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Chapter 9

  • MAY had reached its second half; the first hot summer days had already set in.
  • After his history lesson one day, Nejdanov wandered out into the garden, an_rom thence into a birch wood adjoining it on one side. Certain parts of thi_ood had been cleared by merchants about fifteen years ago, but thes_learings were already densely overgrown by young birches, whose soft silve_runks encircled by grey rings rose as straight as pillars, and whose brigh_reen leaves sparkled as if they had just been washed and polished. The gras_hot up in sharp tongues through the even layers of last years' fallen leaves.
  • Little narrow paths ran here and there, from which yellow-beaked blackbird_ose with startled cries, flying close to the earth into the wood as hard a_hey could go.
  • After wandering about for half an hour, Nejdanov sat down on the stump of _ree, surrounded by old greyish splinters, lying in heaps, exactly as they ha_allen when cut down by the axe. Many a time had these splinters been covere_y the winter's snow and been thawed by the spring sun, but nobody had touche_hem.
  • Nejdanov leaned against a solid wall of young birches casting a heavy thoug_ild shade. He was not thinking of anything in particular, but gave himself u_o those peculiar sensations of spring which in the heart of young and ol_like are always mixed with a certain degree of sadness—the keen sadness o_waiting in the young and of settled regret in the old.
  • Nejdanov was suddenly awakened by approaching footsteps.
  • It did not sound like the footsteps of one person, nor like a peasant in heav_oots, or a barefooted peasant woman; it seemed as if two people wer_dvancing at a slow, measured pace. The slight rustling of a woman's dress wa_eard.
  • Suddenly a deep man's voice was heard to say:
  • Is this your last word? Never?
  • "Never!" a familiar woman's voice repeated, and a moment later from a bend i_he path, hidden from view by a young tree, Mariana appeared, accompanied by _warthy man with black eyes, an individual whom Nejdanov had never see_efore.
  • They both stood still as if rooted to the spot on catching sight of him, an_e was so taken aback that he did not rise from the stump he was sitting on.
  • Mariana blushed to the roots of her hair, but instantly gave a contemptuou_mile. It was difficult to say whether the smile was meant for herself, fo_aving blushed, or for Nejdanov. Her companion scowled—a sinister gleam wa_een in the yellowish whites of his troubled eyes. He exchanged glances wit_ariana, and without saying a word they turned their backs on Nejdanov an_alked away as slowly as they had come, while Nejdanov followed them with _ook of amazement.
  • Half an hour later he returned home to his room, and when, at the sound of th_ong, he appeared in the drawing room, the dark-eyed stranger whom he had see_n the wood was already there. Sipiagin introduced Nejdanov to him as hi_eaufrere'a, Valentina Mihailovna's brother—Sergai Mihailovitch Markelov.
  • "I hope you will get to know each other and be friends, gentlemen," Sipiagi_xclaimed with the amiable, stately, though absent-minded smile characteristi_f him.
  • Markelov bowed silently; Nejdanov responded in a similar way, and Sipiagin, throwing back his head slightly and shrugging his shoulders, walked away, a_uch as to say, "I've brought you together, but whether you become friends o_ot is a matter of equal indifference to me!
  • Valentina Mihailovna came up to the silent pair, standing motionless, an_ntroduced them to each other over again; she then turned to her brother wit_hat peculiarly bright, caressing expression which she seemed able to summo_t will into her wonderful eyes.
  • "Why, my dear Serge, you've quite forgotten us! You did not even come o_olia's name-day. Are you so very busy? My brother is making some sort of ne_rrangement with his peasants," she remarked, turning to Nejdanov. "So ver_riginal—three parts of everything for them and one for himself; even then h_hinks that he gets more than his share."
  • "My sister is fond of joking," Markelov said to Nejdanov in his turn, "but _m prepared to agree with her; for one man to take a quarter of what belong_o a hundred, is certainly too much."
  • "Do you think that I am fond of joking, Alexai Dmitritch?" Madame Sipiagin_sked with that same caressing softness in her voice and in her eyes.
  • Nejdanov was at a loss for a reply, but just then Kollomietzev was announced.
  • The hostess went to meet him, and a few moments later a servant appeared an_nnounced in a sing-song voice that dinner was ready.
  • At dinner Nejdanov could not keep his eyes off Mariana and Markelov. They sa_ide by side, both with downcast eyes, compressed lips, and an expression o_loomy severity on their angry faces. Nejdanov wondered how Markelov coul_ossibly be Madame Sipiagina's brother; they were so little like each other.
  • There was only one point of resemblance between them, their dark complexions; but the even colour of Valentina Mihailovna's face, arms, and shoulder_onstituted one of her charms, while in her brother it reached to that shad_f swarthiness which polite people call "bronze," but which to the Russian ey_uggests a brown leather boot-leg.
  • Markelov had curly hair, a somewhat hooked nose, thick lips, sunken cheeks, _arrow chest, and sinewy hands. He was dry and sinewy all over, and spoke in _urt, harsh, metallic voice. The sleepy look in his eyes, the gloom_xpression, denoted a bilious temperament! He ate very little, amused himsel_y making bread pills, and every now and again would fix his eyes o_ollomietzev. The latter had just returned from town, where he had been to se_he governor upon a rather unpleasant matter for himself, upon which he kept _acit silence, but was very voluble about everything else. Sipiagin sat on hi_omewhat when he went a little too far, but laughed a good deal at hi_necdotes and bon mots, although he thought qu'il est un affreu_eactionnaire. Kollomietzev declared, among other things, how he went int_aptures at what the peasants, oui, oui! les simples mougiks! call lawyers.
  • "Liars! Liars!" he shouted with delight. "Ce peupie russe est delicieux!" H_hen went on to say how once, when going through a village school, he aske_ne of the children what a babugnia was, and nobody could tell him, not eve_he teacher himself. He then asked what a pithecus was, and no one knew eve_hat, although he had quoted the poet Himnitz, 'The weakwitted pithecus tha_ocks the other beasts.' Such is the deplorable condition of our peasan_chools!
  • "But," Valentina Mihailovna remarked, "I don't know myself what are thes_nimals!"
  • "Madame!" Kollomietzev exclaimed, "there is no necessity for you to know!"
  • "Then why should the peasants know?"
  • "Because it is better for them to know about these animals than about Proudho_r Adam Smith!"
  • Here Sipiagin again intervened, saying that Adam Smith was one of the leadin_ights in human thought, and that it would be well to imbibe his principles (he poured himself out a glass of wine) with the (he lifted the glass to hi_ose and sniffed at it) mother's milk! He swallowed the wine. Kollomietze_lso drank a glass and praised it highly.
  • Markelov payed no special attention to Kollomietzev 's talk, but glance_nterrogatively at Nejdanov once or twice; he flicked one of his little brea_ills, which just missed the nose of the eloquent guest.
  • Sipiagin left his brother-in-law in peace; neither did Valentina Mihailovn_peak to him; it was evident that both husband and wife considered Markelov a_ccentric sort of person whom it was better not to provoke.
  • After dinner Markelov went into the billiard room to smoke a pipe, an_ejdanov withdrew into his own room.
  • In the corridor he ran against Mariana. He wanted to slip past her, when sh_topped him with a quick movement of the hand.
  • "Mr. Nejdanov," she said in a somewhat unsteady tone of voice, "it ought to b_ll the same to me what you think of me, but still I find it… I find it… "
  • (she could not think of a fitting word) "I find it necessary to tell you tha_hen you met me in the wood today with Mr. Markelov … you must no doubt hav_hought, when you saw us both confused, that we had come there b_ppointment."
  • "It did seem a little strange to me—" Nejdanov began. "Mr. Markelov," Marian_nterrupted him, "proposed to me … and I refused him. That is all I wanted t_ay to you. Goodnight. Think what you like of me."
  • She turned away and walked quickly down the corridor.
  • Nejdanov entered his own room and sat down by the window musing. "What _trange girl—why this wild issue, this uninvited explanation? Is it a desir_o be original, or simply affectation—or pride? Pride, no doubt. She can'_ndure the idea… the faintest suspicion, that anyone should have a wron_pinion of her. What a strange girl!"
  • Thus Nejdanov pondered, while he was being discussed on the terrace below; every word could be heard distinctly.
  • I have a feeling," Kollomietzev declared, "a feeling, that he's _evolutionist. When I served on a special commission at the governor-general'_f Moscow avec Ladisias, I learned to scent these gentlemen as well a_onconformists. I believe in instinct above everything." Here Kollomietze_elated how he had once caught an old sectarian by the heel somewhere nea_oscow, on whom he had looked in, accompanied by the police, and who nearl_umped out of his cottage window. "He was sitting quite quietly on his benc_ntil that moment, the blackguard!"
  • Kollomietzev forgot to add that this old man, when put into prison, refused t_ake any food and starved himself to death.
  • "And your new tutor," Kollomietzev went on zealously, "is a revolutionist, without a shadow of a doubt! Have you noticed that he is never the first t_ow to anyone?"
  • "Why should he?" Madame Sipiagina asked; "on the contrary, that is what I lik_bout him."
  • "I am a guest in the house in which he serves," Kollomietzev exclaimed, "yes, serves for money, comme un salarie… . Consequently I am his superior… . H_ught to bow to me first."
  • "My dear Kollomietzev, you are very particular," Sipiagin put in, layin_pecial stress on the word dear. "I thought, if you'll forgive my saying so, that we had outgrown all that. I pay for his services, his work, but h_emains a free man."
  • "He does not feel the bridle, le frein! All these revolutionists are lik_hat. I tell you I can smell them from afar! Only Ladisias can compare with m_n this respect. If this tutor were to fall into my hands wouldn't I give i_o him! I would make him sing a very different tune! How he would begi_ouching his cap to me—it would be a pleasure to see him!"
  • "Rubbish, you swaggering little braggart!" Nejdanov almost shouted from above, but at this moment the door opened and, to his great astonishment, Markelo_ntered the room.