THERE WAS ANOTHER being in the world to whom Varvara Petrovna was as muc_ttached as she was to Stepan Trofimovitch, her only son, Nikola_syevolodovitch Stavrogin. It was to undertake his education that Stepa_rofimovitch had been engaged. The boy was at that time eight years old, an_is frivolous father, General Stavrogin, was already living apart from Varvar_etrovna, so that the child grew up entirely in his mother's care. To d_tepan Trofimovitch justice, he knew how to win his pupil's heart. The whol_ecret of this lay in the fact that he was a child himself. I was not there i_hose days, and he continually felt the want of a real friend. He did no_esitate to make a friend of this little creature as soon as he had grown _ittle older. It somehow came to pass quite naturally that there seemed to b_o discrepancy of age between them. More than once he awaked his ten- o_leven-year-old friend at night, simply to pour out his wounded feelings an_eep before him, or to tell him some family secret, without realising tha_his was an outrageous proceeding. They threw themselves into each other'_rms and wept. The boy knew that his mother loved him very much, but I doub_hether he cared much for her. She talked little to him and did not ofte_nterfere with him, but he was always morbidly conscious of her intent, searching eyes fixed upon him. Yet the mother confided his whole instructio_nd moral education to Stepan Trofimovitch. At that time her faith in him wa_nshaken. One can't help believing that the tutor had rather a bad influenc_n his pupil's nerves. When at sixteen he was taken to a lyceum he wa_ragile-looking and pale, strangely quiet and dreamy. (Later on he wa_istinguished by great physical strength.) One must assume too that th_riends went on weeping at night, throwing themselves in each other's arms, though their tears were not always due to domestic difficulties. Stepa_rofimovitch succeeded in reaching the deepest chords in his pupil's heart, and had aroused in him a vague sensation of that eternal, sacred yearnin_hich some elect souls can never give up for cheap gratification when onc_hey have tasted and known it. (There are some connoisseurs who prize thi_earning more than the most complete satisfaction of it, if such wer_ossible.) But in any case it was just as well that the pupil and th_receptor were, though none too soon, parted.
For the first two years the lad used to come home from the lyceum for th_olidays. While Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Trofimovitch were staying i_etersburg he was sometimes present at the literary evenings at his mother's, he listened and looked on. He spoke little, and was quiet and shy as before.
His manner to Stepan Trofimovitch was as affectionately attentive as ever, bu_here was a shade of reserve in it. He unmistakably avoided distressing, loft_ubjects or reminiscences of the past. By his mother's wish he entered th_rmy on completing the school course, and soon received a commission in one o_he most brilliant regiments of the Horse Guards. He did not come to sho_imself to his mother in his uniform, and his letters from Petersburg began t_e infrequent. Varvara Petrovna sent him money without stint, though after th_mancipation the revenue from her estate was so diminished that at first he_ncome was less than half what it had been before. She had, however, _onsiderable sum laid by through years of economy. She took great interest i_er son's success in the highest Petersburg society. Where she had failed, th_ealthy young officer with expectations succeeded. He renewed acquaintance_hich she had hardly dared to dream of, and was welcomed everywhere wit_leasure. But very soon rather strange rumours reached Varvara Petrovna. Th_oung man had suddenly taken to riotous living with a sort of frenzy. Not tha_e gambled or drank too much; there was only talk of savage recklessness, o_unning over people in the street with his horses, of brutal conduct to a lad_f good society with whom he had a liaison and whom he afterwards publicl_nsulted. There was a callous nastiness about this affair. It was added, too, that he had developed into a regular bully, insulting people for the mer_leasure of insulting them. Varvara Petrovna was greatly agitated an_istressed. Stepan Trofimovitch assured her that this was only the firs_iotous effervescence of a too richly endowed nature, that the storm woul_ubside and that this was only like the youth of Prince Harry, who carouse_ith Falstaff, Poins, and Mrs. Quickly, as described by Shakespeare.
This time Varvara Petrovna did not cry out, "Nonsense, nonense!" as she wa_ery apt to do in later years in response to Stepan Trofimovitch. On th_ontrary she listened very eagerly, asked him to explain this theory mor_xactly, took up Shakespeare herself and with great attention read th_mmortal chronicle. But it did not comfort her, and indeed she did not fin_he resemblance very striking. With feverish impatience she awaited answers t_ome of her letters. She had not long to wait for them. The fatal news soo_eached her that "Prince Harry" had been involved in two duels almost at once, was entirely to blame for both of them, had killed one of his adversaries o_he spot and had maimed the other and was awaiting his trial in consequence.
The case ended in his being degraded to the ranks, deprived of the rights of _obleman, and transferred to an infantry line regiment, and he only escape_orse punishment by special favour.
In 1863 he somehow succeeded in distinguishing himself; he received a cross, was promoted to be a non-commissioned officer, and rose rapidly to the rank o_n officer. During this period Varvara Petrovna despatched perhaps hundreds o_etters to the capital, full of prayers and supplications. She even stooped t_ome humiliation in this extremity. After his promotion the young man suddenl_esigned his commission, but he did not come back to Skvoreshniki again, an_ave up writing to his mother altogether. They learned by roundabout mean_hat he was back in Petersburg, but that he was not to be met in the sam_ociety as before; he seemed to be in hiding. They found out that he wa_iving in strange company, associating with the dregs of the population o_etersburg, with slip-shod government clerks, discharged military men, beggar_f the higher class, and drunkards of all sortsthat he visited their filth_amilies, spent days and nights in dark slums and all sorts of low haunts, that he had sunk very low, that he was in rags, and that apparently he like_t. He did not ask his mother for money, he had his own little estateonce th_roperty of his father, General Stavrogin, which yielded at least som_evenue, and which, it was reported, he had let to a German from Saxony. A_ast his mother besought him to come to her, and "Prince Harry" made hi_ppearance in our town. I had never feet eyes him before, but now I got a ver_istinct impression of him. He was a very handsome young man of five-and- twenty, and I must own I was impressed by him. I had expected to see a dirt_agamuffin, sodden with drink and debauchery. He was on the contrary, the mos_legant gentleman I had ever met' extremely well dressed, with an air an_anner only to be found in a man accustomed to culture and refinement. I wa_ot the only person surprised. It was a surprise to all the townspeople t_hom, of course, young Stavrogin's whole biography was well known in it_inutest details, though one could not imagine how they had got hold of them, and, what was still more surprising, half of their stories about him turne_ut to be true.
All our ladies were wild over the new visitor. They were sharply divided int_wo parties, one of which adored him while the other half regarded him with _atred that was almost blood-thirsty: but both were crazy about him. Some o_hem were particularly fascinated by the idea that he had perhaps a fatefu_ecret hidden in his soul; others were positively delighted at the fact tha_e was a murderer. It appeared too that he had had a very good education an_as indeed a man of considerable culture. No great acquirements were needed, of course, to astonish us. But he could judge also of very interestin_veryday affairs, and, what was of the utmost value, he judged of them wit_emarkable good sense. I must mention as a peculiar fact that almost from th_irst day we all of us thought him a very sensible fellow. He was not ver_alkative, he was elegant without exaggeration, surprisingly modest, and a_he same time bold and self-reliant, as none of us were. Our dandies gazed a_im with envy, and were completely eclipsed by him. His face, too, impresse_e. His hair was of a peculiarly intense black, his light-coloured eyes wer_eculiarly light and calm, his complexion was peculiarly soft and white, th_ed in his cheeks was too bright and clear, his teeth were like pearls, an_is lips like coralone would have thought that he must be a paragon of beauty, yet at the same time there seemed something repellent about him. It was sai_hat his face suggested a mask; so much was said though, among other thing_hey talked of his extraordinary physical strength. He was rather tall.
Varvara Petrovna looked at him with pride, yet with continual uneasiness. H_pent about six months among uslistless, quiet, rather morose. He made hi_ppearance in society, and with unfailing propriety performed all the dutie_emanded by our provincial etiquette. He was related, on his father's side, t_he governor, and was received by the latter as a near kinsman. But a fe_onths passed and the wild beast showed his claws.
I may observe by the way, in parenthesis, that Ivan Ossipovitch, our dear mil_overnor, was rather like an old woman, though he was of good family an_ighly connectedwhich explains the fact that he remained so long among us, though he steadily avoided all the duties of his office. From his munificenc_nd hospitality he ought rather to have been a marshal of nobility of the goo_ld days than a governor in such busy times as ours. It was always said in th_own that it was not he, but Varvara Petrovna who governed the province. O_ourse this was said sarcastically; however, it was certainly a falsehood.
And, indeed, much wit was wasted on the subject among us. On the contrary, i_ater years, Varvara Petrovna purposely and consciously withdrew from anythin_ike a position of authority, and, in spite of the extraordinary respect i_hich she was held by the whole province, voluntarily confined her influenc_ithin strict limits set up by herself. Instead of these highe_esponsibilities she suddenly took up the management of her estate, and, within two or three years, raised the revenue from it almost to what it ha_ielded in the past. Giving up her former romantic impulses (trips t_etersburg, plans for founding a magazine, and so on) she began to be carefu_nd to save money. She kept even Stepan Trofimovitch at a distance, allowin_im to take lodgings in another house (a change for which he had long bee_orrying her under various pretexts). Little by little Stepan Trofimovitc_egan to call her a prosaic woman, or more jestingly, "My prosaic friend." _eed hardly say he only ventured on such jests in an extremely respectfu_orm, and on rare, and carefully chosen, occasions.
All of us in her intimate circle feltStepan Trofimovitch more acutely than an_f usthat her son had come to her almost, as it were, as a new hope, and eve_s a sort of new aspiration. Her passion for her son dated from the time o_is successes in Petersburg society, and grew more intense from the momen_hat he was degraded in the army. Yet she was evidently afraid of him, an_eemed like a slave in his presence. It could be seen that she was afraid o_omething vague and mysterious which she could not have put into words, an_he often stole searching glances at "Nicolas," scrutinising him reflectively … and beholdthe wild beast suddenly showed his claws.
Suddenly, apropos of nothing, our prince was guilty of incredible outrage_pon various persons and, what was most striking these outrages were utterl_nheard of, quite inconceivable, unlike anything commonly done, utterly sill_nd mischievous, quite unprovoked and objectless. One of the most respected o_ur club members, on our committee of management, Pyotr Pavlovitch Gaganov, a_lderly man of high rank in the service, had formed the innocent habit o_eclaring vehemently on all sorts of occasions: "No, you can't lead me by th_ose!" Well, there is no harm in that. But one day at the club, when h_rought out this phrase in connection with some heated discussion in the mids_f a little group of members (all persons of some consequence) Nikola_syevolodovitch, who was standing on one side, alone and unnoticed, suddenl_ent up to Pyotr Pavlovitch, took him unexpectedly and firmly with two finger_y the nose, and succeeded in leading him two or three steps across the room.
He could have had no grudge against Mr. Gaganov. It might be thought to be _ere schoolboy prank, though, of course, a most unpardonable one. Yet, describing it afterwards, people said that he looked almost dreamy at the ver_nstant of the operation, "as though he had gone out of his mind," but tha_as recalled and reflected upon long afterwards. In the excitement of th_oment all they recalled was the minute after, when he certainly saw it all a_t really was, and far from being confused smiled gaily and maliciously
"without the slightest regret." There was a terrific outcry; he wa_urrounded. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch kept turning round, looking about him, answering nobody, and glancing curiously at the persons exclaiming around him.
At last he seemed suddenly, as it were, to sink into thought againso at leas_t was reportedfrowned, went firmly up to the affronted Pyotr Pavlovitch, an_ith evident vexation said in a rapid mutter:
"You must forgive me, of course … I really don't know what suddenly came ove_e … it's silly."
The carelessness of his apology was almost equivalent to a fresh insult. Th_utcry was greater than ever. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch shrugged his shoulder_nd went away. All this was very stupid, to say nothing of its gross indecency
A calculated and premeditated indecency as it seemed at first sightan_herefore a premeditated and utterly brutal insult to our whole society. So i_as taken to be by every one. We began by promptly and unanimously strikin_oung Stavrogin's name off the list of club members. Then it was decided t_end an. appeal in the name of the whole club to the governor, begging him a_nce (without waiting for the case to be formally tried in court) to use "th_dministrative power entrusted to him" to restrain this dangerous ruffian,
"this duelling bully from the capital, and so protect the tranquillity of al_he gentry of our town from injurious encroachments." It was added with angr_esentment that" a law might be found to control even Mr. Stavrogin." Thi_hrase was prepared by way of a thrust at the governor on account of Varvar_etrovna. They elaborated it with relish. As ill luck would have it, th_overnor was not in the town at the time. He had gone to a little distance t_tand godfather to the child of a very charming lady, recently left a widow i_n interesting condition. But it was known that he would soon be back. In th_eanwhile they got up a regular ovation for the respected and insulte_entleman; people embraced and kissed him; the whole town called upon him. I_as even proposed to give a subscription dinner in his honour, and they onl_ave up the idea at his earnest requestreflecting possibly at last that th_an had, after all, been pulled by the nose and that that was really nothin_o congratulate him upon. Yet, how had it happened? How could it hav_appened? It is remarkable that no one in the whole town put down this savag_ct to madness. They must have been predisposed to expect such actions fro_ikolay Vsyevolodovitch, even when he was sane. For my part I don't know t_his day how to explain it, in spite of the event that quickly followed an_pparently explained everything, and conciliated every one. I will add als_hat, four years later, in reply to a discreet question from me about th_ncident at the club, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch answered, frowning: "I wasn'_uite well at the time." But there is no need to anticipate events.
The general outburst of hatred with which every one fell upon the "ruffian an_uelling bully from the capital" also struck me as curious. They insisted o_eeing an insolent design and deliberate intention to insult our whole societ_t once. The truth was no one liked the fellow, but, on the contrary, he ha_et every one against himand one wonders how. Up to the last incident he ha_ever quarrelled with anyone, nor insulted anyone, but was as courteous as _entleman in a fashion-plate, if only the latter were able to speak. I imagin_hat he was hated for his pride. Even our ladies, who had begun by adorin_im, railed against him now, more loudly than the men. Varvara Petrovna wa_readfully overwhelmed. She confessed afterwards to Stepan Trofimovitch tha_he had had a foreboding of all this long before, that every day for the las_ix months she had been expecting "just something of that sort," a remarkabl_dmission on the part of his own mother. "It's begun!" she thought to hersel_ith a shudder. The morning after the incident at the club she cautiously bu_irmly approached the subject with her son, but the poor woman was tremblin_ll over in spite of her firmness. She had not slept all night and even wen_ut early to Stepan Trofimovitch's lodgings to ask his advice, and shed tear_here, a thing which she had never been known to do before anyone. She longe_or "Nicolas" to say something to her, to deign to give some explanation.
Nikolay, who was always so polite and respectful to his mother, listened t_er for some time scowling, but very seriously. He suddenly got up withou_aying a word, kissed her hand and went away. That very evening, as though b_esign, he perpetrated another scandal. It was of a more harmless and ordinar_haracter than the first. Yet, owing to the state of the public mind, i_ncreased the outcry in the town.
Our friend Liputin turned up and called on Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch immediatel_fter the latter's interview with his mother, and earnestly begged for th_onour of his company at a little party he was giving for his wife's birthda_hat evening. Varvara Petrovna had long watched with a pang at her heart he_on's taste for such low company, but she had not dared to speak of it to him.
He had made several acquaintances besides Liputin in the third rank of ou_ociety, and even in lower depthshe had a propensity for making such friends.
He had never been in Liputin's house before, though he had met the ma_imself. He guessed that Liputin's invitation now was the consequence of th_revious day's scandal, and that as a local liberal he was delighted at th_candal, genuinely believing that that was the proper way to treat stewards a_he club, and that it was very well done. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch smiled an_romised to come.
A great number of guests had assembled. The company was not very presentable, but very sprightly. Liputin, vain and envious, only entertained visitors twic_ year, but on those occasions he did it without stint. The most honoured o_he invited guests, Stepan Trofimovitch, was prevented by illness from bein_resent. Tea was handed, and there were refreshments and vodka in plenty.
Cards were played at three tables, and while waiting for supper the youn_eople got up a dance. Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch led out Madame Liputina ver_retty little woman who was dreadfully shy of himtook two turns round the roo_ith her, sat down beside her, drew her into conversation and made her laugh.
Noticing at last how pretty she was when she laughed, he suddenly, before al_he company, seized her round the waist and kissed her on the lips two o_hree times with great relish. The poor frightened lady fainted. Nikola_syevolodovitch took his hat and went up to the husband, who stood petrifie_n the middle of the general excitement. Looking at him he, too, becam_onfused and muttering hurriedly "Don't be angry," went away. Liputin ra_fter him in the entry, gave him his fur-coat with his own hands, and saw hi_own the stairs, bowing. But next day a rather amusing sequel followed thi_omparatively harmless pranka sequel from which Liputin gained some credit, and of which he took the fullest possible advantage.
At ten o'clock in the morning Liputin's servant Agafya, an easy-mannered, lively, rosy-cheeked peasant woman of thirty, made her appearance a_tavrogin's house, with a message for Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. She insisted o_eeing "his honour himself." He had a very bad headache, but he went out.
Varvara Petrovna succeeded in being present when the message was given.
"Sergay Vassilyevitch" (Liputin's name), Agafya rattled off briskly, "bade m_irst of all give you his respectful greetings and ask after your health, wha_ort of night your honour spent after yesterday's doings, and how your honou_eels now after yesterday's doings?"
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch smiled.
"Give him my greetings and thank him, and tell your master from me, Agafya, that he's the most sensible man in the town."
"And he told me to answer that," Agafya caught him up still more briskly,
"that he knows that without your telling him, and wishes you the same."
"Really! But how could he tell what I should say to you?"
"I can't say in what way he could tell, but when I had set off and had gon_ight down the street, I heard something, and there he was, running after m_ithout his cap. "I say, Agafya, if by any chance he says to you, 'Tell you_aster that he has more sense than all the town,' you tell him at once, don'_orget,' The master himself knows that very well, and wishes you the same.' "
At last the interview with the governor took place too. Our dear, mild, Iva_ssipovitch had only just returned and only just had time to hear the angr_omplaint from the club. There was no doubt that something must be done, bu_e was troubled. The hospitable old man seemed also rather afraid of his youn_insman. He made up his mind, however, to induce him to apologise to the clu_nd to his victim in satisfactory form, and, if required, by letter, and the_o persuade him to leave us for a time, travelling, for instance, to improv_ie mind, in Italy, or in fact anywhere abroad. In the waiting-room in whic_n this occasion he received Nikolay Vsyevoloctoyitch (who had been at othe_imes privileged as a relation to wander all over the house unchecked), Alyosha Telyatnikov, a clerk of refined manners, who was also a member of th_overnor's household, was sitting in a corner opening envelopes at a table, and in the next room, at the window nearest to the door, a stout and sturd_olonel, a former friend and colleague of the governor, was sitting alon_eading the Oolos, paying no attention, of course, to what was taking place i_he waiting-room; in fact, he had his back turned. Ivan Ossipovitch approache_he subject in a roundabout way, almost in a "whisper, but kept getting _ittle muddled. Nikolay looked anything but cordial, not at all as a relatio_hould. He was pale and sat looking down and continually moving his eyebrow_s though trying to control acute pain.
"You have a kind heart and a generous one, Nicolas," the old man put in amon_ther things, "you're a man of great culture, you've grown up in the highes_ircles, and here too your behaviour has hitherto been a model, which has bee_ great consolation to your mother, who is so precious to all of us… . And no_gain everything has appeared in such an unaccountable light, so detrimenta_o all! I speak as a friend of your family, as an old man who loves yo_incerely and a relation, at whose words you cannot take offence… . Tell me, what drives you to such reckless proceedings so contrary to all accepted rule_nd habits? What can be the meaning of such acts which seem almost lik_utbreaks of delirium?"
Nikolay listened with vexation and impatience. All at once there was a glea_f something sly and mocking in his eyes.
"I'll tell you what drives me to it," he said sullenly, and looking round hi_e bent down to Ivan Ossipovitch's ear. The refined Alyosha Telyatnikov move_hree steps farther away towards the window, and the colonel coughed over th_olos. Poor Ivan Ossipovitch hurriedly and trustfully inclined his ear-; h_as exceedingly curious. And then something utterly incredible, though on th_ther side only too unmistakable, took place. The old man suddenly felt that, instead of telling him some interesting secret, Nikolay had seized the uppe_art of his ear between his teeth and was nipping it rather hard. H_huddered, and breath failed him.
"Nicolas, this is beyond a joke!" he moaned mechanically in a voice not hi_wn.
Alyosha and the colonel had not yet grasped the situation, besides the_ouldn't see, and fancied up to the end that the two were whispering together; and yet the old man's desperate face alarmed them. They looked at one anothe_ith wide-open eyes, not knowing whether to rush to his assistance as agree_r to wait. Nikolay noticed this perhaps, and bit the harder.
"Nicolas! Nicolas!" his victim moaned again, "come … you've had your joke, that's enough!"
In another moment the poor governor would certainly have died of terror; bu_he monster had mercy on him, and let go his ear. The old man's deadly terro_asted for a full minute, and it was followed by a sort of fit. Within half a_our Nikolay was arrested and removed for the time to the guard-room, where h_as confined in a special cell, with a special sentinel at the door. Thi_ecision was a harsh one, but our mild governor was so angry that he wa_repared to take the responsibility even if he had to face Varvara Petrovna.
To the general amazement, when this lady arrived at the governor's in hast_nd in nervous irritation to discuss the matter with him at once, she wa_efused admittance, whereupon, without getting out of the carriage, sh_eturned home, unable to believe her senses.
And at last everything was explained! At two o'clock in the morning th_risoner, who had till then been calm and had even slept, suddenly becam_oisy, began furiously beating on the door with his fists,with unnatura_trength wrenched the iron grating off the door, broke the window, and cut hi_ands all over. When the officer on duty ran with a detachment of men and th_eys and ordered the cell to be opened that they might rush in and bind th_aniac, it appeared that he was suffering from acute brain fever. He was take_ome to his mother.
Everything was explained at once. All our three doctors gave it as thei_pinion that the patient might well have been in a delirious state for thre_ays before, and that though he might have apparently been in possession o_ull consciousness and cunning, yet he might have been deprived of commo_ense and will, which was indeed borne out by the facts. So it turned out tha_iputin had guessed the truth sooner than any one. Ivan Ossipovitch, who was _an of delicacy and feeling, was completely abashed. But what was striking wa_hat he, too, had considered Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch capable of any mad actio_ven when in the full possession of his faculties. At the club, too, peopl_ere ashamed and wondered how it was they had failed to "see the elephant" an_ad missed the only explanation of all these marvels: there were, of course, sceptics among them, but they could not long maintain their position.
Nikolay was in bed for more than two months. A famous doctor was summoned fro_oscow for a consultation; the whole town called on Varvara Petrovna. Sh_orgave them.When in the spring Nikolay had completely recovered and assente_ithout discussion to his mother's proposal that he should go for a tour t_taly, she begged him further to pay visits of farewell; to all th_eighbours, and so far as possible to apologise where necessary. Nikola_greed with great alacrity. It became known at the club that he had had a mos_elicate explanation with Pyotr Pavlovitch Gaganov, at the house of th_atter, who had been completely satisfied with his apology. As he went roun_o pay these calls Nikolay was very grave and even gloomy. Every one appeare_o receive him sympathetically, but everybody seemed embarrassed and glad tha_e was going to Italy. Ivan Ossipovitch was positively tearful, but was, fo_ome reason, unable to bring himself to embrace him, even at the final leave- taking. It is true that some of us retained the conviction that the scamp ha_imply been making fun of us, and that the illness was neither here nor there.
He went to see Liputin too.
"Tell me," he said, "how could you guess beforehand what I should say abou_our sense and prime Agafya with an answer to it?"
"Why," laughed Liputin, "it was because I recognised that you were a cleve_an, and so I foresaw what your answer would be."
"Anyway, it was a remarkable coincidence. But, excuse me, did you consider m_ sensible man and not insane when you sent Agafya?"
"For the cleverest and most rational, and I only pretended to believe that yo_ere insane… . And you guessed at once what was in my mind, and sent _estimonial to my wit through Agafya."
"Well, there you're a little mistaken. I really was … unwell … " muttere_ikolay Vsyevolodovitch, frowning. "Bah!" he cried, "do you suppose I'_apable of attacking people when I'm in my senses? What object would there b_n it?"
Liputin shrank together and didn't know what to answer. Nikolay turned pal_r, at least, so it seemed to Liputin.
"You have a very peculiar way of looking at things, anyhow," Nikolay went on,
"but as for Agafya, I understand, of course, that you simply sent her to b_ude to me."
"I couldn't challenge you to a duel, could I?"
"Oh, no, of course! I seem to have heard that you're not fond of duels… ."
"Why borrow from the French?" said Liputin, doubling
"You're for nationalism, then?"
Liputin shrank into himself more than ever.
"Ba, ba! What do I see?" cried Nicolas, noticing a volume of Considerant i_he most conspicuous place on the table. "You don't mean to say you're _ourierist! I'm afraid you must be! And isn't this too borrowing from th_rench?" he laughed, tapping the book with his finger.
"No, that's not taken from the French," Liputin cried with positive fury, jumping up from his chair. "That is taken from the universal language o_umanity, not simply from the French. From the language of the universa_ocial republic and harmony of mankind, let me tell you! Not simply from th_rench!"
"Foo! hang it all! There's no such language!" laughed Nikolay.
Sometimes a trifle will catch the attention and exclusively absorb it for _ime. Most of what I have to tell of young Stavrogin will come later. But _ill note now as a curious fact that of all the impressions made on him by hi_tay in our town, the one most sharply imprinted on his memory was th_nsightly and almost abject figure of the little provincial official, th_oarse and jealous family despot, the miserly money-lender who picked up th_andle-ends and scraps left from dinner, and was at the same time a passionat_eliever in some visionary future "social harmony," who at night gloated i_cstasies over fantastic pictures of a future phalanstery, in the approachin_ealisation of which, in Russia, and in our province, he believed as firmly a_n his own existence. And that in the very place where he had saved up to bu_imself a "little home," where he had married for the second time, getting _owry with his bride, where perhaps, for a hundred miles round there was no_ne man, himself included, who was the very least like a future member "of th_niversal human republic and social harmony."
"God knows how these people come to exist!" Nikolay wondered, recallin_ometimes the unlooked-for Fourierist.
Our prince travelled for over three years, so that he was almost forgotten i_he town. We learned from Stepan Trofimovitch that he had travelled all ove_urope, that he had even been in Egypt and had visited Jerusalem, and then ha_oined some scientific expedition to Iceland, and he actually did go t_celand. It was reported too that he had spent one winter attending lecture_n a German university. He did not write often to his mother, twice a year, o_ven less, but Varvara Petrovna was not angry or offended at this. Sh_ccepted submissively and without repining the relations that had bee_stablished once for all between her son and herself. She fretted for her
"Nicolas" and dreamed of him continually. She kept her dreams and lamentation_o herself. She seemed to have become less intimate even with Stepa_rofimovitch. She was forming secret projects, and seemed to have become mor_areful about money than ever. She was more than ever given to saving mone_nd being angry at Stepan Trofimovitch's losses at cards.
At last, in the April of this year, she received a letter from Paris fro_raskovya Ivanovna Drozdov, the widow of the general and the friend of Varvar_etrovna's childhood. Praskovya Ivanovna, whom Varvara Petrovna had not see_r corresponded with for eight years, wrote, informing her that Nikola_syevolodovitch had become very intimate with them and a great friend of he_nly daughter, Liza, and that he was intending to accompany them t_witzerland, to Verney-Montreux, though in the household of Count K. (a ver_nfluential personage in Petersburg), who was now staying in Paris. He wa_eceived like a son of the family, so that he almost lived at the count's. Th_etter was brief, and the object of it was perfectly clear, though i_ontained only a plain statement of the above-mentioned facts without drawin_ny inferences from them. Varvara Petrovna did not pause long to consider; sh_ade up her mind instantly, made her preparations, and taking with her he_rotegee, Dasha (Shatov's sister), she set off in the middle of April fo_aris, and from there went on to Switzerland. She returned in July, alone, leaving Dasha with the Drozdovs. She brought us the news that the Drozdov_hemselves had promised to arrive among us by the end of August.
The Drozdovs, too, were landowners of our province, but the official duties o_eneral Ivan Ivanovitch Drozdov (who had been a friend of Varvara Petrovna'_nd a colleague of her husband's) had always prevented them from visitin_heir magnificent estate. On the death of the general, which had taken plac_he year before, the inconsolable widow had gone abroad with her daughter, partly in order to try the grape-cure which she proposed to carry out a_erney-Montreux during the latter half of the summer. On their return t_ussia they intended to settle in our province for good. She had a large hous_n the town which had stood empty for many years with the windows nailed up.
They were wealthy people. Praskovya Ivanovna had been, in her first marriage, a Madame Tushin, and like her school-friend, Varvara Petrovna, was th_aughter of a government contractor of the old school, and she too had been a_eiress at her marriage. Tushin, a retired cavalry captain, was also a man o_eans, and of some ability. At his death he left a snug fortune to his onl_aughter Liza, a child of seven. Now that Lizaveta Nikolaevna was twenty-tw_er private fortune might confidently be reckoned at 200,000 roubles, to sa_othing of the propertywhich was bound to come to her at the death of he_other, who had no children by her second marriage. Varvara Petrovna seemed t_e very well satisfied with her expedition. In her own opinion she ha_ucceeded in coming to a satisfactory understanding with Praskovya Ivanovna, and immediately on her arrival she confided everything to Stepan Trofimovitch.
She was positively effusive with him as she had not been for a very long time.
"Hurrah!" cried Stepan Trofimovitch, and snapped his fingers.
He was in a perfect rapture, especially as he had spent the whole time of hi_riend's absence in extreme dejection. On setting off she had not even take_eave of him properly, and had said nothing of her plan to "that old woman,"
dreading, perhaps, that he might chatter about it. She was cross with him a_he time on account of a considerable gambling debt which she had suddenl_iscovered. But before she left Switzerland she had felt that on her retur_he must make up for it to her forsaken friend, especially as she had treate_im very curtly for a long time past. Her abrupt and mysterious departure ha_ade a profound and poignant impression on the timid heart of Stepa_rofimovitch, and to make matters worse he was beset with other difficultie_t the same time. He was worried by a very considerable money obligation, which had weighed upon him for a long time and which he could never hope t_eet without Varvara Petrovna's assistance. Moreover, in the May of this year, the term of office of our mild and gentle Ivan Ossipovitch came to an end. H_as superseded under rather unpleasant circumstances. Then, while Varvar_etrovna was still away, there followed the arrival of our new governor, Andrey Antonovitch von Lembke, and with that a change began at once to b_erceptible in the attitude of almost the whole of our provincial societ_owards Varvara Petrovna, and consequently towards Stepan Trofimovitch. He ha_lready had time anyway to make some disagreeable though valuabl_bservations, and seemed very apprehensive alone without Varvara Petrovna. H_ad an agitating suspicion that he had already been mentioned to the governo_s a dangerous man. He knew for a fact that some of our ladies meant to giv_p calling on Varvara Petrovna. Of our governor's wife (who was only expecte_o arrive in the autumn) it was reported that though she was, so it was heard, proud, she was a real aristocrat, and "not like that poor Varvara Petrovna."
Everybody seemed to know for a fact, and in the greatest detail, that ou_overnor's wife and Varvara Petrovna had met already in society and had parte_nemies, so that the mere mention of Madame von Lembke's name would,' it wa_aid, make a painful impression on Varvara Petrovna. The confident an_riumphant air of Varvara Petrovna, the contemptuous indifference with whic_he heard of the opinions of our provincial ladies and the agitation in loca_ociety, revived the flagging spirits of Stepan Trofimovitch and cheered hi_p at once. With peculiar, gleefully-obsequious humour, he was beginning t_escribe the new governor's arrival.
"You are no doubt aware, excellente amie," he said, jauntily and coquettishl_rawling his words, "what is meant by a Russian administrator, speakin_enerally, and what is meant by a new Russian administrator, that is th_ewly-baked, newly-established … ces interminables mots Russes! But I don'_hink you can know in practice what is meant by administrative ardour, an_hat sort of thing that is."
"Administrative ardour? I don't know what that is."
"Well … Vous savez chez nous … En un mot, set the most insignificant nonentit_o sell miserable tickets at a railway station, and the nonentity will at onc_eel privileged to look down on you like a Jupiter, pour montrer son pouvoi_hen you go to take a ticket. 'Now then,' he says, 'I shall show you my power'
… and in them it comes to a genuine, administrative ardour. En un mot, I'v_ead that some verger in one of our Russian churches abroadmais c'est ire_urieuxdrove, literally drove a distinguished English family, les dame_harmantes, out of the church before the beginning of the Lenten service … vous savez ces chants et le livre de Job … on the simple pretext that
'foreigners are not allowed to loaf about a Russian church, and that they mus_ome at the time fixed… .' And he sent them into fainting fits… . That verge_as suffering from an attack of administrative ardour, et il a montre so_ouvoir."
"Cut it short if you can, Stepan Trofimovitch."
"Mr. von Lembke is making a tour of the province now. En un mot, this Andre_ntonovitch, though he is a russified German and of the Orthodox persuasion, and evenI will say that for hima remarkably handsome man of about forty … "
"What makes you think he's a handsome man? He has eyes like a sheep's."
"Precisely so. But in this I yield, of course, to the opinion of our ladies."
"Let's get on, Stepan Trofimovitch, I beg you! By the way, you're wearing _ed neck-tie. Is it long since you've taken to it?"
"I've … I've only put it on to-day."
"And do you take your constitutional? Do you go for a four-mile walk every da_s the doctor told you to?"
"N-not … always."
"I knew you didn't! I felt sure of that when I was in Switzerland!" she crie_rritably. "Now you must go not four but six miles a day! You've grow_erribly slack, terribly, terribly! You're not simply getting old, you'r_etting decrepit… . You shocked me when I first saw you just now, in spite o_our red tie, quelle idee rouge! Go on about Von Lembke if you've reall_omething to tell me, and do finish some time, I entreat you, I'm tired."
"En un mot, I only wanted to say that he is one of those administrators wh_egin to have power at forty, who, till they're forty, have been stagnating i_nsignificance and then suddenly come to the front through suddenly acquirin_ wife, or some other equally desperate means… . That is, he has gone away now … that is, I mean to say, it was at once whispered in both his ears that I a_ corrupter of youth, and a hot-bed of provincial atheism… . He began makin_nquiries at once."
"Is that true?"
"I took steps about it, in fact. When he was 'informed' that you 'ruled th_rovince,' vous savez, he allowed himself to use the expression that 'ther_hall be nothing of that sort in the future.' "
"Did he say that?"
"That 'there shall be nothing of the sort in future,' and, avec cette morgue… . His wife, Yulia Mihailovna, we shall behold at the end of August, she'_oming straight from Petersburg."
"From abroad. We met there."
"In Paris and in Switzerland. She's related to the Drozdovs."
"Related! What an extraordinary coincidence! They say she is ambitious and … supposed to have great connections."
"Nonsense! Connections indeed! She was an old maid without a farthing till sh_as five-and-forty. But now she's hooked her Von Lembke, and, of course, he_hole object is to push him forward. They're both intriguers."
"And they say she's two years older than he is?"
"Five. Her mother used to wear out her skirts on my doorsteps in Moscow; sh_sed to beg for an invitation to our balls as a favour when my husband wa_iving. And this creature used to sit all night alone in a corner withou_ancing, with her turquoise fly on her forehead, so that simply from pity _sed to have to send her her first partner at two o'clock in the morning. Sh_as five-and-twenty then, and they used to rig her out in short skirts like _ittle girl. It was improper to have them about at last."
"I seem to see that fly."
"I tell you, as soon as I arrived I was in the thick of an intrigue. You rea_adame Drozdov's letter, of course. What could be clearer? What did I find?
That fool Praskovya herselfshe always was a foollooked at me as much as to as_hy I'd come. You can fancy how surprised I was. I looked round, and there wa_hat Lembke woman at her tricks, and that cousin of hersold Drozdov's nephewi_as all clear. You may be sure I changed all that in a twinkling, an_raskovya is on my side again, but what an intrigue
"In which you came off victor, however. Bismarck!"
"Without being a Bismarck I'm equal to falseness and stupidity wherever I mee_t. falseness, and Praskovya's folly. I don't know when I've met such a flabb_oman, and what's more her legs are swollen, and she's a good-nature_impleton, too. What can be more foolish than a good-natured simpleton?"
"A spiteful fool, ma bonne amie, a spiteful fool is still more foolish,"
Stepan Trofimovitch protested magnanimously.
"You're right, perhaps. Do you remember Liza?"
"But she's not an enfant now, but a woman, and a woman of character. She's _enerous, passionate creature, and what I like about her, she stands up t_hat confiding fool, her mother. There was almost a row over that cousin."
"Bah, and of course he's no relation of Lizaveta Nikolaevna's at all… . Has h_esigns on her?"
"You see, he's a young officer, not by any means talkative, modest in fact. _lways want to be just. I fancy he is opposed to the intrigue himself, an_sn't aiming at anything, and it was only the Von Lembke's tricks. He had _reat respect for Nicolas. You understand, it all depends on Liza. But I lef_er on the best of terms with Nicolas, and he promised he would come to us i_ovember. So it's only the Von Lembkev who is intriguing, and Praskovya is _lind woman. She suddenly tells me that all my suspicions are fancy. I tol_er to her face she was a fool. I am ready to repeat it at the day o_udgment. And if it hadn't been for Nicolas begging me to leave it for a time, I wouldn't have come away without unmasking that false woman. She's bee_rying to ingratiate herself with Count K. through Nicolas. She wants to com_etween mother and son. But Liza's on our side, and I came to an understandin_ith Praskovya. Do you know that Karmazinov is a relation of hers?"
"What? A relation of Madame von Lembke?"
"Yes, of hers. Distant."
"Karmazinov, the novelist?"
"Yes, the writer. Why does it surprise you? Of course he considers himself _reat man. Stuck-up creature! She's coming here with him. Now she's making _uss of him out there. She's got a notion of setting up a sort of literar_ociety here. He's coming for a month, he wants to sell his last piece o_roperty here. I very nearly met him in Switzerland, and was very anxious no_o. Though I hope he will deign to recognise me. He wrote letters to me in th_ld days, he has been in my house. I should like you to dress better, Stepa_rofimovitch; you're growing more slovenly every day… . Oh, how you tormen_e! What are you reading now?"
"I … I … "
"I understand. The same as ever, friends and drinking, the club and cards, an_he reputation of an atheist. I don't like that reputation, Stepa_rofimovitch; I don't care for you to be called an atheist, particularly now.
I didn't care for it in old days, for it's all nothing but empty chatter. I_ust be said at last."
"Mais, ma chere … "
"Listen, Stepan Trofimovitch, of course I'm ignorant compared with you on al_earned subjects, but as I was travelling here I thought a great deal abou_ou. I've come to one conclusion."
"That you and I are not the wisest people in the world, but that there ar_eople wiser than we are."
"Witty and apt. If there are people wiser than we are, then there are peopl_ore right than we are, and we may be mistaken, you mean? Mais, ma bonne amie, granted that I may make a mistake, yet have I not the common, human, eternal, supreme [right of freedom of conscience? I have the right not to be bigoted o_uperstitious if I don't wish to, and for that I shall naturally be hated b_ertain persons to the end of time. El puis, comme on trouve toujours plus d_oines que de raison, and as I thoroughly agree with that … "
"What, what did you say?"
"I said, on trouve, toujours plus de moines que de raison, and as I thoroughly … "
"I'm sure that's not your saying. You must have taken it from somewhere."
"It was Pascal said that."
"Just as I thought … it's not your own. Why don't you ever say anything lik_hat yourself, so shortly and to the point, instead of dragging things out t_uch a length? That's much, better than what you said just now abou_dministrative ardour… "
"Ma foi, chere … why? In the first place probably because I'm not a Pasca_fter all, et puis … secondly, we Russians never can say anything in our ow_anguage… . We never have said anything hitherto, at any rate… ."
"H'm! That's not true, perhaps. Anyway, you'd better make a note of suc_hrases, and remember them, you know, in case you have to talk… . Ach, Stepha_rofimovitch. I have come to talk to you seriously, quite seriously."
"Chere, chere amie!"
"Now that all these Von Lembkes and Karmazinovs … Oh, my goodness, how yo_ave deteriorated! … Oh, my goodness, how you do torment me! … I should hav_iked these people to feel a respect for you, for they're not worth you_ittle fingerbut the way you behave! … What will they see? What shall I hav_o show them? Instead of nobly standing as an example, keeping up th_radition of the past, you surround yourself with a wretched rabble, you hav_icked up impossible habits, you've grown feeble, you can't do without win_nd cards, you read nothing but Paul de Kock, and write nothing, while all o_hem write; all your time's wasted in gossip. How can you bring yourself to b_riends with a wretched creature like your inseparable Liputin?
"Why is he mine and inseparable 1" Stepan Trofimovitch Protested timidly.
"Where is he now?" Varvara Petrovna went on, sharply and sternly.
"He … he has an infinite respect for you, and he's gone to Sk, to receive a_nheritance left him by his mother."
"He seems to do nothing but get money. And how's Shatov? Is he just the same?"
"Irascible, mais bon,"
"I can't endure your Shatov. He's spiteful and he thinks too much of himself."
"How is Darya Pavlovna?"
"You mean Dasha? What made you think of her?" Varvara Petrovna looked at hi_nquisitively. "She's quite well. I left her with the Drozdovs. I hear_omething about your son in Switzerland. Nothing good."
"Oh, c'est un histoire bien bete! Je vous attendais, ma bonne amie, pour vou_aconter … "
"Enough, Stepan Trofimovitch. Leave me in peace. I'm worn out. We shall hav_ime to talk to our heart's content, especially of what's unpleasant. You'v_egun to splutter when you laugh, it's a sign of senility! And what a strang_ay of laughing you've taken to! … Good Heavens, what a lot of bad habit_ou've fallen into! Karmazinov won't come and see you! And people are only to_lad to make the most of anything as it is… . You've betrayed yoursel_ompletely now. Well, come, that's enough, that's enough, I'm tired. Yo_eally might have mercy upon one!"
Stepan Trofimovitch "had mercy," but he withdrew in great perturbation.
Our friend certainly had fallen into not a few bad habits, especially of late.
He had obviously and rapidly deteriorated; and it was true that he had becom_lovenly. He drank more and had become more tearful and nervous; and had grow_oo impressionable on the artistic side. His face had acquired a strang_acility for changing with extraordinary quickness, from the most solem_xpression, for instance, to the most absurd, and even foolish. He could no_ndure solitude, and was always craving for amusement. One had always t_epeat to him some gossip, some local anecdote, and every day a new one. I_o; one came to see him for a long time he wandered disconsolately about th_ooms, walked to the window, puckering up his lips, heaved deep sighs, an_lmost fell to whimpering at last. He was always full of forebodings, wa_fraid of something unexpected and inevitable; he had become timorous; h_egan to pay great attention to his dreams.
He spent all that day and evening in great depression, he sent for me, wa_ery much agitated, talked a long while, gave me a long account of things, bu_ll rather disconnected. Varvara Petrovna had known for a long time that h_oncealed nothing from me. It seemed to me at last that he was worried abou_omething particular, and was perhaps unable to form a definite idea of i_imself. As a rule when we met tete-a-tete and he began making long complaint_o me, a bottle was almost always brought in after a little time, and thing_ecame much more comfortable. This time there was no wine, and he wa_vidently struggling all the while against the desire to send for it.
"And why is she always so cross?" he complained every minute, like a child.
"Tows les hommes de genie et de progres en Mussie etaient, sont, et seron_oujours des gamblers et des drunkards qui boivent in outbreaks … and I'm no_uch a gambler after all, and I'm not such a drunkard. She reproaches me fo_ot writing anything. Strange idea! … She asks why I lie down? She says _ught to stand, 'an example and reproach.' Mais, entre nous soit dit, what i_ man to do who is destined to stand as a 'reproach,' if not to lie down? Doe_he understand that?"
And at last it became clear to me what was the chief particular trouble whic_as worrying him so persistently at this time. Many times that evening he wen_o the looking-glass, and stood a long while before it. At last he turned fro_he looking-glass to me, and with a sort of strange despair, said: "Mon cher, je suis un broken-down man." Yes, certainly, up to that time, up to that ver_ay there was one thing only of which he had always felt confident in spite o_he "new views," and of the "change in Varvara Petrovna's ideas," that was, the conviction that still he had a fascination for her feminine heart, no_imply as an exile or a celebrated man of learning, but as a handsome man. Fo_wenty years this soothing and flattering opinion had been rooted in his mind, and perhaps of all his convictions this was the hardest to part with. Had h_ny presentiment that evening of the colossal ordeal which was preparing fo_im in the immediate future?
I will now enter upon the description of that almost forgotten incident wit_hich my story properly speaking begins.
At last at the very end of August the Drozdovs returned. Their arrival made _onsiderable sensation in local society, and took place shortly before thei_elation, our new governor's wife, made her long-expected appearance. But o_ll these interesting events I will speak later. For the present I wil_onfine myself to saying that Praskovya Ivanovna brought Varvara Petrovna, wh_as expecting her so impatiently, a most perplexing problem: Nikolay ha_arted from them in July, and, meeting Count K. on the Rhine, had set off wit_im and his family for Petersburg. (N.B.The Count's three daughters were al_f marriageable age.)
"Lizaveta is so proud and obstinate that I could get nothing out of her,"
Praskovya Ivanovna said in conclusion. "But I saw for myself that somethin_ad happened between her and Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. I don't know th_easons, but I fancy, my dear Varvara Petrovna, that you will have to ask you_arya Pavlovna for them. To my thinking Liza was offended. I'm glad. I ca_ell you that I've brought you back your favourite at last and handed her ove_o you; it's a weight off my mind."
These venomous words were uttered with remarkable irritability. It was eviden_hat the "flabby" woman had prepared them and gloated beforehand over th_ffect they would produce. But Varvara Petrovna was not the woman to b_isconcerted by sentimental effects and enigmas. She sternly demanded the mos_recise and satisfactory explanations. Praskovya Ivanovna immediately lowere_er tone and even ended by dissolving into tears and expressions of th_armest friendship. This irritable but sentimental lady, like Stepa_rofimovitch, was for ever yearning for true friendship, and her chie_omplaint against her daughter Lizaveta Mkolaevna was just that "her daughte_as not a friend to her."
But from all her explanations and outpourings nothing certain could b_athered but that there actually had been some sort of quarrel between Liz_nd Nikolay, but of the nature of the quarrel Praskovya Ivanovna was obviousl_nable to form a definite idea. As for her imputations against Darya Pavlovna, she not only withdrew them completely in the end, but even particularly begge_arvara Petrovna to pay no attention to her words, because "they had been sai_n irritation." In fact, it had all been left very far from clearsuspicious, indeed. According to her account the quarrel had arisen from Liza's "obstinat_nd ironical character." '' Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch is proud, too, and thoug_e was very much in love, yet he could not endure sarcasm, and began to b_arcastic himself. Soon afterwards we made the acquaintance of a young man, the nephew, I believe, of your 'Professor' and, indeed, the surname's th_ame."
"The son, not the nephew," Varvara Petrovna corrected her.
Even in old days Praskovya Ivanovna had been always unable to recall Stepa_rofimovitch's name, and had always called him the "Professor."
"Well, his son, then; so much the better. Of course, it's all the same to me.
An ordinary young man, very lively and free in his manners, but nothin_pecial in him. Well, then, Liza herself did wrong, she made friends with th_oung man with the idea of making Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch jealous. I don't se_uch harm in that; it's the way of girls, quite usual, even charming in them.
Only instead of being jealous Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch made friends with th_oung man himself, just as though he saw nothing and didn't care. This mad_iza furious. The young man soon went away (he was in a great hurry to ge_omewhere) and Liza took to picking quarrels with Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch a_very opportunity. She noticed that he used sometimes to talk to Dasha; and, well, she got in such a frantic state that even my life wasn't worth living, my dear. The doctors have forbidden my being irritated, and I was so sick o_heir lake they make such a fuss about, it simply gave me toothache, I ha_uch rheumatism. It's stated in print that the Lake of Geneva does give peopl_he toothache. It's a feature of the place. Then Nikolay Vsyevolodovitc_uddenly got a letter from the countess and he left us at once. He packed u_n one day. They parted in a friendly way, and Liza became very cheerful an_rivolous, and laughed a great deal seeing him off; only that was all put on.
When he had gone she became very thoughtful, and she gave up speaking of hi_ltogether and wouldn't let me mention his name. And I should advise you, dea_arvara Petrovna, not to approach the subject with Liza, you'll only do harm.
But if you hold your tongue she'll begin to talk of it herself, and the_ou'll learn more. I believe they'll come together again, if only Nikola_syevolodovitch doesn't put off coming, as he promised."
"I'll write to him at once. If that's how it was, there was nothing in th_uarrel; all nonsense! And I know Darya too well. It's nonsense!"
"I'm sorry for what I said about Dashenka, I did wrong. Their conversation_ere quite ordinary and they talked out loud, too. But it all upset me so muc_t the time, my dear. And Liza, I saw, got on with her again as affectionatel_s before… ."
That very day Varvara Petrovna wrote to Nikolay, and begged him to come, i_nly one month, earlier than the date he had fixed. But yet she still fel_hat there was something unexplained and obscure in the matter. She pondere_ver it all the evening and all night. Praskovya's opinion seemed to her to_nnocent and sentimental. "Praskovya has always been too sentimental from th_ld schooldays upwards," she reflected. "Nicolas is not the man to run awa_rom a girl's taunts. There's some other reason for it, if there really ha_een a breach between them. That officer's here though, they've brought hi_ith them. As a relation he lives in their house. And, as for Darya, Praskovy_as in too much haste to apologise. She must have kept something to herself, which she wouldn't tell me."
By the morning Varvara Petrovna had matured a project for putting a stop onc_or all to one misunderstanding at least; a project amazing in it_nexpectedness. What was in her heart when she conceived it? It would be har_o decide and I will not undertake to explain beforehand all the incongruitie_f which it was made up. I simply confine myself as chronicler to recordin_vents precisely as they happened, and it is not my fault if they see_ncredible. Yet I must once more testify that by the morning there was not th_east suspicion of Dasha left in Varvara Petrovna's mind, though in realit_here never had been anyshe had too much confidence in her. Besides, she coul_ot admit the idea that "Nicolas" could be attracted by her Darya. Nex_orning when Darya Pavlovna was pouring out tea at the table Varvara Petrovn_ooked for a long while intently at her and, perhaps for the twentieth tim_ince the previous day, repeated to herself: "It's all nonsense!"
All she noticed was that Dasha looked rather tired, and that she was eve_uieter and more apathetic than she used to be. After their morning tea, according to their invariable custom, they sat down to needlework. Varvar_etrovna demanded from her a full account of her impressions abroad, especially of nature, of the inhabitants, of the towns, the customs, thei_rts and commerceof everything she had time to observe. She asked no question_bout the Drozdovs or how she had got on with them. Dasha, sitting beside he_t the work-table helping her with the embroidery, talked for half an hour i_er even, monotonous, but rather weak voice.
"Darya!" Varvara Petrovna interrupted suddenly, "is there nothing special yo_ant to tell me?"
"No, nothing," said Dasha, after a moment's thought, and she glanced a_arvara Petrovna with her light-coloured eyes.
"Nothing on your soul, on your heart, or your conscience?"
"Nothing," Dasha repeated, quietly, but with a sort of sullen firmness.
"I knew there wasn't! Believe me, Darya, I shall never doubt you. Now si_till and listen. In front of me, on that chair. I want to see the whole o_ou. That's right. Listen, do you want to be married?"
Dasha responded with a long, inquiring, but not greatly astonished look.
"Stay, hold your tongue. In the first place there is a very great differenc_n age, but of course you know better than anyone what nonsense that is.
You're a sensible girl, and there must be no mistakes in your life. Besides, he's still a handsome man… In short, Stepan Trofimovitch, for whom you hav_lways had such a respect. Well?"
Dasha looked at her still more inquiringly, and this time not simply wit_urprise; she blushed perceptibly.
"Stay, hold your tongue, don't be in a hurry! Though you will have money unde_y will, yet when I die, what will become of you, even if you have money?
You'll be deceived and robbed of your money, you'll be lost in fact. Bu_arried to him you're the wife of a distinguished man. Look at him on th_ther hand. Though I've provided for him, if I die what will become of him _ut I could trust him to you. Stay, I've not finished. He's frivolous, shilly- shally, cruel, egoistic, he has low habits. But mind you think highly of him, in the first place because there are many worse. I don't want to get you of_y hands by marrying you to a rascal, you don't imagine anything of that sort, do you? And, above all, because I ask you, you'll think highly of him,"
She broke off suddenly and irritably. "Do you hear? Why won't you sa_omething?"
Dasha still listened and did not speak.
"Stay, wait a little. He's an old woman, but you know, that's all the bette_or you. Besides, he's a pathetic old woman. He doesn't deserve to be loved b_ woman at all, but he deserves to be loved for his helplessness, and you mus_ove him for his helplessness. You understand me, don't you? Do you understan_e?"
Dasha nodded her head affirmatively.
"I knew you would. I expected as much of you. He will love you because h_ught, he ought; he ought to adore you." Varvara Petrovna almost shrieked wit_eculiar exasperation. "Besides, he will be in love with you without any ough_bout it. I know him. And another thing, I shall always be here. You may b_ure I shall always be here. He will complain of you, he'll begin to sa_hings against you behind your back, he'll whisper things against you to an_tray person he meets, he'll be for ever whining and whining; he'll write yo_etters from one room to another, two a day, but he won't be able to get o_ithout you all the same, and that's the chief thing. Make him obey you. I_ou can't make him you'll be a fool. He'll want to hang himself and threaten, todon't you believe it. It's nothing but nonsense. Don't believe it; but stil_eep a sharp look-out, you never can tell, and one day he may hang himself. I_oes happen with people like that. It's not through strength of will bu_hrough weakness that people hang themselves, and so never drive him to a_xtreme, that's the first rule in married life. Remember, too, that he's _oet. Listen, Dasha, there's no greater happiness than self-sacrifice. An_esides, you'll be giving me great satisfaction and that's the chief thing.
Don't think I've been talking nonsense. I understand what I'm saying. I'm a_goist, you be an egoist, too. Of course I'm not forcing you. It's entirel_or you to decide. As you say, so it shall be. Well, what's the good o_itting like this. Speak!"
"I don't mind, Varvara Petrovna, if I really must be married," said Dash_irmly.
"Must? What are you hinting at?" Varvara Petrovna looked sternly and intentl_t her.
Dasha was silent, picking at her embroidery canvas with her needle.
"Though you're a clever girl, you're talking nonsense; though it is true tha_ have certainly set my heart on marrying you, yet it's not because it'_ecessary, but simply because the idea has occurred to me, and only to Stepa_rofimovitch. If it had not been for Stepan Trofimovitch, I should not hav_hought of marrying you yet, though you are twenty… . Well?"
"I'll do as you wish, Varvara Petrovna."
"Then you consent! Stay, be quiet. Why are you in such a hurry? I haven'_inished. In my will I've left you fifteen thousand roubles. I'll give yo_hat at once, on your wedding-day. You will give eight thousand of it to him; that is, not to him but to me. He has a debt of eight thousand. I'll pay it, but he must know that it is done with your money. You'll have seven thousan_eft in your hands. Never let him touch a farthing of it. Don't pay his debt_ver. If once you pay them, you'll never be free of them. Besides, I shal_lways be here. You shall have twelve hundred roubles a year from me, wit_xtras, fifteen hundred, besides board and lodging, which shall be at m_xpense, just as he has it now. Only you must set up your own servants. You_early allowance shall be paid to you all at once straight into your hands.
But be kind, and sometimes give him something, and let his friends come to se_im once a week, but if they come more often, turn them out. But I shall b_ere, too. And if I die, your pension will go on till his death, do you hear, till his death, for it's his pension, not yours. And besides the seve_housand you'll have now, which you ought to keep untouched if you're no_oolish, I'll leave you another eight thousand in my will. And you'll ge_othing more than that from me, it's right that you should know it. Come, yo_onsent, eh? Will you say something at last?"
"I have told you already, Varvara Petrovna."
"Remember that you're free to decide. As you like, so it shall be."
"Then, may I ask, Varvara Petrovna, has Stepan Trofimovitch said anythin_et?"
"No, he hasn't said anything, he doesn't know … but he will speak directly."
She jumped up at once and threw on a black shawl. Dasha flushed a littl_gain, and watched her with questioning eyes. Varvara Petrovna turned suddenl_o her with a face flaming with anger.
"You're a fool!" She swooped down on her like a hawk. "An ungrateful fool!
What's in your mind? Can you imagine that I'd compromise you, in any way, i_he smallest degree. Why, he shall crawl on his knees to ask you, he must b_ying of happiness, that's how it shall be arranged. Why, you know that I'_ever let you suffer. Or do you suppose he'll take you for the sake of tha_ight thousand, and that I'm hurrying off to sell you? You're a fool, a fool!
You're all ungrateful fools. Give me my umbrella!"
And she flew off to walk by the wet brick pavements and the wooden planks t_tepan Trofimovitch's.
It was true that she would never have let Dasha suffer; on the contrary, sh_onsidered now that she was acting as her benefactress. The most generous an_egitimate indignation was glowing in her soul, when, as she put on her shawl, she caught fixed upon her the embarrassed and mistrustful eyes of he_rotegee. She had genuinely loved the girl from her childhood upwards.
Praskovya Ivanovna had with justice called Darya Pavlovna her favourite. Lon_go Varvara Petrovna had made up her mind once for all that "Darya'_isposition was not like her brother's" (not, that is, like Ivan Shatov's), that she was quiet and gentle, and capable of great self-sacrifice; that sh_as distinguished by a power of devotion, unusual modesty, rar_easonableness, and, above all, by gratitude. Till that time Dasha had, to al_ppearances, completely justified her expectations.
"In that life there will be no mistakes," said Varvara Petrovna when the gir_as only twelve years old, and as it was characteristic of her to attac_erself doggedly and passionately to any dream that fascinated her, any ne_esign, any idea that struck her as noble, she made up her mind at once t_ducate Dasha as though she were her own daughter. She at once set aside a su_f money for her, and sent for a governess, Miss Criggs, who lived with the_ntil the girl was sixteen, but she was for some reason suddenly dismissed.
Teachers came for her from the High School, among them a real Frenchman, wh_aught Dasha French. He, too, was suddenly dismissed, almost turned out of th_ouse. A poor lady, a widow of good family, taught her to play the piano. Ye_er chief tutor was Stepan Trofimovitch.
In reality he first discovered Dasha. He began teaching the quiet child eve_efore Varvara Petrovna had begun to think about her. I repeat again, it wa_onderful how children took to him. Lizaveta Nikolaevna Tushin had been taugh_y him from the age of eight till eleven (Stepan Trofimovitch took no fees, o_ourse, for his lessons, and would not on any account have taken payment fro_he Drozdovs). But he fell in love with the charming child and used to tel_er poems of a sort about the creation of the world, about the earth, and th_istory of humanity. His lectures about the primitive peoples and primitiv_an were more interesting than the Arabian Nights. Liza, who was ecstatic ove_hese stories, used to mimic Stepan Trofimovitch very funnily at home. H_eard of this and once peeped in on her unawares. Liza, overcome wit_onfusion, flung herself into his arms and shed tears; Stepan Trofimovitc_ept too with delight. But Liza soon after went away, and only Dasha was left.
When Dasha began to have other teachers, Stepan Trofimovitch gave up hi_essons with her, and by degrees left off noticing her. Things went on lik_his for a long time. Once when she was seventeen he was struck by he_rettiness. It happened at Varvara Petrovna's table. He began to talk to th_oung girl, was much pleased with her answers, and ended by offering to giv_er a serious and comprehensive course of lessons on the history of Russia_iterature. Varvara Petrovna approved, and thanked him for his excellent idea, and Dasha was delighted. Stepan Trofimovitch proceeded to make specia_reparations for the lectures, and at last they began. They began with th_ost ancient period. The first lecture went off enchantingly. Varvara Petrovn_as present. When Stepan Trofimovitch had finished, and as he was goin_nformed his pupil that the next time he would deal with "The Story of th_xpedition of Igor," Varvara Petrovna suddenly got up and announced that ther_ould be no more lessons. Stepan Trofimovitch winced, but said nothing, an_asha flushed crimson. It put a stop to the scheme, however. This had happene_ust three years before Varvara Petrovna's unexpected fancy.
Poor Stepan Trofimovitch was sitting alone free from all misgivings. Plunge_n mournful reveries he had for some time been looking out of the window t_ee whether any of his friends were coining. But nobody would come. It wa_rizzling. It was turning cold, he would have to have the stove heated. H_ighed. Suddenly a terrible apparition flashed upon his eyes:
Varvara Petrovna in such weather and at such an unexpected hour to see him!
And on foot! He was so astounded that he forgot to put on his coat, an_eceived her as he was, in his everlasting pink-wadded dressing-jacket.
"Ma bonne amie!" he cried faintly, to greet her. "You're alone; I'm glad; _an't endure your friends. How you do smoke! Heavens, what an atmosphere! Yo_aven't finished your morning tea and it's nearly twelve o'clock. It's you_dea of blissdisorder! You take pleasure in dirt. What's that torn paper o_he floor? Nastasya, Nastasya! What is your Nastasya about? Open the window, the casement, the doors, fling everything wide open. And we'll go into th_rawing-room. I've come to you on a matter of importance. And you sweep up, m_ood woman, for once in your life."
"They make such a muck!" Nastasya whined in a voice of plaintive exasperation.
"Well, you must sweep, sweep it up fifteen times a day! You've a wretche_rawing-room" (when they had gone into the drawing-room). "Shut the doo_roperly. She'll be listening. You must have it repapered. Didn't I send _aperhanger to you with patterns? Why didn't you choose one? Sit down, an_isten. Do sit down, I beg you. Where are you off to? Where are you off to _here are you off to?
"I'll be back directly," Stepan Trofimovitch cried from the next room. "Here, I am again."
"Ah,- you've changed your coat." She scanned him mockingly. (He had flung hi_oat on over the dressing-jacket.) "Well, certainly that's more suited to ou_ubject. Do sit down, I entreat you."
She told him everything at once, abruptly and impressively She hinted at th_ight thousand of which he stood in such terrible need. She told him in detai_f the dowry. Stepan Trofimovitch sat trembling, opening his eyes wider an_ider. He heard it all, but he could not realise it clearly. He tried t_peak, but his voice kept breaking. All he knew was that everything would b_s she said, that to protest and refuse to agree would be useless, and that h_as a married man irrevocably.
"Mais, ma bonne amie! … for the third time, and at my age … and to such _hild." He brought out at last, "Mais, c'est une enfant!"
"A child who is twenty years old, thank God. Please don't roll your eyes, _ntreat you, you're not on the stage. You're very clever and learned, but yo_now nothing at all about life. You will always want a nurse to look afte_ou. I shall die, and what will become of you? She will be a good nurse t_ou; she's a modest girl, strong-willed, reasonable; besides, I shall be her_oo, I shan't die directly. She's fond of home, she's an angel of gentleness.
This happy thought came to me in Switzerland. Do you understand if I tell yo_yself that she is an angel of gentleness!" she screamed with sudden fury.
"Your house is dirty, she will bring in order, cleanliness. Everything wil_hine like a mirror. Good gracious, do you expect me to go on my knees to yo_ith such a treasure, to enumerate all the advantages, to court you! Why, yo_ught to be on your knees… . Oh, you shallow, shallow, faint-hearted man!"
"But … I'm an old man!"
"What do your fifty-three years matter! Fifty is the middle of life, not th_nd of it. You are a handsome man and you know it yourself. You know, too, what a respect she has for you. If I die, what will become of her? But marrie_o you she'll be at peace, and I shall be at peace. You have renown, a name, _oving heart. You receive a pension which I look upon as an obligation. Yo_ill save her perhaps, you will save her! In any case you will be doing her a_onour. You will form her for life, you will develop her heart, you wil_irect her ideas. How many people come to grief nowadays because their idea_re wrongly directed. By that time your book will be ready, and you will a_nce set people talking about you again."
"I am, in fact," he muttered, at once flattered by Varvara Petrovna's adroi_nsinuations. "I was just preparing to sit down to my 'Tales from Spanis_istory.'"
"Well, there you are. It's just come right."
"But … she? Have you spoken to her?"
"Don't worry about her. And there's no need for you to be inquisitive. O_ourse, you must ask her yourself, entreat her to do you the honour, yo_nderstand? But don't be uneasy. I shall be here. Besides, you love her.''
Stepan Trofimovitch felt giddy. The walls were going round. There was on_errible idea underlying this to which he could
not reconcile himself.
"Excellente amie" his voice quivered suddenly. "I could never have conceive_hat you would make up your mind to give me in marriage to another … woman."
"You're not a girl, Stepan Trofimovitch. Only girls are given in marriage. Yo_re taking a wife," Varvara Petrovna hissed malignantly.
"Oui, j'ai pris un mot pour un autre. Mais c'est egal." He gazed at her with _opeless air.
"I see that e'est egal," she muttered contemptuously through her teeth. "Goo_eavens! Why he's going to faint. Nastasya, Nastasya, water!"
But water was not needed. He came to himself. Varvara Petrovna took up he_mbrella.
"I see it's no use talking to you now… ."
"Oui, oui, je suis incapable."
"Bat by to-morrow you'll have rested and thought it over. Stay at home. I_nything happens let me know, even if it's at night. Don't write letters, _han't read them. To-morrow I'll come again at this time alone, for a fina_nswer, and I trust it will be satisfactory. Try to have nobody here and n_ntidiness, for the place isn't fit to be seen. Nastasya, Nastasya!"
The next day, of course, he consented, and, indeed, he could do nothing else.
There was one circumstance …
Stepan Trofimovitch's estate, as we used to call it (which consisted of fift_ouls, reckoning in the old fashion, and bordered on Skvoreshniki), was no_eally his at all, but his first wife's, and so belonged now to his son Pyot_tepanovitch Verhovensky. Stepan Trofimovitch was simply his trustee, and so, when the nestling was full-fledged, he had given his father a forma_uthorisation to manage the estate. This transaction was a profitable one fo_he young man. He received as much as a thousand roubles a year by way o_evenue from the estate, though under the new regime it could not have yielde_ore than five hundred, and possibly not that. God knows how such a_rrangement had arisen. The whole sum, however, was sent the young man b_arvara Petrovna, and Stepan Trofimovitch had nothing to do with a singl_ouble of it. On the other hand, the whole revenue from the land remained i_is pocket, and he had, besides, completely ruined the estate, letting it to _ercenary rogue, and without the knowledge of Varvara Petrovna selling th_imber which gave the estate its chief value. He had some time before he sol_he woods bit by bit. It was worth at least eight thousand, yet he had onl_eceived five thousand for it. But he sometimes lost too much at the club, an_as afraid to ask Varvara Petrovna for the money. She clenched her teeth whe_he heard at last of everything. And now, all at once, his son announced tha_e was coming himself to sell his property for what he could get for it, an_ommissioned his father to take steps promptly to arrange the sale. It wa_lear that Stepan Trofimovitch, being a generous and disinterested man, fel_shamed of his treatment of ce cher enfant (whom he had seen for the last tim_ine years before as a student in Petersburg). The estate might originall_ave been worth thirteen Or fourteen thousand. Now it was doubtful whethe_nyone would give five for it. No doubt Stepan Trofimovitch was fully entitle_y the terms of the trust to sell the wood, and taking into account th_ncredibly large yearly revenue of a thousand roubles which had been sen_unctually for so many years, he could have put up a good defence of hi_anagement. But Stepan Trofimovitch was a generous man of exalted impulses. _onderfully fine inspiration occurred to his mind: when Petrusha returned, t_ay on the table before him the maximum price of fifteen thousand rouble_ithout a hint at the sums that had been sent him hitherto, and warmly an_ith tears to press ce cher fils to his heart, and so to make an end of al_ccounts between them. He began cautiously and indirectly unfolding thi_icture before Varvara Petrovna. He hinted that this would add a peculiarl_oble note to their friendship … to their "idea." This would set the parent_f the last generationand people of the last generation generallyin such _isinterested and magnanimous light in comparison with the new frivolous an_ocialistic younger generation. He said a great deal more, but Varvar_etrovna was obstinately silent. At last she informed him airily that she wa_repared to buy their estate, and to pay for it the maximum price, that is, six or seven thousand (though four would have been a fair price for it). O_he remaining eight thousand which had vanished with the woods she said not _ord.
This conversation took place a month before the match was proposed to- him.
Stepan Trofimovitch was overwhelmed, and began to ponder. There might in th_ast have been a hope that his soft would not come, after allan outsider, tha_s to say, might have hoped so. Stepan Trofimovitch as a father would; hav_ndignantly rejected the insinuation that he could entertain such a hope.
Anyway queer rumours had hitherto been reaching us about Petrusha. To begi_ith, on completing his studies at the university six years before, he ha_ung about in Petersburg without getting work. Suddenly we got the news tha_e had taken part in issuing some anonymous manifesto and that he wa_mplicated in the affair. Then he suddenly turned up abroad in Switzerland a_enevahe had escaped, very likely.
"It's surprising to me," Stepan Trofimovitch commented, greatly disconcerted.
"Petrusha, c'est une si pauvre tete! He's good, noble-hearted, very sensitive, and I was so delighted with him in Petersburg, comparing him with the youn_eople of to-day. But c'est un pauvre sire, tout de meme… . And you know i_ll comes from that same half-bakedness, that sentimentality. They ar_ascinated, not by realism, but by the emotional ideal side of socialism, b_he religious note in it, so to say, by the poetry of it … second-hand, o_ourse. And for me, for me, think what it means! I have so many enemies her_nd more still there, they'll put it down to the father's influence. Good God!
Petrusha a revolutionist! What times we live in!"
Very soon, however, Petrusha sent his exact address from Switzerland for mone_o be sent him as usual; so he. could not be exactly an exile. And now, afte_our years abroad, he was suddenly making his appearance again in his ow_ountry", and announced that he would arrive shortly, so there could be n_harge against him. What was more, some one seemed to be interested in him an_rotecting him. He wrote now from the south of Russia, where he was busil_ngaged in some private but important business. All this was capital, bu_here was his father to get that other seven or eight thousand, to make up _uitable price for the estate? And what if there should be an outcry, an_nstead of that imposing picture it should come to a lawsuit? Something tol_tepan Trofimovitch that the sensitive Petrusha would not relinquish anythin_hat was to his interest. "Why is itas I've noticed," Stepan Trofimovitc_hispered to me once, "why is it that all these desperate socialists an_ommunists are at the same time such incredible skinflints, so avaricious, s_een over property, and, in fact, the more socialistic, the more extreme the_re, the keener they are over property … why is it? Can that, too, come fro_entimentalism?" I don't know whether there is any truth in this observatio_f Stepan Trofimovitch's. I only know that Petrusha had somehow got wind o_he sale of the woods and the rest of it, and that Stepan Trofimovitch wa_ware of the fact. I happened, too, to read some of Petrusha's letters to hi_ather. He wrote extremely rarely, once a year, or even less often. Onl_ecently, to inform him of his approaching visit, he had sent two letters, on_lmost immediately after the other. All his letters were short, dry, consisting only of instructions, and as the father and son had, since thei_eeting in Petersburg, adopted the fashionable "thou" and "thee," Petrusha'_etters had a striking resemblance to the missives that used to be sent b_andowners of the old school from the town to their serfs whom they had lef_n charge of their estates. And now suddenly this eight thousand which woul_olve the difficulty would be wafted to him by Varvara Petrovna's proposition.
And at the same time she made him distinctly feel that it never could b_afted to him from anywhere else. Of course Stepan Trofimovitch consented.
He sent for me directly she had gone and shut himself up for the whole day, admitting no one else. He cried, of course, talked well and talked a grea_eal, contradicted himself continually, made a casual pun, and was muc_leased with it. Then he had a slight attack of his "summer cholera"everythin_n fact followed the usual course. Then he brought out the portrait of hi_erman bride, now twenty years deceased, and began plaintively appealing t_er: "Will you forgive me?" In fact he seemed somehow distracted. Our grie_ed us to get a little drunk. He soon fell into a sweet sleep, however. Nex_orning he tied his cravat in masterly fashion, dressed with care, and wen_requently to look at himself in the glass. He sprinkled his handkerchief wit_cent, only a slight dash of it, however, and as soon as he saw Varvar_etrovna out of the window he hurriedly took another handkerchief and hid th_cented one under the pillow.
"Excellent!" Varvara Petrovna approved, on receiving his consent. "In th_irst place you show a fine decision, and secondly you've listened to th_oice of reason, to which you generally pay so little heed in your privat_ffairs. There's no need of haste, however," she added, scanning the knot o_is white tie, "for the present say nothing, and I will say nothing. It wil_oon be your birthday; I will come to see you with her. Give us tea in th_vening, and please without wine or other refreshments, but I'll arrange i_ll myself. Invite your friends, but we'll make the list together. You ca_alk to her the day before, if necessary. And at your party we won't exactl_nnounce it, or make an engagement of any sort, but only hint at it, and le_eople know without any sort of ceremony. And then the wedding a fortnigh_ater, as far as possible without any fuss… . You two might even go away for _ime after the wedding, to Moscow, for instance. I'll go with you, too, perhaps… The chief thing is, keep quiet till then.
Stepan Trofimovitch was surprised. He tried to falter that he could not d_ike that, that he must talk it over with his bride. But Varvara Petrovna fle_t him in exasperation.
"What for? In the first place it may perhaps come to nothing."
"Come to nothing!" muttered the bridegroom, utterly dumbfoundered.
"Yes. I'll see… . But everything shall be as I've told you, and don't b_neasy. I'll prepare her myself. There's really no need for you. Everythin_ecessary shall be said and done, and there's no need for you to meddle. Wh_hould you? In what character? Don't come and don't write letters. And not _ight or sound of you, I beg. I will be silent too."
She absolutely refused to explain herself, and went away, obviously upset.
Stepan Trofimovitch's excessive readiness evidently impressed her. Alas! h_as utterly unable to grasp his position, and the question had not ye_resented itself to him from certain other points of view. On the contrary _ew note was apparent in him, a sort of conquering and jaunty air. H_waggered.
"I do like that!" he exclaimed, standing before me, and flinging wide hi_rms. "Did you hear? She wants to drive me to refusing at last. Why, I ma_ose patience, too, and … refuse! 'Sit still, there's no need for you to go t_er.' But after all, why should I be married? Simply because she's taken a_bsurd fancy into her heart. But I'm a serious man, and I can refuse to submi_o the idle whims of a giddy-woman! I have duties to my son and . . , and t_yself! I'm making a sacrifice. Does she realise that? I have agreed, perhaps, because I am weary of life and nothing matters to me. But she may exasperat_e, and then it will matter. I shall resent it and refuse. Et enftn, l_idicule … what will they say at the club? What will … what will … Laputi_ay? 'Perhaps nothing will come of it'what a thing to say! That beat_verything. That's really … what is one to say to that? … Je suis un for fat, un Badinguet, un man pushed to the wall… ."
And at the same time a sort of capricious complacency, something frivolous an_layful, could be seen in the midst of all these plaintive exclamations. I_he evening we drank too much again.