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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOn The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 12
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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 12 Post by :astoller Category :Long Stories Author :Ivan Turgenev Date :May 2012 Read :2395

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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 12

Chapter XII

'The conquering hero Insarov will be here directly!' he shouted
triumphantly, going into the Stahovs' drawing-room, where there happened
at the instant to be only Elena and Zoya.

'_Wer_?' inquired Zoya in German. When she was taken unawares she always
used her native language. Elena drew herself up. Shubin looked at her
with a playful smile on his lips. She felt annoyed, but said nothing.

'You heard,' he repeated, 'Mr. Insarov is coming here.'

'I heard,' she replied; 'and I heard how you spoke of him. I am
surprised at you, indeed. Mr. Insarov has not yet set foot in the house,
and you already think fit to turn him into ridicule.'

Shubin was crestfallen at once.

'You are right, you are always right, Elena Nikolaevna,' he muttered;
'but I meant nothing, on my honour. We have been walking together with
him the whole day, and he's a capital fellow, I assure you.'

'I didn't ask your opinion about that,' commented Elena, getting up.

'Is Mr. Insarov a young man?' asked Zoya.

'He is a hundred and forty-four,' replied Shubin with an air of
vexation.

The page announced the arrival of the two friends. They came in.
Bersenyev introduced Insarov. Elena asked them to sit down, and sat
down herself, while Zoya went off upstairs; she had to inform Anna
Vassilyevna of their arrival. A conversation was begun of a rather
insignificant kind, like all first conversations. Shubin was silently
watching from a corner, but there was nothing to watch. In Elena he
detected signs of repressed annoyance against him--Shubin--and that was
all. He looked at Bersenyev and at Insarov, and compared their
faces from a sculptor's point of view. 'They are neither of them
good-looking,' he thought, 'the Bulgarian has a characteristic
face--there now it's in a good light; the Great-Russian is better
adapted for painting; there are no lines, there's expression. But, I
dare say, one might fall in love with either of them. She is not in love
yet, but she will fall in love with Bersenyev,' he decided to himself.
Anna Vassilyevna made her appearance in the drawing-room, and
the conversation took the tone peculiar to summer villas--not the
country-house tone but the peculiar summer visitor tone. It was a
conversation diversified by plenty of subjects; but broken by short
rather wearisome pauses every three minutes. In one of these pauses Anna
Vassilyevna turned to Zoya. Shubin understood her silent hint, and drew
a long face, while Zoya sat down to the piano, and played and sang all
her pieces through. Uvar Ivanovitch showed himself for an instant in the
doorway, but he beat a retreat, convulsively twitching his fingers. Then
tea was served; and then the whole party went out into the garden.... It
began to grow dark outside, and the guests took leave.

Insarov had really made less impression on Elena than she had expected,
or, speaking more exactly, he had not made the impression she had
expected. She liked his directness and unconstraint, and she liked his
face; but the whole character of Insarov--with his calm firmness and
everyday simplicity--did not somehow accord with the image formed in her
brain by Bersenyev's account of him. Elena, though she did not
herself suspect it, had anticipated something more fateful. 'But,' she
reflected, 'he spoke very little to-day, and I am myself to blame for
it; I did not question him, we must have patience till next time...
and his eyes are expressive, honest eyes.' She felt that she had no
disposition to humble herself before him, but rather to hold out her
hand to him in friendly equality, and she was puzzled; this was not how
she had fancied men, like Insarov, 'heroes.' This last word reminded her
of Shubin, and she grew hot and angry, as she lay in her bed.

'How did you like your new acquaintances?' Bersenyev inquired of Insarov
on their way home.

'I liked them very much,' answered Insarov, 'especially the daughter.
She must be a nice girl. She is excitable, but in her it's a fine kind
of excitability.'

'You must go and see them a little oftener,' observed Bersenyev.

'Yes, I must,' said Insarov; and he said nothing more all the way home.
He at once shut himself up in his room, but his candle was burning long
after midnight.

Bersenyev had had time to read a page of Raumer, when a handful of fine
gravel came rattling on his window-pane. He could not help starting;
opening the window he saw Shubin as white as a sheet.

'What an irrepressible fellow you are, you night moth----' Bersenyev was
beginning.

'Sh--' Shubin cut him short; 'I have come to you in secret, as Max went
to Agatha I absolutely must say a few words to you alone.'

'Come into the room then.'

'No, that's not necessary,' replied Shubin, and he leaned his elbows
on the window-sill, 'it's better fun like this, more as if we were in
Spain. To begin with, I congratulate you, you're at a premium now. Your
belauded, exceptional man has quite missed fire. That I'll guarantee.
And to prove my impartiality, listen--here's the sum and substance of
Mr. Insarov. No talents, none, no poetry, any amount of capacity for
work, an immense memory, an intellect not deep nor varied, but sound
and quick, dry as dust, and force, and even the gift of the gab when the
talk's about his--between ourselves let it be said--tedious Bulgaria.
What! do you say I am unjust? One remark more: you'll never come to
Christian names with him, and none ever has been on such terms with him.
I, of course, as an artist, am hateful to him; and I am proud of it. Dry
as dust, dry as dust, but he can crush all of us to powder. He's devoted
to his country--not like our empty patriots who fawn on the people; pour
into us, they say, thou living water! But, of course, his problem is
easier, more intelligible: he has only to drive the Turks out, a mighty
task. But all these qualities, thank God, don't please women. There's no
fascination, no charm about them, as there is about you and me.'

'Why do you bring me in?' muttered Bersenyev. 'And you are wrong in
all the rest; you are not in the least hateful to him, and with his own
countrymen he is on Christian name terms--that I know.'

'That's a different matter! For them he's a hero; but, to make a
confession, I have a very different idea of a hero; a hero ought not to
be able to talk; a hero should roar like a bull, but when he butts with
his horns, the walls shake. He ought not to know himself why he butts at
things, but just to butt at them. But, perhaps, in our days heroes of a
different stamp are needed.'

'Why are you so taken up with Insarov?' asked Bersenyev. 'Can you have
run here only to describe his character to me?'

'I came here,' began Shubin, 'because I was very miserable at home.'

'Oh, that's it! Don't you want to have a cry again?'

'You may laugh! I came here because I'm at my wits' end, because I am
devoured by despair, anger, jealousy.'

'Jealousy? of whom?'

'Of you and him and every one. I'm tortured by the thought that if I had
understood her sooner, if I had set to work cleverly--But what's the use
of talking! It must end by my always laughing, playing the fool, turning
things into ridicule as she says, and then setting to and strangling
myself.'

'Stuff, you won't strangle yourself,' observed Bersenyev.

'On such a night, of course not; but only let me live on till the
autumn. On such a night people do die too, but only of happiness. Ah,
happiness! Every shadow that stretches across the road from every tree
seems whispering now: "I know where there is happiness... shall I tell
you?" I would ask you to come for a walk, only now you're under the
influence of prose. Go to sleep, and may your dreams be visited by
mathematical figures! My heart is breaking. You, worthy gentlemen, see
a man laughing, and that means to your notions he's all right; you can
prove to him that he's humbugging himself, that's to say, he is not
suffering.... God bless you!'

Shubin abruptly left the window. 'Annu-shka!' Bersenyev felt an impulse
to shout after him, but he restrained himself; Shubin had really been
white with emotion. Two minutes later, Bersenyev even caught the sound
of sobbing; he got up and opened the window; everything was still, only
somewhere in the distance some one--a passing peasant, probably--was
humming 'The Plain of Mozdok.'

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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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