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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOn The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 10
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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 10 Post by :astoller Category :Long Stories Author :Ivan Turgenev Date :May 2012 Read :2069

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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 10

Chapter X

Elena met Bersenyev cordially, though not in the garden, but the
drawing-room, and at once, almost impatiently, renewed the conversation
of the previous day. She was alone; Nikolai Artemyevitch had quietly
slipped away. Anna Vassilyevna was lying down upstairs with a wet
bandage on her head. Zoya was sitting by her, the folds of her skirt
arranged precisely about her, and her little hands clasped on her knees.
Uvar Ivanovitch was reposing in the attic on a wide and comfortable
divan, known as a 'samo-son' or 'dozer.' Bersenyev again mentioned his
father; he held his memory sacred. Let us, too, say a few words about
him.

The owner of eighty-two serfs, whom he set free before his death, an
old Gottingen student, and disciple of the 'Illuminati,' the author of
a manuscript work on 'transformations or typifications of the spirit in
the world'--a work in which Schelling's philosophy, Swedenborgianism
and republicanism were mingled in the most original fashion--Bersenyev's
father brought him, while still a boy, to Moscow immediately after his
mother's death, and at once himself undertook his education. He
prepared himself for each lesson, exerted himself with extraordinary
conscientiousness and absolute lack of success: he was a dreamer, a
bookworm, and a mystic; he spoke in a dull, hesitating voice, used
obscure and roundabout expressions, metaphorical by preference, and was
shy even of his son, whom he loved passionately. It was not surprising
that his son was simply bewildered at his lessons, and did not advance
in the least. The old man (he was almost fifty, he had married late in
life) surmised at last that things were not going quite right, and he
placed his Andrei in a school. Andrei began to learn, but he was
not removed from his father's supervision; his father visited him
unceasingly, wearying the schoolmaster to death with his instructions
and conversation; the teachers, too, were bored by his uninvited visits;
he was for ever bringing them some, as they said, far-fetched books on
education. Even the schoolboys were embarrassed at the sight of the old
man's swarthy, pockmarked face, his lank figure, invariably clothed in
a sort of scanty grey dresscoat. The boys did not suspect then that this
grim, unsmiling old gentleman, with his crane-like gait and his long
nose, was at heart troubling and yearning over each one of them almost
as over his own son. He once conceived the idea of talking to them about
Washington: 'My young nurslings,' he began, but at the first sounds of
his strange voice the young nurslings ran away. The good old Gottingen
student did not lie on a bed of roses; he was for ever weighed down by
the march of history, by questions and ideas of every kind. When young
Bersenyev entered the university, his father used to drive with him
to the lectures, but his health was already beginning to break up. The
events of the year 1848 shook him to the foundation (it necessitated the
re-writing of his whole book), and he died in the winter of 1853, before
his son's time at the university was over, but he was able beforehand to
congratulate him on his degree, and to consecrate him to the service of
science. 'I pass on the torch to you,' he said to him two hours before
his death. 'I held it while I could; you, too, must not let the light
grow dim before the end.'

Bersenyev talked a long while to Elena of his father. The embarrassment
he had felt in her presence disappeared, and his lisp was less marked.
The conversation passed on to the university.

'Tell me,' Elena asked him, 'were there any remarkable men among your
comrades?'

Bersenyev was again reminded of Shubin's words.

'No, Elena Nikolaevna, to tell you the truth, there was not a single
remarkable man among us. And, indeed, where are such to be found! There
was, they say, a good time once in the Moscow university! But not now.
Now it's a school, not a university. I was not happy with my comrades,'
he added, dropping his voice.

'Not happy,' murmured Elena.

'But I ought,' continued Bersenyev, 'to make an exception. I know one
student--it's true he is not in the same faculty--he is certainly a
remarkable man.'

'What is his name?' Elena inquired with interest.

'Insarov Dmitri Nikanorovitch. He is a Bulgarian.'

'Not a Russian?'

'No, he is not a Russian,'

'Why is he living in Moscow, then?'

'He came here to study. And do you know with what aim he is studying?
He has a single idea: the liberation of his country. And his story is
an exceptional one. His father was a fairly well-to-do merchant; he came
from Tirnova. Tirnova is now a small town, but it was the capital of
Bulgaria in the old days when Bulgaria was still an independent state.
He traded with Sophia, and had relations with Russia; his sister,
Insarov's aunt, is still living in Kiev, married to a senior history
teacher in the gymnasium there. In 1835, that is to say eighteen
years ago, a terrible crime was committed; Insarov's mother suddenly
disappeared without leaving a trace behind; a week later she was found
murdered.'

Elena shuddered. Bersenyev stopped.

'Go on, go on,' she said.

'There were rumours that she had been outraged and murdered by a Turkish
aga; her husband, Insarov's father, found out the truth, tried to avenge
her, but only succeeded in wounding the aga with his poniard.... He was
shot.'

'Shot, and without a trial?'

'Yes. Insarov was just eight years old at the time. He remained in
the hands of neighbours. The sister heard of the fate of her brother's
family, and wanted to take the nephew to live with her. They got him
to Odessa, and from there to Kiev. At Kiev he lived twelve whole years.
That's how it is he speaks Russian so well.'

'He speaks Russian?'

'Just as we do. When he was twenty (that was at the beginning of the
year 1848) he began to want to return to his country. He stayed in
Sophia and Tirnova, and travelled through the length and breadth of
Bulgaria, spending two years there, and learning his mother tongue
over again. The Turkish Government persecuted him, and he was certainly
exposed to great dangers during those two years; I once caught sight of
a broad scar on his neck, from a wound, no doubt; but he does not like
to talk about it. He is reserved, too, in his own way. I have tried to
question him about everything, but I could get nothing out of him. He
answers by generalities. He's awfully obstinate. He returned to Russia
again in 1850, to Moscow, with the intention of educating himself
thoroughly, getting intimate with Russians, and then when he leaves the
university----'

'What then?' broke in Elena.

'What God wills. It's hard to forecast the future.'

For a while Elena did not take her eyes off Bersenyev.

'You have greatly interested me by what you have told me,' she said.
'What is he like, this friend of yours; what did you call him, Insarov?'

'What shall I say? To my mind, he's good-looking. But you will see him
for yourself.'

'How so?'

'I will bring him here to see you. He is coming to our little village
the day after tomorrow, and is going to live with me in the same
lodging.'

'Really? But will he care to come to see us?'

'I should think so. He will be delighted.'

'He isn't proud, then?'

'Not the least. That's to say, he is proud if you like, only not in the
sense you mean. He will never, for instance, borrow money from any one.'

'Is he poor?'

'Yes, he isn't rich. When he went to Bulgaria he collected some relics
left of his father's property, and his aunt helps him; but it all comes
to very little.'

'He must have a great deal of character,' observed Elena.

'Yes. He is a man of iron. And at the same time you will see there is
something childlike and frank, with all his concentration and even his
reserve. It's true, his frankness is not our poor sort of frankness--the
frankness of people who have absolutely nothing to conceal.... But
there, I will bring him to see you; wait a little.'

'And isn't he shy?' asked Elena again.

'No, he's not shy. It's only vain people who are shy.'

'Why, are you vain?'

He was confused and made a vague gesture with his hands.

'You excite my curiosity,' pursued Elena. 'But tell me, has he not taken
vengeance on that Turkish aga?'

Bersenyev smiled

'Revenge is only to be found in novels, Elena Nikolaevna; and, besides,
in twelve years that aga may well be dead.'

'Mr. Insarov has never said anything, though, to you about it?'

'No, never.'

'Why did he go to Sophia?'

'His father used to live there.'

Elena grew thoughtful.

'To liberate one's country!' she said. 'It is terrible even to utter
those words, they are so grand.'

At that instant Anna Vassilyevna came into the room, and the
conversation stopped.

Bersenyev was stirred by strange emotions when he returned home that
evening. He did not regret his plan of making Elena acquainted with
Insarov, he felt the deep impression made on her by his account of the
young Bulgarian very natural... had he not himself tried to deepen that
impression! But a vague, unfathomable emotion lurked secretly in his
heart; he was sad with a sadness that had nothing noble in it. This
sadness did not prevent him, however, from setting to work on the
_History of the Hohenstaufen_, and beginning to read it at the very page
at which he had left off the evening before.

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Chapter XITwo days later, Insarov in accordance with his promise arrived atBersenyev's with his luggage. He had no servant; but without anyassistance he put his room to rights, arranged the furniture, dusted andswept the floor. He had special trouble with the writing table, whichwould not fit into the recess in the wall assigned for it; but Insarov,with the silent persistence peculiar to him succeeded in getting his ownway with it. When he had settled in, he asked Bersenyev to let him payhim ten roubles in advance, and arming himself with a thick stick, setoff to inspect the country surrounding his new
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Chapter IXShubin went back to his room in the lodge and was just opening a book,when Nikolai Artemyevitch's valet came cautiously into his room andhanded him a small triangular note, sealed with a thick heraldic crest.'I hope,' he found in the note, 'that you as a man of honour willnot allow yourself to hint by so much as a single word at a certainpromissory note which was talked of this morning. You are acquaintedwith my position and my rules, the insignificance of the sum in itselfand the other circumstances; there are, in fine, family secrets whichmust be respected, and family tranquillity
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