.'
'There are things which it is a shame to laugh at and make fun of, African Semenitch!' said Bassistoff warmly, turning away from Pigasov.
Meanwhile Rudin had approached Natalya. She got up; her face expressed her confusion. Volintsev, who was sitting near her, got up too.
'I see a piano,' began Rudin, with the gentle courtesy of a travelling prince; 'don't you play on it?'
'Yes, I play,' replied Natalya, 'but not very well. Here is Konstantin Diomiditch plays much better than I do.'
Pandalevsky put himself forward with a simper. 'You should not say that, Natalya Alexyevna; your playing is not at all inferior to mine.'
'Do you know Schubert's "Erlkonig"?' asked Rudin.
'He knows it, he knows it!' interposed Darya Mihailovna. 'Sit down, Konstantin. You are fond of music, Dmitri Nikolaitch?'
Rudin only made a slight motion of the head and ran his hand through his hair, as though disposing himself to listen. Pandalevsky began to play.
Natalya was standing near the piano, directly facing Rudin. At the first sound his face was transfigured. His dark blue eyes moved slowly about, from time to time resting upon Natalya. Pandalevsky finished playing.
Rudin said nothing and walked up to the open window. A fragrant mist lay like a soft shroud over the garden; a drowsy scent breathed from the trees near. The stars shed a mild radiance. The summer night was soft—and softened all. Rudin gazed into the dark garden, and looked round.
'That music and this night,' he began, 'reminded me of my student days in Germany; our meetings, our serenades.'
'You have been in Germany then?' said Darya Mihailovna.
'I spent a year at Heidelberg, and nearly a year at Berlin.'
'And did you dress as a student? They say they wear a special dress there.'
'At Heidelberg I wore high boots with spurs, and a hussar's jacket with braid on it, and I let my hair grow to my shoulders. In Berlin the students dress like everybody else.'
'Tell us something of your student life,' said Alexandra Pavlovna.
Rudin complied. He was not altogether successful in narrative. There was a lack of colour in his descriptions. He did not know how to be humorous. However, from relating his own adventures abroad, Rudin soon passed to general themes, the special value of education and science, universities, and university life generally. He sketched in a large and comprehensive picture in broad and striking lines. All listened to him with profound attention. His eloquence was masterly and attractive, not altogether clear, but even this want of clearness added a special charm to his words.
The exuberance of his thought hindered Rudin from expressing himself definitely and exactly. Images followed upon images; comparisons started up one after another—now startlingly bold, now strikingly true. It was not the complacent effort of the practised speaker, but the very breath of inspiration that was felt in his impatient improvising. He did not seek out his words; they came obediently and spontaneously to his lips, and each word seemed to flow straight from his soul, and was burning with all the fire of conviction. Rudin was the master of almost the greatest secret—the music of eloquence. He knew how in striking one chord of the heart to set all the others vaguely quivering and resounding. Many of his listeners, perhaps, did not understand very precisely what his eloquence was about; but their bosoms heaved, it seemed as though veils were lifted before their eyes, something radiant, glorious, seemed shimmering in the distance.
All Rudin's thoughts seemed centred on the future; this lent him something of the impetuous dash of youth... Standing at the window, not looking at any one in special, he spoke, and inspired by the general sympathy and attention, the presence of young women, the beauty of the night, carried along by the tide of his own emotions, he rose to the height of eloquence, of poetry.... The very sound of his voice, intense and soft, increased the fascination; it seemed as though some higher power were speaking through his lips, startling even to himself.... Rudin spoke of what lends eternal significance to the fleeting life of man.
'I remember a Scandinavian legend,' thus he concluded, 'a king is sitting with his warriors round the fire in a long dark barn. It was night and winter. Suddenly a little bird flew in at the open door and flew out again at the other. The king spoke and said that this bird is like man in the world; it flew in from darkness and out again into darkness, and was not long in the warmth and light.... "King," replies the oldest of the warriors, "even in the dark the bird is not lost, but finds her nest." Even so our life is short and worthless; but all that is great is accomplished through men. The consciousness of being the instrument of these higher powers ought to outweigh all other joys for man; even in death he finds his life, his nest.'
Rudin stopped and dropped his eyes with a smile of involuntary embarrassment.
'Vous etes un poete,' was Darya Mihailovna's comment in an undertone. And all were inwardly agreeing with her—all except Pigasov. Without waiting for the end of Rudin's long speech, he quietly took his hat and as he went out whispered viciously to Pandalevsky who was standing near the door:
'No! Fools are more to my taste.'
No one, however, tried to detain him or even noticed his absence.
The servants brought in supper, and half an hour later, all had taken leave and separated. Darya Mihailovna begged Rudin to remain the night. Alexandra Pavlovna, as she went home in the carriage with her brother, several times fell to exclaiming and marvelling at the extraordinary cleverness of Rudin. Volintsev agreed with her, though he observed that he sometimes expressed himself somewhat obscurely—that is to say, not altogether intelligibly, he added,—wishing, no doubt, to make his own thought clear, but his face was gloomy, and his eyes, fixed on a corner of the carriage, seemed even more melancholy than usual.
Pandalevsky went to bed, and as he took off his daintily embroidered braces, he said aloud 'A very smart fellow!' and suddenly, looking harshly at his page, ordered him out of the room. Bassistoff did not sleep the whole night and did not undress—he was writing till morning a letter to a comrade of his in Moscow; and Natalya, too, though she undressed and lay down in her bed, had not an instant's sleep and never closed her eyes. With her head propped on her arm, she gazed fixedly into the darkness; her veins were throbbing feverishly and her bosom often heaved with a deep sigh.
The next morning Rudin had only just finished dressing when a servant came to him with an invitation from Darya Mihailovna to come to her boudoir and drink tea with her. Rudin found her alone. She greeted him very cordially, inquired whether he had passed a good night, poured him out a cup of tea with her own hands, asked him whether there was sugar enough in it, offered him a cigarette, and twice again repeated that she was surprised that she had not met him long before. Rudin was about to take a seat some distance away; but Darya Mihailovna motioned him to an easy chair, which stood near her lounge, and bending a little towards him began to question him about his family, his plans and intentions. Darya Mihailovna spoke carelessly and listened with an air of indifference; but it was perfectly evident to Rudin that she was laying herself out to please him, even to flatter him. It was not for nothing that she had arranged this morning interview, and had dressed so simply yet elegantly a la Madame Recamier! But Darya Mihailovna soon left off questioning him. She began to tell him about herself, her youth, and the people she had known. Rudin gave a sympathetic attention to her lucubrations, though—a curious fact—whatever personage Darya Mihailovna might be talking about, she always stood in the foreground, she alone, and the personage seemed to be effaced, to slink away in the background, and to disappear. But to make up for that, Rudin learnt in full detail precisely what Darya Mihailovna had said to a certain distinguished statesman, and what influence she had had on such and such a celebrated poet. To judge from Darya Mihailovna's accounts, one might fancy that all the distinguished men of the last five-and-twenty years had dreamt of nothing but how they could make her acquaintance, and gain her good opinion. She spoke of them simply, without particular enthusiasm or admiration, as though they were her daily associates, calling some of them queer fellows. As she talked of them, like a rich setting round a worthless stone, their names ranged themselves in a brilliant circlet round the principal name—around Darya Mihailovna.
Rudin listened, smoking a cigarette, and said little. He could speak well and liked speaking; carrying on a conversation was not in his line, though he was also a good listener. All men—if only they had not been intimidated by him to begin with—opened their hearts with confidence in his presence; he followed the thread of another man's narrative so readily and sympathetically. He had a great deal of good-nature—that special good-nature of which men are full, who are accustomed to feel themselves superior to others. In arguments he seldom allowed his antagonist to express himself fully, he crushed him by his eager, vehement and passionate dialectic.