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A nobleman and landowner named Ivan Lavretsky returns to Russia after leaving his faithless wife in France, only to fall in love with a beautiful and pious cousin, Elizaveta Kalitin. When Ivan learns by a newspaper article that his wife is suspected to have died, the way seems clear for him to find happiness with Liza. But her mother, Marya, is much taken with her daughter's other suitor, the cultured Panshin. This is a remarkably thoughtful and unassuming story, but it weaves a wonderful spell. The characters are undemonstrative, very little happens, yet by some quiet magic it manages to be very touching. Ivan and Liza both suffer unconventional, though different, upbringings and educations, neither of which seem to have prepared them for the world very well, dignified as they are. A sad and understated tale.
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A NOBLEMAN’S NEST
by Ivan Turgenev
Published 2018 by Blackmore Dennett
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
The brilliant, spring day was inclining toward the evening, tiny rose-tinted cloudlets hung high in the heavens, and seemed not to be floating past, but retreating into the very depths of the azure.
In front of the open window of a handsome house, in one of the outlying streets of O * * * the capital of a Government, sat two women; one fifty years of age, the other seventy years old, and already aged.
The former was named Márya Dmítrievna Kalítin. Her husband, formerly the governmental procurator, well known in his day as an active official—a man of energetic and decided character, splenetic and stubborn—had died ten years previously. He had received a fairly good education, had studied at the university, but, having been born in a poverty-stricken class of society, he had early comprehended the necessity of opening up a way for himself, and of accumulating money. Márya Dmítrievna had married him for love; he was far from uncomely in appearance, he was clever, and, when he chose, he could be very amiable. Márya Dmítrievna (her maiden name had been Péstoff) had lost her parents in early childhood, had spent several years in Moscow, in a government educational institute, and, on returning thence, had lived fifty versts from O * * *, in her native village, Pokróvskoe, with her aunt and her elder brother. This brother soon removed to Petersburg on service, and kept his sister and his aunt on short commons, until his sudden death put an end to his career. Márya Dmítrievna inherited Pokróvskoe, but did not live there long; during the second year after her marriage to Kalítin, who succeeded in conquering her heart in the course of a few days, Pokróvskoe was exchanged for another estate, much more profitable, but ugly and without a manor-house, and, at the same time, Kalítin acquired a house in the town of O * * *, and settled down there permanently with his wife. A large garden was attached to the house; on one side, it joined directly on to the open fields, beyond the town. Kalítin,—who greatly disliked the stagnation of the country,—had evidently made up his mind, that there was no reason for dragging out existence on the estate. Márya Dmítrievna, many a time, in her own mind regretted her pretty Pokróvskoe, with its merry little stream, its broad meadows, and verdant groves; but she opposed her husband in nothing, and worshipped his cleverness and knowledge of the world. But when, after fifteen years of married life, he died, leaving a son and two daughters, Márya Dmítrievna had become so wonted to her house, and to town life, that she herself did not wish to leave O * * *.
In her youth, Márya Dmítrievna had enjoyed the reputation of being a pretty blonde, and at the age of fifty her features were not devoid of attraction, although they had become somewhat swollen and indefinite in outline. She was more sentimental than kind, and even in her mature age she had preserved the habits of her school-days; she indulged herself, was easily irritated, and even wept when her ways were interfered with; on the other hand, she was very affectionate and amiable, when all her wishes were complied with, and when no one contradicted her. Her house was one of the most agreeable in the town. Her fortune was very considerable, not so much her inherited fortune, as that acquired by her husband. Both her daughters lived with her; her son was being educated at one of the best government institutions in Petersburg.
The old woman, who was sitting by the window with Márya Dmítrievna, was that same aunt, her father's sister, with whom she had spent several years, in days gone by, at Pokróvskoe. Her name was Márfa Timoféevna Péstoff. She bore the reputation of being eccentric, had an independent character, told the entire truth to every one, straight in the face, and, with the most scanty resources, bore herself as though she possessed thousands. She had not been able to endure the deceased Kalítin, and as soon as her niece married him, she retired to her tiny estate, where she lived for ten whole years in the hen-house of a peasant. Márya Dmítrievna was afraid of her. Black-haired and brisk-eyed even in her old age, tiny, sharp-nosed Márfa Timoféevna walked quickly, held herself upright, and talked rapidly and intelligibly, in a shrill, ringing voice. She always wore a white cap and a white jacket.
"What art thou doing that for?—" she suddenly inquired of Márya Dmítrievna.—"What art thou sighing about, my mother?"
"Because," said the other.—"What wonderfully beautiful clouds!"
"So, thou art sorry for them, is that it?"
Márya Dmítrievna made no reply.
"Isn't that Gedeónovsky coming yonder?"—said Márfa Timoféevna, briskly moving her knitting-needles (she was knitting a huge, motley-hued scarf). "He might keep thee company in sighing,—or, if not, he might tell us some lie or other."
"How harshly thou always speakest about him! Sergyéi Petróvitch is an—estimable man."
"Estimable!" repeated the old woman reproachfully.
"And how devoted he was to my dead husband!" remarked Márya Dmítrievna;—"to this day, I cannot think of it with indifference."
"I should think not! he pulled him out of the mire by his ears,"—growled Márfa Timoféevna, and her knitting-needles moved still more swiftly in her hands.
"He looks like such a meek creature,"—she began again,—"his head is all grey, but no sooner does he open his mouth, than he lies or calumniates. And he's a State Councillor, to boot! Well, he's a priest's son: and there's nothing more to be said!"
"Who is without sin, aunty? Of course, he has that weakness. Sergyéi Petróvitch received no education,—of course he does not speak French; but, say what you will, he is an agreeable man."
"Yes, he's always licking thy hand. He doesn't talk French,—what a calamity! I'm not strong on the French 'dialect' myself. 'T would be better if he did not speak any language at all: then he wouldn't lie. But there he is, by the way—speak of the devil,—" added Márfa Timoféevna, glancing into the street.—"There he strides, thine agreeable man. What a long-legged fellow, just like a stork."
Márya Dmítrievna adjusted her curls. Márfa Timoféevna watched her with a grin.
"Hast thou not a grey hair there, my mother? Thou shouldst scold thy Paláshka. Why doesn't she see it?"
"Oh, aunty, you're always so...." muttered Márya Dmítrievna, with vexation, and drummed on the arm of her chair with her fingers.
"Sergyéi Petróvitch Gedeónovsky!" squeaked a red-cheeked page-lad, springing in through the door.
There entered a man of lofty stature, in a neat coat, short trousers, grey chamois-skin gloves, and two neckties—one black, on top, and the other white, underneath. Everything about him exhaled decorum and propriety, beginning with his good-looking face and smoothly brushed temple-curls, and ending with his boots, which had neither heels nor squeak. He bowed first to the mistress of the house, then to Márfa Timoféevna, and slowly drawing off his gloves, took Márya Dmítrievna's hand. After kissing it twice in succession, with respect, he seated himself, without haste, in an arm-chair, and said with a smile, as he rubbed the very tips of his fingers:
"And is Elizavéta Mikhaílovna well?"
"Yes,"—replied Márya Dmítrievna,—"she is in the garden."
"And Eléna Mikhaílovna?"
"Lyénotchka is in the garden also. Is there anything new?"
"How could there fail to be, ma'am, how could there fail to be,"—returned the visitor, slowly blinking his eyes, and protruding his lips. "Hm! ... now, here's a bit of news, if you please, and a very astounding bit: Lavrétzky, Feódor Ivánitch, has arrived."
"Fédya?"—exclaimed Márfa Timoféevna.—"But come now, my father, art not thou inventing that?"
"Not in the least, ma'am, I saw him myself."
"Well, that's no proof."
"He has recovered his health finely,"—went on Gedeónovsky, pretending not to hear Márfa Timoféevna's remark:—"he has grown broader in the shoulders, and the rosy colour covers the whole of his cheeks."
"He has recovered his health,"—ejaculated Márya Dmítrievna, with pauses:—"that means, that he had something to recover from?"
"Yes, ma'am,"—returned Gedeónovsky:—"Any other man, in his place, would have been ashamed to show himself in the world."
"Why so?"—interrupted Márfa Timoféevna;—"what nonsense is this? A man returns to his native place—what would you have him do with himself? And as if he were in any way to blame!"
"The husband is always to blame, madam, I venture to assure you, when the wife behaves badly."
"Thou sayest that, my good sir, because thou hast never been married thyself." Gedeónovsky smiled in a constrained way.
"Permit me to inquire," he asked, after a brief pause,—"for whom is that very pretty scarf destined?"
Márfa Timoféevna cast a swift glance at him.
"It is destined"—she retorted,—"for the man who never gossips, nor uses craft, nor lies, if such a man exists in the world. I know Fédya well; his sole fault is, that he was too indulgent to his wife. Well, he married for love, and nothing good ever comes of those love-marriages,"—added the old woman, casting a sidelong glance at Márya Dmítrievna, and rising.—"And now, dear little father, thou mayest whet thy teeth on whomsoever thou wilt, only not on me; I'm going away, I won't interfere."—And Márfa Timoféevna withdrew.
"There, she is always like that,"—said Márya Dmítrievna, following her aunt with her eyes:—"Always!"
"It's her age! There's no help for it, ma'am!" remarked Gedeónovsky.—"There now, she permitted herself to say: 'the man who does not use craft.' But who doesn't use craft nowadays? it's the spirit of the age. One of my friends, a very estimable person, and, I must tell you, a man of no mean rank, was wont to say: that 'nowadays, a hen approaches a grain of corn craftily—she keeps watching her chance to get to it from one side.' But when I look at you, my lady, you have a truly angelic disposition; please to favour me with your snow-white little hand."
Márya Dmítrievna smiled faintly, and extended her plump hand, with the little finger standing out apart, to Gedeónovsky. He applied his lips to it, and she moved her arm-chair closer to him, and bending slightly toward him, she asked in a low tone:
"So, you have seen him? Is he really—all right, well, cheerful?"
"He is cheerful, ma'am; all right, ma'am," returned Gedeónovsky, in a whisper.
"And you have not heard where his wife is now?"
"She has recently been in Paris, ma'am; now, I hear, she has removed to the kingdom of Italy."
"It is dreadful, really,—Fédya's position; I do not know how he can endure it. Accidents do happen, with every one, in fact; but he, one may say, has been advertised all over Europe."
"Yes, ma'am; yes, ma'am. Why, she, they say, has struck up acquaintance with artists, and pianists, and, as they call it in their fashion, with lions and wild beasts. She has lost her shame, completely...."
"It is very, very sad,"—said Márya Dmítrievna:—"on account of the relationship; for you know, Sergyéi Petróvitch, he's my nephew, once removed."
"Of course, ma'am; of course, ma'am. How could I fail to be aware of everything which relates to your family? Upon my word, ma'am!"
"Will he come to see us,—what do you think?"
"We must assume that he will, ma'am; but I hear, that he is going to his country estate."
Márya Dmítrievna cast her eyes heavenward.
"Akh, Sergyéi Petróvitch, when I think of it, how circumspectly we women must behave!"
"There are different sorts of women, Márya Dmítrievna. Unfortunately, there are some of fickle character ... well, and it's a question of age, also; then, again, the rules have not been inculcated in their childhood." (Sergyéi Petróvitch pulled a checked blue handkerchief out of his pocket, and began to unfold it).—"Such women exist, of course," (Sergyéi Petróvitch raised a corner of the handkerchief to his eyes, one after the other),—"but, generally speaking, if we take into consideration, that is.... There is an unusual amount of dust in town," he concluded.
"Maman, maman"—screamed a pretty little girl of eleven, as she rushed into the room:—"Vladímir Nikoláitch is coming to our house on horseback!"
Márya Dmítrievna rose; Sergyéi Petróvitch also rose and bowed:—"Our most humble salute to Eléna Mikhaílovna," he said, and withdrawing into a corner, out of propriety, he began to blow his long and regularly-formed nose.
"What a splendid horse he has!—" went on the little girl.—"He was at the gate just now, and told Liza and me, that he would ride up to the porch."
The trampling of hoofs became audible; and a stately horseman, on a fine brown steed, made his appearance in the street, and halted in front of the open window.
"Good afternoon, Márya Dmítrievna!"—exclaimed the horseman, in a ringing, agreeable voice.—"How do you like my new purchase?"
Márya Dmítrievna went to the window.
"Good afternoon, Woldemar! Akh, what a magnificent horse! From whom did you buy it?"
"From the remount officer.... He asked a high price, the robber!"
"What is its name?"
"Orlando.... But that's a stupid name; I want to change it.... Eh bien, eh bien, mon garçon.... What a turbulent beast!" The horse snorted, shifted from foot to foot, and tossed his foaming muzzle.
"Pat him, Lénotchka, have no fears...."
The little girl stretched her hand out of the window, but Orlando suddenly reared up, and leaped aside. The rider did not lose control, gripped the horse with his knees, gave him a lash on the neck with his whip, and, despite his opposition, placed him once more in front of the window.
"Prenez garde! prenez garde!"—Márya Dmítrievna kept repeating.
"Pat him, Lyénotchka,"—returned the rider,—"I will not permit him to be wilful."
Again the little girl stretched forth her hand, and timidly touched the quivering nostrils of Orlando, who trembled incessantly and strained at the bit.
"Bravo!"—exclaimed Márya Dmítrievna,—"and now, dismount, and come in."
The horseman turned his steed round adroitly, gave him the spurs, and after dashing along the street at a brisk gallop, rode into the yard. A minute later, he ran in through the door of the anteroom into the drawing-room, flourishing his whip; at the same moment, on the threshold of another door, a tall, graceful, black-haired girl of nineteen—Márya Dmítrievna's eldest daughter, Liza—made her appearance.
The young man, with whom we have just made the reader acquainted, was named Vladímir Nikoláitch Pánshin. He served in Petersburg, as an official for special commissions, in the Ministry of the Interior. He had come to the town of O * * * to execute a temporary governmental commission, and was under the command of Governor-General Zonnenberg, to whom he was distantly related. Pánshin's father, a staff-captain of cavalry on the retired list, a famous gambler, a man with a crumpled visage and a nervous twitching of the lips, had passed his whole life in the society of people of quality, had frequented the English Clubs in both capitals, and bore the reputation of an adroit, not very trustworthy, but charming and jolly fellow. In spite of his adroitness, he found himself almost constantly on the very verge of indigence, and left behind him to his only son a small and impaired fortune. On the other hand, he had, after his own fashion, taken pains with his education: Vladímir Nikoláitch spoke French capitally, English well, and German badly; but it is permissible to let fall a German word in certain circumstances—chiefly humorous,—"c'est même très chic," as the Petersburg Parisians express themselves. Vladímir Nikoláitch already understood, at the age of fifteen, how to enter any drawing-room whatever without embarrassment, how to move about in it agreeably, and to withdraw at the proper time. Pánshin's father had procured for his son many influential connections; as he shuffled the cards between two rubbers, or after a successful capture of all the tricks, he let slip no opportunity to drop a nice little word about his "Volódka" to some important personage who was fond of social games. On his side, Vladímir Nikoláitch, during his stay in the university, whence he emerged with the rank of actual student, made acquaintance with several young men of quality, and became a frequenter of the best houses. He was received gladly everywhere; he was extremely good-looking, easy in his manners, entertaining, always well and ready for everything; where it was requisite, he was respectful; where it was possible, he was insolent, a capital companion, un charmant garçon. The sacred realm opened out before him. Pánshin speedily grasped the secret of the science of society; he understood how to imbue himself with genuine respect for its decrees; he understood how, with half-bantering gravity, to busy himself with nonsense and assume the appearance of regarding everything serious as trivial; he danced exquisitely, he dressed in English style. In a short time he became renowned as one of the most agreeable and adroit young men in Petersburg. Pánshin was, in reality, very adroit,—no less so than his father: but he was, also, very gifted. He could do everything: he sang prettily, he drew dashingly, he wrote verses, he acted very far from badly on the stage. He had only just passed his twenty-eighth birthday, but he was already Junior Gentleman of the Emperor's bedchamber, and had a very tolerable rank. Pánshin firmly believed in himself, in his brains, in his penetration; he advanced boldly and cheerfully, at full swing; his life flowed along as on oil. He was accustomed to please everybody, old and young, and imagined that he was a judge of people, especially of women: he did know well their everyday weaknesses. As a man not a stranger to art, he felt within him both fervour, and some enthusiasm, and rapture, and in consequence of this he permitted himself various deviations from the rules: he caroused, he picked up acquaintance with persons who did not belong to society, and, in general, maintained a frank and simple demeanour; but in soul he was cold and cunning, and in the midst of the wildest carouse his clever little brown eye was always on guard, and watching; this bold, this free young man could never forget himself and get completely carried away. To his honour it must be said, that he never bragged of his conquests. He had hit upon Márya Dmítrievna's house immediately on his arrival in O * * *, and had promptly made himself entirely at home there. Márya Dmítrievna fairly adored him.
Pánshin amiably saluted all who were in the room, shook hands with Márya Dmítrievna and Lizavéta Mikhaílovna, lightly tapped Gedeónovsky on the shoulder, and whirling round on his heels, caught Lyénotchka by the head, and kissed her on the brow.
"And you are not afraid to ride such a vicious horse?"—Márya Dmítrievna asked him.
"Good gracious! it is a very peaceable beast; but I'll tell you what I am afraid of: I'm afraid to play preference with Sergyéi Petróvitch; last night, at the Byelenítzyns', he won my last farthing."
Gedeónovsky laughed a shrill and servile laugh: he fawned on the brilliant young official from Petersburg, the pet of the governor. In his conversations with Márya Dmítrievna, he frequently alluded to Pánshin's remarkable capacities. "For why should not I praise him?" he argued. "The young man is making a success in the highest sphere of life, discharges his service in an exemplary manner, and is not the least bit proud." Moreover, even in Petersburg Pánshin was considered an energetic official: he got through an immense amount of work; he alluded to it jestingly, as is befitting a fashionable man who attaches no particular importance to his labours, but he was "an executor." The higher officials love such subordinates; he never had the slightest doubt himself, that, if he so wished, he could become a Minister in course of time.
"You are pleased to say that I beat you at cards,"—remarked Gedeónovsky:—"but who was it that won twelve rubles from me last week? and besides...."
"Villain, villain," Pánshin interrupted him, with a caressing but almost disdainful carelessness, and without paying any further attention to him, he stepped up to Liza.
"I have not been able to find the overture of 'Oberon' here," he began:—"Mme. Byelenítzyn was merely boasting, that she had all the classical music,—as a matter of fact, she has nothing except polkas and waltzes; but I have already written to Moscow, and within a week I shall have that overture. By the way,"—he continued,—"I wrote a new romance yesterday; the words also are my own. Would you like to have me sing it for you? I do not know how it has turned out; Mme. Byelenítzyn thought it extremely charming, but her words signify nothing,—I wish to know your opinion. However, I think it will be better later on...."
"Why later on?"—interposed Márya Dmítrievna:—"Why not now?"
"I obey, ma'am,"—said Pánshin, with a certain bright, sweet smile, which was wont to appear on his face, and suddenly to vanish,—pushed forward a chair with his knee, seated himself at the piano, and after striking several chords, he began to sing, clearly enunciating the words, the following romance:
The moon floats high above the earth
Amid the clouds so pale;
But from the crest of the sea surge moveth
A magic ray.
The sea of my soul hath acknowledged thee
To be its moon,
And 't is moved,—in joy and in sorrow,—
By thee alone.
With the anguish of love, the anguish of dumb aspirations,
The soul is full;
I suffer pain.... But thou from agitation art as free
As that moon.
Pánshin sang the second couplet with peculiar expression and force; the surging of the waves could be heard in the tempestuous accompaniment. After the words: "I suffer pain...." he heaved a slight sigh, dropped his eyes, and lowered his voice,—morendo. When he had finished, Liza praised the motive, Márya Dmítrievna said: "It is charming;"—while Gedeónovsky even shouted: "Ravishing! both poetry and harmony are equally ravishing!..." Lyénotchka, with childish adoration, gazed at the singer. In a word, the composition of the youthful dilettante pleased all present extremely; but outside of the door of the drawing-room, in the anteroom, stood an elderly man, who had just arrived, to whom, judging by the expression of his downcast face and the movement of his shoulders, Pánshin's romance, charming as it was, afforded no pleasure. After waiting a while, and whisking the dust from his boots with a coarse handkerchief, this man suddenly screwed up his eyes, pressed his lips together grimly, bent his back, which was already sufficiently bowed without that, and slowly entered the drawing-room.
"Ah! Christofór Feódoritch, good afternoon!"—Pánshin was the first of all to exclaim, and sprang hastily from his seat.—"I had no suspicion that you were here,—I could not, on any account, have made up my mind to sing my romance in your presence. I know that you do not care for frivolous music."
"I vas not listening," remarked the newcomer, in imperfect Russian, and having saluted all, he remained awkwardly standing in the middle of the room.
"Have you come, Monsieur Lemm,"—said Márya Dmítrievna,—"to give a music lesson to Liza?"
"No, not to Lisaféta Mikhaílovna, but to Eléna Mikhaílovna."
"Ah! Well,—very good. Lyénotchka, go upstairs with Monsieur Lemm."
The old man was on the point of following the little girl, but Pánshin stopped him.
"Do not go away after the lesson, Christofór Feódoritch,"—he said:—"Lizavéta Mikhaílovna and I will play a Beethoven sonata for four hands."
The old man muttered something, but Pánshin went on in German, pronouncing his words badly:
"Lizavéta Mikhaílovna has shown me the spiritual cantata which you presented to her—'tis a very fine thing! Please do not think that I am incapable of appreciating serious music,—quite the contrary: it is sometimes tiresome, but, on the other hand, it is very beneficial."
The old man crimsoned to his very ears, cast a sidelong glance at Liza, and hastily left the room.
Márya Dmítrievna requested Pánshin to repeat the romance; but he declared, that he did not wish to wound the ears of the learned German, and proposed to Liza that they should occupy themselves with the Beethoven sonata. Then Márya Dmítrievna sighed, and in her turn, proposed to Gedeónovsky that he should take a stroll in the garden with her.—"I wish,"—she said, "to talk and take counsel with you still further, over our poor Fédya." Gedeónovsky grinned, bowed, took up—with two fingers, his hat, and his gloves neatly laid on its brim, and withdrew, in company with Márya Dmítrievna. Pánshin and Liza were left alone in the room; she fetched the sonata, and opened it; both seated themselves, in silence, at the piano.—From above, the faint sounds of scales, played by Lyénotchka's uncertain little fingers, were wafted to them.
Christopher-Theodore-Gottlieb Lemm was born in the year 1786, in the kingdom of Saxony, in the town of Chemnitz, of poor musicians. His father played the French horn, his mother the harp; he himself, at the age of five, was already practising on three different instruments. At eight years of age he became an orphan, and at the age of ten he began to earn a bit of bread for himself by his art. For a long time he led a wandering life, played everywhere—in inns, at fairs, and at peasant weddings and at balls; at last, he got into an orchestra, and rising ever higher and higher, he attained to the post of director. He was rather a poor executant; but he possessed a thorough knowledge of music. At the age of twenty-eight he removed to Russia. He was imported by a great gentleman, who himself could not endure music, but maintained an orchestra as a matter of pride. Lemm lived seven years with him, in the capacity of musical conductor, and left him with empty hands; the gentleman was ruined, and wished to give him a note of hand, but afterward refused him even this,—in a word, did not pay him a farthing. People advised him to leave the country: but he was not willing to return home in poverty from Russia, from great Russia, that gold-mine of artists; he decided to remain, and try his luck. For the space of twenty years he did try his luck: he sojourned with various gentry, he lived in Moscow and in the capitals of various governments, he suffered and endured a great deal, he learned to know want, he floundered like a fish on the ice; but the idea of returning to his native land never abandoned him in the midst of all these calamities to which he was subjected; it alone upheld him. But it did not suit Fate to render him happy with this last and first joy: at the age of fifty, ill, prematurely infirm, he got stranded in the town of O * * * and there remained for good, having finally lost all hope of quitting the Russia which he detested, and managing, after a fashion, to support his scanty existence by giving lessons. Lemm's external appearance did not predispose one in his favour. He was small of stature, round-shouldered, with shoulder-blades which projected crookedly, and a hollow chest, with huge, flat feet, with pale-blue nails on the stiff, unbending fingers of his sinewy, red hands; he had a wrinkled face, sunken cheeks, and tightly-compressed lips, that he was incessantly moving as though chewing, which, added to his customary taciturnity, produced an almost malevolent impression; his grey hair hung in elf-locks over his low brow; his tiny, motionless eyes smouldered like coals which had just been extinguished; he walked heavily, swaying his clumsy body from side to side at every step. Some of his movements were suggestive of the awkward manner in which an owl in a cage plumes itself when it is conscious that it is being watched, though it itself hardly sees anything with its huge, yellow, timorously and dozily blinking eyes. Confirmed, inexorable grief had laid upon the poor musician its ineffaceable seal, had distorted and disfigured his already ill-favoured figure; but for any one who knew enough not to stop at first impressions, something unusual was visible in this half-wrecked being. A worshipper of Bach and Handel, an expert in his profession, gifted with a lively imagination, and with that audacity of thought which is accessible only to the German race, Lemm, in course of time—who knows?—might have entered the ranks of the great composers of his native land, if life had led him differently; but he had not been born under a fortunate star! He had written a great deal in his day—and he had not succeeded in seeing a single one of his compositions published; he had not understood how to set about the matter in the proper way, to cringe opportunely, to bustle at the right moment. Once, long, long ago, one of his admirers and friends, also a German and also poor, had published two of his sonatas at his own expense,—and the whole edition remained in the cellars of the musical shops; they had vanished dully, without leaving a trace, as though some one had flung them into the river by night. At last Lemm gave up in despair; moreover, his years were making themselves felt: he had begun to grow rigid, to stiffen, as his fingers stiffened also. Alone, with an aged cook, whom he had taken from the almshouse (he had never been married), he lived on in O * * *, in a tiny house, not far from the Kalítin residence; he walked a great deal, read the Bible and collections of Protestant psalms, and Shakespeare in Schlegel's translation. It was long since he had composed anything; but, evidently, Liza, his best pupil, understood how to arouse him: he had written for her the cantata to which Pánshin had alluded. He had taken the words for this cantata from the psalms; several verses he had composed himself; it was to be sung by two choruses,—the chorus of the happy, and the chorus of the unhappy; both became reconciled, in the end, and sang together: "O merciful God, have mercy upon us sinners, and purge out of us by fire all evil thoughts and earthly hopes!"—On the title-page, very carefully written, and even drawn, stood the following: "Only the Just are Right. A Spiritual Cantata. Composed and dedicated to Miss Elizavéta Kalítin, my beloved pupil, by her teacher, C. T. G. Lemm." The words: "Only the Just are Right," and "Elizavéta Kalítin," were surrounded by rays. Below was added: "For you alone,"—"Für Sie allein."—Therefore Lemm had crimsoned and had cast a sidelong glance at Liza; it pained him greatly when Pánshin spoke of his cantata in his presence.
Pánshin struck the opening chords of the sonata loudly, and with decision (he was playing the second hand), but Liza did not begin her part. He stopped, and looked at her. Liza's eyes, fixed straight upon him, expressed displeasure; her lips were not smiling, her whole face was stern, almost sad.
"What is the matter with you?"—he inquired.
"Why did not you keep your word?" said she.—"I showed you Christofór Feódoritch's cantata on condition that you would not mention it to him."
"Pardon me, Lizavéta Mikhaílovna, it was a slip of the tongue."
"You have wounded him—and me also. Now he will not trust me any more."
"What would you have me do, Lizavéta Mikhaílovna! From my earliest childhood, I have never been able to endure the sight of a German: something simply impels me to stir him up."
"Why do you say that, Vladímir Nikoláitch! This German is a poor, solitary, broken man—and you feel no pity for him? You want to stir him up?"
Pánshin was disconcerted.
"You are right, Lizavéta Mikhaílovna,"—he said. "My eternal thoughtlessness is responsible for the whole thing. No, do not say a word; I know myself well. My thoughtlessness has done me many an ill turn. Thanks to it, I have won the reputation of an egoist."
Pánshin paused for a moment. No matter how he began a conversation, he habitually wound up by speaking of himself, and he did it in a charming, soft, confidential, almost involuntary way.
"And here in your house,"—he went on:—"your mother likes me, of course,—she is so kind; you ... however, I do not know your opinion of me; but your aunt, on the contrary, cannot bear me. I must have offended her, also, by some thoughtless, stupid remark. For she does not like me, does she?"
"No," said Liza, with some hesitation:—"you do not please her."
Pánshin swept his fingers swiftly over the keys; a barely perceptible smile flitted across his lips.
"Well, and you?"—he said:—"Do I seem an egoist to you also?"
"I know you very slightly,"—returned Liza:—"but I do not consider you an egoist; on the contrary, I ought to feel grateful to you...."
"I know, I know, what you mean to say,"—Pánshin interrupted her, and again ran his fingers over the keys:—"for the music, for the books which I bring you, for the bad drawings with which I decorate your album, and so forth and so on. I can do all that—and still be an egoist. I venture to think, that you are not bored in my company, and that you do not regard me as a bad man, but still you assume, that I—how in the world shall I express it?—would not spare my own father or friend for the sake of a jest."
"You are heedless and forgetful, like all worldly people,"—said Liza:—"that is all."
Pánshin frowned slightly.
"Listen," he said:—"let us not talk any more about me; let us play our sonata. One thing only I will ask of you,"—he said, as with his hand he smoothed out the leaves of the bound volume which stood on the music-rack:—"think what you will of me, call me an egoist even,—so be it! but do not call me a worldly man: that appellation is intolerable to me.... Anch'io son pittore. I also am an artist,—and I will immediately prove it to you in action. Let us begin."
"We will begin, if you please,"—said Liza.
The first adagio went quite successfully, although Pánshin made more than one mistake. He played his own compositions and those which he had practised very prettily, but he read music badly. On the other hand, the second part of the sonata—a rather brisk allegro—did not go at all: at the twentieth measure, Pánshin, who had got two measures behind, could hold out no longer, and pushed back his chair with a laugh.
"No!"—he exclaimed:—"I cannot play to-day; it is well that Lemm does not hear us: he would fall down in a swoon."
Liza rose, shut the piano, and turned to Pánshin.
"What shall we do now?"—she asked.
"I recognise you in that question! You cannot possibly sit with folded hands. Come, if you like, let us draw, before it has grown completely dark. Perhaps the other muse,—the muse of drawing ... what's her name? I've forgotten ... will be more gracious to me. Where is your album? Do you remember?—my landscape there is not finished."
Liza went into the next room for her album, and Pánshin, when he was left alone, pulled a batiste handkerchief from his pocket, polished his nails, and gazed somewhat askance at his hands. They were very handsome and white; on the thumb of the left hand he wore a spiral gold ring. Liza returned; Pánshin seated himself near the window, and opened the album.
"Aha!"—he exclaimed:—"I see that you have begun to copy my landscape—and that is fine. Very good! Only here—give me a pencil—the shadows are not put on thickly enough.... Look."
And Pánshin, with a bold sweep, prolonged several long strokes. He constantly drew one and the same landscape: in the foreground were large, dishevelled trees, in the distance, a meadow, and saw-toothed mountains on the horizon. Liza looked over his shoulder at his work.
"In drawing, and in life in general,"—said Pánshin, bending his head now to the right, now to the left:—"lightness and boldness are the principal thing."
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