A Nobleman's Nest
by Ivan Turgenieff
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse









Copyright, 1903, by CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS


Printed in the United States of America





The brilliant, spring day was inclining toward the evening, tiny rose-tinted cloudlets hung high in the heavens, and seemed not to be floating past, but retreating into the very depths of the azure.

In front of the open window of a handsome house, in one of the outlying streets of O * * * the capital of a Government, sat two women; one fifty years of age, the other seventy years old, and already aged.

The former was named Marya Dmitrievna Kalitin. Her husband, formerly the governmental procurator, well known in his day as an active official—a man of energetic and decided character, splenetic and stubborn—had died ten years previously. He had received a fairly good education, had studied at the university, but, having been born in a poverty-stricken class of society, he had early comprehended the necessity of opening up a way for himself, and of accumulating money. Marya Dmitrievna had married him for love; he was far from uncomely in appearance, he was clever, and, when he chose, he could be very amiable. Marya Dmitrievna (her maiden name had been Pestoff) had lost her parents in early childhood, had spent several years in Moscow, in a government educational institute, and, on returning thence, had lived fifty versts from O * * *, in her native village, Pokrovskoe, with her aunt and her elder brother. This brother soon removed to Petersburg on service, and kept his sister and his aunt on short commons, until his sudden death put an end to his career. Marya Dmitrievna inherited Pokrovskoe, but did not live there long; during the second year after her marriage to Kalitin, who succeeded in conquering her heart in the course of a few days, Pokrovskoe was exchanged for another estate, much more profitable, but ugly and without a manor-house, and, at the same time, Kalitin acquired a house in the town of O * * *, and settled down there permanently with his wife. A large garden was attached to the house; on one side, it joined directly on to the open fields, beyond the town. Kalitin,—who greatly disliked the stagnation of the country,—had evidently made up his mind, that there was no reason for dragging out existence on the estate. Marya Dmitrievna, many a time, in her own mind regretted her pretty Pokrovskoe, with its merry little stream, its broad meadows, and verdant groves; but she opposed her husband in nothing, and worshipped his cleverness and knowledge of the world. But when, after fifteen years of married life, he died, leaving a son and two daughters, Marya Dmitrievna had become so wonted to her house, and to town life, that she herself did not wish to leave O * * *.

In her youth, Marya Dmitrievna had enjoyed the reputation of being a pretty blonde, and at the age of fifty her features were not devoid of attraction, although they had become somewhat swollen and indefinite in outline. She was more sentimental than kind, and even in her mature age she had preserved the habits of her school-days; she indulged herself, was easily irritated, and even wept when her ways were interfered with; on the other hand, she was very affectionate and amiable, when all her wishes were complied with, and when no one contradicted her. Her house was one of the most agreeable in the town. Her fortune was very considerable, not so much her inherited fortune, as that acquired by her husband. Both her daughters lived with her; her son was being educated at one of the best government institutions in Petersburg.

The old woman, who was sitting by the window with Marya Dmitrievna, was that same aunt, her father's sister, with whom she had spent several years, in days gone by, at Pokrovskoe. Her name was Marfa Timofeevna Pestoff. She bore the reputation of being eccentric, had an independent character, told the entire truth to every one, straight in the face, and, with the most scanty resources, bore herself as though she possessed thousands. She had not been able to endure the deceased Kalitin, and as soon as her niece married him, she retired to her tiny estate, where she lived for ten whole years in the hen-house of a peasant. Marya Dmitrievna was afraid of her. Black-haired and brisk-eyed even in her old age, tiny, sharp-nosed Marfa Timofeevna walked quickly, held herself upright, and talked rapidly and intelligibly, in a shrill, ringing voice. She always wore a white cap and a white jacket.

"What art thou doing that for?—" she suddenly inquired of Marya Dmitrievna.—"What art thou sighing about, my mother?"

"Because," said the other.—"What wonderfully beautiful clouds!"

"So, thou art sorry for them, is that it?"

Marya Dmitrievna made no reply.

"Isn't that Gedeonovsky coming yonder?"—said Marfa Timofeevna, briskly moving her knitting-needles (she was knitting a huge, motley-hued scarf). "He might keep thee company in sighing,—or, if not, he might tell us some lie or other."

"How harshly thou always speakest about him! Sergyei Petrovitch is an—estimable man."

"Estimable!" repeated the old woman reproachfully.

"And how devoted he was to my dead husband!" remarked Marya Dmitrievna;—"to this day, I cannot think of it with indifference."

"I should think not! he pulled him out of the mire by his ears,"—growled Marfa Timofeevna, and her knitting-needles moved still more swiftly in her hands.

"He looks like such a meek creature,"—she began again,—"his head is all grey, but no sooner does he open his mouth, than he lies or calumniates. And he's a State Councillor, to boot! Well, he's a priest's son: and there's nothing more to be said!"

"Who is without sin, aunty? Of course, he has that weakness. Sergyei Petrovitch received no education,—of course he does not speak French; but, say what you will, he is an agreeable man."

"Yes, he's always licking thy hand. He doesn't talk French,—what a calamity! I'm not strong on the French 'dialect' myself. 'T would be better if he did not speak any language at all: then he wouldn't lie. But there he is, by the way—speak of the devil,—" added Marfa Timofeevna, glancing into the street.—"There he strides, thine agreeable man. What a long-legged fellow, just like a stork."

Marya Dmitrievna adjusted her curls. Marfa Timofeevna watched her with a grin.

"Hast thou not a grey hair there, my mother? Thou shouldst scold thy Palashka. Why doesn't she see it?"

"Oh, aunty, you're always so...." muttered Marya Dmitrievna, with vexation, and drummed on the arm of her chair with her fingers.

"Sergyei Petrovitch Gedeonovsky!" squeaked a red-cheeked page-lad, springing in through the door.


There entered a man of lofty stature, in a neat coat, short trousers, grey chamois-skin gloves, and two neckties—one black, on top, and the other white, underneath. Everything about him exhaled decorum and propriety, beginning with his good-looking face and smoothly brushed temple-curls, and ending with his boots, which had neither heels nor squeak. He bowed first to the mistress of the house, then to Marfa Timofeevna, and slowly drawing off his gloves, took Marya Dmitrievna's hand. After kissing it twice in succession, with respect, he seated himself, without haste, in an arm-chair, and said with a smile, as he rubbed the very tips of his fingers:

"And is Elizaveta Mikhailovna well?"

"Yes,"—replied Marya Dmitrievna,—"she is in the garden."

"And Elena Mikhailovna?"

"Lyenotchka is in the garden also. Is there anything new?"

"How could there fail to be, ma'am, how could there fail to be,"—returned the visitor, slowly blinking his eyes, and protruding his lips. "Hm! ... now, here's a bit of news, if you please, and a very astounding bit: Lavretzky, Feodor Ivanitch, has arrived."

"Fedya?"—exclaimed Marfa Timofeevna.—"But come now, my father, art not thou inventing that?"

"Not in the least, ma'am, I saw him myself."

"Well, that's no proof."

"He has recovered his health finely,"—went on Gedeonovsky, pretending not to hear Marfa Timofeevna's remark:—"he has grown broader in the shoulders, and the rosy colour covers the whole of his cheeks."

"He has recovered his health,"—ejaculated Marya Dmitrievna, with pauses:—"that means, that he had something to recover from?"

"Yes, ma'am,"—returned Gedeonovsky:—"Any other man, in his place, would have been ashamed to show himself in the world."

"Why so?"—interrupted Marfa Timofeevna;—"what nonsense is this? A man returns to his native place—what would you have him do with himself? And as if he were in any way to blame!"

"The husband is always to blame, madam, I venture to assure you, when the wife behaves badly."

"Thou sayest that, my good sir, because thou hast never been married thyself." Gedeonovsky smiled in a constrained way.

"Permit me to inquire," he asked, after a brief pause,—"for whom is that very pretty scarf destined?"

Marfa Timofeevna cast a swift glance at him.

"It is destined"—she retorted,—"for the man who never gossips, nor uses craft, nor lies, if such a man exists in the world. I know Fedya well; his sole fault is, that he was too indulgent to his wife. Well, he married for love, and nothing good ever comes of those love-marriages,"—added the old woman, casting a sidelong glance at Marya Dmitrievna, and rising.—"And now, dear little father, thou mayest whet thy teeth on whomsoever thou wilt, only not on me; I'm going away, I won't interfere."—And Marfa Timofeevna withdrew.

"There, she is always like that,"—said Marya Dmitrievna, following her aunt with her eyes:—"Always!"

"It's her age! There's no help for it, ma'am!" remarked Gedeonovsky.—"There now, she permitted herself to say: 'the man who does not use craft.' But who doesn't use craft nowadays? it's the spirit of the age. One of my friends, a very estimable person, and, I must tell you, a man of no mean rank, was wont to say: that 'nowadays, a hen approaches a grain of corn craftily—she keeps watching her chance to get to it from one side.' But when I look at you, my lady, you have a truly angelic disposition; please to favour me with your snow-white little hand."

Marya Dmitrievna smiled faintly, and extended her plump hand, with the little finger standing out apart, to Gedeonovsky. He applied his lips to it, and she moved her arm-chair closer to him, and bending slightly toward him, she asked in a low tone:

"So, you have seen him? Is he really—all right, well, cheerful?"

"He is cheerful, ma'am; all right, ma'am," returned Gedeonovsky, in a whisper.

"And you have not heard where his wife is now?"

"She has recently been in Paris, ma'am; now, I hear, she has removed to the kingdom of Italy."

"It is dreadful, really,—Fedya's position; I do not know how he can endure it. Accidents do happen, with every one, in fact; but he, one may say, has been advertised all over Europe."

Gedeonovsky sighed.

"Yes, ma'am; yes, ma'am. Why, she, they say, has struck up acquaintance with artists, and pianists, and, as they call it in their fashion, with lions and wild beasts. She has lost her shame, completely...."

"It is very, very sad,"—said Marya Dmitrievna:—"on account of the relationship; for you know, Sergyei Petrovitch, he's my nephew, once removed."

"Of course, ma'am; of course, ma'am. How could I fail to be aware of everything which relates to your family? Upon my word, ma'am!"

"Will he come to see us,—what do you think?"

"We must assume that he will, ma'am; but I hear, that he is going to his country estate."

Marya Dmitrievna cast her eyes heavenward.

"Akh, Sergyei Petrovitch, when I think of it, how circumspectly we women must behave!"

"There are different sorts of women, Marya Dmitrievna. Unfortunately, there are some of fickle character ... well, and it's a question of age, also; then, again, the rules have not been inculcated in their childhood." (Sergyei Petrovitch pulled a checked blue handkerchief out of his pocket, and began to unfold it).—"Such women exist, of course," (Sergyei Petrovitch raised a corner of the handkerchief to his eyes, one after the other),—"but, generally speaking, if we take into consideration, that is.... There is an unusual amount of dust in town," he concluded.

"Maman, maman"—screamed a pretty little girl of eleven, as she rushed into the room:—"Vladimir Nikolaitch is coming to our house on horseback!"

Marya Dmitrievna rose; Sergyei Petrovitch also rose and bowed:—"Our most humble salute to Elena Mikhailovna," he said, and withdrawing into a corner, out of propriety, he began to blow his long and regularly-formed nose.

"What a splendid horse he has!—" went on the little girl.—"He was at the gate just now, and told Liza and me, that he would ride up to the porch."

The trampling of hoofs became audible; and a stately horseman, on a fine brown steed, made his appearance in the street, and halted in front of the open window.


"Good afternoon, Marya Dmitrievna!"—exclaimed the horseman, in a ringing, agreeable voice.—"How do you like my new purchase?"

Marya Dmitrievna went to the window.

"Good afternoon, Woldemar! Akh, what a magnificent horse! From whom did you buy it?"

"From the remount officer.... He asked a high price, the robber!"

"What is its name?"

"Orlando.... But that's a stupid name; I want to change it.... Eh bien, eh bien, mon garcon.... What a turbulent beast!" The horse snorted, shifted from foot to foot, and tossed his foaming muzzle.

"Pat him, Lenotchka, have no fears...."

The little girl stretched her hand out of the window, but Orlando suddenly reared up, and leaped aside. The rider did not lose control, gripped the horse with his knees, gave him a lash on the neck with his whip, and, despite his opposition, placed him once more in front of the window.

"Prenez garde! prenez garde!"—Marya Dmitrievna kept repeating.

"Pat him, Lyenotchka,"—returned the rider,—"I will not permit him to be wilful."

Again the little girl stretched forth her hand, and timidly touched the quivering nostrils of Orlando, who trembled incessantly and strained at the bit.

"Bravo!"—exclaimed Marya Dmitrievna,—"and now, dismount, and come in."

The horseman turned his steed round adroitly, gave him the spurs, and after dashing along the street at a brisk gallop, rode into the yard. A minute later, he ran in through the door of the anteroom into the drawing-room, flourishing his whip; at the same moment, on the threshold of another door, a tall, graceful, black-haired girl of nineteen—Marya Dmitrievna's eldest daughter, Liza—made her appearance.


The young man, with whom we have just made the reader acquainted, was named Vladimir Nikolaitch Panshin. He served in Petersburg, as an official for special commissions, in the Ministry of the Interior. He had come to the town of O * * * to execute a temporary governmental commission, and was under the command of Governor-General Zonnenberg, to whom he was distantly related. Panshin's father, a staff-captain of cavalry on the retired list, a famous gambler, a man with a crumpled visage and a nervous twitching of the lips, had passed his whole life in the society of people of quality, had frequented the English Clubs in both capitals, and bore the reputation of an adroit, not very trustworthy, but charming and jolly fellow. In spite of his adroitness, he found himself almost constantly on the very verge of indigence, and left behind him to his only son a small and impaired fortune. On the other hand, he had, after his own fashion, taken pains with his education: Vladimir Nikolaitch spoke French capitally, English well, and German badly; but it is permissible to let fall a German word in certain circumstances—chiefly humorous,—"c'est meme tres chic," as the Petersburg Parisians express themselves. Vladimir Nikolaitch already understood, at the age of fifteen, how to enter any drawing-room whatever without embarrassment, how to move about in it agreeably, and to withdraw at the proper time. Panshin's father had procured for his son many influential connections; as he shuffled the cards between two rubbers, or after a successful capture of all the tricks, he let slip no opportunity to drop a nice little word about his "Volodka" to some important personage who was fond of social games. On his side, Vladimir Nikolaitch, during his stay in the university, whence he emerged with the rank of actual student, made acquaintance with several young men of quality, and became a frequenter of the best houses. He was received gladly everywhere; he was extremely good-looking, easy in his manners, entertaining, always well and ready for everything; where it was requisite, he was respectful; where it was possible, he was insolent, a capital companion, un charmant garcon. The sacred realm opened out before him. Panshin speedily grasped the secret of the science of society; he understood how to imbue himself with genuine respect for its decrees; he understood how, with half-bantering gravity, to busy himself with nonsense and assume the appearance of regarding everything serious as trivial; he danced exquisitely, he dressed in English style. In a short time he became renowned as one of the most agreeable and adroit young men in Petersburg. Panshin was, in reality, very adroit,—no less so than his father: but he was, also, very gifted. He could do everything: he sang prettily, he drew dashingly, he wrote verses, he acted very far from badly on the stage. He had only just passed his twenty-eighth birthday, but he was already Junior Gentleman of the Emperor's bedchamber, and had a very tolerable rank. Panshin firmly believed in himself, in his brains, in his penetration; he advanced boldly and cheerfully, at full swing; his life flowed along as on oil. He was accustomed to please everybody, old and young, and imagined that he was a judge of people, especially of women: he did know well their everyday weaknesses. As a man not a stranger to art, he felt within him both fervour, and some enthusiasm, and rapture, and in consequence of this he permitted himself various deviations from the rules: he caroused, he picked up acquaintance with persons who did not belong to society, and, in general, maintained a frank and simple demeanour; but in soul he was cold and cunning, and in the midst of the wildest carouse his clever little brown eye was always on guard, and watching; this bold, this free young man could never forget himself and get completely carried away. To his honour it must be said, that he never bragged of his conquests. He had hit upon Marya Dmitrievna's house immediately on his arrival in O * * *, and had promptly made himself entirely at home there. Marya Dmitrievna fairly adored him.

Panshin amiably saluted all who were in the room, shook hands with Marya Dmitrievna and Lizaveta Mikhailovna, lightly tapped Gedeonovsky on the shoulder, and whirling round on his heels, caught Lyenotchka by the head, and kissed her on the brow.

"And you are not afraid to ride such a vicious horse?"—Marya Dmitrievna asked him.

"Good gracious! it is a very peaceable beast; but I'll tell you what I am afraid of: I'm afraid to play preference with Sergyei Petrovitch; last night, at the Byelenitzyns', he won my last farthing."

Gedeonovsky laughed a shrill and servile laugh: he fawned on the brilliant young official from Petersburg, the pet of the governor. In his conversations with Marya Dmitrievna, he frequently alluded to Panshin's remarkable capacities. "For why should not I praise him?" he argued. "The young man is making a success in the highest sphere of life, discharges his service in an exemplary manner, and is not the least bit proud." Moreover, even in Petersburg Panshin was considered an energetic official: he got through an immense amount of work; he alluded to it jestingly, as is befitting a fashionable man who attaches no particular importance to his labours, but he was "an executor." The higher officials love such subordinates; he never had the slightest doubt himself, that, if he so wished, he could become a Minister in course of time.

"You are pleased to say that I beat you at cards,"—remarked Gedeonovsky:—"but who was it that won twelve rubles from me last week? and besides...."

"Villain, villain," Panshin interrupted him, with a caressing but almost disdainful carelessness, and without paying any further attention to him, he stepped up to Liza.

"I have not been able to find the overture of 'Oberon' here," he began:—"Mme. Byelenitzyn was merely boasting, that she had all the classical music,—as a matter of fact, she has nothing except polkas and waltzes; but I have already written to Moscow, and within a week I shall have that overture. By the way,"—he continued,—"I wrote a new romance yesterday; the words also are my own. Would you like to have me sing it for you? I do not know how it has turned out; Mme. Byelenitzyn thought it extremely charming, but her words signify nothing,—I wish to know your opinion. However, I think it will be better later on...."

"Why later on?"—interposed Marya Dmitrievna:—"Why not now?"

"I obey, ma'am,"—said Panshin, with a certain bright, sweet smile, which was wont to appear on his face, and suddenly to vanish,—pushed forward a chair with his knee, seated himself at the piano, and after striking several chords, he began to sing, clearly enunciating the words, the following romance:

The moon floats high above the earth Amid the clouds so pale; But from the crest of the sea surge moveth A magic ray. The sea of my soul hath acknowledged thee To be its moon, And 't is moved,—in joy and in sorrow,— By thee alone. With the anguish of love, the anguish of dumb aspirations, The soul is full; I suffer pain.... But thou from agitation art as free As that moon.

Panshin sang the second couplet with peculiar expression and force; the surging of the waves could be heard in the tempestuous accompaniment. After the words: "I suffer pain...." he heaved a slight sigh, dropped his eyes, and lowered his voice,—morendo. When he had finished, Liza praised the motive, Marya Dmitrievna said: "It is charming;"—while Gedeonovsky even shouted: "Ravishing! both poetry and harmony are equally ravishing!..." Lyenotchka, with childish adoration, gazed at the singer. In a word, the composition of the youthful dilettante pleased all present extremely; but outside of the door of the drawing-room, in the anteroom, stood an elderly man, who had just arrived, to whom, judging by the expression of his downcast face and the movement of his shoulders, Panshin's romance, charming as it was, afforded no pleasure. After waiting a while, and whisking the dust from his boots with a coarse handkerchief, this man suddenly screwed up his eyes, pressed his lips together grimly, bent his back, which was already sufficiently bowed without that, and slowly entered the drawing-room.

"Ah! Christofor Feodoritch, good afternoon!"—Panshin was the first of all to exclaim, and sprang hastily from his seat.—"I had no suspicion that you were here,—I could not, on any account, have made up my mind to sing my romance in your presence. I know that you do not care for frivolous music."

"I vas not listening," remarked the newcomer, in imperfect Russian, and having saluted all, he remained awkwardly standing in the middle of the room.

"Have you come, Monsieur Lemm,"—said Marya Dmitrievna,—"to give a music lesson to Liza?"

"No, not to Lisafeta Mikhailovna, but to Elena Mikhailovna."

"Ah! Well,—very good. Lyenotchka, go upstairs with Monsieur Lemm."

The old man was on the point of following the little girl, but Panshin stopped him.

"Do not go away after the lesson, Christofor Feodoritch,"—he said:—"Lizaveta Mikhailovna and I will play a Beethoven sonata for four hands."

The old man muttered something, but Panshin went on in German, pronouncing his words badly:

"Lizaveta Mikhailovna has shown me the spiritual cantata which you presented to her—'tis a very fine thing! Please do not think that I am incapable of appreciating serious music,—quite the contrary: it is sometimes tiresome, but, on the other hand, it is very beneficial."

The old man crimsoned to his very ears, cast a sidelong glance at Liza, and hastily left the room.

Marya Dmitrievna requested Panshin to repeat the romance; but he declared, that he did not wish to wound the ears of the learned German, and proposed to Liza that they should occupy themselves with the Beethoven sonata. Then Marya Dmitrievna sighed, and in her turn, proposed to Gedeonovsky that he should take a stroll in the garden with her.—"I wish,"—she said, "to talk and take counsel with you still further, over our poor Fedya." Gedeonovsky grinned, bowed, took up—with two fingers, his hat, and his gloves neatly laid on its brim, and withdrew, in company with Marya Dmitrievna. Panshin and Liza were left alone in the room; she fetched the sonata, and opened it; both seated themselves, in silence, at the piano.—From above, the faint sounds of scales, played by Lyenotchka's uncertain little fingers, were wafted to them.


Christopher-Theodore-Gottlieb Lemm was born in the year 1786, in the kingdom of Saxony, in the town of Chemnitz, of poor musicians. His father played the French horn, his mother the harp; he himself, at the age of five, was already practising on three different instruments. At eight years of age he became an orphan, and at the age of ten he began to earn a bit of bread for himself by his art. For a long time he led a wandering life, played everywhere—in inns, at fairs, and at peasant weddings and at balls; at last, he got into an orchestra, and rising ever higher and higher, he attained to the post of director. He was rather a poor executant; but he possessed a thorough knowledge of music. At the age of twenty-eight he removed to Russia. He was imported by a great gentleman, who himself could not endure music, but maintained an orchestra as a matter of pride. Lemm lived seven years with him, in the capacity of musical conductor, and left him with empty hands; the gentleman was ruined, and wished to give him a note of hand, but afterward refused him even this,—in a word, did not pay him a farthing. People advised him to leave the country: but he was not willing to return home in poverty from Russia, from great Russia, that gold-mine of artists; he decided to remain, and try his luck. For the space of twenty years he did try his luck: he sojourned with various gentry, he lived in Moscow and in the capitals of various governments, he suffered and endured a great deal, he learned to know want, he floundered like a fish on the ice; but the idea of returning to his native land never abandoned him in the midst of all these calamities to which he was subjected; it alone upheld him. But it did not suit Fate to render him happy with this last and first joy: at the age of fifty, ill, prematurely infirm, he got stranded in the town of O * * * and there remained for good, having finally lost all hope of quitting the Russia which he detested, and managing, after a fashion, to support his scanty existence by giving lessons. Lemm's external appearance did not predispose one in his favour. He was small of stature, round-shouldered, with shoulder-blades which projected crookedly, and a hollow chest, with huge, flat feet, with pale-blue nails on the stiff, unbending fingers of his sinewy, red hands; he had a wrinkled face, sunken cheeks, and tightly-compressed lips, that he was incessantly moving as though chewing, which, added to his customary taciturnity, produced an almost malevolent impression; his grey hair hung in elf-locks over his low brow; his tiny, motionless eyes smouldered like coals which had just been extinguished; he walked heavily, swaying his clumsy body from side to side at every step. Some of his movements were suggestive of the awkward manner in which an owl in a cage plumes itself when it is conscious that it is being watched, though it itself hardly sees anything with its huge, yellow, timorously and dozily blinking eyes. Confirmed, inexorable grief had laid upon the poor musician its ineffaceable seal, had distorted and disfigured his already ill-favoured figure; but for any one who knew enough not to stop at first impressions, something unusual was visible in this half-wrecked being. A worshipper of Bach and Handel, an expert in his profession, gifted with a lively imagination, and with that audacity of thought which is accessible only to the German race, Lemm, in course of time—who knows?—might have entered the ranks of the great composers of his native land, if life had led him differently; but he had not been born under a fortunate star! He had written a great deal in his day—and he had not succeeded in seeing a single one of his compositions published; he had not understood how to set about the matter in the proper way, to cringe opportunely, to bustle at the right moment. Once, long, long ago, one of his admirers and friends, also a German and also poor, had published two of his sonatas at his own expense,—and the whole edition remained in the cellars of the musical shops; they had vanished dully, without leaving a trace, as though some one had flung them into the river by night. At last Lemm gave up in despair; moreover, his years were making themselves felt: he had begun to grow rigid, to stiffen, as his fingers stiffened also. Alone, with an aged cook, whom he had taken from the almshouse (he had never been married), he lived on in O * * *, in a tiny house, not far from the Kalitin residence; he walked a great deal, read the Bible and collections of Protestant psalms, and Shakespeare in Schlegel's translation. It was long since he had composed anything; but, evidently, Liza, his best pupil, understood how to arouse him: he had written for her the cantata to which Panshin had alluded. He had taken the words for this cantata from the psalms; several verses he had composed himself; it was to be sung by two choruses,—the chorus of the happy, and the chorus of the unhappy; both became reconciled, in the end, and sang together: "O merciful God, have mercy upon us sinners, and purge out of us by fire all evil thoughts and earthly hopes!"—On the title-page, very carefully written, and even drawn, stood the following: "Only the Just are Right. A Spiritual Cantata. Composed and dedicated to Miss Elizaveta Kalitin, my beloved pupil, by her teacher, C. T. G. Lemm." The words: "Only the Just are Right," and "Elizaveta Kalitin," were surrounded by rays. Below was added: "For you alone,"—"Fuer Sie allein."—Therefore Lemm had crimsoned and had cast a sidelong glance at Liza; it pained him greatly when Panshin spoke of his cantata in his presence.


Panshin struck the opening chords of the sonata loudly, and with decision (he was playing the second hand), but Liza did not begin her part. He stopped, and looked at her. Liza's eyes, fixed straight upon him, expressed displeasure; her lips were not smiling, her whole face was stern, almost sad.

"What is the matter with you?"—he inquired.

"Why did not you keep your word?" said she.—"I showed you Christofor Feodoritch's cantata on condition that you would not mention it to him."

"Pardon me, Lizaveta Mikhailovna, it was a slip of the tongue."

"You have wounded him—and me also. Now he will not trust me any more."

"What would you have me do, Lizaveta Mikhailovna! From my earliest childhood, I have never been able to endure the sight of a German: something simply impels me to stir him up."

"Why do you say that, Vladimir Nikolaitch! This German is a poor, solitary, broken man—and you feel no pity for him? You want to stir him up?"

Panshin was disconcerted.

"You are right, Lizaveta Mikhailovna,"—he said. "My eternal thoughtlessness is responsible for the whole thing. No, do not say a word; I know myself well. My thoughtlessness has done me many an ill turn. Thanks to it, I have won the reputation of an egoist."

Panshin paused for a moment. No matter how he began a conversation, he habitually wound up by speaking of himself, and he did it in a charming, soft, confidential, almost involuntary way.

"And here in your house,"—he went on:—"your mother likes me, of course,—she is so kind; you ... however, I do not know your opinion of me; but your aunt, on the contrary, cannot bear me. I must have offended her, also, by some thoughtless, stupid remark. For she does not like me, does she?"

"No," said Liza, with some hesitation:—"you do not please her."

Panshin swept his fingers swiftly over the keys; a barely perceptible smile flitted across his lips.

"Well, and you?"—he said:—"Do I seem an egoist to you also?"

"I know you very slightly,"—returned Liza:—"but I do not consider you an egoist; on the contrary, I ought to feel grateful to you...."

"I know, I know, what you mean to say,"—Panshin interrupted her, and again ran his fingers over the keys:—"for the music, for the books which I bring you, for the bad drawings with which I decorate your album, and so forth and so on. I can do all that—and still be an egoist. I venture to think, that you are not bored in my company, and that you do not regard me as a bad man, but still you assume, that I—how in the world shall I express it?—would not spare my own father or friend for the sake of a jest."

"You are heedless and forgetful, like all worldly people,"—said Liza:—"that is all."

Panshin frowned slightly.

"Listen," he said:—"let us not talk any more about me; let us play our sonata. One thing only I will ask of you,"—he said, as with his hand he smoothed out the leaves of the bound volume which stood on the music-rack:—"think what you will of me, call me an egoist even,—so be it! but do not call me a worldly man: that appellation is intolerable to me.... Anch'io son pittore. I also am an artist,—and I will immediately prove it to you in action. Let us begin."

"We will begin, if you please,"—said Liza.

The first adagio went quite successfully, although Panshin made more than one mistake. He played his own compositions and those which he had practised very prettily, but he read music badly. On the other hand, the second part of the sonata—a rather brisk allegro—did not go at all: at the twentieth measure, Panshin, who had got two measures behind, could hold out no longer, and pushed back his chair with a laugh.

"No!"—he exclaimed:—"I cannot play to-day; it is well that Lemm does not hear us: he would fall down in a swoon."

Liza rose, shut the piano, and turned to Panshin.

"What shall we do now?"—she asked.

"I recognise you in that question! You cannot possibly sit with folded hands. Come, if you like, let us draw, before it has grown completely dark. Perhaps the other muse,—the muse of drawing ... what's her name? I've forgotten ... will be more gracious to me. Where is your album? Do you remember?—my landscape there is not finished."

Liza went into the next room for her album, and Panshin, when he was left alone, pulled a batiste handkerchief from his pocket, polished his nails, and gazed somewhat askance at his hands. They were very handsome and white; on the thumb of the left hand he wore a spiral gold ring. Liza returned; Panshin seated himself near the window, and opened the album.

"Aha!"—he exclaimed:—"I see that you have begun to copy my landscape—and that is fine. Very good! Only here—give me a pencil—the shadows are not put on thickly enough.... Look."

And Panshin, with a bold sweep, prolonged several long strokes. He constantly drew one and the same landscape: in the foreground were large, dishevelled trees, in the distance, a meadow, and saw-toothed mountains on the horizon. Liza looked over his shoulder at his work.

"In drawing, and in life in general,"—said Panshin, bending his head now to the right, now to the left:—"lightness and boldness are the principal thing."

At that moment, Lemm entered the room, and, with a curt inclination, was on the point of departing; but Panshin flung aside the album and pencil, and barred his way.

"Whither are you going, my dear Christofor Feodoritch? Are not you going to stay and drink tea?"

"I must go home,"—said Lemm in a surly voice:—"my head aches."

"Come, what nonsense!—stay. You and I will have a dispute over Shakespeare."

"My head aches,"—repeated the old man.

"We tried to play a Beethoven sonata without you,"—went on Panshin, amiably encircling his waist with his arm, and smiling brightly:—"but we couldn't make it go at all. Just imagine, I couldn't play two notes in succession correctly."

"You vould haf done better to sing your romantz,"—retorted Lemm, pushing aside Panshin's arm, and left the room.

Liza ran after him. She overtook him on the steps.

"Christofor Feodoritch, listen,"—she said to him in German, as she accompanied him to the gate, across the close-cropped green grass of the yard:—"I am to blame toward you—forgive me."

Lemm made no reply.

"I showed your cantata to Vladimir Nikolaitch; I was convinced that he would appreciate it,—and it really did please him greatly."

Lemm halted.

"Zat is nozing,"—he said in Russian, and then added in his native tongue:—"but he cannot understand anything; how is it that you do not perceive that?—he is a dilettante—and that's all there is to it!"

"You are unjust to him,"—returned Liza:—"he understands everything, and can do nearly everything himself."

"Yes, everything is second-class, light-weight, hasty work. That pleases, and he pleases, and he is content with that—well, and bravo! But I am not angry; that cantata and I—we are old fools; I am somewhat ashamed, but that does not matter."

"Forgive me, Christofor Feodoritch,"—said Liza again.

"It does not mattair, it does not mattair," he repeated again in Russian:—"you are a goot girl ... but see yonder, some vun is coming to your house. Good-bye. You are a fery goot girl."

And Lemm, with hasty strides, betook himself toward the gate, through which was entering a gentleman with whom he was not acquainted, clad in a grey coat and a broad-brimmed straw hat. Courteously saluting him (he bowed to all newcomers in the town of O * * *; he turned away from his acquaintances on the street—that was the rule which he had laid down for himself), Lemm passed him, and disappeared behind the hedge. The stranger looked after him in amazement, and, exchanging a glance with Liza, advanced straight toward her.


"You do not recognise me,"—he said, removing his hat,—"but I recognise you, although eight years have passed since I saw you last. You were a child then. I am Lavretzky. Is your mother at home? Can I see her?"

"Mamma will be very glad,"—replied Liza:—"she has heard of your arrival."

"Your name is Elizaveta, I believe?"—said Lavretzky, as he mounted the steps of the porch.


"I remember you well; you had a face, at that time, such as one does not forget; I used to bring you bonbons then."

Liza blushed and thought, "What a strange man he is!" Lavretzky paused for a minute in the anteroom. Liza entered the drawing-room, where Panshin's voice and laughter were resounding; he had imparted some gossip of the town to Marya Dmitrievna and Gedeonovsky, who had already returned from the garden, and was himself laughing loudly at what he had narrated. At the name of Lavretzky, Marya Dmitrievna started in utter trepidation, turned pale, and advanced to meet him.

"How do you do, how do you do, my dear cousin!"—she exclaimed, in a drawling and almost tearful voice:—"how glad I am to see you!"

"How do you do, my kind cousin,"—returned Lavretzky; and shook her proffered hand in a friendly way:—"how does the Lord show mercy on you?"

"Sit down, sit down, my dear Feodor Ivanitch. Akh, how delighted I am! Permit me, in the first place, to present to you my daughter Liza...."

"I have already introduced myself to Lizaveta Mikhailovna,"—Lavretzky interrupted her.

"Monsieur Panshin.... Sergyei Petrovitch Gedeonovsky.... But pray sit down! I look at you, and I simply cannot believe my eyes. How is your health?"

"As you see, I am blooming. And you, cousin,—I don't want to cast the evil eye on you—you have not grown thin during these eight years."

"Just think, what a long time it is since we saw each other,"—remarked Marya Dmitrievna, dreamily.—"Whence come you now? Where have you left ... that is, I meant to say"—she hastily caught herself up—"I meant to say, are you to be with us long?"

"I have just come from Berlin,"—returned Lavretzky,—"and to-morrow I set out for my estate—probably to remain there a long time."

"Of course, you will live at Lavriki?"

"No, not at Lavriki, but I have a tiny village about twenty-five versts from here; I am going there."

"The village which you inherited from Glafira Petrovna?"

"The same."

"Good gracious, Feodor Ivanitch! You have a splendid house at Lavriki!"

Lavretzky scowled slightly.

"Yes ... but in that little estate there is a small wing; and, for the present, I need nothing more. That place is the most convenient for me just now."

Marya Dmitrievna again became so perturbed, that she even straightened herself up, and flung her hands apart. Panshin came to her assistance, and entered into conversation with Lavretzky. Marya Dmitrievna recovered her composure, leaned back in her chair, and only interjected a word from time to time; but, all the while, she gazed so compassionately at her visitor, she sighed so significantly, and shook her head so mournfully, that the latter, at last, could endure it no longer, and asked her, quite sharply: was she well?

"Thank God, yes,"—replied Marya Dmitrievna,—"why?"

"Because it seemed to me that you were not quite yourself."

Marya Dmitrievna assumed a dignified and somewhat offended aspect.—"If that's the way you take it,"—she said to herself,—"I don't care in the least; evidently, my good man, nothing affects thee any more than water does a goose; any one else would have pined away with grief, but it swells thee up more than ever." Marya Dmitrievna did not stand on ceremony with herself; she expressed herself more elegantly aloud.

As a matter of fact, Lavretzky did not resemble a victim of fate. His rosy-cheeked, purely-Russian face, with its large, white brow, rather thick nose, and broad, regular lips, fairly overflowed with native health, with strong, durable force. He was magnificently built,—and his blond hair curled all over his head, like a young man's. Only in his eyes, which were blue and prominent and fixed, was there to be discerned something which was not revery, nor yet weariness, and his voice sounded rather too even.

In the meantime, Panshin had continued to keep up the conversation. He turned it on the profits of sugar-refining, concerning which two French pamphlets had recently made their appearance, and with calm modesty undertook to set forth their contents, but without saying one word about them.

"Why, here's Fedya!" suddenly rang out Marfa Timofeevna's voice in the adjoining room, behind the half-closed door:—"Actually, Fedya!" And the old woman briskly entered the room. Before Lavretzky could rise from his chair, she clasped him in her embrace.—"Come, show thyself, show thyself,"—she said, moving back from his face.—"Eh! What a splendid fellow thou art! Thou hast grown older, but hast not grown in the least less comely, really! But why art thou kissing my hands,—kiss me myself, if my wrinkled cheeks are not repulsive to thee. Can it be, that thou didst not ask after me: 'Well, tell me, is aunty alive?' Why, thou wert born into my arms, thou rogue! Well, never mind that; why shouldst thou have remembered me? Only, thou art a sensible fellow, to have come. Well, my mother,"—she added, addressing Marya Dmitrievna,—"hast thou given him any refreshments?"

"I want nothing,"—said Lavretzky, hastily.

"Come, drink some tea, at least, my dear little father. O Lord my God! He has come, no one knows whence, and they don't give him a cup of tea! Go, Liza, and see about it, as quickly as possible. I remember that, as a little fellow, he was a dreadful glutton, and he must be fond of eating even now."

"My respects, Marfa Timofeevna,"—said Panshin, approaching the angry old woman from one side, and bowing low.

"Excuse me, sir,"—retorted Marfa Timofeevna,—"I did not notice you for joy.—Thou hast grown to resemble thy mother, the darling,"—she went on, turning again to Lavretzky:—"only, thy nose was and remains like thy father's. Well—and art thou to be long with us?"

"I am going away to-morrow, aunty."


"Home, to Vasilievskoe."



"Well, if it must be to-morrow, it must. God be with thee,—thou knowest best. Only, see here, thou must come to say farewell."—The old woman tapped him on the cheek.—"I did not think I should live to see thee; and that not because I was preparing to die; no—I am good for another ten years, probably: all we Pestoffs are tenacious of life; thy deceased grandfather used to call us double-lived; but the Lord only knew how much longer thou wouldst ramble about abroad. Well, but thou art a dashing fine fellow, a fine fellow; thou canst still lift ten puds in one hand as of yore, I suppose? Thy deceased father, excuse me, was cranky in some respects, but he did well when he hired a Swiss for thee; thou rememberest, how thou and he had fistfights; that's called gymnastics, isn't it?—But why have I been cackling thus? I have only been keeping Mr. Panshin" (she never called him Panshin, as she ought) "from arguing. But we had better drink tea; let us go and drink it on the terrace, my dear; our cream—is not like what you get in your Londons and Parises. Let us go, let us go, and do thou, Fediusha, give me thy arm. O! how thick it is! There's no danger of falling with thee."

All rose and betook themselves to the terrace, with the exception of Gedeonovsky, who quietly departed. During the entire duration of Lavretzky's conversation with the mistress of the house, Panshin, and Marfa Timofeevna, he had sat in a corner, attentively blinking, and sticking out his lips, in childish curiosity: he now hastened to carry the news about the new visitor throughout the town.

* * * * *

On that same day, at eleven o'clock in the evening, this is what was going on at Mme. Kalitin's house. Down-stairs, on the threshold of the drawing-room, Vladimir Nikolaitch, having seized a favourable moment, was saying farewell to Liza, and telling her, as he held her hand: "You know who it is that attracts me hither; you know why I am incessantly coming to your house; what is the use of words, when everything is so plain?" Liza made him no reply, and without a smile, and with eyebrows slightly elevated, and blushing, she stared at the floor, but did not withdraw her hand; and up-stairs, in Marfa Timofeevna's chamber, by the light of the shrine-lamp, which hung in front of the dim, ancient holy pictures, Lavretzky was sitting in an arm-chair, with his elbows on his knees, and his face in his hands; the old woman, standing before him, was silently stroking his hair, from time to time. He spent more than an hour with her, after taking leave of the mistress of the house; he said almost nothing to his kind old friend, and she did not interrogate him.... And what was the use of talking, what was there to interrogate him about? She understood everything as it was, and she sympathised with everything wherewith his heart was full to overflowing.


Feodor Ivanovitch Lavretzky (we must ask the reader's permission to break the thread of our narrative for a time) was descended from an ancient family of the nobility. The ancestral founder of the Lavretzkys had come out of Prussia during the princely reign of Vasily the Blind, and had been granted two hundred quarters[1] of land, on Byezhetsk Heights. Many of his descendants were members of various branches of the public service, and sat under princes and distinguished personages in distant governorships, but not one of them ever rose above the rank of table-decker at the Court of the Tzars, or acquired any considerable fortune. The most opulent and noteworthy of all the Lavretzkys had been Feodor Ivanitch's great-grandfather, Andrei, a harsh, insolent, clever, and crafty man. Down to the day of which we are speaking, the fame of his arbitrary violence, of his fiendish disposition, his mad lavishness, and unquenchable thirst had not died out. He had been very stout and lofty of stature, swarthy of visage, and beardless; he lisped, and appeared to be sleepy; but the more softly he spoke, the more did every one around him tremble. He obtained for himself a wife to match. Goggle-eyed, with hawk-like nose, with a round, sallow face, a gipsy by birth, quick-tempered and revengeful, she was not a whit behind her husband, who almost starved her to death, and whom she did not survive, although she was eternally snarling at him.

Andrei's son, Piotr, Feodor's grandfather, did not resemble his father: he was a simple squire of the steppes, decidedly hare-brained, a swashbuckler and dawdler, rough but not malicious, hospitable, and fond of dogs. He was more than thirty years old when he inherited from his father two thousand souls in capital order; but he speedily dispersed them, sold a part of his estate, and spoiled his house-servants. Petty little people, acquaintances and non-acquaintances, crawled from all sides, like black-beetles, to his spacious, warm, and slovenly mansion; all these ate whatever came to hand, but ate their fill, drank themselves drunk, and carried off what they could, lauding and magnifying the amiable host; and the host, when he was not in a good humour, also magnified his guests—as drones and blackguards—but he was bored without them. Piotr Andreitch's wife was a meek person: he took her from a neighbouring family, at his father's choice and command; her name was Anna Pavlovna. She never interfered with anything, received visitors cordially, and was fond of going out herself, although powdering her hair, according to her own words, was death to her. They put a felt hood on your head, she was wont to narrate in her old age, combed your hair all up on top, smeared it with tallow, sprinkled on flour, stuck in iron pins,—and you could not wash yourself afterward; but to go visiting without powder was impossible—people would take offence;—torture!—She was fond of driving after trotters, was ready to play cards from morning until night, and always covered up with her hand the few farthings of winnings set down to her when her husband approached the card-table; but she gave her dowry and all her money to him, and required no accounting for its use. She bore him two children: a son, Ivan, Feodor's father, and a daughter, Glafira.

Ivan was not brought up at home, but at the house of a wealthy old aunt, Princess Kubenskoy; she had designated him as her heir (had it not been for that, his father would not have let him go); she dressed him like a doll, hired every sort of teacher for him, provided him with a governor, a Frenchman, a former abbe, a disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a certain M. Courtin de Vaucelles, an adroit and subtle intriguer,—the most fine fleur of the emigration, as she expressed it,—and ended by marrying this "fine-fleur" when she was almost seventy years of age; she transferred to his name her entire fortune, and soon afterward, rouged, scented with amber, a la Richelieu, surrounded by small negroes, slender-legged dogs, and screeching parrots, she died on a crooked little couch of the time of Louis XV, with an enamelled snuff-box, the work of Petitot, in her hands,—and died, deserted by her husband: the sneaking M. Courtin had preferred to retire to Paris with her money.

Ivan was only in his twentieth year when this blow (we are speaking of the Princess's marriage, not of her death) descended upon him; he did not wish to remain in his aunt's house, where from a wealthy heir he had suddenly been converted into a parasite; in Petersburg, the society in which he had been reared, was closed to him; to service, beginning with the lowest ranks, difficult and dark, he felt repugnance (all this took place at the very beginning of the reign of the Emperor Alexander). He was compelled, perforce, to return to the country, to his father. Dirty, poor, tattered did his native nest appear to him: the dulness and soot of existence on the steppes offended him at every step; he was tormented with boredom; on the other hand, every one in the house, with the exception of his mother, looked upon him with unfriendly eyes. His father did not like his habits of the capital; his dress-suits, frilled shirts, books, his flute, his cleanliness, in which, not without reason, they scented his fastidiousness; he was constantly complaining and grumbling at his son.—"Nothing here suits him," he was wont to say: "at table he is dainty, he does not eat, he cannot endure the odour of the servants, the stifling atmosphere; the sight of drunken men disturbs him, and you mustn't dare to fight in his presence, either; he will not enter government service: he's frail in health, forsooth; phew, what an effeminate creature! And all because Voltaire sticks in his head!"

The old man cherished a particular dislike for Voltaire, and for the "fanatic" Diderot, although he had never read a single line of their writings: reading was not in his line. Piotr Andreitch was not mistaken: Diderot and Voltaire really were sticking in his son's head, and not they only,—but Rousseau and Raynal and Helvetius, and many other writers of the same sort, were sticking in his head,—but only in his head. Ivan Petrovitch's former tutor, the retired abbe and encyclopedist, had contented himself with pouring the whole philosophy of the XVIII century into his pupil in a mass, and the latter went about brimful of it; it gained lodgment within him, without mingling with his blood, without penetrating into his soul, without making itself felt as a firm conviction.... And could convictions be demanded of a young fellow of fifty years ago, when we have not even yet grown up to them? He also embarrassed the visitors to his father's house: he loathed them, and they feared him; and with his sister, Glafira, who was twelve years older than he, he did not get on at all.

This Glafira was a strange being; homely, hunchbacked, gaunt, with stern, staring eyes and thin, tightly compressed lips; in face, voice, and quick, angular movements, she recalled her grandmother, the gipsy, the wife of Andrei. Persistent, fond of power, she would not even hear of marriage. The return of Ivan Petrovitch did not please her; so long as the Princess Kubenskoy had kept him with her, she had cherished the hope of receiving at least half of the parental estate: she resembled her grandmother in her avarice. Moreover, Glafira was envious of her brother: he was so cultivated, he spoke French so well, with a Parisian accent, while she was scarcely able to say: "bon jour," and "comment vous portez vous?" To tell the truth, her parents did not understand any French at all,—but that did not render it any the more pleasant for her.

Ivan Petrovitch did not know what to do with himself for tedium and melancholy; he spent nearly a year in the country, and it seemed to him like ten years.—Only with his mother did he relieve his heart, and he was wont to sit, by the hour, in her low-ceiled rooms, listening to the simple prattle of the good woman, and gorging himself with preserves. It so happened, that among Anna Pavlovna's maids there was one very pretty girl, with clear, gentle eyes and delicate features, named Malanya, both clever and modest. She pleased Ivan Petrovitch at first sight, and he fell in love with her: he fell in love with her timid walk, her shy answers, her soft voice, her gentle smile; with every passing day she seemed to him more charming. And she became attached to Ivan Petrovitch with her whole soul, as only Russian girls can become attached—and gave herself to him.

In the country manor-house of a landed proprietor, no secret can be kept long: every one soon knew of the bond between the young master and Malanya; the tidings of this connection at last reached Piotr Andreitch himself. At any other time, he would, in all probability, have paid no heed to such an insignificant matter; but he had long been in a rage with his son, and rejoiced at the opportunity to put to shame the Petersburg philosopher and dandy. Tumult, shrieks, and uproar arose: Malanya was locked up in the lumber-room; Ivan Petrovitch was summoned to his parent. Anna Pavlovna also hastened up at the outcry. She made an effort to pacify her husband, but Piotr Andreitch no longer listened to anything. Like a vulture he pounced upon his son, upbraided him with immorality, with impiety, with hypocrisy; incidentally, he vented on him all his accumulated wrath against the Princess Kubenskoy, and overwhelmed him with insulting epithets. At first, Ivan Petrovitch held his peace, and stood firm, but when his father took it into his head to threaten him with a disgraceful chastisement, he lost patience. "The fanatic Diderot has come on the stage again," he thought,—"so just wait, I'll put him in action; I'll astonish you all."

Thereupon, in a quiet voice, although trembling in every limb, Ivan Petrovitch announced to his father, that there was no necessity for upbraiding him with immorality, that, although he did not intend to justify his fault, yet he was ready to rectify it, and that the more willingly because he felt himself superior to all prejudices—in short, he was ready to marry Malanya. By uttering these words, Ivan Petrovitch did, undoubtedly, attain his object: he astounded Piotr Andreitch to such a degree, that the latter stared with all his eyes, and was rendered dumb for a moment; but he immediately recovered himself, and just as he was, clad in a short coat lined with squirrel-skin, and with slippers on his bare feet, he flung himself with clenched fists upon Ivan Petrovitch, who that day, as though expressly, had his hair dressed a la Titus, and had donned a new blue English dress-coat, boots with tassels, and dandified chamois trousers, skin-tight. Anna Pavlovna shrieked at the top of her voice, and covered her face with her hands, but her son ran through the whole house, sprang out into the yard, rushed into the vegetable garden, across the garden, flew out upon the highway, and kept running, without looking behind him, until, at last, he ceased to hear behind him the heavy tramp of his father's footsteps, and his violent, broken shouts.... "Stop, rascal!" he roared,—"stop! I'll curse thee!"

Ivan Petrovitch hid himself in the house of a neighbouring peasant proprietor, while Piotr Andreitch returned home utterly exhausted and perspiring, and announcing almost before he had recovered his breath, that he would deprive his son of his blessing and his heritage, ordered all his idiotic books to be burned, and the maid Malanya to be sent forthwith to a distant village. Kind people turned up, who sought out Ivan Petrovitch and informed him of all. Mortified, enraged, he vowed that he would take revenge on his father; and that very night, lying in wait for the peasant cart in which Malanya was being carried off, he rescued her by force, galloped off with her to the nearest town, and married her. He was supplied with money by a neighbour, an eternally intoxicated and extremely good-natured retired naval officer, a passionate lover of every sort of noble adventure, as he expressed it. On the following day, Ivan Petrovitch wrote a caustically-cold and courteous letter to Piotr Andreitch, and betook himself to an estate where dwelt his second cousin, Dmitry Pestoff, and his sister, Marfa Timofeevna, already known to the reader. He told them everything, announced that he intended to go to Petersburg to seek a place, and requested them to give shelter to his wife, for a time at least. At the word "wife" he fell to weeping bitterly, and, despite his city breeding and his philosophy, he prostrated himself humbly, after the fashion of a Russian beggar, before the feet of his relatives, and even beat his brow against the floor. The Pestoffs, kind and compassionate people, gladly acceded to his request; he spent three weeks with them, in secret expectation of a reply from his father; but no reply came,—and none could come. Piotr Andreitch, on learning of his son's marriage, had taken to his bed, and had forbidden the name of Ivan Petrovitch to be mentioned in his presence; but his mother, without the knowledge of her husband, borrowed five hundred rubles from the ecclesiastical supervisor of the diocese, and sent them to him, together with a small holy picture for his wife;[2] she was afraid to write, but she gave orders that Ivan Petrovitch was to be told, by the lean peasant her envoy, who managed to walk sixty versts in the course of twenty-four hours, that he must not grieve too much, that, God willing, everything would come right, and his father would convert wrath into mercy; that she, also, would have preferred a different daughter-in-law, but that, evidently, God had so willed it, and she sent her maternal blessing to Malanya Sergyeevna. The lean little peasant received a ruble, requested permission to see his new mistress, to whom he was related as co-sponsor at a baptism, kissed her hand, and hastened off homeward.

And Ivan Petrovitch set off for Petersburg with a light heart. The unknown future awaited him; poverty, perhaps, menaced him, but he had bidden farewell to the life in the country which he detested, and, most important of all, he had not betrayed his teachers, he really had "put in action" and justified in fact Rousseau, Diderot, and la declaration des droits de l'homme. A sense of duty accomplished, of triumph, of pride, filled his soul; and his separation from his wife did not greatly alarm him; the necessity of living uninterruptedly with his wife would have perturbed him more. That affair was ended; he must take up other affairs. In Petersburg, contrary to his own expectation, fortune smiled on him: Princess Kubenskoy—whom Monsieur Courtin had already succeeded in abandoning, but who had not yet succeeded in dying,—by way, in some measure, of repairing the injury which she had done to her nephew, recommended him to the good graces of all her friends, and gave him five thousand rubles,—almost her last farthing,—and a Lepikovsky watch with his coat of arms in a garland of cupids. Three months had not elapsed, when he had already obtained a place in the Russian mission to London, and he went to sea on the first English ship which sailed (there was no thought of steamers in those days). A few months later, he received a letter from Pestoff. The kind-hearted squire congratulated Ivan Petrovitch on the birth of a son, who had made his appearance in the world, in the village of Pokrovskoe, on August 20, 1807, and was named Feodor, in honour of the holy martyr, Feodor the Strategist. Owing to her extreme weakness, Malanya Sergyeevna added only a few lines; but those few lines astonished Ivan Petrovitch: he was not aware that Marfa Timofeevna had taught his wife to read and write. However, Ivan Petrovitch did not give himself up for long to the sweet agitation of paternal emotions: he was paying court to one of the most famous Phrynes or Laises of the period (classical appellations were still flourishing at that epoch); the peace of Tilsit had just been concluded, and everybody was making haste to enjoyment, everything was whirling round in a sort of mad whirlwind. He had very little money; but he played luckily at cards, he picked up acquaintances, he took part in all the merrymakings,—in a word, he was dashing along under full sail.


[1] An ancient land-measure, varying in different localities; the average "quarter" being about thirty by forty fathoms.—Translator.

[2] That is to say, she sent her maternal blessing.—Translator.


It was long before old Lavretzky could forgive his son for his marriage; if, after the lapse of half a year, Ivan Petrovitch had presented himself in contrition, and had flung himself at his feet, he would, probably, have pardoned him, after first scolding him roundly, and administering a few taps with his crutch, by way of inspiring awe; but Ivan Petrovitch was living abroad, and, evidently, cared not a rap.—"Hold your tongue! Don't dare!" Piotr Andreitch kept repeating to his wife, as soon as she tried to incline him to mercy: "He ought to pray to God for me forever, the pup, for not having laid my curse upon him; my late father would have slain him with his own hands, the good-for-nothing, and he would have done right." At such terrible speeches, Anna Pavlovna merely crossed herself furtively. As for Ivan Petrovitch's wife, Piotr Andreitch, at first, would not allow her to be mentioned, and even in reply to a letter of Pestoff, wherein the latter alluded to his daughter-in-law, he gave orders to say to him, that he knew nothing whatever about any daughter-in-law of his, and that it was prohibited by the laws to harbour runaway maids, on which point he regarded it as his duty to warn him; but later on, when he learned of the birth of a grandson, he softened, gave orders that inquiries should be made on the sly concerning the health of the young mother, and sent her, also as though it did not come from him, a little money. Fedya had not reached his first birthday, when Anna Pavlovna was seized with a fatal illness. A few days before her end, when she could no longer leave her bed, she declared to her husband, in the presence of the priest, that she wished to see and bid farewell to her daughter-in-law, and to bestow her blessing on her grandchild. The afflicted old man soothed her, and immediately sent his own equipage for his daughter-in-law, for the first time calling her Malanya Sergyeevna.[3] She came with her son and with Marfa Timofeevna, who would not let her go alone on any terms, and would not have allowed her to be affronted. Half dead with terror, Malanya entered Piotr Andreitch's study. The nurse carried Fedya after her. Piotr Andreitch gazed at her in silence; she approached to kiss his hand; her quivering lips hardly met in a noiseless kiss.

"Well, new-ground, undried noblewoman,"—he said at last:—"how do you do; let us go to the mistress."

He rose and bent over Fedya; the baby smiled, and stretched out his little, white arms. The old man was completely upset.

"Okh," he said,—"thou orphan! Thou hast plead thy father's cause with me; I will not abandon thee, my birdling!"

As soon as Malanya Sergyeevna entered the bedchamber of Anna Pavlovna, she knelt down near the door. Anna Pavlovna beckoned her to the bed, embraced her, blessed her son; then, turning her countenance, ravaged by disease, to her husband, she tried to speak....

"I know, I know what entreaty thou desirest to make,"—said Piotr Andreitch:—"do not worry: she shall stay with us, and I will pardon Vanka for her sake."

Anna Pavlovna, with an effort, grasped her husband's hand, and pressed it to her lips. On that same evening she died.

Piotr Andreitch kept his word. He informed his son, that, for the sake of his mother's dying hour, for the sake of baby Feodor, he restored to him his blessing, and would keep Malanya Sergyeevna in his own house. Two rooms were set apart for her use in the entresol, he introduced her to his most respected visitor, one-eyed Brigadier Skuryokhin, and to his wife; he presented her with two maids and a page-boy for errands. Marfa Timofeevna bade her farewell; she detested Glafira, and quarrelled with her thrice in the course of one day.

At first the poor woman found her situation painful and awkward; but afterward, she learned to bear things patiently, and became accustomed to her father-in-law. He, also, became accustomed to her, he even grew to love her, although he almost never spoke to her, although in his caresses a certain involuntary disdain toward her was perceptible. Malanya Sergyeevna had most of all to endure from her sister-in-law. Glafira, already during her mother's lifetime, had succeeded in getting gradually the entire house into her hands: every one, beginning with her father, was subject to her; not a lump of sugar was given out without her permission; she would have consented to die, rather than to share the power with any other mistress of the house! Her brother's marriage had angered her even more than it had Piotr Andreitch: she took it upon herself to teach the upstart a lesson, and from the very first hour Malanya Sergyeevna became her slave.

And how could she contend with the self-willed, arrogant Glafira, she who was mild, constantly agitated, and terrified, and also weak in health? Not a day passed, that Glafira did not remind her of her former position, did not praise her for not forgetting her place. Malanya Sergyeevna would gladly have reconciled herself to these reminders and praises, however bitter they might be ... but they took Fedya away from her: that was what broke her heart. Under the pretext that she was not competent to take charge of his education, she was hardly permitted to see him; Glafira took this matter upon herself; the child passed under her full control. Malanya Sergyeevna began, out of grief, to entreat Ivan Petrovitch, in her letters, to come home as speedily as possible; Piotr Andreitch himself wished to see his son; but he merely wrote in reply, thanking his father about his wife, and for the money sent, and promising to come soon,—and did not come. The year '12 recalled him, at last, to his fatherland from abroad.

On meeting again, for the first time, after their six years' separation, the father and son exchanged embraces, and did not allude, by so much as a word, to their former dissensions; they were not in the mood for it then: all Russia had risen against the enemy, and both of them felt that Russian blood was flowing in their veins. Piotr Andreitch, at his own expense, clothed an entire regiment of soldiers. But the war came to an end, the danger passed; again Ivan Petrovitch began to feel bored, again he longed for far-away places, for the world to which he had grown fast, and where he felt himself at home. Malanya Sergyeevna could not hold him back; she counted for too little with him. Even her hopes had not been realised: her husband, also, deemed it much more fitting that Fedya's education should be entrusted to Glafira. Ivan Petrovitch's poor wife could not withstand this blow, could not endure this second parting: without a murmur, in a few days she expired. During the whole course of her life, she had never been able to offer resistance, and she did not combat her malady. She could no longer speak, the shadows of the tomb had already descended upon her face, but her features, as of old, expressed patient perplexity, and the steadfast gentleness of submission; with the same dumb humility she gazed at Glafira, and, like Anna Pavlovna on her deathbed, she kissed the hand of Piotr Andreitch, and pressed her lips to Glafira's hand also, entrusting to her, Glafira, her only son. Thus ended its earthly career a kind and gentle being, torn, God alone knows why, from its native soil and immediately flung aside, like an uprooted sapling, with its roots to the sun; it faded away, it vanished, without a trace, that being, and no one mentioned it. Those who grieved for Malanya Sergyeevna were her maid and Piotr Andreitch. The old man missed her silent presence. "Forgive—farewell, my patient one!" he whispered, as he made her the parting reverence in church. He wept as he threw a handful of earth into the grave.

He did not long survive her—not more than five years. In the winter of 1819, he died peacefully in Moscow, whither he had removed with Glafira and his grandson, and left orders in his will, that he should be buried by the side of Anna Pavlovna and "Malasha." Ivan Petrovitch was in Paris at the time, for his pleasure; he had resigned from the service soon after 1815. On hearing of his father's death, he decided to return to Russia. It was necessary to consider the organisation of the estate ... and Fedya, according to Glafira's letter, had reached the age of twelve years, and the time had arrived for occupying himself seriously with the boy's education.


[3] Serfs were not addressed with their patronymic by their superiors. —Translator.


Ivan Petrovitch returned to Russia an Anglomaniac. His closely-clipped hair, starched neckcloth, long-skirted, yellowish-gray overcoat with a multitude of capes, his sour expression of visage, a certain harshness and also indifference of demeanour, his manner of talking through his teeth, a wooden, abrupt laugh, the absence of smiles, a conversation exclusively political and politico-economical, a passion for bloody roast beef and port wine,—everything about him fairly reeked of Great Britain; he seemed thoroughly imbued with her spirit. But—strange to say! while he had turned into an Anglomaniac, Ivan Petrovitch had simultaneously become a patriot; at all events, he called himself a patriot, although he was but badly acquainted with Russia, was not wedded to a single Russian habit, and expressed himself queerly in Russian: in ordinary conversation, his speech was clumsy and pithless, studded all over with Gallicisms; but no sooner did the discussion touch upon important topics, than Ivan Petrovitch instantly brought out such expressions as: "to show new proofs of self-zeal,"[4] "that doth not agree with the nature of the circumstances," and so forth. Ivan Petrovitch brought with him several manuscript plans touching the organisation and amelioration of the empire; he was extremely dissatisfied with everything he saw,—the absence of system, in particular, stirred up his bile. On meeting his sister, he announced to her, with his very first words, that he intended to introduce radical reforms, that henceforth everything on his estate should proceed upon a new system. Glafira Petrovna made no reply to Ivan Petrovitch, but merely set her teeth, and said to herself: "And what is to become of me?"—But when she reached the country estate, in company with her brother and her nephew, she speedily regained her composure. In the house, several changes actually took place: the female hangers-on and drones were subjected to instant expulsion; among their number two old women suffered, one who was blind and the other crippled with paralysis, also a decrepit Major of the Otchakoff period, who, on account of his truly astonishing voracity, was fed on nothing but black bread and lentils. A decree was also issued, that the former guests were not to be received: they were superseded by a distant neighbour, a fair-haired, scrofulous baron, a very well educated and very stupid man. New furniture from Moscow made its appearance; cuspidors, and bells, and wash-stands were introduced and they began to serve the noon breakfast differently; foreign wines took the place of vodka and homemade liqueurs; new liveries were made for the servants; the motto, "in recto virtus," was added to the family coat of arms.... But, in reality, Glafira's power was not diminished: all the disbursements and purchases depended on her, as before; the imported Alsatian valet made an attempt to vie with her—and lost his place, in spite of the fact that his master took his side. So far as the management, the administration, of the estates was concerned (Glafira Petrovna entered into all these matters), despite Ivan Petrovitch's frequently expressed intention "to infuse new life into this chaos," everything remained as of yore, except that, here and there, the quit-rents were augmented, and the husbandry-service became more oppressive, and the peasants were forbidden to apply directly to Ivan Petrovitch. The patriot heartily despised his fellow-citizens. Ivan Petrovitch's system was applied, in its full force, to Fedya only: his education actually was subjected to "radical reform"; his father had exclusive charge of it.


[4] That is to say, he used such fundamentally national words as occur only in the Old Church Slavonic, well-nigh untranslatable here, also employed upon occasions of ceremony.—Translator.


Up to the time of Ivan Petrovitch's return from abroad, Fedya had been, as we have already said, in the hands of Glafira Petrovna. He was less than eight years of age when his mother died, he had not seen her every day, and he had loved her passionately: the memory of her, of her pale and gentle face, her melancholy glances and timid caresses, had forever imprinted itself upon his heart; but he dimly comprehended her position in the house; he was conscious that between him and her there existed a barrier which she dared not and could not overthrow. He shunned his father, and Ivan Petrovitch never petted him; his grandfather occasionally stroked his head, and permitted him to kiss his hand, but he called him and considered him a little fool. After the death of Malanya Sergyeevna, his aunt took him in hand definitively. Fedya feared her,—feared her bright, keen eyes, her sharp voice; he dared not utter a sound in her presence; it sometimes happened that when he had merely fidgeted on his chair, she would scream out: "Where art thou going? sit still!" On Sundays, after the Liturgy, he was permitted to play,—that is to say, he was given a thick book, a mysterious book, the work of a certain Maximovitch-Ambodik, entitled: "Symbols and Emblems." This book contained about a thousand in part very puzzling pictures, with equally puzzling explanations in five languages. Cupid, with a plump, naked body, played a great part in these pictures. To one of them, labelled "Saffron and Rainbow," was appended the explanation: "The action of this is great ..."; opposite another, which represented "A Heron flying with a violet blossom in his mouth," stood the inscription: "All of them are known unto thee." Cupid and a bear licking its cub was designated as: "Little by little." Fedya contemplated these pictures; he was familiar with the most minute details of them all; some of them—always the same ones—set him to thinking and excited his imagination; he knew no other diversions. When the time came to teach him languages and music, Glafira Petrovna hired, for a paltry sum, an elderly spinster, a Swede, with frightened, hare-like eyes, who spoke French and German indifferently, played the piano after a fashion, and, in addition, knew how to salt cucumbers in first-class style. In the society of this instructress, of his aunt, and of an old chambermaid, Vasilievna, Fedya passed four whole years. He used to sit in the corner with his "Emblems"—and sit ... and sit ... while the low-ceiled room smelled of geraniums, a solitary tallow candle burned dimly, a cricket chirped monotonously, as though it were bored, the little clock ticked hastily on the wall, a mouse stealthily scratched and gnawed behind the wall-hangings, and the three old maids, like the Parcae, moved their knitting-needles silently and swiftly to and fro, the shadows cast by their hands now flitted, again quivered strangely in the semi-darkness, and strange thoughts, also half-dark, swarmed in the child's head. No one would have called Fedya an interesting child: he was quite pallid, but fat, awkwardly built, and clumsy,—"a regular peasant," according to Glafira Petrovna's expression; the pallor would speedily have disappeared from his face if he had been permitted to go out of doors more frequently. He studied tolerably well, although he frequently idled; he never wept; on the other hand, at times a fierce obstinacy came over him; then no one could do anything with him. Fedya loved none of the persons around him.... Woe to the heart which loves not in its youth!

Thus did Ivan Petrovitch find him, and without loss of time he set to work to apply his system to him.—"I want to make a man of him first of all, un homme,"—he said to Glafira Petrovna:—"and not only a man, but a Spartan." Ivan Petrovitch began the execution of his intention by dressing his son in Highland garb: the lad of twelve began to go about with bare knees, and with a cock's feather in his crush-cap; the Swede was superseded by a young Swiss man, who had learned gymnastics to perfection; music, as an occupation unworthy of a man, was banished forever; the natural sciences, international law, mathematics, the carpenter's trade after the advice of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and heraldry, for the maintenance of knightly sentiments—these were the things wherewith the future "man" was to occupy himself; he was waked at four o'clock in the morning, was immediately drenched with cold water, and made to run around a tall pillar, at the end of a rope; he ate once a day, one dish, rode on horseback, practised firing a cross-bow; on every convenient opportunity he exercised his strength of will, after the model of his parent, and every evening he noted down in a special book an account of the past day and his impressions; and Ivan Petrovitch, on his side, wrote him precepts in French, in which he called him mon fils, and addressed him as vous. In Russian Fedya called his father "thou," but he dared not sit down in his presence. The "system" bewildered the boy, introduced confusion into his head, squeezed it; but, on the other hand, the new mode of life acted beneficially on his health: at first he caught a fever, but soon recovered, and became a fine, dashing fellow. His father was proud of him, and called him, in his strange jargon: "A son of nature, my product." When Fedya reached the age of sixteen, Ivan Petrovitch regarded it as his duty to instil into him betimes scorn for the fair sex,—and the youthful Spartan, with timidity in his soul, with the first down upon his lips, full of vigour, strength, and blood, attempted to appear indifferent, cold, and harsh.

Meanwhile, time passed and passed. Ivan Petrovitch spent the greater part of the year at Lavriki (that was the name of his paternal estate), and in the winters he went alone to Moscow, stopped at an inn, diligently frequented the club, orated and set forth his plans in drawing-rooms, and conducted himself more like an Anglomaniac, a grumbler, and a statesman than ever. But the year 1825 arrived, and brought with it much woe.[5] Ivan Petrovitch's intimate friends and acquaintances were subjected to severe trials. Ivan Petrovitch made haste to retreat to his country estate, and locked himself up in his house. Another year elapsed, and Ivan Petrovitch suddenly grew feeble, weakened, declined, his health deserted him. A free-thinker—he took to going to church, and to ordering services of prayer; a European—he began to steam himself at the bath, to dine at two o'clock, to go to bed at nine, to fall asleep to the chatter of the aged butler; a statesman—he burned all his plans, all his correspondence, trembled before the governor, and fidgeted in the presence of the rural chief of police; a man with a will of iron—he whimpered and complained when an abscess broke out on him, when he was served with a plate of cold soup. Glafira Petrovna again reigned over everything in the house; again clerks, village bailiffs, common peasants, began to creep through the back entrance to the "ill-tempered old hag,"—that was what the house-servants called her. The change in Ivan Petrovitch gave his son a great shock; he was already in his nineteenth year, and had begun to reason and to free himself from the weight of the hand which oppressed him. He had noticed, even before this, a discrepancy between his father's words and deeds, between his broad and liberal theories and his harsh, petty despotism; but he had not anticipated such a sudden break. The inveterate egoist suddenly revealed himself at full length. Young Lavretzky was getting ready to go to Moscow, to prepare himself for the university,—when an unforeseen, fresh calamity descended upon the head of Ivan Petrovitch: he became blind, and that hopelessly, in one day.

Not trusting in the skill of Russian physicians, he began to take measures to obtain permission to go abroad. It was refused. Then he took his son with him, and for three whole years he roamed over Russia, from one doctor to another, incessantly journeying from town to town and driving the physicians, his son, his servants, to despair by his pusillanimity and impatience. He returned to Lavriki a perfect rag, a tearful and capricious child. Bitter days ensued, every one endured much at his hands. Ivan Petrovitch calmed down only while he was eating his dinner; he had never eaten so greedily, nor so much; all the rest of the time he never gave himself or others any peace. He prayed, grumbled at fate, railed at himself, reviled politics, his system,—reviled everything which he had made his boast and upon which he had prided himself, everything which he had held up as an example for his son; he insisted that he believed in nothing, and then prayed again; he could not bear to be left alone for a single moment, and demanded from the members of his household, that they should sit uninterruptedly, day and night, beside his arm-chair, and amuse him with stories, which he incessantly interrupted with the exclamation: "You are inventing the whole of it—what trash!"

Glafira Petrovna had a particularly hard time; he positively could not get along without her—and to the end she complied with all the invalid's whims, although sometimes she could not make up her mind on the instant to answer him, lest the sound of her voice should betray her inward wrath. In this manner he lingered on two years, and died in the beginning of May, when he had been carried out upon the balcony, in the sunshine. "Glashka, Glashka! the bouillon, the bouillon, you old foo ..." lisped his stiffening tongue, and without finishing the last word, it became silent forever. Glafira Petrovna, who had just snatched the cup of bouillon from the hands of the butler, stopped short, stared her brother in the face, crossed herself slowly and broadly, and withdrew in silence; and his son, who was present, said nothing, either, but leaned against the railing of the balcony, and gazed for a long time into the garden, all fragrant and verdant, all glittering in the rays of the golden sun of spring. He was twenty-three years old; how terribly, how imperceptibly fast those three and twenty years had sped past!... Life was opening before him.


[5] At the accession to the throne of Nicholas I.—Translator.


After having buried his father, and entrusted to the immutable Glafira Petrovna the management of the farming and the oversight over the clerks, young Lavretzky betook himself to Moscow, whither he was drawn by an obscure but powerful sentiment. He recognised the defects of his education, and intended to repair omissions, so far as possible. During the last five years, he had read a great deal, and had seen some things; many thoughts had been seething in his brain; any professor might have envied him some of his knowledge, but, at the same time, he did not know much with which every gymnasium lad has long been familiar. The Anglomaniac had played his son an evil trick; his whimsical education had borne its fruits. For long years, he had abased himself before his father without a question; but when, at last, he had divined him, the deed was done, the habits had become rooted. He did not know how to make acquaintance with people: at twenty-three years of age, with an indomitable thirst for love in his shame-stricken heart, he did not dare to look a single woman in the eye. With his clear, solid but somewhat heavy sense, with his inclination to stubbornness, contemplation, and indolence, he ought, from his earliest years, to have been cast into the whirlpool of life, but he had been kept in an artificial isolation.... And now the charmed circle was broken, yet he continued to stand in one spot, locked up, tightly compressed in himself. It was ridiculous, at his age, to don a student's uniform; but he was not afraid of ridicule: his Spartan training had served its turn to this extent at least, that it had developed in him scorn for other people's remarks,—and so, unabashed, he donned the uniform of a student. He entered the physico-mathematical department. Healthy, rosy-cheeked, with a well-grown beard, taciturn, he produced a strange impression upon his comrades; they did not suspect that in this surly man, who punctually drove to the lectures in a roomy country sledge and pair, there was concealed almost a child. He seemed to them some sort of wise pedant; they did not need him and did not seek his society, he avoided them. In the course of the first two years which he spent at the university, he came into close contact with only one student, from whom he took lessons in Latin. This student, Mikhalevitch by name, an enthusiast and a poet, sincerely loved Lavretzky, and quite innocently became the cause of an important change in his fate.

One day, at the theatre (Motchaloff was then at the height of his fame, and Lavretzky never missed a performance), he saw a young girl in a box of the bel-etage,—and, although no woman ever passed his surly figure without causing his heart to quiver, it never yet had beaten so violently. With her elbows resting on the velvet of the box, the young girl sat motionless; alert, young life sparkled in every feature of her pretty, round, dark-skinned face; an elegant mind was expressed in the beautiful eyes which gazed attentively and softly from beneath slender brows, in the swift smile of her expressive lips, in the very attitude of her head, her arms, her neck; she was charmingly dressed. Beside her sat a wrinkled, sallow woman, forty-five years of age, with a toothless smile on her constrainedly-anxious and empty countenance, and in the depths of the box an elderly man was visible, wearing an ample coat and a tall neckcloth, with an expression of feeble stateliness and a certain obsequious suspicion in his little eyes, with dyed moustache and side-whiskers, an insignificant, huge forehead, and furrowed cheeks,—a retired General, by all the signs. Lavretzky could not take his eyes from the young girl who had startled him; all at once, the door of the box opened, and Mikhalevitch entered. The appearance of that man, almost his sole acquaintance in all Moscow,—his appearance in the company of the only young girl who had engrossed his whole attention, seemed to Lavretzky strange and significant. As he continued to gaze at the box, he noticed that all the persons in it treated Mikhalevitch like an old friend. The performance on the stage ceased to interest Lavretzky; Motchaloff himself, although that evening he was "in high feather," did not produce upon him the customary impression. In one very pathetic passage, Lavretzky involuntarily glanced at his beauty: she was bending her whole body forward, her cheeks were aflame; under the influence of his persistent gaze, her eyes, which were riveted on the stage, turned slowly, and rested upon him.... All night long, those eyes flitted before his vision. At last, the artificially erected dam had given way: he trembled and burned, and on the following day he betook himself to Mikhalevitch. From him he learned, that the beauty's name was Varvara Pavlovna Korobyn; that the old man and woman who had sat with her in the box were her father and mother, and that he himself, Mikhalevitch, had made their acquaintance a year previously, during his stay in the suburbs of Moscow, "on contract service" (as tutor) with Count N. The enthusiast expressed himself in the most laudatory manner concerning Varvara Pavlovna—"My dear fellow," he exclaimed, with the impetuous harmony in his voice which was peculiar to him,—"that young girl is an amazing, a talented being, an artist in the genuine sense of the word, and extremely amiable to boot."—Perceiving from Lavretzky's question what an impression Varvara Pavlovna had produced upon him, he himself proposed to introduce him to her, adding that he was quite at home in their house; that the General was not at all a proud man, and the mother was so stupid that she all but sucked a rag. Lavretzky blushed, muttered something unintelligible, and fled. For five whole days he wrestled with his timidity; on the sixth day the young Spartan donned a new uniform, and placed himself at the disposition of Mikhalevitch, who being his own valet, confined himself to brushing his hair,—and the two set out for the Korobyns'.


The father of Varvara Pavlovna, Pavel Petrovitch Korobyn, Major-General on the retired list, had spent his whole life in Petersburg, in the service; had borne the reputation, in his youth, of being an accomplished dancer and officer of the line; found himself, owing to poverty, the adjutant of two or three ill-favoured Generals; married the daughter of one of them, receiving twenty-five thousand rubles as her dowry; acquired, in its finest details, the love of drills and reviews; toiled, and toiled hard, for his livelihood, and at last, at the end of twenty years, attained to the rank of General, and received a regiment. It was time for him to rest, and without delay to establish his prosperity on a firm basis; this was what he calculated on doing, but he managed the matter somewhat incautiously: he hit upon a new method of putting the coin of the realm into circulation,—the method proved to be a capital one, but he did not get out in season: a complaint was made against him; a more than unpleasant, an ugly scandal ensued. The General managed to wriggle out of the scandal, after a fashion, but his career was ruined: he was advised to resign. He hung about in Petersburg for a couple of years longer in the hope that some snug little place would get stranded on him: but the place did not strand on him, and his daughter came out of the government school, and his expenses increased every day.... Repressing his wrath, he decided to remove to Moscow for the sake of economy, hired a tiny, low-roofed house on Old Stable Street, with a coat of arms a fathom tall on the roof, and began to live the life of a Moscow General on the retired list, spending 2750 rubles a year. Moscow is a hospitable town, glad to welcome everybody who comes along, and more particularly, Generals; Pavel Petrovitch's heavy figure, which yet was not lacking in military mien, speedily began to make its appearance in the best drawing-rooms of Moscow. His bald nape, with tufts of dyed hair, and the dirty ribbon of the order of St. Anna on a neckcloth the hue of the raven's wing, began to be well known to all the easily bored and pallid young men who morosely hovered around the gambling-tables while dancing was in progress. Pavel Petrovitch understood how to place himself in society; he talked little, but, by force of old habit, through his nose,—of course, not with individuals belonging to the higher ranks; he played cards cautiously, at home he ate sparingly, but when visiting he ate for six. Concerning his wife, there is hardly anything to say: her name was Kalliope Karlovna; a tear oozed from her left eye, by virtue of which Kalliope Karlovna (she was, moreover, of German extraction) regarded herself as a woman of sentiment; she lived in constant fear of something, never seemed to have had quite enough to eat, and wore tight velvet gowns, a turban, and dull bracelets of hollow metal. Varvara Pavlovna, the only daughter of Pavel Petrovitch and Kalliope Karlovna, had just passed her seventeenth birthday when she came out of the * * * Institute, where she had been considered, if not the greatest beauty, certainly the cleverest girl and the best musician, and where she had received the chiffre;[6] she was not yet nineteen when Lavretzky beheld her for the first time.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse