Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Smoke
Author: Sergeevich, Turgenev Ivan
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Smoke" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Libraries.)



[Illustration: _The Tables at Baden Baden._]


  THE NOVELS OF IVAN TURGENEV
  ILLUSTRATED EDITION



  SMOKE

  _TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN

  By

  CONSTANCE GARNETT_


  NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
  MCMVI

  _Printed in England_



ILLUSTRATIONS


  THE TABLES AT BADEN-BADEN,              _Frontispiece_

  MRS. BEECHER STOWE,                 _to face page_  26

  HEIDELBERG,                             „    „     298



INTRODUCTION


‘Smoke’ was first published in 1867, several years after Turgenev had
fixed his home in Baden, with his friends the Viardots. Baden at this
date was a favourite resort for all circles of Russian society, and
Turgenev was able to study at his leisure his countrymen as they
appeared to foreign critical eyes. The novel is therefore the most
cosmopolitan of all Turgenev’s works. On a veiled background of the
great world of European society, little groups of representative
Russians, members of the aristocratic and the Young Russia parties, are
etched with an incisive, unfaltering hand. _Smoke_, as an historical
study, though it yields in importance to _Fathers and Children_ and
_Virgin Soil_, is of great significance to Russians. It might with truth
have been named _Transition_, for the generation it paints was then
midway between the early philosophical Nihilism of the sixties and the
active political Nihilism of the seventies.

Markedly transitional, however, as was the Russian mind of the days of
_Smoke_, Turgenev, with the faculty that distinguishes the great artist
from the artist of second rank, the faculty of seeking out and stamping
the essential under confused and fleeting forms, has once and for ever
laid bare the fundamental weakness of the Slav nature, its weakness of
will. _Smoke_ is an attack, a deserved attack, not merely on the Young
Russia Party, but on all the Parties; not on the old ideas or the new
ideas, but on the proneness of the Slav nature to fall a prey to a
consuming weakness, a moral stagnation, a feverish _ennui_, the Slav
nature that analyses everything with force and brilliancy, and ends, so
often, by doing nothing. _Smoke_ is the attack, bitter yet sympathetic,
of a man who, with growing despair, has watched the weakness of his
countrymen, while he loves his country all the more for the bitterness
their sins have brought upon it. _Smoke_ is the scourging of a babbling
generation, by a man who, grown sick to death of the chatter of
reformers and reactionists, is visiting the sins of the fathers on the
children, with a contempt out of patience for the hereditary vice in
the Slav blood. And this time the author cannot be accused of
partisanship by any blunderer. ‘A plague o’ both your houses,’ is his
message equally to the Bureaucrats and the Revolutionists. And so
skilfully does he wield the thong, that every lash falls on the back of
both parties. An exquisite piece of political satire is _Smoke_; for
this reason alone it would stand unique among novels.

The success of _Smoke_ was immediate and great; but the hue-and-cry that
assailed it was even greater. The publication of the book marks the
final rupture between Turgenev and the party of Young Russia. The
younger generation never forgave him for drawing Gubaryov and Bambaev,
Voroshilov and Madame Suhantchikov--types, indeed, in which all
revolutionary or unorthodox parties are painfully rich. Or, perhaps,
Turgenev was forgiven for it when he was in his grave, a spot where
forgiveness flowers to a late perfection. And yet the fault was not
Turgenev’s. No, his last novel, _Virgin Soil_, bears splendid witness
that it was Young Russia that was one-eyed.

Let the plain truth here be set down. _Smoke_ is not a complete picture
of the Young Russia of the day; it was not yet time for that picture;
and that being so, Turgenev did the next best thing in attacking the
windbags, the charlatans and their crowd of shallow, chattering
followers, as well as the empty formulas of the _laissez-faire_ party.
It was inevitable that the attack should bring on him the anger of all
young enthusiasts working for ‘the Cause’; it was inevitable that ‘the
Cause’ of reform in Russia should be mixed up with the Gubaryovs, just
as reforms in France a few years ago were mixed up with Boulanger; and
that Turgenev’s waning popularity for the last twenty years of his life
should be directly caused by his honesty and clear-sightedness in regard
to Russian Liberalism, was inevitable also. To be crucified by those you
have benefited is the cross of honour of all great, single-hearted men.

But though the bitterness of political life flavours _Smoke_, although
its points of departure and arrival are wrapped in the atmosphere of
Russia’s dark and insoluble problems, nevertheless the two central
figures of the book, Litvinov and Irina, are not political figures.
Luckily for them, in Gubaryov’s words, they belong ‘to the
undeveloped.’ Litvinov himself may be dismissed in a sentence. He is
Turgenev’s favourite type of man, a character much akin to his own
nature, gentle, deep, and sympathetic. Turgenev often drew such a
character; Lavretsky, for example, in _A House of Gentlefolk_, is a
first cousin to Litvinov, an older and a sadder man.

But Irina--Irina is unique; for Turgenev has in her perfected her type
till she reaches a destroying witchery of fascination and subtlety.
Irina will stand for ever in the long gallery of great creations,
smiling with that enigmatical smile which took from Litvinov in a glance
half his life, and his love for Tatyana. The special triumph of her
creation is that she combines that exact balance between good and evil
which makes good women seem insipid beside her and bad women unnatural.
And, by nature irresistible, she is made doubly so to the imagination by
the situation which she recreates between Litvinov and herself. She
ardently desires to become nobler, to possess all that the ideal of love
means for the heart of woman; but she has only the power given to her of
enervating the man she loves. Can she become a Tatyana to him? No, to
no man. She is born to corrupt, yet never to be corrupted. She rises
mistress of herself after the first measure of fatal delight. And, never
giving her whole heart absolutely to her lover, she, nevertheless,
remains ever to be desired.

Further, her wit, her scorn, her beauty preserve her from all the
influences of evil she does not deliberately employ. Such a woman is as
old and as rare a type as Helen of Troy. It is most often found among
the great mistresses of princes, and it was from a mistress of Alexander
II. that Turgenev modelled Irina.

Of the minor characters, Tatyana is an astonishing instance of
Turgenev’s skill in drawing a complete character with half-a-dozen
strokes of the pen. The reader seems to have known her intimately all
his life: her family life, her girlhood, her goodness and individual
ways to the smallest detail; yet she only speaks on two or three
occasions. Potugin is but a weary shadow of Litvinov, but it is
difficult to say how much this is a telling refinement of art. The
shadow of this prematurely exhausted man is cast beforehand by Irina
across Litvinov’s future. For Turgenev to have drawn Potugin as an
ordinary individual would have vulgarised the novel and robbed it of its
skilful proportions, for Potugin is one of those shadowy figures which
supply the chiaroscuro to a brilliant etching.

As a triumphant example of consummate technical skill, _Smoke_ will
repay the most exact scrutiny. There are a lightness and a grace about
the novel that conceal its actual strength. The political argument
glides with such ease in and out of the love story, that the hostile
critic is absolutely baffled; and while the most intricate steps are
executed in the face of a crowd of angry enemies, the performer lands
smiling and in safety. The art by which Irina’s disastrous fascination
results in falsity, and Litvinov’s desperate striving after sincerity
ends in rehabilitation,--the art by which these two threads are spun,
till their meaning colours the faint political message of the book, is
so delicate that, like the silken webs which gleam only for the first
fresh hours in the forest, it leaves no trace, but becomes a dream in
the memory. And yet this book, which has the freshness of windy rain and
the whirling of autumn leaves, is a story of ignominious weakness, of
the passion that kills, that degrades, that renders life despicable, as
Turgenev himself says. _Smoke_ is the finest example in literature of a
subjective psychological study of passion rendered clearly and
objectively in terms of French art. Its character, we will not say its
superiority, lies in the extraordinary clearness with which the most
obscure mental phenomena are analysed in relation to the ordinary values
of daily life. At the precise point of psychological analysis where
Tolstoi wanders and does not convince the reader, and at the precise
point where Dostoievsky’s analysis seems exaggerated and obscure, like a
figure looming through the mist, Turgenev throws a ray of light from the
outer to the inner world of man, and the two worlds are revealed in the
natural depths of their connection. It is in fact difficult to find
among the great modern artists men whose natural balance of intellect
can be said to equalise their special genius. The Greeks alone present
to the world a spectacle of a triumphant harmony in the critical and
creative mind of man, and this is their great pre-eminence. But _Smoke_
presents the curious feature of a novel (Slav in virtue of its modern
psychological genius) which is classical in its treatment and expression
throughout: the balance of Turgenev’s intellect reigns ever supreme over
the natural morbidity of his subject.

And thus _Smoke_ in every sense of the word is a classic for all time.

                                                  EDWARD GARNETT.

  _January 1896._



THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK


  Grigóry [_Grísha_] Mihálovitch Litvínov.
  Tat-yána [_Tánya_] Petróvna Shestóv.
  Kapitolína Márkovna.
  Rostisláv Bambáev.
  Semyón Yákovlevitch Voroshílov.
  Stepán Nikoláevitch Gubar-yóv.
  Matróna Semyónovna Suhántchikov.
  Tit Bindásov.
  Pish-tchálkin.
  Sozónt Ivánitch Potúgin.
  Irína Pávlovna Osínin.
  Valerián Vladímirovitch Ratmírov.


In transcribing the Russian names into English--

  _a_ has the sound of _a_ in _father_.

  _e_   „       „      _a_ in _pane_.

  _i_   „       „      _ee_.

  _u_   „       „      _oo_.

  _y_ is always consonantal except when
      it is the last letter of the word.

  _g_ is always hard.



I


On the 10th of August 1862, at four o’clock in the afternoon, a great
number of people were thronging before the well-known _Konversation_ in
Baden-Baden. The weather was lovely; everything around--the green trees,
the bright houses of the gay city, and the undulating outline of the
mountains--everything was in holiday mood, basking in the rays of the
kindly sunshine; everything seemed smiling with a sort of blind,
confiding delight; and the same glad, vague smile strayed over the human
faces too, old and young, ugly and beautiful alike. Even the blackened
and whitened visages of the Parisian demi-monde could not destroy the
general impression of bright content and elation, while their
many-coloured ribbons and feathers and the sparks of gold and steel on
their hats and veils involuntarily recalled the intensified brilliance
and light fluttering of birds in spring, with their rainbow-tinted
wings. But the dry, guttural snapping of the French jargon, heard on
all sides could not equal the song of birds, nor be compared with it.

Everything, however, was going on in its accustomed way. The orchestra
in the Pavilion played first a medley from the Traviata, then one of
Strauss’s waltzes, then ‘Tell her,’ a Russian song, adapted for
instruments by an obliging conductor. In the gambling saloons, round the
green tables, crowded the same familiar figures, with the same dull,
greedy, half-stupefied, half-exasperated, wholly rapacious expression,
which the gambling fever lends to all, even the most aristocratic,
features. The same well-fed and ultra-fashionably dressed Russian
landowner from Tambov with wide staring eyes leaned over the table, and
with uncomprehending haste, heedless of the cold smiles of the croupiers
themselves, at the very instant of the cry ‘_rien ne va plus_,’ laid
with perspiring hand golden rings of _louis d’or_ on all the four
corners of the roulette, depriving himself by so doing of every
possibility of gaining anything, even in case of success. This did not
in the least prevent him the same evening from affirming the contrary
with disinterested indignation to Prince Kokó, one of the well-known
leaders of the aristocratic opposition, the Prince Kokó, who in Paris at
the salon of the Princess Mathilde, so happily remarked in the presence
of the Emperor: ‘_Madame, le principe de la propriété est profondément
ébranlé en Russie_.’ At the Russian tree, _à l’arbre Russe_, our dear
fellow-countrymen and countrywomen were assembled after their wont. They
approached haughtily and carelessly in fashionable style, greeted each
other with dignity and elegant ease, as befits beings who find
themselves at the topmost pinnacle of contemporary culture. But when
they had met and sat down together, they were absolutely at a loss for
anything to say to one another, and had to be content with a pitiful
interchange of inanities, or with the exceedingly indecent and
exceedingly insipid old jokes of a hopelessly stale French wit, once a
journalist, a chattering buffoon with Jewish shoes on his paltry little
legs, and a contemptible little beard on his mean little visage. He
retailed to them, _à ces princes russes_, all the sweet absurdities from
the old comic almanacs _Charivari_ and _Tintamarre_, and they, _ces
princes russes_, burst into grateful laughter, as though forced in spite
of themselves to recognise the crushing superiority of foreign wit, and
their own hopeless incapacity to invent anything amusing. Yet here were
almost all the ‘_fine fleur_’ of our society, ‘all the high-life and
mirrors of fashion.’ Here was Count X., our incomparable dilettante, a
profoundly musical nature, who so divinely recites songs on the piano,
but cannot in fact take two notes correctly without fumbling at random
on the keys, and sings in a style something between that of a poor gypsy
singer and a Parisian hairdresser. Here was our enchanting Baron Q., a
master in every line: literature, administration, oratory, and
card-sharping. Here, too, was Prince Y., the friend of religion and the
people, who in the blissful epoch when the spirit-trade was a monopoly,
had made himself betimes a huge fortune by the sale of vodka adulterated
with belladonna; and the brilliant General O. O., who had achieved the
subjugation of something, and the pacification of something else, and
who is nevertheless still a nonentity, and does not know what to do with
himself. And R. R. the amusing fat man, who regards himself as a great
invalid and a great wit, though he is, in fact, as strong as a bull, and
as dull as a post.... This R. R. is almost the only man in our day who
has preserved the traditions of the dandies of the forties, of the epoch
of the ‘Hero of our Times,’ and the Countess Vorotinsky. He has
preserved, too, the special gait with the swing on the heels, and _le
culte de la pose_ (it cannot even be put into words in Russian), the
unnatural deliberation of movement, the sleepy dignity of expression,
the immovable, offended-looking countenance, and the habit of
interrupting other people’s remarks with a yawn, gazing at his own
finger-nails, laughing through his nose, suddenly shifting his hat from
the back of his head on to his eyebrows, etc. Here, too, were people in
government circles, diplomats, big-wigs with European names, men of
wisdom and intellect, who imagine that the Golden Bull was an edict of
the Pope, and that the English poor-tax is a tax levied on the poor. And
here, too, were the hot-blooded, though tongue-tied, devotees of the
_dames aux camellias_, young society dandies, with superb partings down
the back of their heads, and splendid drooping whiskers, dressed in real
London costumes, young bucks whom one would fancy there was nothing to
hinder from becoming as vulgar as the illustrious French wit above
mentioned. But no! our home products are not in fashion it seems; and
Countess S., the celebrated arbitress of fashion and _grand genre_, by
spiteful tongues nicknamed ‘Queen of the Wasps,’ and ‘Medusa in a
mob-cap,’ prefers, in the absence of the French wit, to consort with the
Italians, Moldavians, American spiritualists, smart secretaries of
foreign embassies, and Germans of effeminate, but prematurely
circumspect, physiognomy, of whom the place is full. The example of the
Countess is followed by the Princess Babette, she in whose arms Chopin
died (the ladies in Europe in whose arms he expired are to be reckoned
by thousands); and the Princess Annette, who would have been perfectly
captivating, if the simple village washerwoman had not suddenly peeped
out in her at times, like a smell of cabbage wafted across the most
delicate perfume; and Princess Pachette, to whom the following mischance
had occurred: her husband had fallen into a good berth, and all at once,
_Dieu sait pourquoi_, he had thrashed the provost and stolen 20,000
roubles of public money; and the laughing Princess Zizi; and the tearful
Princess Zozo. They all left their compatriots on one side, and were
merciless in their treatment of them. Let us too leave them on one side,
these charming ladies, and walk away from the renowned tree near which
they sit in such costly but somewhat tasteless costumes, and God grant
them relief from the boredom consuming them!



II


A few paces from the ‘Russian tree,’ at a little table in front of
Weber’s coffee-house, there was sitting a good-looking man, about
thirty, of medium height, thin and dark, with a manly and pleasant face.
He sat bending forward with both arms leaning on his stick, with the
calm and simple air of a man to whom the idea had not occurred that any
one would notice him or pay any attention to him. His large expressive
golden-brown eyes were gazing deliberately about him, sometimes screwed
up to keep the sunshine out of them, and then watching fixedly some
eccentric figure that passed by him while a childlike smile faintly
stirred his fine moustache and lips, and his prominent short chin. He
wore a roomy coat of German cut, and a soft grey hat hid half of his
high forehead. At the first glance he made the impression of an honest,
sensible, rather self-confident young man such as there are many in the
world. He seemed to be resting from prolonged labours and to be
deriving all the more simple-minded amusement from the scene spread out
before him because his thoughts were far away, and because they moved
too, those thoughts, in a world utterly unlike that which surrounded him
at the moment. He was a Russian; his name was Grigory Mihalovitch
Litvinov.

We have to make his acquaintance, and so it will be well to relate in a
few words his past, which presents little of much interest or
complexity.

He was the son of an honest retired official of plebeian extraction, but
he was educated, not as one would naturally expect, in the town, but in
the country. His mother was of noble family, and had been educated in a
government school. She was a good-natured and very enthusiastic
creature, not devoid of character, however. Though she was twenty years
younger than her husband, she remodelled him, as far as she could, drew
him out of the petty official groove into the landowner’s way of life,
and softened and refined his harsh and stubborn character. Thanks to
her, he began to dress with neatness, and to behave with decorum; he
came to respect learned men and learning, though, of course, he never
took a single book in his hand; he gave up swearing, and tried in every
way not to demean himself. He even arrived at walking more quietly and
speaking in a subdued voice, mostly of elevated subjects, which cost him
no small effort. ‘Ah! they ought to be flogged, and that’s all about
it!’ he sometimes thought to himself, but aloud he pronounced: ‘Yes,
yes, that’s so ... of course; it is a great question.’ Litvinov’s mother
set her household too upon a European footing; she addressed the
servants by the plural ‘you’ instead of the familiar ‘thou,’ and never
allowed any one to gorge himself into a state of lethargy at her table.
As regards the property belonging to her, neither she nor her husband
was capable of looking after it at all. It had been long allowed to run
to waste, but there was plenty of land, with all sorts of useful
appurtenances, forest-lands and a lake, on which there had once stood a
factory, which had been founded by a zealous but unsystematic owner, and
had flourished in the hands of a scoundrelly merchant, and gone utterly
to ruin under the superintendence of a conscientious German manager.
Madame Litvinov was contented so long as she did not dissipate her
fortune or contract debts. Unluckily she could not boast of good health,
and she died of consumption in the very year that her son entered the
Moscow university. He did not complete his course there owing to
circumstances of which the reader will hear more later on, and went
back to his provincial home, where he idled away some time without work
and without ties, almost without acquaintances. Thanks to the
disinclination for active service of the local gentry, who were,
however, not so much penetrated by the Western theory of the evils of
‘absenteeism,’ as by the home-grown conviction that ‘one’s own shirt is
the nearest to one’s skin,’ he was drawn for military service in 1855,
and almost died of typhus in the Crimea, where he spent six months in a
mud-hut on the shore of the Putrid Sea, without ever seeing a single
ally. After that, he served, not of course without unpleasant
experiences, on the councils of the nobility, and after being a little
time in the country, acquired a passion for farming. He realised that
his mother’s property, under the indolent and feeble management of his
infirm old father, did not yield a tenth of the revenue it might yield,
and that in experienced and skilful hands it might be converted into a
perfect gold mine. But he realised, too, that experience and skill were
just what he lacked--and he went abroad to study agriculture and
technology--to learn them from the first rudiments. More than four years
he had spent in Mecklenburg, in Silesia, and in Carlsruhe, and he had
travelled in Belgium and in England. He had worked conscientiously and
accumulated information; he had not acquired it easily; but he had
persevered through his difficulties to the end, and now with confidence
in himself, in his future, and in his usefulness to his neighbours,
perhaps even to the whole countryside, he was preparing to return home,
where he was summoned with despairing prayers and entreaties in every
letter from his father, now completely bewildered by the emancipation,
the re-division of lands, and the terms of redemption--by the new régime
in short. But why was he in Baden?

Well, he was in Baden because he was from day to day expecting the
arrival there of his cousin and betrothed, Tatyana Petrovna Shestov. He
had known her almost from childhood, and had spent the spring and summer
with her at Dresden, where she was living with her aunt. He felt sincere
love and profound respect for his young kinswoman, and on the conclusion
of his dull preparatory labours, when he was preparing to enter on a new
field, to begin real, unofficial duties, he proposed to her as a woman
dearly loved, a comrade and a friend, to unite her life with his--for
happiness and for sorrow, for labour and for rest, ‘for better, for
worse’ as the English say. She had consented, and he had returned to
Carlsruhe, where his books, papers and properties had been left.... But
why was he at Baden, you ask again?

Well, he was at Baden, because Tatyana’s aunt, who had brought her up,
Kapitolina Markovna Shestov, an old unmarried lady of fifty-five, a most
good-natured, honest, eccentric soul, a free thinker, all aglow with the
fire of self-sacrifice and abnegation, an _esprit fort_ (she read
Strauss, it is true she concealed the fact from her niece) and a
democrat, sworn opponent of aristocracy and fashionable society, could
not resist the temptation of gazing for once on this aristocratic
society in such a fashionable place as Baden.... Kapitolina Markovna
wore no crinoline and had her white hair cut in a round crop, but luxury
and splendour had a secret fascination for her, and it was her favourite
pastime to rail at them and express her contempt of them. How could one
refuse to gratify the good old lady? But Litvinov was so quiet and
simple, he gazed so self-confidently about him, because his life lay so
clearly mapped out before him, because his career was defined, and
because he was proud of this career, and rejoiced in it as the work of
his own hands.



III


‘Hullo! hullo! here he is!’ he suddenly heard a squeaky voice just above
his ear, and a plump hand slapped him on the shoulder. He lifted his
head, and perceived one of his few Moscow acquaintances, a certain
Bambaev, a good-natured but good-for-nothing fellow. He was no longer
young, he had a flabby nose and soft cheeks, that looked as if they had
been boiled, dishevelled greasy locks, and a fat squat person.
Everlastingly short of cash, and everlastingly in raptures over
something, Rostislav Bambaev wandered, aimless but exclamatory, over the
face of our long-suffering mother-earth.

‘Well, this is something like a meeting!’ he repeated, opening wide his
sunken eyes, and drawing down his thick lips, over which the straggling
dyed moustaches seemed strangely out of place. ‘Ah, Baden! All the world
runs here like black-beetles! How did you come here, Grisha?’

There was positively no one in the world Bambaev did not address by his
Christian name.

‘I came here three days ago.’

‘From where?’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘Why indeed? But stop, stop a minute, Grisha. You are, perhaps, not
aware who has just arrived here! Gubaryov himself, in person! That’s
who’s here! He came yesterday from Heidelberg. You know him of course?’

‘I have heard of him.’

‘Is that all? Upon my word! At once, this very minute we will haul you
along to him. Not know a man like that! And by the way here’s
Voroshilov.... Stop a minute, Grisha, perhaps you don’t know him either?
I have the honour to present you to one another. Both learned men! He’s
a phœnix indeed! Kiss each other!’

And uttering these words, Bambaev turned to a good-looking young man
standing near him with a fresh and rosy, but prematurely demure face.
Litvinov got up, and, it need hardly be said, did not kiss him, but
exchanged a cursory bow with the phœnix, who, to judge from the severity
of his demeanour, was not overpleased at this unexpected introduction.

‘I said a phœnix, and I will not go back from my word,’ continued
Bambaev; ‘go to Petersburg, to the military school, and look at the
golden board; whose name stands first there? The name of Voroshilov,
Semyon Yakovlevitch! But, Gubaryov, Gubaryov, my dear fellow! It’s to
him we must fly! I absolutely worship that man! And I’m not alone, every
one’s at his feet! Ah, what a work he is writing, O--O--O!...’

‘What is his work about?’ inquired Litvinov.

‘About everything, my dear boy, after the style of Buckle, you know ...
but more profound, more profound.... Everything will be solved and made
clear in it.’

‘And have you read this work yourself?’

‘No, I have not read it, and indeed it’s a secret, which must not be
spread about; but from Gubaryov one may expect everything, everything!
Yes!’ Bambaev sighed and clasped his hands. ‘Ah, if we had two or three
intellects like that growing up in Russia, ah, what mightn’t we see
then, my God! I tell you one thing, Grisha; whatever pursuit you may
have been engaged in in these latter days--and I don’t even know what
your pursuits are in general--whatever your convictions may be--I don’t
know them either--from him, Gubaryov, you will find something to learn.
Unluckily, he is not here for long. We must make the most of him; we
must go. To him, to him!’

A passing dandy with reddish curls and a blue ribbon on his low hat,
turned round and stared through his eyeglass with a sarcastic smile at
Bambaev. Litvinov felt irritated.

‘What are you shouting for?’ he said; ‘one would think you were
hallooing dogs on at a hunt! I have not had dinner yet.’

‘Well, think of that! we can go at once to Weber’s ... the three of us
... capital! You have the cash to pay for me?’ he added in an undertone.

‘Yes, yes; only, I really don’t know----’

‘Leave off, please; you will thank me for it, and he will be delighted.
Ah, heavens!’ Bambaev interrupted himself. ‘It’s the finale from Ernani
they’re playing. How delicious!... _A som ... mo Carlo...._ What a
fellow I am, though! In tears in a minute. Well, Semyon Yakovlevitch!
Voroshilov! shall we go, eh?’

Voroshilov, who had remained all the while standing with immovable
propriety, still maintaining his former haughty dignity of demeanour,
dropped his eyes expressively, frowned, and muttered something between
his teeth ... But he did not refuse; and Litvinov thought, ‘Well, we may
as well do it, as I’ve plenty of time on my hands.’ Bambaev took his
arm, but before turning towards the café he beckoned to Isabelle the
renowned flower-girl of the Jockey Club: he had conceived the idea of
buying a bunch of flowers of her. But the aristocratic flower-girl did
not stir; and, indeed, what should induce her to approach a gentleman
without gloves, in a soiled fustian jacket, streaky cravat, and boots
trodden down at heel, whom she had not even seen in Paris? Then
Voroshilov in his turn beckoned to her. To him she responded, and he,
taking a tiny bunch of violets from her basket, flung her a florin. He
thought to astonish her by his munificence, but not an eyelash on her
face quivered, and when he had turned away, she pursed up her mouth
contemptuously. Voroshilov was dressed very fashionably, even
exquisitely, but the experienced eye of the Parisian girl noted at once
in his get-up and in his bearing, in his very walk, which showed traces
of premature military drill, the absence of genuine, pure-blooded
‘chic.’

When they had taken their seats in the principal dining-hall at Weber’s,
and ordered dinner, our friends fell into conversation. Bambaev
discoursed loudly and hotly upon the immense importance of Gubaryov, but
soon he ceased speaking, and, gasping and chewing noisily, drained off
glass after glass. Voroshilov ate and drank little, and as it were
reluctantly, and after questioning Litvinov as to the nature of his
interests, fell to giving expression to his own opinions--not so much on
those interests, as on questions of various kinds in general.... All at
once he warmed up, and set off at a gallop like a spirited horse, boldly
and decisively assigning to every syllable, every letter, its due
weight, like a confident cadet going up for his ‘final’ examination,
with vehement, but inappropriate gestures. At every instant, since no
one interrupted him, he became more eloquent, more emphatic; it seemed
as though he were reading a dissertation or lecture. The names of the
most recent scientific authorities--with the addition of the dates of
the birth or death of each of them--the titles of pamphlets that had
only just appeared, and names, names, names ... fell in showers together
from his tongue, affording himself intense satisfaction, reflected in
his glowing eyes. Voroshilov, seemingly, despised everything old, and
attached value only to the cream of culture, the latest, most advanced
points of science; to mention, however inappropriately, a book of some
Doctor Zauerbengel on Pennsylvanian prisons, or yesterday’s articles in
the _Asiatic Journal_ on the Vedas and Puranas (he pronounced it
_Journal_ in the English fashion, though he certainly did not know
English) was for him a real joy, a felicity. Litvinov listened and
listened to him, and could not make out what could be his special line.
At one moment his talk was of the part played by the Celtic race in
history; then he was carried away to the ancient world, and discoursed
upon the Æginetan marbles, harangued with great warmth on the sculptor
living earlier than Phidias, Onetas, who was, however, transformed by
him into Jonathan, which lent his whole discourse a half-Biblical,
half-American flavour; then he suddenly bounded away to political
economy and called Bastiat a fool or a blockhead, ‘as bad as Adam Smith
and all the physiocrats.’ ‘Physiocrats,’ murmured Bambaev after him ...
‘aristocrats?’ Among other things Voroshilov called forth an expression
of bewilderment on Bambaev’s face by a criticism, dropped casually in
passing, of Macaulay, as an old-fashioned writer, superseded by modern
historical science; as for Gneist, he declared he need scarcely refer to
him, and he shrugged his shoulders. Bambaev shrugged his shoulders too.
‘And all this at once, without any inducement, before strangers, in a
café’--Litvinov reflected, looking at the fair hair, clear eyes, and
white teeth of his new acquaintance (he was specially embarrassed by
those large sugar-white teeth, and those hands with their inappropriate
gesticulations), ‘and he doesn’t once smile; and with it all, he would
seem to be a nice lad, and absolutely inexperienced.’ Voroshilov began
to calm down at last, his voice, youthfully resonant and shrill as a
young cock’s, broke a little.... Bambaev seized the opportunity to
declaim verses and again nearly burst into tears, which scandalised one
table near them, round which was seated an English family, and set
another tittering; two Parisian _cocottes_ were dining at this second
table with a creature who resembled an ancient baby in a wig. The waiter
brought the bill; the friends paid it.

‘Well,’ cried Bambaev, getting heavily up from his chair, ‘now for a cup
of coffee, and quick march. There she is, our Russia,’ he added,
stopping in the doorway, and pointing almost rapturously with his soft
red hand to Voroshilov and Litvinov.... ‘What do you think of her?...’

‘Russia, indeed,’ thought Litvinov; and Voroshilov, whose face had by
now regained its concentrated expression, again smiled condescendingly,
and gave a little tap with his heels.

Within five minutes they were all three mounting the stairs of the hotel
where Stepan Nikolaitch Gubaryov was staying.... A tall slender lady, in
a hat with a short black veil, was coming quickly down the same
staircase. Catching sight of Litvinov she turned suddenly round to him,
and stopped still as though struck by amazement. Her face flushed
instantaneously, and then as quickly grew pale under its thick lace
veil; but Litvinov did not observe her, and the lady ran down the wide
steps more quickly than before.



IV


‘Grigory Litvinov, a brick, a true Russian heart. I commend him to you,’
cried Bambaev, conducting Litvinov up to a short man of the figure of a
country gentleman, with an unbuttoned collar, in a short jacket, grey
morning trousers and slippers, standing in the middle of a light, and
very well-furnished room; ‘and this,’ he added, addressing himself to
Litvinov, ‘is he, the man himself, do you understand? Gubaryov, then, in
a word.’

Litvinov stared with curiosity at ‘the man himself.’ He did not at first
sight find in him anything out of the common. He saw before him a
gentleman of respectable, somewhat dull exterior, with a broad forehead,
large eyes, full lips, a big beard, and a thick neck, with a fixed gaze,
bent sidelong and downwards. This gentleman simpered, and said, ‘Mmm ...
ah ... very pleased,...’ raised his hand to his own face, and at once
turning his back on Litvinov, took a few paces upon the carpet, with a
slow and peculiar shuffle, as though he were trying to slink along
unseen. Gubaryov had the habit of continually walking up and down, and
constantly plucking and combing his beard with the tips of his long hard
nails. Besides Gubaryov, there was also in the room a lady of about
fifty, in a shabby silk dress, with an excessively mobile face almost as
yellow as a lemon, a little black moustache on her upper lip, and eyes
which moved so quickly that they seemed as though they were jumping out
of her head; there was too a broad-shouldered man sitting bent up in a
corner.

‘Well, honoured Matrona Semyonovna,’ began Gubaryov, turning to the
lady, and apparently not considering it necessary to introduce Litvinov
to her, ‘what was it you were beginning to tell us?’

The lady (her name was Matrona Semyonovna Suhantchikov--she was a widow,
childless, and not rich, and had been travelling from country to country
for two years past) began with peculiar exasperated vehemence:

‘Well, so he appears before the prince and says to him: “Your
Excellency,” he says, “in such an office and such a position as yours,
what will it cost you to alleviate my lot? You,” he says, “cannot but
respect the purity of my ideas! And is it possible,” he says, “in these
days to persecute a man for his ideas?” And what do you suppose the
prince did, that cultivated dignitary in that exalted position?’

‘Why, what did he do?’ observed Gubaryov, lighting a cigarette with a
meditative air.

The lady drew herself up and held out her bony right hand, with the
first finger separated from the rest.

‘He called his groom and said to him, “Take off that man’s coat at once,
and keep it yourself. I make you a present of that coat!”’

‘And did the groom take it?’ asked Bambaev, throwing up his arms.

‘He took it and kept it. And that was done by Prince Barnaulov, the
well-known rich grandee, invested with special powers, the
representative of the government. What is one to expect after that!’

The whole frail person of Madame Suhantchikov was shaking with
indignation, spasms passed over her face, her withered bosom was heaving
convulsively under her flat corset; of her eyes it is needless to speak,
they were fairly leaping out of her head. But then they were always
leaping, whatever she might be talking about.

‘A crying shame, a crying shame!’ cried Bambaev. ‘No punishment could be
bad enough!’

‘Mmm.... Mmm.... From top to bottom it’s all rotten,’ observed Gubaryov,
without raising his voice, however. ‘In that case punishment is not ...
that needs ... other measures.’

‘But is it really true?’ commented Litvinov.

‘Is it true?’ broke in Madame Suhantchikov. ‘Why, that one can’t even
dream of doubting ... can’t even d-d-d-ream of it.’ She pronounced these
words with such energy that she was fairly shaking with the effort. ‘I
was told of that by a very trustworthy man. And you, Stepan Nikolaitch,
know him--Elistratov, Kapiton. He heard it himself from eyewitnesses,
spectators of this disgraceful scene.’

‘What Elistratov?’ inquired Gubaryov. ‘The one who was in Kazan?’

‘Yes. I know, Stepan Nikolaitch, a rumour was spread about him that he
took bribes there from some contractors or distillers. But then who is
it says so? Pelikanov! And how can one believe Pelikanov, when every one
knows he is simply--a spy!’

‘No, with your permission, Matrona Semyonovna,’ interposed Bambaev, ‘I
am friends with Pelikanov, he is not a spy at all.’

‘Yes, yes, that’s just what he is, a spy!’

‘But wait a minute, kindly----’

‘A spy, a spy!’ shrieked Madame Suhantchikov.

‘No, no, one minute, I tell you what,’ shrieked Bambaev in his turn.

‘A spy, a spy,’ persisted Madame Suhantchikov.

‘No, no! There’s Tentelyev now, that’s a different matter,’ roared
Bambaev with all the force of his lungs.

Madame Suhantchikov was silent for a moment.

‘I know for a fact about that gentleman,’ he continued in his ordinary
voice, ‘that when he was summoned before the secret police, he grovelled
at the feet of the Countess Blazenkrampff and kept whining, “Save me,
intercede for me!” But Pelikanov never demeaned himself to baseness like
that.’

‘Mm ... Tentelyev ...’ muttered Gubaryov, ‘that ... that ought to be
noted.’

Madame Suhantchikov shrugged her shoulders contemptuously.

‘They’re one worse than another,’ she said, ‘but I know a still better
story about Tentelyev. He was, as every one knows, a most horrible
despot with his serfs, though he gave himself out for an emancipator.
Well, he was once at some friend’s house in Paris, and suddenly in comes
Madame Beecher Stowe--you know, _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_. Tentelyev, who’s an
awfully pushing fellow, began asking the host to present him; but
directly she heard his name. “What?” she said, “he presumes to be
introduced to the author of _Uncle Tom_?” And she gave him a slap on the
cheek! “Go away!” she says, “at once!” And what do you think? Tentelyev
took his hat and slunk away, pretty crestfallen.’

[Illustration: _Mrs. Beecher Stowe._]

‘Come, I think that’s exaggerated,’ observed Bambaev. ‘“Go away” she
certainly did say, that’s a fact, but she didn’t give him a smack!’

‘She did, she did!’ repeated Madam Suhantchikov with convulsive
intensity: ‘I am not talking idle gossip. And you are friends with men
like that!’

‘Excuse me, excuse me, Matrona Semyonovna, I never spoke of Tentelyev as
a friend of mine; I was speaking of Pelikanov.’

‘Well, if it’s not Tentelyev, it’s another. Mihnyov, for example.’

‘What did he do then?’ asked Bambaev, already showing signs of alarm.

‘What? Is it possible you don’t know? He exclaimed on the Poznesensky
Prospect in the hearing of all the world that all the liberals ought to
be in prison; and what’s more, an old schoolfellow came to him, a poor
man of course, and said, “Can I come to dinner with you?” And this was
his answer. “No, impossible; I have two counts dining with me to-day ...
get along with you!”’

‘But that’s slander, upon my word!’ vociferated Bambaev.

‘Slander? ... slander? In the first place, Prince Vahrushkin, who was
also dining at your Mihnyov’s----’

‘Prince Vahrushkin,’ Gubaryov interpolated severely, ‘is my cousin; but
I don’t allow him to enter my house.... So there is no need to mention
him even.’

‘In the second place,’ continued Madame Suhantchikov, with a submissive
nod in Gubaryov’s direction, ‘Praskovya Yakovlovna told me so herself.’

‘You have hit on a fine authority to quote! Why, she and Sarkizov are
the greatest scandal-mongers going.’

‘I beg your pardon, Sarkizov is a liar, certainly. He filched the very
pall of brocade off his dead father’s coffin. I will never dispute that;
but Praskovya Yakovlovna--there’s no comparison! Remember how
magnanimously she parted from her husband! But you, I know, are always
ready----’

‘Come, enough, enough, Matrona Semyonovna,’ said Bambaev, interrupting
her, ‘let us give up this tittle-tattle, and take a loftier flight. I am
not new to the work, you know. Have you read _Mlle. de la Quintinie_?
That’s something charming now! And quite in accord with your principles
at the same time!’

‘I never read novels now,’ was Madame Suhantchikov’s dry and sharp
reply.

‘Why?’

‘Because I have not the time now; I have no thoughts now but for one
thing, sewing machines.’

‘What machines?’ inquired Litvinov.

‘Sewing, sewing; all women ought to provide themselves with
sewing-machines, and form societies; in that way they will all be
enabled to earn their living, and will become independent at once. In no
other way can they ever be emancipated. That is an important, most
important social question. I had such an argument about it with Boleslav
Stadnitsky. Boleslav Stadnitsky is a marvellous nature, but he looks at
these things in an awfully frivolous spirit. He does nothing but laugh.
Idiot!’

‘All will in their due time be called to account, from all it will be
exacted,’ pronounced Gubaryov deliberately, in a tone half-professorial,
half-prophetic.

‘Yes, yes,’ repeated Bambaev, ‘it will be exacted, precisely so, it will
be exacted. But, Stepan Nikolaitch,’ he added, dropping his voice, ‘how
goes the great work?’

‘I am collecting materials,’ replied Gubaryov, knitting his brows; and,
turning to Litvinov, whose head began to swim from the medley of
unfamiliar names, and the frenzy of backbiting, he asked him what
subjects he was interested in.

Litvinov satisfied his curiosity.

‘Ah! to be sure, the natural sciences. That is useful, as training; as
training, not as an end in itself. The end at present should be ... mm
... should be ... different. Allow me to ask what views do you hold?’

‘What views?’

‘Yes, that is, more accurately speaking, what are your political views?’

Litvinov smiled.

‘Strictly speaking, I have no political views.’

The broad-shouldered man sitting in the corner raised his head quickly
at these words and looked attentively at Litvinov.

‘How is that?’ observed Gubaryov with peculiar gentleness. ‘Have you not
yet reflected on the subject, or have you grown weary of it?’

‘How shall I say? It seems to me that for us Russians, it is too early
yet to have political views or to imagine that we have them. Observe
that I attribute to the word “political” the meaning which belongs to it
by right, and that----’

‘Aha! he belongs to the undeveloped,’ Gubaryov interrupted him, with the
same gentleness, and going up to Voroshilov, he asked him: ‘Had he read
the pamphlet he had given him?’

Voroshilov, to Litvinov’s astonishment, had not uttered a word ever
since his entrance, but had only knitted his brows and rolled his eyes
(as a rule he was either speechifying or else perfectly dumb). He now
expanded his chest in soldierly fashion, and with a tap of his heels,
nodded assent.

‘Well, and how was it? Did you like it?’

‘As regards the fundamental principles, I liked it; but I did not agree
with the inferences.’

‘Mmm ... Andrei Ivanitch praised that pamphlet, however. You must expand
your doubts to me later.’

‘You desire it in writing?’

Gubaryov was obviously surprised; he had not expected this; however,
after a moment’s thought, he replied:

‘Yes, in writing. By the way, I will ask you to explain to me your views
also ... in regard to ... in regard to associations.’

‘Associations on Lassalle’s system, do you desire, or on the system of
Schulze-Delitzsch?’

‘Mmm ... on both. For us Russians, you understand, the financial aspect
of the matter is specially important. Yes, and the _artel_ ... as the
germ.... All that, one must take note of. One must go deeply into it.
And the question, too, of the land to be apportioned to the
peasants....’

‘And you, Stepan Nikolaitch, what is your view as to the number of acres
suitable?’ inquired Voroshilov, with reverential delicacy in his voice.

‘Mmm ... and the commune?’ articulated Gubaryov, deep in thought, and
biting a tuft of his beard he stared at the table-leg. ‘The commune!...
Do you understand. That is a grand word! Then what is the significance
of these conflagrations? these ... these government measures against
Sunday-schools, reading-rooms, journals? And the refusal of the peasants
to sign the charters regulating their position in the future? And
finally, what of what is happening in Poland? Don’t you see that ... mmm
... that we ... we have to unite with the people ... find out ... find
out their views----’ Suddenly a heavy, almost a wrathful emotion seemed
to take possession of Gubaryov; he even grew black in the face and
breathed heavily, but still did not raise his eyes, and continued to
gnaw at his beard. ‘Can’t you see----’

‘Yevseyev is a wretch!’ Madame Suhantchikov burst out noisily all of a
sudden. Bambaev had been relating something to her in a voice lowered
out of respect for their host. Gubaryov turned round swiftly on his
heels, and again began limping about the room.

Fresh guests began to arrive; towards the end of the evening a good many
people were assembled. Among them came, too, Mr. Yevseyev whom Madame
Suhantchikov had vilified so cruelly. She entered into conversation with
him very cordially, and asked him to escort her home; there arrived too
a certain Pishtchalkin, an ideal mediator, one of those men of precisely
whom perhaps Russia stands in need--a man, that is, narrow, of little
information, and no great gifts, but conscientious, patient, and honest;
the peasants of his district almost worshipped him, and he regarded
himself very respectfully as a creature genuinely deserving of esteem. A
few officers, too, were there, escaped for a brief furlough to Europe,
and rejoicing--though of course warily, and ever mindful of their
colonel in the background of their brains--in the opportunity of
dallying a little with intellectual--even rather dangerous--people; two
lanky students from Heidelberg came hurrying in, one looked about him
very contemptuously, the other giggled spasmodically ... both were very
ill at ease; after them a Frenchman--a so-called _petit jeune
homme_--poked his nose in; a nasty, silly, pitiful little creature, ...
who enjoyed some repute among his fellow _commis-voyageurs_ on the
theory that Russian countesses had fallen in love with him; for his own
part, his reflections were centred more upon getting a supper gratis;
the last to appear was Tit Bindasov, in appearance a rollicking German
student, in reality a skinflint, in words a terrorist, by vocation a
police-officer, a friend of Russian merchants’ wives and Parisian
_cocottes_; bald, toothless, and drunken; he arrived very red and
sodden, affirming that he had lost his last farthing to that blackguard
Benazet; in reality, he had won sixteen guldens.... In short, there were
a number of people. Remarkable--really remarkable--was the respect with
which all these people treated Gubaryov as a preceptor or chief; they
laid their ideas before him, and submitted them to his judgment; and he
replied by muttering, plucking at his beard, averting his eyes, or by
some disconnected, meaningless words, which were at once seized upon as
the utterances of the loftiest wisdom. Gubaryov himself seldom
interposed in the discussions; but the others strained their lungs to
the utmost to make up for it. It happened more than once that three or
four were shouting for ten minutes together, and all were content and
understood. The conversation lasted till after midnight, and was as
usual distinguished by the number and variety of the subjects discussed.
Madame Suhantchikov talked about Garibaldi, about a certain Karl
Ivanovitch, who had been flogged by the serfs of his own household,
about Napoleon III., about women’s work, about a merchant, Pleskatchov,
who had designedly caused the death of twelve work-women, and had
received a medal for it with the inscription ‘for public services’;
about the proletariat, about the Georgian Prince Tchuktcheulidzov, who
had shot his wife with a cannon, and about the future of Russia.
Pishtchalkin, too, talked of the future of Russia, and of the spirit
monopoly, and of the significance of nationalities, and of how he hated
above everything what was vulgar. There was an outburst all of a sudden
from Voroshilov; in a single breath, almost choking himself, he
mentioned Draper, Virchow, Shelgunov, Bichat, Helmholtz, Star, St.
Raymund, Johann Müller the physiologist, and Johann Müller the
historian--obviously confounding them--Taine, Renan, Shtchapov; and then
Thomas Nash, Peele, Greene.... ‘What sort of queer fish may they be?’
Bambaev muttered bewildered, Shakespeare’s predecessors having the same
relation to him as the ranges of the Alps to Mont Blanc. Voroshilov
replied cuttingly, and he too touched on the future of Russia. Bambaev
also spoke of the future of Russia, and even depicted it in glowing
colours: but he was thrown into special raptures over the thought of
Russian music, in which he saw something. ‘Ah! great indeed!’ and in
confirmation he began humming a song of Varlamov’s, but was soon
interrupted by a general shout, ‘He is singing the _Miserere_ from the
_Trovatore_, and singing it excruciatingly too.’ One little officer was
reviling Russian literature in the midst of the hubbub; another was
quoting verses from _Sparks_; but Tit Bindasov went even further; he
declared that all these swindlers ought to have their teeth knocked out,
... and that’s all about it, but he did not particularise who were the
swindlers alluded to. The smoke from the cigars became stifling; all
were hot and exhausted, every one was hoarse, all eyes were growing dim,
and the perspiration stood out in drops on every face. Bottles of iced
beer were brought in and drunk off instantaneously. ‘What was I saying?’
remarked one; ‘and with whom was I disputing, and about what?’ inquired
another. And among all the uproar and the smoke, Gubaryov walked
indefatigably up and down as before, swaying from side to side and
twitching at his beard; now listening, turning an ear to some
controversy, now putting in a word of his own; and every one was forced
to feel that he, Gubaryov, was the source of it all, that he was the
master here, and the most eminent personality....

Litvinov, towards ten o’clock, began to have a terrible headache, and,
taking advantage of a louder outburst of general excitement, went off
quietly unobserved. Madame Suhantchikov had recollected a fresh act of
injustice of Prince Barnaulov; he had all but given orders to have some
one’s ears bitten off.

The fresh night air enfolded Litvinov’s flushed face caressingly, the
fragrant breeze breathed on his parched lips. ‘What is it,’ he thought
as he went along the dark avenue, ‘that I have been present at? Why were
they met together? What were they shouting, scolding, and making such a
pother about? What was it all for?’ Litvinov shrugged his shoulders, and
turning into Weber’s, he picked up a newspaper and asked for an ice. The
newspaper was taken up with a discussion on the Roman question, and the
ice turned out to be very nasty. He was already preparing to go home,
when suddenly an unknown person in a wide-brimmed hat drew near, and
saying in Russian: ‘I hope I am not in your way?’ sat down at his table.
Only then, after a closer glance at the stranger, Litvinov recognised
him as the broad-shouldered gentleman hidden away in a corner at
Gubaryov’s, who had stared at him with such attention when the
conversation had turned on political views. During the whole evening
this gentleman had not once opened his mouth, and now, sitting down near
Litvinov, and taking off his hat, he looked at him with an expression of
friendliness and some embarrassment.



V


‘Mr. Gubaryov, at whose rooms I had the pleasure of meeting you to-day,’
he began, ‘did not introduce me to you; so that, with your leave, I will
now introduce myself--Potugin, retired councillor. I was in the
department of finances in St. Petersburg. I hope you do not think it
strange.... I am not in the habit as a rule of making friends so
abruptly ... but with you....’

Potugin grew rather mixed, and he asked the waiter to bring him a little
glass of kirsch-wasser. ‘To give me courage,’ he added with a smile.

Litvinov looked with redoubled interest at the last of all the new
persons with whom it had been his lot to be brought into contact that
day. His thought was at once, ‘He is not the same as those.’

Certainly he was not. There sat before him, drumming with delicate
fingers on the edge of the table, a broad-shouldered man, with an ample
frame on short legs, a downcast head of curly hair, with very
intelligent and very mournful eyes under bushy brows, a thick well-cut
mouth, bad teeth, and that purely Russian nose to which is assigned the
epithet ‘potato’; a man of awkward, even odd exterior; at least, he was
certainly not of a common type. He was carelessly dressed; his
old-fashioned coat hung on him like a sack, and his cravat was twisted
awry. His sudden friendliness, far from striking Litvinov as intrusive,
secretly flattered him; it was impossible not to see that it was not a
common practice with this man to attach himself to strangers. He made a
curious impression on Litvinov; he awakened in him respect and liking,
and a kind of involuntary compassion.

‘I am not in your way then?’ he repeated in a soft, rather languid and
faint voice, which was marvellously in keeping with his whole
personality.

‘No, indeed,’ replied Litvinov; ‘quite the contrary, I am very glad.’

‘Really? Well, then, I am glad too. I have heard a great deal about you;
I know what you are engaged in, and what your plans are. It’s a good
work. That’s why you were silent this evening.’

‘Yes; you too said very little, I fancy,’ observed Litvinov.

Potugin sighed. ‘The others said enough and to spare. I listened. Well,’
he added, after a moment’s pause, raising his eyebrows with a rather
humorous expression, ‘did you like our building of the Tower of Babel?’

‘That’s just what it was. You have expressed it capitally. I kept
wanting to ask those gentlemen what they were in such a fuss about.’

Potugin sighed again.

‘That’s the whole point of it, that they don’t know that themselves. In
former days the expression used about them would have been: “they are
the blind instruments of higher ends”; well, nowadays we make use of
sharper epithets. And take note that I am not in the least intending to
blame them; I will say more, they are all ... that is, almost all,
excellent people. Of Madame Suhantchikov, for instance, I know for
certain much that is good; she gave away the last of her fortune to two
poor nieces. Even admitting that the desire of doing something
picturesque, of showing herself off, was not without its influence on
her, still you will agree that it was a remarkable act of self-sacrifice
in a woman not herself well-off! Of Mr. Pishtchalkin there is no need to
speak even; the peasants of his district will certainly in time present
him with a silver bowl like a pumpkin, and perhaps even a holy picture
representing his patron saint, and though he will tell them in his
speech of thanks that he does not deserve such an honour, he won’t tell
the truth there; he does deserve it. Mr. Bambaev, your friend, has a
wonderfully good heart; it’s true that it’s with him as with the poet
Yazikov, who they say used to sing the praises of Bacchic revelry,
sitting over a book and sipping water; his enthusiasm is completely
without a special object, still it is enthusiasm; and Mr. Voroshilov,
too, is the most good-natured fellow; like all his sort, all men who’ve
taken the first prizes at school, he’s an _aide-de-camp_ of the
sciences, and he even holds his tongue sententiously, but then he is so
young. Yes, yes, they are all excellent people, and when you come to
results, there’s nothing to show for it; the ingredients are all
first-rate, but the dish is not worth eating.’

Litvinov listened to Potugin with growing astonishment: every phrase,
every turn of his slow but self-confident speech betrayed both the power
of speaking and the desire to speak.

Potugin did, in fact, like speaking, and could speak well; but, as a man
in whom life had succeeded in wearing away vanity, he waited with
philosophic calm for a good opportunity, a meeting with a kindred
spirit.

‘Yes, yes,’ he began again, with the special dejected but not peevish
humour peculiar to him, ‘it is all very strange. And there is something
else I want you to note. Let a dozen Englishmen, for example, come
together, and they will at once begin to talk of the sub-marine
telegraph, or the tax on paper, or a method of tanning rats’ skins,--of
something, that’s to say, practical and definite; a dozen Germans, and
of course Schleswig-Holstein and the unity of Germany will be brought on
the scene; given a dozen Frenchmen, and the conversation will infallibly
turn upon amorous adventures, however much you try to divert them from
the subject; but let a dozen Russians meet together, and instantly there
springs up the question--you had an opportunity of being convinced of
the fact this evening--the question of the significance and the future
of Russia, and in terms so general, beginning with creation, without
facts or conclusions. They worry and worry away at that unlucky subject,
as children chew away at a bit of india-rubber--neither for pleasure nor
profit, as the saying is. Well, then, of course the rotten West comes in
for its share. It’s a curious thing, it beats us at every point, this
West--but yet we declare that it’s rotten! And if only we had a genuine
contempt for it,’ pursued Potugin, ‘but that’s really all cant and
humbug. We can do well enough as far as abuse goes, but the opinion of
the West is the only thing we value, the opinion, that’s to say, of the
Parisian loafers.... I know a man--a good fellow, I fancy--the father of
a family, and no longer young; he was thrown into deep dejection for
some days because in a Parisian restaurant he had asked for _une portion
de biftek aux pommes de terre_, and a real Frenchman thereupon shouted:
_Garçon! biftek pommes!_ My friend was ready to die with shame, and
after that he shouted everywhere, _Biftek pommes!_ and taught others to
do the same. The very _cocottes_ are surprised at the reverential
trepidation with which our young barbarians enter their shameful
drawing-rooms. “Good God!” they are thinking, “is this really where I
am, with no less a person than Anna Deslions herself!”’

‘Tell me, pray,’ continued Litvinov, ‘to what do you ascribe the
influence Gubaryov undoubtedly has over all about him? Is it his talent,
his abilities?’

‘No, no; there is nothing of that sort about him....’

‘His personal character is it, then?’

‘Not that either, but he has a strong will. We Slavs, for the most part,
as we all know, are badly off for that commodity, and we grovel before
it. It is Mr. Gubaryov’s will to be a ruler, and every one has
recognised him as a ruler. What would you have? The government has freed
us from the dependence of serfdom--and many thanks to it! but the habits
of slavery are too deeply ingrained in us; we cannot easily be rid of
them. We want a master in everything and everywhere; as a rule this
master is a living person, sometimes it is some so-called tendency which
gains authority over us.... At present, for instance, we are all the
bondslaves of natural science.... Why, owing to what causes, we take
this bondage upon us, that is a matter difficult to see into; but such
seemingly is our nature. But the great thing is, that we should have a
master. Well, here he is amongst us; that means he is ours, and we can
afford to despise everything else! Simply slaves! And our pride is
slavish, and slavish too is our humility. If a new master arises--it’s
all over with the old one. Then it was Yakov, and now it is Sidor; we
box Yakov’s ears and kneel to Sidor! Call to mind how many tricks of
that sort have been played amongst us! We talk of scepticism as our
special characteristic; but even in our scepticism we are not like a
free man fighting with a sword, but like a lackey hitting out with his
fist, and very likely he is doing even that at his master’s bidding.
Then, we are a soft people too; it’s not difficult to keep the curb on
us. So that’s the way Mr. Gubaryov has become a power among us; he has
chipped and chipped away at one point, till he has chipped himself into
success. People see that he is a man who has a great opinion of himself,
who believes in himself, and commands. That’s the great thing, that he
can command; it follows that he must be right, and we ought to obey him.
All our sects, our Onuphrists and Akulinists, were founded exactly in
that way. He who holds the rod is the corporal.’

Potugin’s cheeks were flushed and his eyes grew dim; but, strange to
say, his speech, cruel and even malicious as it was, had no touch of
bitterness, but rather of sorrow, genuine and sincere sorrow.

‘How did you come to know Gubaryov?’ asked Litvinov.

‘I have known him a long while. And observe, another peculiarity among
us; a certain writer, for example, spent his whole life in inveighing in
prose and verse against drunkenness, and attacking the system of the
drink monopoly, and lo and behold! he went and bought two spirit
distilleries and opened a hundred drink-shops--and it made no
difference! Any other man might have been wiped off the face of the
earth, but he was not even reproached for it. And here is Mr. Gubaryov;
he is a Slavophil and a democrat and a socialist and anything you like,
but his property has been and is still managed by his brother, a master
of the old style, one of those who were famous for their fists. And the
very Madame Suhantchikov, who makes Mrs. Beecher Stowe box Tentelyev’s
ears, is positively in the dust before Gubaryov’s feet. And you know the
only thing he has to back him is that he reads clever books, and always
gets at the pith of them. You could see for yourself to-day what sort of
gift he has for expression; and thank God, too, that he does talk
little, and keeps in his shell. For when he is in good spirits, and lets
himself go, then it’s more than even I, patient as I am, can stand. He
begins by coarse joking and telling filthy anecdotes ... yes, really,
our majestic Mr. Gubaryov tells filthy anecdotes, and guffaws so
revoltingly over them all the time.’

‘Are you so patient?’ observed Litvinov. ‘I should have supposed the
contrary. But let me ask your name and your father’s name?’

Potugin sipped a little kirsch-wasser.

‘My name is Sozont.... Sozont Ivanitch. They gave me that magnificent
name in honour of a kinsman, an archimandrite, to whom I am indebted
for nothing else. I am, if I may venture so to express myself, of most
reverend stock. And as for your doubts about my patience, they are quite
groundless: I am very patient. I served for twenty-two years under the
authority of my own uncle, an actual councillor of state, Irinarh
Potugin. You don’t know him?’

‘No.’

‘I congratulate you. No, I am patient. “But let us return to our first
head,” as my esteemed colleague, who was burned alive some centuries
ago, the protopope Avvakum, used to say. I am amazed, my dear sir, at my
fellow-countrymen. They are all depressed, they all walk with downcast
heads, and at the same time they are all filled with hope, and on the
smallest excuse they lose their heads and fly off into ecstasies. Look
at the Slavophils even, among whom Mr. Gubaryov reckons himself: they
are most excellent people, but there is the same mixture of despair and
exultation, they too live in the future tense. Everything will be, will
be, if you please. In reality there is nothing done, and Russia for ten
whole centuries has created nothing of its own, either in government, in
law, in science, in art, or even in handicraft.... But wait a little,
have patience; it is all coming. And why is it coming; give us leave to
inquire? Why, because we, to be sure, the cultured classes are all
worthless; but the people.... Oh, the great people! You see that
peasant’s smock? That is the source that everything is to come from. All
the other idols have broken down; let us have faith in the smock-frock.
Well, but suppose the smock-frock fails us? No, it will not fail. Read
Kohanovsky, and cast your eyes up to heaven! Really, if I were a
painter, I would paint a picture of this sort: a cultivated man standing
before a peasant, doing him homage: heal me, dear master-peasant, I am
perishing of disease; and a peasant doing homage in his turn to the
cultivated man: teach me, dear master-gentleman, I am perishing from
ignorance. Well, and of course, both are standing still. But what we
ought to do is to feel really humble for a little--not only in
words--and to borrow from our elder brothers what they have invented
already before us and better than us! Waiter, _noch ein Gläschen
Kirsch_! You mustn’t think I’m a drunkard, but alcohol loosens my
tongue.’

‘After what you have just said,’ observed Litvinov with a smile, ‘I need
not even inquire to which party you belong, and what is your opinion
about Europe. But let me make one observation to you. You say that we
ought to borrow from our elder brothers: but how can we borrow without
consideration of the conditions of climate and of soil, the local and
national peculiarities? My father, I recollect, ordered from Butenop a
cast-iron thrashing machine highly recommended; the machine was very
good, certainly--but what happened? For five long years it remained
useless in the barn, till it was replaced by a wooden American one--far
more suitable to our ways and habits, as the American machines are as a
rule. One cannot borrow at random, Sozont Ivanitch.’

Potugin lifted his head.

‘I did not expect such a criticism as that from you, excellent Grigory
Mihalovitch,’ he began, after a moment’s pause. ‘Who wants to make you
borrow at random? Of course you steal what belongs to another man, not
because it is some one else’s, but because it suits you; so it follows
that you consider, you make a selection. And as for results, pray don’t
let us be unjust to ourselves; there will be originality enough in them
by virtue of those very local, climatic, and other conditions which you
mention. Only lay good food before it, and the natural stomach will
digest it in its own way; and in time, as the organism gains in vigour,
it will give it a sauce of its own. Take our language even as an
instance. Peter the Great deluged it with thousands of foreign words,
Dutch, French, and German; those words expressed ideas with which the
Russian people had to be familiarised; without scruple or ceremony Peter
poured them wholesale by bucketsful into us. At first, of course, the
result was something of a monstrous product; but later there began
precisely that process of digestion to which I have alluded. The ideas
had been introduced and assimilated; the foreign forms evaporated
gradually, and the language found substitutes for them from within
itself; and now your humble servant, the most mediocre stylist, will
undertake to translate any page you like out of Hegel--yes, indeed, out
of Hegel--without making use of a single word not Slavonic. What has
happened with the language, one must hope will happen in other
departments. It all turns on the question: is it a nature of strong
vitality? and our nature--well, it will stand the test; it has gone
through greater trials than that. Only nations in a state of nervous
debility, feeble nations, need fear for their health and their
independence, just as it is only weak-minded people who are capable of
falling into triumphant rhapsodies over the fact that we are Russians. I
am very careful over my health, but I don’t go into ecstasies over it: I
should be ashamed.’

‘That is all very true, Sozont Ivanitch,’ observed Litvinov in his turn;
‘but why inevitably expose ourselves to such tests? You say yourself
that at first the result was monstrous! Well, what if that monstrous
product had persisted? Indeed it has persisted, as you know yourself.’

‘Only not in the language--and that means a great deal! And it is our
people, not I, who have done it; I am not to blame because they are
destined to go through a discipline of this kind. “The Germans have
developed in a normal way,” cry the Slavophils, “let us too have a
normal development!” But how are you to get it when the very first
historical step taken by our race--the summoning of a prince from over
the sea to rule over them--is an irregularity, an abnormality, which is
repeated in every one of us down to the present day; each of us, at
least once in his life, has certainly said to something foreign, not
Russian: “Come, rule and reign over me!” I am ready, of course, to agree
that when we put a foreign substance into our own body we cannot tell
for certain what it is we are putting there, bread or poison; yet it is
a well-known thing that you can never get from bad to good through what
is better, but always through a worse state of transition, and poison
too is useful in medicine. It is only fit for fools or knaves to point
with triumph to the poverty of the peasants after the emancipation, and
the increase of drunkenness since the abolition of the farming of the
spirit-tax.... Through worse to better!’

Potugin passed his hand over his face. ‘You asked me what was my opinion
of Europe,’ he began again: ‘I admire her, and am devoted to her
principles to the last degree, and don’t in the least think it necessary
to conceal the fact. I have long--no, not long--for some time ceased to
be afraid to give full expression to my convictions--and I saw that you
too had no hesitation in informing Mr. Gubaryov of your own way of
thinking. Thank God I have given up paying attention to the ideas and
points of view and habits of the man I am conversing with. Really, I
know of nothing worse than that quite superfluous cowardice, that
cringing desire to be agreeable, by virtue of which you may see an
important dignitary among us trying to ingratiate himself with some
little student who is quite insignificant in his eyes, positively
playing down to him, with all sorts of tricks and devices. Even if we
admit that the dignitary may do it out of desire for popularity, what
induces us common folk to shuffle and degrade ourselves. Yes, yes, I am
a Westerner, I am devoted to Europe: that’s to say, speaking more
accurately, I am devoted to culture--the culture at which they make fun
so wittily among us just now--and to civilisation--yes, yes, that is a
better word--and I love it with my whole heart and believe in it, and I
have no other belief, and never shall have. That word, ci-vi-li-sa-tion
(Potugin pronounced each syllable with full stress and emphasis), is
intelligible, and pure, and holy, and all the other ideals, nationality,
glory, or what you like--they smell of blood.... Away with them!’

‘Well, but Russia, Sozont Ivanitch, your country--you love it?’

Potugin passed his hand over his face. ‘I love her passionately and
passionately hate her.’

Litvinov shrugged his shoulders.

‘That’s stale, Sozont Ivanitch, that’s a commonplace.’

‘And what of it? So that’s what you’re afraid of! A commonplace! I know
many excellent commonplaces. Here, for example, Law and Liberty is a
well-known commonplace. Why, do you consider it’s better as it is with
us, lawlessness and bureaucratic tyranny? And, besides, all those
phrases by which so many young heads are turned: vile bourgeoisie,
_souveraineté du peuple_, right to labour, aren’t they commonplaces too?
And as for love, inseparable from hate....’

‘Byronism,’ interposed Litvinov, ‘the romanticism of the thirties.’

‘Excuse me, you’re mistaken; such a mingling of emotions was first
mentioned by Catullus, the Roman poet Catullus,[1] two thousand years
ago. I have read that, for I know a little Latin, thanks to my clerical
origin, if so I may venture to express myself. Yes, indeed, I both love
and hate my Russia, my strange, sweet, nasty, precious country. I have
left her just now. I want a little fresh air after sitting for twenty
years on a clerk’s high stool in a government office; I have left
Russia, and I am happy and contented here; but I shall soon go back
again: I feel that. It’s a beautiful land of gardens--but our wild
berries will not grow here.’

  Footnote 1: Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
  Nescio: sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.--CATULL. lxxxvi.

‘You are happy and contented, and I too like the place,’ said Litvinov,
‘and I came here to study; but that does not prevent me from seeing
things like that.’

He pointed to two _cocottes_ who passed by, attended by a little group
of members of the Jockey Club, grimacing and lisping, and to the
gambling saloon, full to overflowing in spite of the lateness of the
hour.

‘And who told you I am blind to that?’ Potugin broke in. ‘But pardon my
saying it, your remark reminds me of the triumphant allusions made by
our unhappy journalists at the time of the Crimean war, to the defects
in the English War Department, exposed in the _Times_. I am not an
optimist myself, and all humanity, all our life, all this comedy with
tragic issues presents itself to me in no roseate colours: but why
fasten upon the West what is perhaps ingrained in our very human nature?
That gambling hall is disgusting, certainly; but is our home-bred
card-sharping any lovelier, think you? No, my dear Grigory Mihalovitch,
let us be more humble, more retiring. A good pupil sees his master’s
faults, but he keeps a respectful silence about them; these very faults
are of use to him, and set him on the right path. But if nothing will
satisfy you but sharpening your teeth on the unlucky West, there goes
Prince Kokó at a gallop, he will most likely lose in a quarter of an
hour over the green table the hardly earned rent wrung from a hundred
and fifty families; his nerves are upset, for I saw him at Marx’s to-day
turning over a pamphlet of Vaillot.... He will be a capital person for
you to talk to!’

‘But, please, please,’ said Litvinov hurriedly, seeing that Potugin was
getting up from his place, ‘I know Prince Kokó very little, and besides,
of course, I greatly prefer talking to you.’

‘Thanks very much,’ Potugin interrupted him, getting up and making a
bow; ‘but I have already had a good deal of conversation with you;
that’s to say, really, I have talked alone, and you have probably
noticed yourself that a man is always as it were ashamed and awkward
when he has done all the talking, especially so on a first meeting, as
if to show what a fine fellow one is. Good-bye for the present. And I
repeat I am very glad to have made your acquaintance.’

‘But wait a minute, Sozont Ivanitch, tell me at least where you live,
and whether you intend to remain here long.’

Potugin seemed a little put out.

‘I shall remain about a week in Baden. We can meet here though, at
Weber’s or at Marx’s, or else I will come to you.’

‘Still I must know your address.’

‘Yes. But you see I am not alone.’

‘You are married?’ asked Litvinov suddenly.

‘No, good heavens! ... what an absurd idea! But I have a girl with
me.’...

‘Oh!’ articulated Litvinov, with a face of studied politeness, as though
he would ask pardon, and he dropped his eyes.

‘She is only six years old,’ pursued Potugin. ‘She’s an orphan ... the
daughter of a lady ... a good friend of mine. So we had better meet
here. Good-bye.’

He pulled his hat over his curly head, and disappeared quickly. Twice
there was a glimpse of him under the gas-lamps in the rather meanly
lighted road that leads into the Lichtenthaler Allee.



VI


‘A strange man!’ thought Litvinov, as he turned into the hotel where he
was staying; ‘a strange man! I must see more of him!’ He went into his
room; a letter on the table caught his eye. ‘Ah! from Tanya!’ he
thought, and was overjoyed at once; but the letter was from his country
place, from his father. Litvinov broke the thick heraldic seal, and was
just setting to work to read it ... when he was struck by a strong, very
agreeable, and familiar fragrance, and saw in the window a great bunch
of fresh heliotrope in a glass of water. Litvinov bent over them not
without amazement, touched them, and smelt them.... Something seemed to
stir in his memory, something very remote ... but what, precisely, he
could not discover. He rang for the servant and asked him where these
flowers had come from. The man replied that they had been brought by a
lady who would not give her name, but said that ‘Herr Zlitenhov’ would
be sure to guess who she was by the flowers. Again something stirred in
Litvinov’s memory. He asked the man what the lady looked like, and the
servant informed him that she was tall and grandly dressed and had a
veil over her face. ‘A Russian countess most likely,’ he added.

‘What makes you think that?’ asked Litvinov.

‘She gave me two guldens,’ responded the servant with a grin.

Litvinov dismissed him, and for a long while after he stood in deep
thought before the window; at last, however, with a wave of his hand, he
began again upon the letter from the country. His father poured out to
him his usual complaints, asserting that no one would take their corn,
even for nothing, that the people had got quite out of all habits of
obedience, and that probably the end of the world was coming soon.
‘Fancy,’ he wrote, among other things, ‘my last coachman, the Kalmuck
boy, do you remember him? has been bewitched, and the fellow would
certainly have died, and I should have had none to drive me, but, thank
goodness, some kind folks suggested and advised to send the sick man to
Ryazan, to a priest, well-known as a master against witchcraft: and his
cure has actually succeeded as well as possible, in confirmation of
which I lay before you the letter of the good father as a document.’
Litvinov ran through this document with curiosity. In it was set forth:
‘that the serving-man Nicanor Dmitriev was beset with a malady which
could not be touched by the medical faculty; and this malady was the
work of wicked people; but he himself, Nicanor, was the cause of it,
since he had not fulfilled his promise to a certain girl, and therefore
by the aid of others she had made him unfit for anything, and if I had
not appeared to aid him in these circumstances, he would surely have
perished utterly, like a worm; but I, trusting in the All-seeing Eye,
have become a stay to him in his life; and how I accomplished it, that
is a mystery; I beg your excellency not to countenance a girl who has
such wicked arts, and even to chide her would be no harm, or she may
again work him a mischief.’

Litvinov fell to musing over this document; it brought him a whiff of
the desert, of the steppes, of the blind darkness of the life mouldering
there, and it seemed a marvellous thing that he should be reading such a
letter in Baden, of all places. Meanwhile it had long struck midnight;
Litvinov went to bed and put out his light. But he could not get to
sleep; the faces he had seen, the talk he had heard, kept coming back
and revolving, strangely interwoven and entangled in his burning head,
which ached from the fumes of tobacco. Now he seemed to hear Gubaryov’s
muttering, and fancied his eyes with their dull, persistent stare
fastened on the floor; then suddenly those eyes began to glow and leap,
and he recognised Madame Suhantchikov, and listened to her shrill voice,
and involuntarily repeated after her in a whisper, ‘she did, she did,
slap his face.’ Then the clumsy figure of Potugin passed before him; and
for the tenth, and the twentieth time he went over every word he had
uttered; then, like a jack in the box, Voroshilov jumped up in his trim
coat, which fitted him like a new uniform; and Pishtchalkin gravely and
sagaciously nodded his well-cut and truly well-intentioned head; and
then Bindasov bawled and swore, and Bambaev fell into tearful
transports.... And above all--this scent, this persistent, sweet, heavy
scent gave him no rest, and grew more and more powerful in the darkness,
and more and more importunately it reminded him of something which still
eluded his grasp.... The idea occurred to Litvinov that the scent of
flowers at night in a bedroom was injurious, and he got up, and groping
his way to the nosegay, carried it into the next room; but even from
there the oppressive fragrance penetrated to him on his pillow and
under the counterpane, and he tossed in misery from side to side. A
slight delirium had already begun to creep over him; already the priest,
‘the master against witchcraft’ had twice run across his road in the
guise of a very playful hare with a beard and a pig-tail, and Voroshilov
was trilling before him, sitting in a huge general’s plumed cock-hat
like a nightingale in a bush.... When suddenly he jumped up in bed, and
clasping his hands, cried, ‘Can it be she? it can’t be!’

But to explain this exclamation of Litvinov’s we must beg the indulgent
reader to go back a few years with us.



VII


Early in the fifties, there was living in Moscow, in very straitened
circumstances, almost in poverty, the numerous family of the Princes
Osinin. These were real princes--not Tartar-Georgians, but pure-blooded
descendants of Rurik. Their name is often to be met with in our
chronicles under the first grand princes of Moscow, who created a united
Russia. They possessed wide acres and many domains. Many a time they
were rewarded for ‘service and blood and disablement.’ They sat in the
Council of Boyars. One of them even rose to a very high position. But
they fell under the ban of the empire through the plots of enemies ‘on a
charge of witchcraft and evil philtres,’ and they were ruined ‘terribly
and beyond recall.’ They were deprived of their rank, and banished to
remote parts; the Osinins fell and had never risen again, had never
attained to power again. The ban was taken off in time, and they were
even reinstated in their Moscow house and belongings, but it was of no
avail. Their family was impoverished, ‘run to seed’; it did not revive
under Peter, nor under Catherine; and constantly dwindling and growing
humbler, it had by now reckoned private stewards, managers of
wine-shops, and ward police-inspectors among its members. The family of
Osinins, of whom we have made mention, consisted of a husband and wife
and five children. It was living near the Dogs’ Place, in a one-storied
little wooden house, with a striped portico looking on to the street,
green lions on the gates, and all the other pretensions of nobility,
though it could hardly make both ends meet, was constantly in debt at
the green-grocer’s, and often sitting without firewood or candles in the
winter. The prince himself was a dull, indolent man, who had once been a
handsome dandy, but had gone to seed completely. More from regard for
his wife, who had been a maid-of-honour, than from respect for his name,
he had been presented with one of those old-fashioned Moscow posts that
have a small salary, a queer-sounding name, and absolutely no duties
attached. He never meddled in anything, and did nothing but smoke from
morning till night, breathing heavily, and always wrapped in a
dressing-gown. His wife was a sickly irritable woman, for ever worried
over domestic trifles--over getting her children placed in government
schools, and keeping up her Petersburg connections; she could never
accustom herself to her position and her remoteness from the Court.

Litvinov’s father had made acquaintance with the Osinins during his
residence at Moscow, had had occasion to do them some services, and had
once lent them three hundred roubles; and his son often visited them
while he was a student; his lodging happened to be at no great distance
from their house. But he was not drawn to them simply as near
neighbours, nor tempted by their comfortless way of living. He began to
be a frequent visitor at their house after he had fallen in love with
their eldest daughter Irina.

She had then completed her seventeenth year; she had only just left
school, from which her mother withdrew her through a disagreement with
the principal. This disagreement arose from the fact that Irina was to
have delivered at a public function some verses in French, complimentary
to the curator, and just before the performance her place was filled by
another girl, the daughter of a very rich spirit-contractor. The
princess could not stomach this affront; and indeed Irina herself never
forgave the principal for this act of injustice; she had been dreaming
beforehand of how she would rise before the eyes of every one,
attracting universal attention, and would deliver her speech, and how
Moscow would talk about her afterwards!... And, indeed, Moscow would
have talked about her afterwards. She was a tall, slim girl, with a
somewhat hollow chest and narrow unformed shoulders, with a skin of a
dead-white, rare at her age, and pure and smooth as china, with thick
fair hair; there were darker tresses mingled in a very original way with
the light ones. Her features--exquisitely, almost too perfectly,
correct--had not yet quite lost the innocent expression that belongs to
childhood; the languid curves of her lovely neck, and her
smile--half-indifferent, half-weary--betrayed the nervous temperament of
a delicate girl; but in the lines of those fine, faintly-smiling lips,
of that small, falcon, slightly-narrow nose, there was something wilful
and passionate, something dangerous for herself and others. Astounding,
really astounding were her eyes, dark grey with greenish lights,
languishing, almond-shaped as an Egyptian goddess’s, with shining lashes
and bold sweep of eyebrow. There was a strange look in those eyes; they
seemed looking out intently and thoughtfully--looking out from some
unknown depth and distance. At school, Irina had been reputed one of the
best pupils for intelligence and abilities, but of uneven temper, fond
of power, and headstrong; one class-mistress prophesied that her
passions would be her ruin--‘_vos passions vous perdront_’, on the other
hand, another class-mistress censured her for coldness and want of
feeling, and called her ‘_une jeune fille sans cœur_.’ Irina’s
companions thought her proud and reserved: her brothers and sisters
stood a little in awe of her: her mother had no confidence in her: and
her father felt ill at ease when she fastened her mysterious eyes upon
him. But she inspired a feeling of involuntary respect in both her
father and her mother, not so much through her qualities, as from a
peculiar, vague sense of expectations which she had, in some undefined
way, awakened in them.

‘You will see, Praskovya Danilovna,’ said the old prince one day, taking
his pipe out of his mouth, ‘our chit of an Irina will give us all a lift
in the world yet.’

The princess got angry, and told her husband that he made use of ‘_des
expressions insupportables_’; afterwards, however, she fell to musing
over his words, and repeated through her teeth:

‘Well ... and it would be a good thing if we did get a lift.’

Irina enjoyed almost unlimited freedom in her parents’ house; they did
not spoil her, they even avoided her a little, but they did not thwart
her, and that was all she wanted.... Sometimes--during some too
humiliating scene--when some tradesman would come and keep shouting, to
be heard over the whole court, that he was sick of coming after his
money, or their own servants would begin abusing their masters to their
face, with ‘fine princes you are, to be sure; you may whistle for your
supper, and go hungry to bed’--Irina would not stir a muscle; she would
sit unmoved, an evil smile on her dark face; and her smile alone was
more bitter to her parents than any reproaches, and they felt themselves
guilty--guilty, though guiltless--towards this being on whom had been
bestowed, as it seemed, from her very birth, the right to wealth, to
luxury, and to homage.

Litvinov fell in love with Irina from the moment he saw her (he was only
three years older than she was), but for a long while he failed to
obtain not only a response, but even a hearing. Her manner to him was
even overcast with a shade of something like hostility; he did in fact
wound her pride, and she concealed the wound, and could never forgive
it. He was too young and too modest at that time to understand what
might be concealed under this hostile, almost contemptuous severity.
Often, forgetful of lectures and exercises, he would sit and sit in the
Osinins’ cheerless drawing-room, stealthily watching Irina, his heart
slowly and painfully throbbing and suffocating him; and she would seem
angry or bored, would get up and walk about the room, look coldly at him
as though he were a table or chair, shrug her shoulders, and fold her
arms. Or for a whole evening, even when talking with Litvinov, she would
purposely avoid looking at him, as though denying him even that grace.
Or she would at last take up a book and stare at it, not reading, but
frowning and biting her lips. Or else she would suddenly ask her father
or brother aloud: ‘What’s the German for patience?’ He tried to tear
himself away from the enchanted circle in which he suffered and
struggled impotently like a bird in a trap; he went away from Moscow for
a week. He nearly went out of his mind with misery and dulness; he
returned quite thin and ill to the Osinins’.... Strange to say, Irina
too had grown perceptibly thinner during those days; her face had grown
pale, her cheeks were wan.... But she met him with still greater
coldness, with almost malignant indifference; as though he had
intensified that secret wound he had dealt at her pride.... She tortured
him in this way for two months. Then everything was transformed in one
day. It was as though love had broken into flame with the heat, or had
dropped down from a storm-cloud. One day--long will he remember that
day--he was once more sitting in the Osinins’ drawing-room at the
window, and was looking mechanically into the street. There was vexation
and weariness in his heart, he despised himself, and yet he could not
move from his place.... He thought that if a river ran there under the
window, he would throw himself in, with a shudder of fear, but without a
regret. Irina placed herself not far from him, and was somehow strangely
silent and motionless. For some days now she had not talked to him at
all, or to any one else; she kept sitting, leaning on her elbows, as
though she were in perplexity, and only rarely she looked slowly round.
This cold torture was at last more than Litvinov could bear; he got up,
and without saying good-bye, he began to look for his hat. ‘Stay,’
sounded suddenly, in a soft whisper. Litvinov’s heart throbbed, he did
not at once recognise Irina’s voice; in that one word, there was a ring
of something that had never been in it before. He lifted his head and
was stupefied; Irina was looking fondly--yes, fondly at him. ‘Stay,’ she
repeated; ‘don’t go. I want to be with you.’ Her voice sank still lower.
‘Don’t go.... I wish it.’ Understanding nothing, not fully conscious
what he was doing, he drew near her, stretched out his hands.... She
gave him both of hers at once, then smiling, flushing hotly, she turned
away, and still smiling, went out of the room. She came back a few
minutes later with her youngest sister, looked at him again with the
same prolonged tender gaze, and made him sit near her.... At first she
could say nothing; she only sighed and blushed; then she began, timidly
as it were, to question him about his pursuits, a thing she had never
done before. In the evening of the same day, she tried several times to
beg his forgiveness for not having done him justice before, assured him
she had now become quite different, astonished him by a sudden outburst
of republicanism (he had at that time a positive hero-worship for
Robespierre, and did not presume to criticise Marat aloud), and only a
week later he knew that she loved him. Yes; he long remembered that
first day ... but he did not forget those that came after either--those
days, when still forcing himself to doubt, afraid to believe in it, he
saw clearly, with transports of rapture, almost of dread, bliss un-hoped
for coming to life, growing, irresistibly carrying everything before it,
reaching him at last. Then followed the radiant moments of first
love--moments which are not destined to be, and could not fittingly be,
repeated in the same life. Irina became all at once as docile as a
lamb, as soft as silk, and boundlessly kind; she began giving lessons to
her younger sisters--not on the piano, she was no musician, but in
French and English; she read their school-books with them, and looked
after the housekeeping; everything was amusing and interesting to her;
she would sometimes chatter incessantly, and sometimes sink into
speechless tenderness; she made all sorts of plans, and was lost in
endless anticipations of what she would do when she was married to
Litvinov (they never doubted that their marriage would come to pass),
and how together they would ... ‘Work?’ prompted Litvinov.... ‘Yes;
work,’ repeated Irina, ‘and read ... but travel before all things.’ She
particularly wanted to leave Moscow as soon as possible, and when
Litvinov reminded her that he had not yet finished his course of study
at the university, she always replied, after a moment’s thought, that it
was quite possible to finish his studies at Berlin or ... somewhere or
other. Irina was very little reserved in the expression of her feelings,
and so her relations with Litvinov did not long remain a secret from the
prince and princess. Rejoice they could not; but, taking all
circumstances into consideration, they saw no necessity for putting a
veto on it at once. Litvinov’s fortune was considerable....

‘But his family, his family!’ ... protested the princess. ‘Yes, his
family, of course,’ replied the prince; but at least he’s not quite a
plebeian; and, what’s the principal point, Irina, you know, will not
listen to us. Has there ever been a time when she did not do what she
chose? _Vous connaissez sa violence!_ Besides, there is nothing fixed
definitely yet.’ So reasoned the prince, but mentally he added, however:
‘Madame Litvinov--is that all? I had expected something else.’ Irina
took complete possession of her future _fiancé_, and indeed he himself
eagerly surrendered himself into her hands. It was as if he had fallen
into a rapid river, and had lost himself.... And bitter and sweet it was
to him, and he regretted nothing and heeded nothing. To reflect on the
significance and the duties of marriage, or whether he, so hopelessly
enslaved, could be a good husband, and what sort of wife Irina would
make, and whether their relations to one another were what they should
be--was more than he could bring himself to. His blood was on fire, he
could think of nothing, only--to follow her, be with her, for the future
without end, and then--let come what may!

But in spite of the complete absence of opposition on Litvinov’s side,
and the wealth of impulsive tenderness on Irina’s, they did not get on
quite without any misunderstandings and quarrels. One day he ran to her
straight from the university in an old coat and ink-stained hands. She
rushed to meet him with her accustomed fond welcome; suddenly she
stopped short.

‘You have no gloves,’ she said abruptly, and added directly after: ‘Fie!
what a student you are!’

‘You are too particular, Irina,’ remarked Litvinov.

‘You are a regular student,’ she repeated. ‘_Vous n’êtes pas
distingué_’; and turning her back on him she went out of the room. It is
true that an hour later she begged him to forgive her.... As a rule she
readily censured herself and accused herself to him; but, strange to
say, she often almost with tears blamed herself for evil propensities
which she had not, and obstinately denied her real defects. Another time
he found her in tears, her head in her hands, and her hair in disorder;
and when, all in agitation, he asked her the cause of her grief, she
pointed with her finger at her own bosom without speaking. Litvinov gave
an involuntary shiver. ‘Consumption!’ flashed through his brain, and he
seized her hand.

‘Are you ill, Irina?’ he articulated in a shaking voice. (They had
already begun on great occasions to call each other by their first
names.) ‘Let me go at once for a doctor.’

But Irina did not let him finish; she stamped with her foot in vexation.

‘I am perfectly well ... but this dress ... don’t you understand?’

‘What is it? ... this dress,’ he repeated in bewilderment.

‘What is it? Why, that I have no other, and that it is old and
disgusting, and I am obliged to put on this dress every day ... even
when you--Grisha--Grigory, come here.... You will leave off loving me,
at last, seeing me so slovenly!’

‘For goodness sake, Irina, what are you saying? That dress is very
nice.... It is dear to me too because I saw you for the first time in
it, darling.’

Irina blushed.

‘Do not remind me, if you please, Grigory Mihalovitch, that I had no
other dress even then.’

‘But I assure you, Irina Pavlovna, it suits you so exquisitely.’

‘No, it is horrid, horrid,’ she persisted, nervously pulling at her
long, soft curls. ‘Ugh, this poverty, poverty and squalor! How is one
to escape from this sordidness! How get out of this squalor!’

Litvinov did not know what to say, and slightly turned away from her.

All at once Irina jumped up from her chair, and laid both her hands on
his shoulders.

‘But you love me, Grisha? You love me?’ she murmured, putting her face
close to him, and her eyes, still filled with tears, sparkled with the
light of happiness, ‘You love me, dear, even in this horrid dress?’

Litvinov flung himself on his knees before her.

‘Ah, love me, love me, my sweet, my saviour,’ she whispered, bending
over him.

So the days flew, the weeks passed, and though as yet there had been no
formal declaration, though Litvinov still deferred his demand for her
hand, not, certainly, at his own desire, but awaiting directions from
Irina (she remarked sometimes that they were both ridiculously young,
and they must add at least a few weeks more to their years), still
everything was moving to a conclusion, and the future as it came nearer
grew more and more clearly defined, when suddenly an event occurred,
which scattered all their dreams and plans like light roadside dust.



VIII


That winter the court visited Moscow. One festivity followed another; in
its turn came the customary great ball in the Hall of Nobility. The news
of this ball, only, it is true, in the form of an announcement in the
_Political Gazette_, reached even the little house in Dogs’ Place. The
prince was the first to be roused by it; he decided at once that he must
not fail to go and take Irina, that it would be unpardonable to let slip
the opportunity of seeing their sovereigns, that for the old nobility
this constituted indeed a duty in its own way. He defended his opinion
with a peculiar warmth, not habitual in him; the princess agreed with
him to some extent, and only sighed over the expense; but a resolute
opposition was displayed by Irina. ‘It is not necessary, I will not go,’
she replied to all her parents’ arguments. Her obstinacy reached such
proportions that the old prince decided at last to beg Litvinov to try
to persuade her, by reminding her among other reasons that it was not
proper for a young girl to avoid society, that she ought to ‘have this
experience,’ that no one ever saw her anywhere, as it was. Litvinov
undertook to lay these ‘reasons’ before her. Irina looked steadily and
scrutinisingly at him, so steadily and scrutinisingly that he was
confused, and then, playing with the ends of her sash, she said calmly:

‘Do you desire it, you?’

‘Yes.... I suppose so,’ replied Litvinov hesitatingly. ‘I agree with
your papa.... Indeed, why should you not go ... to see the world, and
show yourself,’ he added with a short laugh.

‘To show myself,’ she repeated slowly. ‘Very well then, I will go....
Only remember, it is you yourself who desired it.’

‘That’s to say, I----.’ Litvinov was beginning.

‘You yourself have desired it,’ she interposed. ‘And here is one
condition more; you must promise me that you will not be at this ball.’

‘But why?’

‘I wish it to be so.’

Litvinov unclasped his hands.

‘I submit ... but I confess I should so have enjoyed seeing you in all
your grandeur, witnessing the sensation you are certain to make.... How
proud I should be of you!’ he added with a sigh.

Irina laughed.

‘All the grandeur will consist of a white frock, and as for the
sensation.... Well, any way, I wish it.’

‘Irina, darling, you seem to be angry?’

Irina laughed again.

‘Oh, no! I am not angry. Only, Grisha....’ (She fastened her eyes on
him, and he thought he had never before seen such an expression in
them.) ‘Perhaps, it must be,’ she added in an undertone.

‘But, Irina, you love me, dear?’

‘I love you,’ she answered with almost solemn gravity, and she clasped
his hand firmly like a man.

All the following days Irina was busily occupied over her dress and her
coiffure; on the day before the ball she felt unwell, she could not sit
still, and twice she burst into tears in solitude; before Litvinov she
wore the same uniform smile.... She treated him, however, with her old
tenderness, but carelessly, and was constantly looking at herself in the
glass. On the day of the ball she was silent and pale, but collected. At
nine o’clock in the evening Litvinov came to look at her. When she came
to meet him in a white tarlatan gown, with a spray of small blue flowers
in her slightly raised hair, he almost uttered a cry; she seemed to him
so lovely and stately beyond what was natural to her years. ‘Yes, she
has grown up since this morning!’ he thought, ‘and how she holds
herself! That’s what race does!’ Irina stood before him, her hands
hanging loose, without smiles or affectation, and looked resolutely,
almost boldly, not at him, but away into the distance straight before
her.

‘You are just like a princess in a story book,’ said Litvinov at last.
‘You are like a warrior before the battle, before victory.... You did
not allow me to go to this ball,’ he went on, while she remained
motionless as before, not because she was not listening to him, but
because she was following another inner voice, ‘but you will not refuse
to accept and take with you these flowers?’

He offered her a bunch of heliotrope. She looked quickly at Litvinov,
stretched out her hand, and suddenly seizing the end of the spray which
decorated her hair, she said:

‘Do you wish it, Grisha? Only say the word, and I will tear off all
this, and stop at home.’

Litvinov’s heart seemed fairly bursting. Irina’s hand had already
snatched the spray....

‘No, no, what for?’ he interposed hurriedly, in a rush of generous and
magnanimous feeling, ‘I am not an egoist.... Why should I restrict your
freedom ... when I know that your heart----’

‘Well, don’t come near me, you will crush my dress,’ she said hastily.

Litvinov was disturbed.

‘But you will take the nosegay?’ he asked.

‘Of course; it is very pretty, and I love that scent. _Merci_--I shall
keep it in memory----’

‘Of your first coming out,’ observed Litvinov, ‘your first triumph.’

Irina looked over her shoulder at herself in the glass, scarcely bending
her figure.

‘And do I really look so nice? You are not partial?’

Litvinov overflowed in enthusiastic praises. Irina was already not
listening to him, and holding the flowers up to her face, she was again
looking away into the distance with her strange, as it were,
overshadowed, dilated eyes, and the ends of her delicate ribbons stirred
by a faint current of air rose slightly behind her shoulders like wings.

The prince made his appearance, his hair well becurled, in a white tie,
and a shabby black evening coat, with the medal of nobility on a
Vladimir ribbon in his buttonhole. After him came the princess in a
china silk dress of antique cut, and with the anxious severity under
which mothers try to conceal their agitation, set her daughter to
rights behind, that is to say, quite needlessly shook out the folds of
her gown. An antiquated hired coach with seats for four, drawn by two
shaggy hacks, crawled up to the steps, its wheels grating over the
frozen mounds of unswept snow, and a decrepit groom in a most
unlikely-looking livery came running out of the passage, and with a sort
of desperate courage announced that the carriage was ready.... After
giving a blessing for the night to the children left at home, and
enfolding themselves in their fur wraps, the prince and princess went
out to the steps; Irina in a little cloak, too thin and too short--how
she hated the little cloak at that moment!--followed them in silence.
Litvinov escorted them outside, hoping for a last look from Irina, but
she took her seat in the carriage without turning her head.

About midnight he walked under the windows of the Hall of Nobility.
Countless lights of huge candelabra shone with brilliant radiance
through the red curtains; and the whole square, blocked with carriages,
was ringing with the insolent, festive, seductive strains of a waltz of
Strauss’.

The next day at one o’clock, Litvinov betook himself to the Osinins’. He
found no one at home but the prince, who informed him at once that
Irina had a headache, that she was in bed, and would not get up till the
evening, that such an indisposition was however little to be wondered at
after a first ball.

‘_C’est très naturel, vous savez, dans les jeunes filles_,’ he added in
French, somewhat to Litvinov’s surprise; the latter observed at the same
instant that the prince was not in his dressing-gown as usual, but was
wearing a coat. ‘And besides,’ continued Osinin, ‘she may well be a
little upset after the events of yesterday!’

‘Events?’ muttered Litvinov.

‘Yes, yes, events, events, _de vrais événements_. You cannot imagine,
Grigory Mihalovitch, _quel succès elle a eu_! The whole court noticed
her! Prince Alexandr Fedorovitch said that her place was not here, and
that she reminded him of Countess Devonshire. You know ... that ...
celebrated.... And old Blazenkrampf declared in the hearing of all, that
Irina was _la reine du bal_, and desired to be introduced to her; he was
introduced to me too, that’s to say, he told me that he remembered me a
hussar, and asked me where I was holding office now. Most entertaining
man that Count, and such an _adorateur du beau sexe_! But that’s not
all; my princess ... they gave her no peace either: Natalya Nikitishna
herself conversed with her ... what more could we have? Irina danced
_avec tous les meilleurs cavaliers_; they kept bringing them up to
me.... I positively lost count of them. Would you believe it, they were
all flocking about us in crowds; in the mazurka they did nothing but
seek her out. One foreign diplomatist, hearing she was a Moscow girl,
said to the Tsar: ‘_Sire_,’ he said, ‘_décidément c’est Moscou qui est
le centre de votre empire!_’ and another diplomatist added: ‘_C’est une
vraie révolution, Sire--révélation_ or _révolution_ ... something of
that sort. Yes, yes, it was. I tell you it was something extraordinary.’

‘Well, and Irina Pavlovna herself?’ inquired Litvinov, whose hands and
feet had grown cold hearing the prince’s speech, ‘did she enjoy herself,
did she seem pleased?’

‘Of course she enjoyed herself; how could she fail to be pleased? But,
as you know, she’s not to be seen through at a glance! Every one was
saying to me yesterday: it is really surprising! _jamais on ne dirait
que mademoiselle votre fille est a son premier bal_. Count Reisenbach
among the rest ... you know him most likely.’

‘No, I don’t know him at all, and have never heard of him.’

‘My wife’s cousin.’

‘I don’t know him.’

‘A rich man, a chamberlain, living in Petersburg, in the swim of things;
in Livonia every one is in his hands. Hitherto he has neglected us ...
but there, I don’t bear him ill-will for that. _J’ai l’humeur facile,
comme vous savez._ Well, that’s the kind of man he is. He sat near
Irina, conversed with her for a quarter of an hour, not more, and said
afterwards to my princess: “_Ma cousine_,” he says, “_votre fille est
une perle; c’est une perfection_, every one is congratulating me on such
a niece....” And afterwards I look round--and he had gone up to a ... a
very great personage, and was talking, and kept looking at Irina ... and
the personage was looking at her too.’...

‘And so Irina Pavlovna will not appear all day?’ Litvinov asked again.

‘Quite so; her head aches very badly. She told me to greet you from her,
and thank you for your flowers, _qu’on a trouvé charmant_. She needs
rest.... The princess has gone out on a round of visits ... and I myself
... you see....’

The prince cleared his throat, and began to fidget as though he were at
a loss what to add further. Litvinov took his hat, and saying he did not
want to disturb him, and would call again later to inquire after her
health, he went away.

A few steps from the Osinins’ house he saw an elegant carriage for two
persons standing before the police sentry-box. A groom in livery,
equally elegant, was bending negligently from the box, and inquiring of
the Finnish police-sergeant whereabouts Prince Pavel Vassilyevitch
Osinin lived. Litvinov glanced at the carriage; in it sat a middle-aged
man of bloated complexion, with a wrinkled and haughty face, a Greek
nose, and an evil mouth, muffled in a sable wrap, by all outward signs a
very great man indeed.



IX


Litvinov did not keep his promise of returning later; he reflected that
it would be better to defer his visit till the following day. When he
went into the too familiar drawing-room at about twelve o’clock, he
found there the two youngest princesses, Viktorinka and Kleopatrinka. He
greeted them, and then inquired, ‘Was Irina Pavlovna better, and could
he see her?’

‘Irinotchka has gone away with mammy,’ replied Viktorinka; she lisped a
little, but was more forward than her sister.

‘How ... gone away?’ repeated Litvinov, and there was a sort of still
shudder in the very bottom of his heart. ‘Does she not, does she not
look after you about this time, and give you your lessons?’

‘Irinotchka will not give us any lessons any more now,’ answered
Viktorinka. ‘Not any more now,’ Kleopatrinka repeated after her.

‘Is your papa at home?’ asked Litvinov.

‘Papa is not at home,’ continued Viktorinka, ‘and Irinotchka is not
well; all night long she was crying and crying....’

‘Crying?’

‘Yes, crying ... Yegorovna told me, and her eyes are so red, they are
quite in-inflamed....’

Litvinov walked twice up and down the room shuddering as though with
cold, and went back to his lodging. He experienced a sensation like that
which gains possession of a man when he looks down from a high tower;
everything failed within him, and his head was swimming slowly with a
sense of nausea. Dull stupefaction, and thoughts scurrying like mice,
vague terror, and the numbness of expectation, and curiosity--strange,
almost malignant--and the weight of crushed tears in his heavy laden
breast, on his lips the forced empty smile, and a meaningless
prayer--addressed to no one.... Oh, how bitter it all was, and how
hideously degrading! ‘Irina does not want to see me,’ was the thought
that was incessantly revolving in his brain; ‘so much is clear; but why
is it? What can have happened at that ill-fated ball? And how is such a
change possible all at once? So suddenly....’ People always see death
coming suddenly, but they can never get accustomed to its suddenness,
they feel it senseless. ‘She sends no message for me, does not want to
explain herself to me....’

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ called a strained voice positively in his ear.

Litvinov started, and saw before him his servant with a note in his
hand. He recognised Irina’s writing.... Before he had broken the seal,
he had a foreknowledge of woe, and bent his head on his breast and
hunched his shoulders, as though shrinking from the blow.

He plucked up courage at last, and tore open the envelope all at once.
On a small sheet of notepaper were the following lines:

‘Forgive me, Grigory Mihalitch. All is over between us; I am going away
to Petersburg. I am dreadfully unhappy, but the thing is done. It seems
my fate ... but no, I do not want to justify myself. My presentiments
have been realised. Forgive me, forget me; I am not worthy of
you.--Irina. Be magnanimous: do not try to see me.’

Litvinov read these five lines, and slowly dropped on to the sofa, as
though some one had dealt him a blow on the breast. He dropped the note,
picked it up, read it again, whispered ‘to Petersburg,’ and dropped it
again; that was all. There even came upon him a sense of peace; he even,
with his hands thrown behind him, smoothed the pillow under his head.
‘Men wounded to death don’t fling themselves about,’ he thought, ‘as it
has come, so it has gone. All this is natural enough: I always expected
it....’ (He was lying to himself; he had never expected anything like
it.) ‘Crying?... Was she crying?... What was she crying for? Why, she
did not love me! But all that is easily understood and in accordance
with her character. She--she is not worthy of me.... That’s it!’ (He
laughed bitterly.) ‘She did not know herself what power was latent in
her,--well, convinced of it in her effect at the ball, was it likely she
would stay with an insignificant student?--all that’s easily
understood.’

But then he remembered her tender words, her smile, and those eyes,
those never to be forgotten eyes, which he would never see again, which
used to shine and melt at simply meeting his eyes; he recalled one
swift, timorous, burning kiss--and suddenly he fell to sobbing, sobbing
convulsively, furiously, vindictively; turned over on his face, and
choking and stifling with frenzied satisfaction as though thirsting to
tear himself to pieces with all around him, he turned his hot face in
the sofa pillow, and bit it in his teeth.

Alas! the gentleman whom Litvinov had seen the day before in the
carriage was no other than the cousin of the Princess Osinin, the rich
chamberlain, Count Reisenbach. Noticing the sensation produced by Irina
on certain personages of the highest rank, and instantaneously
reflecting what advantages might _mit etwas Accuratesse_ be derived from
the fact, the count made his plan at once like a man of energy and a
skilful courtier. He decided to act swiftly, in Napoleonic style. ‘I
will take that original girl into my house,’ was what he meditated, ‘in
Petersburg; I will make her my heiress, devil take me, of my whole
property even; as I have no children. She is my niece, and my countess
is dull all alone.... It’s always more agreeable to have a pretty face
in one’s drawing-room.... Yes, yes; ... that’s it; _es ist eine Idee, es
ist eine Idee!_’ He would have to dazzle, bewilder, and impress the
parents. ‘They’ve not enough to eat’--the count pursued his reflection
when he was in the carriage and on his way to Dogs’ Place--‘so, I
warrant, they won’t be obstinate. They’re not such over-sentimental
folks either. I might give them a sum of money down into the bargain.
And she? She will consent. Honey is sweet--she had a taste of it last
night. It’s a whim on my part, granted; let them profit by it, ... the
fools. I shall say to them one thing and another ... and you must
decide--otherwise I shall adopt another--an orphan--which would be
still more suitable. Yes or no--twenty-four hours I fix for the
term--_und damit Punctum_.’

And with these very words on his lips, the count presented himself
before the prince, whom he had forewarned of his visit the evening
before at the ball. On the result of this visit it seems hardly worth
while to enlarge further. The count was not mistaken in his
prognostications: the prince and princess were in fact not obstinate,
and accepted the sum of money; and Irina did in fact consent before the
allotted term had expired. It was not easy for her to break off her
relations with Litvinov; she loved him; and after sending him her note,
she almost kept her bed, weeping continually, and grew thin and wan. But
for all that, a month later the princess carried her off to Petersburg,
and established her at the count’s; committing her to the care of the
countess, a very kind-hearted woman, but with the brain of a hen, and
something of a hen’s exterior.

Litvinov threw up the university, and went home to his father in the
country. Little by little his wound healed. At first he had no news of
Irina, and indeed he avoided all conversation that touched on Petersburg
and Petersburg society. Later on, by degrees, rumours--not evil
exactly, but curious--began to circulate about her; gossip began to be
busy about her. The name of the young Princess Osinin, encircled in
splendour, impressed with quite a special stamp, began to be more and
more frequently mentioned even in provincial circles. It was pronounced
with curiosity, respect, and envy, as men at one time used to mention
the name of the Countess Vorotinsky. At last the news came of her
marriage. But Litvinov hardly paid attention to these last tidings; he
was already betrothed to Tatyana.

Now, the reader can no doubt easily understand exactly what it was
Litvinov recalled when he cried, ‘Can it be she?’ and therefore we will
return to Baden and take up again the broken thread of our story.



X


Litvinov fell asleep very late, and did not sleep long; the sun had only
just risen when he got out of bed. The summits of dark mountains visible
from his windows stood out in misty purple against the clear sky. ‘How
cool it must be there under the trees!’ he thought; and he dressed in
haste, and looked with indifference at the bouquet which had opened more
luxuriantly after the night; he took a stick and set off towards the
‘Old Castle’ on the famous ‘Cliffs.’ Invigorating and soothing was the
caressing contact of the fresh morning about him. He drew long breaths,
and stepped out boldly; the vigorous health of youth was throbbing in
every vein; the very earth seemed springy under his light feet. With
every step he grew more light-hearted, more happy; he walked in the dewy
shade in the thick sand of the little paths, beside the fir-trees that
were fringed with the vivid green of the spring shoots at the end of
every twig. ‘How jolly it is!’ he kept repeating to himself. Suddenly
he heard the sound of familiar voices; he looked ahead and saw
Voroshilov and Bambaev coming to meet him. The sight of them jarred upon
him; he rushed away like a school-boy avoiding his teacher, and hid
himself behind a bush.... ‘My Creator!’ he prayed, ‘mercifully remove my
countrymen!’ He felt that he would not have grudged any money at the
moment if only they did not see him.... And they actually did not see
him: the Creator was merciful to him. Voroshilov, in his self-confident
military voice, was holding forth to Bambaev on the various phases of
Gothic architecture, and Bambaev only grunted approvingly; it was
obvious that Voroshilov had been dinning his phrases into him a long
while, and the good-natured enthusiast was beginning to be bored.
Compressing his lips and craning his neck, Litvinov listened a long
while to their retreating footsteps; for a long time the accents of
instructive discourse--now guttural, now nasal--reached his ears; at
last, all was still again. Litvinov breathed freely, came out of his
ambush, and walked on.

For three hours he wandered about the mountains. Sometimes he left the
path, and jumped from rock to rock, slipping now and then on the smooth
moss; then he would sit down on a fragment of the cliff under an oak or
a beech, and muse on pleasant fancies to the never-ceasing gurgle of the
little rills over-grown with ferns, the soothing rustle of the leaves,
and the shrill notes of a solitary blackbird. A light and equally
pleasant drowsiness began to steal over him, it seemed to approach him
caressingly, and he dropped asleep ... but suddenly he smiled and looked
round; the gold and green of the forest, and the moving foliage beat
down softly on his eyes--and again he smiled and again closed them. He
began to want breakfast, and he made his way towards the old castle
where for a few kreutzers he could get a glass of good milk and coffee.
But he had hardly had time to establish himself at one of the little
white-painted tables set on the platform before the castle, when the
heavy tramping of horses was heard, and three open carriages drove up,
out of which stepped a rather numerous company of ladies and
gentlemen.... Litvinov at once recognised them as Russians, though they
were all talking French ... just because they were all talking French.
The ladies’ dresses were marked by a studied elegance; the gentlemen
wore close-fitting coats with waists--which is not altogether usual
nowadays--grey trousers of fancy material, and very glossy town hats. A
narrow black cravat closely fettered the neck of each of these
gentlemen, and something military was apparent in their whole
deportment. They were, in fact, military men; Litvinov had chanced upon
a picnic party of young generals--persons of the highest society, of
weight and importance. Their importance was clearly expressed in
everything: in their discreet nonchalance, in their amiably
condescending smiles, in the intense indifference of their expression,
the effeminate little movements of their shoulders, the swing of the
figure, and the crook of the knees; it was expressed, too, in the sound
of their voices, which seemed to be affably and fastidiously thanking a
subservient multitude. All these officers were superlatively washed and
shaved, and thoroughly saturated with that genuine aroma of nobility and
the Guards, compounded of the best cigar smoke, and the most marvellous
patchouli. They all had the hands too of noblemen--white and large, with
nails firm as ivory; their moustaches seemed positively polished, their
teeth shone, and their skin--rosy on their cheeks, bluish on their
chins--was most delicate and fine. Some of the young generals were
frivolous, others were serious; but the stamp of the best breeding was
on all of them. Each of them seemed to be deeply conscious of his own
dignity, and the importance of his own future part in the government,
and conducted himself with severity and ease, with a faint shade of that
carelessness, that ‘deuce-take-it’ air, which comes out so naturally
during foreign travel. The party seated themselves with much noise and
ostentation, and called the obsequious waiters. Litvinov made haste to
drink off his glass of milk, paid for it, and putting his hat on, was
just making off past the party of generals....

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ he heard a woman’s voice. ‘Don’t you recognise me?’

He stopped involuntarily. That voice ... that voice had too often set
his heart beating in the past.... He turned round and saw Irina.

She was sitting at a table, her arms folded on the back of a chair drawn
up near; with her head bent on one side and a smile on her face, she was
looking at him cordially, almost with delight.

Litvinov knew her at once, though she had changed since he saw her that
last time ten years ago, though she had been transformed from a girl
into a woman. Her slim figure had developed and reached its perfection,
the lines of her once narrow shoulders now recalled the goddesses that
stand out on the ceilings of ancient Italian palaces. But her eyes
remained the same, and it seemed to Litvinov that they were looking at
him just as in those days in the little house in Moscow.

‘Irina Pavlovna,’ he uttered irresolutely.

‘You know me? How glad I am! how glad----’

She stopped short, slightly blushing, and drew herself up.

‘This is a very pleasant meeting,’ she continued now in French. ‘Let me
introduce you to my husband. _Valérien, Monsieur Litvinov, un ami
d’enfance_; Valerian Vladimirovitch Ratmirov, my husband.’

One of the young generals, almost the most elegant of all, got up from
his seat, and with excessive courtesy bowed to Litvinov, while the rest
of his companions faintly knitted their brows, or rather each of them
withdrew for an instant into himself, as though protesting betimes
against any contact with an extraneous civilian, and the other ladies
taking part in the picnic thought fit to screw up their eyes a little
and simper, and even to assume an air of perplexity.

‘Have you--er--been long in Baden?’ asked General Ratmirov, with a
dandified air utterly un-Russian. He obviously did not know what to talk
about with the friend of his wife’s childhood.

‘No, not long!’ replied Litvinov.

‘And do you intend to stay long?’ pursued the polite general.

‘I have not made up my mind yet.’

‘Ah! that is very delightful ... very.’

The general paused. Litvinov, too, was speechless. Both held their hats
in their hands and bending forward with a grin, gazed at the top of each
other’s heads.

‘_Deux gendarmes un beau dimanche_,’ began humming--out of tune of
course, we have never come across a Russian nobleman who did not sing
out of tune--a dull-eyed and yellow-faced general, with an expression of
constant irritability on his face, as though he could not forgive
himself for his own appearance. Among all his companions he alone had
not the complexion of a rose.

‘But why don’t you sit down, Grigory Mihalitch,’ observed Irina at last.

Litvinov obeyed and sat down.

‘_I say, Valérien, give me some fire_,’ remarked in English another
general, also young, but already stout, with fixed eyes which seemed
staring into the air, and thick silky whiskers, into which he slowly
plunged his snow-white fingers. Ratmirov gave him a silver matchbox.

‘_Avez vous des papiros?_’ asked one of the ladies, with a lisp.

‘_De vrais papelitos, comtesse._’

‘_Deux gendarmes un beau dimanche_,’ the dull-eyed general hummed again,
with intense exasperation.

‘You must be sure to come and see us,’ Irina was saying to Litvinov
meantime; ‘we are staying at the Hôtel de l’Europe. From four to six I
am always at home. We have not seen each other for such a long time.’

Litvinov looked at Irina; she did not drop her eyes.

‘Yes, Irina Pavlovna, it is a long time--ever since we were at Moscow.’

‘At Moscow, yes, at Moscow,’ she repeated abruptly. ‘Come and see me, we
will talk and recall old times. Do you know, Grigory Mihalitch, you have
not changed much.’

‘Really? But you have changed, Irina Pavlovna.’

‘I have grown older.’

‘No, I did not mean that.’

‘_Irène?_’ said a lady in a yellow hat and with yellow hair in an
interrogative voice after some preliminary whispering and giggling with
the officer sitting near her. ‘_Irène?_’

‘I am older,’ pursued Irina, without answering the lady, ‘but I am not
changed. No, no, I am changed in nothing.’

‘_Deux gendarmes un beau dimanche!_’ was heard again. The irritable
general only remembered the first line of the well-known ditty.

‘It still pricks a little, your excellency,’ observed the stout general
with the whiskers, with a loud and broad intonation, apparently quoting
from some amusing story, well-known to the whole _beau monde_, and, with
a short wooden laugh he again fell to staring into the air. All the rest
of the party laughed too.

‘What a sad dog you are, Boris!’ observed Ratmirov in an undertone. He
spoke in English and pronounced even the name ‘Boris’ as if it were
English.

‘_Irène?_’ the lady in the yellow hat said inquiringly for the third
time. Irina turned sharply round to her.

‘_Eh bien? quoi? que me voulez-vous?_’

‘_Je vous dirai plus tard_,’ replied the lady, mincing. With a very
unattractive exterior, she was for ever mincing and grimacing. Some wit
said of her that she ‘_minaudait dans le vide_,’ ‘grimaced upon the
desert air.’

Irina frowned and shrugged her shoulders impatiently. ‘_Mais que fait
donc Monsieur Verdier? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas?_’ cried one lady with
that prolonged drawl which is the peculiarity of the Great Russian
accent, and is so insupportable to French ears.

‘Ah, voo, ah, voo, mossoo Verdew, mossoo Verdew,’ sighed another lady,
whose birthplace was Arzamass.

‘_Tranquillisez-vous, mesdames_,’ interposed Ratmirov. ‘_Monsieur
Verdier m’a promis de venir se mettre à vos pieds._’

‘He, he, he!’--The ladies fluttered their fans.

The waiter brought some glasses of beer.

‘_Baierisch-Bier?_’ inquired the general with whiskers, assuming a bass
voice, and affecting astonishment--‘_Guten Morgen._’

‘Well? Is Count Pavel still there?’ one young general inquired coldly
and listlessly of another.

‘Yes,’ replied the other equally coldly, ‘_Mais c’est provisoire_.
_Serge_, they say, will be put in his place.’

‘Aha!’ filtered the first through his teeth.

‘Ah, yes,’ filtered the second.

‘I can’t understand,’ began the general who had hummed the song, ‘I
can’t understand what induced Paul to defend himself--to bring forward
all sorts of reasons. Certainly, he crushed the merchant pretty well,
_il lui a fait rendre gorge_ ... well, and what of it? He may have had
his own motives.’

‘He was afraid ... of being shown up in the newspapers,’ muttered some
one.

The irritable general grew hot.

‘Well, it is too much! Newspapers! Shown up! If it depended on me, I
would not let anything be printed in those papers but the taxes on meat
or bread, and announcements of sales of boots or furs.’

‘And gentlemen’s properties up for auction,’ put in Ratmirov.

‘Possibly under present circumstances.... What a conversation, though,
in Baden _au Vieux-Château_.’

‘_Mais pas du tout! pas du tout!_’ replied the lady in the yellow hat,
‘_j’adore les questions politiques_.’

‘_Madame a raison_,’ interposed another general with an exceedingly
pleasant and girlish-looking face. ‘Why should we avoid those questions
... even in Baden?’

As he said these words he looked urbanely at Litvinov and smiled
condescendingly. ‘A man of honour ought never under any circumstances to
disown his convictions. Don’t you think so?’

‘Of course,’ rejoined the irritable general, darting a look at Litvinov,
and as it were indirectly attacking him, ‘but I don’t see the
necessity....’

‘No, no,’ the condescending general interposed with the same mildness,
‘your friend, Valerian Vladimirovitch, just referred to the sale of
gentlemen’s estates. Well? Is not that a fact?’

‘But it’s impossible to sell them nowadays; nobody wants them!’ cried
the irritable general.

‘Perhaps ... perhaps. For that very reason we ought to proclaim that
fact ... that sad fact at every step. We are ruined ... very good; we
are beggared ... there’s no disputing about that; but we, the great
owners, we still represent a principle ... _un principe_. To preserve
that principle is our duty. _Pardon, madame_, I think you dropped your
handkerchief. When some, so to say, darkness has come over even the
highest minds, we ought submissively to point out (the general held out
his finger) with the finger of a citizen the abyss to which everything
is tending. We ought to warn, we ought to say with respectful firmness,
‘turn back, turn back.... That is what we ought to say.’

‘There’s no turning back altogether, though,’ observed Ratmirov moodily.

The condescending general only grinned.

‘Yes, altogether, altogether, _mon très cher_. The further back the
better.’

The general again looked courteously at Litvinov. The latter could not
stand it.

‘Are we to return as far as the Seven Boyars, your excellency?’

‘Why not? I express my opinion without hesitation; we must undo ... yes
... undo all that has been done.’

‘And the emancipation of the serfs.’

‘And the emancipation ... as far as that is possible. _On est patriote
ou on ne l’est pas._ “And freedom?” they say to me. Do you suppose that
freedom is prized by the people? Ask them----’

‘Just try,’ broke in Litvinov, ‘taking that freedom away again.’

‘_Comment nommez-vous ce monsieur?_’ whispered the general to Ratmirov.

‘What are you discussing here?’ began the stout general suddenly. He
obviously played the part of the spoilt child of the party. ‘Is it all
about the newspapers? About penny-a-liners? Let me tell you a little
anecdote of what happened to me with a scribbling fellow--such a lovely
thing. I was told he had written a libel on me. Well, of course, I at
once had him brought before me. They brought me the penny-a-liner.

‘“How was it,” said I, “my dear chap, you came to write this libel? Was
your patriotism too much for you?” “Yes, it was too much,” says he.
“Well,” says I, “and do you like money?” “Yes,” says he. Then,
gentlemen, I gave him the knob of my cane to sniff at. “And do you like
that, my angel?” “No,” says he, “I don’t like that.” “But sniff it as
you ought,” says I, “my hands are clean.” “I don’t like it,” says he,
“and that’s all.” “But I like it very much, my angel,” says I, “though
not for myself. Do you understand that allegory, my treasure?” “Yes,”
says he. “Then mind and be a good boy for the future, and now here’s a
rouble sterling for you; go away and be grateful to me night and day,”
and so the scribbling chap went off.’

The general burst out laughing and again every one followed his
example--every one except Irina, who did not even smile and looked
darkly at the speaker.

The condescending general slapped Boris on the shoulder.

‘That’s all your invention, O friend of my bosom.... You threatening any
one with a stick.... You haven’t got a stick. _C’est pour faire rire ces
dames._ For the sake of a good story. But that’s not the point. I said
just now that we must turn back completely. Understand me. I am not
hostile to so-called progress, but all these universities and
seminaries, and popular schools, these students, priests’ sons, and
commoners, all these small fry, _tout ce fond du sac, la petite
propriété, pire que le prolétariat_ (the general uttered this in a
languishing, almost faint voice) _voilà ce qui m’effraie_ ... that’s
where one ought to draw the line, and make other people draw it too.’
(Again he gave Litvinov a genial glance.) ‘Yes, one must draw the line.
Don’t forget that among us no one makes any demand, no one is asking for
anything. Local government, for instance--who asks for that? Do you ask
for it? or you, or you? or you, _mesdames_? You rule not only yourselves
but all of us, you know.’ (The general’s handsome face was lighted up by
a smile of amusement.) ‘My dear friends, why should we curry favour with
the multitude. You like democracy, it flatters you, and serves your ends
... but you know it’s a double weapon. It is better in the old way, as
before ... far more secure. Don’t deign to reason with the herd, trust
in the aristocracy, in that alone is power.... Indeed it will be better.
And progress ... I certainly have nothing against progress. Only don’t
give us lawyers and sworn juries and elective officials ... only don’t
touch discipline, discipline before all things--you may build bridges,
and quays, and hospitals, and why not light the streets with gas?’

‘Petersburg has been set on fire from one end to the other, so there you
have your progress!’ hissed the irritable general.

‘Yes, you’re a mischievous fellow, I can see,’ said the stout general,
shaking his head lazily; ‘you would do for a chief-prosecutor, but in
my opinion _avec Orphée aux enfers le progrès a dit son dernier mot_.’

‘_Vous dites toujours des bêtises_,’ giggled the lady from Arzamass.

The general looked dignified.

‘_Je ne suis jamais plus sérieux, madame, que quand je dis des
bêtises._’

‘Monsieur Verdier has uttered that very phrase several times already,’
observed Irina in a low voice.

‘_De la poigne et des formes_,’ cried the stout general, ‘_de la poigne
surtout_. And to translate into Russian: be civil but don’t spare your
fists.’

‘Ah, you’re a rascal, an incorrigible rascal,’ interposed the
condescending general. ‘_Mesdames_, don’t listen to him, please. A
barking dog does not bite. He cares for nothing but flirtation.’

‘That’s not right, though, Boris,’ began Ratmirov, after exchanging a
glance with his wife, ‘it’s all very well to be mischievous, but that’s
going too far. Progress is a phenomenon of social life, and this is what
we must not forget; it’s a symptom. It’s what we must watch.’

‘All right, I say,’ observed the stout general, wrinkling up his nose;
‘we all know you are aiming at the ministry.’

‘Not at all ... the ministry indeed! But really one can’t refuse to
recognise things.’

Boris plunged his fingers again into his whiskers, and stared into the
air.

‘Social life is very important, because in the development of the
people, in the destinies, so to speak, of the country----’

‘_Valérien_,’ interrupted Boris reprovingly, ‘_il y a des dames ici_. I
did not expect this of you, or do you want to get on to a committee?’

‘But they are all closed now, thank God,’ put in the irritable general,
and he began humming again ‘_Deux gendarmes un beau dimanche_.’

Ratmirov raised a cambric handkerchief to his nose and gracefully
retired from the discussion; the condescending general repeated ‘Rascal!
rascal!’ but Boris turned to the lady who ‘grimaced upon the desert air’
and without lowering his voice, or a change in the expression of his
face, began to ply her with questions as to when ‘she would reward his
devotion,’ as though he were desperately in love with her and suffering
tortures on her account.

At every moment during this conversation Litvinov felt more and more ill
at ease. His pride, his clean plebeian pride, was fairly in revolt.

What had he, the son of a petty official, in common with these military
aristocrats of Petersburg? He loved everything they hated; he hated
everything they loved; he was only too vividly conscious of it, he felt
it in every part of his being. Their jokes he thought dull, their tone
intolerable, every gesture false; in the very smoothness of their
speeches he detected a note of revolting contemptuousness--and yet he
was, as it were, abashed before them, before these creatures, these
enemies. ‘Ugh! how disgusting! I am in their way, I am ridiculous to
them,’ was the thought that kept revolving in his head. ‘Why am I
stopping? Let me escape at once, at once.’ Irina’s presence could not
retain him; she, too, aroused melancholy emotions in him. He got up from
his seat and began to take leave.

‘You are going already?’ said Irina, but after a moment’s reflection she
did not press him to stay, and only extracted a promise from him that he
would not fail to come and see her. General Ratmirov took leave of him
with the same refined courtesy, shook hands with him and accompanied him
to the end of the platform.... But Litvinov had scarcely had time to
turn round the first bend in the road when he heard a general roar of
laughter behind him. This laughter had no reference to him, but was
occasioned by the long-expected Monsieur Verdier, who suddenly made his
appearance on the platform, in a Tyrolese hat, and blue blouse, riding
a donkey, but the blood fairly rushed into Litvinov’s cheeks, and he
felt intense bitterness: his tightly compressed lips seemed as though
drawn by wormwood. ‘Despicable, vulgar creatures,’ he muttered, without
reflecting that the few minutes he had spent in their company had not
given him sufficient ground for such severe criticism. And this was the
world into which Irina had fallen, Irina, once his Irina! In this world
she moved, and lived, and reigned; for it, she had sacrificed her
personal dignity, the noblest feelings of her heart.... It was clearly
as it should be; it was clear that she had deserved no better fate! How
glad he was that she had not thought of questioning him about his
intentions! He might have opened his heart before ‘them’ in ‘their’
presence.... ‘For nothing in the world! never!’ murmured Litvinov,
inhaling deep draughts of the fresh air and descending the road towards
Baden almost at a run. He thought of his betrothed, his sweet, good,
sacred Tatyana, and how pure, how noble, how true she seemed to him.
With what unmixed tenderness he recalled her features, her words, her
very gestures ... with what impatience he looked forward to her return.

The rapid exercise soothed his nerves. Returning home he sat down at the
table and took up a book; suddenly he let it fall, even with a
shudder.... What had happened to him? Nothing had happened, but Irina
... Irina.... All at once his meeting with her seemed something
marvellous, strange, extraordinary. Was it possible? he had met, he had
talked with the same Irina.... And why was there no trace in her of that
hateful worldliness which was so sharply stamped upon all these others.
Why did he fancy that she seemed, as it were, weary, or sad, or sick of
her position? She was in their camp, but she was not an enemy. And what
could have impelled her to receive him joyfully, to invite him to see
her?

Litvinov started. ‘O Tanya, Tanya!’ he cried passionately, ‘you are my
guardian angel, you only, my good genius. I love you only and will love
you for ever. And I will not go to see _her_. Forget her altogether! Let
her amuse herself with her generals.’ Litvinov set to his book again.



XI


Litvinov took up his book again, but he could not read. He went out of
the house, walked a little, listened to the music, glanced in at the
gambling, returned again to his room, and tried again to read--still
without success. The time seemed to drag by with peculiar dreariness.
Pishtchalkin, the well-intentioned peaceable mediator, came in and sat
with him for three hours. He talked, argued, stated questions, and
discoursed intermittently, first of elevated, and then of practical
topics, and succeeded in diffusing around him such an atmosphere of
dulness that poor Litvinov was ready to cry. In raising
dulness--agonising, chilling, helpless, hopeless dulness--to a fine art,
Pishtchalkin was absolutely unrivalled even among persons of the highest
morality, who are notoriously masters in that line. The mere sight of
his well-cut and well-brushed head, his clear lifeless eyes, his
benevolent nose, produced an involuntary despondency, and his
deliberate, drowsy, lazy tone seemed to have been created only to state
with conviction and lucidity such sententious truths as that twice two
makes four and not five or three, that water is liquid, and benevolence
laudable; that to the private individual, no less than to the state, and
to the state no less than to the private individual, credit is
absolutely indispensable for financial operations. And with all this he
was such an excellent man! But such is the sentence the fates have
passed on Russia; among us, good men are dull. Pishtchalkin retreated at
last; he was replaced by Bindasov, who, without any beating about the
bush, asked Litvinov with great effrontery for a loan of a hundred
guldens, and the latter gave it him, in spite of the fact that Bindasov
was not only unattractive, but even repulsive to him, that he knew for
certain that he would never get his money back; and was, besides,
himself in need of it. What made him give him the money then, the reader
will inquire. Who can tell! That is another Russian weakness. Let the
reader lay his hand on his heart and remember how many acts in his own
life have had absolutely no other reason. And Bindasov did not even
thank Litvinov; he asked for a glass of red Baden wine, and without
wiping his lips departed, loudly and offensively tramping with his
boots. And how vexed Litvinov was with himself already, as he watched
the red nape of the retreating sharper’s neck! Before evening he
received a letter from Tatyana in which she informed him that as her
aunt was not well, she could not come to Baden for five or six days.
This news had a depressing influence on Litvinov; it increased his
vexation, and he went to bed early in a disagreeable frame of mind. The
following day turned out no better, if not worse, than the preceding.
From early morning Litvinov’s room was filled with his own countrymen;
Bambaev, Voroshilov, Pishtchalkin, the two officers, the two Heidelberg
students, all crowded in at once, and yet did not go away right up till
dinner time, though they had soon said all they had to say and were
obviously bored. They simply did not know what to do with themselves,
and having got into Litvinov’s lodgings they ‘stuck’ there, as they say.
First they discussed the fact that Gubaryov had gone back to Heidelberg,
and that they would have to go after him; then they philosophised a
little, and touched on the Polish question; then they advanced to
reflections on gambling and _cocottes_, and fell to repeating scandalous
anecdotes; at last the conversation sank into a discussion of all sorts
of ‘strong men’ and monsters of obesity and gluttony. First, they
trotted out all the ancient stories of Lukin, of the deacon who ate no
less than thirty-three herrings for a wager, of the Uhlan colonel,
Ezyedinov, renowned for his corpulence, and of the soldier who broke the
shin-bone on his own forehead; then followed unadulterated lying.
Pishtchalkin himself related with a yawn that he knew a peasant woman in
Little Russia, who at the time of her death had proved to weigh half a
ton and some pounds, and a landowner who had eaten three geese and a
sturgeon for luncheon; Bambaev suddenly fell into an ecstatic condition,
and declared he himself was able to eat a whole sheep, ‘with seasoning’
of course; and Voroshilov burst out with something about a comrade, an
athletic cadet, so grotesque that every one was reduced to silence, and
after looking at each other, they took up their hats, and the party
broke up. Litvinov, when he was left alone, tried to occupy himself, but
he felt just as if his head was full of smouldering soot; he could do
nothing that was of any use, and the evening too was wasted. The next
morning he was just preparing for lunch, when some one knocked at his
door. ‘Good Lord,’ thought Litvinov, ‘one of yesterday’s dear friends
again,’ and not without some trepidation he pronounced:

‘_Herein!_’

The door opened slowly and in walked Potugin. Litvinov was exceedingly
delighted to see him.

‘This is nice!’ he began, warmly shaking hands with his unexpected
visitor, ‘this is good of you! I should certainly have looked you up
myself, but you would not tell me where you live. Sit down, please, put
down your hat. Sit down.’

Potugin made no response to Litvinov’s warm welcome, and remained
standing in the middle of the room, shifting from one leg to the other;
he only laughed a little and shook his head. Litvinov’s cordial
reception obviously touched him, but there was some constraint in the
expression of his face.

‘There’s ... some little misunderstanding,’ he began, not without
hesitation. ‘Of course, it would always be ... a pleasure ... to me ...
but I have been sent ... especially to you.’

‘That’s to say, do you mean,’ commented Litvinov in an injured voice,
‘that you would not have come to me of your own accord?’

‘Oh, no, ... indeed! But I ... I should, perhaps, not have made up my
mind to intrude on you to-day, if I had not been asked to come to you.
In fact, I have a message for you.’

‘From whom, may I ask?’

‘From a person you know, from Irina Pavlovna Ratmirov. You promised
three days ago to go and see her and you have not been.’

Litvinov stared at Potugin in amazement.

‘You know Madame Ratmirov?’

‘As you see.’

‘And you know her well?’

‘I am to a certain degree a friend of hers.’

Litvinov was silent for a little.

‘Allow me to ask you,’ he began at last, ‘do you know why Irina Pavlovna
wants to see me?’

Potugin went up to the window.

‘To a certain degree I do. She was, as far as I can judge, very pleased
at meeting you,--well,--and she wants to renew your former relations.’

‘Renew,’ repeated Litvinov. ‘Excuse my indiscretion, but allow me to
question you a little more. Do you know what was the nature of those
relations?’

‘Strictly speaking ... no, I don’t know. But I imagine,’ added Potugin,
turning suddenly to Litvinov and looking affectionately at him, ‘I
imagine that they were of some value. Irina Pavlovna spoke very highly
of you, and I was obliged to promise her I would bring you. Will you
come?’

‘When?’

‘Now ... at once.’

Litvinov merely made a gesture with his hand.

‘Irina Pavlovna,’ pursued Potugin, ‘supposes that the ... how can I
express it ... the environment, shall we say, in which you found her the
other day, was not likely to be particularly attractive to you; but she
told me to tell you, that the devil is not so black as he is fancied.’

‘Hm.... Does that saying apply strictly to the environment?’

‘Yes ... and in general.’

‘Hm.... Well, and what is your opinion, Sozont Ivanitch, of the devil?’

‘I think, Grigory Mihalitch, that he is in any case not what he is
fancied.’

‘Is he better?’

‘Whether better or worse it’s hard to say, but certainly he is not the
same as he is fancied. Well, shall we go?’

‘Sit here a little first. I must own that it still seems rather strange
to me.’

‘What seems strange, may I make bold to inquire?’

‘In what way can you have become a friend of Irina Pavlovna?’

Potugin scanned himself.

‘With my appearance, and my position in society, it certainly does seem
rather incredible; but you know--Shakespeare has said already, “There
are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, etc.” Life too is not to
be trifled with. Here is a simile for you; a tree stands before you when
there is no wind; in what way can a leaf on a lower branch touch a leaf
on an upper branch? It’s impossible. But when the storm rises it is all
changed ... and the two leaves touch.’

‘Aha! So there were storms?’

‘I should think so! Can one live without them? But enough of philosophy.
It’s time to go.’

Litvinov was still hesitating.

‘O good Lord!’ cried Potugin with a comic face, ‘what are young men
coming to nowadays! A most charming lady invites them to see her, sends
messengers after them on purpose, and they raise difficulties. You ought
to be ashamed, my dear sir, you ought to be ashamed. Here’s your hat.
Take it and “Vorwärts,” as our ardent friends the Germans say.’

Litvinov still stood irresolute for a moment, but he ended by taking his
hat and going out of the room with Potugin.



XII


They went to one of the best hotels in Baden and asked for Madame
Ratmirov. The porter first inquired their names, and then answered at
once that ‘_die Frau Fürstin ist zu Hause_,’ and went himself to conduct
them up the staircase and knock at the door of the apartment and
announce them. ‘_Die Frau Fürstin_’ received them promptly: she was
alone, her husband had gone off to Carlsruhe for an interview with a
great official, an influential personage who was passing through that
town.

Irina was sitting at a small table, embroidering on canvas when Potugin
and Litvinov crossed the threshold. She quickly flung her embroidery
aside, pushed away the little table and got up; an expression of genuine
pleasure overspread her face. She wore a morning dress, high at the
neck; the superb lines of her shoulders and arms could be seen through
the thin stuff; her carelessly-coiled hair had come loose and fell low
on her slender neck. Irina flung a swift glance at Potugin, murmured
‘_merci_,’ and holding out her hand to Litvinov reproached him amicably
for forgetfulness.

‘And you such an old friend!’ she added.

Litvinov was beginning to apologise. ‘_C’est bien, c’est bien_,’ she
assented hurriedly and, taking his hat from him, with friendly
insistence made him sit down. Potugin, too, was sitting down, but got up
again directly, and saying that he had an engagement he could not put
off, and that he would come in again after dinner, he proceeded to take
leave. Irina again flung him a rapid glance, and gave him a friendly
nod, but she did not try to keep him, and directly he had vanished
behind the portière, she turned with eager impatience to Litvinov.

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ she began, speaking Russian in her soft musical
voice, ‘here we are alone at last, and I can tell you how glad I am at
our meeting, because it ... it gives me a chance...’ (Irina looked him
straight in the face) ‘of asking your forgiveness.’

Litvinov gave an involuntary start. He had not expected so swift an
attack. He had not expected she would herself turn the conversation upon
old times.

‘Forgiveness ... for what?’ ... he muttered.

Irina flushed.

‘For what? ... you know for what,’ she said, and she turned slightly
away. ‘I wronged you, Grigory Mihalitch ... though, of course, it was my
fate’ (Litvinov was reminded of her letter) ‘and I do not regret it ...
it would be in any case too late; but, meeting you so unexpectedly, I
said to myself that we absolutely must become friends, absolutely ...
and I should feel it deeply, if it did not come about ... and it seems
to me for that we must have an explanation, without putting it off, and
once for all, so that afterwards there should be no ... _gêne_, no
awkwardness, once for all, Grigory Mihalitch; and that you must tell me
you forgive me, or else I shall imagine you feel ... _de la rancune_.
_Voilà!_ It is perhaps a great piece of fatuity on my part, for you have
probably forgotten everything long, long ago, but no matter, tell me,
you have forgiven me.’

Irina uttered this whole speech without taking breath, and Litvinov
could see that there were tears shining in her eyes ... yes, actually
tears.

‘Really, Irina Pavlovna,’ he began hurriedly, ‘how can you beg my
pardon, ask forgiveness?... That is all past and buried, and I can only
feel astounded that, in the midst of all the splendour which surrounds
you, you have still preserved a recollection of the obscure companions
of your youth....’

‘Does it astound you?’ said Irina softly.

‘It touches me,’ Litvinov went on, ‘because I could never have
imagined----’

‘You have not told me you have forgiven me, though,’ interposed Irina.

‘I sincerely rejoice at your happiness, Irina Pavlovna. With my whole
heart I wish you all that is best on earth....’

‘And you will not remember evil against me?’

‘I will remember nothing but the happy moments for which I was once
indebted to you.’

Irina held out both hands to him; Litvinov clasped them warmly, and did
not at once let them go.... Something that long had not been, secretly
stirred in his heart at that soft contact. Irina was again looking
straight into his face; but this time she was smiling.... And he for the
first time gazed directly and intently at her.... Again he recognised
the features once so precious, and those deep eyes, with their
marvellous lashes, and the little mole on her cheek, and the peculiar
growth of her hair on her forehead, and her habit of somehow sweetly and
humorously curving her lips and faintly twitching her eyebrows, all, all
he recognised.... But how beautiful she had grown! What fascination,
what power in her fresh, woman’s body! And no rouge, no touching up, no
powder, nothing false on that fresh pure face.... Yes, this was a
beautiful woman. A mood of musing came upon Litvinov.... He was still
looking at her, but his thoughts were far away.... Irina perceived it.

‘Well, that is excellent,’ she said aloud; ‘now my conscience is at rest
then, and I can satisfy my curiosity.’

‘Curiosity,’ repeated Litvinov, as though puzzled.

‘Yes, yes ... I want above all things to know what you have been doing
all this time, what plans you have; I want to know all, how, what, when
... all, all. And you will have to tell me the truth, for I must warn
you, I have not lost sight of you ... so far as I could.’

‘You did not lose sight of me, you ... there ... in Petersburg?’

‘In the midst of the splendour which surrounded me, as you expressed it
just now. Positively, yes, I did not. As for that splendour we will talk
about that again; but now you must tell me, you must tell me so much, at
such length, no one will disturb us. Ah, how delightful it will be,’
added Irina, gaily sitting down and arranging herself at her ease in an
armchair. ‘Come, begin.’

‘Before telling my story, I have to thank you,’ began Litvinov.

‘What for?’

‘For the bouquet of flowers, which made its appearance in my room.’

‘What bouquet? I know nothing about it.’

‘What?’

‘I tell you I know nothing about it.... But I am waiting.... I am
waiting for your story.... Ah, what a good fellow that Potugin is to
have brought you!’

Litvinov pricked up his ears.

‘Have you known this Mr. Potugin long?’ he queried.

‘Yes, a long while ... but tell me your story.’

‘And do you know him well?’

‘Oh, yes!’ Irina sighed. ‘There are special reasons.... You have heard,
of course, of Eliza Byelsky.... Who died, you know, the year before
last, such a dreadful death?... Ah, to be sure, I’d forgotten you don’t
know all our scandals.... It is well, it is well indeed, that you don’t
know them. _O quelle chance!_ at last, at last, a man, a live man, who
knows nothing of us! And to be able to talk Russian with him, bad
Russian of course, but still Russian, not that everlasting, mawkish,
sickening French patter of Petersburg.’

‘And Potugin, you say, was connected with--’

‘It’s very painful for me even to refer to it,’ Irina broke in. ‘Eliza
was my greatest friend at school, and afterwards in Petersburg we saw
each other continually. She confided all her secrets to me, she was very
unhappy, she suffered much. Potugin behaved splendidly in the affair,
with true chivalry. He sacrificed himself. It was only then I learnt to
appreciate him! But we have drifted away again. I am waiting for your
story, Grigory Mihalitch.’

‘But my story cannot interest you the least, Irina Pavlovna.’

‘That’s not your affair.’

‘Think, Irina Pavlovna, we have not seen each other for ten years, ten
whole years. How much water has flowed by since then.’

‘Not water only! not water only!’ she repeated with a peculiar bitter
expression; ‘that’s just why I want to hear what you are going to tell
me.’

‘And beside I really don’t know where to begin.’

‘At the beginning. From the very time when you ... when I went away to
Petersburg. You left Moscow then.... Do you know I have never been back
to Moscow since!’

‘Really?’

‘It was impossible at first; and afterwards when I was married----.’

‘Have you been married long?’

‘Four years.’

‘Have you no children?’

‘No,’ she answered drily.

Litvinov was silent for a little.

‘And did you go on living at that, what was his name, Count
Reisenbach’s, till your marriage?’

Irina looked steadily at him, as though she were trying to make up her
mind why he asked that question.

‘No,’ ... was her answer at last.

‘I suppose, your parents.... By the way, I haven’t asked after them. Are
they----’

‘They are both well.’

‘And living at Moscow as before?’

‘At Moscow as before.’

‘And your brothers and sisters?’

‘They are all right; I have provided for all of them.’

‘Ah!’ Litvinov glanced up from under his brows at Irina. ‘In reality,
Irina Pavlovna, it’s not I who ought to tell my story, but you, if
only----’ He suddenly felt embarrassed and stopped.

Irina raised her hands to her face and turned her wedding-ring round
upon her finger.

‘Well? I will not refuse,’ she assented at last. ‘Some day ...
perhaps.... But first you ... because, do you see, though I tried to
follow you up, I know scarcely anything of you; while of me ... well, of
me you have heard enough certainly. Haven’t you? I suppose you have
heard of me, tell me?’

‘You, Irina Pavlovna, occupied too conspicuous a place in the world, not
to be the subject of talk ... especially in the provinces, where I have
been and where every rumour is believed.’

‘And do you believe the rumours? And of what kind were the rumours?’

‘To tell the truth, Irina Pavlovna, such rumours very seldom reached me.
I have led a very solitary life.’

‘How so? why, you were in the Crimea, in the militia?’

‘You know that too?’

‘As you see. I tell you, you have been watched.’

Again Litvinov felt puzzled.

‘Why am I to tell you what you know without me?’ said Litvinov in an
undertone.

‘Why ... to do what I ask you. You see I ask you, Grigory Mihalitch.’

Litvinov bowed his head and began ... began in rather a confused fashion
to recount in rough outline to Irina his uninteresting adventures. He
often stopped and looked inquiringly at Irina, as though to ask whether
he had told enough. But she insistently demanded the continuation of his
narrative and pushing her hair back behind her ears, her elbows on the
arm of her chair, she seemed to be catching every word with strained
attention. Looking at her from one side and following the expression on
her face, any one might perhaps have imagined she did not hear what
Litvinov was saying at all, but was only deep in meditation.... But it
was not of Litvinov she was meditating, though he grew confused and red
under her persistent gaze. A whole life was rising up before her, a very
different one, not his life, but her own.

Litvinov did not finish his story, but stopped short under the influence
of an unpleasant sense of growing inner discomfort. This time Irina said
nothing to him, and did not urge him to go on, but pressing her open
hand to her eyes, as though she were tired, she leaned slowly back in
her chair, and remained motionless. Litvinov waited for a little; then,
reflecting that his visit had already lasted more than two hours, he was
stretching out his hand for his hat, when suddenly in an adjoining room
there was the sound of the rapid creak of thin kid boots, and preceded
by the same exquisite aristocratic perfume, there entered Valerian
Vladimirovitch Ratmirov.

Litvinov rose and interchanged bows with the good-looking general, while
Irina, with no sign of haste, took her hand from her face, and looking
coldly at her husband, remarked in French, ‘Ah! so you’ve come back! But
what time is it?’

‘Nearly four, _ma chère amie_, and you not dressed yet--the princess
will be expecting us,’ answered the general; and with an elegant bend of
his tightly-laced figure in Litvinov’s direction, he added with the
almost effeminate playfulness of intonation characteristic of him, ‘It’s
clear an agreeable visitor has made you forgetful of time.’

The reader will permit us at this point to give him some information
about General Ratmirov. His father was the natural ... what do you
suppose? You are not wrong--but we didn’t mean to say that ... the
natural son of an illustrious personage of the reign of Alexander I. and
of a pretty little French actress. The illustrious personage brought his
son forward in the world, but left him no fortune, and the son himself
(the father of our hero) had not time to grow rich; he died before he
had risen above the rank of a colonel in the police. A year before his
death he had married a handsome young widow who had happened to put
herself under his protection. His son by the widow, Valerian
Alexandrovitch, having got into the Corps of Pages by favour, attracted
the notice of the authorities, not so much by his success in the
sciences, as by his fine bearing, his fine manners, and his good
behaviour (though he had been exposed to all that pupils in the
government military schools were inevitably exposed to in former days)
and went into the Guards. His career was a brilliant one, thanks to the
discreet gaiety of his disposition, his skill in dancing, his excellent
seat on horseback when an orderly at reviews, and lastly, by a kind of
special trick of deferential familiarity with his superiors, of tender,
attentive almost clinging subservience, with a flavour of vague
liberalism, light as air.... This liberalism had not, however, prevented
him from flogging fifty peasants in a White Russian village, where he
had been sent to put down a riot. His personal appearance was most
prepossessing and singularly youthful-looking; smooth-faced and
rosy-checked, pliant and persistent, he made the most of his amazing
success with women; ladies of the highest rank and mature age simply
went out of their senses over him. Cautious from habit, silent from
motives of prudence, General Ratmirov moved constantly in the highest
society, like the busy bee gathering honey even from the least
attractive flowers--and without morals, without information of any kind,
but with the reputation of being good at business; with an insight into
men, and a ready comprehension of the exigencies of the moment, and
above all, a never-swerving desire for his own advantage, he saw at last
all paths lying open before him....

Litvinov smiled constrainedly, while Irina merely shrugged her
shoulders.

‘Well,’ she said in the same cold tone, ‘did you see the Count?’

‘To be sure I saw him. He told me to remember him to you.’

‘Ah! is he as imbecile as ever, that patron of yours?’

General Ratmirov made no reply. He only smiled to himself, as though
lenient to the over-hastiness of a woman’s judgment. With just such a
smile kindly-disposed grown-up people respond to the nonsensical whims
of children.

‘Yes,’ Irina went on, ‘the stupidity of your friend the Count is too
striking, even when one has seen a good deal of the world.’

‘You sent me to him yourself,’ muttered the general, and turning to
Litvinov he asked him in Russian, ‘Was he getting any benefit from the
Baden waters?’

‘I am in perfect health, I’m thankful to say,’ answered Litvinov.

‘That’s the greatest of blessings,’ pursued the general, with an affable
grimace; ‘and indeed one doesn’t, as a rule, come to Baden for the
waters; but the waters here are very effectual, _je veux dire,
efficaces_; and any one who suffers, as I do for instance, from a
nervous cough----’

Irina rose quickly. ‘We will see each other again, Grigory Mihalitch,
and I hope soon,’ she said in French, contemptuously cutting short her
husband’s speech, ‘but now I must go and dress. That old princess is
insufferable with her everlasting _parties de plaisir_, of which nothing
comes but boredom.’

‘You’re hard on every one to-day,’ muttered her husband, and he slipped
away into the next room.

Litvinov was turning towards the door.... Irina stopped him.

‘You have told me everything,’ she said, ‘but the chief thing you
concealed.’

‘What’s that?’

‘You are going to be married, I’m told?’

Litvinov blushed up to his ears.... As a fact, he had intentionally not
referred to Tanya; but he felt horribly vexed, first, that Irina knew
about his marriage, and, secondly, that she had, as it were, convicted
him of a desire to conceal it from her. He was completely at a loss
what to say, while Irina did not take her eyes off him.

‘Yes, I am going to be married,’ he said at last, and at once withdrew.

Ratmirov came back into the room.

‘Well, why aren’t you dressed?’ he asked.

‘You can go alone; my head aches.’

‘But the princess....’

Irina scanned her husband from head to foot in one look, turned her back
upon him, and went away to her boudoir.



XIII


Litvinov felt much annoyed with himself, as though he had lost money at
roulette, or failed to keep his word. An inward voice told him that
he--on the eve of marriage, a man of sober sense, not a boy--ought not
to have given way to the promptings of curiosity, nor the allurements of
recollection. ‘Much need there was to go!’ he reflected. ‘On her side
simply flirtation, whim, caprice.... She’s bored, she’s sick of
everything, she clutched at me ... as some one pampered with dainties
will suddenly long for black bread ... well, that’s natural enough....
But why did I go? Can I feel anything but contempt for her?’ This last
phrase he could not utter even in thought without an effort.... ‘Of
course, there’s no kind of danger, and never could be,’ he pursued his
reflections. ‘I know whom I have to deal with. But still one ought not
to play with fire.... I’ll never set my foot in her place again.’
Litvinov dared not, or could not as yet, confess to himself how
beautiful Irina had seemed to him, how powerfully she had worked upon
his feelings.

Again the day passed dully and drearily. At dinner, Litvinov chanced to
sit beside a majestic _belhomme_, with dyed moustaches, who said
nothing, and only panted and rolled his eyes ... but, being suddenly
taken with a hiccup, proved himself to be a fellow-countryman, by at
once exclaiming, with feeling, in Russian, ‘There, I said I ought not to
eat melons!’ In the evening, too, nothing happened to compensate for a
lost day; Bindasov, before Litvinov’s very eyes, won a sum four times
what he had borrowed from him, but, far from repaying his debt, he
positively glared in his face with a menacing air, as though he were
prepared to borrow more from him just because he had been a witness of
his winnings. The next morning he was again invaded by a host of his
compatriots; Litvinov got rid of them with difficulty, and setting off
to the mountains, he first came across Irina--he pretended not to
recognise her, and passed quickly by--and then Potugin. He was about to
begin a conversation with Potugin, but the latter did not respond to him
readily. He was leading by the hand a smartly dressed little girl, with
fluffy, almost white curls, large black eyes, and a pale, sickly little
face, with that peculiar peremptory and impatient expression
characteristic of spoiled children. Litvinov spent two hours in the
mountains, and then went back homewards along the Lichtenthaler
Allee.... A lady, sitting on a bench, with a blue veil over her face,
got up quickly, and came up to him.... He recognised Irina.

‘Why do you avoid me, Grigory Mihalitch?’ she said, in the unsteady
voice of one who is boiling over within.

Litvinov was taken aback. ‘I avoid you, Irina Pavlovna?’

‘Yes, you ... you----’

Irina seemed excited, almost angry.

‘You are mistaken, I assure you.’

‘No, I am not mistaken. Do you suppose this morning--when we met, I
mean--do you suppose I didn’t see that you knew me? Do you mean to say
you did not know me? Tell me.’

‘I really ... Irina Pavlovna----’

‘Grigory Mihalitch, you’re a straightforward man, you have always told
the truth; tell me, tell me, you knew me, didn’t you? you turned away on
purpose?’

Litvinov glanced at Irina. Her eyes shone with a strange light, while
her cheeks and lips were of a deathly pallor under the thick net of her
veil. In the expression of her face, in the very sound of her abruptly
jerked-out whisper, there was something so irresistibly mournful,
beseeching ... Litvinov could not pretend any longer.

‘Yes ... I knew you,’ he uttered not without effort.

Irina slowly shuddered, and slowly dropped her hands.

‘Why did you not come up to me?’ she whispered.

‘Why ... why!’ Litvinov moved on one side, away from the path, Irina
followed him in silence. ‘Why?’ he repeated once more, and suddenly his
face was aflame, and he felt his chest and throat choking with a passion
akin to hatred. ‘You ... you ask such a question, after all that has
passed between us? Not now, of course, not now; but there ... there ...
in Moscow.’

‘But, you know, we decided; you know, you promised----’ Irina was
beginning.

‘I have promised nothing! Pardon the harshness of my expressions, but
you ask for the truth--so think for yourself: to what but a
caprice--incomprehensible, I confess, to me--to what but a desire to try
how much power you still have over me, can I attribute your ... I don’t
know what to call it ... your persistence? Our paths have lain so far
apart! I have forgotten it all, I’ve lived through all that suffering
long ago, I’ve become a different man completely; you are
married--happy, at least, in appearance--you fill an envied position in
the world; what’s the object, what’s the use of our meeting? What am I
to you? what are you to me? We cannot even understand each other now;
there is absolutely nothing in common between us now, neither in the
past nor in the present! Especially ... especially in the past!’

Litvinov uttered all this speech hurriedly, jerkily, without turning his
head. Irina did not stir, except from time to time she faintly stretched
her hands out to him. It seemed as though she were beseeching him to
stop and listen to her, while, at his last words, she slightly bit her
lower lip, as though to master the pain of a sharp, rapid wound.

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ she began at last, in a calmer voice; and she moved
still further away from the path, along which people from time to time
passed.

Litvinov in his turn followed her.

‘Grigory Mihalitch, believe me, if I could imagine I had one
hair’s-breadth of power over you left, I would be the first to avoid
you. If I have not done so, if I made up my mind, in spite of my ... of
the wrong I did you in the past, to renew my acquaintance with you, it
was because ... because----’

‘Because what?’ asked Litvinov, almost rudely.

‘Because,’ Irina declared with sudden force--‘it’s too insufferable, too
unbearably stifling for me in society, in the envied position you talk
about; because meeting you, a live man, after all these dead
puppets--you have seen samples of them three days ago, there _au Vieux
Château_,--I rejoice over you as an oasis in the desert, while you
suspect me of flirting, and despise me and repulse me on the ground that
I wronged you--as indeed I did--but far more myself!’

‘You chose your lot yourself, Irina Pavlovna,’ Litvinov rejoined
sullenly, as before not turning his head.

‘I chose it myself, yes ... and I don’t complain, I have no right to
complain,’ said Irina hurriedly; she seemed to derive a secret
consolation from Litvinov’s very harshness. ‘I know that you must think
ill of me, and I won’t justify myself; I only want to explain my feeling
to you, I want to convince you I am in no flirting humour now.... Me
flirting with you! Why, there is no sense in it.... When I saw you, all
that was good, that was young in me, revived ... that time when I had
not yet chosen my lot, everything that lies behind in that streak of
brightness behind those ten years....’

‘Come, really, Irina Pavlovna! So far as I am aware, the brightness in
your life began precisely with the time we separated....’

Irina put her handkerchief to her lips.

‘That’s very cruel, what you say, Grigory Mihalitch; but I can’t feel
angry with you. Oh, no, that was not a bright time, it was not for
happiness I left Moscow; I have known not one moment, not one instant of
happiness ... believe me, whatever you have been told. If I were happy,
could I talk to you as I am talking now.... I repeat to you, you don’t
know what these people are.... Why, they understand nothing, feel for
nothing; they’ve no intelligence even, _ni esprit ni intelligence_,
nothing but tact and cunning; why, in reality, music and poetry and art
are all equally remote from them.... You will say that I was rather
indifferent to all that myself; but not to the same degree, Grigory
Mihalitch ... not to the same degree! It’s not a woman of the world
before you now, you need only look at me--not a society queen.... That’s
what they call us, I believe ... but a poor, poor creature, really
deserving of pity. Don’t wonder at my words.... I am beyond feeling
pride now! I hold out my hand to you as a beggar, will you understand,
just as a beggar.... I ask for charity,’ she added suddenly, in an
involuntary, irrepressible outburst, ‘I ask for charity, and you----’

Her voice broke. Litvinov raised his head and looked at Irina; her
breathing came quickly, her lips were quivering. Suddenly his heart beat
fast, and the feeling of hatred vanished.

‘You say that our paths have lain apart,’ Irina went on. ‘I know you are
about to marry from inclination, you have a plan laid out for your whole
life; yes, that’s all so, but we have not become strangers to one
another, Grigory Mihalitch; we can still understand each other. Or do
you imagine I have grown altogether dull--altogether debased in the
mire? Ah, no, don’t think that, please! Let me open my heart, I beseech
you--there--even for the sake of those old days, if you are not willing
to forget them. Do so, that our meeting may not have come to pass in
vain; that would be too bitter; it would not last long in any case.... I
don’t know how to say it properly, but you will understand me, because I
ask for little, so little ... only a little sympathy, only that you
should not repulse me, that you should let me open my heart----’

Irina ceased speaking, there were tears in her voice. She sighed, and
timidly, with a kind of furtive, searching look, gazed at Litvinov, held
out her hand to him....

Litvinov slowly took the hand and faintly pressed it.

‘Let us be friends,’ whispered Irina.

‘Friends,’ repeated Litvinov dreamily.

‘Yes, friends ... or if that is too much to ask, then let us at least be
friendly.... Let us be simply as though nothing had happened.’

‘As though nothing had happened,...’ repeated Litvinov again. ‘You said
just now, Irina Pavlovna, that I was unwilling to forget the old
days.... But what if I can’t forget them?’

A blissful smile flashed over Irina’s face, and at once disappeared, to
be replaced by a harassed, almost scared expression.

‘Be like me, Grigory Mihalitch, remember only what was good in them; and
most of all, give me your word.... Your word of honour....’

‘Well?’

‘Not to avoid me ... not to hurt me for nothing. You promise? tell me!’

‘Yes.’

‘And you will dismiss all evil thoughts of me from your mind.’

‘Yes ... but as for understanding you--I give it up.’

‘There’s no need of that ... wait a little, though, you will understand.
But you will promise?’

‘I have said yes already.’

‘Thanks. You see I am used to believe you. I shall expect you to-day,
to-morrow, I will not go out of the house. And now I must leave you. The
Grand Duchess is coming along the avenue.... She’s caught sight of me,
and I can’t avoid going up to speak to her.... Good-bye till we meet....
Give me your hand, _vite, vite_. Till we meet.’

And warmly pressing Litvinov’s hand, Irina walked towards a middle-aged
person of dignified appearance, who was coming slowly along the gravel
path, escorted by two other ladies, and a strikingly handsome groom in
livery.

‘_Eh bonjour, chère Madame_,’ said the personage, while Irina curtseyed
respectfully to her. ‘_Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui? Venez un peu avec
moi._’

‘_Votre Altesse a trop de bonté_,’ Irina’s insinuating voice was heard
in reply.



XIV


Litvinov let the Grand Duchess and all her suite get out of sight, and
then he too went along the avenue. He could not make up his mind clearly
what he was feeling; he was conscious both of shame and dread, while his
vanity was flattered.... The unexpected explanation with Irina had taken
him utterly by surprise; her rapid burning words had passed over him
like a thunder-storm. ‘Queer creatures these society women,’ he thought;
‘there’s no consistency in them ... and how perverted they are by the
surroundings in which they go on living, while they’re conscious of its
hideousness themselves!’... In reality he was not thinking this at all,
but only mechanically repeating these hackneyed phrases, as though he
were trying to ward off other more painful thoughts. He felt that he
must not think seriously just now, that he would probably have to blame
himself, and he moved with lagging steps, almost forcing himself to pay
attention to everything that happened to meet him.... He suddenly found
himself before a seat, caught sight of some one’s legs in front of it,
and looked upwards from them.... The legs belonged to a man, sitting on
the seat, and reading a newspaper; this man turned out to be Potugin.
Litvinov uttered a faint exclamation. Potugin laid the paper down on his
knees, and looked attentively, without a smile, at Litvinov; and
Litvinov also attentively, and also without a smile, looked at Potugin.

‘May I sit by you?’ he asked at last.

‘By all means, I shall be delighted. Only I warn you, if you want to
have a talk with me, you mustn’t be offended with me--I’m in a most
misanthropic humour just now, and I see everything in an exaggeratedly
repulsive light.’

‘That’s no matter, Sozont Ivanitch,’ responded Litvinov, sinking down on
the seat, ‘indeed it’s particularly appropriate.... But why has such a
mood come over you?’

‘I ought not by rights to be ill-humoured,’ began Potugin. ‘I’ve just
read in the paper a project for judicial reforms in Russia, and I see
with genuine pleasure that we’ve got some sense at last, and they’re not
as usual on the pretext of independence, nationalism, or originality,
proposing to tack a little home-made tag of our own on to the clear
straightforward logic of Europe; but are taking what’s good from abroad
intact. A single adaptation in its application to the peasants’ sphere
is enough.... There’s no doing away with communal ownership!...
Certainly, certainly, I ought not to be ill-humoured; but to my
misfortune I chanced upon a Russian “rough diamond,” and had a talk with
him, and these rough diamonds, these self-educated geniuses, would make
me turn in my grave!’

‘What do you mean by a rough diamond?’ asked Litvinov.

‘Why, there’s a gentleman disporting himself here, who imagines he’s a
musical genius. “I have done nothing, of course,” he’ll tell you. “I’m a
cipher, because I’ve had no training, but I’ve incomparably more melody
and more ideas in me than in Meyerbeer.” In the first place, I say: why
have you had no training? and secondly, that, not to talk of Meyerbeer,
the humblest German flute-player, modestly blowing his part in the
humblest German orchestra, has twenty times as many ideas as all our
untaught geniuses; only the flute-player keeps his ideas to himself, and
doesn’t trot them out with a flourish in the land of Mozarts and Haydns;
while our friend the rough diamond has only to strum some little waltz
or song, and at once you see him with his hands in his trouser pocket
and a sneer of contempt on his lips: I’m a genius, he says. And in
painting it’s just the same, and in everything else. Oh, these natural
geniuses, how I hate them! As if every one didn’t know that it’s only
where there’s no real science fully assimilated, and no real art, that
there’s this flaunting affectation of them. Surely it’s time to have
done with this flaunting, this vulgar twaddle, together with all
hackneyed phrases such as “no one ever dies of hunger in Russia,”
“nowhere is there such fast travelling as in Russia,” “we Russians could
bury all our enemies under our hats.” I’m for ever hearing of the
richness of the Russian nature, their unerring instinct, and of
Kulibin.... But what is this richness, after all, gentlemen?
Half-awakened mutterings or else half-animal sagacity. Instinct, indeed!
A fine boast. Take an ant in a forest and set it down a mile from its
ant-hill, it will find its way home; man can do nothing like it; but
what of it? do you suppose he’s inferior to the ant? Instinct, be it
ever so unerring, is unworthy of man; sense, simple, straightforward,
common sense--that’s our heritage, our pride; sense won’t perform any
such tricks, but it’s that that everything rests upon. As for Kulibin,
who without any knowledge of mechanics succeeded in making some very
bad watches, why, I’d have those watches set up in the pillory, and
say: see, good people, this is the way _not_ to do it. Kulibin’s not to
blame for it, but his work’s rubbish. To admire Telushkin’s boldness and
cleverness because he climbed on to the Admiralty spire is well enough;
why not admire him? But there’s no need to shout that he’s made the
German architects look foolish, that they’re no good, except at making
money.... He’s not made them look foolish in the least; they had to put
a scaffolding round the spire afterwards, and repair it in the usual
way. For mercy’s sake, never encourage the idea in Russia that anything
can be done without training. No; you may have the brain of a Solomon,
but you must study, study from the A B C. Or else hold your tongue, and
sit still, and be humble! Phoo! it makes one hot all over!’

Potugin took off his hat and began fanning himself with his
handkerchief.

‘Russian art,’ he began again. ‘Russian art, indeed!... Russian
impudence and conceit, I know, and Russian feebleness too, but Russian
art, begging your pardon, I’ve never come across. For twenty years on
end they’ve been doing homage to that bloated nonentity Bryullov, and
fancying that we have founded a school of our own, and even that it will
be better than all others.... Russian art, ha, ha, ha! ho, ho!’

‘Excuse me, though, Sozont Ivanitch,’ remarked Litvinov, ‘would you
refuse to recognise Glinka too, then?’

Potugin scratched his head.

‘The exception, you know, only proves the rule, but even in that
instance we could not dispense with bragging. If we’d said, for example,
that Glinka was really a remarkable musician, who was only prevented by
circumstances--outer and inner--from becoming the founder of the Russian
opera, none would have disputed it; but no, that was too much to expect!
They must at once raise him to the dignity of commander-in-chief, of
grand-marshal, in the musical world, and disparage other nations while
they were about it; they have nothing to compare with him, they declare,
then quote you some marvellous home-bred genius whose compositions are
nothing but a poor imitation of second-rate foreign composers, yes,
second-rate ones, for they’re the easiest to imitate. Nothing to compare
with him? Oh, poor benighted barbarians, for whom standards in art are
non-existent, and artists are something of the same species as the
strong man Rappo: there’s a foreign prodigy, they say, can lift fifteen
stone in one hand, but our man can lift thirty! Nothing to compare with
us, indeed! I will venture to tell you some thing I remember, and can’t
get out of my head. Last spring I visited the Crystal Palace near
London; in that Palace, as you’re aware, there’s a sort of exhibition of
everything that has been devised by the ingenuity of man--an
encyclopædia of humanity one might call it. Well, I walked to and fro
among the machines and implements and statues of great men; and all the
while I thought, if it were decreed that some nation or other should
disappear from the face of the earth, and with it everything that nation
had invented, should disappear from the Crystal Palace, our dear mother,
Holy Russia, could go and hide herself in the lower regions, without
disarranging a single nail in the place: everything might remain
undisturbed where it is; for even the _samovar_, the woven bast shoes,
the yoke-bridle, and the knout--these are our famous products--were not
invented by us. One could not carry out the same experiment on the
Sandwich islanders; those islanders have made some peculiar canoes and
javelins of their own; their absence would be noticed by visitors. It’s
a libel! it’s too severe, you say perhaps.... But I say, first, I don’t
know how to roar like any sucking dove; and secondly, it’s plain that
it’s not only the devil no one dares to look straight in the face, for
no one dares to look straight at himself, and it’s not only children who
like being soothed to sleep. Our older inventions came to us from the
East, our later ones we’ve borrowed, and half spoiled, from the West,
while we still persist in talking about the independence of Russian art!
Some bold spirits have even discovered an original Russian science;
twice two makes four with us as elsewhere, but the result’s obtained
more ingeniously, it appears.’

‘But wait a minute, Sozont Ivanitch,’ cried Litvinov. ‘Do wait a minute!
You know we send something to the universal exhibitions, and doesn’t
Europe import something from us.’

‘Yes, raw material, raw products. And note, my dear sir: this raw
produce of ours is generally only good by virtue of other exceedingly
bad conditions; our bristles, for instance, are large and strong,
because our pigs are poor; our hides are stout and thick because our
cows are thin; our tallow’s rich because it’s boiled down with half the
flesh.... But why am I enlarging on that to you, though; you are a
student of technology, to be sure, you must know all that better than I
do. They talk to me of our inventive faculty! The inventive faculty of
the Russians! Why our worthy farmers complain bitterly and suffer loss
because there’s no satisfactory machine for drying grain in existence,
to save them from the necessity of putting their sheaves in ovens, as
they did in the days of Rurik; these ovens are fearfully wasteful--just
as our bast shoes and our Russian mats are,--and they are constantly
getting on fire. The farmers complain, but still there’s no sign of a
drying-machine. And why is there none? Because the German farmer doesn’t
need them; he can thrash his wheat as it is, so he doesn’t bother to
invent one, and we ... are not capable of doing it! Not capable--and
that’s all about it! Try as we may! From this day forward I declare
whenever I come across one of those rough diamonds, these self-taught
geniuses, I shall say: “Stop a minute, my worthy friend! Where’s that
drying-machine? let’s have it!” But that’s beyond them! Picking up some
old cast-off shoe, dropped ages ago by St. Simon or Fourier, and
sticking it on our heads and treating it as a sacred relic--that’s what
we’re capable of; or scribbling an article on the historical and
contemporary significance of the proletariat in the principal towns of
France--that we can do too; but I tried once, asking a writer and
political economist of that sort--rather like your friend, Mr.
Voroshilov--to mention twenty towns in France, and what do you think
came of that? Why the economist in despair at last mentioned
Mont-Fermeuil as one of the French towns, remembering it probably from
some novel of Paul de Kock’s. And that reminds me of the following
anecdote. I was one day strolling through a wood with a dog and a
gun----’

‘Are you a sportsman then?’ asked Litvinov.

‘I shoot a little. I was making my way to a swamp in search of snipe;
I’d been told of the swamp by other sportsmen. I saw sitting in a
clearing before a hut a timber merchant’s clerk, as fresh and smooth as
a peeled nut, he was sitting there, smiling away--what at, I can’t say.
So I asked him: “Whereabouts was the swamp, and were there many snipe in
it?” “To be sure, to be sure,” he sang out promptly, and with an
expression of face as though I’d given him a rouble; “the swamp’s
first-rate, I’m thankful to say; and as for all kinds of wild fowl,--my
goodness, they’re to be found there in wonderful plenty.” I set off, but
not only found no wild fowl, the swamp itself had been dry for a long
time. Now tell me, please, why is the Russian a liar? Why does the
political economist lie, and why the lie about the wild fowl too?’

Litvinov made no answer, but only sighed sympathetically.

‘But turn the conversation with the same political economist,’ pursued
Potugin, ‘on the most abstruse problems of social science, keeping to
theory, without facts...!--he takes flight like a bird, a perfect eagle.
I did once succeed, though, in catching one of those birds. I used a
pretty snare, though an obvious one, as you shall see if you please. I
was talking with one of our latter-day “new young men” about various
questions, as they call them. Well, he got very hot, as they always do.
Marriage among other things he attacked with really childish
exasperation. I brought forward one argument after another.... I might
as well have talked to a stone wall! I saw I should never get round him
like that. And then I had a happy thought! “Allow me to submit to you,”
I began,--one must always talk very respectfully to these “new young
men”--“I am really surprised at you, my dear sir; you are studying
natural science, and your attention has never up till now been caught by
the fact that all carnivorous and predatory animals--wild beasts and
birds--all who have to go out in search of prey, and to exert themselves
to obtain animal food for themselves and their young ... and I suppose
you would include man in the category of such animals?” “Of course, I
should,” said the “new young man,” “man is nothing but a carnivorous
animal.” “And predatory?” I added. “And predatory,” he declared. “Well
said,” I observed. “Well, then I am surprised you’ve never noticed that
such animals live in monogamy.” The “new young man” started. “How so?”
“Why, it is so. Think of the lion, the wolf, the fox, the vulture, the
kite; and, indeed, would you condescend to suggest how they could do
otherwise. It’s hard work enough for the two together to get a living
for their offspring.” My “new young man” grew thoughtful. “Well,” says
he, “in that case the animal is not a rule for man.” Thereupon I called
him an idealist, and wasn’t he hurt at that! He almost cried. I had to
comfort him by promising not to tell of him to his friends. To deserve
to be called an idealist is no laughing matter! The main point in which
our latter-day young people are out in their reckoning is this. They
fancy that the time for the old, obscure, underground work is over, that
it was all very well for their old-fashioned fathers to burrow like
moles, but that’s too humiliating a part for us, we will take action in
the light of day, we will take action.... Poor darlings! why your
children even won’t take action; and don’t you care to go back to
burrowing, burrowing underground again in the old tracks?’

A brief silence followed.

‘I am of opinion, my dear sir,’ began Potugin again, ‘that we are not
only indebted to civilisation for science, art, and law, but that even
the very feeling for beauty and poetry is developed and strengthened
under the influence of the same civilisation, and that the so-called
popular, simple, unconscious creation is twaddling and rubbishy. Even in
Homer there are traces of a refined and varied civilisation; love itself
is enriched by it. The Slavophils would cheerfully hang me for such a
heresy, if they were not such chicken-hearted creatures; but I will
stick up for my own ideas all the same; and however much they press
Madame Kohanovsky and “The swarm of bees at rest” upon me,--I can’t
stand the odour of that _triple extrait de mougik Russe_, as I don’t
belong to the highest society, which finds it absolutely necessary to
assure itself from time to time that it has not turned quite French, and
for whose exclusive benefit this literature _en cuir de Russie_ is
manufactured. Try reading the raciest, most “popular” passages from the
“Bees” to a common peasant--a real one; he’ll think you’re repeating him
a new spell against fever or drunkenness. I repeat, without civilisation
there’s not even poetry. If you want to get a clear idea of the poetic
ideal of the uncivilised Russian, you should turn up our ballads, our
legends. To say nothing of the fact that love is always presented as the
result of witchcraft, of sorcery, and produced by some philtre, to say
nothing of our so-called epic literature being the only one among all
the European and Asiatic literatures--the only one, observe, which does
not present any typical pair of lovers--unless you reckon Vanka-Tanka as
such; and of the Holy Russian knight always beginning his acquaintance
with his destined bride by beating her “most pitilessly” on her white
body, because “the race of women is puffed up”! all that I pass over;
but I should like to call your attention to the artistic form of the
young hero, the _jeune premier_, as he was depicted by the imagination
of the primitive, uncivilised Slav. Just fancy him a minute; the _jeune
premier_ enters; a cloak he has worked himself of sable, back-stitched
along every seam, a sash of seven-fold silk girt close about his
armpits, his fingers hidden away under his hanging sleevelets, the
collar of his coat raised high above his head, from before, his rosy
face no man can see, nor, from behind, his little white neck; his cap is
on one ear, while on his feet are boots of morocco, with points as sharp
as a cobbler’s awl, and the heels peaked like nails. Round the points an
egg can be rolled, and a sparrow can fly under the heels. And the young
hero advances with that peculiar mincing gait by means of which our
Alcibiades, Tchivilo Plenkovitch, produced such a striking, almost
medical, effect on old women and young girls, the same gait which we see
in our loose-limbed waiters, that cream, that flower of Russian
dandyism, that _ne plus ultra_ of Russian taste. This I maintain without
joking; a sack-like gracefulness, that’s an artistic ideal. What do you
think, is it a fine type? Does it present many materials for painting,
for sculpture? And the beauty who fascinates the young hero, whose “face
is as red as the blood of the hare”?... But I think you’re not listening
to me?’

Litvinov started. He had not, in fact, heard what Potugin was saying; he
kept thinking, persistently thinking of Irina, of his last interview
with her....

‘I beg your pardon, Sozont Ivanitch,’ he began, ‘but I’m going to attack
you again with my former question about ... about Madame Ratmirov.’

Potugin folded up his newspaper and put it in his pocket.

‘You want to know again how I came to know her?’

‘No, not exactly. I should like to hear your opinion ... on the part
she played in Petersburg. What was that part, in reality?’

‘I really don’t know what to say to you, Grigory Mihalitch; I was
brought into rather intimate terms with Madame Ratmirov ... but quite
accidentally, and not for long. I never got an insight into her world,
and what took place in it remained unknown to me. There was some gossip
before me, but as you know, it’s not only in democratic circles that
slander reigns supreme among us. Besides I was not inquisitive. I see
though,’ he added, after a short silence, ‘she interests you.’

‘Yes; we have twice talked together rather openly. I ask myself, though,
is she sincere?’

Potugin looked down. ‘When she is carried away by feeling, she is
sincere, like all women of strong passions. Pride too, sometimes
prevents her from lying.’

‘Is she proud? I should rather have supposed she was capricious.’

‘Proud as the devil; but that’s no harm.’

‘I fancy she sometimes exaggerates....’

‘That’s nothing either, she’s sincere all the same. Though after all,
how can you expect truth? The best of those society women are rotten to
the marrow of their bones.’

‘But, Sozont Ivanitch, if you remember, you called yourself her friend.
Didn’t you drag me almost by force to go and see her?’

‘What of that? she asked me to get hold of you; and I thought, why not?
And I really am her friend. She has her good qualities: she’s very kind,
that is to say, generous, that’s to say she gives others what she has no
sort of need of herself. But of course you must know her at least as
well as I do.’

‘I used to know Irina Pavlovna ten years ago; but since then----’

‘Ah, Grigory Mihalitch, why do you say that? Do you suppose any one’s
character changes? Such as one is in one’s cradle, such one is still in
one’s tomb. Or perhaps it is’ (here Potugin bowed his head still lower)
‘perhaps, you’re afraid of falling into her clutches? that’s certainly
... But of course one is bound to fall into some woman’s clutches.’

Litvinov gave a constrained laugh. ‘You think so?’

‘There’s no escape. Man is weak, woman is strong, opportunity is
all-powerful, to make up one’s mind to a joyless life is hard, to forget
oneself utterly is impossible ... and on one side is beauty and sympathy
and warmth and light,--how is one to resist it? Why, one runs like a
child to its nurse. Ah, well, afterwards to be sure comes cold and
darkness and emptiness ... in due course. And you end by being strange
to everything, by losing comprehension of everything. At first you don’t
understand how love is possible; afterwards one won’t understand how
life is possible.’

Litvinov looked at Potugin, and it struck him that he had never yet met
a man more lonely, more desolate ... more unhappy. This time he was not
shy, he was not stiff; downcast and pale, his head on his breast, and
his hands on his knees, he sat without moving, merely smiling his
dejected smile. Litvinov felt sorry for the poor, embittered, eccentric
creature.

‘Irina Pavlovna mentioned among other things,’ he began in a low voice,
‘a very intimate friend of hers, whose name if I remember was Byelsky,
or Dolsky....’

Potugin raised his mournful eyes and looked at Litvinov.

‘Ah!’ he commented thickly.... ‘She mentioned ... well, what of it? It’s
time, though,’ he added with a rather artificial yawn, ‘for me to be
getting home--to dinner. Good-bye.’

He jumped up from the seat and made off quickly before Litvinov had time
to utter a word.... His compassion gave way to annoyance--annoyance with
himself, be it understood. Want of consideration of any kind was foreign
to his nature; he had wished to express his sympathy for Potugin, and
it had resulted in something like a clumsy insinuation. With secret
dissatisfaction in his heart, he went back to his hotel.

‘Rotten to the marrow of her bones,’ he thought a little later ... ‘but
proud as the devil! She, that woman who is almost on her knees to me,
proud? proud and not capricious?’

Litvinov tried to drive Irina’s image out of his head, but he did not
succeed. For this very reason he did not think of his betrothed; he felt
to-day this haunting image would not give up its place. He made up his
mind to await without further anxiety the solution of all this ‘strange
business’; the solution could not be long in coming, and Litvinov had
not the slightest doubt it would turn out to be most innocent and
natural. So he fancied, but meanwhile he was not only haunted by Lina’s
image--every word she had uttered kept recurring in its turn to his
memory.

The waiter brought him a note: it was from the same Irina:

‘If you have nothing to do this evening, come to me; I shall not be
alone; I shall have guests, and you will get a closer view of our set,
our society. I want you very much to see something of them; I fancy they
will show themselves in all their brilliance. You ought to know what
sort of atmosphere I am breathing. Come; I shall be glad to see you, and
you will not be bored. (Irina had spelt the Russian incorrectly here.)
Prove to me that our explanation to-day has made any sort of
misunderstanding between us impossible for ever.--Yours devotedly, I.’

Litvinov put on a frock coat and a white tie, and set off to Irina’s.
‘All this is of no importance,’ he repeated mentally on the way, ‘as for
looking at _them_ ... why shouldn’t I have a look at them? It will be
curious.’ A few days before, these very people had aroused a different
sensation in him; they had aroused his indignation.

He walked with quickened steps, his cap pulled down over his eyes, and a
constrained smile on his lips, while Bambaev, sitting before Weber’s
café, and pointing him out from a distance to Voroshilov and
Pishtchalkin, cried excitedly: ‘Do you see that man? He’s a stone! he’s
a rock! he’s a flint!!!’



XV


Litvinov found rather many guests at Irina’s. In a corner at a
card-table were sitting three of the generals of the picnic: the stout
one, the irascible one, and the condescending one. They were playing
whist with dummy, and there is no word in the language of man to express
the solemnity with which they dealt, took tricks, led clubs and led
diamonds ... there was no doubt about their being statesmen now! These
gallant generals left to mere commoners, _aux bourgeois_, the little
turns and phrases commonly used during play, and uttered only the most
indispensable syllables; the stout general however permitted himself to
jerk off between two deals: ‘_Ce satané as de pique!_’ Among the
visitors Litvinov recognised ladies who had been present at the picnic;
but there were others there also whom he had not seen before. There was
one so ancient that it seemed every instant as though she would fall to
pieces: she shrugged her bare, gruesome, dingy grey shoulders, and,
covering her mouth with her fan, leered languishingly with her
absolutely death-like eyes upon Ratmirov; he paid her much attention;
she was held in great honour in the highest society, as the last of the
Maids of Honour of the Empress Catherine. At the window, dressed like a
shepherdess, sat Countess S., ‘the Queen of the Wasps,’ surrounded by
young men. Among them the celebrated millionaire and beau Finikov was
conspicuous for his supercilious deportment, his absolutely flat skull,
and his expression of soulless brutality, worthy of a Khan of Bucharia,
or a Roman Heliogabalus. Another lady, also a countess, known by the pet
name of _Lise_, was talking to a long-haired, fair, and pale
spiritualistic medium. Beside them was standing a gentleman, also pale
and long-haired, who kept laughing in a meaning way. This gentleman also
believed in spiritualism, but added to that an interest in prophecy,
and, on the basis of the Apocalypse and the Talmud, was in the habit of
foretelling all kinds of marvellous events. Not a single one of these
events had come to pass; but he was in no wise disturbed by that fact,
and went on prophesying as before. At the piano, the musical genius had
installed himself, the rough diamond, who had stirred Potugin to such
indignation; he was striking chords with a careless hand, _d’une main
distraite_, and kept staring vaguely about him. Irina was sitting on a
sofa between Prince Kokó and Madame H., once a celebrated beauty and
wit, who had long ago become a repulsive old crone, with the odour of
sanctity and evaporated sinfulness about her. On catching sight of
Litvinov, Irina blushed and got up, and when he went up to her, she
pressed his hand warmly. She was wearing a dress of black crépon,
relieved by a few inconspicuous gold ornaments; her shoulders were a
dead white, while her face, pale too, under the momentary flood of
crimson overspreading it, was breathing with the triumph of beauty, and
not of beauty alone; a hidden, almost ironical happiness was shining in
her half-closed eyes, and quivering about her lips and nostrils....

Ratmirov approached Litvinov and after exchanging with him his customary
civilities, unaccompanied however by his customary playfulness, he
presented him to two or three ladies: the ancient ruin, the Queen of the
Wasps, Countess Liza ... they gave him a rather gracious reception.
Litvinov did not belong to their set; but he was good-looking, extremely
so, indeed, and the expressive features of his youthful face awakened
their interest. Only he did not know how to fasten that interest upon
himself; he was unaccustomed to society and was conscious of some
embarrassment, added to which the stout general stared at him
persistently. ‘Aha! lubberly civilian! free-thinker!’ that fixed heavy
stare seemed to be saying: ‘down on your knees to us; crawl to kiss our
hands!’ Irina came to Litvinov’s aid. She managed so adroitly that he
got into a corner near the door, a little behind her. As she addressed
him, she had each time to turn round to him, and every time he admired
the exquisite curve of her splendid neck, he drank in the subtle
fragrance of her hair. An expression of gratitude, deep and calm, never
left her face; he could not help seeing that gratitude and nothing else
was what those smiles, those glances expressed, and he too was all aglow
with the same emotion, and he felt shame, and delight and dread at once
... and at the same time she seemed continually as though she would ask,
‘Well? what do you think of them?’ With special clearness Litvinov heard
this unspoken question whenever any one of the party was guilty of some
vulgar phrase or act, and that occurred more than once during the
evening. Once she did not even conceal her feelings, and laughed aloud.

Countess Liza, a lady of superstitious bent, with an inclination for
everything extraordinary, after discoursing to her heart’s content with
the spiritualist upon Home, turning tables, self-playing concertinas,
and so on, wound up by asking him whether there were animals which could
be influenced by mesmerism.

‘There is one such animal any way,’ Prince Kokó declared from some way
off. ‘You know Melvanovsky, don’t you? They put him to sleep before me,
and didn’t he snore, he, he!’

‘You are very naughty, _mon prince_; I am speaking of real animals, _je
parle des bêtes_.’

‘_Mais moi aussi, madame, je parle d’une bête...._’

‘There are such,’ put in the spiritualist; ‘for instance--crabs; they
are very nervous, and are easily thrown into a cataleptic state.’

The countess was astounded. ‘What? Crabs! Really? Oh, that’s awfully
interesting! Now, that I should like to see, M’sieu Luzhin,’ she added
to a young man with a face as stony as a new doll’s, and a stony collar
(he prided himself on the fact that he had bedewed the aforesaid face
and collar with the sprays of Niagara and the Nubian Nile, though he
remembered nothing of all his travels, and cared for nothing but Russian
puns...). ‘M’sieu Luzhin, if you would be so good, do bring us a crab
quick.’

M’sieu Luzhin smirked. ‘Quick must it be, or quickly?’ he queried.

The countess did not understand him. ‘_Mais oui_, a crab,’ she repeated,
‘_une écrevisse_.’

‘Eh? what is it? a crab? a crab?’ the Countess S. broke in harshly. The
absence of M. Verdier irritated her; she could not imagine why Irina had
not invited that most fascinating of Frenchmen. The ancient ruin, who
had long since ceased understanding anything--moreover she was
completely deaf--only shook her head.

‘_Oui, oui, vous allez voir._ M’sieu Luzhin, please....’

The young traveller bowed, went out, and returned quickly. A waiter
walked behind him, and grinning from ear to ear, carried in a dish, on
which a large black crab was to be seen.

‘_Voici, madame_,’ cried Luzhin; ‘now we can proceed to the operation on
cancer. Ha, ha, ha!’ (Russians are always the first to laugh at their
own witticisms.)

‘He, he, he!’ Count Kokó did his duty condescendingly as a good patriot,
and patron of all national products.

(We beg the reader not to be amazed and indignant; who can say
confidently for himself that sitting in the stalls of the Alexander
Theatre, and infected by its atmosphere, he has not applauded even worse
puns?)

‘_Merci, merci_,’ said the countess. ‘_Allons, allons, Monsieur Fox,
montrez nous ça._’

The waiter put the dish down on a little round table. There was a slight
movement among the guests; several heads were craned forward; only the
generals at the card-table preserved the serene solemnity of their pose.
The spiritualist ruffled up his hair, frowned, and, approaching the
table, began waving his hands in the air; the crab stretched itself,
backed, and raised its claws. The spiritualist repeated and quickened
his movements; the crab stretched itself as before.

‘_Mais que doit-elle donc faire?_’ inquired the countess.

‘_Elle doâ rester immobile et se dresser sur sa quiou_,’ replied Mr.
Fox, with a strong American accent, and he brandished his fingers with
convulsive energy over the dish; but the mesmerism had no effect, the
crab continued to move. The spiritualist declared that he was not
himself, and retired with an air of displeasure from the table. The
countess began to console him, by assuring him that similar failures
occurred sometimes even with Mr. Home.... Prince Kokó confirmed her
words. The authority on the Apocalypse and the Talmud stealthily went up
to the table, and making rapid but vigorous thrusts with his fingers in
the direction of the crab, he too tried his luck, but without success;
no symptom of catalepsy showed itself. Then the waiter was called, and
told to take away the crab, which he accordingly did, grinning from ear
to ear, as before; he could be heard exploding outside the door....
There was much laughter afterwards in the kitchen _über diese Russen_.
The self-taught genius, who had gone on striking notes during the
experiments with the crab, dwelling on melancholy chords, on the ground
that there was no knowing what influence music might have--the
self-taught genius played his invariable waltz, and, of course, was
deemed worthy of the most flattering applause. Pricked on by rivalry,
Count H., our incomparable dilettante (see Chapter I.), gave a little
song of his own composition, cribbed wholesale from Offenbach. Its
playful refrain to the words: ‘_Quel œuf? quel bœuf?_’ set almost all
the ladies’ heads swinging to right and to left; one went so far as to
hum the tune lightly, and the irrepressible, inevitable word,
‘_Charmant! charmant!_’ was fluttering on every one’s lips. Irina
exchanged a glance with Litvinov, and again the same secret, ironical
expression quivered about her lips.... But a little later it was still
more strongly marked, there was even a shade of malice in it, when
Prince Kokó, that representative and champion of the interests of the
nobility, thought fit to propound his views to the spiritualist, and, of
course, gave utterance before long to his famous phrase about the shock
to the principle of property, accompanied naturally by an attack on
democrats. The spiritualist’s American blood was stirred; he began to
argue. The prince, as his habit was, at once fell to shouting at the top
of his voice; instead of any kind of argument he repeated incessantly:
‘_C’est absurde! cela n’a pas le sens commun!_’ The millionaire Finikov
began saying insulting things, without much heed to whom they referred;
the Talmudist’s piping notes and even the Countess S.’s jarring voice
could be heard.... In fact, almost the same incongruous uproar arose as
at Gubaryov’s; the only difference was that here there was no beer nor
tobacco-smoke, and every one was better dressed. Ratmirov tried to
restore tranquillity (the generals manifested their displeasure, Boris’s
exclamation could be heard, ‘_Encore cette satanée politique!_’), but
his efforts were not successful, and at that point, a high official of
the stealthily inquisitorial type, who was present, and undertook to
present _le résumé en peu de mots_, sustained a defeat: in fact he so
hummed and hawed, so repeated himself, and was so obviously incapable of
listening to or taking in the answers he received, and so unmistakably
failed to perceive himself what precisely constituted _la question_ that
no other result could possibly have been anticipated. And then too Irina
was slily provoking the disputants and setting them against one another,
constantly exchanging glances and slight signs with Litvinov as she did
so.... But he was sitting like one spell-bound, he was hearing nothing,
and waiting for nothing but for those splendid eyes to sparkle again,
that pale, tender, mischievous, exquisite face to flash upon him
again.... It ended by the ladies growing restive, and requesting that
the dispute should cease.... Ratmirov entreated the dilettante to sing
his song again, and the self-taught genius once more played his
waltz....

Litvinov stayed till after midnight, and went away later than all the
rest. The conversation had in the course of the evening touched upon a
number of subjects, studiously avoiding anything of the faintest
interest; the generals, after finishing their solemn game, solemnly
joined in it: the influence of these statesmen was at once apparent. The
conversation turned upon notorieties of the Parisian demi-monde, with
whose names and talents every one seemed intimately acquainted, on
Sardou’s latest play, on a novel of About’s, on Patti in the _Traviata_.
Some one proposed a game of ‘secretary,’ _au secrétaire_; but it was
not a success. The answers given were pointless, and often not free from
grammatical mistakes; the stout general related that he had once in
answer to the question: _Qu’est-ce que l’amour?_ replied, _Une colique
remontée au cœur_, and promptly went off into his wooden guffaw; the
ancient ruin with a mighty effort struck him with her fan on the arm; a
flake of plaster was shaken off her forehead by this rash action. The
old crone was beginning a reference to the Slavonic principalities and
the necessity of orthodox propaganda on the Danube, but, meeting with no
response, she subsided with a hiss. In reality they talked more about
Home than anything else; even the ‘Queen of the Wasps’ described how
hands had once crept about her, and how she had seen them, and put her
own ring on one of them. It was certainly a triumph for Irina: even if
Litvinov had paid more attention to what was being said around him, he
still could not have gleaned one single sincere saying, one single
clever thought, one single new fact from all their disconnected and
lifeless babble. Even in their cries and exclamations, there was no note
of real feeling, in their slander no real heat. Only at rare intervals
under the mask of assumed patriotic indignation, or of assumed contempt
and indifference, the dread of possible losses could be heard in a
plaintive whimper, and a few names, which will not be forgotten by
posterity, were pronounced with gnashing of teeth ... And not a drop of
living water under all this noise and wrangle! What stale, what
unprofitable nonsense, what wretched trivialities were absorbing all
these heads and hearts, and not for that one evening, not in society
only, but at home too, every hour and every day, in all the depth and
breadth of their existence! And what ignorance, when all is said! What
lack of understanding of all on which human life is built, all by which
life is made beautiful!

On parting from Litvinov, Irina again pressed his hand and whispered
significantly, ‘Well? Are you pleased? Have you seen enough? Do you like
it?’ He made her no reply, but merely bowed low in silence.

Left alone with her husband, Irina was just going to her bedroom.... He
stopped her.

‘_Je vous ai beaucoup admirée ce soir, madame_,’ he observed, smoking a
cigarette, and leaning against the mantelpiece, ‘_vous vous êtes
parfaitement moquée de nous tous_.’

‘_Pas plus cette fois-ci que les autres_,’ she answered indifferently.

‘How do you mean me to understand you?’ asked Ratmirov.

‘As you like.’

‘Hm. _C’est clair._’ Ratmirov warily, like a cat, knocked off the ash of
the cigarette with the tip of the long nail of his little finger. ‘Oh,
by the way! This new friend of yours--what the dickens is his name?--Mr.
Litvinov--doubtless enjoys the reputation of a very clever man.’

At the name of Litvinov, Irina turned quickly round.

‘What do you mean to say?’

The general smiled.

‘He keeps very quiet ... one can see he’s afraid of compromising
himself.’

Irina too smiled; it was a very different smile from her husband’s.

‘Better keep quiet than talk ... as some people talk.’

‘_Attrapé!_’ answered Ratmirov with feigned submissiveness. ‘Joking
apart, he has a very interesting face. Such a ... concentrated
expression ... and his whole bearing.... Yes....’ The general
straightened his cravat, and bending his head stared at his own
moustache. ‘He’s a republican, I imagine, of the same sort as your other
friend, Mr. Potugin; that’s another of your clever fellows who are
dumb.’

Irina’s brows were slowly raised above her wide open clear eyes, while
her lips were tightly pressed together and faintly curved.

‘What’s your object in saying that, Valerian Vladimiritch,’ she
remarked, as though sympathetically. ‘You are wasting your arrows on the
empty air.... We are not in Russia, and there is no one to hear you.’

Ratmirov was stung.

‘That’s not merely my opinion, Irina Pavlovna,’ he began in a voice
suddenly guttural; ‘other people too notice that that gentleman has the
air of a conspirator.’

‘Really? who are these other people?’

‘Well, Boris for instance----’

‘What? was it necessary for him too to express his opinion?’

Irina shrugged her shoulders as though shrinking from the cold, and
slowly passed the tips of her fingers over them.

‘Him ... yes, him. Allow me to remark, Irina Pavlovna, that you seem
angry; and you know if one is angry----’

‘Am I angry? Oh, what for?’

‘I don’t know; possibly you have been disagreeably affected by the
observation I permitted myself to make in reference to----’

Ratmirov stammered.

‘In reference to?’ Irina repeated interrogatively. ‘Ah, if you please,
no irony, and make haste. I’m tired and sleepy.’

She took a candle from the table. ‘In reference to----?’

‘Well, in reference to this same Mr. Litvinov; since there’s no doubt
now that you take a great interest in him.’

Irina lifted the hand in which she was holding the candlestick, till the
flame was brought on a level with her husband’s face, and attentively,
almost with curiosity, looking him straight in the face, she suddenly
burst into laughter.

‘What is it?’ asked Ratmirov scowling.

Irina went on laughing.

‘Well, what is it?’ he repeated, and he stamped his foot.

He felt insulted, wounded, and at the same time against his will he was
impressed by the beauty of this woman, standing so lightly and boldly
before him ... she was tormenting him. He saw everything, all her
charms--even the pink reflection of the delicate nails on her slender
finger-tips, as they tightly clasped the dark bronze of the heavy
candlestick--even that did not escape him ... while the insult cut
deeper and deeper into his heart. And still Irina laughed.

‘What? you? you jealous?’ she brought out at last, and turning her back
on her husband she went out of the room. ‘He’s jealous!’ he heard
outside the door, and again came the sound of her laugh.

Ratmirov looked moodily after his wife; he could not even then help
noticing the bewitching grace of her figure, her movements, and with a
violent blow, crushing the cigarette on the marble slab of the
mantelpiece, he flung it to a distance. His cheeks had suddenly turned
white, a spasm passed over the lower half of his face, and with a dull
animal stare his eyes strayed about the floor, as though in search of
something.... Every semblance of refinement had vanished from his face.
Such an expression it must have worn when he was flogging the White
Russian peasants.

Litvinov had gone home to his rooms, and sitting down to the table he
had buried his head in both hands, and remained a long while without
stirring. He got up at last, opened a box, and taking out a pocket-book,
he drew out of an inner pocket a photograph of Tatyana. Her face gazed
out mournfully at him, looking ugly and old, as photographs usually do.
Litvinov’s betrothed was a girl of Great Russian blood, a blonde, rather
plump, and with the features of her face rather heavy, but with a
wonderful expression of kindness and goodness in her intelligent, clear
brown eyes, with a serene, white brow, on which it seemed as though a
sunbeam always rested. For a long time Litvinov did not take his eyes
from the photograph, then he pushed it gently away and again clutched
his head in both hands. ‘All is at an end!’ he whispered at last,
‘Irina! Irina!’

Only now, only at that instant, he realised that he was irrevocably,
senselessly, in love with her, that he had loved her since the very day
of that first meeting with her at the Old Castle, that he had never
ceased to love her. And yet how astounded, how incredulous, how
scornful, he would have been, had he been told so a few hours back!

‘But Tanya, Tanya, my God! Tanya! Tanya!’ he repeated in contrition;
while Irina’s shape fairly rose before his eyes in her black almost
funereal garb, with the radiant calm of victory on her marble white
face.



XVI


Litvinov did not sleep all night, and did not undress. He was very
miserable. As an honest and straightforward man, he realised the force
of obligations, the sacredness of duty, and would have been ashamed of
any double dealing with himself, his weakness, his fault. At first he
was overcome by apathy; it was long before he could throw off the gloomy
burden of a single half-conscious, obscure sensation; then terror took
possession of him at the thought that the future, his almost conquered
future, had slipped back into the darkness, that his home, the
solidly-built home he had only just raised, was suddenly tottering about
him....

He began reproaching himself without mercy, but at once checked his own
vehemence. ‘What feebleness!’ he thought. ‘It’s no time for
self-reproach and cowardice; now I must act. Tanya is my betrothed, she
has faith in my love, my honour, we are bound together for life, and
cannot, must not, be put asunder.’ He vividly pictured to himself all
Tanya’s qualities, mentally he picked them out and reckoned them up; he
was trying to call up feeling and tenderness in himself. ‘One thing’s
left for me,’ he thought again, ‘to run away, to run away directly,
without waiting for her arrival, to hasten to meet her; whether I
suffer, whether I am wretched with Tanya--that’s not likely--but in any
case to think of that, to take that into consideration is useless; I
must do my duty, if I die for it! But you have no right to deceive her,’
whispered another voice within him. ‘You have no right to hide from her
the change in your feelings; it may be that when she knows you love
another woman, she will not be willing to become your wife? Rubbish!
rubbish!’ he answered, ‘that’s all sophistry, shameful double-dealing,
deceitful conscientiousness; I have no right not to keep my word, that’s
the thing. Well, so be it.... Then I must go away from here, without
seeing the other....’

But at that point Litvinov’s heart throbbed with anguish, he turned
cold, physically cold, a momentary shiver passed over him, his teeth
chattered weakly. He stretched and yawned, as though he were in a fever.
Without dwelling longer on his last thought, choking back that thought,
turning away from it, he set himself to marvelling and wondering in
perplexity how he could again ... again love that corrupt worldly
creature, all of whose surroundings were so hateful, so repulsive to
him. He tried to put to himself the question: ‘What nonsense, do you
really love her?’ and could only wring his hands in despair. He was
still marvelling and wondering, and suddenly there rose up before his
eyes, as though from a soft fragrant mist, a seductive shape, shining
eyelashes were lifted, and softly and irresistibly the marvellous eyes
pierced him to the heart and a voice was singing with sweetness in his
ears, and resplendent shoulders, the shoulders of a young queen, were
breathing with voluptuous freshness and warmth....

       *       *       *       *       *

Towards morning a determination was at last fully formed in Litvinov’s
mind. He decided to set off that day to meet Tatyana, and seeing Irina
for the last time, to tell her, since there was nothing else for it, the
whole truth, and to part from her for ever.

He set in order and packed his things, waited till twelve o’clock, and
started to go to her. But at the sight of her half-curtained windows
Litvinov’s heart fairly failed him ... he could not summon up courage to
enter the hotel. He walked once or twice up and down Lichtenthaler
Allee. ‘A very good day to Mr. Litvinov!’ he suddenly heard an ironical
voice call from the top of a swiftly-moving ‘dogcart.’ Litvinov raised
his eyes and saw General Ratmirov sitting beside Prince M., a well-known
sportsman and fancier of English carriages and horses. The prince was
driving, the general was leaning over on one side, grinning, while he
lifted his hat high above his head. Litvinov bowed to him, and at the
same instant, as though he were obeying a secret command, he set off at
a run towards Irina’s.

She was at home. He sent up his name; he was at once received. When he
went in, she was standing in the middle of the room. She was wearing a
morning blouse with wide open sleeves; her face, pale as the day before,
but not fresh as it had been then, expressed weariness; the languid
smile with which she welcomed her visitor emphasised that expression
even more clearly. She held out her hand to him in a friendly way, but
absent-mindedly.

‘Thanks for coming,’ she began in a plaintive voice, and she sank into a
low chair. ‘I am not very well this morning; I spent a bad night. Well,
what have you to say about last night? Wasn’t I right?’

Litvinov sat down.

‘I have come to you, Irina Pavlovna,’ he began.

She instantly sat up and turned round; her eyes simply fastened upon
Litvinov.

‘What is it,’ she cried. ‘You’re pale as death, you’re ill. What’s the
matter with you?’

Litvinov was confused.

‘With me, Irina Pavlovna?’

‘Have you had bad news? Some misfortune has happened, tell me, tell
me----’

Litvinov in his turn looked at Irina.

‘I have had no bad news,’ he brought out not without effort, ‘but a
misfortune has certainly happened, a great misfortune ... and it has
brought me to you.’

‘A misfortune? What is it?’

‘Why ... that----’

Litvinov tried to go on ... and could not. He only pinched his hands
together so that his fingers cracked. Irina was bending forward and
seemed turned to stone.

‘Oh! I love you!’ broke at last with a low groan from Litvinov’s breast,
and he turned away, as though he would hide his face.

‘What, Grigory Mihalitch, you’ ... Irina too could not finish her
sentence, and leaning back in her chair, she put both her hands to her
eyes. ‘You ... love me.’

‘Yes ... yes ... yes,’ he repeated with bitterness, turning his head
further and further away.

Everything was silent in the room; a butterfly that had flown in was
fluttering its wings and struggling between the curtain and the window.

The first to speak was Litvinov.

‘That, Irina Pavlovna,’ he began, ‘that is the misfortune, which ... has
befallen me, which I ought to have foreseen and avoided, if I had not
now just as in the Moscow days been carried off my feet at once. It
seems fate is pleased to force me once again through you to suffer
tortures, which one would have thought should not be repeated again....
It was not without cause I struggled.... I tried to struggle; but of
course there’s no escaping one’s fate. And I tell you all this to put an
end at once to this ... this tragic farce,’ he added with a fresh
outburst of shame and bitterness.

Litvinov was silent again; the butterfly was struggling and fluttering
as before. Irina did not take her hands from her face.

‘And you are not mistaken?’ her whisper sounded from under those white,
bloodless-looking hands.

‘I am not mistaken,’ answered Litvinov in a colourless voice. ‘I love
you, as I have never loved any one but you. I am not going to reproach
you; that would be too foolish; I’m not going to tell you that perhaps
nothing of all this would have happened if you yourself had behaved
differently with me.... Of course, I alone am to blame, my
self-confidence has been my ruin; I am deservedly punished, and you
could not have anticipated it. Of course you did not consider that it
would have been far less dangerous for me if you had not been so keenly
alive to your wrong ... your supposed wrong to me; and had not wished to
make up for it ... but what’s done can’t be undone. I only wanted to
make clear my position to you; it’s hard enough as it is.... But at
least there will be, as you say, no misunderstanding, while the openness
of my confession will soften, I hope, the feeling of offence which you
cannot but feel.’

Litvinov spoke without raising his eyes, but even if he had glanced at
Irina, he could not have seen what was passing in her face, as she still
as before kept her hands over her eyes. But what was passing over her
face meanwhile would probably have astounded him; both alarm and delight
were apparent on it, and a kind of blissful helplessness and agitation;
her eyes hardly glimmered under their overhanging lids, and her slow,
broken breathing was chill upon her lips, that were parted as though
with thirst....

Litvinov was silent, waiting for a response, some sound.... Nothing!

‘There is one thing left for me,’ he began again, ‘to go away; I have
come to say good-bye to you.’

Irina slowly dropped her hands on to her knees.

‘But I remember, Grigory Mihalitch,’ she began; ‘that ... that person of
whom you spoke to me, she was to have come here? You are expecting her?’

‘Yes; but I shall write to her ... she will stop somewhere on the way
... at Heidelberg, for instance.’

‘Ah! Heidelberg.... Yes.... It’s nice there.... But all this must upset
your plans. Are you perfectly certain, Grigory Mihalitch, that you are
not exaggerating, _et que ce n’est pas une fausse alarme_?’

Irina spoke softly, almost coldly, with short pauses, looking away
towards the window. Litvinov made no answer to her last question.

‘Only, why did you talk of offence?’ she went on. ‘I am not offended ...
oh, no! and if one or other of us is to blame, in any case it’s not you;
not you alone.... Remember our last conversations, and you will be
convinced that it’s not you who are to blame.’

‘I have never doubted your magnanimity,’ Litvinov muttered between his
teeth, ‘but I should like to know, do you approve of my intention?’

‘To go away?’

‘Yes.’

Irina continued to look away.

‘At the first moment, your intention struck me as premature ... but now
I have thought over what you have said ... and if you are really not
mistaken, then I suppose that you ought to go away. It will be better so
... better for us both.’

Irina’s voice had grown lower and lower, and her words too came more and
more slowly.

‘General Ratmirov, certainly, might notice,’ Litvinov was beginning....

Irina’s eyes dropped again, and something strange quivered about her
lips, quivered and died away.

‘No; you did not understand me,’ she interrupted him. ‘I was not
thinking of my husband. Why should I? And there is nothing to notice.
But I repeat, separation is necessary for us both.’

Litvinov picked up his hat, which had fallen on the ground.

‘Everything is over,’ he thought, ‘I must go. And so it only remains for
me to say good-bye to you, Irina Pavlovna,’ he said aloud, and suddenly
felt a pang, as though he were preparing to pronounce his own sentence
on himself. ‘It only remains for me to hope that you will not remember
evil against me, and ... and that if we ever----’

Irina again cut him short.

‘Wait a little, Grigory Mihalitch, don’t say good-bye to me yet. That
would be too hurried.’

Something wavered in Litvinov, but the burning pain broke out again and
with redoubled violence in his heart.

‘But I can’t stay,’ he cried. ‘What for? Why prolong this torture?’

‘Don’t say good-bye to me yet,’ repeated Irina. ‘I must see you once
more.... Another such dumb parting as in Moscow again--no, I don’t want
that. You can go now, but you must promise me, give me your word of
honour that you won’t go away without seeing me once more.’

‘You wish that?’

‘I insist on it. If you go away without saying good-bye to me, I shall
never forgive it, do you hear, never! Strange!’ she added as though to
herself, ‘I cannot persuade myself that I am in Baden.... I keep feeling
that I am in Moscow.... Go now.’

Litvinov got up.

‘Irina Pavlovna,’ he said, ‘give me your hand.’

Irina shook her head.

‘I told you that I don’t want to say good-bye to you....’

‘I don’t ask it for that.’

Irina was about to stretch out her hand, but she glanced at Litvinov for
the first time since his avowal, and drew it back.

‘No, no,’ she whispered, ‘I will not give you my hand. No ... no. Go
now.’

Litvinov bowed and went away. He could not tell why Irina had refused
him that last friendly handshake.... He could not know what she feared.

He went away, and Irina again sank into the armchair and again covered
her face.



XVII


Litvinov did not return home; he went up to the hills, and getting into
a thick copse, he flung himself face downwards on the earth, and lay
there about an hour. He did not suffer tortures, did not weep; he sank
into a kind of heavy, oppressive stupor. Never had he felt anything like
it; it was an insufferably aching and gnawing sensation of emptiness,
emptiness in himself, his surroundings, everywhere.... He thought
neither of Irina nor of Tatyana. He felt one thing only: a blow had
fallen and life was sundered like a cord, and all of him was being drawn
along in the clutches of something chill and unfamiliar. Sometimes it
seemed to him that a whirlwind had swooped down upon him, and he had the
sensation of its swift whirling round and the irregular beating of its
dark wings. But his resolution did not waver. To remain in Baden ...
that could not even be considered. In thought he had already gone, he
was already sitting in the rattling, snorting train, hurrying, hurrying
into the dumb, dead distance. He got up at last, and leaning his head
against a tree, stayed motionless; only with one hand, he all
unconsciously snatched and swung in rhythm the topmost frond of a fern.
The sound of approaching footsteps drew him out of his stupor: two
charcoal-burners were making their way down the steep path with large
sacks on their shoulders. ‘It’s time!’ whispered Litvinov, and he
followed the charcoal-burners to the town, turned into the railway
station, and sent off a telegram to Tatyana’s aunt, Kapitolina Markovna.
In this telegram he informed her of his immediate departure, and
appointed as a meeting-place, Schrader’s hotel in Heidelberg.

‘Make an end, make an end at once,’ he thought; ‘it’s useless putting it
off till to-morrow.’ Then he went to the gambling saloon, stared with
dull curiosity at the faces of two or three gamblers, got a back view of
Bindasov’s ugly head in the distance, noticed the irreproachable
countenance of Pishtchalkin, and after waiting a little under the
colonnade, he set off deliberately to Irina’s. He was not going to her
through the force of sudden, involuntary temptation; when he made up his
mind to go away, he also made up his mind to keep his word and see her
once more. He went into the hotel unobserved by the porter, ascended
the staircase, not meeting any one, and without knocking at the door, he
mechanically pushed it open and went into the room.

In the room, in the same armchair, in the same dress, in precisely the
same attitude as three hours before, was sitting Irina.... It was
obvious that she had not moved from the place, had not stirred all that
time. She slowly raised her head, and seeing Litvinov, she trembled all
over and clutched the arm of the chair. ‘You frightened me,’ she
whispered.

Litvinov looked at her with speechless bewilderment. The expression of
her face, her lustreless eyes, astounded him.

Irina gave a forced smile and smoothed her ruffled hair. ‘Never mind....
I really don’t know.... I think I must have fallen asleep here.’

‘I beg your pardon, Irina Pavlovna,’ began Litvinov. ‘I came in
unannounced.... I wanted to do what you thought fit to require of me. So
as I am going away to-day----’

‘To-day? But I thought you told me that you meant first to write a
letter----’

‘I have sent a telegram.’

‘Ah! you found it necessary to make haste. And when are you going? What
time, I mean?’

‘At seven o’clock this evening.’

‘Ah! at seven o’clock! And you have come to say good-bye?’

‘Yes, Irina Pavlovna, to say good-bye.’

Irina was silent for a little.

‘I ought to thank you, Grigory Mihalitch, it was probably not easy for
you to come here.’

‘No, Irina Pavlovna, it was anything but easy.’

‘Life is not generally easy, Grigory Mihalitch; what do you think about
it?’

‘It depends, Irina Pavlovna.’

Irina was silent again for a little; she seemed sunk in thought.

‘You have proved your affection for me by coming,’ she said at last, ‘I
thank you. And I fully approve of your decision to put an end to
everything as soon as possible ... because any delay ... because ...
because I, even I whom you have reproached as a flirt, called an actress
... that, I think, was what you called me?...’

Irina got up swiftly, and, sitting down in another chair, stooped down
and pressed her face and arms on the edge of the table.

‘Because I love you ...’ she whispered between her clasped fingers.

Litvinov staggered, as though some one had dealt him a blow in the
chest. Irina turned her head dejectedly away from him, as though she in
her turn wanted to hide her face from him, and laid it down on the
table.

‘Yes, I love you ... I love you ... and you know it.’

‘I? I know it?’ Litvinov said at last; ‘I?’

‘Well, now you see,’ Irina went on, ‘that you certainly must go, that
delay’s impossible ... both for you, and for me delay’s impossible. It’s
dangerous, it’s terrible ... good-bye!’ she added, rising impulsively
from her chair, ‘good-bye!’

She took a few steps in the direction of the door of her boudoir, and
putting her hand behind her back, made a hurried movement in the air, as
though she would find and press the hand of Litvinov; but he stood like
a block of wood, at a distance.... Once more she said, ‘Good-bye, forget
me,’ and without looking round she rushed away.

Litvinov remained alone, and yet still could not come to himself. He
recovered himself at last, went quickly to the boudoir door, uttered
Irina’s name once, twice, three times.... He had already his hand on the
lock.... From the hotel stairs rose the sound of Ratmirov’s sonorous
voice.

Litvinov pulled down his hat over his eyes, and went out on to the
staircase. The elegant general was standing before the Swiss porter’s
box and explaining to him in bad German that he wanted a hired carriage
for the whole of the next day. On catching sight of Litvinov, he again
lifted his hat unnaturally high, and again wished him ‘a very good-day’;
he was obviously jeering at him, but Litvinov had no thoughts for that.
He hardly responded to Ratmirov’s bow, and, making his way to his
lodging, he stood still before his already packed and closed trunk. His
head was turning round and his heart vibrating like a harp-string. What
was to be done now? And could he have foreseen this?

Yes, he had foreseen it, however unlikely it seemed. It had stunned him
like a clap of thunder, yet he had foreseen it, though he had not
courage even to acknowledge it. Besides he knew nothing now for certain.
Everything was confusion and turmoil within him; he had lost the thread
of his own thoughts. He remembered Moscow, he remembered how then too
‘it’ had come upon him like a sudden tempest. He was breathless;
rapture, but a rapture comfortless and hopeless, oppressed and tore his
heart. For nothing in the world would he have consented that the words
uttered by Irina should not have actually been uttered by her.... But
then? those words could not for all that change the resolution he had
taken. As before, it did not waver; it stood firm like an anchor.
Litvinov had lost the thread of his own thoughts ... yes; but his will
still remained to him, and he disposed of himself as of another man
dependent on him. He rang for the waiter, asked him for the bill,
bespoke a place in the evening omnibus; designedly he cut himself off
all paths of retreat. ‘If I die for it after!’ he declared, as he had in
the previous sleepless night; that phrase seemed especially to his
taste. ‘Then even if I die for it!’ he repeated, walking slowly up and
down the room, and only at rare intervals, unconsciously, he shut his
eyes and held his breath, while those words, those words of Irina’s
forced their way into his soul, and set it aflame. ‘It seems you won’t
love twice,’ he thought; ‘another life came to you, you let it come into
yours--never to be rid of that poison to the end, you will never break
those bonds! Yes; but what does that prove? Happiness?... Is it
possible? You love her, granted ... and she ... she loves you....’

But at this point again he had to pull himself up. As a traveller on a
dark night, seeing before him a light, and afraid of losing the path,
never for an instant takes his eyes off it, so Litvinov continually bent
all the force of his attention on a single point, a single aim. To reach
his betrothed, and not precisely even his betrothed (he was trying not
to think of her) but to reach a room in the Heidelberg hotel, that was
what stood immovably before him, a guiding light. What would be later,
he did not know, nor did he want to know.... One thing was beyond doubt,
he would not come back. ‘If I die first!’ he repeated for the tenth
time, and he glanced at his watch.

A quarter-past six! How long still to wait! He paced once more up and
down. The sun was nearly setting, the sky was crimson above the trees,
and the pink flush of twilight lay on the narrow windows of his
darkening room. Suddenly Litvinov fancied the door had been opened
quickly and softly behind him and as quickly closed again.... He turned
round; at the door, muffled in a dark cloak, was standing a woman....

‘Irina,’ he cried, and clapped his hands together in amazement.... She
raised her head and fell upon his breast.

Two hours later he was sitting in his room on the sofa. His box stood in
the corner, open and empty, and on the table in the midst of things
flung about in disorder, lay a letter from Tatyana, just received by
him. She wrote to him that she had decided to hasten her departure from
Dresden, since her aunt’s health was completely restored, and that if
nothing happened to delay them, they would both be in Baden the
following day at twelve o’clock, and hoped that he would come to meet
them at the station. Apartments had already been taken for them by
Litvinov in the same hotel in which he was staying.

The same evening he sent a note to Irina, and the following morning he
received a reply from her. ‘Sooner or later,’ she wrote, ‘it must have
been. I tell you again what I said yesterday: my life is in your hands,
do with me what you will. I do not want to hamper your freedom, but let
me say, that if necessary, I will throw up everything, and follow you to
the ends of the earth. We shall see each other to-morrow, of
course.--Your Irina.’

The last two words were written in a large, bold, resolute hand.



XVIII


Among the persons assembled on the 18th of August at twelve o’clock on
the platform at the railway station was Litvinov. Not long before, he
had seen Irina: she was sitting in an open carriage with her husband and
another gentleman, somewhat elderly. She caught sight of Litvinov, and
he perceived that some obscure emotion flitted over her eyes; but at
once she hid herself from him with her parasol.

A strange transformation had taken place in him since the previous
day--in his whole appearance, his movements, the expression of his face;
and indeed he felt himself a different man. His self-confidence had
vanished, and his peace of mind had vanished too, and his respect for
himself; of his former spiritual condition nothing was left. Recent
ineffaceable impressions obscured all the rest from him. Some sensation
unknown before had come, strong, sweet--and evil; the mysterious guest
had made its way to the innermost shrine and taken possession and lain
down in it, in silence, but in all its magnitude, like the owner in a
new house. Litvinov was no longer ashamed, he was afraid; at the same
time a desperate hardihood had sprung up in him; the captured, the
vanquished know well this mixture of opposing feelings; the thief too
knows something of it after his first robbery. Litvinov had been
vanquished, vanquished suddenly ... and what had become of his honesty?

The train was a few minutes late. Litvinov’s suspense passed into
agonising torture; he could not stop still in one place, and, pale all
over, moved about jostling in the crowd. ‘My God,’ he thought, ‘if I
only had another twenty-four hours.’... The first look at Tanya, the
first look of Tanya ... that was what filled him with terror ... that
was what he had to live through directly.... And afterwards? Afterwards
... come, what may come!... He now made no more resolutions, he could
not answer for himself now. His phrase of yesterday flashed painfully
through his head.... And this was how he was meeting Tanya....

A prolonged whistle sounded at last, a heavy momentarily increasing
rumble was heard, and, slowly rolling round a bend in the line, the
train came into sight. The crowd hurried to meet it, and Litvinov
followed it, dragging his feet like a condemned man. Faces, ladies’
hats began to appear out of the carriages, at one window a white
handkerchief gleamed.... Kapitolina Markovna was waving to him.... It
was over; she had caught sight of Litvinov and he recognised her. The
train stood still; Litvinov rushed to the carriage door, and opened it;
Tatyana was standing near her aunt, smiling brightly and holding out her
hand.

He helped them both to get out, uttered a few words of welcome,
unfinished and confused, and at once bustled about, began taking their
tickets, their travelling bags, and rugs, ran to find a porter, called a
fly; other people were bustling around them. He was glad of their
presence, their fuss, and loud talk. Tatyana moved a little aside, and,
still smiling, waited calmly for his hurried arrangements to be
concluded. Kapitolina Markovna, on the other hand, could not keep still;
she could not believe that she was at last at Baden.

She suddenly cried, ‘But the parasols? Tanya, where are our parasols?’
all unconscious that she was holding them fast under her arm; then she
began taking a loud and prolonged farewell of another lady with whom she
had made friends on the journey from Heidelberg to Baden. This lady was
no other than our old friend Madame Suhantchikov. She had gone away to
Heidelberg to do obeisance to Gubaryov, and was returning with
‘instructions.’ Kapitolina Markovna wore a rather peculiar striped
mantle and a round travelling hat of a mushroom-shape, from under which
her short white hair fell in disorder; short and thin, she was flushed
with travelling and kept talking Russian in a shrill and penetrating
voice.... She was an object of attention at once.

Litvinov at last put her and Tatyana into a fly, and placed himself
opposite them. The horses started. Then followed questionings, renewed
handshaking, interchanging of smiles and welcomes.... Litvinov breathed
freely; the first moment had passed off satisfactorily. Nothing in him,
apparently, had struck or bewildered Tanya; she was smiling just as
brightly and confidently, she was blushing as charmingly, and laughing
as goodnaturedly. He brought himself at last to take a look at her; not
a stealthy cursory glance, but a direct steady look at her, hitherto his
own eyes had refused to obey him. His heart throbbed with involuntary
emotion: the serene expression of that honest, candid face gave him a
pang of bitter reproach. ‘So you are here, poor girl,’ he thought, ‘you
whom I have so longed for, so urged to come, with whom I had hoped to
spend my life to the end, you have come, you believed in me ... while I
... while I.’... Litvinov’s head sank; but Kapitolina Markovna gave him
no time for musing; she was pelting him with questions.

‘What is that building with columns? Where is it the gambling’s done?
Who is that coming along? Tanya, Tanya, look, what crinolines! And who
can that be? I suppose they are mostly French creatures from Paris here?
Mercy, what a hat! Can you get everything here just as in Paris? But, I
expect, everything’s awfully dear, eh? Ah, I’ve made the acquaintance of
such a splendid, intellectual woman! You know her, Grigory Mihalitch;
she told me she had met you at some Russian’s, who’s a wonderfully
intellectual person too. She promised to come and see us. How she does
abuse all these aristocrats--it’s simply superb! What is that gentleman
with grey moustaches? The Prussian king? Tanya, Tanya, look, that’s the
Prussian king. No? not the Prussian king, the Dutch ambassador, did you
say? I can’t hear, the wheels rattle so. Ah, what exquisite trees!’

‘Yes, exquisite, aunt,’ Tanya assented, ‘and how green everything is
here, how bright and gay! Isn’t it, Grigory Mihalitch?’

‘Oh, very bright and gay’ ... he answered through his teeth.

The carriage stopped at last before the hotel. Litvinov conducted the
two travellers to the room taken for them, promised to come back within
an hour, and went to his own room. Directly he entered it, he fell again
under the spell which had been lulled for a while. Here, in that room,
since the day before, Irina reigned supreme; everything was eloquent of
her, the very air seemed to have kept secret traces of her visit....
Again Litvinov felt himself her slave. He drew out her handkerchief,
hidden in his bosom, pressed it to his lips, and burning memories flowed
in subtle poison through his veins. He realised that there was no
turning back, no choosing now; the sorrowful emotion aroused in him by
Tatyana melted away like snow in the fire, and remorse died down ...
died down so completely that his uneasiness even was soothed, and the
possibility--present to his intellect--of hypocrisy no longer revolted
him.... Love, Irina’s love, that was now his truth, his bond, his
conscience.... The sensible Litvinov did not even ponder how to get out
of a position, the horror and hideousness of which he bore lightly, as
if it did not concern him.

The hour had not yet passed when a waiter came to Litvinov from the
newly arrived ladies; they begged him to come to them in the public
drawing-room. He followed the messenger, and found them already dressed
and in their hats. They both expressed a desire to go out at once to see
Baden, as the weather was so fine. Kapitolina Markovna especially seemed
burning with impatience; she was quite cast down when she heard that the
hour of the fashionable promenade before the Konversation Hall had not
yet arrived. Litvinov gave her his arm, and the ceremony of sight-seeing
began. Tatyana walked beside her aunt, looking about her with quiet
interest; Kapitolina Markovna pursued her inquiries. The sight of the
roulette, the dignified croupiers, whom--had she met them in any other
place--she would certainly have taken for ministers, the quickly moving
scoops, the heaps of gold and silver on the green cloth, the old women
gambling, and the painted _cocottes_ reduced Kapitolina Markovna to a
sort of speechless stupor; she altogether forgot that she ought to feel
moral indignation, and could only gaze and gaze, giving a start of
surprise at every new sight.... The whiz of the ivory ball into the
bottom of the roulette thrilled her to the marrow of her bones, and it
was only when she was again in the open air that, drawing a long breath,
she recovered energy enough to denounce games of chance as an immoral
invention of aristocracy. A fixed, unpleasant smile had made its
appearance on Litvinov’s lips; he had spoken abruptly and lazily, as
though he were annoyed or bored.... But now he turned round towards
Tatyana, and was thrown into secret confusion; she was looking
attentively at him, with an expression as though she were asking herself
what sort of an impression was being made on her. He made haste to nod
his head to her, she responded with the same gesture, and again looked
at him questioningly, with a sort of strained effort, as though he were
standing much further off than he really was. Litvinov led his ladies
away from the Konversation Hall, and passing the ‘Russian tree,’ under
which two Russian ladies were already sitting, he went towards
Lichtenthaler Allee. He had hardly entered the avenue when he saw Irina
in the distance.

She was walking towards him with her husband and Potugin. Litvinov
turned white as a sheet; he did not slacken his pace, however, and when
he was on a level with her, he made a bow without speaking. She too
bowed to him, politely, but coldly, and taking in Tatyana in a rapid
glance, she glided by.... Ratmirov lifted his hat high, Potugin muttered
something.

‘Who is that lady?’ Tatyana asked suddenly. Till that instant she had
hardly opened her lips.

‘That lady?’ repeated Litvinov, ‘that lady? That is a Madame Ratmirov.’

‘Is she Russian?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did you make her acquaintance here?’

‘No; I have known her a long while.’

‘How beautiful she is!’

‘Did you notice her dress?’ put in Kapitolina Markovna. ‘Ten families
might live for a whole year on the cost of her lace alone. Was that her
husband with her?’ she inquired turning to Litvinov.

‘Yes.’

‘He must be awfully rich, I suppose?’

‘Really I don’t know; I don’t think so.’

‘What is his rank?’

‘He’s a general.’

‘What eyes she has!’ said Tatyana, ‘and what a strange expression in
them: pensive and penetrating at the same time.... I have never seen
such eyes.’

Litvinov made no answer; he fancied that he felt again Tatyana’s
questioning glance bent on his face, but he was wrong, she was looking
at her own feet, at the sand of the path.

‘Mercy on us! Who is that fright?’ cried Kapitolina Markovna suddenly,
pointing to a low jaunting-car in which a red-haired pug-nosed woman lay
lolling impudently, in an extraordinarily gorgeous costume and lilac
stockings.

‘That fright! why, that’s the celebrated Ma’mselle Cora.’

‘Who?’

‘Ma’mselle Cora ... a Parisian ... notoriety.’

‘What? That pug? Why, but she’s hideous!’

‘It seems that’s no hindrance.’

Kapitolina Markovna could only lift her hands in astonishment.

‘Well, this Baden of yours!’ she brought out at last. ‘Can one sit down
on a seat here? I’m rather tired.’

‘Of course you can, Kapitolina Markovna.... That’s what the seats are
put here for.’

‘Well, really, there’s no knowing! But there in Paris, I’m told, there
are seats, too, along the boulevards; but it’s not proper to sit on
them.’

Litvinov made no reply to Kapitolina Markovna; only at that moment he
realised that two paces away was the very spot where he had had that
explanation with Irina, which had decided everything. Then he recalled
that he had noticed a small rosy spot on her cheek to-day....

Kapitolina Markovna sank down on to the seat, Tatyana sat down beside
her. Litvinov remained on the path; between Tatyana and him--or was it
only his fancy?--something seemed to have happened ... unconsciously
and gradually.

‘Ah, she’s a wretch, a perfect wretch!’ Kapitolina Markovna declared,
shaking her head commiseratingly; ‘why, with the price of _her_ get-up,
you could keep not ten, but a hundred families. Did you see under her
hat, on _her_ red hair, there were diamonds? Upon my word, diamonds in
the day-time!’

‘Her hair’s not red,’ remarked Litvinov; ‘she dyes it red--that’s the
fashion now.’

Again Kapitolina Markovna could only lift her hands; she was positively
dumbfounded.

‘Well,’ she said at last, ‘where we were, in Dresden, things had not got
to such a scandalous pitch yet. It’s a little further from Paris,
anyway, that’s why. Don’t you think that’s it, Grigory Mihalitch, eh?’

‘Don’t I think so?’ answered Litvinov. While he thought to himself,
‘What on earth is she talking of?’ ‘I? Of course ... of course....’

But at this point the sound of slow footsteps was heard, and Potugin
approached the seat.

‘Good-morning, Grigory Mihalitch,’ he began, smiling and nodding.

Litvinov grasped him by the hand at once.

‘Good-morning, good-morning, Sozont Ivanitch. I fancy I passed you just
now with ... just now in the avenue?’

‘Yes, it was me.’

Potugin bowed respectfully to the ladies sitting on the seat.

‘Let me introduce you, Sozont Ivanitch. Old friends and relatives of
mine, who have only just arrived in Baden. Potugin, Sozont Ivanitch, a
countryman of ours, also staying in Baden.’

Both ladies rose a little. Potugin renewed his bows.

‘It’s quite a levée here,’ Kapitolina Markovna began in a delicate
voice; the kind-hearted old lady was easily intimidated, but she tried
before all to keep up her dignity. ‘Every one regards it as an agreeable
duty to stay here.’

‘Baden is an agreeable place, certainly,’ answered Potugin, with a
sidelong look at Tatyana; ‘a very agreeable place, Baden.’

‘Yes; but it’s really too aristocratic, so far as I can form an opinion.
You see we have been staying all this time in Dresden ... a very
interesting town; but here there’s positively a levée.’

‘She’s pleased with the word,’ thought Potugin. ‘You are perfectly right
in that observation,’ he said aloud; ‘but then the scenery here is
exquisite, and the site of the place is something one cannot often find.
Your fellow-traveller especially is sure to appreciate that. Are you
not, madam?’ he added, addressing himself this time directly to
Tatyana.

Tatyana raised her large, clear eyes to Potugin. It seemed as though she
were perplexed. What was wanted of her, and why had Litvinov introduced
her, on the first day of her arrival, to this unknown man, who had,
though, a kind and clever face, and was looking at her with cordial and
friendly eyes.

‘Yes,’ she said at last, ‘it’s very nice here.’

‘You ought to visit the old castle,’ Potugin went on; ‘I especially
advise a drive to----’

‘The Saxon Switzerland----’ Kapitolina Markovna was beginning.

The blare of wind instruments floated up the avenue; it was the Prussian
military band from Rastadt (in 1862 Rastadt was still an allied
fortress), beginning its weekly concert in the pavilion. Kapitolina
Markovna got up.

‘The music!’ she said; ‘the music _à la Conversation_!... We must go
there. It’s four o’clock now ... isn’t it? Will the fashionable world be
there now?’

‘Yes,’ answered Potugin: ‘this is the most fashionable time, and the
music is excellent.’

‘Well, then, don’t let us linger. Tanya, come along.’

‘You allow me to accompany you?’ asked Potugin, to Litvinov’s
considerable astonishment; it was not possible for it even to enter his
head that Irina had sent Potugin.

Kapitolina Markovna simpered.

‘With the greatest pleasure--M’sieu ... M’sieu----’

‘Potugin,’ he murmured, and he offered her his arm.

Litvinov gave his to Tatyana, and both couples walked towards the
Konversation Hall.

Potugin went on talking with Kapitolina Markovna. But Litvinov walked
without uttering a word; yet twice, without any cause, he smiled, and
faintly pressed Tatyana’s arm against his. There was a falsehood in
those demonstrations, to which she made no response, and Litvinov was
conscious of the lie. They did not express a mutual confidence in the
close union of two souls given up to one another; they were a temporary
substitute--for words which he could not find. That unspoken something
which was beginning between them grew and gained strength. Once more
Tatyana looked attentively, almost intently, at him.

It was the same before the Konversation Hall at the little table round
which they all four seated themselves, with this sole difference, that,
in the noisy bustle of the crowd, the clash and roar of the music,
Litvinov’s silence seemed more comprehensible. Kapitolina Markovna
became quite excited; Potugin hardly had time to answer her questions,
to satisfy her curiosity. Luckily for him, there suddenly appeared in
the mass of moving figures the lank person and everlastingly leaping
eyes of Madame Suhantchikov. Kapitolina Markovna at once recognised her,
invited her to their table, made her sit down, and a hurricane of words
arose.

Potugin turned to Tatyana, and began a conversation with her in a soft,
subdued voice, his face bent slightly down towards her with a very
friendly expression; and she, to her own surprise, answered him easily
and freely; she was glad to talk with this stranger, this outsider,
while Litvinov sat immovable as before, with the same fixed and
unpleasant smile on his lips.

Dinner-time came at last. The music ceased, the crowd thinned.
Kapitolina Markovna parted from Madame Suhantchikov on the warmest
terms. She had conceived an immense respect for her, though she did say
afterwards to her niece, that ‘this person is really too severe; but
then she does know everything and everybody; and we must really get
sewing-machines directly the wedding festivities are over.’ Potugin took
leave of them; Litvinov conducted his ladies home. As they were going
into the hotel, he was handed a note; he moved aside and hurriedly tore
open the envelope. On a tiny scrap of vellum paper were the following
words, scribbled in pencil: ‘Come to me this evening at seven, for one
minute, I entreat you.--Irina.’ Litvinov thrust the note into his
pocket, and, turning round, put on his smile again ... to whom? why?
Tatyana was standing with her back to him. They dined at the common
table of the hotel. Litvinov was sitting between Kapitolina Markovna and
Tatyana, and he began talking, telling anecdotes and pouring out wine
for himself and the ladies, with a strange, sudden joviality. He
conducted himself in such a free and easy manner, that a French infantry
officer from Strasbourg, sitting opposite, with a beard and moustaches
_à la_ Napoleon III., thought it admissible to join in the conversation,
and even wound up by a toast _à la santé des belles Moscovites_! After
dinner, Litvinov escorted the two ladies to their room, and after
standing a little while at the window with a scowl on his face, he
suddenly announced that he had to go out for a short time on business,
but would be back without fail by the evening. Tatyana said nothing; she
turned pale and dropped her eyes. Kapitolina Markovna was in the habit
of taking a nap after dinner; Tatyana was well aware that Litvinov knew
of this habit of her aunt’s; she had expected him to take advantage of
it, to remain with her, for he had not been alone with her, nor spoken
frankly to her, since her arrival. And now he was going out! What was
she to make of it? And, indeed, his whole behaviour all along....

Litvinov withdrew hurriedly, not waiting for remonstrances; Kapitolina
Markovna lay down on the sofa, and with one or two sighs and groans,
fell into a serene sleep; while Tatyana moved away into a corner, and
sat down in a low chair, folding her arms tightly across her bosom.



XIX


Litvinov went quickly up the staircase of the _Hôtel de l’Europe_; a
little girl of thirteen, with a sly little face of Kalmuck cast, who had
apparently been on the look-out for him, stopped him, saying in Russian:
‘Come this way, please; Irina Pavlovna will be here directly.’ He looked
at her in perplexity. She smiled, repeated: ‘Come along, come along,’
and led him to a small room, facing Irina’s bedroom, and filled with
travelling trunks and portmanteaus, then at once disappeared, closing
the door very softly. Litvinov had not time to look about him, before
the door was quickly opened, and before him in a pink ball-dress, with
pearls in her hair and on her neck, stood Irina. She simply rushed at
him, clutched him by both hands, and for a few instants was speechless;
her eyes were shining, and her bosom heaving as though she had run up to
a height.

‘I could not receive ... you there,’ she began in a hurried whisper: ‘we
are just going to a dinner party, but I wanted above everything to see
you.... That is your betrothed, I suppose, with whom I met you to-day?’

‘Yes, that was my betrothed,’ said Litvinov, with emphasis on the word
‘was.’

‘And so I wanted to see you for one minute, to tell you that you must
consider yourself absolutely free, that everything that happened
yesterday ought not to affect your plans....’

‘Irina!’ cried Litvinov, ‘why are you saying this?’ He uttered these
words in a loud voice. There was the note in them of unbounded passion.
Irina involuntarily closed her eyes for a minute.

‘Oh, my sweet one!’ she went on in a whisper still more subdued, but
with unrestrained emotion, ‘you don’t know how I love you, but yesterday
I only paid my debt, I made up for the past.... Ah! I could not give you
back my youth, as I would, but I have laid no obligations on you, I have
exacted no promise of any sort of you, my sweet! Do what you will, you
are free as air, you are bound in no way, understand that, understand
that!’

‘But I can’t live without you, Irina,’ Litvinov interrupted, in a
whisper now; ‘I am yours for ever and always, since yesterday.... I can
only breathe at your feet....’

He stooped down all in a tremble to kiss her hands. Irina gazed at his
bent head.

‘Then let me say,’ she said, ‘that I too am ready for anything, that I
too will consider no one, and nothing. As you decide, so it shall be. I,
too, am for ever yours ... yours.’

Some one tapped warily at the door. Irina stooped, whispered once more,
‘Yours ... good-bye!’ Litvinov felt her breath on his hair, the touch of
her lips. When he stood up, she was no longer in the room, but her dress
was rustling in the corridor, and from the distance came the voice of
Ratmirov: ‘_Eh bien? Vous ne venez pas?_’

Litvinov sat down on a high chest, and hid his face. A feminine
fragrance, fresh and delicate, clung about him.... Irina had held his
hand in her hands. ‘It’s too much, too much,’ was his thought. The
little girl came into the room, and smiling again in response to his
agitated glance, said:

‘Kindly come, now----’

He got up, and went out of the hotel. It was no good even to think of
returning home: he had to regain his balance first. His heart was
beating heavily and unevenly; the earth seemed faintly reeling under his
feet. Litvinov turned again along the Lichtenthaler Allee. He realised
that the decisive moment had come, that to put it off longer, to
dissemble, to turn away, had become impossible, that an explanation with
Tatyana had become inevitable; he could imagine how she was sitting
there, never stirring, waiting for him ... he could foresee what he
would say to her; but how was he to act, how was he to begin? He had
turned his back on his upright, well-organised, orderly future; he knew
that he was flinging himself headlong into a gulf ... but that did not
confound him. The thing was done, but how was he to face his judge? And
if only his judge would come to meet him--an angel with a flaming sword;
that would be easier for a sinning heart ... instead of which he had
himself to plunge the knife in.... Infamous! But to turn back, to
abandon that other, to take advantage of the freedom offered him,
recognised as his.... No! better to die! No, he would have none of such
loathsome freedom ... but would humble himself in the dust, and might
those eyes look down on him with love....

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ said a melancholy voice, and some one’s hand was
laid heavily upon Litvinov.

He looked round in some alarm and recognised Potugin.

‘I beg your pardon, Grigory Mihalitch,’ began the latter with his
customary humility, ‘I am disturbing you perhaps, but, seeing you in
the distance, I thought.... However if you’re not in the humour....’

‘On the contrary I’m delighted,’ Litvinov muttered between his teeth.

Potugin walked beside him.

‘What a lovely evening!’ he began, ‘so warm! Have you been walking
long?’

‘No, not long.’

‘Why do I ask though; I’ve just seen you come out of the _Hôtel de
l’Europe_.’

‘Then you’ve been following me?’

‘Yes.’

‘You have something to say to me?’

‘Yes,’ Potugin repeated, hardly audibly.

Litvinov stopped and looked at his uninvited companion. His face was
pale, his eyes moved restlessly; his contorted features seemed
overshadowed by old, long-standing grief.

‘What do you specially want to say to me?’ Litvinov said slowly, and he
moved forward.

‘Ah, with your permission ... directly. If it’s all the same to you, let
us sit down here on this seat. It will be most convenient.’

‘Why, this is something mysterious,’ Litvinov declared, seating himself
near him. ‘You don’t seem quite yourself, Sozont Ivanitch.’

‘No; I’m all right; and it’s nothing mysterious either. I specially
wanted to tell you ... the impression made on me by your betrothed ...
she is betrothed to you, I think?... well, anyway, by the girl to whom
you introduced me to-day. I must say that in the course of my whole
existence I have never met a more attractive creature. A heart of gold,
a really angelic nature.’

Potugin uttered all these words with the same bitter and mournful air,
so that even Litvinov could not help noticing the incongruity between
his expression of face and his speech.

‘You have formed a perfectly correct estimate of Tatyana Petrovna,’
Litvinov began, ‘though I can’t help being surprised, first that you
should be aware of the relation in which I stand to her; and secondly,
that you should have understood her so quickly. She really has an
angelic nature; but allow me to ask, did you want to talk to me about
this?’

‘It’s impossible not to understand her at once,’ Potugin replied
quickly, as though evading the last question. ‘One need only take one
look into her eyes. She deserves every possible happiness on earth, and
enviable is the fate of the man whose lot it is to give her that
happiness! One must hope he may prove worthy of such a fate.’

Litvinov frowned slightly.

‘Excuse me, Sozont Ivanitch,’ he said, ‘I must confess our conversation
strikes me as altogether rather original.... I should like to know, does
the hint contained in your words refer to me?’

Potugin did not at once answer Litvinov; he was visibly struggling with
himself.

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ he began at last, ‘either I am completely mistaken
in you, or you are capable of hearing the truth, from whomsoever it may
come, and in however unattractive a form it may present itself. I told
you just now, that I saw where you came from.’

‘Why, from the _Hôtel de l’Europe_. What of that?’

‘I know, of course, whom you have been to see there.’

‘What?’

‘You have been to see Madame Ratmirov.’

‘Well, I have been to see her. What next?’

‘What next?... You, betrothed to Tatyana Petrovna, have been to see
Madame Ratmirov, whom you love ... and who loves you.’

Litvinov instantly got up from the seat; the blood rushed to his head.

‘What’s this?’ he cried at last, in a voice of concentrated
exasperation: ‘stupid jesting, spying? Kindly explain yourself.’

Potugin turned a weary look upon him.

‘Ah! don’t be offended at my words. Grigory Mihalitch, me you cannot
offend. I did not begin to talk to you for that, and I’m in no joking
humour now.’

‘Perhaps, perhaps. I’m ready to believe in the excellence of your
intentions; but still I may be allowed to ask you by what right you
meddle in the private affairs, in the inner life, of another man, a man
who is nothing to you; and what grounds you have for so confidently
giving out your own ... invention for the truth?’

‘My invention! If I had imagined it, it should not have made you angry;
and as for my right, well I never heard before that a man ought to ask
himself whether he had the right to hold out a hand to a drowning man.’

‘I am humbly grateful for your tender solicitude,’ cried Litvinov
passionately, ‘but I am not in the least in need of it, and all the
phrases about the ruin of inexperienced young men wrought by society
women, about the immorality of fashionable society, and so on, I look
upon merely as stock phrases, and indeed in a sense I positively despise
them; and so I beg you to spare your rescuing arm, and to let me drown
in peace.’

Potugin again raised his eyes to Litvinov. He was breathing hard, his
lips were twitching.

‘But look at me, young man,’ broke from him at last, and he clapped
himself on the breast: ‘can you suppose I have anything in common with
the ordinary, self-satisfied moralist, a preacher? Don’t you understand
that simply from interest in you, however strong it might be, I would
never have let fall a word, I would never have given you grounds for
reproaching me with what I hate above all things--indiscretion,
intrusiveness? Don’t you see that this is something of a different kind
altogether, that before you is a man crushed, utterly obliterated by the
very passion, from the results of which he would save you, and ... and
for the same woman!’

Litvinov stepped back a pace.

‘Is it possible? What did you say?... You ... you ... Sozont Ivanitch?
But Madame Byelsky ... that child?’

‘Ah, don’t cross-examine me.... Believe me! That is a dark terrible
story, and I’m not going to tell you it. Madame Byelsky I hardly knew,
that child is not mine, but I took it all upon myself ... because ...
_she_ wished it, because it was necessary for _her_. Why am I here in
your hateful Baden? And, in fact, could you suppose, could you for one
instant imagine, that I’d have brought myself to caution you out of
sympathy for you? I’m sorry for that sweet, good girl, your _fiancée_,
but what have I to do with your future, with you both?... But I am
afraid for her ... for her.’

‘You do me great honour, Mr. Potugin,’ began Litvinov, ‘but since,
according to you, we are both in the same position, why is it you don’t
apply such exhortations to yourself, and ought I not to ascribe your
apprehensions to another feeling?’

‘That is to jealousy, you mean? Ah, young man, young man, it’s shameful
of you to shuffle and make pretences, it’s shameful of you not to
realise what a bitter sorrow is speaking to you now by my lips! No, I am
not in the same position as you! I, I am old, ridiculous, an utterly
harmless old fool--but you! But there’s no need to talk about it! You
would not for one second agree to accept the position I fill, and fill
with gratitude! Jealousy? A man is not jealous who has never had even a
drop of hope, and this is not the first time it has been my lot to
endure this feeling. I am only afraid ... afraid for her, understand
that. And could I have guessed when she sent me to you that the feeling
of having wronged you--she owned to feeling that--would carry her so
far?’

‘But excuse me, Sozont Ivanitch, you seem to know....’

‘I know nothing, and I know everything! I know,’ he added, turning away,
‘I know where she was yesterday. But there’s no holding her back now;
like a stone set rolling, she must roll on to the bottom. I should be a
great idiot indeed, if I imagined my words could hold you back at once
... you, when a woman like that.... But that’s enough of this. I
couldn’t restrain myself, that’s my whole excuse. And after all how can
one know, and why not try? Perhaps, you will think again; perhaps, some
word of mine will go to your heart, you will not care to ruin her and
yourself, and that innocent sweet creature.... Ah! don’t be angry, don’t
stamp about! What have I to fear? Why should I mince matters? It’s not
jealousy speaking in me, not anger.... I’m ready to fall at your feet,
to beseech you.... Good-bye, though. You needn’t be afraid, all this
will be kept secret. I wished for your good.’

Potugin strode off along the avenue and quickly vanished in the now
falling darkness. Litvinov did not detain him.

‘A terrible dark story....’ Potugin had said to Litvinov, and would not
tell it.... Let us pass it over with a few words only.

Eight years before, it had happened to him to be sent by his department
to Count Reisenbach as a temporary clerk. It was in the summer. Potugin
used to drive to his country villa with papers, and be whole days there
at a time. Irina was then living at the count’s. She was never haughty
with people in a humbler station, at least she never treated them
superciliously, and the countess more than once reproved her for her
excessive Moscow familiarity. Irina soon detected a man of intelligence
in the humble clerk, attired in the stiffly buttoned frockcoat that was
his uniform. She used often and eagerly to talk to him ... while he ...
he fell in love with her passionately, profoundly, secretly....
Secretly! So _he_ thought. The summer passed; the count no longer needed
any outside assistance. Potugin lost sight of Irina but could not forget
her. Three years after, he utterly unexpectedly received an invitation,
through a third person, to go to see a lady slightly known to him. This
lady at first was reluctant to speak out, but after exacting an oath
from him to keep everything he was going to hear absolutely secret, she
proposed to him ... to marry a girl, who occupied a conspicuous position
in society, and for whom marriage had become a necessity. The lady
scarcely ventured to hint at the principal personage, and then promised
Potugin money ... a large sum of money. Potugin was not offended,
astonishment stifled all feeling of anger in him; but, of course, he
point-blank declined. Then the lady handed him a note--from Irina. ‘You
are a generous, noble man,’ she wrote, ‘and I know you would do anything
for me; I beg of you this sacrifice. You will save one who is very dear
to me. In saving her, you will save me too.... Do not ask me how. I
could never have brought myself to any one with such an entreaty, but to
you I hold out my hands and say to you, do it for my sake.’ Potugin
pondered, and said that for Irina Pavlovna, certainly he was ready to do
a great deal; but he should like to hear her wishes from her own lips.
The interview took place the same evening; it did not last long, and no
one knew of it, except the same lady. Irina was no longer living at
Count Reisenbach’s.

‘What made you think of me, of all people?’ Potugin asked her.

She was beginning to expatiate on his noble qualities, but suddenly she
stopped....

‘No,’ she said, ‘you must be told the truth. I know, I know that you
love me; so that was why I made up my mind ...’ and then she told him
everything.

Eliza Byelsky was an orphan; her relations did not like her, and
reckoned on her inheritance ... ruin was facing her. In saving her,
Irina was really doing a service to him who was responsible for it all,
and who was himself now standing in a very close relation to Irina....
Potugin, without speaking, looked long at Irina, and consented. She
wept, and flung herself all in tears on his neck. And he too wept ...
but very different were their tears. Everything had already been made
ready for the secret marriage, a powerful hand removed all obstacles....
But illness came ... and then a daughter was born, and then the mother
... poisoned herself. What was to be done with the child? Potugin
received it into his charge, received it from the same hands, from the
hands of Irina.

A terrible dark story.... Let us pass on, readers, pass on!

Over an hour more passed before Litvinov could bring himself to go back
to his hotel. He had almost reached it when he suddenly heard steps
behind him. It seemed as though they were following him persistently,
and walking faster when he quickened his pace. When he moved under a
lamp-post Litvinov turned round and recognised General Ratmirov. In a
white tie, in a fashionable overcoat, flung open, with a row of stars
and crosses on a golden chain in the buttonhole of his dresscoat, the
general was returning from dinner, alone. His eyes, fastened with
insolent persistence on Litvinov, expressed such contempt and such
hatred, his whole deportment was suggestive of such intense defiance,
that Litvinov thought it his duty, stifling his wrath, to go to meet
him, to face a ‘scandal.’ But when he was on a level with Litvinov, the
general’s face suddenly changed, his habitual playful refinement
reappeared upon it, and his hand in its pale lavender glove flourished
his glossy hat high in the air. Litvinov took off his in silence, and
each went on his way.

‘He has noticed something, for certain!’ thought Litvinov.

‘If only it were ... any one else!’ thought the general.

Tatyana was playing picquet with her aunt when Litvinov entered their
room.

‘Well, I must say, you’re a pretty fellow!’ cried Kapitolina Markovna,
and she threw down her cards. ‘Our first day, and he’s lost for the
whole evening! Here we’ve been waiting and waiting, and scolding and
scolding....’

‘I said nothing, aunt,’ observed Tatyana.

‘Well, you’re meekness itself, we all know! You ought to be ashamed,
sir! and you betrothed too!’

Litvinov made some sort of excuse and sat down to the table.

‘Why have you left off your game?’ he asked after a brief silence.

‘Well, that’s a nice question! We’ve been playing cards from sheer
dulness, not knowing what to do with ourselves ... but now you’ve come.’

‘If you would care to hear the evening music,’ observed Litvinov, ‘I
should be delighted to take you.’

Kapitolina Markovna looked at her niece.

‘Let us go, aunt, I am ready,’ she said, ‘but wouldn’t it be better to
stay at home?’

‘To be sure! Let us have tea in our own old Moscow way, with the
samovar, and have a good chat. We’ve not had a proper gossip yet.’

Litvinov ordered tea to be sent up, but the good chat did not come off.
He felt a continual gnawing of conscience; whatever he said, it always
seemed to him that he was telling lies and Tatyana was seeing through
it. Meanwhile there was no change to be observed in her; she behaved
just as unconstrainedly ... only her look never once rested upon
Litvinov, but with a kind of indulgent timorousness glided over him, and
she was paler than usual.

Kapitolina Markovna asked her whether she had not a headache.

Tatyana was at first about to say no, but after a moment’s thought, she
said, ‘Yes, a little.’

‘It’s the journey,’ suggested Litvinov, and he positively blushed with
shame.

‘Yes, the journey,’ repeated Tatyana, and her eyes again glided over
him.

‘You ought to rest, Tanya darling.’

‘Yes, I will go to bed soon, aunt.’

On the table lay a _Guide des Voyageurs_; Litvinov fell to reading aloud
the description of the environs of Baden.

‘Quite so,’ Kapitolina Markovna interrupted, ‘but there’s something we
mustn’t forget. I’m told linen is very cheap here, so we must be sure to
buy some for the trousseau.’

Tatyana dropped her eyes.

‘We have plenty of time, aunt. You never think of yourself, but you
really ought to get yourself some clothes. You see how smart every one
is here.’

‘Eh, my love! what would be the good of that? I’m not a fine lady! It
would be another thing if I were such a beauty as your friend, Grigory
Mihalitch, what was her name?’

‘What friend?’

‘Why, that we met to-day.’

‘Oh, she!’ said Litvinov, with feigned indifference, and again he felt
disgust and shame. ‘No!’ he thought, ‘to go on like this is impossible.’

He was sitting by his betrothed, while a few inches from her in his
side pocket, was Irina’s handkerchief.

Kapitolina Markovna went for a minute into the other room.

‘Tanya ...’ said Litvinov, with an effort. It was the first time that
day he had called her by that name.

She turned towards him.

‘I ... I have something very important to say to you.’

‘Oh! really? when? directly?’

‘No, to-morrow.’

‘Oh! to-morrow. Very well.’

Litvinov’s soul was suddenly filled with boundless pity. He took
Tatyana’s hand and kissed it humbly, like a sinner; her heart throbbed
faintly and she felt no happiness.

In the night, at two o’clock, Kapitolina Markovna, who was sleeping in
the same room with her niece, suddenly lifted up her head and listened.

‘Tanya,’ she said, ‘you are crying?’

Tatyana did not at once answer.

‘No, aunt,’ sounded her gentle voice, ‘I’ve caught a cold.’



XX


‘Why did I say that to her?’ Litvinov thought the next morning as he sat
in his room at the window. He shrugged his shoulders in vexation: he had
said that to Tatyana simply to cut himself off all way of retreat. In
the window lay a note from Irina: she asked him to see her at twelve.
Potugin’s words incessantly recurred to his mind, they seemed to reach
him with a faint ill-omened sound as of a rumbling underground. He was
angry with himself, but could not get rid of them anyhow. Some one
knocked at the door.

‘_Wer da?_’ asked Litvinov.

‘Ah! you’re at home! open!’ he heard Bindasov’s hoarse bass.

The door handle creaked.

Litvinov turned white with exasperation.

‘I’m not at home,’ he declared sharply.

‘Not at home? That’s a good joke!’

‘I tell you--not at home, get along.’

‘That’s civil! And I came to ask you for a little loan,’ grumbled
Bindasov.

He walked off, however, tramping on his heels as usual.

Litvinov was all but dashing out after him, he felt such a longing to
throttle the hateful ruffian. The events of the last few days had
unstrung his nerves; a little more, and he would have burst into tears.
He drank off a glass of cold water, locked up all the drawers in the
furniture, he could not have said why, and went to Tatyana’s.

He found her alone. Kapitolina Markovna had gone out shopping. Tatyana
was sitting on the sofa, holding a book in both hands. She was not
reading it, and scarcely knew what book it was. She did not stir, but
her heart was beating quickly in her bosom, and the little white collar
round her neck quivered visibly and evenly.

Litvinov was confused.... However, he sat down by her, said
good-morning, smiled at her; she too smiled at him without speaking. She
had bowed to him when he came in, bowed courteously, not affectionately,
and she did not glance at him. He held out his hand to her; she gave him
her chill fingers, but at once freed them again, and took up the book.
Litvinov felt that to begin the conversation with unimportant subjects
would be insulting Tatyana; she after her custom made no demands, but
everything in her said plainly, ‘I am waiting, I am waiting.’... He must
fulfil his promise. But though almost the whole night he had thought of
nothing else, he had not prepared even the first introductory words, and
absolutely did not know in what way to break this cruel silence.

‘Tanya,’ he began at last, ‘I told you yesterday that I have something
important to say to you. I am ready, only I beg you beforehand not to be
angry against me, and to rest assured that my feelings for you....’

He stopped. He caught his breath. Tatyana still did not stir, and did
not look at him; she only clutched the book tighter than ever.

‘There has always been,’ Litvinov went on, without finishing the
sentence he had begun, ‘there has always been perfect openness between
us; I respect you too much to be a hypocrite with you; I want to prove
to you that I know how to value the nobleness and independence of your
nature, even though ... though of course....’

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ began Tatyana in a measured voice while a deathly
pallor overspread her whole face, ‘I will come to your assistance, you
no longer love me, and you don’t know how to tell me so.’

Litvinov involuntarily shuddered.

‘Why?’ ... he said, hardly intelligibly, ‘why could you suppose?... I
really don’t understand....’

‘What! isn’t it the truth? Isn’t it the truth?--tell me, tell me.’

Tatyana turned quite round to Litvinov; her face, with her hair brushed
back from it, approached his face, and her eyes, which for so long had
not looked at him, seemed to penetrate into his eyes.

‘Isn’t it the truth?’ she repeated.

He said nothing, did not utter a single sound. He could not have lied at
that instant, even if he had known she would believe him, and that his
lie would save her; he was not even able to bear her eyes upon him.
Litvinov said nothing, but she needed no answer, she read the answer in
his very silence, in those guilty downcast eyes--and she turned away
again and dropped the book.... She had been still uncertain till that
instant, and Litvinov understood that; he understood that she had been
still uncertain--and how hideous, actually hideous was all that he was
doing.

He flung himself on his knees before her.

‘Tanya,’ he cried, ‘if only you knew how hard it is for me to see you
in this position, how awful to me to think that it’s I ... I! My heart
is torn to pieces, I don’t know myself, I have lost myself, and you, and
everything.... Everything is shattered, Tanya, everything! Could I dream
that I ... I should bring such a blow upon you, my best friend, my
guardian angel?... Could I dream that we should meet like this, should
spend such a day as yesterday!...’

Tatyana was trying to get up and go away. He held her back by the border
of her dress.

‘No, listen to me a minute longer. You see I am on my knees before you,
but I have not come to beg your forgiveness; you cannot, you ought not
to forgive me. I have come to tell you that your friend is ruined, that
he is falling into the pit, and would not drag you down with him.... But
save me ... no! even you cannot save me. I should push you away, I am
ruined, Tanya, I am ruined past all help.’

Tatyana looked at Litvinov.

‘You are ruined?’ she said, as though not fully understanding him. ‘You
are ruined?’

‘Yes, Tanya, I am ruined. All the past, all that was precious,
everything I have lived for up till now, is ruined for me; everything is
wretched, everything is shattered, and I don’t know what awaits me in
the future. You said just now that I no longer loved you.... No, Tanya,
I have not ceased to love you, but a different, terrible, irresistible
passion has come upon me, has overborne me. I fought against it while I
could....’

Tatyana got up, her brows twitched, her pale face darkened. Litvinov too
rose to his feet.

‘You love another woman,’ she began, ‘and I guess who she is.... We met
her yesterday, didn’t we?... Well, I see what is left for me to do now.
Since you say yourself this passion is unalterable’ ... (Tatyana paused
an instant, possibly she had still hoped Litvinov would not let this
last word pass unchallenged, but he said nothing), ‘it only remains for
me to give you back ... your word.’

Litvinov bent his head, as though submissively receiving a well-deserved
blow.

‘You have every right to be angry with me,’ he said. ‘You have every
right to reproach me for feebleness ... for deceit.’

Tatyana looked at him again.

‘I have not reproached you, Litvinov, I don’t blame you. I agree with
you: the bitterest truth is better than what went on yesterday. What
sort of a life could ours have been now!’

‘What sort of a life will mine be now!’ echoed mournfully in Litvinov’s
soul.

Tatyana went towards the door of the bedroom.

‘I will ask you to leave me alone for a little time, Grigory
Mihalitch--we will see each other again, we will talk again. All this
has been so unexpected I want to collect myself a little ... leave me
alone ... spare my pride. We shall see each other again.’

And uttering these words, Tatyana hurriedly withdrew and locked the door
after her.

Litvinov went out into the street like a man dazed and stunned; in the
very depths of his heart something dark and bitter lay hid, such a
sensation must a man feel who has murdered another; and at the same time
he felt easier as though he had at last flung off a hated load.
Tatyana’s magnanimity had crushed him, he felt vividly all that he had
lost ... and yet? with his regret was mingled irritation; he yearned
towards Irina as to the sole refuge left him, and felt bitter against
her. For some time Litvinov’s feelings had been every day growing more
violent and more complex; this complexity tortured him, exasperated him,
he was lost in this chaos. He thirsted for one thing; to get out at last
on to the path, whatever it might be, if only not to wander longer in
this incomprehensible half-darkness. Practical people of Litvinov’s sort
ought never to be carried away by passion, it destroys the very meaning
of their lives.... But nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic;
she has her own, which we do not recognise and do not acknowledge till
we are crushed under its wheel.

On parting from Tatyana, Litvinov held one thought in his mind, to see
Irina; he set off indeed to see her. But the general was at home, so at
least the porter told him, and he did not care to go in, he did not feel
himself capable of hypocrisy, and he moved slowly off towards the
Konversation Hall. Litvinov’s incapacity for hypocrisy was evident that
day to both Voroshilov and Pishtchalkin, who happened to meet him; he
simply blurted out to the former that he was empty as a drum; to the
latter that he bored every one to extinction; it was lucky indeed that
Bindasov did come across him; there would certainly have been a
‘_grosser Scandal_.’ Both the young men were stupefied; Voroshilov went
so far as to ask himself whether his honour as an officer did not demand
satisfaction? But like Gogol’s lieutenant, Pirogov, he calmed himself
with bread and butter in a café. Litvinov caught sight in the distance
of Kapitolina Markovna running busily from shop to shop in her striped
mantle.... He felt ashamed to face the good, absurd, generous old lady.
Then he recalled Potugin, their conversation yesterday.... Then
something was wafted to him, something intangible and unmistakable: if a
falling shadow shed a fragrance, it could not be more elusive, but he
felt at once that it was Irina near him, and in fact she appeared a few
paces from him, arm-in-arm with another lady; their eyes met at once.
Irina probably noticed something peculiar in the expression of
Litvinov’s face; she stopped before a shop, in which a number of tiny
wooden clocks of Black Forest make were exhibited, and summoning him by
a motion of her head, she pointed to one of these clocks, and calling
upon him to admire a charming clock-face with a painted cuckoo above it,
she said, not in a whisper, but as though finishing a phrase begun, in
her ordinary tone of voice, much less likely to attract the attention of
outsiders, ‘Come in an hour’s time, I shall be alone.’

But at this moment the renowned lady-killer Monsieur Verdier swooped
down upon her, and began to fall into ecstasies over the colour,
_feuille morte_, of her gown and the low-crowned Spanish hat she wore
tilted almost down to her eyebrows.... Litvinov vanished in the crowd.



XXI


‘Grigory,’ Irina was saying to him two hours later, as she sat beside
him on the sofa, and laid both hands on his shoulder, ‘what is the
matter with you? Tell me now quickly, while we’re alone.’

‘The matter with me?’ said Litvinov. ‘I am happy, happy, that’s what’s
the matter with me.’

Irina looked down, smiled, sighed.

‘That’s not an answer to my question, my dear one.’

Litvinov grew thoughtful.

‘Well, let me tell you then ... since you insist positively on it’
(Irina opened her eyes wide and trembled slightly), ‘I have told
everything to-day to my betrothed.’

‘What, everything? You mentioned me?’

Litvinov fairly threw up his arms.

‘Irina, for God’s sake, how could such an idea enter your head! that
I----’

‘There, forgive me ... forgive me. What did you say?’

‘I told her that I no longer loved her.’

‘She asked why?’

‘I did not disguise the fact that I loved another woman, and that we
must part.’

‘Ah ... and what did she do? Agreed?’

‘O Irina! what a girl she is! She was all self-sacrifice, all
generosity!’

‘I’ve no doubt, I’ve no doubt ... there was nothing else for her to do,
though.’

‘And not one reproach, not one hard word to me, who have spoiled her
whole life, deceived her, pitilessly flung her over....’

Irina scrutinised her finger nails.

‘Tell me, Grigory ... did she love you?’

‘Yes, Irina, she loved me.’

Irina was silent a minute, she straightened her dress.

‘I must confess,’ she began, ‘I don’t quite understand what induced you
to explain matters to her.’

‘What induced me, Irina! Would you have liked me to lie, to be a
hypocrite to her, that pure soul? or did you suppose----’

‘I supposed nothing,’ Irina interrupted. ‘I must admit I have thought
very little about her. I don’t know how to think of two people at once.’

‘That is, you mean----’

‘Well, and so what then? Is she going away, that pure soul?’ Irina
interrupted a second time.

‘I know nothing,’ answered Litvinov. ‘I am to see her again. But she
will not stay.’

‘Ah! _bon voyage!_’

‘No, she will not stay. But I’m not thinking of her either now, I am
thinking of what you said to me, what you have promised me.’

Irina looked up at him from under her eyelids.

‘Ungrateful one! aren’t you content yet?’

‘No, Irina, I’m not content. You have made me happy, but I’m not
content, and you understand me.’

‘That is, I----’

‘Yes, you understand me. Remember your words, remember what you wrote to
me. I can’t share you with others; no, no, I can’t consent to the
pitiful rôle of secret lover; not my life alone, this other life too I
have flung at your feet, I have renounced everything, I have crushed it
all to dust, without compunction and beyond recall; but in return I
trust, I firmly believe, that you too will keep your promise, and unite
your lot with mine for ever.’

‘You want me to run away with you? I am ready....’ (Litvinov bent down
to her hands in ecstasy.) ‘I am ready. I will not go back from my word.
But have you yourself thought over all the difficulties--have you made
preparations?’

‘I? I have not had time yet to think over or prepare anything, but only
say yes, let me act, and before a month is over....’

‘A month! we start for Italy in a fortnight.’

‘A fortnight, then, is enough for me. O Irina, you seem to take my
proposition coldly; perhaps it seems unpractical to you, but I am not a
boy, I am not used to comforting myself with dreams, I know what a
tremendous step this is, I know what a responsibility I am taking on
myself; but I can see no other course. Think of it, I must break every
tie with the past, if only not to be a contemptible liar in the eyes of
the girl I have sacrificed for you!’

Irina drew herself up suddenly and her eyes flashed.

‘Oh, I beg your pardon, Grigory Mihalitch! If I decide, if I run away,
then it will at least be with a man who does it for my sake, for my sake
simply, and not in order that he may not degrade himself in the good
opinion of a phlegmatic young person, with milk and water, _du lait
coupé_ instead of blood, in her veins! And I must tell you too, it’s the
first time, I confess, that it’s been my lot to hear that the man I
honour with my regard is deserving of commiseration, playing a pitiful
part! I know a far more pitiful part, the part of a man who doesn’t know
what is going on in his own heart!’

Litvinov drew himself up in his turn.

‘Irina,’ he was beginning----

But all at once she clapped both hands to her forehead, and with a
convulsive motion, flinging herself on his breast, she embraced him with
force beyond a woman’s.

‘Forgive me, forgive me,’ she began, with a shaking voice, ‘forgive me,
Grigory! You see how corrupted I am, how horrid I am, how jealous and
wicked! You see how I need your aid, your indulgence! Yes, save me, drag
me out of this mire, before I am quite ruined! Yes, let us run away, let
us run away from these people, from this society to some far off, fair,
free country! Perhaps your Irina will at last be worthier of the
sacrifices you are making for her! Don’t be angry with me, forgive me,
my sweet, and know that I will do everything you command, I will go
anywhere you will take me!’

Litvinov’s heart was in a turmoil. Irina clung closer than before to him
with all her youthful supple body. He bent over her fragrant, disordered
tresses, and in an intoxication of gratitude and ecstasy, he hardly
dared to caress them with his hand, he hardly touched them with his
lips.

‘Irina, Irina,’ he repeated,--‘my angel....’

She suddenly raised her head, listened....

‘It’s my husband’s step, ... he has gone into his room,’ she whispered,
and, moving hurriedly away, she crossed over to another armchair.
Litvinov was getting up.... ‘What are you doing?’ she went on in the
same whisper; ‘you must stay, he suspects you as it is. Or are you
afraid of him?’ She did not take her eyes off the door. ‘Yes, it’s he;
he will come in here directly. Tell me something, talk to me.’ Litvinov
could not at once recover himself and was silent. ‘Aren’t you going to
the theatre to-morrow?’ she uttered aloud. ‘They’re giving _Le Verre
d’Eau_, an old-fashioned piece, and Plessy is awfully affected.... We’re
as though we were in a perfect fever,’ she added, dropping her voice.
‘We can’t do anything like this; we must think things over well. I ought
to warn you that all my money is in his hands; _mais j’ai mes bijoux_.
We’ll go to Spain, would you like that?’ She raised her voice again.
‘Why is it all actresses get so fat? Madeleine Brohan for instance....
Do talk, don’t sit so silent. My head is going round. But you, you must
not doubt me.... I will let you know where to come to-morrow. Only it
was a mistake to have told that young lady.... _Ah, mais c’est
charmant!_’ she cried suddenly and with a nervous laugh, she tore the
lace edge of her handkerchief.

‘May I come in?’ asked Ratmirov from the other room.

‘Yes ... yes.’

The door opened, and in the doorway appeared the general. He scowled on
seeing Litvinov; however, he bowed to them, that is to say, he bent the
upper portion of his person.

‘I did not know you had a visitor,’ he said: ‘_je vous demande pardon de
mon indiscrétion_. So you still find Baden entertaining,
M’sieu--Litvinov?’

Ratmirov always uttered Litvinov’s surname with hesitation, every time,
as though he had forgotten it, and could not at once recall it.... In
this way, as well as by the lofty flourish of his hat in saluting him,
he meant to insult his pride.

‘I am not bored here, _m’sieu le général_.’

‘Really? Well, I find Baden fearfully boring. We are soon going away,
are we not, Irina Pavlovna? _Assez de Bade comme ça._ By the way, I’ve
won you five hundred francs to-day.’

Irina stretched out her hand coquettishly.

‘Where are they? Please let me have them for pin-money.’

‘You shall have them, you shall have them.... You are going,
M’sieu--Litvinov?’

‘Yes, I am going, as you see.’

Ratmirov again bent his body.

‘Till we meet again!’

‘Good-bye, Grigory Mihalitch,’ said Irina. ‘I will keep my promise.’

‘What is that? May I be inquisitive?’ her husband queried.

Irina smiled.

‘No, it was only ... something we’ve been talking of. _C’est à propos du
voyage ... où il vous plaira._ You know--Stael’s book?’

‘Ah! ah! to be sure, I know. Charming illustrations.’

Ratmirov seemed on the best of terms with his wife; he called her by her
pet name in addressing her.



XXII


‘Better not think now, really,’ Litvinov repeated, as he strode along
the street, feeling that the inward riot was rising up again in him.
‘The thing’s decided. She will keep her promise, and it only remains for
me to take all necessary steps.... Yet she hesitates, it seems.’... He
shook his head. His own designs struck even his own imagination in a
strange light; there was a smack of artificiality, of unreality about
them. One cannot dwell long upon the same thoughts; they gradually shift
like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope ... one peeps in, and already
the shapes before one’s eyes are utterly different. A sensation of
intense weariness overcame Litvinov.... If he could for one short hour
but rest!... But Tanya? He started, and, without reflecting even, turned
submissively homewards, merely struck by the idea, that this day was
tossing him like a ball from one to the other.... No matter; he must
make an end. He went back to his hotel, and with the same
submissiveness, insensibility, numbness, without hesitation or delay, he
went to see Tatyana.

He was met by Kapitolina Markovna. From the first glance at her, he knew
that she knew about it all; the poor maiden lady’s eyes were swollen
with weeping, and her flushed face, fringed with her dishevelled white
locks, expressed dismay and an agony of indignation, sorrow, and
boundless amazement. She was on the point of rushing up to Litvinov, but
she stopped short, and, biting her quivering lip, she looked at him as
though she would supplicate him, and kill him, and assure herself that
it was a dream, a senseless, impossible thing, wasn’t it?

‘Here you ... you are come,’ she began.... The door from the next room
opened instantaneously, and with a light tread Tatyana came in; she was
of a transparent pallor, but she was quite calm.

She gently put one arm round her aunt and made her sit down beside her.

‘You sit down too, Grigory Mihalitch,’ she said to Litvinov, who was
standing like one distraught at the door. ‘I am very glad to see you
once more. I have informed auntie of your decision, our common decision;
she fully shares it and approves of it.... Without mutual love there
can be no happiness, mutual esteem alone is not enough’ (at the word
‘esteem’ Litvinov involuntarily looked down) ‘and better to separate
now, than to repent later. Isn’t it, aunt?’

‘Yes, of course,’ began Kapitolina Markovna, ‘of course, Tanya darling,
the man who does not know how to appreciate you ... who could bring
himself----’

‘Aunt, aunt,’ Tatyana interrupted, ‘remember what you promised me. You
always told me yourself: truth, Tatyana, truth before everything--and
independence. Well, truth’s not always sweet, nor independence either;
or else where would be the virtue of it?’

She kissed Kapitolina Markovna on her white hair, and turning to
Litvinov, she went on:

‘We propose, aunt and I, leaving Baden.... I think it will be more
comfortable so for all of us.’

‘When do you think of going?’ Litvinov said thickly. He remembered that
Irina had said the very same words to him not long before.

Kapitolina Markovna was darting forward, but Tatyana held her back, with
a caressing touch on her shoulder.

‘Probably soon, very soon.’

‘And will you allow me to ask where you intend going?’ Litvinov said in
the same voice.

‘First to Dresden, then probably to Russia.’

‘But what can you want to know that for now, Grigory Mihalitch?’ ...
cried Kapitolina Markovna.

‘Aunt, aunt,’ Tatyana interposed again. A brief silence followed.

‘Tatyana Petrovna,’ began Litvinov, ‘you know how agonisingly painful
and bitter my feelings must be at this instant.’

Tatyana got up.

‘Grigory Mihalitch,’ she said, ‘we will not talk about that ... if you
please, I beg you for my sake, if not for your own. I have known you
long enough, and I can very well imagine what you must be feeling now.
But what’s the use of talking, of touching a sore’ (she stopped; it was
clear she wanted to stem the emotion rushing upon her, to swallow the
rising tears; she succeeded)--‘why fret a sore we cannot heal? Leave
that to time. And now I have to ask a service of you, Grigory Mihalitch;
if you will be so good, I will give you a letter directly: take it to
the post yourself, it is rather important, but aunt and I have no time
now.... I shall be much obliged to you. Wait a minute.... I will bring
it directly....’

In the doorway Tatyana glanced uneasily at Kapitolina Markovna; but she
was sitting with such dignity and decorum, with such a severe expression
on her knitted brows and tightly compressed lips, that Tatyana merely
gave her a significant nod and went out.

But scarcely had the door closed behind her, when every trace of dignity
and severity instantaneously vanished from Kapitolina Markovna’s face;
she got up, ran on tiptoe up to Litvinov, and all hunched together and
trying to look him in the face, she began in a quaking tearful whisper:

‘Good God,’ she said, ‘Grigory Mihalitch, what does it mean? is it a
dream or what? _You_ give up Tanya, you tired of her, you breaking your
word! You doing this, Grigory Mihalitch, you on whom we all counted as
if you were a stone wall! You? you? you, Grisha?’... Kapitolina Markovna
stopped. ‘Why, you will kill her, Grigory Mihalitch,’ she went on,
without waiting for an answer, while her tears fairly coursed in fine
drops over her cheeks. ‘You mustn’t judge by her bearing up now, you
know her character! She never complains; she does not think of herself,
so others must think of her! She keeps saying to me, “Aunt, we must save
our dignity!” but what’s dignity, when I foresee death, death before
us?’... Tatyana’s chair creaked in the next room. ‘Yes, I foresee
death,’ the old lady went on still more softly. ‘And how can such a
thing have come about? Is it witchcraft, or what? It’s not long since
you were writing her the tenderest letters. And in fact can an honest
man act like this? I’m a woman, free, as you know, from prejudice of any
sort, _esprit fort_, and I have given Tanya too the same sort of
education, she too has a free mind....’

‘Aunt!’ came Tatyana’s voice from the next room.

‘But one’s word of honour is a duty, Grigory Mihalitch, especially for
people of your, of my principles! If we’re not going to recognise duty,
what is left us? This cannot be broken off in this way, at your whim,
without regard to what may happen to another! It’s unprincipled ... yes,
it’s a crime; a strange sort of freedom!’

‘Aunt, come here please,’ was heard again.

‘I’m coming, my love, I’m coming....’ Kapitolina Markovna clutched at
Litvinov’s hand.--‘I see you are angry, Grigory Mihalitch.’... (‘Me! me
angry?’ he wanted to exclaim, but his tongue was dumb.) ‘I don’t want to
make you angry--oh, really, quite the contrary! I’ve come even to
entreat you; think again while there is time; don’t destroy her, don’t
destroy your own happiness, she will still trust you, Grisha, she will
believe in you, nothing is lost yet; why, she loves you as no one will
ever love you! Leave this hateful Baden-Baden, let us go away together,
only throw off this enchantment, and, above all, have pity, have
pity----’

‘Aunt!’ called Tatyana, with a shade of impatience in her voice.

But Kapitolina Markovna did not hear her.

‘Only say “yes,”’ she repeated to Litvinov; ‘and I will still make
everything smooth.... You need only nod your head to me, just one little
nod like this.’

Litvinov would gladly, he felt, have died at that instant; but the word
‘yes’ he did not utter, and he did not nod his head.

Tatyana reappeared with a letter in her hand. Kapitolina Markovna at
once darted away from Litvinov, and, averting her face, bent low over
the table, as though she were looking over the bills and papers that lay
on it.

Tatyana went up to Litvinov.

‘Here,’ she said, ‘is the letter I spoke of.... You will go to the post
at once with it, won’t you?’

Litvinov raised his eyes.... Before him, really, stood his judge.
Tatyana struck him as taller, slenderer; her face, shining with unwonted
beauty, had the stony grandeur of a statue’s; her bosom did not heave,
and her gown, of one colour and straight as a Greek chiton, fell in the
long, unbroken folds of marble drapery to her feet, which were hidden by
it. Tatyana was looking straight before her, only at Litvinov; her cold,
calm gaze, too, was the gaze of a statue. He read his sentence in it; he
bowed, took a letter from the hand held out so immovably to him, and
silently withdrew.

Kapitolina Markovna ran to Tatyana; but the latter turned off her
embraces and dropped her eyes; a flush of colour spread over her face,
and with the words, ‘and now, the sooner the better,’ she went into the
bedroom. Kapitolina Markovna followed her with hanging head.

The letter, entrusted to Litvinov by Tatyana, was addressed to one of
her Dresden friends--a German lady--who let small furnished apartments.
Litvinov dropped the letter into the post-box, and it seemed to him as
though with that tiny scrap of paper he was dropping all his past, all
his life into the tomb. He went out of the town, and strolled a long
time by narrow paths between vineyards; he could not shake off the
persistent sensation of contempt for himself, like the importunate
buzzing of flies in summer: an unenviable part, indeed, he had played in
the last interview.... And when he went back to his hotel, and after a
little time inquired about the ladies, he was told that immediately
after he had gone out, they had given orders to be driven to the
railway station, and had departed by the mail train--to what destination
was not known. Their things had been packed and their bills paid ever
since the morning. Tatyana had asked Litvinov to take her letter to the
post, obviously with the object of getting him out of the way. He
ventured to ask the hall-porter whether the ladies had left any letters
for him, but the porter replied in the negative, and looked amazed even;
it was clear that this sudden exit from rooms taken for a week struck
him too as strange and dubious. Litvinov turned his back on him, and
locked himself up in his room.

He did not leave it till the following day: the greater part of the
night he was sitting at the table, writing, and tearing what he had
written.... The dawn was already beginning when he finished his task--it
was a letter to Irina.



XXIII


This was what was in this letter to Irina:

‘My betrothed went away yesterday; we shall never see each other
again.... I do not know even for certain where she is going to live.
With her, she takes all that till now seemed precious and desirable to
me; all my previous ideas, my plans, my intentions, have gone with her;
my labours even are wasted, my work of years ends in nothing, all my
pursuits have no meaning, no applicability; all that is dead; myself, my
old self, is dead and buried since yesterday. I feel, I see, I know this
clearly ... far am I from regretting this. Not to lament of it, have I
begun upon this to you.... As though I could complain when you love me,
Irina! I wanted only to tell you that, of all this dead past, all those
hopes and efforts, turned to smoke and ashes, there is only one thing
left living, invincible, my love for you. Except that love, nothing is
left for me; to say it is the sole thing precious to me, would be too
little; I live wholly in that love; that love is my whole being; in it
are my future, my career, my vocation, my country! You know me, Irina;
you know that fine talk of any sort is foreign to my nature, hateful to
me, and however strong the words in which I try to express my feelings,
you will have no doubts of their sincerity, you will not suppose them
exaggerated. I’m not a boy, in the impulse of momentary ecstasy, lisping
unreflecting vows to you, but a man of matured age--simply and plainly,
almost with terror, telling you what he has recognised for unmistakable
truth. Yes, your love has replaced everything for me--everything,
everything! Judge for yourself: can I leave this my _all_ in the hands
of another? can I let him dispose of you? You--you will belong to him,
my whole being, my heart’s blood will belong to him--while I myself ...
where am I? what am I? An outsider--an onlooker ... looking on at my own
life! No, that’s impossible, impossible! To share, to share in secret
that without which it’s useless, impossible to live ... that’s deceit
and death. I know how great a sacrifice I am asking of you, without any
sort of right to it; indeed, what can give one a right to sacrifice? But
I am not acting thus from egoism: an egoist would find it easier and
smoother not to raise this question at all. Yes, my demands are
difficult, and I am not surprised that they alarm you. The people among
whom you have to live are hateful to you, you are sick of society, but
are you strong enough to throw up that society? to trample on the
success it has crowned you with? to rouse public opinion against
you--the opinion of these hateful people? Ask yourself, Irina, don’t
take a burden upon you greater than you can bear. I don’t want to
reproach you; but remember: once already you could not hold out against
temptation. I can give you so little in return for all you are losing.
Hear my last word: if you don’t feel capable to-morrow, to-day even, of
leaving all and following me--you see how boldly I speak, how little I
spare myself,--if you are frightened at the uncertainty of the future,
and estrangement and solitude and the censure of men, if you cannot rely
on yourself, in fact, tell me so openly and without delay, and I will go
away; I shall go with a broken heart, but I shall bless you for your
truthfulness. But if you really, my beautiful, radiant queen, love a man
so petty, so obscure as I, and are really ready to share his
fate,--well, then, give me your hand, and let us set off together on our
difficult way! Only understand, my decision is unchanging; either all or
nothing. It’s unreasonable ... but I could not do otherwise--I cannot,
Irina! I love you too much.--Yours, G. L.’

Litvinov did not much like this letter himself; it did not quite truly
and exactly express what he wanted to say; it was full of awkward
expressions, high flown or bookish, and doubtless it was not better than
many of the other letters he had torn up; but it was the last, the chief
point was thoroughly stated anyway, and harassed, and worn out, Litvinov
did not feel capable of dragging anything else out of his head. Besides
he did not possess the faculty of putting his thought into literary
form, and like all people with whom it is not habitual, he took great
trouble over the style. His first letter was probably the best; it came
warmer from the heart. However that might be, Litvinov despatched his
missive to Irina.

She replied in a brief note:

‘Come to me to-day,’ she wrote to him: ‘_he_ has gone away for the whole
day. Your letter has greatly disturbed me. I keep thinking, thinking ...
and my head is in a whirl. I am very wretched, but you love me, and I am
happy. Come. Yours, I.’

She was sitting in her boudoir when Litvinov went in. He was conducted
there by the same little girl of thirteen who on the previous day had
watched for him on the stairs. On the table before Irina was standing an
open, semi-circular, cardboard box of lace: she was carelessly turning
over the lace with one hand, in the other she was holding Litvinov’s
letter. She had only just left off crying; her eyelashes were wet, and
her eyelids swollen; on her cheeks could be seen the traces of undried
tears not wiped away. Litvinov stood still in the doorway; she did not
notice his entrance.

‘You are crying?’ he said wonderingly.

She started, passed her hand over her hair and smiled.

‘Why are you crying?’ repeated Litvinov. She pointed in silence to the
letter. ‘So you were ... over that,’ he articulated haltingly.

‘Come here, sit down,’ she said, ‘give me your hand. Well, yes, I was
crying ... what are you surprised at? Is that nothing?’ she pointed
again to the letter.

Litvinov sat down.

‘I know it’s not easy, Irina, I tell you so indeed in my letter ... I
understand your position. But if you believe in the value of your love
for me, if my words have convinced you, you ought, too, to understand
what I feel now at the sight of your tears. I have come here, like a man
on his trial, and I await what is to be my sentence? Death or life?
Your answer decides everything. Only don’t look at me with those
eyes.... They remind me of the eyes I saw in old days in Moscow.’

Irina flushed at once, and turned away, as though herself conscious of
something evil in her gaze.

‘Why do you say that, Grigory? For shame! You want to know my answer ...
do you mean to say you can doubt it? You are troubled by my tears ...
but you don’t understand them. Your letter, dearest, has set me
thinking. Here you write that my love has replaced everything for you,
that even your former studies can never now be put into practice; but I
ask myself, can a man live for love alone? Won’t it weary him at last,
won’t he want an active career, and won’t he cast the blame on what drew
him away from active life? That’s the thought that dismays me, that’s
what I am afraid of, and not what you imagine.’

Litvinov looked intently at Irina, and Irina intently looked at him, as
though each would penetrate deeper and further into the soul of the
other, deeper and further than word can reach, or word betray.

‘You are wrong in being afraid of that,’ began Litvinov. ‘I must have
expressed myself badly. Weariness? Inactivity? With the new impetus
your love will give me? O Irina, in your love there’s a whole world for
me, and I can’t yet foresee myself what may develop from it.’

Irina grew thoughtful.

‘Where are we going?’ she whispered.

‘Where? We will talk of that later. But, of course, then ... then you
agree? you agree, Irina?’

She looked at him. ‘And you will be happy?’

‘O Irina!’

‘You will regret nothing? Never?’

She bent over the cardboard box, and again began looking over the lace
in it.

‘Don’t be angry with me, dear one, for attending to this trash at such a
moment.... I am obliged to go to a ball at a certain lady’s, these bits
of finery have been sent me, and I must choose to-day. Ah! I am awfully
wretched!’ she cried suddenly, and she laid her face down on the edge of
the box. Tears began falling again from her eyes.... She turned away;
the tears might spoil the lace.

‘Irina, you are crying again,’ Litvinov began uneasily.

‘Ah, yes, again,’ Irina interposed hurriedly. ‘O Grigory, don’t torture
me, don’t torture yourself!... Let us be free people! What does it
matter if I do cry! And indeed do I know myself why my tears are
flowing? You know, you have heard my decision, you believe it will not
be changed. That I agree to ... What was it you said?... to all or
nothing ... what more would you have? Let us be free! Why these mutual
chains? We are alone together now, you love me. I love you; is it
possible we have nothing to do but wringing our thoughts out of each
other? Look at me, I don’t want to talk about myself, I have never by
one word hinted that for me perhaps it was not so easy to set at nought
my duty as a wife ... and, of course, I don’t deceive myself, I know I
am a criminal, and that _he_ has a right to kill me. Well, what of it?
Let us be free, I say. To-day is ours--a life-time’s ours.’

She got up from the arm-chair and looked at Litvinov with her head
thrown back, faintly smiling and moving her eyebrows, while with one arm
bare to the elbow she pushed back from her face a long tress on which a
few tears glistened. A rich scarf slipped from the table and fell on the
floor at Irina’s feet. She trampled contemptuously on it. ‘Or don’t you
like me, to-day? Have I grown ugly since yesterday? Tell me, have you
often seen a prettier hand? And this hair? Tell me, do you love me?’

She clasped him in both arms, held his head close to her bosom, her comb
fell out with a ringing sound, and her falling hair wrapped him in a
soft flood of fragrance.



XXIV


Litvinov walked up and down his room in the hotel, his head bowed in
thought. He had now to pass from theory to practice, to devise ways and
means for flight, for moving to unknown countries.... But, strange to
say, he was not pondering so much upon ways and means as upon whether
actually, beyond doubt, the decision had been reached on which he had so
obstinately insisted? Had the ultimate, irrevocable word been uttered?
But Irina to be sure had said to him at parting, ‘Act, act, and when
every thing is ready, only let me know.’ That was final! Away with all
doubts.... He must proceed to action. And Litvinov proceeded--in the
meantime--to calculation. Money first of all. Litvinov had, he found, in
ready money one thousand three hundred and twenty-eight guldens, in
French money, two thousand eight hundred and fifty-five francs; the sum
was trifling, but it was enough for the first necessities, and then he
must at once write to his father to send him all he could; he would
have to sell the forest part of the land. But on what pretext?... Well,
a pretext would be found. Irina had spoken, it’s true, of her _bijoux_,
but that must not be taken into his reckoning; that, who knows, might
come in for a rainy day. He had besides a good Geneva watch, for which
he might get ... well, say, four hundred francs. Litvinov went to a
banker’s, and with much circumlocution introduced the question whether
it was possible, in case of need, to borrow money; but bankers at Baden
are wary old foxes, and in response to such circumlocutions they
promptly assume a drooping and blighted air, for all the world like a
wild flower whose stalk has been severed by the scythe; some indeed
laugh outright in your face, as though appreciating an innocent joke on
your part. Litvinov, to his shame, even tried his luck at roulette,
even, oh ignominy! put a thaler on the number thirty, corresponding with
his own age. He did this with a view to augmenting and rounding off his
capital; and if he did not augment it, he certainly did round off his
capital by losing the odd twenty-eight guldens. There was a second
question, also not an unimportant one; that was the passport. But for a
woman a passport is not quite so obligatory, and there are countries
where it is not required at all, Belgium, for instance, and England;
besides, one might even get some other passport, not Russian. Litvinov
pondered very seriously on all this; his decision was firm, absolutely
unwavering, and yet all the time against his will, overriding his will,
something not serious, almost humorous came in, filtered through his
musings, as though the very enterprise were a comic business, and no one
ever did elope with any one in reality, but only in plays and novels,
and perhaps somewhere in the provinces, in some of those remote
districts, where, according to the statements of travellers, people are
literally sick continually from _ennui_. At that point Litvinov recalled
how an acquaintance of his, a retired cornet, Batsov, had eloped with a
merchant’s daughter in a staging sledge with bells and three horses,
having as a preliminary measure made the parents drunk, and adopted the
same precaution as well with the bride, and how, as it afterwards turned
out, he was outwitted and within an ace of a thrashing into the bargain.
Litvinov felt exceedingly irritated with himself for such inappropriate
reminiscences, and then with the recollection of Tatyana, her sudden
departure, all that grief and suffering and shame, he felt only too
acutely that the affair he was arranging was deadly earnest, and how
right he had been when he had told Irina that his honour even left no
other course open.... And again at the mere name something of flame
turned with sweet ache about his heart and died away again.

The tramp of horses’ hoofs sounded behind him.... He moved aside....
Irina overtook him on horseback; beside her rode the stout general. She
recognised Litvinov, nodded to him, and lashing her horse with a
sidestroke of her whip, she put him into a gallop, and suddenly dashed
away at headlong speed. Her dark veil fluttered in the wind....

‘_Pas si vite! Nom de Dieu! pas si vite!_’ cried the general, and he too
galloped after her.



XXV


The next morning Litvinov had only just come home from seeing the
banker, with whom he had had another conversation on the playful
instability of our exchange, and the best means of sending money abroad,
when the hotel porter handed him a letter. He recognised Irina’s
handwriting, and without breaking the seal--a presentiment of evil,
Heaven knows why, was astir in him--he went into his room. This was what
he read (the letter was in French):

‘My dear one, I have been thinking all night of your plan.... I am not
going to shuffle with you. You have been open with me, and I will be
open with you; I _cannot_ run away with you, I _have not the strength_
to do it. I feel how I am wronging you; my second sin is greater than
the first, I despise myself, my cowardice, I cover myself with
reproaches, but I cannot change myself. In vain I tell myself that I
have destroyed your happiness, that you have the right now to regard me
as a frivolous flirt, that I myself drew you on, that I have given you
solemn promises.... I am full of horror, of hatred for myself, but I
can’t do otherwise, I can’t, I can’t. I don’t want to justify myself, I
won’t tell you I was carried away myself ... all that’s of no
importance; but I want to tell you, and to say it again and yet again, I
am yours, yours for ever, do with me as you will when you will, free
from all obligation, from all responsibility! I am yours.... But run
away, throw up everything ... no! no! no! I besought you to save me, I
hoped to wipe out everything, to burn up the past as in a fire ... but I
see there is no salvation for me; I see the poison has gone too deeply
into me; I see one cannot breathe this atmosphere for years with
impunity. I have long hesitated whether to write you this letter, I
dread to think what decision you may come to, I trust only to your love
for me. But I felt it would be dishonest on my part to hide the truth
from you--especially as perhaps you have already begun to take the first
steps for carrying out our project. Ah! it was lovely but impracticable.
O my dear one, think me a weak, worthless woman, despise, but don’t
abandon me, don’t abandon your Irina!... To leave this life I have not
the courage, but live it without you I cannot either. We soon go back
to Petersburg, come there, live there, we will find occupation for you,
your labours in the past shall not be thrown away, you shall find good
use for them ... only live near me, only love me; such as I am, with all
my weaknesses and my vices, and believe me, no heart will ever be so
tenderly devoted to you as the heart of your Irina. Come soon to me, I
shall not have an instant’s peace until I see you.--Yours, yours, yours,
I.’

The blood beat like a sledge-hammer in Litvinov’s head, then slowly and
painfully sank to his heart, and was chill as a stone in it. He read
through Irina’s letter, and just as on that day at Moscow he fell in
exhaustion on the sofa, and stayed there motionless. A dark abyss seemed
suddenly to have opened on all sides of him, and he stared into this
darkness in senseless despair. And so again, again deceit, no, worse
than deceit, lying and baseness.... And life shattered, everything torn
up by its roots utterly, and the sole thing which he could cling to--the
last prop in fragments too! ‘Come after us to Petersburg,’ he repeated
with a bitter inward laugh, ‘we will find you occupation.... Find me a
place as a head clerk, eh? and who are _we_? Here there’s a hint of her
past. Here we have the secret, hideous something I know nothing of, but
which she has been trying to wipe out, to burn as in a fire. Here we
have that world of intrigues, of secret relations, of shameful stories
of Byelskys and Dolskys.... And what a future, what a lovely part
awaiting me! To live close to her, visit her, share with her the morbid
melancholy of the lady of fashion who is sick and weary of the world,
but can’t live outside its circle, be the friend of the house of course,
of his Excellency ... until ... until the whim changes and the plebeian
lover loses his piquancy, and is replaced by that fat general or Mr.
Finikov--that’s possible and pleasant, and I dare say useful.... She
talks of a good use for my talents?... but the other project’s
impracticable, impracticable....’ In Litvinov’s soul rose, like sudden
gusts of wind before a storm, momentary impulses of fury.... Every
expression in Irina’s letter roused his indignation, her very assertions
of her unchanging feelings affronted him. ‘She can’t let it go like
that,’ he cried at last, ‘I won’t allow her to play with my life so
mercilessly.’

Litvinov jumped up, snatched his hat. But what was he to do? Run to her?
Answer her letter? He stopped short, and his hands fell.

‘Yes; what was to be done?’

Had he not himself put this fatal choice to her? It had not turned out
as he had wished ... there was that risk about every choice. She had
changed her mind, it was true; she herself had declared at first that
she would throw up everything and follow him; that was true too; but she
did not deny her guilt, she called herself a weak woman; she did not
want to deceive him, she had been deceived in herself.... What answer
could be made to that? At any rate she was not hypocritical, she was not
deceiving him ... she was open, remorselessly open. There was nothing
forced her to speak out, nothing to prevent her from soothing him with
promises, putting things off, and keeping it all in uncertainty till her
departure ... till her departure with her husband for Italy? But she had
ruined his life, ruined two lives.... What of that?

But as regards Tatyana, she was not guilty; the guilt was his, his,
Litvinov’s alone, and he had no right to shake off the responsibility
his own sin had laid with iron yoke upon him.... All this was so; but
what was left him to do now?

Again he flung himself on the sofa and again in gloom, darkly, dimly,
without trace, with devouring swiftness, the minutes raced past....

‘And why not obey her?’ flashed through his brain. ‘She loves me, she is
mine, and in our very yearning towards each other, in this passion,
which after so many years has burst upon us, and forced its way out with
such violence, is there not something inevitable, irresistible, like a
law of nature? Live in Petersburg ... and shall I be the first to be put
in such a position? And how could we be in safety together?...’

And he fell to musing, and Irina’s shape, in the guise in which it was
imprinted for ever in his late memories, softly rose before him.... But
not for long.... He mastered himself, and with a fresh outburst of
indignation drove away from him both those memories and that seductive
image.

‘You give me to drink from that golden cup,’ he cried, ‘but there is
poison in the draught, and your white wings are besmirched with mire....
Away! Remain here with you after the way I ... I drove away my betrothed
... a deed of infamy, of infamy!’ He wrung his hands with anguish, and
another face with the stamp of suffering on its still features, with
dumb reproach in its farewell eyes, rose from the depths....

And for a long time Litvinov was in this agony still; for a long time,
his tortured thought, like a man fever-stricken, tossed from side to
side.... He grew calm at last; at last he came to a decision. From the
very first instant he had a presentiment of this decision; ... it had
appeared to him at first like a distant, hardly perceptible point in the
midst of the darkness and turmoil of his inward conflict; then it had
begun to move nearer and nearer, till it ended by cutting with icy edge
into his heart.

Litvinov once more dragged his box out of the corner, once more he
packed all his things, without haste, even with a kind of stupid
carefulness, rang for the waiter, paid his bill, and despatched to Irina
a note in Russian to the following purport:

‘I don’t know whether you are doing me a greater wrong now than then;
but I know this present blow is infinitely heavier.... It is the end.
You tell me, “I cannot”; and I repeat to you, “I cannot ...” do what you
want. I cannot and I don’t want to. Don’t answer me. You are not capable
of giving me the only answer I would accept. I am going away to-morrow
early by the first train. Good-bye, may you be happy! We shall in all
probability not see each other again.’

Till night-time Litvinov did not leave his room; God knows whether he
was expecting anything. About seven o’clock in the evening a lady in a
black mantle with a veil on her face twice approached the steps of his
hotel. Moving a little aside and gazing far away into the distance, she
suddenly made a resolute gesture with her hand, and for the third time
went towards the steps....

‘Where are you going, Irina Pavlovna?’ she heard a voice utter with
effort behind her.

She turned with nervous swiftness.... Potugin ran up to her.

She stopped short, thought a moment, and fairly flung herself towards
him, took his arm, and drew him away.

‘Take me away, take me away,’ she repeated breathlessly.

‘What is it, Irina Pavlovna?’ he muttered in bewilderment.

‘Take me away,’ she reiterated with redoubled force, ‘if you don’t want
me to remain for ever ... there.’

Potugin bent his head submissively, and hurriedly they went away
together.

The following morning early Litvinov was perfectly ready for his
journey--into his room walked ... Potugin.

He went up to him in silence, and in silence shook his hand. Litvinov,
too, said nothing. Both of them wore long faces, and both vainly tried
to smile.

‘I came to wish you a good journey,’ Potugin brought out at last.

‘And how did you know I was going to-day?’ asked Litvinov.

Potugin looked on the floor around him.... ‘I became aware of it ... as
you see. Our last conversation took in the end such a strange turn.... I
did not want to part from you without expressing my sincere good feeling
for you.’

‘You have good feeling for me now ... when I am going away?’

Potugin looked mournfully at Litvinov. ‘Ah, Grigory Mihalitch, Grigory
Mihalitch,’ he began with a short sigh, ‘it’s no time for that with us
now, no time for delicacy or fencing. You don’t, so far as I have been
able to perceive, take much interest in our national literature, and so,
perhaps, you have no clear conception of Vaska Buslaev?’

‘Of whom?’

‘Of Vaska Buslaev, the hero of Novgorod ... in Kirsch-Danilov’s
collection.’

‘What Buslaev?’ said Litvinov, somewhat puzzled by the unexpected turn
of the conversation. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Well, never mind. I only wanted to draw your attention to something.
Vaska Buslaev, after he had taken away his Novgorodians on a pilgrimage
to Jerusalem, and there, to their horror, bathed all naked in the holy
river Jordan, for he believed not “in omen nor in dream, nor in the
flight of birds,” this logical Vaska Buslaev climbed up Mount Tabor, and
on the top of this mountain there lies a great stone, over which men of
every kind have tried in vain to jump.... Vaska too ventured to try his
luck. And he chanced upon a dead head, a human skull in his road; he
kicked it away with his foot. So the skull said to him; “Why do you kick
me? I knew how to live, and I know how to roll in the dust--and it will
be the same with you.” And in fact, Vaska jumps over the stone, and he
did quite clear it, but he caught his heel and broke his skull. And in
this place, I must by the way observe that it wouldn’t be amiss for our
friends, the Slavophils, who are so fond of kicking dead heads and
decaying nationalities underfoot to ponder over that legend.’

‘But what does all that mean?’ Litvinov interposed impatiently at last.
‘Excuse me, it’s time for me....’

‘Why, this,’ answered Potugin, and his eyes beamed with such
affectionate warmth as Litvinov had not even expected of him, ‘this,
that you do not spurn a dead human head, and for your goodness, perhaps
you may succeed in leaping over the fatal stone. I won’t keep you any
longer, only let me embrace you at parting.’

‘I’m not going to try to leap over it even,’ Litvinov declared, kissing
Potugin three times, and the bitter sensations filling his soul were
replaced for an instant by pity for the poor lonely creature.

‘But I must go, I must go ...’ he moved about the room.

‘Can I carry anything for you?’ Potugin proffered his services.

‘No, thank you, don’t trouble, I can manage....’

He put on his cap, took up his bag. ‘So you say,’ he queried, stopping
in the doorway, ‘you have seen her?’

‘Yes, I’ve seen her.’

‘Well ... tell me about her.’

Potugin was silent a moment. ‘She expected you yesterday ... and to-day
she will expect you.’

‘Ah! Well, tell her.... No, there’s no need, no need of anything.
Good-bye.... Good-bye!’

‘Good-bye, Grigory Mihalitch.... Let me say one word more to you. You
still have time to listen to me; there’s more than half an hour before
the train starts. You are returning to Russia.... There you will ... in
time ... get to work.... Allow an old chatterbox--for, alas, I am a
chatterbox, and nothing more--to give you advice for your journey. Every
time it is your lot to undertake any piece of work, ask yourself: Are
you serving the cause of civilisation, in the true and strict sense of
the word; are you promoting one of the ideals of civilisation; have your
labours that educating, Europeanising character which alone is
beneficial and profitable in our day among us? If it is so, go boldly
forward, you are on the right path, and your work is a blessing! Thank
God for it! You are not alone now. You will not be a “sower in the
desert”; there are plenty of workers ... pioneers ... even among us
now.... But you have no ears for this now. Good-bye, don’t forget me!’

Litvinov descended the staircase at a run, flung himself into a
carriage, and drove to the station, not once looking round at the town
where so much of his personal life was left behind. He abandoned
himself, as it were, to the tide; it snatched him up and bore him along,
and he firmly resolved not to struggle against it ... all other exercise
of independent will he renounced.

He was just taking his seat in the railway carriage.

‘Grigory Mihalitch ... Grigory....’ he heard a supplicating whisper
behind him.

He started.... Could it be Irina? Yes; it was she. Wrapped in her maid’s
shawl, a travelling hat on her dishevelled hair, she was standing on the
platform, and gazing at him with worn and weary eyes.

‘Come back, come back, I have come for you,’ those eyes were saying. And
what, what were they not promising? She did not move, she had not power
to add a word; everything about her, even the disorder of her dress,
everything seemed entreating forgiveness....

Litvinov was almost beaten, scarcely could he keep from rushing to
her.... But the tide to which he had surrendered himself reasserted
itself.... He jumped into the carriage, and turning round, he motioned
Irina to a place beside him. She understood him. There was still time.
One step, one movement, and two lives made one for ever would have been
hurried away into the uncertain distance.... While she wavered, a loud
whistle sounded and the train moved off.

Litvinov sank back, while Irina moved staggering to a seat, and fell on
it, to the immense astonishment of a supernumerary diplomatic official
who chanced to be lounging about the railway station. He was slightly
acquainted with Irina, and greatly admired her, and seeing that she lay
as though overcome by faintness, he imagined that she had ‘_une attaque
de nerfs_,’ and therefore deemed it his duty, the duty _d’un galant
chevalier_, to go to her assistance. But his astonishment assumed far
greater proportions when, at the first word addressed to her, she
suddenly got up, repulsed his proffered arm, and hurrying out into the
street, had in a few instants vanished in the milky vapour of fog, so
characteristic of the climate of the Black Forest in the early days of
autumn.



XXVI


We happened once to go into the hut of a peasant-woman who had just lost
her only, passionately loved son, and to our considerable astonishment
we found her perfectly calm, almost cheerful. ‘Let her be,’ said her
husband, to whom probably our astonishment was apparent, ‘she is gone
numb now.’ And Litvinov had in the same way ‘gone numb.’ The same sort
of calm came over him during the first few hours of the journey. Utterly
crushed, hopelessly wretched as he was, still he was at rest, at rest
after the agonies and sufferings of the last few weeks, after all the
blows which had fallen one after another upon his head. They had been
the more shattering for him that he was little fitted by nature for such
tempests. Now he really hoped for nothing, and tried not to remember,
above all not to remember. He was going to Russia ... he had to go
somewhere; but he was making no kind of plans regarding his own
personality. He did not recognise himself, he did not comprehend his
own actions, he had positively lost his real identity, and, in fact, he
took very little interest in his own identity. Sometimes it seemed to
him that he was taking his own corpse home, and only the bitter spasms
of irremediable spiritual pain passing over him from time to time
brought him back to a sense of still being alive. At times it struck him
as incomprehensible that a man--a man!--could let a woman, let love,
have such power over him ... ‘Ignominious weakness!’ he muttered, and
shook back his cloak, and sat up more squarely; as though to say, the
past is over, let’s begin fresh ... a moment, and he could only smile
bitterly and wonder at himself. He fell to looking out of the window. It
was grey and damp; there was no rain, but the fog still hung about; and
low clouds trailed across the sky. The wind blew facing the train;
whitish clouds of steam, some singly, others mingled with other darker
clouds of smoke, whirled in endless file past the window at which
Litvinov was sitting. He began to watch this steam, this smoke.
Incessantly mounting, rising and falling, twisting and hooking on to the
grass, to the bushes as though in sportive antics, lengthening out, and
hiding away, clouds upon clouds flew by ... they were for ever changing
and stayed still the same in their monotonous, hurrying, wearisome
sport! Sometimes the wind changed, the line bent to right or left, and
suddenly the whole mass vanished, and at once reappeared at the opposite
window; then again the huge tail was flung out, and again it veiled
Litvinov’s view of the vast plain of the Rhine. He gazed and gazed, and
a strange reverie came over him.... He was alone in the compartment;
there was no one to disturb him. ‘Smoke, smoke,’ he repeated several
times; and suddenly it all seemed as smoke to him, everything, his own
life, Russian life--everything human, especially everything Russian. All
smoke and steam, he thought; all seems for ever changing, on all sides
new forms, phantoms flying after phantoms, while in reality it is all
the same and the same again; everything hurrying, flying towards
something, and everything vanishing without a trace, attaining to
nothing; another wind blows, and all is dashing in the opposite
direction, and there again the same untiring, restless--and useless
gambols! He remembered much that had taken place with clamour and
flourish before his eyes in the last few years ... ‘Smoke,’ he
whispered, ‘smoke’; he remembered the hot disputes, the wrangling, the
clamour at Gubaryov’s, and in other sets of men, of high and low
degree, advanced and reactionist, old and young ... ‘Smoke,’ he
repeated, ‘smoke and steam’; he remembered, too, the fashionable picnic,
and he remembered various opinions and speeches of other political
personages--even all Potugin’s sermonising ... ‘Smoke, smoke, nothing
but smoke.’ And what of his own struggles and passions and agonies and
dreams? He could only reply with a gesture of despair.

And meanwhile the train dashed on and on; by now Rastadt, Carlsruhe, and
Bruchsal had long been left far behind; the mountains on the right side
of the line swerved aside, retreated into the distance, then moved up
again, but not so high, and more thinly covered with trees.... The train
made a sharp turn ... and there was Heidelberg. The carriage rolled in
under the cover of the station; there was the shouting of
newspaper-boys, selling papers of all sorts, even Russian; passengers
began bustling in their seats, getting out on to the platform, but
Litvinov did not leave his corner, and still sat on with downcast head.
Suddenly some one called him by name; he raised his eyes; Bindasov’s
ugly phiz was thrust in at the window; and behind him--or was he
dreaming, no, it was really so--all the familiar Baden faces; there was
Madame Suhantchikov, there was Voroshilov, and Bambaev too; they all
rushed up to him, while Bindasov bellowed:

‘But where’s Pishtchalkin? We were expecting him; but it’s all the same,
hop out, and we’ll be off to Gubaryov’s.’

‘Yes, my boy, yes, Gubaryov’s expecting us,’ Bambaev confirmed, making
way for him, ‘hop out.’

Litvinov would have flown into a rage, but for a dead load lying on his
heart. He glanced at Bindasov and turned away without speaking.

‘I tell you Gubaryov’s here,’ shrieked Madame Suhantchikov, her eyes
fairly starting out of her head.

Litvinov did not stir a muscle.

‘Come, do listen, Litvinov,’ Bambaev began at last, ‘there’s not only
Gubaryov here, there’s a whole phalanx here of the most splendid, most
intellectual young fellows, Russians--and all studying the natural
sciences, all of the noblest convictions! Really you must stop here, if
it’s only for them. Here, for instance, there’s a certain ... there,
I’ve forgotten his surname, but he’s a genius! simply!’

‘Oh, let him be, let him be, Rostislav Ardalionovitch,’ interposed
Madame Suhantchikov, ‘let him be! You see what sort of a fellow he is;
and all his family are the same. He has an aunt; at first she struck me
as a sensible woman, but the day before yesterday I went to see her
here--she had only just before gone to Baden and was back here again
before you could look round--well, I went to see her; began questioning
her.... Would you believe me, I couldn’t get a word out of the stuck-up
thing. Horrid aristocrat!’

Poor Kapitolina Markovna an aristocrat! Could she ever have anticipated
such a humiliation?

But Litvinov still held his peace, turned away, and pulled his cap over
his eyes. The train started at last.

‘Well, say something at parting at least, you stonyhearted man!’ shouted
Bambaev, ‘this is really too much!’

‘Rotten milksop!’ yelled Bindasov. The carriages were moving more and
more rapidly, and he could vent his abuse with impunity. ‘Niggardly
stick-in-the-mud.’

Whether Bindasov invented this last appellation on the spot, or whether
it had come to him second-hand, it apparently gave great satisfaction to
two of the noble young fellows studying natural science, who happened to
be standing by, for only a few days later it appeared in the Russian
periodical sheet, published at that time at Heidelberg under the title:
_A tout venant je crache!_[2] or, ‘We don’t care a hang for anybody!’

  Footnote 2: A historical fact.

But Litvinov repeated again, ‘Smoke, smoke, smoke! Here,’ he thought,
‘in Heidelberg now are over a hundred Russian students; they’re all
studying chemistry, physics, physiology--they won’t even hear of
anything else ... but in five or six years’ time there won’t be fifteen
at the lectures by the same celebrated professors; the wind will change,
the smoke will be blowing ... in another quarter ... smoke ...
smoke...!’[3]

  Footnote 3: Litvinov’s presentiments came true. In 1866 there were
  in Heidelberg thirteen Russian students entered for the summer, and
  twelve for the winter session.

[Illustration: _Heidelberg._]

Towards nightfall he passed by Cassel. With the darkness intolerable
anguish pounced like a hawk upon him, and he wept, burying himself in
the corner of the carriage. For a long time his tears flowed, not easing
his heart, but torturing him with a sort of gnawing bitterness; while at
the same time, in one of the hotels of Cassel, Tatyana was lying in bed
feverishly ill.

Kapitolina Markovna was sitting beside her. ‘Tanya,’ she was saying,
‘for God’s sake, let me send a telegram to Grigory Mihalitch, do let
me, Tanya!’

‘No, aunt,’ she answered; ‘you mustn’t; don’t be frightened, give me
some water; it will soon pass.’

And a week later she did, in fact, recover, and the two friends
continued their journey.



XXVII


Stopping neither at Petersburg nor at Moscow, Litvinov went back to his
estate. He was dismayed when he saw his father; the latter was so weak
and failing. The old man rejoiced to have his son, as far as a man can
rejoice who is just at the close of life; he at once gave over to him
the management of everything, which was in great disorder, and lingering
on a few weeks longer, he departed from this earthly sphere. Litvinov
was left alone in his ancient little manor-house, and with a heavy
heart, without hope, without zeal, and without money, he began to work
the land. Working the land is a cheerless business, as many know too
well; we will not enlarge on how distasteful it seemed to Litvinov. As
for reforms and innovations, there was, of course, no question even of
them; the practical application of the information he had gathered
abroad was put off for an indefinite period; poverty forced him to make
shift from day to day, to consent to all sorts of compromises--both
material and moral. The new had ‘begun ill,’ the old had lost all power;
ignorance jostled up against dishonesty; the whole agrarian organisation
was shaken and unstable as quagmire bog, and only one great word,
‘freedom,’ was wafted like the breath of God over the waters. Patience
was needed before all things, and a patience not passive, but active,
persistent, not without tact and cunning at times.... For Litvinov, in
his frame of mind, it was doubly hard. He had but little will to live
left in him.... Where was he to get the will to labour and take trouble?

But a year passed, after it another passed, the third was beginning. The
mighty idea was being realised by degrees, was passing into flesh and
blood, the young shoot had sprung up from the scattered seed, and its
foes, both open and secret, could not stamp it out now. Litvinov
himself, though he had ended by giving up the greater part of his land
to the peasants on the half-profit system, that’s to say, by returning
to the wretched primitive methods, had yet succeeded in doing something;
he had restored the factory, set up a tiny farm with five free hired
labourers--he had had at different times fully forty--and had paid his
principal private debts.... And his spirit had gained strength; he had
begun to be like the old Litvinov again. It’s true, a deeply buried
melancholy never left him, and he was too quiet for his years; he shut
himself up in a narrow circle and broke off all his old connections ...
but the deadly indifference had passed, and among the living he moved
and acted as a living man again. The last traces, too, had vanished of
the enchantment in which he had been held; all that had passed at Baden
appeared to him dimly as in a dream.... And Irina? even she had paled
and vanished too, and Litvinov only had a faint sense of something
dangerous behind the mist that gradually enfolded her image. Of Tatyana
news reached him from time to time; he knew that she was living with her
aunt on her estate, a hundred and sixty miles from him, leading a quiet
life, going out little, and scarcely receiving any guests--cheerful and
well, however. It happened on one fine May day, that he was sitting in
his study, listlessly turning over the last number of a Petersburg
paper; a servant came to announce the arrival of an old uncle. This
uncle happened to be a cousin of Kapitolina Markovna and had been
recently staying with her. He had bought an estate in Litvinov’s
vicinity and was on his way thither. He stayed twenty-four hours with
his nephew and told him a great deal about Tatyana’s manner of life. The
next day after his departure Litvinov sent her a letter, the first
since their separation. He begged for permission to renew her
acquaintance, at least by correspondence, and also desired to learn
whether he must for ever give up all idea of some day seeing her again?
Not without emotion he awaited the answer ... the answer came at last.
Tatyana responded cordially to his overture. ‘If you are disposed to pay
us a visit,’ she finished up, ‘we hope you will come; you know the
saying, “even the sick are easier together than apart.”’ Kapitolina
Markovna joined in sending her regards. Litvinov was as happy as a
child; it was long since his heart had beaten with such delight over
anything. He felt suddenly light and bright.... Just as when the sun
rises and drives away the darkness of night, a light breeze flutters
with the sun’s rays over the face of the reviving earth. All that day
Litvinov kept smiling, even while he went about his farm and gave his
orders. He at once began making arrangements for the journey, and a
fortnight later he was on his way to Tatyana.



XXVIII


He drove rather slowly by cross tracks, without any special adventures;
only once the tire of a hind wheel broke; a blacksmith hammered and
welded it, swearing both at the tire and at himself, and positively
flung up the job; luckily it turned out that among us one can travel
capitally even with a tire broken, especially on the ‘soft,’ that’s to
say on the mud. On the other hand, Litvinov did come upon some rather
curious chance-meetings. At one place he found a Board of Mediators
sitting, and at the head of it Pishtchalkin, who made on him the
impression of a Solon or a Solomon, such lofty wisdom characterised his
remarks, and such boundless respect was shown him both by landowners and
peasants.... In exterior, too, he had begun to resemble a sage of
antiquity; his hair had fallen off the crown of his head, and his full
face had completely set in a sort of solemn jelly of positively blatant
virtue. He expressed his pleasure at Litvinov’s arrival in--‘if I may
make bold to use so ambitious an expression, my own district,’ and
altogether seemed fairly overcome by an excess of excellent intentions.
One piece of news he did, however, succeed in communicating, and that
was about Voroshilov; the hero of the Golden Board had re-entered
military service, and had already had time to deliver a lecture to the
officers of his regiment on Buddhism or Dynamism, or something of the
sort--Pishtchalkin could not quite remember. At the next station it was
a long while before the horses were in readiness for Litvinov; it was
early dawn, and he was dozing as he sat in his coach. A voice, that
struck him as familiar, waked him up; he opened his eyes.... Heavens!
wasn’t it Gubaryov in a grey pea-jacket and full flapping pyjamas
standing on the steps of the posting hut, swearing?... No, it wasn’t Mr.
Gubaryov.... But what a striking resemblance!... Only this worthy had a
mouth even wider, teeth even bigger, the expression of his dull eyes was
more savage and his nose coarser, and his beard thicker, and the whole
countenance heavier and more repulsive.

‘Scou-oundrels, scou-oundrels!’ he vociferated slowly and viciously, his
wolfish mouth gaping wide. ‘Filthy louts.... Here you have ... vaunted
freedom indeed ... and can’t get horses ... scou-oundrels!’

‘Scou-oundrels, scou-oundrels!’ thereupon came the sound of another
voice from within, and at the same moment there appeared on the
steps--also in a grey smoking pea-jacket and pyjamas--actually,
unmistakably, the real Gubaryov himself, Stepan Nikolaevitch Gubaryov.
‘Filthy louts!’ he went on in imitation of his brother (it turned out
that the first gentleman was his elder brother, the man of the old
school, famous for his fists, who had managed his estate). ‘Flogging’s
what they want, that’s it; a tap or two on the snout, that’s the sort of
freedom for them.... Self-government indeed.... I’d let them know it....
But where is that M’sieu Roston?... What is he thinking about?... It’s
his business, the lazy scamp ... to see we’re not put to inconvenience.’

‘Well, I told you, brother,’ began the elder Gubaryov, ‘that he was a
lazy scamp, no good in fact! But there, for the sake of old times, you
... M’sieu Roston, M’sieu Roston!... Where have you got to?’

‘Roston! Roston!’ bawled the younger, the great Gubaryov. ‘Give a good
call for him, do brother Dorimedont Nikolaitch!’

‘Well, I am shouting for him, Stepan Nikolaitch! M’sieu Roston!’

‘Here I am, here I am, here I am!’ was heard a hurried voice, and round
the corner of the hut skipped Bambaev.

Litvinov fairly gasped. On the unlucky enthusiast a shabby braided coat,
with holes in the elbows, dangled ruefully; his features had not exactly
changed, but they looked pinched and drawn together; his over-anxious
little eyes expressed a cringing timorousness and hungry servility; but
his dyed whiskers stood out as of old above his swollen lips. The
Gubaryov brothers with one accord promptly set to scolding him from the
top of the steps; he stopped, facing them below, in the mud, and with
his spine curved deprecatingly, he tried to propitiate them with a
little nervous smile, kneading his cap in his red fingers, shifting from
one foot to the other, and muttering that the horses would be here
directly.... But the brothers did not cease, till the younger at last
cast his eyes upon Litvinov. Whether he recognised Litvinov, or whether
he felt ashamed before a stranger, anyway he turned abruptly on his
heels like a bear, and gnawing his beard, went into the station hut; his
brother held his tongue at once, and he too, turning like a bear,
followed him in. The great Gubaryov, evidently, had not lost his
influence even in his own country.

Bambaev was slowly moving after the brothers.... Litvinov called him by
his name. He looked round, lifted up his head, and recognising Litvinov,
positively flew at him with outstretched arms; but when he had run up to
the carriage, he clutched at the carriage door, leaned over it, and
began sobbing violently.

‘There, there, Bambaev,’ protested Litvinov, bending over him and
patting him on the shoulder.

But he went on sobbing. ‘You see ... you see ... to what....’ he
muttered brokenly.

‘Bambaev!’ thundered the brothers from the hut.

Bambaev raised his head and hurriedly wiped his tears.

‘Welcome, dear heart,’ he whispered, ‘welcome and farewell!... You hear,
they are calling me.’

‘But what chance brought you here?’ inquired Litvinov, ‘and what does it
all mean? I thought they were calling a Frenchman....’

‘I am their ... house-steward, butler,’ answered Bambaev, and he pointed
in the direction of the hut. ‘And I’m turned Frenchman for a joke. What
could I do, brother? You see, I’d nothing to eat, I’d lost my last
farthing, and so one’s forced to put one’s head under the yoke. One
can’t afford to be proud.’

‘But has he been long in Russia? and how did he part from his comrades?’

‘Ah, my boy, that’s all on the shelf now.... The wind’s changed, you
see.... Madame Suhantchikov, Matrona Semyonovna, he simply kicked out.
She went to Portugal in her grief.’

‘To Portugal? How absurd!’

‘Yes, brother, to Portugal, with two Matronovtsys.’

‘With whom?’

‘The Matronovtsys; that’s what the members of her party are called.’

‘Matrona Semyonovna has a party of her own? And is it a numerous one?’

‘Well, it consists of precisely those two. And he will soon have been
back here six months. Others have got into difficulties, but he was all
right. He lives in the country with his brother, and you should just
hear him now....’

‘Bambaev!’

‘Coming, Stepan Nikolaitch, coming. And you, dear old chap, are
flourishing, enjoying yourself! Well, thank God for that! Where are you
off to now?... There, I never thought, I never guessed.... You remember
Baden? Ah, that was a place to live in! By the way, you remember
Bindasov too? Only fancy, he’s dead. He turned exciseman, and was in a
row in a public-house; he got his head broken with a billiard-cue. Yes,
yes, hard times have come now! But still I say, Russia ... ah, our
Russia! Only look at those two geese; why, in the whole of Europe
there’s nothing like them! The genuine Arzamass breed!’

And with this last tribute to his irrepressible desire for enthusiasm,
Bambaev ran off to the station hut, where again, seasoned with
opprobrious epithets, his name was shouted.

Towards the close of the same day, Litvinov was nearly reaching
Tatyana’s village. The little house where his former betrothed lived
stood on the slope of a hill, above a small river, in the midst of a
garden recently planted. The house, too, was new, lately built, and
could be seen a long way off across the river and the open country.
Litvinov caught sight of it more than a mile and a half off, with its
sharp gable, and its row of little windows, gleaming red in the evening
sun. At starting from the last station he was conscious of a secret
agitation; now he was in a tremor simply--a happy tremor, not unmixed
with dread. ‘How will they meet me?’ he thought, ‘how shall I present
myself?’... To turn off his thoughts with something, he began talking
with his driver, a steady peasant with a grey beard, who charged him,
however, for twenty-five miles, when the distance was not twenty. He
asked him, did he know the Shestov ladies?

‘The Shestov ladies? To be sure! Kind-hearted ladies, and no doubt about
it! They doctor us too. It’s the truth I’m telling you. Doctors they
are! People go to them from all about. Yes, indeed. They fairly crawl to
them. If any one, take an example, falls sick, or cuts himself or
anything, he goes straight to them and they’ll give him a lotion
directly, or powders, or a plaster, and it’ll be all right, it’ll do
good. But one can’t show one’s gratitude, we won’t consent to that, they
say; it’s not for money. They’ve set up a school too.... Not but what
that’s a foolish business!’

While the driver talked, Litvinov never took his eyes off the house....
Out came a woman in white on to the balcony, stood a little, stood and
then disappeared.... ‘Wasn’t it she?’ His heart was fairly bounding
within him. ‘Quicker, quicker!’ he shouted to the driver; the latter
urged on the horses. A few instants more ... and the carriage rolled in
through the opened gates.... And on the steps Kapitolina Markovna was
already standing, and beside herself with joy, was clapping her hands
crying, ‘I heard him, I knew him first! It’s he! it’s he!... I knew
him!’

Litvinov jumped out of the carriage, without giving the page who ran up
time to open the door, and hurriedly embracing Kapitolina Markovna,
dashed into the house, through the hall, into the dining-room.... Before
him, all shamefaced, stood Tatyana. She glanced at him with her kind
caressing eyes (she was a little thinner, but it suited her), and gave
him her hand. But he did not take her hand, he fell on his knees before
her. She had not at all expected this and did not know what to say, what
to do.... The tears started into her eyes. She was frightened, but her
whole face beamed with delight.... ‘Grigory Mihalitch, what is this,
Grigory Mihalitch?’ she said ... while he still kissed the hem of her
dress ... and with a thrill of tenderness he recalled that at Baden he
had been in the same way on his knees before her.... But then--and now!

‘Tanya!’ he repeated, ‘Tanya! you have forgiven me, Tanya!’

‘Aunt, aunt, what is this?’ cried Tatyana turning to Kapitolina Markovna
as she came in.

‘Don’t hinder him, Tanya,’ answered the kind old lady. ‘You see the
sinner has repented.’

       *       *       *       *       *

But it is time to make an end; and indeed there is nothing to add; the
reader can guess the rest by himself.... But what of Irina?

She is still as charming, in spite of her thirty years; young men out
of number fall in love with her, and would fall in love with her even
more, if ... if....

Reader, would you care to pass with us for a few instants to Petersburg
into one of the first houses there? Look; before you is a spacious
apartment, we will not say richly--that is too low an expression--but
grandly, imposingly, inspiringly decorated. Are you conscious of a
certain flutter of servility? Know that you have entered a temple, a
temple consecrated to the highest propriety, to the loftiest
philanthropy, in a word, to things unearthly.... A kind of mystic, truly
mystic, hush enfolds you. The velvet hangings on the doors, the velvet
curtains on the window, the bloated, spongy rug on the floor, everything
as it were destined and fitted beforehand for subduing, for softening
all coarse sounds and violent sensations. The carefully hung lamps
inspire well-regulated emotions; a discreet fragrance is diffused in the
close air; even the samovar on the table hisses in a restrained and
modest manner. The lady of the house, an important personage in the
Petersburg world, speaks hardly audibly; she always speaks as though
there were some one dangerously ill, almost dying in the room; the other
ladies, following her example, faintly whisper; while her sister,
pouring out tea, moves her lips so absolutely without sound that a
young man sitting before her, who has been thrown by chance into the
temple of decorum, is positively at a loss to know what she wants of
him, while she for the sixth time breathes to him, ‘_Voulez-vous une
tasse de thé?_’ In the corners are to be seen young, good-looking men;
their glances are brightly, gently ingratiating; unruffled gentleness,
tinged with obsequiousness, is apparent in their faces; a number of the
stars and crosses of distinction gleam softly on their breasts. The
conversation is always gentle; it turns on religious and patriotic
topics, the Mystic Drop, F. N. Glinka, the missions in the East, the
monasteries and brotherhoods in White Russia. At times, with muffled
tread over the soft carpets, move footmen in livery; their huge calves,
cased in tight silk stockings, shake noiselessly at every step; the
respectful motion of the solid muscles only augments the general
impression of decorum, of solemnity, of sanctity.

It is a temple, a temple!

‘Have you seen Madame Ratmirov to-day?’ one great lady queries softly.

‘I met her to-day at Lise’s,’ the hostess answers with her Æolian note.
‘I feel so sorry for her.... She has a satirical intellect ... _elle n’a
pas la foi_.’

‘Yes, yes,’ repeats the great lady ... ‘that I remember, Piotr Ivanitch
said about her, and very true it is, _qu’elle a ... qu’elle a_ an
ironical intellect.’

‘_Elle n’a pas la foi_,’ the hostess’s voice exhaled like the smoke of
incense,--‘_C’est une âme égarée._ She has an ironical mind.’

       *       *       *       *       *

And that is why the young men are not all without exception in love with
Irina.... They are afraid of her ... afraid of her ‘ironical intellect.’
That is the current phrase about her; in it, as in every phrase, there
is a grain of truth. And not only the young men are afraid of her; she
is feared by grown men too, and by men in high places, and even by the
grandest personages. No one can so truly and artfully scent out the
ridiculous or petty side of a character, no one else has the gift of
stamping it mercilessly with the never-forgotten word.... And the sting
of that word is all the sharper that it comes from lovely, sweetly
fragrant lips.... It’s hard to say what passes in that soul; but in the
crowd of her adorers rumour does not recognise in any one the position
of a favoured suitor.

Irina’s husband is moving rapidly along the path which among the French
is called the path of distinction. The stout general has shot past him;
the condescending one is left behind. And in the same town in which
Irina lives, lives also our friend Sozont Potugin; he rarely sees her,
and she has no special necessity to keep up any connection with him....
The little girl who was committed to his care died not long ago.


THE END

Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty, at the
Edinburgh University Press


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Note:

Punctuation has been standardised and obvious typographical errors have
been silently corrected. Variations in hyphenation, and obsolete or
variant spelling have all been preserved.

The following changes have also been made:

Page 17, eat => ate: (ate and drank).

Page 28, Yakovlevna => Yakovlovna: (Praskovya Yakovlovna told me).

Page 84, Devonshirse => Devonshire: (Countess Devonshire).





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Smoke" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home