Welcome to Bookwise, a full-featured digital book reader.

Tap left edge for menu.

Tap page to scroll.

Sign in for the best reading experience.

Sign in   Maybe later

Previous note
Hide notes
Next note

Add comment
Share
Quote copied to clipboard
Delete

Bookwise is better with an account.

Please Sign in for the best reading experience.

Two Hussars
A Story

Leo Tolstoy's signature

Leo Tolstoy

1856

This is the Bookwise complete ebook of Two Hussars by Leo Tolstoy, available to read online as an alternative to epub, mobi, kindle, pdf or text only versions. For information about the status of this work, see Copyright Notice.



Early in the nineteenth century, in the days when there were no railways or macadamised roads, no gaslight, no stearine candles, no low couches with spring cushions, no unvarnished furniture, no disillusioned youths with eyeglasses, no liberal women-philosophers, nor any charming dames aux caméllias, of whom there are so many in our times; in those naive days, when leaving Moscow for Petersburg in a coach or carriage provided with a kitchenful of homemade provisions, one travelled for eight days along a soft, dusty, or muddy road, and had faith in chopped cutlets, in sleigh-bells and plain rolls; when in the long autumn evenings the tallow candles, around which family groups of twenty or thirty people gathered, had to be snuffed; when ballrooms were illuminated by candelabra with wax or spermaceti candles; when furniture was arranged symmetrically; when our fathers were still young, and proved it not only by the absence of wrinkles and grey hair, but by fighting duels for the sake of a woman and by rushing from the opposite corner of a room to pick up a bit of a handkerchief dropped purposely or accidentally; when our mothers wore short-waisted dresses and enormous sleeves, and decided family affairs by casting lots; when the charming dames aux caméllias hid from the light of day⁠—in the naive days of Freemasons’ lodges,178 Martinists,179 and Tugendbunds,180 the days of Milorádovitches181 and Davídofs182 and Poúshkins⁠—a meeting of landed proprietors was held at the Government town of K⁠⸺ and the nobility183 elections were over.


I

“Well, never mind, the saloon will do,” said a young officer wearing a fur cloak and hussar’s cap, who had just got out of a post-sledge and was entering the best hotel in the town of K⁠⸺.

“The meeting, your excellency, is enormous,” said the boots, who had already managed to learn from the Orderly that the hussar’s name was Count Toúrbin, and therefore addressed him as “your excellency.”

“The proprietress of Afrémovo with her daughters has said she will leave this evening, so No. 11 will be at your disposal as soon as they go,” continued the boots, stepping softly before the Count along the passage, and continually looking back.

In the general saloon, at a little table under the blackened full-length portrait of the Emperor Alexander I, several men, probably belonging to the local nobility, sat drinking champagne, and at one side sat some travellers: tradesmen in blue, fur-lined cloaks.

Entering the room and calling in Blücher, a gigantic grey mastiff he had brought with him, the Count threw off his cloak, the collar of which was still covered with hoarfrost, called for vodka, sat down in his blue satin Cossack jacket at the table, and entered into conversation with the gentlemen sitting there.

The handsome, open countenance of the newcomer immediately predisposed them in his favour, and they offered him a glass of champagne. The Count first drank a glass of vodka, and then ordered another bottle of champagne to treat his new acquaintances. The sledge-driver came in to ask for a tip.

“Sáshka!” shouted the Count, “give him something.”

The driver went out with Sáshka, but came back again with the money in his hand.

“Look here, y’r ’xelence, haven’t I done my very best for y’r honour? Didn’t you promise me half a rouble, and he’s only given me a quarter!”

“Sáshka, give him a rouble.”

Sáshka cast down his eyes and looked at the driver’s feet.

“He’s had enough!” he said, in a bass voice. “And besides, I have no more money.”

The Count drew from his pocketbook the two five-rouble notes which were all that was in it, and gave one of them to the driver, who kissed his hand and went off.

“I’ve run it pretty close!” said the Count. “These are my last five roubles.”

“Real hussar fashion, Count,” said one of the nobles, who from his moustache, voice, and a certain energetic freedom about the legs, was evidently a retired cavalryman. “Are you staying here some time, Count?”

“I must get some money. I should not have stayed here at all but for that. And there are no rooms to be had, devil take them, in this cursed pub.”

“Permit me, Count,” said the cavalryman, “will you not join me? My room is No. 7.⁠ ⁠… If you do not mind, just for the night. And then you’ll stay a couple of days with us? It happens that the Maréchal de la Noblesse is just giving a ball tonight. You would make him very happy by going.”

“Yes, Count, do stay,” said another, a handsome young man. “You have surely no reason to hurry away! You know this only comes once in three years⁠—the elections, I mean. You should at least have a look at our young ladies, Count!”

“Sáshka, get my clean linen ready; I am going to the bath,” said the Count, rising, “and from there perhaps I may run in to the Marshal’s.”

Then, having called the waiter and whispered something to him, to which the latter answered with a smile, “That can all be managed,” he went out.

“So I’ll order my trunk to be taken to your room, old fellow,” shouted the Count from the passage.

“Please do, I shall be most happy,” replied the cavalryman, running to the door; “No. 7⁠—don’t forget.”

When the Count’s footsteps could no longer be heard, the cavalryman returned to his place, and sitting close to one of the group, a Government official, and looking him straight in the face with smiling eyes, he said⁠—

“It is the very man, you know.”

“No?”

“I tell you it is; it is the very same duellist hussar⁠—the famous Toúrbin. He knew me⁠—I bet you anything he knew me. Why, he and I went on the spree for three weeks without a break when I was at Lebedyáni184 for remounts. There was one thing⁠—he and I did together.⁠ ⁠… He’s a fine fellow, eh?”

“A splendid fellow. And so pleasant in his manner! Doesn’t show a grain of⁠—what d’you call it?” answered the handsome young man. “How quickly we became intimate.⁠ ⁠… He’s not more than twenty-five, is he?”

“Oh no, that’s what he looks, but he is more than that. One has to get to know him, you know. Who eloped with Migoúnova? He. It was he killed Sáblin. It was he dropped Matnyóf out of the window by the legs. He won 300,000 roubles of Prince Néstorof. He is a regular daredevil, you know: a gambler, a duellist, a seducer, but a jewel of an hussar⁠—a real jewel. The rumours that are afloat about us are nothing⁠—if anyone knew what a true hussar is! Ah yes, those were times!”

And the cavalryman told his interlocutor of such a spree with the Count in Lebedyáni, as not only never had, but never even could have taken place.

It could not have done so, first because he had never seen the Count till that day, and had left the army two years before the Count entered it; and secondly, because the cavalryman had never really served in the cavalry at all, but had for four years been the humblest of cadets in the Beléfsky Regiment, and had retired as soon as ever he became ensign. But ten years ago he had inherited some money and had really been in Lebedyáni, where he squandered 700 roubles with some officers who were there for remounts. He had even gone so far as to have an Uhlan uniform with orange facings made, meaning to enter an Uhlan regiment. This desire to enter the cavalry, and the three weeks spent with the remount officers at Lebedyáni, remained the brightest and happiest memories of his life; so that he transformed the desire, first into a reality and then into a reminiscence, and came to believe firmly in his past as a cavalry officer⁠—all of which did not hinder him from being, both as to gentleness and honesty, a most worthy man.

“Yes, those who have never served in the cavalry will never understand us fellows.”

He sat down astride a chair, and thrusting out his lower jaw began to speak in a bass voice. “One used to ride at the head of one’s squadron: under you not a horse, but the devil incarnate, prancing all about, and you just sit in devil-me-care style. The squadron commander rides up to review: ‘Lieutenant,’ he says, ‘if you please, we can’t get on without you⁠—lead the squadron to parade.’ ‘All right,’ you say, and there you are; you turn round, shout to your moustached fellows.⁠ ⁠… Ah, devil take it, those were times!”

The Count returned from the bath very red and with wet hair, and went straight to No. 7, where the cavalryman was already sitting in his dressing-gown, smoking a pipe and considering with pleasure, and not without some apprehension, the happiness that had befallen him of sharing a room with the celebrated Toúrbin. “Now, supposing,” he thought, “that he suddenly takes me, strips me naked, drives with me to the town gates and puts me in the snow, or⁠ ⁠… tars me, or simply⁠ ⁠… But no,” he consoled himself, “he won’t do it to a comrade.”

“Sáshka, feed Blücher!” shouted the Count.

Sáshka, who had taken a tumbler of vodka to refresh himself after the journey, and was decidedly tipsy, came in.

“What, already! You’ve been drinking, rascal!⁠ ⁠… Feed Blücher!”

“He won’t starve anyhow; see how sleek he is!” answered Sáshka, stroking the dog.

“Silence! Be off and feed him!”

“You want the dog to be fed, but when a man drinks a glass you reproach him.”

“Hey! I’ll thrash you!” shouted the Count, in a voice that made the window panes rattle and frightened even the cavalryman a bit.

“You should ask if Sáshka has yet had a bite today! Yes, beat me, if you think more of a dog than of a man,” muttered Sáshka.

But here he received such a terrible blow in the face from the Count’s fist, that he fell, knocked his head against the partition, and, clutching his nose, fled from the room and fell on a settee in the passage.

“He’s knocked my teeth out,” grunted Sáshka, wiping his bleeding nose with one hand, while with the other he scratched the back of Blücher, who was licking himself. “He’s knocked my teeth out, Bluchy, but still he’s my Count, and I’d go through fire for him⁠—I would! Because he⁠—is my Count; do you understand, Bluchy? Want your dinner, eh?”

After lying still for a while, he rose, fed the dog, and then, almost sobered, went in to wait on his Count, and to offer him some tea.

“I shall really feel hurt,” said the cavalryman meekly, as he stood before the Count, who was lying on the cavalryman’s bed with his legs up against the partition. “You see, I also am an old army man, and, I may say, a comrade. Why should you borrow from anyone else when I shall be delighted to lend you a couple of hundred roubles? I have not got them just now, only a hundred roubles, but I’ll get the rest today. You would really hurt my feelings, Count!”

“Thank you, old man,” said the Count, instantly discerning what kind of relations had to be established between them, and slapping the cavalryman on the shoulder: “Thanks! Well then, we’ll go to the ball if it must be so. But what are we to do now? Tell us what you have in your town. What pretty girls? What men game for a spree? What gaming?”

The cavalryman explained that there would be an abundance of pretty creatures at the ball, that Kólhof, who had been reelected Captain of Police, was the best hand at a spree, only he lacked the true hussar go⁠—otherwise he was a good sort of chap; that the Ilúshkin gipsy chorus had been singing in the town since the elections began, Styóshka leading, and that everybody meant to go to hear them after leaving the Marshal’s that evening.

“And there is a devilish lot of card-playing too,” he went on; “Loúhnof plays. He has money and is staying here to break his journey, and Ilyín, an Uhlan cornet, who has room No. 8, has lost a lot. They have already begun in his room. They play every evening. And what a fine fellow that Ilyín is! I tell you, Count, he’s not mean⁠—he’ll let his last shirt go.”

“Well then, let us go to his room. Let us see what sort of people they are,” said the Count.

“Yes, do, pray do. They will be devilish glad.”


II

The Uhlan cornet, Ilyín, had not been long awake. The evening before he had sat down to cards at eight o’clock, and had lost pretty steadily for fifteen hours on end⁠—till eleven in the morning. He had lost a considerable sum, but did not know exactly how much, because he had about 3000 roubles of his own, and 15,000 service-money which had long since got mixed up with it, and he feared to count lest he should find his forebodings confirmed that some of the Government money was already missing. It was nearly noon when he fell asleep, and he had slept that heavy, dreamless sleep which comes only to a very young man, and after a heavy loss. Waking at six o’clock (just at the time when Count Toúrbin arrived at the hotel), and seeing the floor all around strewn with cards and bits of chalk, and the chalk-marked tables in the middle of the room, he recalled with terror last night’s play, and the last card, a knave on which he lost 500 roubles; but not yet quite convinced of the reality of all this, he drew his money from under his pillow and began to count. He recognised some notes which had passed from hand to hand several times with “corners” and “transports,” and he recollected the whole course of the game. He had none of his own 3000 roubles left, and some 2500 Government money were also gone.

The Uhlan had been playing for four nights running.

He had come from Moscow, where the service-money had been entrusted to him, and he had been detained at K⁠⸺ by the superintendent of the post-house on the pretext that there were no horses, but really because the latter had an agreement with the hotel keeper to detain all travellers a day. The Uhlan, a bright young lad, who had just received 3000 roubles from his parents in Moscow for his equipment on entering his regiment, was glad to spend a few days in the town of K⁠⸺ at election time, and hoped to thoroughly enjoy himself. He knew one of the landed gentry there who had a family, and he was thinking of looking them up and flirting with the daughters, when the cavalryman turned up to make his acquaintance. That same evening, without any evil intent, the cavalryman introduced him to his other acquaintances, Loúhnof and other gamblers, in the general saloon, or common room, of the hotel. And ever since then the Uhlan had been playing cards, not asking at the station for horses, much less going to visit his acquaintance the landed proprietor, and not even leaving his room for four days.

Having dressed and had some tea, he went to the window. He felt he would like to go for a stroll, to get rid of the gaming recollections that haunted him. He put on his cloak and went out into the street. The sun was already hidden behind the white, red-roofed houses, and it was getting dusk. It was warm for winter. Large, wet snowflakes were slowly falling into the muddy street. Suddenly, at the thought that he had slept all through the day now ending, a feeling of intolerable sadness came over him.

“This day, now past, can never be brought back,” he thought.

“I have ruined my youth!” he suddenly said to himself, not because he really thought he had ruined his youth⁠—he did not even think about it⁠—but the phrase just happened to come into his head.

“And what am I to do now?” thought he: “borrow of someone and go away?” A lady passed him along the pavement. “There’s a stupid woman,” thought he, for some unknown reason. “There’s no one to borrow of⁠ ⁠… I have ruined my youth!” He came to the bazaar. A tradesman in a fox-fur cloak stood at the door of his shop touting for customers. “If I had not taken that eight I should have recovered my losses.” An old beggar-woman followed him whimpering. “There’s no one to borrow from.” Some man or other drove past in a bearskin cloak; a policeman was standing at his post. “What could one do that is unusual? Shoot at them? No, it’s dull.⁠ ⁠… I have ruined my youth!⁠ ⁠… Ah, there are fine horse-collars and trappings hanging there. There now, if one could get into a troika:185 ‘Gee-up, beauties!’⁠ ⁠… I’ll go back. Loúhnof will come soon, and we’ll play.”

He returned to the hotel and again counted his money. No, he had made no mistake when he first counted: there were still 2500 roubles of Government money missing. “I’ll stake 25 roubles on the first card, then make a ‘corner’⁠ ⁠… 7-fold it, 15-fold, 30, 60⁠ ⁠… 3000 roubles. Then I’ll buy the horse-collars and be off. He won’t give me a chance, the rascal! I have ruined my youth!”

That is what was going on in the Uhlan’s head when Loúhnof really entered the room.

“Well, have you been up long, Michael Vasílitch?” asked Loúhnof, slowly removing the gold spectacles from his skinny nose, and carefully wiping them with a red silk handkerchief.

“No, I’ve only just got up⁠—I slept uncommonly well.”

“Some hussar or other has arrived; he is staying with Zavalshévsky⁠—did you know?”

“No, I didn’t. But how’s it no one else has turned up?”

“They must have gone into Pryáhin’s. They’ll be here directly.”

And, sure enough, a little later the room was entered by a garrison officer who always followed Loúhnof, a Greek merchant with an enormous brown, hooked nose and sunken black eyes, and a fat, puffy squire and distiller, who played whole nights, always staking “simples” of half-a-rouble each.

They all wished to begin playing as soon as possible, but the principal players, and especially Loúhnof, who was telling about a robbery in Moscow in an exceedingly calm manner, said nothing about that subject.

“Just fancy,” he said, “a city like Moscow, the historic capital, the chief town, and men go about there with crooks, dressed up like devils, frighten stupid people and rob the passersby⁠—and there’s an end of it. What are the police about? That’s the question.”

The Uhlan listened attentively to the story about the robbers, but when a pause came he rose and quietly ordered cards to be brought. The fat squire was the first to speak out.

“I say, gentlemen, why lose precious time? If we mean business, let us begin.”

“Yes, you walked off with a pile of half-roubles last night, so you like it,” said the Greek.

“It is about time,” said the garrison officer.

Ilyín looked at Loúhnof. Loúhnof, looking him straight in the eyes, quietly continued his story about robbers dressed up as devils with claws.

“Will you take the bank?” asked the Uhlan.

“Is it not too early?”

“Belóf!” shouted the Uhlan, blushing for some unknown reason, “bring me some dinner⁠—I have not had anything to eat yet, gentlemen⁠—and a bottle of champagne and some cards.”

At this moment the Count and Zavalshévsky entered. It turned out that Toúrbin and Ilyín belonged to the same division. They took to one another at once, clinked glasses, drank champagne together, and were on intimate terms in five minutes. The Count seemed to like Ilyín very much; he looked smilingly at him and teased him about his youthfulness.

“There’s an Uhlan of the true sort!” said he. “What moustaches⁠—dear me, what moustaches!”

Even what little fluff there was on Ilyín’s lip was quite white.

“I suppose you are going to play?” said the Count: “Well, I wish you luck, Ilyín! I should think you are a master at it,” he added, with a smile.

“Yes, they mean to start,” said Loúhnof, tearing open a pack of cards, “and you, Count, won’t you join us?”

“No, not today. I should clear you all out if I did. When I begin ‘cornering’ in earnest the bank begins to crack! But I have nothing to play with⁠—I was cleaned out at a station near Volotchók. I met some infantry fellow there with rings on his fingers⁠—some sharper, I should think⁠—and he plucked me clean.”

“Why, how long were you at that station?” asked Ilyín.

“I sat there for twenty-two hours. I shall remember that cursed station! And the superintendent won’t forget me either⁠ ⁠…”

“How’s that?”

“I drive up, you know; out rushes the superintendent, with a regular brigand’s rascally phiz. ‘No horses,’ says he. Now, I must tell you, I make it a rule: if there are no horses I don’t take off my cloak, but go into the superintendent’s own room⁠—not into the public room, but into his private room⁠—and I have all the doors and windows opened, on the ground that it’s smoky. Well, that’s just what I did there. And you remember what frosts we had last week? Twenty degrees!186 The superintendent began to reason, I punched his head. There was an old woman there, girls and women; they kicked up a row, caught up their pots and pans and were rushing off to the village⁠ ⁠… I went to the door, and said, ‘Let me have horses and I’ll be off; if not, no one shall go out: I’ll freeze you all!’ ”

“That’s an infernally good plan!” said the puffy squire, rolling with laughter; “it’s the way they freeze out cockroaches⁠ ⁠…”

“But I did not watch carefully, and the superintendent made off with all the women. Only one old woman remained in pawn on the top of the stove; she kept sneezing and saying her prayers. Afterwards we began negotiating; the superintendent came and, from a distance, began persuading me to let the old woman go, but I set Blücher at him a bit. Blücher’s splendid at tackling superintendents! But the rascal did not let me have horses until the next morning. Then that infantry fellow came along. I joined him in the other room, and we began to play. You have seen Blücher?⁠ ⁠… Blücher!⁠ ⁠… Whew!”

Blücher rushed in. The players condescendingly paid him some attention, though it was evident they wished to attend to quite other matters.

“But why don’t you play, gentlemen? Please don’t let me prevent you. I am a chatterbox, you see,” said Toúrbin. “Play is play, whether one likes it or not.”


III

Loúhnof drew two candles nearer to himself, took out a large brown pocketbook full of paper money, and slowly, as if performing some rite, opened it on the table, drew forth two hundred-rouble notes and put them under the cards.

“Two hundred for the bank, the same as yesterday,” said he, arranging his spectacles and opening a pack of cards.

“Very well,” said Ilyín, continuing his conversation with Toúrbin without looking at Loúhnof.

The game187 started. Loúhnof dealt the cards with machine-like precision, stopping now and then and deliberately jotting something down, or looking severely over his spectacles and saying in low tones, “Pass up!” The fat squire spoke louder than anyone else, audibly deliberating with himself, and wetting his plump fingers as he bent down the corners of the cards. The garrison officer silently and neatly noted the amount of his stake on his card, and bent down small corners under the table. The Greek sat beside the “banker” and watched the game attentively with his black, sunken eyes, and seemed to be waiting for something. Zavalshévsky, standing by the table, would suddenly begin to fidget all over, take a red or blue banknote188 out of his trousers pocket, lay a card on it, slap it with his palm and say, “Little seven, pull me through!” Then he would bite his moustache, step from foot to foot, and keep fidgeting until his card was dealt. Ilyín sat eating veal and cucumbers, which were placed beside him on the horsehair sofa, and, hastily wiping his hands on his coat, laid down card after card. Toúrbin, who at first sat on the sofa, quickly saw how things stood. Loúhnof did not look at or speak to the Uhlan; only now and then his spectacles would turn for a moment towards the Uhlan’s hand, but most of the latter’s cards lost.

“There, now, I should like to beat that card,” said Loúhnof of a card the fat squire, who was staking half-roubles, had put down.

“You beat Ilyín’s, never mind me!” remarked the squire.

And, really, Ilyín’s cards lost more often than any of the others. He would tear up the losing card nervously under the table, and choose another with trembling fingers. Toúrbin rose from the sofa and asked the Greek to let him sit by the “banker.” The Greek moved to another place and gave his chair to the Count, who began watching Loúhnof’s hands attentively, not taking his eyes off them.

“Ilyín!” he suddenly said, in his usual voice, which quite unintentionally drowned all others, “why do you repeat the same card? You don’t know how to play.”

“It’s all the same how one plays.”

“That way you’ll be sure to lose. Let me play for you.”

“No, please excuse me. I always do it myself. Play for yourself if you like.”

“I said I should not play for myself, but I should like to play for you. I am vexed that you are losing.”

“I suppose it’s my fate.”

The Count was silent, but putting his elbows on the table, again gazed intently at the “banker’s” hands.

“Abominable!” he suddenly said, in a loud, long-drawn tone.

Loúhnof glanced at him.

“Abominable, quite abominable!” he repeated, still louder, looking straight into Loúhnof’s eyes.

The game continued.

“Very bad!” again said Toúrbin, just as Loúhnof “beat” a large card of Ilyín’s.

“What is it you don’t like, Count?” inquired the “banker,” with polite indifference.

“This!⁠—that you let Ilyín have his ‘simples,’ and beat his ‘corners.’ That’s what is bad.”

Loúhnof made a slight movement with his brows and shoulders, expressing the advisability of submitting to fate in everything, and continued to play.

“Blücher! Whew!” shouted the Count, rising. “At him!” he added quickly.

Blücher, bumping his back against the sofa as he leapt from under it and nearly knocking the garrison officer over, ran to his master and growled, looking round on everyone and moving his tail as if asking, “Who is misbehaving here, eh?”

Loúhnof laid down his cards and moved to one side with his chair.

“One can’t play like that,” he said. “I hate dogs. What kind of game is it when one brings in a whole pack of hounds?”

“And especially dogs like that. I believe they are called ‘leeches,’ ” chimed in the garrison officer.

“Well, are we going to play or not, Michael Vasílitch?” said Loúhnof to their host.

“Please don’t interfere with us, Count,” said Ilyín, turning to Toúrbin.

“Come here a minute,” said Toúrbin, taking Ilyín’s arm and stepping behind the partition with him.

The Count’s words, spoken in his usual tone, were distinctly audible from there. His voice always carried across three rooms.

“Are you daft, eh? Don’t you see that gentleman in spectacles is a sharper of the first water?”

“Oh, enough! What are you saying?”

“No enough about it! Just stop, I tell you. It’s nothing to me. Another time I’d pluck you myself, but somehow I’m sorry you should be fleeced. And maybe you have service-money too?”

“No⁠ ⁠… why do you invent such things?”

“Eh, my lad, I’ve been that way myself, so I know all those sharpers’ tricks. I tell you the chap with the spectacles is a sharper. Stop now! I ask you as a comrade.”

“Well then, I’ll only finish this one deal.”

“I know what ‘one deal’ means. Well, we’ll see.”

They went back. In this one deal Ilyín put down so many cards, and so many of them were beaten, that he lost a large sum.

Toúrbin put his hands in the middle of the table. “Now stop it! Come along.”

“No, I can’t. Leave me alone, do!” said Ilyín, irritably shuffling some bent cards without looking at Toúrbin.

“Well, go to the devil! Go and lose for certain, if that pleases you; it’s time for me to be off. Zavalshévsky, let’s go to the Marshal’s.”

They went out. All remained silent, and Loúhnof dealt no more cards until the sound of their steps and of Blücher’s claws on the passage floor had died away.

“What a devil of a fellow!” said the squire, laughing.

“Well, he’ll not interfere now,” remarked the garrison officer hastily and still in a whisper.

And the play continued.


IV

The band, composed of serfs of the Marshal’s, standing in the pantry (cleared out for the occasion), with their coat sleeves turned up ready, had, at a given signal, struck up the old polonaise, “Alexander-Elizabeth,” and by the bright, soft light of the wax-candles a Governor-General of Catherine’s days, with a star on his breast, arm-in-arm with the Marshal’s skinny wife, the Marshal arm-in-arm with the Governor’s wife, and the rest of the local grandees with their partners in various combinations and variations, had begun slowly gliding over the parquet floor of the large dancing-room, when Zavalshévsky entered, wearing a blue swallowtail coat with an enormous collar, puffs on the shoulders, stockings and pumps on his feet, and spreading a strong smell of the jasmine perfume with which his moustaches, the facings of his coat, and his handkerchief were abundantly sprinkled. The handsome hussar who came with him wore tight-fitting, light-blue riding breeches, and a gold-embroidered scarlet coat to which a Vladímir cross and a medal of 1812189 were fastened. The Count was not tall, but exceedingly well formed. His clear blue and wonderfully brilliant eyes, and rather large, tightly curled, light-brown head of hair, gave a remarkable character to his beauty. His arrival at the ball was expected; the handsome young man who had seen him at the hotel had already prepared the Marshal for it. The impressions created by the news were various, but generally not altogether pleasant.

“It’s not unlikely the youngster will hold one up to ridicule,” was the opinion of the old women and of the men. “What if he should run away with me?” was more or less in the minds of the younger ladies, married or unmarried.

As soon as the polonaise was over, and the couples, after bowing to one another, had separated⁠—the women to the women and the men to the men⁠—Zavalshévsky, proud and happy, introduced the Count to their hostess.

The Marshal’s wife, feeling an inner trepidation lest this hussar should treat her in some scandalous manner before everybody, turned away haughtily and contemptuously as she said: “Very pleased; I hope you will dance,” and then gave him a distrustful look that said, “Now, if you offend a woman it will show me that you are a perfect villain.” The Count, however, soon conquered her prejudices by his amiability, attentive manner, and handsome, gay appearance; so that five minutes later the face of the Marshal’s wife expressed to all present: “I know how to manage such gentlemen; he has at once understood with whom he has to deal. And now he’ll be charming to me for the rest of the evening.” However, at that moment the Governor of the town, who had known the Count’s father, came up to him and very affably took him aside to chat, and this still further calmed the provincial public and raised the Count in its estimation. After that Zavalshévsky introduced the Count to his sister, a plump young widow whose large black eyes had stared at the Count from the moment he entered. The Count asked her to dance the valse which the band had just commenced, and finally dispersed the general prejudice by the masterly way he danced.

“What a splendid dancer!” said a fat landed proprietress, watching the legs in the blue breeches as they fitted across the room, and mentally counting “one, two, three⁠—one, two, three”⁠—“splendid!”

“There he goes⁠—jig, jig, jig,” said another, a visitor in the town whom the local society did not consider genteel; “how does he manage not to entangle his spurs⁠—wonderfully clever!”

The Count eclipsed the three best dancers of the Government by his artistic dancing: the tall, fair Governor’s Adjutant, noted for the rapidity with which he danced, and for holding his partner very close to himself; the cavalryman, famous for the graceful, swaying motion with which he valsed, and for the frequent but light tapping of his heels; and, lastly, a civilian of whom everybody said that, though he was not very deep intellectually, he was a first-rate dancer and the soul of every ball. In fact, from the very beginning of a ball this civilian would ask each lady in turn, in the order in which they sat, to dance,190 and never stopped for a minute except occasionally to wipe, with a very wet cambric handkerchief, the perspiration from his weary but pleased face. The Count eclipsed them all, and danced with the three principal ladies: the tall one, rich, handsome, and stupid; the middle-sized one, thin and not very pretty, but splendidly dressed; and the little one, plain, but very clever. He danced with others too, with all the pretty ones, and there were many of them. But it was the little widow, Zavalshévsky’s sister, that pleased the Count best. With her he danced a quadrille, an ecossaise, and a mazurka. He began, when they were sitting down during the quadrille, by paying her many compliments and comparing her to Venus and to Diana, and to a rose and to some other flower. But all these compliments only made the widow bend her white neck, cast down her eyes and look at her white muslin dress, or pass her fan from hand to hand. When she said “Don’t, you are only joking, Count,” and other words to that effect, there was a note of such naive simple-mindedness and such funny silliness in her slightly guttural voice that, looking at her, it really seemed that this was not a woman but a flower, and not a rose, but some wild, rosy-white, gorgeous, scentless flower that had grown all alone out of a snowdrift in some very remote land.

The combination of naivete and absence of conventionality, with her fresh beauty, created such a peculiar impression on the Count that several times during the intervals of conversation, when gazing silently into her eyes or at the beautiful outline of her neck and arms, the desire to seize her in his arms and to cover her with kisses came into his mind with such force that he had to make a serious effort to resist it. The widow noticed with pleasure the effect she was producing; yet something in the Count’s behaviour began to frighten and excite her, though the young hussar, in spite of his insinuating amiability, was respectful to a degree which in our days would be considered maudlin. He ran to fetch almond-milk for her, picked up her handkerchief, snatched a chair⁠—to hand it her more quickly⁠—from the hands of a scrofulous young squire who was also dancing attendance on her, and so on.

When he noticed that the society attentions of the day had little effect on the lady, he tried to amuse her by telling her funny stories, and assured her that he was ready to stand on his head, to crow like a cock, to jump out of the window, or to plunge into the water through a hole in the ice, if she ordered him to do so. This proved quite a success. The widow brightened up and burst into peals of laughter, showing lovely white teeth, and was quite satisfied with her partner. The Count liked her more and more every minute, so that by the end of the quadrille, he was seriously in love with her.

When, after the quadrille was over, her eighteen year-old adorer of long standing came up to the widow (it was the same scrofulous young man from whom Toúrbin had snatched the chair, the son of the richest local landed proprietor, and not yet in government service), she received him with extreme coolness, and did not show one-tenth of the confusion she had experienced with the Count.

“Well, you are a fine fellow!” she said, looking all the time at Toúrbin’s back, and unconsciously considering how many yards of gold cord it had taken to trim his whole jacket. “You are a good one: you promised to call and fetch me for a drive and to bring me some comfits.”

“And I did come, Anna Fyódorovna, but you had already gone, and I left some of the very best comfits for you,” said the young man, who, despite his tallness, spoke in a very high-pitched voice.

“You’ll always find excuses!⁠ ⁠… I don’t want your bonbons. Please don’t imagine⁠—”

“I see, Anna Fyódorovna, that you have changed towards me, and I know why. But it’s not right,” he added, evidently unable to finish his speech because of some strong inward agitation which made his lips quiver in a very rapid and strange manner.

Anna Fyódorovna did not listen to him, but continued to follow Toúrbin with her eyes.

The Marshal, the master of the house, a stately, stout, toothless old man, came up to the Count, took him under the arm, and invited him into the study to smoke and have something to drink. As soon as Toúrbin left the room Anna Fyódorovna felt there was absolutely nothing to do there, and went out into the dressing-room arm-in-arm with a friend of hers, a bony, elderly maiden lady.

“Well, is he nice?” asked the maiden lady.

“Only he bothers so,” Anna Fyódorovna answered, walking up to the glass and looking at herself.

Her face brightened, her eyes laughed, she even blushed, and suddenly, imitating the ballet-dancers she had seen during these elections, she twirled round on one foot, then laughed her guttural but pleasant laugh, and even, bending her knees, gave a jump.

“Just fancy, what a man! He actually asked me for a keepsake,” she said to her friend; “but he will get no-o-o-thing.” She sang the last word, and held up one finger of the kid glove, which reached to her elbow.

In the study, where the Marshal had taken Toúrbin, stood bottles of different sorts of vodka, liqueurs, champagne, and zakoúska.191 The nobility, walking and sitting in a cloud of tobacco smoke, were talking about the elections.

“When the whole noble society of our aristocracy has honoured him with their choice,” said the newly-elected Captain of Police, who had already drunk a good deal, “he should on no account transgress in the face of the whole society⁠ ⁠…”

The Count’s entrance interrupted the conversation. Everyone wished to be introduced to him, and the Captain of Police especially kept pressing the Count’s hand with both his own for a long time, and repeatedly asked him not to refuse to accompany him (the Captain) to the new restaurant, where, after the ball, he was going to treat the gentlemen, and where the gipsies were going to sing. The Count promised to go without fail, and drank some glasses of champagne with him.

“But why are you not dancing, gentlemen?” said the Count, as he was about to leave the room.

“We are not dancers,” replied the Captain of Police, laughing, “wine is more in our line, Count.⁠ ⁠… And besides, I have seen them all grow up⁠—those young ladies, Count! But I can walk through an ecossaise now and then, Count.⁠ ⁠… I can do it, Count.”

“Then come and walk through one now,” said Toúrbin; “it will brighten us up before going to hear the gipsies.”

“Very well, gentlemen! let’s come and please our host.”

And three of the nobles, who had been drinking in the study since the commencement of the ball, put on black or silk knitted gloves, and with their red faces were just about to follow the Count into the ballroom, when they were stopped by the scrofulous young man, who, pale and hardly restraining his tears, accosted Toúrbin.

“You think that because you are a Count you can jostle people about as if at a fair,” he said, breathing hard, “because that is impolite.⁠ ⁠…”

And again, do what he would, his quivering lips stopped the flow of his words.

“What?” cried Toúrbin, suddenly frowning. “What?⁠ ⁠… You brat!” he cried, seizing him by the arms and squeezing them so that the blood rushed to the young man’s head, not so much from vexation as from fear. “What? Do you want to fight? I am at your service!”

Hardly had Toúrbin released the arms he had squeezed so hard when two nobles caught hold of them and dragged the young man towards the back door.

“What! are you out of your mind? You must be tipsy! There now, if one were to tell your papa! What is the matter with you?” said they to him.

“No, I’m not tipsy, but he jostles one and does not apologise. He’s a swine, there now!” squeaked the young man, now quite in tears.

They, however, did not listen to him, but someone drove home with him.

On the other hand, the Captain of Police and Zavalshévsky were exhorting Toúrbin. “Never mind, Count; he’s only a child. He gets flogged still; he’s only sixteen.⁠ ⁠… What can have happened to him? What bee has stung him? And his father such a respectable man⁠—a candidate of ours.”

“Well, let him go to the devil, if he does not wish⁠ ⁠…”

And the Count returned to the ballroom and danced the ecossaise with the pretty widow as gaily as before, laughed with all his heart as he watched the steps performed by the gentlemen who had come out of the study with him, and burst into peals of laughter that rang across the room when the Captain of Police slipped and measured his full length in the midst of the dancers.


V

While the Count was in the study, Anna Fyódorovna had approached her brother, and, imagining that she ought for some reason to pretend to be very little interested in the Count, began to ask:

“Who is that hussar who was dancing with me? Can you tell me, brother?”

The cavalryman explained to his sister as well as he could what a great man this hussar was, and told her at the same time that the Count was only stopping in K⁠⸺ because his money had been stolen on the way, that he himself had lent the Count a hundred roubles, but that that was not enough, so that perhaps “sister” might lend another couple of hundred. Only, Zavalshévsky asked her on no account to tell anyone, especially not the Count. Anna Fyódorovna promised to send him the money that night and to keep the affair secret, but somehow during the ecossaise she felt a great longing herself to offer the Count as much money as he wanted. She took a long time making up her mind, and blushed, but at last made a great effort, and set to work in the following manner:⁠—

“My brother tells me that a misfortune befell you on the road, Count, and that you have no money by you. If you want any, would you not take some of mine? I should be so glad.”

But having said this, Anna Fyódorovna suddenly felt frightened of something, and blushed. All gaiety instantly left the Count’s face.

“Your brother is a fool!” he said abruptly. “You know, when a man insults another man they fight; but when a woman insults a man, what does he do then⁠—do you know?”

Poor Anna Fyódorovna’s neck and ears grew red with confusion. She cast down her eyes and said nothing.

“He kisses the woman in public,” said the Count, in a low voice, leaning towards her ear. “Allow me to kiss at least your hand,” he added in a whisper, after a prolonged silence, taking pity on his partner’s confusion.

“Ah, only not now!” uttered Anna Fyódorovna, with a deep sigh.

“When then? I am leaving early tomorrow, and you owe it me.”

“Well then, it’s impossible,” said Anna Fyódorovna, with a smile.

“Only allow me an opportunity of meeting you tonight to kiss your hand. I shall not fail to find it.”

“How can you find it?”

“That is not your business. In order to see you everything is possible.⁠ ⁠… It’s agreed?”

“Agreed.”

The ecossaise ended. After that they danced a mazurka, and the Count was quite wonderful: catching handkerchiefs, kneeling on one knee, striking his spurs together in a quite special Warsaw manner, so that all the old people left their game of “boston” and flocked into the ballroom to see, and the cavalryman, the best mazurka dancer, confessed himself eclipsed. Then they had supper, after which they danced the “Grandfather,” and the ball began to break up. The Count never took his eyes off the widow. It was not pretence when he said he was ready to jump through a hole in the ice for her sake. Whether it was whim, or love, or obstinacy, that evening all his mental powers were concentrated in one desire⁠—to meet and love her. As soon as he noticed that Anna Fyódorovna was taking leave of the hostess, he ran out into the hall, and thence, without his cloak, into the courtyard to the place where the carriages stood.

“Anna Fyódorovna Záytsef’s carriage!” he shouted.

A high, four-seated, closed carriage with lamps burning moved from its place and drew near the porch.

“Stop!” he called to the coachman, and plunging knee-deep into the snow ran to the carriage.

“What do you want?” said the coachman in reply.

“I want to get into the carriage,” answered the Count, opening the door and trying to get in while the carriage was moving. “Stop, you devil, you fool!”

“Váska, stop!” shouted the coachman to the postillion, and pulled up the horses. “What are you getting into other people’s carriages for? This carriage belongs to my mistress, to Anna Fyódorovna, and not to your honour.”

“Well, hold your tongue, blockhead! Here’s a rouble for you; get down and close the door,” said the Count. But as the coachman did not move he lifted the steps himself and, lowering the window, managed somehow to close the door. Inside the carriage, as in all old carriages, especially in those trimmed with yellow galloon, there was a musty smell, something like the smell of rotten and burnt bristles. The Count’s legs were wet with snow up to the knees and felt very cold in his thin boots and riding-breeches; in fact, the winter cold penetrated his whole body. The coachman grumbled on the box, and seemed to be preparing to get down. But the Count neither heard nor felt anything. His face burnt, his heart beat fast. In his nervous tension he seized the yellow window strap and leant out of the side window, and all his being merged into one feeling of expectation.

This feeling of expectation did not long continue. Someone called from the porch, “Záytsef’s carriage!” The coachman shook the reins, the body of the carriage swayed on its high springs, the lighted windows of the house ran one by one past the carriage windows.

“Mind, fellow,” said the Count to the coachman, putting his head out of the window in front, “if you tell the footman I’m here, I’ll thrash you; hold your tongue and you’ll have another ten roubles.”

Hardly had he time to close the window before the body of the carriage shook more violently and the carriage stopped. He pressed close into the corner, held his breath, and even shut his eyes, so terrified was he lest anything should balk his passionate expectation. The door opened, the carriage steps fell noisily one after the other, he heard the rustle of a woman’s dress, a smell of jasmine perfume filled the musty carriage, quick little feet ran up the carriage steps, and Anna Fyódorovna, brushing the Count’s leg with the skirt of her cloak, which had come open, sank silently, but breathing heavily, onto the seat beside him.

Whether she saw him or not no one could tell, not even Anna Fyódorovna herself; but when he took her hand and said, “Well, now I will kiss your hand,”192 she showed very little fear, gave no reply, but let him take her hand and cover her arm much higher than the top of her glove with kisses. The carriage moved on.

“Say something! Art thou angry?” he said.

She pressed silently into her corner, but suddenly something caused her to burst into tears, and of her own accord she let her head fall on his breast.


VI

The newly-elected Captain of Police and his guests, the cavalryman and the other nobles, had long been listening to the gipsies and drinking in the new restaurant when the Count, in a blue cloth cloak lined with bearskin, which had belonged to Anna Fyódorovna’s late husband, joined them.

“Sure, your excellency, we have been impatiently waiting for you!” said a dark, squinting gipsy, showing his white teeth, as he met the Count at the very entrance and rushed to help him off with his cloak. “We have not seen you since the fair at Lebedyáni⁠ ⁠… Styóshka is quite pining away for you.”

Styóshka, a young, graceful little gipsy, with a brick-red tinge on her brown face, and deep, brilliant black eyes shaded by long lashes, also ran out to meet him.

“Ah, little Count! Dearest! Jewel! this is a joy!” she murmured between her teeth, smiling merrily.

Ilúshka himself ran out to greet him, pretending to be very glad. Old women, matrons and maids jumped from their places and surrounded the guest, some claiming him as fellow godfather, some as brother by baptism.193

Toúrbin kissed all the young gipsy girls on the lips; the old women and the men kissed him on the shoulder or the hand. The nobles were also glad to see their visitor, especially as the carouse, having reached its zenith, was beginning to flag. Everyone began to feel satiated. The wine, having lost its exciting effect on the nerves, only oppressed the stomach. Each one had already let off his store of swagger, and they were getting tired of one another; the songs had all been sung, and had got mixed in everyone’s head, leaving a kind of noisy, dissolute impression behind. No matter what strange and dashing thing anyone did, it began to occur to everyone that there was nothing amiable or funny in it. The Captain of Police, who lay in a shocking state on the floor at the feet of an old woman, began kicking his legs and shouting, “Champagne!⁠ ⁠… the Count’s come!⁠ ⁠… champagne⁠ ⁠… he’s come⁠ ⁠… now then, champagne!⁠ ⁠… I’ll have a champagne bath, and bathe in it! Noble gentlemen!⁠ ⁠… I love the society of our brave old nobility⁠ ⁠… Styóshka, sing ‘The Pathway.’ ”

The cavalryman was also rather tipsy, but in another manner. He sat on a sofa in the corner very close to a tall, handsome gipsy, Lubásha; and feeling his eyes misty with drink, he kept blinking and shaking his head, and, repeating the same words over and over again in a whisper, besought the gipsy to fly with him somewhere. Lubásha smiled and listened as if what he said were very amusing and yet rather sad, and glancing occasionally at her husband⁠—the squinting Sáshka, who was standing beyond the chair in front of her⁠—in reply to the cavalryman’s declarations of love, stooped and, whispering in his ear, asked him to buy her some scent and a ribbon on the quiet so that the others should not know.

“Hurrah!” cried the cavalryman when the Count entered.

The handsome young man was pacing up and down the room with laboriously steady steps and a careworn expression on his face, warbling an air from The Revolt in the Serail. An elderly paterfamilias, tempted to come and hear the gipsies by the persistent entreaties of the noble gentlemen, who said that without him the thing would be worthless and it would be better not to go at all, was lying on a sofa where he had sunk as soon as he arrived, and no one took any notice of him. Some official or other who was there had taken off his swallowtail coat and was sitting up on the table feet and all, ruffling his hair and thereby demonstrating that he was very much on the spree. As soon as the Count entered, the official unbuttoned the collar of his shirt and got still further onto the table. In general, upon the arrival of the Count the carouse revived again.

The gipsies, who had wandered about the room, again gathered and sat down in a circle. The Count took Styóshka, the leading singer, on his knees, and ordered more champagne.

Ilúshka came and stood in front of Styóshka with his guitar, and the “dance” commenced, i.e. the gipsy songs “If I go along the Street”⁠—“Oh, ye Hussars!”⁠—“Do you hear, do you know?” and so on in definite order. Styóshka sang admirably. The flexible, sonorous contralto that flowed from her very chest, her smiles while singing, her laughing, passionate eyes, and the foot that moved involuntarily in measure with the song, her wild shriek at the commencement of the chorus⁠—all touched some powerful but rarely-reached chord. One could see she lived completely in the song she was singing. Ilúshka accompanied her on the guitar, his back, legs, smile, and whole being, expressing sympathy with the song; and, eagerly watching her, he raised and lowered his head, as attentive and engrossed as though he heard the song for the first time. Then, at the last melodious note, he suddenly drew himself up, and, as if feeling himself superior to everyone in the world, with pride and determination threw his guitar up with his foot, twirled it about, stamped, shook back his hair, and frowning, looked round at the choir. His whole body, from neck to heels, began dancing in every muscle. And twenty energetic, powerful voices, each trying to chime in more strongly and more strangely than the rest, rang through the air. The old women bobbed up and down on their chairs, waving their handkerchiefs, showing their teeth, and vying with each other in their harmonious and measured shouts. The basses, with strained necks, and heads bent to one side, boomed standing behind their chairs.

When Styóshka took a high note Ilúshka brought his guitar closer to her, as if wishing to help her, and the handsome young man screamed with rapture, saying that now they were beginning the bémols.194

When a dance was struck up and Dounyáshka, advancing with trembling shoulders and bosom, twirled round in front of the Count and floated onwards, Toúrbin leapt up, threw off his jacket, and in his red shirt paced jauntily with her in precise and measured step, accomplishing such things with his legs that the gipsies, smiling with approval, glanced one at another.

The Captain of Police sat down like a Turk, beat his breast with his fist, and cried “Viva!” and then, having caught hold of the Count’s leg, began to tell him that of two thousand roubles he now had only five hundred left, but that he could do anything he liked if only the Count would allow it. The elderly paterfamilias awoke and wished to go away, but was not permitted to do so. The handsome young man began persuading a gipsy to valse with him. The cavalryman, wishing to show off his intimacy with the Count, rose and embraced Toúrbin. “Ah, my dear fellow!” he said, “why didst thou leave us, eh?” The Count was silent, evidently thinking of something else. “Where have you been? Ah, you rogue of a Count, I know where you went to!”

For some reason this familiarity displeased Toúrbin. Without a smile he looked silently into the cavalryman’s face, and suddenly launched at him such terrible and rude abuse that the cavalryman was pained, and for a while could not make up his mind whether to take the offence as a joke or seriously. At last he decided to take it as a joke, smiled, and went back to his gipsy, assuring her that he would certainly marry her after Easter. They sang another song, and another, danced again, and “hailed the guests,” and everyone continued to imagine he was enjoying it. There was no end to the champagne. The Count drank much. His eyes seemed to grow moist, but he was not unsteady. He danced yet better than before, spoke firmly, even joined in the chorus extremely well, and chimed in when Styóshka sang “Friendship’s Tender Emotions.” In the midst of a dance the landlord came in to ask the guests to return to their homes, as it was getting on for three in the morning.

The Count seized the landlord by the scruff of his neck and ordered him to dance the Russian dance. The landlord refused. The Count snatched up a bottle of champagne, and having stood the landlord on his head and had him held in that position, amidst general laughter slowly emptied the bottle over him.

It was beginning to dawn. All looked pale and worn except the Count.

“Well, I must be starting for Moscow,” said he, suddenly rising. “Come along, all of you! Come and see me off⁠ ⁠… and we’ll have some tea.”

All agreed except the paterfamilias (who was left behind asleep), and all, crowding into three large sledges that stood at the door, drove off to the hotel.


VII

“Get horses ready!” cried the Count, as he entered the saloon of his hotel, followed by all the guests and gipsies. “Sáshka!⁠—not gipsy Sáshka but my Sáshka⁠—tell the superintendent that I’ll thrash him if he gives me bad horses. And get us some tea. Zavalshévsky, manage the tea; I’m going to have a look at Ilyín and see how he is getting on⁠ ⁠…” added he, and went along the passage towards the Uhlan’s room.

Ilyín had just finished playing, and having lost his last kopéyka, was lying face downwards on the sofa, pulling one hair after another from its torn horsehair cover, putting them in his mouth, biting them in two and spitting them out again.

On the card-table covered with cards, two tallow candles, of which one had already burnt down to the paper in the socket, wrestled feebly with the morning light that crept in through the window. There were no thoughts in the Uhlan’s head; a thick mist of gambling passion veiled all the faculties of his soul: he did not even feel repentant. He made an attempt to think of what he should now do; how, being penniless, he was to get away; how he could repay the 15,000 roubles of Government money; what the Commander of his regiment would say, what his mother and his comrades; and he felt such fear and such disgust at himself that, wishing to forget himself, he rose and began pacing up and down the room, trying to step only where the floorboards joined, and he began vividly to recall once more every slightest detail of the course of play. He vividly imagined how he had begun to win back his money; rejected a nine, and placed the king of spades over 2000 roubles. A queen was dealt to the right, an ace to the left, then the king of diamonds to the right, and all was lost; but if, say, a six had been dealt to the right and the king of diamonds to the left, he would have won everything back, would have played once more double or quits, and would have won 15,000 roubles net; would then have bought himself an ambler from the Commander of the regiment, and another pair of horses besides, and a phaeton. Well, and what then?⁠—Well, it would have been a splendid, splendid thing!

And he lay down on the sofa again and began gnawing the horsehair.

“Why are they singing in No. 7?” thought he. “There must be a spree on at Toúrbin’s. Shall I go in and have a good drink?”

At this moment the Count entered.

“Well, old fellow, cleaned out, are you? Eh?” cried he.

“I’ll pretend to be asleep,” thought Ilyín, “or else I must speak to him, and I want to sleep.”

Toúrbin, however, came up and stroked his head.

“Well, my dear friend, been cleaned out⁠—lost everything? Tell me.”

Ilyín gave no answer.

The Count pulled his arm.

“I have lost. But what’s that to you?” muttered Ilyín, in a sleepy, indifferent, discontented voice, without changing his pose.

“All?”

“Well⁠—yes. What matter? All. What’s it to you?”

“Listen. Tell me the truth as a comrade,” said the Count, inclined to tenderness by the influence of the wine he had been drinking, and continuing to stroke Ilyín’s hair. “I have really grown fond of you. Tell the truth. If you have lost Government money I’ll save you: it will soon be too late.⁠ ⁠… Had you Government money?”

Ilyín sprang up from the sofa.

“Well then, if you wish me to tell you, don’t talk to me, because⁠ ⁠… and please don’t talk to me.⁠ ⁠… To shoot myself is the only thing!” said Ilyín, with real despair, and his head fell on his hands and he burst into tears, though but a moment before he had been calmly thinking about amblers.

“Oh, you beauteous maiden! Where’s the man who has not done the like? It’s not such calamity; perhaps we’ll make it up. You wait for me here.”

The Count left the room.

“Where is the squire Loúhnof’s room?” he asked the boots.

The boots offered to show him the way. In spite of the valet’s remark that his master had only just returned and was undressing, the Count went in. Loúhnof was sitting in his dressing-gown at a table, counting several packets of paper money that lay before him. A bottle of Rhine wine, of which he was very fond, stood on the table. After winning, he had allowed himself this pleasure. Loúhnof looked coldly and sternly through his spectacles at the Count, as though he did not recognise him.

“You don’t recognise me, I think?” said the Count, resolutely stepping up to the table.

Loúhnof recognised him, and said: “What is it you want?”

“I should like to play with you,” said Toúrbin, sitting down on the sofa.

“Now?”

“Yes.”

“Another time with pleasure, Count! But now I am tired and am preparing for sleep. Would you like a glass of wine? It is famous wine.”

“But I want to play a little⁠—now.”

“I don’t intend to play any more tonight. Maybe some one of the gentlemen will; but I won’t, Count! You must please excuse me.”

“Then you won’t?”

Loúhnof shrugged his shoulders to express his sorrow at the impossibility of fulfilling the Count’s desire.

“Not on any account?”

The same shrug.

“But I particularly request it.⁠ ⁠… Well, will you play?”

Silence.

“Will you play?” the Count asked again. “Mind!”

The same silence and a rapid glance over the spectacles at the Count’s face, which was beginning to frown.

“Will you play?” shouted the Count very loud, striking the table with his hand so that the bottle toppled over and the wine was spilt. “You know you did not win fairly?⁠ ⁠… Will you play?⁠—I ask you for the third time.”

“I said I would not. This is really strange, Count! and it is not at all proper to come and hold a knife to a man’s throat,” remarked Loúhnof, not raising his eyes. A momentary silence followed, during which the Count’s face grew paler and paler. Suddenly a terrible blow on the head stupefied Loúhnof. He fell on the sofa trying to seize the money, and uttered such a piercingly despairing cry as no one could have expected from so calm and imposing a person. Toúrbin gathered up what money lay on the table, shoved aside the servant who ran in to his master’s assistance, and left the room with quick steps.

“If you want satisfaction, I am at your service! I shall be here for another half-hour,” said the Count, returning to Loúhnof’s door.

“Thief, robber, I’ll have the law of you⁠ ⁠…” was what was audible from the room.

Ilyín, who had paid no attention to the Count’s promise to help him, still lay as before on the sofa in his room, choking with tears of despair. The consciousness of the reality, which had been evoked⁠—from behind the strange tangle of feelings, thoughts and memories which filled his soul⁠—by the caresses and sympathy of the Count, did not leave him. His youth, rich with hope, his honour, public respect, his dreams of love and friendship⁠—all were utterly lost. The source of his tears began to run dry, a too passive feeling of hopelessness overcame him more and more, and the thought of suicide, no longer awakening revulsion or horror, claimed his attention with increasing frequency. Just then the sound of the Count’s firm footsteps became audible.

In Toúrbin’s face traces of anger were still discernible, his hands shook a little, but his eyes shone with kindly mirth and self-satisfaction.

“Here you are; it’s won back!” he said, throwing several bundles of paper money on the table. “See if it’s all there, and then make haste and come into the saloon. I am just leaving,” he added, as though not noticing the extremely excited expression of joy and gratitude on the face of the Uhlan; and whistling a gipsy tune he left the room.


VIII

Sáshka, with a sash tied round his waist, announced that the horses were ready, but demanded that the Count’s cloak, which, he said, with the fur collar was worth 300 roubles, should be fetched back and the shabby blue one returned to the scoundrel who changed it for the Count’s at the Marshal’s; but Toúrbin said there was no need to look for the cloak, and went to his room to change his clothes.

The cavalryman kept hiccuping as he sat silent beside his gipsy. The Captain of Police called for vodka, invited everyone to come at once and have breakfast with him, promising that his wife would certainly dance with the gipsies. The handsome young man was profoundly explaining to Ilúshka that there is more soul in pianoforte music, and that you could not play bémols on a guitar. The official sat in a corner sadly drinking his tea, and in the daylight seemed ashamed of his debauchery. The gipsies were disputing among themselves in their own tongue as to “hailing the guests” again, which Styóshka opposed, saying that the baroráy (that is, count or prince, or, more literally, “great gentleman,” in gipsy language) would be angry. In general, the last embers of the debauch were dying out in everyone.

“Well, one farewell song, and then off to your homes!” said the Count, entering the parlour in travelling dress, fresh, merry, and handsomer than ever.

The gipsies again formed their circle and were just going to begin, when Ilyín entered with a packet of paper money in his hand, and took the Count aside.

“I only had 15,000 roubles of Government money, and you have given me 16,300,” he said, “so this is yours.”

“That’s a good thing; give it here!”

Ilyín gave him the money, and looking timidly at the Count, opened his lips to say something, but only blushed till the tears came into his eyes, and catching hold of the Count’s hand, began pressing it.

“You be off!⁠ ⁠… Ilúshka! listen. Here’s some money for you, but you must see me out of the town with songs!” and he threw onto the guitar the 1300 roubles Ilyín had brought. But the Count quite forgot repay the 100 roubles he had borrowed of the cavalryman the day before.

It was already ten o’clock in the morning. The sun had risen above the roofs of the houses. Men and women were moving in the streets. The tradespeople had long ago opened their shops. Nobles and officials were driving through the streets, ladies were shopping in the bazaar, when the whole gipsy band, the Captain of Police, the cavalryman, the handsome young man, Ilyín, and the Count in the blue bearskin cloak, came out into the hotel porch.

It was a sunny day, and a thaw had set in. The large post-sledges, each with three horses, their tails tied to keep them out of the mud, drove up to the porch splashing through the slush, and the whole lively party took their places. The Count, Ilyín, Styóshka, Ilúshka, and Sáshka the Orderly, got into the first sledge. Blücher was beside himself, and wagged his tail, barking at the shaft-horse. The rest of the gentlemen got into the two other sledges with the rest of the gipsy men and women. The troikas got abreast as they left the hotel, and the gipsies struck up in chorus.

The sledges, with their songs and bells, driving every vehicle they met quite onto the pavements, dashed through the whole town right to the town gates. Not a little astonished were the tradesmen and passersby who did not know them, and especially those who did, when they saw the nobles driving through the streets in broad daylight with songs, gipsy women, and tipsy gipsy men.

When they had passed the town gates the troikas stopped, and all began bidding the Count farewell.

Ilyín, who had had plenty to drink at the leave-taking and who had been driving the sledge all the way, suddenly became very sad, begged the Count to stay another day, and when he found this was impossible, rushed quite unexpectedly at his new friend, kissed him, and promised with tears to try, as soon as he got back, to exchange into the hussar regiment the Count was serving in. The Count was particularly gay; he tumbled the cavalryman, who had become very familiar in the morning, into a snow-heap; set Blücher at the Captain of Police, took Styóshka in his arms and wanted to carry her off to Moscow, and at last, jumping into his sledge, made Blücher, who wished to stand up in the middle, sit down by his side. Sáshka jumped onto the box, after having again asked the cavalryman to get back the Count’s cloak from them, and to send it on. The Count cried, “Drive on!” took off his cap, waved it over his head, and whistled postboy-like to the horses. The troikas drove off their different ways.


A monotonous, snowy plain stretched far ahead, with a dirty, yellow road winding through it. The bright sunshine⁠—playfully sparkling on the thawing snow, which was coated with a transparent icy crust⁠—pleasantly warmed one’s face and back. The steam rose thick from the sweating horses. The bell tinkled. A peasant with a loaded sledge that kept gliding to the side of the road, got hurriedly out of the way, jerking his rope-reins and splashing with his wet bast-shoes as he ran along the thawing road. A fat, red-faced peasant woman, holding a baby wrapped in the bosom of her sheepskin cloak, sat in another laden sledge, and whipped a thin-tailed, jaded, white horse with the ends of the reins. The Count suddenly remembered Anna Fyódorovna.

“Drive back!” cried he.

The driver did not at once understand.

“Turn back! Drive back to town! Be quick!”

The troika passed the town gates once more, and drove briskly up to the wooden porch of Mrs. Záytsef’s house. The Count ran quickly up the steps, passed through the vestibule and the drawing-room, and having found the widow still asleep, took her in his arms, lifted her off the bed, kissed her sleepy eyes, and ran quickly back. Anna Fyódorovna, half awake, only licked her lips and asked, “What has happened?” The Count jumped into the sledge, shouted to the driver, and without further delay, and without even thinking about Loúhnof, or the widow, or Styóshka, but only of what awaited him in Moscow, he left the town of K⁠⸺ forever.


IX

More than twenty years had gone by. Much water had flowed away; many people had died, many been born, many had grown up, many grown old; still more ideas had been born and had died; much that was old and beautiful, and much that was old and bad, had perished, much that was beautiful and new had grown up, and still more that was immature, monstrous, and new, had come into God’s world.

Count Fyódor Toúrbin had been killed long ago in a duel, by some foreigner he had horsewhipped in the street. His son, as like him as one drop of water to another, was a handsome youth, already twenty-three years old, and serving in the Horse Guards. But morally the young Toúrbin did not in the least resemble his father. There was not a shade of the impetuous, passionate, and, to speak frankly, dissolute propensities of the past age. His distinguishing characteristics were intellect, education, and the gifted nature he had inherited; combined with love of propriety and of the comforts of life, a practical way of looking at men and things, reasonableness and foresight. The young Count got on well in the service; at twenty-three he was already a lieutenant. At the commencement of military operations he made up his mind that he would be more likely to get advancement if he exchanged into the active army, and he entered an hussar regiment as captain, and was soon in command of a squadron.

In May 1848195 the S⁠⸺ hussar regiment was marching to the campaign through the K⁠⸺ Government, and the very squadron that young Count Toúrbin commanded had to spend the night in the village of Morózovka, Anna Fyódorovna’s estate.

Anna Fyódorovna was still living, but was already so far from young that she did not even consider herself young, which means a good deal for a woman. She had grown very fat, which is said to make a woman younger, but deep, soft wrinkles were apparent on her white plumpness. She never went to town now, it was even difficult for her to get into her carriage, but she was still as kindhearted and still just as silly as ever (now that her beauty no longer biases one, the truth may be told). With her lived her twenty-three-year-old daughter Lisa, a Russian country belle, and her brother, our acquaintance the cavalryman, who had good-naturedly squandered the whole of his little property, and had found a home for his old age with Anna Fyódorovna. The hair on his head was quite grey, his upper lip had fallen in, but the moustache above it was still carefully blackened. Not only his forehead and cheeks but even his nose and neck were wrinkled, and his back was bent, yet in the movements of his feeble, crooked legs, the manner of a cavalryman was still perceptible.

The family and those of the household sat in the little drawing-room of the old house, with an open door leading out onto the verandah and open windows overlooking the ancient star-shaped garden with its lime trees. Grey-haired Anna Fyódorovna sat in a lilac jacket on the sofa, before which stood a round mahogany table on which she was laying out cards. Her old brother, in his clean white trousers and blue coat, had settled himself by the window, and was plaiting a cord out of white cotton with the aid of a wooden fork⁠—an occupation his niece had taught him, and which he liked very much, as he could no longer do anything, and his eyes were too weak for his favourite occupation, newspaper reading. Pímotchka, Anna Fyódorovna’s ward, sat by him learning a lesson⁠—Lisa helping her and at the same time, with wooden knitting needles, making a goat’s-wool stocking for her uncle. The last rays of the setting sun shone, as usual at that hour, through the lime-tree avenue, and threw slanting gleams onto the farthest window and the whatnot standing near it. It was so quiet in the garden and the room, that one could hear the swift flutter of a swallow’s wings outside the window, and in the room Anna Fyódorovna’s soft sigh, or the slight groan of the old man as he crossed his legs.

“How do they go?⁠—Lisa, show me! I always forget,” said Anna Fyódorovna, at a standstill in laying out her cards at “patience.”

Lisa, without stopping her work, went to her mother and, glancing at the cards:

“Ah, you’ve muddled them all, mama dear!” she said, rearranging the cards; “that’s the way they should go. And what you are trying your fortune about will still come true,” she added, withdrawing one card so that it was not noticed.

“Ah yes, you always deceive me and say it has come out.”

“No really, it means⁠ ⁠… you’ll succeed. It has come out.”

“All right, all right, you sly puss! But is it not time we had tea?”

“I have already ordered the samovar to be lit. I’ll see to it at once. Do you want it brought here?⁠ ⁠… Be quick and finish your lesson, Pímotchka, and let’s have a run.”

And Lisa went to the door.

“Lisa, Lizzie!” said her uncle, looking intently at his fork, “I think I’ve again dropped a stitch⁠—pick it up, ducky.”

“Directly, directly! I’ll only give a loaf of sugar to be broken up.”

And really, three minutes later, she ran back, went to her uncle and pinched his ear.

“That’s for dropping your stitches!” she said, laughing, “and you have not done your task!”

“Now then, never mind, never mind. Put it right⁠—there’s a little knot of some kind.”

Lisa took the fork, drew a pin out of her tippet⁠—which thereupon, a breeze coming in at the door, blew slightly open⁠—and managing somehow to pick the stitch up with the pin, pulled two loops through and returned the fork to her uncle.

“Now give me a kiss for it,” she said, holding her rosy cheek to him and pinning up her tippet. “You shall have rum with your tea today. It’s Friday, you know.”

And she went again into the tearoom.

“Come here and look, uncle, the hussars are coming!” rang her clear voice from the tearoom.

Anna Fyódorovna came with her brother into the tearoom, the windows of which overlooked the village, to see the hussars. Very little was visible from the windows⁠—only a crowd moving in a cloud of dust.

“It’s a pity, sister, that we have so little room,” the uncle said to Anna Fyódorovna, “and that the wing is not yet finished; we might have invited the officers. Hussar officers, you know, are such splendid, gay, young fellows. One would have liked to see something of them.”

“Why, of course I should have been only too glad; but you know yourself, brother, we have no room. There’s my bedroom, and Lisa’s room, the drawing-room, this, and your room, and that’s all. Where is one to put them?⁠—really now. The village elder’s cottage has been cleaned out for them: Michael Matvéef says it’s quite clean.”

“And we could have chosen a bridegroom for you, Lizzie, from among them⁠—a fine hussar.”

“No, I don’t want an hussar; I’d rather have an Uhlan. Weren’t you in the Uhlans, uncle?⁠ ⁠… I don’t want to have anything to do with these. They are said all to be desperate fellows.” And Lisa blushed a little, but again laughed her musical laugh.

“Here comes Oustúshka running; we must ask her what she has seen,” said she.

Anna Fyódorovna told her to call Oustúshka.

“It’s not in you to keep at your work; you must needs run off to see the soldiers,” said Anna Fyódorovna. “Well, where have the officers been put up?”

“In Erómkin’s house, mistress. There are two of them, such handsome ones. One’s a Count, they say!”

“And what’s his name?”

“Kazárof or Tourbínof. I beg your pardon⁠—I forget.”

“There’s a fool; can’t even tell us anything. You might at least have found out the name.”

“Well, I’ll run back.”

“Yes, I know, you’re first-rate at that sort of thing.⁠ ⁠… No, let Daniel go. Tell him, brother, to go and to ask whether the officers want anything. One ought, after all, to show them some politeness; say the mistress sent to inquire.”

The old people returned to the tearoom, and Lisa went into the servants’ room to put away into a box the sugar they had broken up. Oustúshka was there telling about the hussars.

“Darling miss, what a beauty that Count is!” she said; “a regular cherubim with black eyebrows. There now, if you had a bridegroom like that, you would be a couple of the right sort.”

The other maids smiled approvingly; the old nurse, who sat knitting at a window, sighed, and even whispered a prayer, drawing in her breath.

“So you liked the hussars very much?” said Lisa. “And you’re a good one at telling what you’ve seen. Please, Oustúshka, go and bring some of the cranberry juice, to give the hussars something sour to drink.”

And Lisa, laughing, went out with the sugar basin.

“I should really like to have seen what that hussar is like,” she thought, “brown or fair? And he would have been glad to make our acquaintance I should think.⁠ ⁠… But he will pass and never know that I was here, and thought about him. And how many such have already passed me by? Who sees me here except uncle and Oustúshka? Whichever way I do my hair, whatever sleeves I put on, no one looks at me with pleasure,” she thought, with a sigh, as she looked at her plump, white arm; “I suppose he is tall, with large eyes, and, certainly, little black moustaches⁠ ⁠… No, I am more than twenty-two, and no one has fallen in love with me, except the pockmarked Iván Ipátitch, and I looked still better four years ago.⁠ ⁠… And so my early womanhood has passed without gladdening anyone. Oh poor, poor country lass that I am!”

Her mother’s voice, calling her to pour out the tea, roused the country lass from this momentary meditation. She lifted her head with a start and went into the tearoom.

Often the best results are obtained accidentally, and the more one tries the worse things turn out. In the country, people rarely try to educate their children, and therefore, unwittingly, usually give them an excellent education. This was particularly so in Lisa’s case. Anna Fyódorovna, with her limited intellect and careless temperament, gave Lisa no education⁠—did not teach her music or that very useful French language⁠—but having accidentally borne a healthy, pretty child by her deceased husband, she gave her little daughter over to a wet-nurse and a dry-nurse, fed her, dressed her in cotton prints and goatskin shoes, sent her out to walk and to gather mushrooms and wild berries, engaged a pupil of the seminary to teach her reading, writing, and arithmetic, and when sixteen years had passed, she accidentally found in Lisa a friend, an ever-cheerful and kindhearted being, and an active housekeeper. Anna Fyódorovna, being kindhearted, always had some children to bring up: either serf children or foundlings. Lisa began looking after them when she was ten years old: teaching them, dressing them, taking them to church, and checking them when they played too many pranks. Later on, the decrepit, kindly uncle, who had to be tended like a child, appeared on the scene. Then the servants and peasants came to the young lady with various requests and with ailments, which latter she treated with elderberry, peppermint, and camphorated spirits. Then there was the household management, which all fell of itself onto her shoulders. Then an unsatisfied longing for love awoke and found outlet only in nature and religion. And Lisa accidentally grew into an active, good-naturedly cheerful, self-reliant, pure, and deeply religious woman. It is true she suffered from vanity a little when she saw neighbours standing by her in church with fashionable bonnets brought from K⁠⸺ on their heads; and sometimes she was vexed to tears with her grumbling old mother and her whims. She had dreams of love, too, in most absurd and sometimes crude forms; but her useful activity, which had grown into a necessity, dissipated them, and at the age of twenty-two there was not one spot, not one sting of remorse, in the clear, calm soul of the physically and morally beautifully developed maiden. Lisa was of medium height, rather plump than thin, her eyes were hazel, not large, and had slight shadows on the lower lids, and she had a long, light-brown plait of hair. She walked with big steps and with a slight sway⁠—a “duck’s waddle,” as the saying is. Her face, when she was occupied and not agitated by anything in particular, seemed to say to everyone who looked into it, “It is good and gladsome to live in the world when one has people to love and one’s conscience is clear.” Even in moments of vexation, trouble, excitement, or sadness, in spite of herself, there shone⁠—through the tear in her eye, her frowning left eyebrow, and her compressed lips⁠—a kind, straightforward spirit unspoilt by the intellect; it shone in the dimples of her cheeks, in the corners of her mouth, and in her glistening eyes, accustomed to smile and to feel joy in life.


X

The air was still hot though the sun was setting, when the squadron entered Morózovka. Before them, along the dusty village street, trotted a brindled cow separated from the herd, looking round and now and then stopping and lowing, but never suspecting that all she had to do was to turn aside. The peasants⁠—old men, women and children⁠—and servants from the manor-house, crowded on both sides of the street, gazing eagerly at the hussars. The hussars were riding their black, curbed horses, which now and then stamped and snorted, through a thick cloud of dust. To the right of the squadron two officers rode carelessly on their fine black horses. One was the Commander, Count Toúrbin, the other a very young man who had not long been promoted from a cadet: his name was Pólozof.

An hussar in a white linen coat came out of the best of the huts, raised his cap, and approached the officers.

“Where are the quarters assigned for us?”

“For your excellency?” answered the Quartermaster, with a start of the whole of his body: “The village elder’s hut has been cleaned out. I wanted to get quarters at the manor-house, but they say there is no room there. The proprietress is such a vixen.”

“All right!” said the Count, dismounting and stretching his legs as he reached the village elder’s hut. “And has my phaeton arrived?”

“It has deigned to arrive, your excellency!” answered the Quartermaster, pointing with his cap to the leather body of a carriage visible through the gateway, and rushing forward to the hut’s entrance, which was thronged with members of the peasant family collected to look at the officer. One old woman he even pushed over as he briskly opened the door of the cleaned-up hut, and stepped aside to let the Count pass.

The hut was fairly large and roomy, but not very clean. The German valet, dressed like a gentleman, stood inside sorting the linen in a portmanteau, after having set up an iron bedstead and made the bed.

“Faugh, what filthy lodgings!” said the Count, with vexation. “Dyádenko! could you not find anything better at some gentleman’s house?”

“If your excellency desires it I will try at the manor-house,” answered the Quartermaster; “but it is not up to much⁠—does not look much better than a hut.”

“Never mind now. Go away.”

And the Count lay down on the bed, and threw his arms behind his head.

“Johann!” he called to his valet, “again you’ve made a lump in the middle! How is it you can’t make a bed properly?”

Johann wished to put it right.

“No, never mind now. But where is my dressing-gown?” said the Count, in a dissatisfied tone.

The valet handed him the dressing-gown. The Count before putting it on examined the front.

“I thought so; that spot is not cleaned off. Could anyone be a worse servant than you?” he added, pulling the dressing-gown out of the valet’s hands and putting it on. “Tell me, do you do it on purpose?⁠ ⁠… Is the tea ready?”

“I have not had time,” said Johann.

“Fool!”

After that the Count took up the French novel laid out for him, and read for some time in silence: and Johann went out into the passage to heat the samovar. The Count was obviously in a bad temper, probably caused by fatigue, a dirty face, tight clothing, and an empty stomach.

“Johann!” he cried again, “bring me the account for those ten roubles. What did you buy in the town?”

The Count looked over the account handed to him, and made some dissatisfied remarks about the dearness of the things purchased.

“Serve rum with my tea.”

“I did not buy any rum,” said Johann.

“That’s good!⁠ ⁠… How many times have I told you to have rum?”

“I had not enough money.”

“Then why did not Pólozof buy some? You should have got some from his man.”

“Cornet Pólozof? I don’t know. He bought the tea and the sugar.”

“Idiot!⁠ ⁠… Go!⁠ ⁠… You alone know how to make me lose my patience.⁠ ⁠… You know that on a march I always drink rum with my tea.”

“Here are two letters for you from headquarters,” said the valet.

The Count opened his letters and began reading them without rising. The Cornet, having quartered the squadron, came in with a merry face.

“Well, how is it, Toúrbin? It seems very nice here. But I am tired, I must confess. It was hot.”

“Very nice!⁠ ⁠… A filthy, stinking hut, and, thanks to your lordship, no rum; your blockhead bought none, nor did this one. You might at least have mentioned it.”

And he continued to read his letter. When he had finished it he rolled it into a ball and threw it on the floor.

In the passage the Cornet was meanwhile saying to his orderly in a whisper: “Why didn’t you buy any rum? You had money enough, you know.”

“But why should we buy everything? As it is I pay for everything, while his German does nothing but smoke his pipe.”

It was evident the Count’s second letter was not unpleasant, for he smiled as he read it.

“Who is it from?” asked Pólozof, when he returned to the room and began arranging a sleeping-place for himself on some boards by the oven.

“From Mína,” answered the Count gaily, handing him the letter. “Do you want to see it? What a delightful woman she is!⁠ ⁠… Really now, she’s better than our young ladies.⁠ ⁠… Just see how much feeling and wit there is in that letter. Only one thing is bad⁠—she’s asking for money.”

“Yes, that’s bad,” said the Cornet.

“It is true I promised her some, but then this campaign came on, and besides.⁠ ⁠… However, if I remain in command of the squadron another three months I’ll send her some. It’s worth it, really; such a charming creature, eh?” said he, watching the expression on Pólozof’s face as the latter read the letter.

“Awfully ungrammatical, but very nice, and it seems as if she really loves you,” said the Cornet.

“H’m.⁠ ⁠… I should think so! It’s only women of that kind who love sincerely when once they do love.”

“And who was the other letter from?” asked the Cornet, handing back the one he had read.

“Oh, that’s so⁠ ⁠… there’s a man, a very horrid man, who won from me at cards, and he is reminding me of it for the third time.⁠ ⁠… I can’t let him have it at present.⁠ ⁠… A stupid letter!” said the Count, evidently vexed at the recollection.

After these words both officers were silent for a while. The Cornet, who was evidently under the Count’s influence, glanced now and then at the handsome though clouded countenance of Toúrbin⁠—who looked fixedly towards the window⁠—drank his tea silently, and did not venture to start a conversation.

“But, d’you know, it may turn out capitally,” said the Count, with a shake of his head, suddenly turning to Pólozof. “Supposing we get promotions by seniority this year, and take part in some action besides. I may get ahead of my own captains in the Guards.”

The conversation was still on the same topic, and they were drinking their second tumblers of tea, when old Daniel entered and delivered Anna Fyódorovna’s message.

“And I was also to inquire if you are not Count Fyódor Ivánitch Toúrbin’s son?” added Daniel of his own accord, having learnt the Count’s name, and remembering the deceased Count’s sojourn in the town of K⁠⸺. “Our mistress, Anna Fyódorovna, was very well acquainted with him.”

“He was my father. And tell your mistress I am very much obliged to her. We want nothing, but say we told you to ask whether we could not have a cleaner room somewhere⁠—at the manor-house⁠—or anywhere.”

“Now, why did you do that?” asked Pólozof, when Daniel had gone. “What does it matter? Just for one night⁠—what matter? And they will be inconveniencing themselves.”

“What an idea! I think we’ve had our share of smoky huts!⁠ ⁠… One can see at once you are not a practical man. Why not seize the opportunity when one can, and at least for one night live like human beings? And they, on the contrary, will be very pleased to have us.⁠ ⁠… The worst of it is, if this lady really knew my father⁠ ⁠…” continued the Count, with a smile which displayed his glistening white teeth, “I always have to feel ashamed for my departed papa. There is always some scandalous story or other, or some debt he has left. That is why I hate meeting those acquaintances of my father’s. However, that was the way in those days,” he added, growing serious.

“Did I ever tell you,” said Pólozof, “I once met the Uhlan Brigade-Commander Ilyín? He was very anxious to meet you. He loves your father awfully.”

“He is, I think, an awful good-for-nothing, that Ilyín. But the chief thing is that these good people, who assure me that they knew my father in order to make up to me, while pretending to tell very pleasant things, relate such tales about my father that it makes one ashamed to listen. It is true⁠—and I don’t deceive myself but look at things dispassionately⁠—he had too ardent a nature, and sometimes did things that were not nice. However, that was the way in those times. In our days he might have turned out a very successful man, for, to do him justice, he had extraordinary capacities.”

A quarter of an hour later the servant came back with a request from the proprietress that they would be so good as to spend the night at her house.


XI

Having heard that the hussar officer was the son of Count Fyódor Toúrbin, Anna Fyódorovna began to bustle about.

“Oh, dear me! The darling boy!⁠ ⁠… Daniel! run quick and say your mistress asks them to her house,” she began, jumping up and hurrying with quick steps into the servants’ room. “Lizzie! Oustúshka!⁠ ⁠… Your room must be got ready, Lisa; you can go into your uncle’s room, and you, brother, you’ll not mind sleeping in the drawing-room, brother? It’s only for one night.”

“I don’t mind, sister. I can sleep on the floor.”

“He’s handsome I should think, if he’s like his father. Only to have a look at him, the darling.⁠ ⁠… There now, you look at him, Lisa! The father was handsome. Where are you taking that table to? Leave it here,” said Anna Fyódorovna, bustling about. “Bring two beds⁠—take one from the foreman’s⁠—and get the crystal candlestick brother gave me for my birthday⁠—it’s on the whatnot⁠—and put in a stearine candle.”

At last everything was ready. In spite of her mother’s interference, Lisa arranged the room for the two officers her own way. She took out clean bedclothes scented with mignonette, and made the beds; had a bottle of water and candles put on a little table near the beds; fumigated the servants’ room with scented paper, and moved her own bedding into her uncle’s room. Anna Fyódorovna quieted down a little, settled in her own place, and even took up the cards again, but instead of laying them out she leaned her plump elbow on the table and became thoughtful.

“Ah, time, time, how it flies!” she whispered to herself. “Is it so long ago?⁠—it is as if I could see him now. Ah, he was a madcap!⁠ ⁠…” and tears came into her eyes. “And now there’s Lizzie⁠ ⁠… but still, she’s not what I was at her age; she’s a nice girl, but no, not like that⁠ ⁠…”

“Lisa, you should put on your mousseline-de-laine dress for the evening.”

“Why, mother, you are not going to ask them in here? Better not,” said Lisa, unable to master her excitement at the thought of seeing the officers: “Better not, mama!”

And really, the desire of seeing them was less strong than the fear of the agitating joy which, as she imagined, awaited her.

“Maybe they themselves will feel inclined to make our acquaintance, Lizzie!” said Anna Fyódorovna, stroking her head and thinking, “No, her hair is not what mine was at her age⁠ ⁠… No, Lizzie, how I should like you to⁠ ⁠…” And she really did very earnestly desire something for her daughter. But a marriage with the Count was out of the question, and relations such as she had had with the father she could not desire for her daughter; but still she did desire something very much. She may have longed to live again, in the soul of her daughter, what she had experienced with him who was dead.

The old cavalryman was also somewhat excited by the arrival of the Count. He went and locked himself into his room. In a quarter of an hour he emerged thence in a Hungarian jacket and pale-blue trousers, and went into the room prepared for the visitors, with the bashfully-pleased expression of a girl who for the first time in her life puts on a ball-dress.

“I’ll have a look at the hussars of today, sister! The late Count was, indeed, a true hussar. I’ll see, I’ll see.”

The officers had already, through the back entrance, reached the room assigned to them.

“There now, you see. Is not this better than that hut with the cockroaches?” said the Count, lying down as he was, in his dusty boots, on the bed that had been made for him.

“It’s better, of course it is; but still, to be indebted to the owners⁠ ⁠…”

“Eh, what nonsense! One must be practical in all things. They’re awfully pleased, I’m sure⁠ ⁠… Eh, you there!” he cried, “ask for something to hang over this window, or it will be draughty in the night.”

At this moment the old man came in to make the officers’ acquaintance. Of course he did not omit to say, though he did it with a slight blush, that he and the old Count had been comrades, that he had enjoyed the Count’s favour, and he even added that he had more than once been under obligations to the deceased. What obligations he referred to, whether it was the omission to repay the hundred roubles the Count had borrowed, or his throwing him into a snow-heap, or swearing at him, the old man quite omitted to explain. The young Count was very polite to the old cavalryman, and thanked him for the night’s lodging.

“You must excuse us if it is not luxurious, Count,” (he very nearly said “your excellency,” so unaccustomed had he become to conversing with important persons), “my sister’s house is so small. But we’ll hang something up there directly and it will be all right,” added the old man, and on the plea of seeing about a curtain, but chiefly because he was in a hurry to give an account of the officers, he bowed and left the room.

The pretty Oustúshka came in with her mistress’s shawl to cover the window, and besides, the mistress had told her to ask if the gentlemen would not like some tea.

The pleasant surroundings seemed to have a good influence on the Count’s spirits. He smiled merrily, joked with Oustúshka in such a way that she even called him a scamp, asked her whether her young lady was pretty, and in answer to her question whether they would have any tea, he said she might bring them some tea, but the chief thing was that their own supper not being ready yet, perhaps they might have some vodka and something to eat, and some sherry if there was any.

The uncle was in raptures over the young Count’s politeness, and praised the new generation of officers to the skies, saying that the present men were incomparably superior to the former generation.

Anna Fyódorovna did not agree⁠—no one could be better than Count Fyódor Ivánitch Toúrbin⁠—and at last she grew seriously angry, and drily remarked, “The one who has last stroked you, brother, is always the best.⁠ ⁠… Of course people are cleverer nowadays, but Count Fyódor Ivánitch danced the ecossaise in such a way, and was so amiable, that everybody lost their heads about him, only he paid attention to nobody but me. So you see, there were good people in the old days too.”

Here came the news of the demand for vodka, light refreshments, and sherry.

“There now, brother, you never do the right thing; you should have ordered supper,” began Anna Fyódorovna. “Lisa, see to it, dear!”

Lisa ran to the larder to get some pickled mushrooms and fresh butter, and the cook was ordered to make rissoles.

“But how about sherry? Have you any left, brother?”

“No, sister, I never had any.”

“How’s that? Why, what do you take with your tea?”

“That’s rum, Anna Fyódorovna.”

“Is it not all the same? Give some of that⁠—it’s all the same. But would it not, after all, be best to ask them in here, brother? You know all about it⁠—I don’t think they would take offence.”

The cavalryman declared he would warrant that the Count was too good-natured to refuse, and that he would certainly fetch them. Anna Fyódorovna went and put on, for some reason, a silk dress and a new cap, but Lisa was so busy that she had no time to change her pink gingham dress with the wide sleeves. And besides, she was terribly excited; she felt as if something striking was awaiting her, and as if a low, black cloud hung over her soul. This handsome hussar Count seemed to her a perfectly new, incomprehensible, but beautiful being. His character, his habits, his speech, must all be so unusual, so different from anything she had ever met. All he thinks or says must be wise and right, all he does⁠—honourable, all his appearance⁠—beautiful. She never doubted that. Had he asked, not merely for refreshments and sherry, but for a bath of sage-brandy and perfume, she would not have been surprised and would not have blamed him, but would have been firmly convinced that it was right and necessary.

The Count agreed at once when the cavalryman informed them of his sister’s wish. He brushed his hair, put on his uniform, and took his cigar-case.

“Come along,” he said to Pólozof.

“Really it would be better not to go,” answered the Cornet; “Ils feront des frais pour nous recevoir.196

“Nonsense! they will be only too happy. Besides, I have made some inquiries: there is a pretty daughter.⁠ ⁠… Come along!” said the Count, in French.

Je vous en prie, messieurs!197 said the cavalryman, merely to make the officers feel that he also knew French, and had understood what they had said.


XII

Lisa blushed, afraid to look at the officers, and casting down her eyes pretended to be busy filling the teapot when they entered the room. Anna Fyódorovna on the contrary jumped up hurriedly, bowed, and not taking her eyes off the Count, began talking to him⁠—now saying how unusually like his father he was, now introducing her daughter to him, now offering him tea, jam, or homemade sweetmeats. No one paid any attention to the Cornet because of his modest appearance, and he was glad of it, for he was, as far as propriety allowed, gazing at Lisa and minutely examining her beauty, which evidently took him by surprise. The uncle, listening to his sister’s conversation with the Count, awaited, with the words ready on his lips, an opportunity to narrate his cavalry reminisces. During tea the Count lit his strong cigar, and Lisa found it difficult to prevent herself from coughing. He was very talkative and amiable, at first slipping his stories into the intervals of Anna Fyódorovna’s ever-flowing speech, but at last engrossing the whole conversation. One thing struck his hearers as strange: in his anecdotes he often used words which, though not considered improper in the society he belonged to, here sounded rather too bold, and somewhat frightened Anna Fyódorovna and made Lisa blush up to the ears; but the Count did not notice it, and remained calmly natural and amiable.

Lisa silently filled the tumblers, which she did not give into the visitors’ hands but put down on the table near them, not having quite recovered from her excitement, and she listened eagerly to the Count’s remarks. His stories, which were not very deep, and the hesitation in his speech gradually calmed her. She did not hear from him the very clever things she had anticipated, nor did she see the elegance in everything she had vaguely expected to find in him. At the third glass of tea, after her bashful eyes had once met his, and he had not looked down but had continued to look at her too quietly and with a slight smile, she even felt rather inimically disposed towards him, and soon found that not only was there nothing particular about him, but that he was in no wise different from other people she had met; that there was no need to be afraid of him though his nails were long and clean, and that there was not even any special beauty in him. Lisa suddenly relinquished her dream, not without some inward pain, and grew calmer; and only the gaze of the silent Cornet, which she felt fixed upon her, disturbed her.

“Perhaps it’s not this one, but that one!” she thought.


XIII

After tea the old lady asked the visitors into the drawing-room, and again sat down in her old place.

“But would you not like to rest, Count?” she asked. “Then how could we entertain you, my dear guests?” she continued, after receiving an answer in the negative. “Do you play cards, Count? There now, brother, you should arrange something; make up a party⁠—”

“But you yourself play Préférence,”198 answered the cavalryman. “Why not all play? Will you play, Count? Will you, too?”

The officers expressed their readiness to do anything their kind hosts desired. Lisa brought her old pack of cards, which she used for divining when her mother’s swollen face would be well, whether her uncle would return the same day when he went to town, whether one of the neighbours would call today, and so on. These cards, though she had used them for a couple of months, were cleaner than those Anna Fyódorovna used.

“But perhaps you won’t play for small stakes?” asked the uncle. “Anna Fyódorovna and I play for half-kopéykas.⁠ ⁠… And even so she wins all our money.”

“Oh, any stakes you like⁠—I shall be delighted,” replied the Count.

“Well then, one kopéyka ‘assignations,’199 just for once, in honour of our dear visitors! Let them beat me, an old woman!” said Anna Fyódorovna, spreading herself in her armchair and arranging her mantilla. “And maybe I’ll win a rouble or so from them,” thought Anna Fyódorovna, who had developed a slight passion for cards in her old age.

“If you like, I’ll teach you to play with ‘tables’ and ‘misère,’ ” said the Count. “It is capital.”

Everyone liked the new Petersburg way. The uncle was even sure he knew it; it was just the same as “boston” used to be, only he had forgotten it a bit. But Anna Fyódorovna could not understand it at all, and so long failed to understand it that at last she felt herself obliged, with a smile and a nod of approval, to assert that now she understood it, and that all was quite clear to her. There was not a little laughter during the game when Anna Fyódorovna, holding ace and king blank, declared misère, and was left with six tricks. She even became confused, and began to smile shyly and to explain hurriedly that she had not got quite used to the new way. All the same they scored against her, especially as the Count, being used to play a careful game for high stakes, was cautious, skilfully played through his opponents’ hands, and would not at all understand the shoves the Cornet gave him under the table with his foot, nor the mistakes the latter made when they played as partners.

Lisa brought some more sweets, three kinds of jam, and some specially-prepared apples which had been kept since last season, and stood behind her mother’s back watching the game and occasionally looking at the officers, and especially at the Count’s white hands with their rosy, well-kept nails, which threw the cards and took up the tricks in so practised, assured, and elegant a manner.

Again Anna Fyódorovna, rather irritably outbidding the others, declared to make seven tricks, made only four and was fined accordingly; and having very clumsily noted down, on her brother’s demand, the points she had lost, became quite confused and fluttered.

“Never mind, mama, you will win it back!” smilingly remarked Lisa, wishful to help her mother out of the ridiculous situation. “Make uncle put on a remise of one trick, and then he will be caught.”

“If you would only help me, Lisa dear!” said Anna Fyódorovna, with a frightened glance at her daughter. “I don’t know how this is.⁠ ⁠…”

“But I don’t know this way either,” Lisa answered, mentally reckoning up her mother’s losses. “You will lose very much that way, mama! There will be nothing left for Pímotchka’s new dress,” she added in jest.

“Yes, this way one may easily lose ten roubles silver,” said the Cornet, looking at Lisa, and anxious to enter into conversation with her.

“Are we not playing for ‘assignations’?” said Anna Fyódorovna, looking round at all present.

“I don’t know how we are playing, only I can’t reckon in ‘assignations,’ ” said the Count. “What is it? I mean, what are ‘assignations’?”

“Why, nowadays no one counts by ‘assignations’ any longer,” remarked the uncle, who had played very cautiously, and had been winning.

The old lady ordered some sparkling homemade wine to be brought, drank two glasses, became very red, and seemed to resign herself to any fate. A lock of her grey hair escaped from under her cap, and she did not even put it right. No doubt it seemed to her as if she had lost millions and it was all up with her. The Cornet touched the Count with his foot more and more often. The Count scored down the old lady’s losses. At last the game ended, and in spite of Anna Fyódorovna’s wicked attempts to add to her own score by pretending to make mistakes in adding it up, in spite of her horror at the amount of her losses, it turned out at last that she had lost 920 points. “That’s nine roubles ‘assignations’?” asked Anna Fyódorovna several times, and did not comprehend the full extent of her loss until her brother told her, to her horror, that she had lost more than thirty-two roubles “assignations,” and that she must certainly pay.

The Count did not even add up his winnings, but rose immediately the game was over, went over to the window near which Lisa, setting the table for supper, was turning pickled mushrooms out of a jar onto a plate and arranging the zakoúska, and there quite quietly and simply did what the Cornet had all that evening so longed but failed to do⁠—he entered into conversation with her about the weather.

Meanwhile the Cornet was in a very unpleasant position. In the absence of the Count, and especially of Lisa, who had been keeping her in good humour, Anna Fyódorovna became frankly angry.

“Really it is too bad that we have won from you in this way,” said Pólozof, in order to say something; “it is a real shame!”

“Well, of course, if you go and invent some kind of ‘tables’ and ‘misères’! I don’t know how to play them.⁠ ⁠… Well then, how much does it come to in ‘assignations’?” she asked.

“Thirty-two roubles, thirty-two and a quarter,” repeated the cavalryman, who, under the influence of his success, was in a playful mood; “hand over the money, sister, hand it over.”

“I’ll pay it all, but you won’t catch me again. No!⁠ ⁠… I shall not win this back as long as I live.”

And Anna Fyódorovna went off to her room, hurriedly swaying from side to side, and came back bringing nine roubles “assignations.” It was only on the old man’s insistent demand that she eventually paid the whole sum.

Pólozof was seized with fear lest Anna Fyódorovna should scold him if he spoke to her. He silently and quietly left her and joined the Count and Lisa, who were talking at the open window.

On the table spread for supper stood two tallow candles. Now and then the soft, fresh breath of the May night caused the flames to flicker. Outside the window, which opened into the garden, it was also light, but it was a quite different light. The moon, which was almost full and already losing its golden tinge, floated over the tops of the tall limes and more and more lit up the thin white clouds which veiled it at intervals. In the pond, the surface of which, silvered in one place by the moon, was visible through the avenue, the frogs were croaking loudly. In a sweet-scented lilac-bush, whose dewy branches now and then swayed gently close to the window, some little birds fluttered slightly or lightly hopped from bough to bough.

“What wonderful weather!” the Count said, when he approached Lisa and sat down on the low windowsill. “You walk a good deal, I expect.”

“Yes,” said Lisa, not feeling the least shyness in speaking with the Count; “in the mornings about seven I see to what has to be attended to on the estate, and I take my mother’s ward, Pímotchka, with me for a walk.”

“It is pleasant to live in the country!” said the Count, putting his eyeglass to his eye, and looking now at the garden, now at Lisa. “And don’t you ever go out at night, by moonlight?”

“No. But two years ago uncle and I used to walk every moonlight night. He was troubled with a strange complaint⁠—sleeplessness. When there was a full moon he could not sleep. His little room⁠—that one⁠—looks straight out into the garden, the window is low, but the moon shines straight into it.”

“How strange; why, I thought that was your room,” said the Count.

“No, I only sleep there tonight. You have my room.”

“Is it possible? Dear me, I shall never forgive myself for disturbing you in such a way!” said the Count, dropping the glass from his eye in proof of the sincerity of his feelings. “If I had known I was troubling you⁠ ⁠…”

“It’s no trouble! On the contrary, I am very glad: uncle’s is such a delightful room, so bright, and the window is so low; I shall sit there till I fall asleep, or else I shall get out into the garden and walk about a bit before going to bed.”

“What a splendid girl!” thought the Count, replacing his eyeglass and looking at her, and, while pretending to seat himself more comfortably on the windowsill, trying to touch her foot with his. “And how cunningly she has let me know that I can see her in the garden at the window if I like!” Lisa even lost most of her charm in his eyes, the conquest seemed so easy.

“And how delightful it must be,” he said, looking thoughtfully at the shady green walks, “to spend a night like this in the garden with a beloved one.”

Lisa was abashed by these words, and by the repeated, seemingly accidental, touch of his foot. Anxious to hide her confusion, she said without thinking, “Yes, it is nice to walk in the moonlight.” She was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable. She had tied up the jar out of which she had taken the mushrooms, and was going away from the window, when the Cornet joined them, and she felt a wish to see what kind of man he was.

“What a lovely night!” he said.

“Why, they talk of nothing but the weather,” thought Lisa.

“What a wonderful view!” continued the Cornet. “But I suppose you are tired of it,” he added, having a curious propensity to say rather unpleasant things to people he liked very much.

“Why do you think so? The same kind of food, or the same dress, one may get tired of, but not of a beautiful garden if one is fond of walking⁠—especially when the moon is still higher. From uncle’s window you can see the whole pond. I shall be seeing it tonight.”

“But I don’t think you have any nightingales?” said the Count, very dissatisfied that the Cornet had come and prevented his ascertaining more definitely the terms of the rendezvous.

“No, but there always were until last year, when some sportsmen caught one, and this year, only last week, one began to sing beautifully, but the police-officer came to see us and his carriage-bells frightened it away. Two years ago uncle and I used to sit in the covered alley and listen to them for two hours or more at a time.”

“What is this chatterbox telling you?” said her uncle, coming up to them. “Won’t you come and have something to eat?”

After supper, during which the Count, by praising the food and by his appetite, had somewhat dissipated the ill-humour of the hostess, the officers said good night and went into their room. The Count shook hands with the uncle, and, to Anna Fyódorovna’s surprise, shook her hand also without kissing it, and also shook Lisa’s, looking straight into her eyes the while and slightly smiling his pleasant smile. This look again abashed the girl.

“He is very good-looking,” she thought, “only he thinks too much of himself.”


XIV

“I say, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” said Pólozof, when they were in their room. “I tried to lose on purpose, and touched you under the table. Are you not ashamed? The old lady was quite upset, you know.”

The Count laughed most heartily.

“She was killing, that old lady⁠ ⁠… How offended she was!⁠ ⁠…”

And he again began laughing so merrily that even Johann, who stood in front of him, cast down his eyes and turned away with a slight smile.

“And with the son of a friend of the family! Ha-ha-ha!⁠ ⁠…” the Count continued to laugh.

“No, really, it was too bad. I was quite sorry for her,” said the Cornet.

“What nonsense! How young you still are! Why, did you wish me to lose? Why should one lose? I used to lose before I knew how to play! Ten roubles, my dear fellow, may come in useful. One must look at life practically, or else you’ll always be left in the lurch.”

Pólozof was silenced; besides, he wished to be quiet and to think about Lisa, who seemed to him an unusually pure and beautiful creature. He undressed, and lay down in the soft clean bed prepared for him.

“What nonsense all this military honour and glory is!” he thought, looking at the window curtained by the shawl, through which the white moonbeams stole in. “Happiness would be: to live in a quiet nook with a dear, wise, simple-hearted wife; that is lasting and true happiness!”

“Why don’t you undress?” he asked the Count, who was walking up and down the room.

“I don’t yet feel sleepy, somehow. You can put out the candle if you like, I shall lie down so.”

And he continued to walk up and down.

“Don’t yet feel sleepy, somehow,” repeated Pólozof, feeling, after this last evening, more than ever dissatisfied with the Count’s influence over him, and inclined to rebel against it. “I can imagine,” he said mentally, addressing Toúrbin, “what thoughts are now passing through that well-brushed head of yours! I saw how you admired her. But you are not capable of understanding such a simple, honest creature: you want a Mína and a colonel’s epaulets. I shall really ask him how he liked her.”

And Pólozof turned towards him⁠—but changed his mind. He felt he would not be able to hold his own with the Count if the latter’s opinion concerning Lisa were what he supposed it to be, and that he would even be unable not to agree with him, so used was he to bow to the Count’s influence, which he every day more and more felt to be oppressive and unjust.

“Where are you going?” he asked, when the Count put on his cap and went to the door.

“I shall go and see if things are all right in the stables.”

“Strange!” thought the Cornet, but he put out the candle and turned over on his other side, trying to drive away the absurdly jealous and hostile thoughts concerning his former friend, that crowded into his head.


Anna Fyódorovna, meanwhile, having as usual kissed her brother, daughter, and ward, and made the sign of the cross over each of them, also retired to her room. It was long since the old lady had experienced so many strong emotions in one day, and she could not even pray quietly: sad and vivid memories of the deceased Count, and of the young dandy who had plundered her so unmercifully, would not leave her head. However, she undressed us usual, drank half a tumbler of kvass200 that stood ready for her on a little table by her bed, and lay down. Her favourite cat crept softly into the room; she called her up and began to stroke her, listened to her purring, but could not fall asleep.

“It’s the cat that keeps me awake,” she thought, and turned her away. The cat fell softly onto the floor and, gently moving her bushy tail, leapt onto the stove. But now the maid, who always slept on the floor in Anna Fyódorovna’s room, came and spread the piece of felt that served her for a mattress, put out the candle, and lit the lamp in front of the icon. At last the maid began to snore, but sleep would not come to soothe Anna Fyódorovna’s excited imagination. The hussar’s face appeared to her when she closed her eyes, and she seemed to see it in the room in various forms when she opened her eyes and, by the dim light of the lamp, looked at the chest of drawers, the table, or a white dress that was hanging up. Now it seemed very hot on the feather bed, now her watch ticked unbearably on the little table and the maid snored unendurably through her nose. She woke her and ordered her not to snore. Again thoughts about her daughter, about the old and young Counts, and about the game of Préférence got curiously mixed in her head. Now she saw herself valse with the old Count, saw her own round, white shoulders, felt someone’s kisses on them, and then saw her daughter in the arms of the young Count. Oustúshka again began to snore.

“No, somehow people nowadays are different. The other one was ready to leap into the fire for me⁠—and not without cause. But this one, never fear, is sleeping like a fool, glad to have won⁠—no lovemaking about him. How he used to say on his knees, ‘What do you wish me to do? I would kill myself on the spot, or do anything you like!’ And he would have killed himself had I told him to.”

Suddenly she heard a patter of bare feet in the passage, and Lisa, with a shawl thrown over her, ran in, pale and trembling, and almost fell onto her mother’s bed.


After saying good night to her mother that evening Lisa had gone alone to the room her uncle generally slept in. She put on a white dressing-jacket, and covering her long, thick, plaited hair with a shawl, she extinguished the candle, opened the window, and sat down, feet and all, on a chair, fixing her pensive eyes on the pond, now all glittering in the silvery light.

All her accustomed occupations and interests suddenly appeared to her in a new light: her capricious old mother, non-judging love for whom had become part of her soul; the decrepit but amiable old uncle; the domestic serfs and village serfs, who adored their young mistress; the milch cows and the calves, and all this nature, which had died and been renewed so many times, amid which she had grown up loving and beloved⁠—all this that had given such easy and pleasant rest to her spirit, suddenly seemed unsatisfactory; it seemed dull and unnecessary. It was as if someone had said to her, “Little fool, little fool, for twenty years you have been trifling, serving someone without knowing why, and without knowing what life and happiness are!” This is what she was thinking, as she gazed into the depths of the moonlit, motionless garden, more intensely, far more intensely, than she had ever thought it before. And what had caused these thoughts? Not any sudden love for the Count, as one might have supposed. On the contrary, she did not like him. She could have been interested in the Cornet more easily, but he was plain, poor fellow, and silent. She kept involuntarily forgetting him, and recalling the image of the Count with anger and annoyance.

“No, that’s not it,” she said to herself. Her ideal had been so beautiful. It was an ideal that could have been loved on such a night, amid this nature, without infringing its beauty⁠—an ideal never abridged to make it fit some coarse reality.

In days gone by, solitude and the absence of any who might have attracted her attention, had caused the power of love which Providence has given impartially to each of us, to rest intact and tranquil in her bosom; and now she had lived too long in the sad happiness of feeling the presence of this something in herself, and of now and again opening the secret chalice of her heart to contemplate its riches, to be able thoughtlessly to lavish its contents on anyone. God grant she may enjoy this chary bliss to the grave! Who knows whether it is not the best and strongest? and whether it is not the only true and possible happiness?

“O Lord, my God,” she thought, “can it be that I have lost happiness and youth in vain, and that it will never be⁠ ⁠… never be? Can it be true?”

And she looked into the depths of the sky, lit up by the moon and covered by light fleecy clouds that, veiling the stars, crept nearer to the moon, “If that highest white cloudlet touches the moon it will be a sign that it is true,” thought she. The misty, smoke-coloured strip ran across the bottom half of the bright disc, and, little by little, the light on the grass, on the tops of the limes, and on the pond, grew dimmer, and the black shadows of the trees less distinct. As if to harmonise with the gloomy shadows that spread over the world outside, a light wind ran through the leaves and brought to the window the scent of dewy leaves, of moist earth, and of blooming lilacs.

“But it is not true,” she consoled herself. “There now, if the nightingale sings tonight, it will be a sign that what I’m thinking is all nonsense, and I need not despair,” thought she. And she long sat in silence waiting for something, while again all became bright and full of life, and then again and again the cloudlets ran across the moon, making everything dim. She was beginning to fall asleep as she sat by the window, when the quivering trills of a nightingale came ringing from below, across the pond, and woke her. The country maiden opened her eyes. And once more her soul was renewed with fresh joy by this mysterious union with this nature which spread out so calmly and so brightly before her. She leant on both elbows. A sweet, languid feeling of sadness pressed her heart, and tears of pure, broad love, thirsting to be satisfied⁠—good, comforting tears⁠—filled her eyes. She folded her arms on the windowsill and laid her head on them. Her favourite prayer rose to her mind, and so she fell asleep with her eyes still moist.

The touch of someone’s hand roused her. She awoke. But the touch was light and pleasant. The hand pressed hers more closely. Suddenly she became alive to reality, screamed, jumped up, and trying to persuade herself that she had not recognised the Count, who was standing under the window bathed in the moonlight, she ran out of the room.⁠ ⁠…


XV

And it really was the Count. When he heard the girl’s cry, and, behind the fence, a husky sound from the watchman who had been roused by that cry, he rushed headlong across the wet, dewy grass into the depths of the park, feeling like a detected thief.

“Fool that I am!” he repeated unconsciously, “I have frightened her. I ought to have roused her gently by speaking to her. Awkward brute that I am!” He stopped and listened: the watchman came into the garden through the gateway, dragging his stick along the sandy path. It was necessary to hide, and he went down by the pond. The frogs made him start as they plumped from beneath his feet into the water. Though his feet were wet through, he squatted down and began to recall all he had done. How he had climbed the fence, looked for her window, and at last caught sight of a white shadow; how, listening to the faintest rustle, he several times drew near to the window and went back again. How one moment, he felt sure that she was waiting, vexed at his tardiness, and the next that it was impossible she could have agreed so readily to a rendezvous. How, at last, persuading himself that it was only the bashfulness of a country-bred girl that made her pretend to be asleep, he went up resolutely and saw distinctly how she sat, but then for some reason ran away again, and only after severely taunting himself with his cowardice, boldly drew near to her and touched her hand.

The watchman again made a husky sound, and the gate creaked as he left the garden. The girl’s window slammed to, and a shutter was fastened from inside. This was very provoking. The Count would have given a good deal for a chance to begin all over again; he would not have acted so stupidly now.⁠ ⁠… “And she is a wonderful girl! so fresh! quite charming! and I have let her slip through my fingers.⁠ ⁠… Stupid beast that I am!” He did not want to sleep now, and went at random, with the firm tread of one who has been crossed, along the covered, lime-tree avenue.

And here the night brought for him also its peaceful gifts of soothing sadness and the need of loving. The straight, pale beams of the moon threw spots of light through the thick foliage of the limes onto the clayey path, on which a few blades of grass grew or a dead branch lay here and there. The light falling on one side of a bent bough made it look as if it were covered with white moss. The silvered leaves whispered every now and then. All the lights were out in the house, and all was silent; the voice of the nightingale alone seemed to fill the bright, still, limitless space. “O God, what a night! What a wonderful night,” thought the Count, inhaling the fragrant freshness of the garden. “There is something regrettable. It feels as if I were discontented with myself and with others, discontented with the whole of life. A splendid, sweet girl! Perhaps she was really hurt.⁠ ⁠…” Here his dreams became mixed: he imagined himself in this garden with the country-bred girl in various most extraordinary situations. Then the role of the girl was taken by his beloved Mína. “Eh, what a fool I was! I ought simply to have caught her round the waist and kissed her.” And feeling this remorse, the Count returned to his room.

The Cornet was still not asleep. He turned at once in his bed and faced the Count.

“Not asleep yet?” asked the Count.

“No.”

“Shall I tell you what has happened?”

“Well?”

“No, I’d better not⁠ ⁠… or, all right, I’ll tell you: draw in your legs.”

And the Count, having mentally abandoned the intrigue that had miscarried, sat down on his comrade’s bed with an animated smile.

“Would you believe it, that young lady gave me a rendezvous!”

“What are you saying?” cried Pólozof, jumping out of bed.

“No, but listen.”

“But how? When? It’s impossible!”

“Why, while you were adding up after we played Préférence, she told me she would sit by the window in the night, and that one could get in at the window. There, you see what it is to be practical! While you were calculating with the old woman, I arranged that little matter. Why, you heard, she even said in your presence that she would sit by the window tonight and look at the pond.”

“Yes, but she did not mean that.”

“There now, that’s just what I can’t make out: did she say it intentionally or not? Maybe really she did not wish to agree so suddenly, but it looked very like it. It turned out horribly. I quite played the fool,” he added, smiling contemptuously at himself.

“What do you mean? Where have you been?”

The Count, omitting his manifold irresolute approaches, related all as it had happened. “I spoilt it all myself: I ought to have been bolder. She screamed and ran from the window.”

“So she screamed and ran away,” said the Cornet, smiling uneasily in answer to the Count’s smile, which for such a long time had had so strong an influence over him.

“Yes, but it’s time to go to sleep.”

The Cornet again turned his back to the door and lay silent for about ten minutes. Heaven knows what went on in his soul, but when he turned again, his face bore an expression of suffering and resolve.

“Count Toúrbin!” he said abruptly.

“Are you talking in your sleep?” quietly replied the Count; “… yes, Cornet Pólozof?”

“Count Toúrbin, you are a scoundrel!” cried Pólozof, and again jumped out of bed.


XVI

The squadron left next day. The officers did not see their hosts again, and did not bid them farewell. Neither did they speak to one another. They intended to fight a duel at the first halting-place. But Captain Schulz, a good comrade, a splendid horseman, beloved by everyone in the regiment, and chosen by the Count to act as his second, managed to settle the affair so well that not only did they not fight, but no one in the regiment knew anything about the matter, and Toúrbin and Pólozof, though no longer on the old friendly footing, still continued to speak in familiar terms to one another and to meet at dinners and card-parties.

1856.


Footnotes

Footnotes

178

Freemasonry in Russia was a secret movement, the original purpose of which was the moral perfecting of people on the basis of equality and universal brotherhood. Commencing as a mystical-religious movement in the eighteenth century, it became political during the reign of Alexander I, and was suppressed in 1822.

Return

179

The Martinists were a society of Russian Freemasons, founded in 1780, and named after the French theosophist, Louis Claude Saint-Martin.

Return

180

The Tugendbund was founded by men of high rank, to promote physical and moral welfare, by education, publications, advice, and charity.

Return

181

M. H. Milorádovitch (1770⁠–⁠1825) distinguished himself in the war against the French, became General-Governor of Petersburg, and was killed in the “December” mutiny of 1825.

Return

182

D. V. Davídof (1784⁠–⁠1839), a popular poet, and leader of a guerilla force in the war of 1812; he was a contemporary of A. S. Poúshkin (1799⁠–⁠1837), the greatest of Russian poets.

Return

183

The nobility, in the Russian sense of the word, includes not merely those who have titles, but all who in England would be called the gentry.

Return

184

A town in the Tambóf Government, noted for its horse fair.

Return

185

A troika is a three-horse sledge, or, more correctly, a team of three horses.

Return

186

Twenty degrees of cold Réaumur, or thirteen below zero Fahrenheit.

Return

187

The gaming referred to was called shtos. The “players” selected cards for themselves from packs on the table, and put their stakes on or under their cards. The “banker” had a pack from which he dealt to right and left alternately. Cards dealt to the right won for him; those dealt to the left won for the “players.” “Pass up” was a reminder to the players to hand up stakes due to the “bank.” “Simples” were single stakes. By turning down “corners” of his card a player increased his stake two or threefold. A “transport” increased it sixfold. Shtos has now been replaced by newer forms of gambling.

Return

188

The five-rouble note was blue and the ten-rouble note was red.

Return

189

That is to say, a medal gained in the defence of his country against Napoleon.

Return

190

The custom being not to dance a whole dance with one lady, but to take a few turns round the room, conduct the lady to her seat, bow to her, thank her, and seek a fresh partner.

Return

191

The zakoúska (“little bite”) consists, according to circumstances, of a more or less varied choice of snacks: caviar, salt-fish, cheese, radishes, or whatnot, with small glasses of vodka or other spirits. It is sometimes served alone, but usually forms a whet for the appetite, laid out on a side table, and partaken of immediately before dinner or supper. It somewhat answers to the hors-d’oeuvre of an English dinner-party.

Return

192

The same word (rouká) stands for hand or arm in Russian.

Return

193

In Russia godparents and their godchildren, and people having the same godfather or godmother, are considered to be related.

Return

194

Bémol is French for a flat in music; but in Russia many people who know nothing of musical technicalities imagine it to have something to do with excellence in music.

Return

195

Tolstoy seems here to antedate the intervention of Russia in the Hungarian insurrection. As a matter of fact, the Russian army entered Hungary in May 1849, and the war was over by the end of September that year.

Return

196

They will be putting themselves to expense on our account.

Return

197

If you please, gentlemen.

Return

198

In Préférence partners play together as in whist. There was a method of scoring “with tables” which increased the gains and losses of the players. In Préférence the players compete in declaring the number of tricks the cards they hold will enable them to make. The highest bidder decides which suit is to be trumps, and has to make the number of tricks he has declared, or be fined. A player declaring misère undertakes to make no tricks, and is fined (puts on a remise) for each trick he or she makes. “Ace and king blank” means that a player holds, of a given suit, the two highest cards and no others.

Return

199

At the time of this story two currencies were in use simultaneously⁠—the depreciated “assignations” and the “silver roubles,” which were usually paper, like the “assignations.”

Return

200

Kvass is a non-intoxicating drink usually made from rye-malt, and rye-flour.

Return

#haveread
Login to use this functionality
Link copied to clipboard
Library
Contents
Notes
Settings
Read

Title

Author

#reading #haveread
Login to use this functionality
Link copied to clipboard

This website © 2022 Bookwise.io [v0.93]

Notes & Highlights

Highlight some text to create a note.

Clear Notes & Highlights

Are you sure? Yes / No

Reading History

Your reading sessions will be listed here.

Clear Reading History

Are you sure? Yes / No


Settings

“Read more, beautifully”

Typography

Default size
Smaller font
Bigger font

Colour scheme

Dark
Light
Nightvision

Tap zones

Diagonal
Top & bottom
Left & right
None