IT was a quiet summer morning. The sun stood already pretty high in the clear sky but the fields were still sparkling with dew; a fresh breeze blew fragrantly from the scarce awakened valleys and in the forest, still damp and hushed, the birds were merrily carolling their morning song. On the ridge of a swelling upland, which was covered from base to summit with blossoming rye, a little village was to be seen. Along a narrow by-road to this little village a young woman was walking in a white muslin gown, and a round straw hat, with a parasol in her hand. A page boy followed her some distance behind.
She moved without haste and as though she were enjoying the walk. The high nodding rye all round her moved in long softly rustling waves, taking here a shade of silvery green and there a ripple of red; the larks were trilling
overhead. The young woman had come from her own
, which was not more than a mile from the village to which she was turning her steps. Her name was Alexandra Pavlovna Lipin. She was a widow, childless, and fairly well off, and lived with her brother, a retired cavalry officer, Sergei Pavlitch Volintsev. He was unmarried and looked after her property.
Alexandra Pavlovna reached the village and, stopping at the last hut, a very old and low one, she called up the boy and told him to go in and ask after the health of its mistress. He quickly came back accompanied by a decrepit old peasant with a white beard.
Well, how is she?
asked Alexandra Pavlovna.
Well, she is still alive,
began the old man.
Can I go in?
Of course; yes.
Alexandra Pavlovna went into the hut. It was narrow, stifling, and smoky inside. Some one stirred and began to moan on the stove which formed the bed. Alexandra Pavlovna looked round and discerned in the half darkness the yellow wrinkled face of the old woman
tied up in a checked handkerchief. Covered to the very throat with a heavy overcoat she was breathing with difficulty, and her wasted hands were twitching.
Alexandra Pavlovna went close up to the old woman and laid her fingers on her forehead; it was burning hot.
How do you feel, Matrona?
she inquired, bending over the bed.
groaned the old woman, who had recognised Alexandra,
bad, very bad, my dear! My last hour has come, my darling!
God is merciful, Matrona; perhaps you will be better soon. Did you take the medicine I sent you?
The old woman groaned painfully, and did not answer. She had hardly heard the question.
She has taken it,
said the old man who was standing at the door.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned to him.
Is there no one with her but you ?
There is the girl -- her granddaughter, but she always keeps away. She won't sit with her; she's such a gad-about. To give the old
woman a drink of water is too much trouble for her. And I am old; what use can I be?
Shouldn't she be taken to me -- to the hospital?
No. Why take her to the hospital? She would die just the same. She has lived her life; it's God's will now seemingly. She will never get up again. How could she go to the hospital? If they tried to lift her up, she would die.
moaned the sick woman,
my pretty lady, don't abandon my little orphan; our master is far away, but you --
She could say no more, she had spent all her strength saying so much.
Do not worry yourself,
replied Alexandra Pavlovna,
everything shall be done. Here is some tea and sugar I have brought you. If you can fancy it you must drink some. Have you a samovar, I wonder?
she added, looking at the old man.
A samovar? We haven't a samovar, but we could get one.
Then get one, or I will send you one. And tell your granddaughter not to leave her like this. Tell her it's shameful.
The old man made no answer but took the parcel of tea and sugar with both hands.
Well, good-bye, Matrona!
said Alexandra Pavlovna,
I will come and see you again; and you must not lose heart but take your medicine regularly.
The old woman raised her head and drew herself a little towards Alexandra Pavlovna.
Give me your little hand, dear lady,
Alexandra Pavlovna did not give her hand; she bent over her and kissed her on the forehead.
Take care, now,
she said to the old man as she went out,
and give her the medicine without fail, as it is written down, and give her some tea to drink.
Again the old man made no reply, but only bowed.
Alexandra Pavlovna breathed more freely when she came out into the fresh air. She put up her parasol and was about to start homewards, when suddenly there appeared round the corner of a little hut a man about thirty, driving a low racing droshky and wearing an old overcoat of grey linen, and a foraging cap
of the same. Catching sight of Alexandra Pavlovna he at once stopped his horse and turned round towards her. His broad and colourless face with its small light grey eyes and almost white moustache seemed all in the same tone of colour as his clothes.
he began, with a lazy smile;
what are you doing here, if I may ask?
I have been visiting a sick woman . . . And where have you come from, Mihailo Mihailitch?
The man addressed as Mihailo Mihailitch looked into her eyes and smiled again.
You do well,
to visit the sick, but wouldn't it be better for you to take her into the hospital?
She is too weak; impossible to move her.
But don't you intend to give up your hospital?
Give it up? Why?
Oh, I thought so.
What a strange notion! What put such an idea into your head?
Oh, you are always with Madame Lasunsky now, you know, and seem to be under her influence.
And in her words -- hospitals, schools, and all that sort of things, are mere waste of time -- useless fads. Philanthropy ought to be entirely personal, and education too, all that is the soul's work . . . that's how she expresses herself, I believe. From whom did she pick up that opinion I should like to know.
Alexandra Pavlovna laughed.
Darya Mihailovna is a clever woman, I like and esteem her very much; but she may make mistakes, and I don't put faith in everything she says.
And it's a very good thing you don't,
rejoined Mihailo Mihailitch, who all the while remained sitting in his droshky,
for she doesn't put much faith in what she says herself. I'm very glad I met you.
That's a nice question! As though it wasn't always delightful to meet you? To-day you look as bright and fresh as this morning.
Alexandra Pavlovna laughed again.
What are you laughing at?
What, indeed! If you could see with what a cold and indifferent face you brought out your
compliment! I wonder you didn't yawn over the last word!
A cold face...You always want fire; but fire isn't always a good thing. It flares and smokes and goes out.
...put in Alexandra Pavlovna.
Well, what if it does burn! That's no great harm either! It's better anyway than
Well, we shall see what you will say when you do get nicely burnt one day,
Mihailo Mihailitch interrupted her in a tone of vexation and made a cut at the horse with the reins,
Mihailo Mihailitch, stop a minute,
cried Alexandra Pavlovna,
when are you coming to see us?
To-morrow; my greetings to your brother.
And the droshky rolled away.
Alexandra Pavlovna looked after Mihailo Mihailitch.
What a boor!
she thought. Sitting huddled up and covered with dust, his cap on the back of his head and tufts of flaxen hair straggling
from beneath it, he looked strikingly like a huge sack of flour.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned tranquilly back along the path homewards. She was walking with downcast eyes. The tramp of a horse near made her stop and raise her head . . . Her brother had come on horseback to meet her; beside him was walking a young man of medium height, wearing a light open coat, a light tie, and a light grey hat, and carrying a cane in his hand. He had been smiling for a long time at Alexandra Pavlovna, even though he saw that she was absorbed in thought and noticing nothing, and directly she stopped he went up to her and in a tone of delight, almost of emotion, cried:
Good-morning, Alexandra Pavlovna, good-morning!
Ah! Konstantin Diomiditch! good-morning!
You have come from Darya Mihailovna?
Precisely so, precisely so,
rejoined the young man with a radiant face,
from Darya Mihailovna. Darya Mihailovna sent me to you; I preferred to walk...It's such a glorious morning, and
the distance is only three miles. When I arrived, you were not at home. Your brother told me you had gone to Semenovka; and he was just going out to the fields; so you see I walked with him to meet you. Yes, yes. How very delightful!
The young man spoke Russian accurately and grammatically but with a foreign accent, though it was difficult to determine exactly what accent it was. In his features there was something Asiatic. His long hook nose, his large expressionless prominent eyes, his thick red lips, and retreating forehead, and his jet black hair --, everything about him suggested an Oriental extraction; but the young man gave his surname as Pandalevsky and spoke of Odessa as his birthplace, though he was brought up somewhere in White Russia at the expense of a rich and benevolent widow.
Another widow had obtained a government post for him. Middle-aged ladies were generally ready to take up Konstantin Diomiditch; he knew well how to court them and was successful in coming across them. He was at this very time living with a rich lady, a
Mihailovna Lasunsky, in a position between that of a guest and of a dependant. He was very polite and obliging, full of sensibility and secretly given to sensuality, he had a pleasant voice, played well on the piano, and had the habit of gazing intently into the eyes of any one he was speaking to. He dressed very neatly, and wore his clothes a very long time, shaved his broad chin carefully, and arranged his hair curl by curl.
Alexandra Pavlovna heard his speech to the end and turned to her brother.
I keep meeting people to-day; I have just been talking to Lezhnyov.
Oh, Lezhnyov! was he driving somewhere?
Yes, and fancy; he was in a racing droshky, and dressed in a kind of linen sack, all covered with dust . . . What a queer creature he is!
Perhaps so; but he's a capital fellow.
Who? Mr. Lezhnyov?
inquired Pandalevsky, as though he were surprised.
Yes, Mihailo Mihailitch Lezhnyov,
Well, good-bye; it's time I was off to the field; they are sowing your buckwheat. Mr. Pandalevsky will escort you home.
And Volintsev rode off at a trot.
With the greatest of pleasure!
cried Konstantin Diomiditch, offering Alexandra Pavlovna his arm.
She took it and they both turned along the path to her house.
Walking with Alexandra Pavlovna on his arm seemed to afford Konstantin Diomiditch great delight; he moved with little steps, smiling, and his Oriental eyes were even bedimmed by a slight moisture, though this indeed was no rare occurrence with them; it did not mean much for Konstantin Diomiditch to be moved and dissolve into tears. And who would not have been pleased to have on his arm a pretty, young and graceful woman? Of Alexandra Pavlovna the whole of her district was unanimous in declaring that she was charming, and the district was not wrong. Her straight, ever so slightly tilted nose would have been enough alone to drive any man out of his senses, to say nothing of her velvety dark eyes, her golden brown hair, and the dimples in her smoothly curved cheeks, and her other beauties. But best of all was the sweet expression of her face; confiding, good and gentle, it touched and
attracted at the same time. Alexandra Pavlovna had the glance and the smile of a child; other ladies found her a little simple . . . Could one wish for anything more?
Darya Mihailovna sent you to me, did you say?
she asked Pandalevsky.
Yes; she sent me,
he answered, pronouncing the letter s like the English th.
She particularly wishes and told me to beg you very urgently to be so good as to dine with her to-day. She is expecting a new guest whom she particularly wishes you to meet.
Who is it?
A certain Muffel, a
, a gentleman of the bed-chamber from Petersburg. Darya Mihailovna made his acquaintance lately at the Prince Garin's, and speaks of him in high terms as an agreeable and cultivated young man. His Excellency the baron is interested, too, in literature, or more strictly speaking -- ah! what an exquisite butterfly! pray look at it! -- more strictly speaking, in political economy. He has written an essay on some very interesting question, and wants to submit it to Darya Mihailovna's criticism.
An article on political economy?
From the literary point of view, Alexandra Pavlovna, from the literary point of view. You are well aware, I suppose, that in that line Darya Mihailovna is an authority. Zhukovsky used to ask her advice, and my benefactor, who lives at Odessa, that God-praising old man, Roxolan Mediarovitch Ksandrika. No doubt you know the name of that eminent man?
No; I have never heard of him.
You never heard of such a man? surprising! I was going to say that Roxolan Mediarovitch always had the very highest opinion of Darya Mihailovna.
Is this baron a pedant then?
asked Alexandra Pavlovna.
Not in the very least. Darya Mihailovna says, on the contrary, that you see that he belongs to the best society at once. He spoke of Beethoven with such eloquence that even the old prince was quite delighted by it. That, I own, I should like to have heard; you know that is in my line. Allow me to offer you this lovely wild-flower.
Alexandra Pavlovna took the flower and
when she had walked a few steps farther, let it drop on the path. They were not more than two hundred paces from her house. It had been recently built and whitewashed, and looked out hospitably with its wide light windows from the thick foliage of the old limes and maples.
So what message do you give me for Darya Mihailovna?
began Pandalevsky, slightly hurt at the fate of the flower he had given her.
Will you come to dinner? She invites your brother too.
Yes; we will come, most certainly. And how is Natasha?
Natalya Alexyevna is well, I am glad to say. But we have already passed the road that turns off to Darya Mihailovna's. Allow me to bid you good-bye.
Alexandra Pavlovna stopped.
But won't you come in?
she said in a hesitating voice.
I should like to, indeed, but I am afraid it is late. Darya Mihailovna wishes to hear a new йtude of Thalberg's, so I must practise and have it ready. Besides, I am doubtful, I must confess, whether my visit could afford you any pleasure.
Oh, no! why?
Pandalevsky sighed and dropped his eyes expressively.
Good-bye, Alexandra Pavlovna!
he said after a slight pause; then he bowed and turned back.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned round and went home.
Konstantin Diomiditch, too, walked homewards. All softness had vanished at once from his face; a self-confident, almost hard expression came into it. Even his walk was changed; his steps were longer and he trod more heavily. He had walked about two miles, carelessly swinging his cane, when all at once he began to smile again: he saw by the roadside a young, rather pretty peasant girl, who was driving some calves out of an oat-field. Konstantin Diomiditch approached the girl as warily as a cat, and began to speak to her. She said nothing at first, only blushed and laughed, but at last she hid her face in her sleeve, turned away, and muttered --
Go away, sir; upon my word, I declare.
Konstantin Diomiditch shook his finger at her and told her to bring him some cornflowers.
What do you want with cornflowers? -- to make a wreath?
replied the girl;
come now, go along then, I declare.
Stop a minute, my pretty little dear,
Konstantin Diomiditch was beginning.
There now, go along,
the girl interrupted him,
there are the young gentlemen coming.
Konstantin Diomiditch looked round. There really were Vanya and Petya, Darya Mihailovna's sons, running along the road; after them walked their tutor, Bassistoff, a young man of two-and-twenty, who had only just left college. Bassistoff was a well-grown youth, with a simple face, a large nose, thick lips, and small grey eyes, plain and awkward but kind, good and upright. He dressed untidily and wore his hair long -- not from affectation, but from laziness; he liked eating and he liked sleeping, but he also liked a good book, and an earnest conversation, and he hated Pandalevsky from the depths of his soul.
Darya Mihailovna's children worshipped Bassistoff, and yet were not in the least afraid of him; he was on a friendly footing with all the rest of the household, a fact which was not
altogether pleasing to its mistress, though she was fond of declaring that for her social prejudices did not exist.
Good-morning, my dears,
began Konstantin Diomiditch,
how early you have come for your walk to-day! But I,
he added, turning to Bassistoff,
have been out a long while already; it's my passion -- to enjoy nature.
We saw how you were enjoying nature,
You are a cynic; goodness knows what you are imagining! I know you.
When Pandalevsky spoke to Bassistoff or people like him, he grew slightly irritated, and pronounced the letter s quite clearly, even with a slight hiss.
Why, were you asking your way of that girl, am I to suppose?
said Bassistoff, shifting his eyes to right and to left.
He felt that Pandalevsky was looking him straight in the face, and this fact was exceedingly unpleasant to him.
I repeat, you are a cynic and nothing more. You certainly prefer to see only the prosaic side in everything.
cried Bassistoff suddenly,
see that willow at the corner? let's see who can get to it first. One! two! three! and away!
The boys set off at full speed to the willow. Bassistoff rushed after them.
What a lout!
he is spoiling those boys. A perfect lout!
And looking with satisfaction at his own neat and elegant figure, Konstantin Diomiditch struck his coat-sleeve twice with his open hand, pulled up his collar, and went on his way. When he had reached his own room, he put on an old dressing-gown and sat down with an anxious face to the piano.
DARYA MIHAILOVNA's daughter, Natalya Alexyevna, at a first glance might fail to please. She had not yet had time to develop; she was thin, and dark, and stooped slightly. But her features were fine and regular, though too large for a girl of seventeen. Specially beautiful was her pure, smooth forehead above fine eyebrows, which seemed broken in the middle. She spoke little, but listened to others, and fixed her eyes on them as though she were forming her own conclusions. She would often stand with listless hands, motionless and deep in thought; her face at such moments showed that her mind was at work within . . . A scarcely perceptible smile would suddenly appear on her lips and vanish again; then she would slowly raise her large dark eyes.
Mlle. Boncourt would ask her, and
then she would begin to scold her, saying that it was improper for a young girl to be absorbed and to appear absent-minded. But Natalya was not absent-minded; on the contrary, she studied diligently; she read and worked eagerly. Her feelings were strong and deep, but reserved; even as a child she seldom cried, and now she seldom even sighed and only grew slightly pale when anything distressed her. Her mother considered her a sensible, good sort of girl, calling her in a joke
mon honnкte homme de fille,
but had not a very high opinion of her intellectual abilities.
My Natalya happily is cold,
she used to say,
not like me -- and it is better so. She will be happy.
Darya Mihailovna was mistaken. But few mothers understand their daughters.
Natalya loved Darya Mihailovna, but did not fully confide in her.
You have nothing to hide from me,
Darya Mihailovna said to her once,
or else you would be very reserved about it; you are rather a close little thing.
Natalya looked her mother in the face and thought,
Why shouldn't I be reserved?
When Rudin met her on the terrace she was just going indoors with Mlle. Boncourt to put on her hat and go out into the garden. Her morning occupations were over. Natalya was not treated as a school-girl now. Mlle. Boncourt had not given her lessons in mythology and geography for a long while; but
had every morning to read
books, travels or other instructive works with her. Darya Mihailovna selected them, ostensibly on a special system of her own. In reality she simply gave Natalya everything which the
her from Petersburg, except, of course, the
of Dumas Fils and Co. These novels Darya Mihailovna read herself. Mlle. Boncourt looked specially severely and sourly through her spectacles when Natalya was reading historical books; according to the old French lady's ideas all history was filled with impermissible things, though for some reason or other of all the great men of antiquity she herself knew only one -- Cambyses, and of modern times -- Louis XIV. and Napoleon, whom she could not endure. But Natalya read books too, the existence of
which Mlle. Boncourt did not suspect; she knew all
Natalya flushed slightly at meeting Rudin.
Are you going for a walk?
he asked her.
Yes. We are going into the garden.
May I come with you?
Natalya looked at Mlle. Boncourt.
Mais certainement, monsieur, avec plaisir,
said the old lady promptly.
Rudin took his hat and walked with them.
Natalya at first felt some awkwardness in walking side by side with Rudin on the same little path; afterwards she felt more at ease. He began to question her about her occupations and how she liked the country. She replied not without timidity, but without that hasty bashfulness which is so often taken for modesty. Her heart was beating.
You are not bored in the country?
asked Rudin, taking her in with a sidelong glance.
How can one be bored in the country? I am very glad we are here. I am very happy here.
You are happy -- that is a great word. However, one can understand it; you are young.
Rudin pronounced this last phrase rather strangely; either he envied Natalya or he was sorry for her.
the whole aim of science is to reach consciously what is bestowed on youth for nothing.
Natalya looked attentively at Rudin; she did not understand him.
I have been talking all this morning with your mother,
he went on;
she is an extraordinary woman. I understand why all our poets sought her friendship. Are you fond of
he added, after a pause.
He is putting me through an examination,
thought Natalya, and aloud:
Yes, I am very fond of it.
Poetry is the language of the gods. I love poems myself. But poetry is not only in poems; it is diffused everywhere, it is around us. Look at those trees, that sky -- on all sides there is the breath of beauty, and of life, and where there is life and beauty, there is poetry also.
Let us sit down here on this bench,
Here -- so. I somehow fancy that when you are more used to me (and he looked
her in the face with a smile) we shall be friends, you and I. What do you think?
He treats me like a school-girl,
Natalya reflected again, and, not knowing what to say, she asked him whether he intended to remain long in the country.
'All the summer and autumn, and perhaps the winter too. I am a very poor man, you know; my affairs are in confusion, and, besides, I am tired now of wandering from place to place. The time has come to rest.
Natalya was surprised.
Is it possible you feel that it is time for you to rest?
she asked him timidly.
Rudin turned, so as to face Natalya.
What do you mean by that?
she replied in some embarrassment,
that others may rest; but you...you ought to work, to try to be useful. Who, if not you --
I thank you for your flattering opinion,
Rudin interrupted her.
To be useful . . . it is easy to say!
(He passed his hand over his face.)
To be useful !
Even if I had any firm conviction, how could I be useful
-- even if I had faith in my own powers, where is one to find true, sympathetic souls?
And Rudin waved his hand so hopelessly, and let his head sink so gloomily, that Natalya involuntarily asked herself, were those really his -- those enthusiastic words full of the breath of hope, she had heard the evening before.
he said, suddenly tossing back his lion-like mane,
that is all folly, and you are right. I thank you, Natalya Alexyevna, I thank you truly.
(Natalya absolutely did not know what he was thanking her for.)
Your single phrase has recalled to me my duty, has pointed out to me my path. . . . Yes, I must act. I must not bury my talent, if I have any; I must not squander my powers on talk alone -- empty, profitless talk-- on mere words,
and his words flowed in a stream. He spoke nobly, ardently, convincingly, of the sin of cowardice and indolence, of the necessity of action. He lavished reproaches on himself, maintained that to discuss beforehand what you mean to do is as unwise as to prick with a pin the swelling fruit, that it is only a vain waste of strength and sap. He declared that there was no noble
idea which would not gain sympathy, that the only people who remained misunderstood were those who either did not know themselves what they wanted, or were not worthy to be understood. He spoke at length, and ended by once more thanking Natalya Alexyevna, and utterly unexpectedly pressed her hand, exclaiming,
You are a noble, generous creature!
This outburst horrified Mlle. Boncourt, who in spite of her forty years' residence in Russia understood Russian with difficulty, and was only moved to admiration by the splendid rapidity and flow of words on Rudin's lips. In her eyes, however, he was something of the nature of a virtuoso or artist; and from people of that kind, according to her notions, it was impossible to demand a strict adherence to propriety.
She got up and drew her skirts with a jerk around her, observed to Natalya that it was time to go in, especially as M. Volinsoff (so she spoke of Volintsev) was to be there to lunch.
And here he is,
she added, looking up one of the avenues which led to the house, and in fact Volintsev appeared not far off.
He came up with a hesitating step, greeted all of them from a distance, and with an expression of pain on his face he turned to Natalya and said --
Oh, you are having a walk.
we were just going home.
was Volintsev's reply.
Well, let us go,
and they all walked towards the house.
How is your sister?
Rudin inquired, in a specially cordial tone, of Volintsev. The evening before, too, he had been very gracious with him.
Thank you; she is quite well. She will perhaps be here to-day. . . . I think you were discussing something when I came up?
Yes; I have had a conversation with Natalya Alexyevna. She said one thing to me which affected me strongly.
Volintsev did not ask what the one thing was, and in profound silence they all returned to Darya Mihailovna's house.
Before dinner the party was again assembled in the drawing-room. Pigasov, however, did
not come. Rudin was not at his best; he did nothing but press Pandalevsky to play Beethoven. Volintsev was silent and stared at the floor. Natalya did not leave her mother's side, and was at times lost in thought, and then bent over her work. Bassistoff did not take his eyes off Rudin, constantly on the alert for him to say something brilliant. About three hours were passed in this way rather monotonously. Alexandra Pavlovna did not come to dinner, and directly they rose from table Volintsev at once ordered his carriage to be put to, and slipped away without saying good-bye to anyone.
His heart was heavy. He had long loved Natalya, and was repeatedly resolving to make her an offer. . . . She was kindly disposed to him, -- but her heart remained unmoved; he saw that clearly. He did not hope to inspire in her a tenderer sentiment, and was only waiting for the time when she should be perfectly at home with him and intimate with him. What could have disturbed him? what change had he noticed in these two days? Natalya had behaved to him exactly the same as before. . . .
Whether it was that some idea had come upon him that he perhaps did not know Natalya's character at all -- that she was more a stranger to him than he had thought, -- or jealousy had begun to work in him, or he had some dim presentiment of ill . . . anyway, he suffered, however he tried to reason with himself.
When he came in to his sister's room, Lezhnyov was sitting with her.
Why have you come back so early?
asked Alexandra Pavlovna.
Oh! I was bored.
Was Rudin there?
Volintsev flung down his cap and sat down. Alexandra Pavlovna turned eagerly to him.
Please, Serezha, help me to convince this obstinate man (she signified Lezhnyov) that Rudin is extraordinarily clever and eloquent.
Volintsev muttered something.
But I am not disputing at all with you,
I have no doubt of the cleverness and eloquence of Mr. Rudin; I only say that I don't like him.
But have you seen him?
I saw him this morning at Darya Mihailovna's. You know he is her first favourite now. The time will come when she will part with him -- Pandalevsky is the only man she will never part with -- but now he is supreme. I saw him, to be sure! He was sitting there, and she showed me off to him, "see, my good friend, what queer fish we have here!" But I am not a prize horse, to be trotted out on show, so I took myself off.
But how did you come to be there?
About a boundary; but that was all nonsense; she simply wanted to have a look at my physiognomy. She's a fine lady, -- that's explanation enough!
His superiority is what offends you -- that's what it is!
began Alexandra Pavlovna warmly,
that's what you can't forgive. But I am convinced that besides his cleverness he must have an excellent heart as well. You should see his eyes when he --
"Of purity exalted speaks,"
You make me angry, and I shall cry. I am heartily sorry I did not go to Darya Mihailovna's, but stopped with you. You don't
deserve it. Leave off teasing me,
she added in an appealing voice,
You had much better tell me about his youth.
Yes, of course. Didn't you tell me you knew him well, and had known him a long time?
Lezhnyov got up and walked up and down the room.
I do know him well. You want me to tell you about his youth? Very well. He was born in T--, and was the son of a poor landowner, who died soon after. He was left alone with his mother. She was a very good woman, and she idolised him; she lived on nothing but oatmeal, and every penny she had she spent on him. He was educated in Moscow, first at the expense of some uncle, and afterwards, when he was grown up and fully fledged, at the expense of a rich prince whose favour he had courted -- there, I beg your pardon, I won't do it again -- with whom he had made friends. Then he went to the university. At the university I got to know him and we became intimate friends. I will tell you about
our life in those days some other time, I can't now. Then he went abroad . . .
Lezhnyov continued to walk up and down the room; Alexandra Pavlovna followed him with her eyes.
While he was abroad,
Rudin wrote very rarely to his mother, and paid her altogether only one visit for ten days . . . The old lady died without him, cared for by strangers; but up to her death she never took her eyes off his portrait. I went to see her when I was staying in T--. She was a kind and hospitable woman; she always used to feast me on cherry jam. She loved her Mitya devotedly. People of the Childe Harold type tell us that we always love those who are least capable of feeling love themselves; but it's my idea that all mothers love their children especially when they are absent. Afterwards I met Rudin abroad. Then he was connected with a lady, one of our countrywomen, a bluestocking, no longer young, and plain, as a bluestocking is bound to be. He lived a good while with her, and at last threw her over -- or no, I beg pardon, -- she threw him over. It
was then that I too threw him over. That's all.
Lezhnyov ceased speaking, passed his hand over his brow and dropped into a chair as if he were exhausted.
Do you know, Mihailo Mihailitch,
began Alexandra Pavlovna,
you are a spiteful person, I see; indeed you are no better than Pigasov. I am convinced that all you have told me is true, that you have not made up anything, and yet in what an unfavourable light you have put it all! The poor old mother, her devotion, her solitary death, and that lady -- What does it all amount to? You know that it's easy to put the life of the best of men in such colours -- and without adding anything, observe -- that everyone would be shocked! But that too is slander of a kind!
Lezhnyov got up and again walked about the room.
I did not want to shock you at all, Alexandra Pavlovna,
he brought out at last,
I am not given to slander. However,
he added, after a moment's thought,
in reality there is a foundation of fact in what you said. I did not mean
to slander Rudin; but -- who knows! very likely he has had time to change since those days -- very possibly I have been unjust to him.
Ah! you see. So promise me that you will renew your acquaintance with him, and will get to know him thoroughly and then report your final opinion of him to me.
As you please. But why are you so quiet, Sergei Pavlitch?
Volintsev started and raised his head, as though he had just waked up.
What can I say? I don't know him. Besides, my head aches to-day.
Yes, you look rather pale this evening,
remarked Alexandra Pavlovna;
are you unwell?
My head aches,
repeated Volintsev, and he went away.
Alexandra Pavlovna and Lezhnyov looked after him, and exchanged glances, though they said nothing. What was passing in Volintsev's heart was no mystery to either of them.