Boris's aunt had only just begun to give him an idea of her methods o_onducting the estate when he began to yawn.
"Listen, these are all your affairs; I am only your Starost," she said. But h_ould not suppress a yawn, watched the birds, the dragon-flies, picked th_ornflowers, looked curiously at the peasants, and gazed up at the sky over- arching the wide horizon. Then his aunt began to talk to one of the peasants, and he hurried off to the garden, ran down to the edge of the precipice, an_ade his way through the undergrowth to the steep bank of the Volga.
"He is still too young, only a child, does not understand serious matters,"
thought his aunt, as she followed him with her eyes. "What will become o_im?"
The Volga glided quietly between its overgrown banks, with here and there _andbank or an island thickly covered with bushes. In the distance lay th_andhills and the darkening forest. Here and there shimmered a sail; gulls, with an even balancing of their wings, skimmed the water, and then rose with _ore strenuous movement, while over the gardens, high in the air, the goshawk_overed.
Boris stood still for a long time, recalling his childhood. He remembered tha_e had sat on this spot with his mother, looking thoughtfully out at this sam_andscape. Then he went slowly back to the house, and climbed the precipice, with the picture of her vividly before his mind's eye.
In Malinovka and the neighbourhood there were tragic memories connected wit_his precipice. In the lifetime of Boris's parents a man wild with jealousy, _ailor from the town, had killed his wife and her lover there in the midst o_he thicket, and had then cut his own throat. The suicide had been buried o_he spot where he had committed the crime. Among the common people, as alway_appens in cases of this sort, there were rumours that the murderer, al_ressed in white, wandered about the wood, climbed the precipice, and looke_own on town and village before he vanished into air. And for superstitiou_easons this part of the grounds had been left neglected. None of the servant_ent down the precipice, and the peasants from the outskirts of the town an_rom Malinovka made a détour to avoid it. The fence that divided the Raiskys'
park from the woods had long since fallen into disrepair. Pines and bushes o_awthorn and dwarf-cherry had woven themselves together into a dense growth i_he midst of which was concealed a neglected arbour.
Boris vividly imagined the scene, how the jealous husband, trembling wit_gitation, stole through the bushes, threw himself on his rival, and struc_im with his knife; how the woman flung herself at his feet and begged hi_orgiveness. But he, with the foam of madness on his lips, struck her agai_nd again, and then, in the presence of the two corpses, cut his own throat.
Boris shuddered. Agitated and gloomy he turned from the accursed spot. Yet h_as attracted by the mysterious darkness of the tangled wood to the precipice, to the lovely view over the Volga and its banks.
He closed his eyes, abandoning himself to the contemplation of the picture; his thoughts swept over him like the waves of the Volga; the lovely landscap_as ever before his eyes, mirrored in his consciousness.
Veroshka and Marfinka provided him with amusement.
Veroshka was a little girl of six, with dark, brilliant eyes and dar_omplexion, who was beginning to be serious and to be ashamed of her bab_ays. She would hop, skip and jump, then stand still, look shyly round an_alk sedately along; then she would dart on again like a bird, pick a handfu_f currants and stuff them into her mouth. If Boris patted her hair, sh_moothed it rapidly; if he gave her a kiss, she wiped it away. She was self- willed too. When she was sent on an errand she would shake her head, then ru_ff to do it. She never asked Boris to draw for her, but if Marfinka asked hi_he watched silently and more intently than her sister. She did not, lik_arfinka, beg either drawings or pencils.
Marfinka, a rosy little girl of four, was often self-willed, and often cried, but before the tears were dry she was laughing and shouting again. Veroshk_arely wept, and then quietly. She soon recovered, but she did not like to b_old to beg pardon.
Boris's aunt wondered, as she saw him gay and serious by turns, what occupie_is mind; she wondered what he did all day long. In answer Boris showed hi_ketching folio; then he would play her quadrilles, mazurkas, excerpts fro_pera, and finally his own improvisations.
Tatiana Markovna's astonishment remained. "Just like your mother," she said.
"She was just as restless, always sighing as if she expected something t_appen. Then she would begin to play and was gay again. See, Vassilissa, h_as sketched you and me, like life! When Tiet Nikonich comes, hide yoursel_nd make a sketch of him, and next day we will send it him, and it can hang o_he study wall. What a boy you are! And you play as well as the French emigré who used to live with your Aunt. Only it is impossible to talk to you abou_he farm; you are still too young."
She always wished to go through the accounts with him. "The accounts fo_eroshka and Marfinka are separate, you see," she said. "You need not thin_hat a penny of your money goes to them. See… ."
But he never listened. He merely watched how his aunt wrote, how she looked a_im over her spectacles, observed the wrinkles in her face, her birthmark, he_yes, her smile, and then burst out laughing, and, throwing himself into he_rms, kissed her, and begged to go and look at the old house. She could refus_im nothing; so she unwillingly gave him the keys and he went to look at th_ooms where he was born and had spent his childhood, of which he retained onl_ confused memory.
"I am going with Cousin Boris," said Marfinka.
"Where, my darling? It is uncanny over there," said Tatiana Markovna.
Marfinka was frightened. Veroshka said nothing, but when Boris reached the ol_ouse, she was already standing at the door, with her hand on the latch, as i_he feared she might be driven away.
Boris shuddered as he entered the ante-room, and cast an anxious glance int_he neighbouring hall, supported by pillars. Veroshka had run on in front.
"Where are you off to, Veroshka?"
She stood still a moment, her hand on the latch of the nearest door, and h_ad only just time to follow her before she vanished. Dark, smoke-staine_eception rooms adjoined the hall. In one were two ghostly figures of shroude_tatues and shrouded candelabra; by the walls were ranged dark stained oa_ieces of furniture with brass decorations and inlaid work; there were hug_hinese vases, a clock representing Bacchus with a barrel, and great ova_irrors in elaborate gilded frames. In the bedroom stood an enormous bed, lik_ magnificent bier, with a brocade cover. Boris could not imagine how an_uman being could sleep in such a catafalque. Under the baldachin hovered _ilded Cupid, spotted and faded, with his arrow aimed at the bed. In th_orners stood carved cupboards, damascened with ebony and mother-of-pearl.
Veroshka opened a press and put her little face inside, and a musty, dust_mell came from the shelves, laden with old-fashioned caftans and embroidere_niforms with big buttons.
Raisky shivered. "Granny was right!" he laughed. "It is uncanny here."
"But everything here is so beautiful!" cried Vera, "the great pictures and th_ooks!"
"Pictures? Books? Where? I don't remember. Bravo, little Veroshka."
He kissed her. She wiped her lips, and ran on in front to show him the books.
He found some two thousand volumes, and was soon absorbed in reading th_itles; many of the books were still uncut.
From this time he was not often to be seen in the wooden house. He did no_ven go down to the Volga, but devoured one volume after another. Then h_rote verses, read them aloud, and intoxicated himself with the sound of them; then gave all his time to drawing. He expected something, he knew not what, from the future. He was filled with passion, with the foretaste of pleasure; there rose before him a world of wonderful music, marvellous pictures, and th_urmur of enchanting life.
"I have been wanting to ask you," said Tatiana Markovna, "why you have entere_ourself for school again."
"Not the school, the University!"
"It's the same thing. You studied at your guardian's, and at the High School, you can draw, play the piano. What more do you want to learn? The student_ill only teach you to smoke a pipe, and in the end—which God forbid—to drin_ine. You should go into the Guards."
"Uncle says my means are not sufficient… ."
"Not sufficient! What next?" She pointed to the fields and the village. Sh_ounted out his resources in hundreds and thousands of roubles. She had had n_xperience of army circles, had never lived in the capital, and did not kno_ow much money was needed.
"Your means insufficient! Why, I can send provision alone for a whol_egiment. No means! What does your Uncle do with the revenues?"
"I intend to be an artist, Granny."
"What! An artist!"
"When I leave the University, I intend to enter the Academy."
"What's the matter with you, Borushka? Make the sign of the cross! Do you wan_o be a teacher!"
"All artists are not teachers. Among artists there are great geniuses, who ar_amous and receive large sums for pictures or music."
"And do you intend to sell your pictures for money, or to play the piano fo_oney in the evenings? What a disgrace!"
"No, Grandmother, an artist… ."
"No, Borushka, don't anger your Grandmother; let her have the joy of seein_ou in your Guard's uniform."
"Uncle says I ought to go into the Civil Service."
"A clerk! Good heavens! To stoop over a desk all day, bathed in ink, run i_nd out of the courts! Who would marry you then? No, no; come home to me as a_fficer, and marry a rich woman!"
Although Boris shared neither his uncle's nor his aunt's views, yet for _oment there shimmered before his eyes a vision of his own figure in _ussar's or a court uniform. He saw how well he sat his horse, how well h_anced. That day he made a sketch of himself, negligently seated in th_addle, with a cloak over his shoulders.