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Гончаров Иван Александрович - The Precipice, Страница 3

Гончаров Иван Александрович - The Precipice

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mile intended to be allowing. "What business is it of mine?" returned Raisky, turning away from her. "Shall we go into the garden?" "Yes, we will have dinner outside," said Leonti. "Serve what there is, Ulinka. Come, Boris, now we can talk." Then as an idea struck him, he added, "What shall you have to say to me about the library?" "About what library? You wrote to me about it, but I did not understand what you were talking about. I think you said some person called Mark, had been tearing the books." "You cannot imagine, Boris, how vexed I was about it," he said as he took down some books with torn backs from the shelves. Raisky pushed the books away. "What does it matter to me?" he said. "You are like my grandmother; she bothers me about accounts, you about books." "But Boris, I don't know what accounts she bothered you about, but these books are your most precious possession. Look!" he said, pointing with pride to the rows of books which filled the study to the ceiling. "Only on this shelf nearly everything is ruined by that accursed Mark! The other books are all right. See, I drew up a catalogue, which took a whole year to do," and he pointed self-consciously to a thick bound volume of manuscript. "I wrote it all with my own hand," he continued. "Sit down, Boris, and read out the names. I will get on the ladder, and show you the books; they are arranged according to their numbers." "What an idea!" "Or better wait till after dinner; we shall not be able to finish before." "Listen, should you like to have a library like that?" asked Raisky. "I!-a library like that?" Sunshine blazed from Leonti's eyes, he smiled so broadly that even the hair on his brow stirred with the dislocation caused. "A library like that?" He shook his head. "You must be mad." "Tell me, do you love me as you used to do?" "Why do you ask? Of course." "Then the books shall be yours for good and all, under one condition." "I-take these books!" Leonti looked now at the books, now at Raisky, then made a gesture of refusal, and sighed. "Do not laugh at me, Boris! Don't tempt me." "I am not joking." Here Juliana Andreevna, who had heard the last words, chimed in with, "Take what is given you." "She is always like that," sighed Leonti. "On feast days the tradesmen come with presents, and on the eve of the examinations the parents. I send them away, but my wife receives them at the side door. She looks like Lucretia, but she has a sweet tooth, a dainty one." Raisky laughed, but Juliana Andreevna was annoyed. "Go to your Lucretia," she said indifferently. "He compares me with everybody. One day I am Cleopatra, then Lavinia, then Cornelia. Better take the books when they are offered you. Boris Pavlovich will give them to me." "Don't take it on yourself to ask him for gifts," commanded Leonti. "And what can we give him? Shall I hand you over to him, for instance?" he added as he embraced her. "Splendid! Take me, Boris Pavlovich," she cried, throwing a sparkling glance at him. "If you don't take the books, Leonti," said Raisky, "I will make them over to the Gymnasium. Give me the catalogue, and I'll send it to the Director to-morrow." He put his hand out for the catalogue, of which Leonti kept a tight hold. "The Gymnasium shall never get one of them," he cried. "You don't know the Director, who cares for books just about as much as I do for perfume and pomade. They will be destroyed, torn, and worse handled than by Mark." "Then take them." "To give away such treasures all in a minute. It would be comprehensible if you were selling them to responsible hands. I have never wanted so much to be rich. I would give five thousand. I cannot accept, I cannot. You are a spendthrift, or rather a blind, ignorant child-" "Many thanks." "I didn't mean that," cried Leonti in confusion. "You are an artist; you need pictures, statues, music; and books are nothing to you. Besides, you don't know what treasures you possess; after dinner I will show you." "Well, in the afternoon, instead of drinking coffee, you will go over with the books to the Gymnasium for me." "Wait, Boris, what was the condition on which you would give me the books. Will you take instalments from my salary for them? I would sell all I have, pledge myself and my wife." "No, thank you," broke in Juliana Andreevna, "I can pledge or sell myself if I want to." Leonti and Raisky looked at one another. "She does not think before she speaks," said Leonti. "But tell me what the condition is." "That you never mention these books to me again, even if Mark tears them to pieces." "Do you mean I am not to let him have access to them?" "He is not likely to ask you," put in Juliana Andreevna. "As if that monster cared for what you may say." "How Ulinka loves me," said Leonti to Raisky. "Would that every woman loved her husband like that." He embraced her. She dropped her eyes, and the smile died from her face. "But for her you would not see a single button on my clothes," continued Leonti. "I eat and sleep comfortably, and our household goes on evenly and placidly. However small my means are she knows how to make them provide for everything." She raised her eyes, and looked at them, for the last statement was true. "It's a pity," continued Leonti, "that she does not care about books. She can chatter French fast enough, but if you give her a book, she does not understand half of it. She still writes Russian incorrectly. If she sees Greek characters, she says they would make a good pattern for cotton printing, and sets the book upside down. And she cannot even read a Latin title." "That will do. Not another word about the books. Only on that condition, I don't send them to the Gymnasium. Now let us sit down to table, or I shall go to my Grandmother's, for I am famished." "Do you intend to spend your whole life like this?" asked Raisky as he was sitting after dinner alone with Leonti in the study. "Yes, what more do I need?" "Have you no desires, does nothing call you away from this place, have you no longings for freedom and space, and don't you feel cramped in this narrow frame of hedge, church spire and house, under your very nose?" "Have I so little to look at under my nose?" asked Leonti, pointing to the books. "I have books, pupils, and in addition a wife and peace of heart, isn't that enough?" "Are books life? This old trash has a great deal to answer for. Men strive forwards, seek to improve themselves, to cleanse their conceptions, to drive away the mist, to meet the problems of society by justice, civilisation, orderly administration, while you instead of looking at life, study books." "What is not to be found in books is not to be found in life either, or if there is anything it is of no importance," said Leonti firmly. "The whole programme of public and private life lies behind us; we can find an example for everything." "You are still the same old student, Leonti, always worrying about what has been experienced in the past, and never thinking of what you yourself are." "What I am! I am a teacher of the classics. I am as deeply concerned with the life of the past, as you with ideals and figures. You are an artist. Why should you wonder that certain figures are dear to me? Since when have artists ceased to draw water from the wells of the ancients?" "Yes, an artist," said Raisky, with a sigh. He pointed to his head and breast. "Here are figures, notes, forms, enthusiasm, the creative passion, and as yet I have done almost nothing." "What restrains you? You are now painting, you wrote me, a great picture, which you mean to exhibit." "The devil take the great pictures. I shall hardly be able to devote my whole energy to painting now. One must put one's whole being into a great picture, and then to give effect to one hundredth part of what one has put in a representation of a fleeting, irrecoverable impression. Sometimes I paint portraits...." "What art are you following now?" "There is but one Art that can satisfy the artist of to-day, the art of words, of poetry, which is limitless in its possibilities." "You write verses then?" "Verses are children's food. In verse you celebrate a love affair, a festival, flowers, a nightingale." "And satire. Remember the use made of it by the Romans." With these words he would have gone to the bookshelf, but Raisky held him back. "You may," he said, "be able now and then to hit a diseased spot with satire. Satire is a rod, whose stroke stings but has no further consequences; but she does not show you figures brimming with life, she does not reveal the depths of life with its secret mainsprings of action, she holds no mirror before your eyes. It is only the novel that comprehends and mirrors the life of man." "So you are writing a novel? On what subject?" "I have not yet quite decided." "Don't at all events describe this pettifogging, miserable existence which stares us in the face without the medium of art. Our contemporary literature squeezes every worm, every peasant-girl, and I don't know what else, into the novel. Choose a historical subject, worthy of your vivacious imagination and your clean-cut style. Do you remember how you used to write of old Russia? Now it is the fashion to choose material from the ant-heap, the talking shop of everyday life. This is to be the stuff of which literature is made. Bah! it is the merest journalism." "There we are again on the old controversy. If you once mount that horse, there will be no calling you back. Let us leave this question for the moment, and go back to my question. Are you satisfied to spend your life here, as you are now doing, with no desires for anything further?" Leonti looked at him in astonishment, with wide opened eyes. "You do nothing for your generation," Raisky went on, "but creep backwards like a crab. Why are you for ever talking of the Greeks and Romans? Their work is done, and ours is to bring life into these cemeteries, to shake the slumbering ghosts out of their twilight dreams." "And how is the task to be begun?" "I mean to draw a picture of this existence, to reflect it as in a mirror. And you...." "I too accomplish something. I have prepared several boys for the University," remarked Leonti with hesitation, for he was not sure whether this was meritorious or not. "You imagine that I go into my class, then home, and forget about everything. That is not the case. Young people gather round me, attach themselves to me, and I show them drawings of old buildings, utensils, make sketches and give explanations, as I once did for you. What I know myself I communicate to others, explain the ancient ideals of virtue, expound classical life, just as our own classics are explained. Is that no longer essential?" "Certainly it has its advantage. But it has nothing to do with real life. One cannot live like that to-day. So much has disappeared, so many things have arisen that the Greeks and Romans never knew. But we need models from contemporary life, we must educate ourselves and others to be men. That is our task." "No, I do not take that upon my shoulders; it is sufficient for one to take the models of ancient virtue from books. I myself live for and through myself. You see I live quietly and modestly, eat my vermicelli soup...." "Life for and through yourself is not life at all, it is a passive condition, and man is a fighting animal." "I have already told you that I do my duty and do not interfere in anybody else's business; and no one interferes with mine." "Life's arm is long, and will not spare even you. And how will you meet her blows-unprepared." "What has Life to do with a humble man like me? I shall pass unnoticed. I have books, although they are not mine," he said glancing hesitatingly at Raisky, "but you give me free use of them. My needs are small, I feel no boredom. I have a wife who loves me...." Raisky looked away. "And," he added in a whisper, "I love her." It was plain that as his mind nourished itself on the books, so his heart had found a warm refuge; he himself did not even know what bound him to life and books, and did not guess that he might keep his books and lose his life, and that his life would be maimed if his "Roman head" was stolen from him. Happy child, thought Raisky. In his learned sleep he does not notice the darkness that is hidden in that dear Roman head, nor how empty the woman's heart is. He is helpless as far as she is concerned, and will never convince her of the virtues of the ancient ideals. CHAPTER VIII The sun was setting when Raisky returned home, and was received at the door by Marfinka. "Where did you get lost, Cousin?" she asked him. "Grandmother is very angry, and is grumbling...." "I was with Leonti," returned Raisky indifferently. "I thought so, and told Grandmother so, but she won't listen and will hardly speak even to Tiet Nikonich. He is with her now and Paulina Karpovna too. Go to Grandmother, and it will be all right. Are you afraid. Does your heart beat fast?" Raisky had to laugh. "She is very angry. We had prepared so many dishes." "We will eat them up for supper." "Will you? Grandmother, Grandmother," she cried happily, "Cousin has come and wants his supper." His aunt sat severely there, and did not look up when Raisky entered. Tiet Nikonich embraced him. He received an elegant bow from Paulina Karpovna, an elaborately got-up person of forty-five in a low cut muslin gown, with a fine lace handkerchief and a fan, which she kept constantly in motion although there was no heat. "What a man you have grown! I should hardly have known you," said Tiet Nikonich, beaming with kindness and pleasure. "He has grown very, very handsome," said Paulina Karpovna Kritzki. "You have not altered, Tiet Nikonich," remarked Raisky. "You have hardly aged at all, and are as gay, as fresh, as kind and amiable...." "Thank God! there is nothing worse than rheumatism the matter with me, and my digestion is no longer quite as good as it was. That is age, age. But how glad I am that you, our guest, have arrived in such good spirits. Tatiana Markovna was anxious about you. You will be staying here for some time?" "Of course you will spend the summer with us," said Paulina Karpovna. "Here is nature, and fine air, and so many people are interested in you." He looked at her askance, and said nothing. "Do you remember me?" she asked. Boris's aunt noticed with displeasure that Paulina Karpovna was ogling her nephew. "No, I must confess I forgot." "Yes, impressions are quickly forgotten in the capital," she said in a languishing tone. She looked him up and down and then added, "What an admirable travelling suit." "That reminds me I am still in my travelling clothes. Egor must be sent for and must take my clothes and linen out of the trunk. For you, Granny, and for you, my dear sisters, I have brought some small things for remembrance." Marfinka grew crimson with pleasure. "Granny, where are you going to put me up?" "The house belongs to you. Where you will," she returned coldly. "Don't be angry, Granny," he laughed. "It won't happen twice." "You may laugh, you may laugh, Boris Pavlovich. Here, in the presence of our guests, I tell you you have behaved badly. You have hardly put your nose inside the house, and straightway vanish. That is an insult to your Grandmother." "Surely, Granny, we shall be together every day. I have been visiting an old friend, and we forgot ourselves in talking." "Cousin Boris did not do it on purpose, Granny," said Marfinka. "Leonti Ivanovich is so good." "Please be silent when you are not addressed. You are too young to contradict your Grandmother, who knows what she is saying." Smilingly Marfinka drew back into her corner. "No doubt Juliana Andreevna was able to entertain you better, and knows better than I how to entertain a Petersburger. What friccassee did she give you?" asked his aunt, not without a little real curiosity. "Vermicelli soup, pastry with cabbage, then beef and potatoes." Tatiana Markovna laughed ironically, "Vermicelli soup and beef!" "And groats in the pan...." "It's a long time since you tasted such delicacies." "Excellent dishes," said Tiet Nikonich kindly, "but heavy for the digestion." "To-morrow, Marfinka," said the old lady, "we will entertain our guest with a gosling, pickled pork, carrots, and perhaps with a goose." "A goose, stuffed with groats, would be acceptable," put in Raisky. "Indigestible!" protested Tiet Nikonich. "The best is a light soup, with pearl barley, a cutlet, pastries and jelly; that is the proper midday meal." "But I should like groats." "Do you like mushrooms too, Cousin?" asked Marfinka. "Because we have so many." "Rather! Can't we have them for supper tonight?" In spite of Tiet Nikonich's caution against this heavy food, Tatiana Markovna sent Marfinka to Peter and to the cook to order mushrooms for supper. "If there is any champagne in the cellar, Granny, let us have a bottle up. Tiet Nikonich and I would like to drink your health. Isn't that so, Tiet Nikonich?" "Yes, to celebrate your arrival, though mushrooms and champagne are indigestible." "Tell the cook to bring champagne on ice, Marfinka," said the old lady. _"Ce que femme veut,"_ said Tiet Nikonich amiably, with a slight bow. "Supper is a special occasion, but one ought to dine at home too. You have vexed your Grandmother by going out on the very day of your return." "Ah, Tatiana Markovna," sighed Paulina Karpovna, "our ways here are so bourgeois, but in the capital...." The old lady's eyes blazed, as she pointed to the wall where hung the portraits of Raisky's and the young girls' parents, and exclaimed: "There was nothing bourgeois about those, Paulina Karpovna." "Granny," said Raisky, "let us allow one another absolute freedom. I am now making up for my absence at midday, and shall be here all night. But I can't tell where I shall dine to-morrow, or where I shall sleep." Paulina Karpovna could not refrain from applauding, but his aunt looked at him with amazement, and inquired if he were really a gipsy. "Monsieur Raisky is a poet, and poets are as free as air," remarked Paulina Karpovna. Again she made play with her eyes, shifted the pointed toes of her shoes in an effort to arouse Raisky's attention. The more she twisted and turned, the more icy was his indifference, for her presence made an uncomfortable impression on him. Marfinka observed the by-play and smiled to herself. "You have two houses, land, peasants, silver and glass, and talk of wandering about from one shelter to another like a beggar, like Markushka, the vagrant." "Markushka again! I must certainly make his acquaintance." "No, don't do that and add to your Grandmother's anxieties. If you see him, make your escape." "But why?" "He will lead you astray." "That's of no consequence, Grandmother. It looks as if he were an interesting individual, doesn't it, Tiet Nikonich?" "He is a riddle to everybody," Tiet Nikonich answered with a smile. "He must have gone astray very early in life, but he has apparently good brains and considerable knowledge, and might have been a useful member of society." Paulina Karpovna turned her head away, and dismissed Mark with the criticism, "No manners." "Brains! You bought his brains for three hundred roubles. Has he repaid them?" asked Tatiana Markovna. "I did not remind him of his debt. But to me he is, for the matter of that, almost polite." "That is to say he does not strike you, or shoot in your direction. Just imagine, Boris, that he nearly shot Niel Andreevich." "His dogs tore my train," complained Paulina Karpovna. "Did he never visit you unceremoniously at dinner again?" Tatiana Markovna asked Tiet Nikonich. "No, you don't like me to receive him, so I refuse him admission. He once came to me at night," he went on, addressing Raisky. "He had been out hunting, and had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. I gave him food, and we passed the time very pleasantly." "Pleasantly!" exclaimed Tatiana Markovna. "How can you say such things? If he came to me at that hour, I would settle him. No, Boris Pavlovich, live like other decent people. Stay with us, have dinner with us, go out with us, keep suspicious people at a distance, see how I administer your estate, and find fault if I do anything wrong." "That is so monotonous, Grandmother. Let us rather live each one after his own ideas and inclinations." "You are an exception," sighed his aunt. "No, Grandmother, it is you who are an exceptional woman. Why should we bother about one another." "To please your Grandmother." "Why don't you want to please your Grandson? You are a despot, Grandmother." "A despot! Boris Pavlovich, I have waited anxiously for you, I have hardly slept, have tried to have everything as you liked it." "But you did all that because activity is a pleasure to you. All this care and trouble is a pleasant stimulant, keeps you busy. If Markushka came to you, you would receive him in the same fashion." "You are right, Cousin," broke in Marfinka. "Grandmother is kindness itself, but she tries to disguise it." "Don't give your opinion when it is not asked. She contradicts her Grandmother only when you are here, Boris Pavlovich; at other times she is modest enough. And now the ideas she suddenly takes into her head. I? entertain Markushka!" "You did as you pleased," continued Raisky. "And then when it entered my head too to do as I pleased, I disturbed your arrangements and made a breach in your despotism. Isn't that so, Granny? And now kiss me, and we will give one another full liberty." "What a strange boy? Do you hear, Tiet Nikonich, what nonsense he talks." On that evening Tatiana Markovna and Raisky concluded, if not peace, at least a truce. She was assured that Boris loved and esteemed her; she was, in truth, easily convinced. After supper Raisky unpacked his trunk, and brought down his gifts; for his aunt, a few pounds of excellent tea, of which she was a connoisseur, a coffee machine of a new kind, with a coffee-pot, and a dark brown silk dress; bracelets with monograms for his cousins; and for Tiet Nikonich vest and hose of Samian leather, as his aunt had desired. Tatiana Markovna, with tears in her eyes, sat down beside him, and putting her hand on his shoulder said, "And you remembered me?" "Whom else should I remember? You are my nearest and dearest, Grandmother." When Tiet Nikonich and Paulina Karpovna took leave, the lady said that she had left orders with no one to fetch her, and that she hoped someone would accompany her, looking towards Raisky as she spoke. Tiet Nikonich expressed himself ready to see her home. "Egorka could have taken her," whispered Tatiana Markovna. "Why didn't she stay at home; she was not invited." "Thank you, thank you," said Paulina Karpovna to Raisky as she passed him. "What for?" asked Raisky in amazement. "For the pleasant, witty conversation, although it was not directed to me. What pleasure it gave me!" "A practical conversation about groats, a goose, and a quarrel with Grandmother." "Ah, I understand," she continued, "but I caught two glances, which were intended for me, confess they were. I am filled with hope and expectation." As she went out Raisky asked Marfinka what she was talking about. "She's always like that," laughed Marfinka. Tatiana Markovna followed Raisky to his room, smoothed the sheets of his bed once more, drew the curtains so that the sun should not awaken him in the morning, felt the feather bed to test its softness, and had a jug of water placed on the table beside him. She came back three times to see if he were asleep or wanted anything. Touched by so much kindly thought he recognised that his grandmother's activity was not only exerted to gratify herself. CHAPTER IX The days passed quietly by. Every morning the sun climbed up through the blue air, and lighted up the Volga and its banks. At midday the snowy clouds crept up, often piled one on another until the blue sky was hidden, and the cooling rain fell on woods and fields; then once more the clouds stole away before the approach of the warm, pleasant evening. Life at Malinovka passed just as peacefully. The naivetИ of the surroundings had not yet lost its charm for Raisky. The sunshine insinuating itself everywhere, his aunt's kind face, Marfinka's friendliness, and the willing attention of the servants made up a pleasant, friendly environment. He even felt pleasure in the watchful guardianship that his aunt exercised over him; he smiled when she preached order to him, warned him of crime and temptation, reproached him for his gipsy tendencies and tried to lead him to a definite plan of life. He liked Tiet Nikonich, and saw in his courtesy and his extreme good manners, his care for his health, and the universal esteem and affection in which he was held, a survival from the last century. When he felt very good tempered he found even Paulina Karpovna's eccentricities amusing. She had induced him to lunch with her one day, when she assured him that she was not indifferent to him, and that he himself was on the eve of returning her sentiments! The even, monotonous life lulled him like a cradle song. He wrote idly at his novel, strengthened a situation here, grouped a scene there, or accentuated a character. He watched his aunt, Leonti and his wife, and Marfinka, or looked at the villages and fields lying in an enchanted sleep along the banks of the Volga. In this ocean of silence he caught notes which he could interpret in terms of music, and determined, in his abundant leisure, to pursue the subject. One day, after a lonely walk along the shore, he climbed the cliff, and passed Koslov's house. Seeing that the windows were lighted, he was going up to the door, when suddenly he heard someone climb over the fence and jump down into the garden. Standing in the shadow of the fence, Raisky hesitated. He was afraid to sound the alarm until he knew whether it was a thief or an admirer of Juliana Andreevna's, some Monsieur Charles or other. However, he decided to pursue the intruder, and promptly climbed the fence and followed him. The man stopped before a window and hammered on the pane. "That is no thief, possibly Mark," thought Raisky. He was right. "Philosopher, open! Quick!" cried the intruder. "Go round to the entrance," said Leonti's voice dully through the glass. "To the entrance, to wake the dog! Open!" "Wait!" said Leonti, and as he opened the window Mark swung himself into the room. "Who is that behind you. Whom have you brought with you?" asked Leonti in terror. "No one. Do you imagine there's a ghost. Ah! there is someone scrambling up." "Boris, you? How did you happen to arrive together," he exclaimed as Raisky sprang into the room. Mark cast a hasty glance on Boris and turned to Leonti. "Give me another pair of trousers. Have you any wine in the house? "What's the matter, and where have you been?" asked Leonti suddenly, who had just noticed that Mark was covered up to the waist with wet and slime. "Give me another pair of trousers quick," said Mark impatiently. "What is the good of chattering?" "I have no wine, because we drank it all at dinner, when Monsieur Charles was our guest." "Where do you keep your clothes?" "My wife is asleep and I don't know; you must ask Avdotya." "Fool! I will find them myself!" He took a light, and went into the next room. "You see what he is like," sighed Leonti, addressing Raisky. After about ten minutes, Mark returned with the trousers and Leonti questioned him as to how he had got wet through. "I was crossing the Volga in a fishing-boat. The ass of a fisherman fell asleep, and brought us right up into the reeds by the island, and we had to get out among the reeds to extricate the boat." Without taking any heed of Raisky, he changed his trousers and sat down with his feet drawn up under him in the great armchair, so that his knees were on a level with his face, and he supported his bearded chin upon them. Raisky observed him silently. Mark was twenty-seven, built as if his muscles were iron, and well proportioned; a thick mane of light brown hair framed his pale face with its high arched forehead, and fell in long locks on his neck. The full beard was paler in colour. His open, bold, irregular, rather thin face was illuminated every now and then by a smile-of which it was hard to read the meaning; one could not tell whether it spelt vexation, mockery or pleasure. His grey eyes could be bold and commanding, but for the most part wore a cold expression of contempt. Tied up in a knot as he was, he now sat motionless with staring eyes, stirring neither hand nor foot. There was something restless and watchful in the motionless attitude, as in that of a dog apparently at rest, but ready to spring. Suddenly his eyes gleamed, and he turned to Raisky. "You will have brought some good cigars from St. Petersburg," he began without ceremony. "Give me one." Raisky offered his cigar case, and reminded Leonti that he had not introduced them. "What need is there of introduction! You came in by the same way, and both know who the other is." "Words of wisdom from the scholar!" ejaculated Mark. "That same Mark of whom I wrote to you, don't you remember!" said Leonti. "Wait, I will introduce myself," cried Mark, springing from the easy chair. He posed ceremoniously, and bowed. "I have the honour to present myself, Mark Volokov, under police surveillance, involuntary citizen of this town." He puffed away at his cigar, and again rolled himself up in a ball. "What do you do with yourself here?" asked Raisky. "I think, as you do." "You love art, are perhaps an artist?" "And are you an artist?" "Painter and musician," broke in Leonti, "and now he is writing a novel. Take care, brother, he may put you in too." Raisky signed to him to be silent. "Yes, I am an artist," Mark went on, "but of a different kind. Your Aunt will have acquainted you with my works." "She won't hear your name mentioned." "There you have it. But it was only a matter of a hundred apples or so that I plucked from over the fence." "The apples are mine; you may take as many as you like." "Many thanks. But why should I need your permission? I am accustomed to do everything in this life without permission. Therefore I will take the apples without your permission, they taste better." "I was curious to make your acquaintance. I hear so many tales about you." "What do they say?" "Little that is good." "Probably they tell you I am a thief, a monster, the terror of the neighbourhood." "That's about it." "But if this reputation precedes me, why should you seek my acquaintance. I have torn your books, as no doubt our friend there has informed you." "There he is to the point," cried Leonti. "I am glad he began the subject himself. He is a good sort at the bottom. If one is ill, he waits on one like a nurse, runs to the chemist, and takes any amount of trouble. But the rascal wanders round and gives no one any peace." "Don't chatter so," interrupted Mark. "For that matter," said Raisky, "everybody does not abuse you. Tiet Nikonich Vatutin, for instance, goes out of his way to speak well of you." "Is it possible! The sugar marquis! I left him some souvenirs of my presence. More than once I have waked him in the night by opening his bedroom window. He is always fussing about his health, but in all the forty years since he came here no one remembers him to have been ill. I shall never return the money he lent me. What more provocation would he have? And yet he praises me." "So that is your department of art," said Raisky gaily. "What kind of an artist are you? It is your turn to tell me." "I love and adore beauty. I love art, draw, and make music, and just now I am trying to write a great work, a novel." "Yes, yes, I see. You are an artist of the kind we all are." "All?" "With us Russians everybody is an artist. They use the chisel, paint, strum, write poetry, as you and your like do. Others drive in the mornings to the courts or the government offices, others sit before their stalls playing draughts, and still others stick on their estates-Art is everywhere." "Do you feel no desire to enter any of these categories." "I have tried, but don't know how to. What brought you here?" "I don't know myself. It is all the same to me where I go. I had a letter summoning me here from my Aunt, and I came." Mark busied himself in his thoughts, and took no further interest in Raisky. Raisky on the other hand examined the extraordinary person before him attentively, studied the expression of his face, followed his movements, and tried to grasp the outline of a strong character. "Thank God," he said to himself, "that I am not the only idle, aimless person here. In this man there is something similar; he wanders about, reconciles himself to his fate, and does nothing. I at least draw and try to write my novel, while he does nothing. Is he the victim of secret discord like myself? Is he always struggling between two fires? Imagination striving upward to the ideal lures him on on the one hand-man, nature and life in all its manifestations; on the other he is attracted by a cold, destructive analysis which allows nothing to live, and will forget nothing, an analysis that leads to eternal discontent and blighting cold. Is that his secret?" He glanced at Mark, who was already drowsing. "Good-bye, Leonti," he said, "it's time I was going home." "What am I to do with him?" "He can stay here all right." "Think of the books. It's leaving the goat loose in the vegetable garden." "I might wheel him in the armchair into that dark little room, and lock him in," thought Leonti, "but if he woke, he might pull the roof down." Mark helped him out of his dilemma by jumping to his feet. "I am going with you," he said to Raisky. "It is time for you to go to bed, philosopher," he said to Leonti. "Don't sit up at nights. You have already got a yellow patch in your face, and your eyes are hollow." He put out the light, stuffed on his cap, and leapt out of the window. Raisky followed his example, and they went down the garden once more, climbed the fence, and came out in the street. "Listen," said Mark. "I am hungry, and Leonti has nothing to give me. Can you help me to storm an inn?" "As far as I am concerned. But the thing can be managed without the application of force." "It is late, and the inns are shut. No one will open willingly, especially when it is known that I am in the case; consequently we must enter by storm. We will call 'Fire!' and then they will open at once, and we can get in." "And be hurled out into the street again." "There you are wrong. It is possible that I might be refused entrance, but once in, I remain." "A siege, a row at night...." "Ah, you are afraid of the police," laughed Mark. "You are thinking of what the Governor would decide on in such a serious case, what Niel Andreevich would say, how the company would take it. Now good-bye, I will go and storm my entrance alone." "Wait, I have another, more delightful plan," said Raisky. "My Aunt cannot, you say, bear to hear your name; only the other day she declared she would in no circumstances give you hospitality." "Well, what then?" "Come home with me to supper, and stay the night with me." "That's not a bad plan. Let us go." They walked in silence, almost feeling their way through the darkness. When they came to the fence of the Malinovka estate, which bounded the vegetable garden, Raisky proposed to climb it. "It would be better," said Mark, "to go by way of the orchard or from the precipice. Here we shall wake the house and must make a circuit in addition. I always go the other way." "You-come-here-into the garden? What to do?" "To get apples." "You have my permission, so long as Tatiana Markovna does not catch you." "I shan't be caught so easily. Look, someone has just leaped over the fence, like us. Hi! Stop! Don't try to hide. Who's there? Halt! Raisky, come and help me!" He ran forward a few paces, and seized someone. Raisky hurried to the point from which voices were audible, remarking, "What cat's eyes you have!" The man who was held fast by Mark's strong arms twisted round to free himself, and in the end fell to the ground and made for the fence. "Catch him, hold fast! There is another sneaking round in the vegetable garden," cried Raisky. Raisky saw dimly a figure about to spring down from the fence, and demanded who it was. "Sir, let me go, do not ruin me!" whispered a woman's voice. "Is it you, Marina, what are you doing here? "Gently, Sir. Don't call me by name. Savili will hear, and will beat me." "Off with you! No, stop. I have found you at the right moment. Can you bring some supper to my room?" "Anything, Sir. Only, for God's sake, don't betray me." "I won't betray you. Tell me what there is in the kitchen." "The whole supper is there. As you did not come, no one ate anything. There is sturgeon in jelly, turkey, all on ice." "Bring it, and what about wine?" "There is a bottle in the sideboard, and the fruit liqueurs are in Marfa Vassilievna's room." "Be careful not to wake her." "She sleeps soundly. Let me go now, Sir, for my husband may hear us." "Run, but take care you don't run into him." "He dare not do anything if he does meet me now. I shall tell him that you have given me orders...." Meanwhile, Mark had dragged his man from hiding. "Savili Ilivich," the unknown murmured, "don't strike me." "I ought to know the voice," said Raisky. "Ah! You are not Savili Ilivich, thank God. I Sir, I am the gardener from over there." "What are you doing here?" "I came on a real errand, Sir. Our clock has stopped, and I came here to wait for the church-clock to strike." "Devil take you," cried Mark, and gave the man a push that sent him reeling. The man sprang over the ditch, and vanished in the darkness. Raisky, meantime, returned to the main entrance. He tried to open the door, not wishing to knock for fear of awaking his aunt. "Marina," he called in a low voice, "Marina, open!" The bolt was pushed back. Raisky pushed open the door with his foot. Before him stood-he recognised the voice-Savili, who flung himself upon him and held him. "Wait, my little dove, I will make my reckoning with you, not with Marina." "Take your hands off, Savili, it is I." "Who, not the Master?" exclaimed Savili, loosening his prisoner. "You were so good as to call Marina? But," after a pause, "have you not seen her." "I had already asked her to leave some supper for me and to open the door," he said untruthfully, by way of protecting the unfaithful wife. "She had already heard that I am here. Now let my guest pass, shut the door, and go to bed." "Yes, Sir," said Savili, and went slowly to his quarters, meeting Marina on the way. "Why aren't you in bed, you demon?" she cried, dashing past him. "You sneak around at night, you might be twisting the manes of the horses like a goblin, and put me to shame before the gentry." Marina sped past light-footed as a sylph, skilfully balancing dishes and plates in her hands, and vanished into the dark night. Savili's answer was a threatening gesture with his whip. Mark was indeed hungry, and as Raisky showed no hesitation either, the sturgeon soon disappeared, and when Marina came to clear away there was not much to take. "Now we should like something sweet," suggested Raisky. "No sweets are left," Marina assured them, "but I could get some preserves, of which Vassilissa has the keys." "Better still punch," said Mark. "Have you any rum?" "Probably," she said, in answer to an inquiring glance from Raisky. "The cook was given a bottle this morning for a pudding. I will see." Marina returned with a bottle of rum, a lemon and sugar, and then left the room. The bowl was soon in flames, which lighted up the darkened room with their pale blue light. Mark stirred it with the spoon, while the sugar held between two spoons dripped slowly into the bowl. From time to time he tasted it. "How long have you been in our town?" asked Raisky after a short silence. "About two years." "You must assuredly be bored?" "I try to amuse myself," he said, pouring out a glass for himself and emptying it. "Drink," he said, pushing a glass towards Raisky. Raisky drank slowly, not from inclination, but out of politeness to his guest. "It must be essential for you to do something, and yet you appear to do nothing?" "And what do you do?" "I told you I am an artist." "Show me proof of your art." "At the moment I have nothing except a trifling thing, and even that is not complete." He rose from the divan and uncovered Marfinka's portrait. "H'm, it's like her, and good," declared Mark. He told himself that Raisky had talent. "And it would be excellent, but the head is too large in proportion and the shoulders a trifle broad." "He has a straight eye," thought Raisky. "I like best the lightly-observed background and accessories, from which the figure detaches itself light, gay, and transparent. You have found the secret of Marfinka's figure. The tone suits her hair and her complexion." Raisky recognised that he had taste and comprehension, and wondered if he were really an artist in a disguise. "Do you know Marfinka?" he asked. "Yes." "And Vera?" "Vera too." "Where have you met my cousins? You do not come to the house." "At church." "At church? But they say you never look inside a church." "I don't exactly remember where I have seen them, in the village, in the field." Raisky concluded his guest was a drunkard, as he drunk down glass after glass of punch. Mark guessed his thoughts. "You think it extraordinary that I should drink. I do it out of sheer boredom, because I am idle and have no occupation. But don't be afraid that I shall set the house on fire or murder anybody. To-day I am drinking more than usual because I am tired and cold. But I am not a drunkard." "It depends on ourselves whether we are idle or not." "When you climbed over Leonti's fence, I thought you were a sensible individual, but now I see that you belong to the same kind of preaching person as Niel Andreevich...." "Is it true that you fired on him?" asked Raisky curiously. "What nonsense! I fired a shot among the pigeons to empty the barrel of my gun, as I was returning from hunting. He came up and shouted that I should stop, because it was sinful. If he had been content with protesting I should merely have called him a fool, and there it would have ended. But he began to stamp and to threaten, 'I will have you put in prison, you ruffian, and will have you locked up where not even the raven will bring you a bone.' I allowed him to run through the whole gamut of polite remarks, and listened calmly-and then I 'took aim at him.'" "And he?" "Ducked, lost his stick and goloshes, finally squatted on the ground and whimpered for forgiveness. I shot into the air. That's all." "A pretty distraction," commented Raisky ironically. "No distraction," said Mark seriously. "There was more in it, a badly-needed lesson for the old boy." "And then what?" "Nothing. He lied to the Governor, saying that I had aimed at him, but missed. If I had been a peaceful citizen of the town I should have been thrust into gaol without delay; but as I am an outlaw, the Governor inquired into the matter and advised Niel Andreevich to say nothing. So that no enquiry should be instituted from St. Petersburg; they fear that like fire." "When I spoke of idleness," said Raisky, "I did not mean to read a moral. Yet when I see what your mind, your abilities and your education are...." "What have you seen? That I can climb a hedge, shoot at a fool, eat and drink heavily?" he asked as he drained his glass. Raisky watched him, and wondered uneasily how it would all end. "We were speaking of the art you love so much," said Mark. "I have been snatched from Art as if from my mother's breast," sighed Raisky, "but I shall return and shall reach my goal." "No, you will not," laughed Mark. "Why not, don't you believe in firm intentions?" "How should I do otherwise, since they say the way to Hell is paved with them. No, you will do little more than you have accomplished already-that is very little. We, and many like us, simply rot and die. The only wonder is that you don't drink. That is how our artists, half men, usually end their careers." Smiling he thrust a glass towards his host, but emptied it himself. Raisky concluded that he was cold, malicious and heartless. But the last remark had disturbed him. Was he really only half a man? Had he not a firm determination to reach the goal he had set before himself? He was only making fun of him. "You see that I don't drink away my talents," he remarked. "Yes, that is an improvement, a step forward. You haven't succumbed to society, to perfumes, gloves and dancing. Drinking is a different thing. It goes to one man's head, another is susceptible to passion. Tell me, do you easily take fire? Ah! I have touched the spot," he went on as Raisky coloured. "That belongs to the artistic temperament, to which nothing is foreign-_Nihil humanum_, etc. One loves wine, another women, a third cards. The artists have usurped all these things for themselves. Now kindly explain what I am." "What you are. Why, an artist, without doubt, who on a first acquaintance will drink, storm public houses, shoot, borrow money-" "And not repay it. Bravo! an admirable description. To justify your last remark and prove its truth beyond doubt, lend me a hundred roubles. I will never pay them back unless you and I should have exchanged our respective situations in life." "You say that in jest?" "Not at all. The market gardener, with whom I live, feeds me. He has no money, nor have I." Raisky shrugged his shoulders, felt in his pockets, produced his pocket book and laid some notes on the table. "You have counted wrong," said Mark. "There are only eighty here." "I have no more money on me. My aunt keeps my money, and I will send you the balance to-morrow." "Don't forget. This is enough for the moment and now I want to sleep." "My bed is at your disposal, and I will sleep on the divan. You are my guest." "I should be worse than a Tatar if I did that," murmured Mark, already half asleep. "Lie down on your bed. Anything will do for me." In a few minutes he was sleeping the sleep of a tired, satisfied and drunken man worn out with cold and weariness. Raisky went to the window, raised the curtain, and looked out into the dark, starlit night. Now and then a flame hovered over the unemptied bowl, flared up and lighted up the room for a moment. There was a gentle tap on the door. "Who is there?" he asked. "I, Borushka. Open quickly. What are you doing there," said the anxious voice of Tatiana Markovna. Raisky opened the door, and saw his aunt before him, like a white-clad ghost. "What is going on here. I saw a light through the window, and thought you were asleep. What is burning in the bowl." "Rum." "Do you drink punch at night?" she whispered, looking first at him, then at the bowl in amazement. "I am a sinner, Grandmother. Sometimes I drink." "And who is lying there asleep?" she asked in new terror as she gazed on the sleeping Mark. "Gently, Grandmother, don't wake him. It is Mark." "Mark! Shall I send for the police! What have you to do with him? You have been drinking punch at night with Mark? What has come over you, Boris Pavlovich?" "I found him at Leonti's, we were both hungry. So I brought him here and we had supper." "Why didn't you call me. Who served you, and what did they bring you?" "Marina did everything." "A cold meal. Ah, Borushka, you shame me." "We had plenty to eat." "Plenty, without a single hot dish, without dessert. I will send up some preserves." "No, no ... if you want anything, I can wake Mark and ask him." "Good heavens! I am in my night-jacket," she whispered, and drew back to the door. "How he sleeps, all rolled up like a little dog. I am ashamed, Boris Pavlovich, as if we had no beds in the house. But put out the flames. No dessert!" Raisky extinguished the blue flame and embraced the old lady. She made the sign of the Cross over him, looked round the room once more, and went out on tiptoe. Just as he was going to lie down again there was another tap on the door, he opened it immediately. Marina entered, bearing a jar of preserves; then she brought a bed and two pillows. "The mistress sent them," she said. Raisky laughed heartily, and wa

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