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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOn The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 16
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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 16 Post by :astoller Category :Long Stories Author :Ivan Turgenev Date :May 2012 Read :1779

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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 16

Chapter XVI

Soon after her acquaintance with Insarov, Elena (for the fifth or sixth
time) began a diary. Here are some extracts from it:

'_June_.... Andrei Petrovitch brings me books, but I can't read them.
I'm ashamed to confess it to him; but I don't like to give back the
books, tell lies, say I have read them. I feel that would mortify him.
He is always watching me. He seems devoted to me. A very good man,
Andrei Petrovitch.... What is it I want? Why is my heart so heavy, so
oppressed? Why do I watch the birds with envy as they fly past? I feel
that I could fly with them, fly, where I don't know, but far from here.
And isn't that desire sinful? I have here mother, father, home. Don't
I love them? No, I don't love them, as I should like to love. It's
dreadful to put that in words, but it's the truth. Perhaps I am a great
sinner; perhaps that is why I am so sad, why I have no peace. Some hand
seems laid on me, weighing me down, as though I were in prison, and the
walls would fall on me directly. Why is it others don't feel this? Whom
shall I love, if I am cold to my own people? It's clear, papa is right;
he reproaches me for loving nothing but cats and dogs. I must think
about that. I pray very little; I must pray.... Ah, I think I should
know how to love!... I am still shy with Mr. Insarov. I don't know why;
I believe I'm not schoolgirlish generally, and he is so simple and kind.
Sometimes he has a very serious face. He can't give much thought to us.
I feel that, and am ashamed in a way to take up his time. With Andrei
Petrovitch it's quite a different thing. I am ready to chat with him the
whole day long. But he too always talks of Insarov. And such terrible
facts he tells me about him! I saw him in a dream last night with a
dagger in his hand. And he seemed to say to me, "I will kill you and I
will kill myself!" What silliness!

'Oh, if some one would say to me: "There, that's what you must do!"
Being good--isn't much; doing good... yes, that's the great thing in
life. But how is one to do good? Oh, if I could learn to control myself!
I don't know why I am so often thinking of Mr. Insarov. When he comes
and sits and listens intently, but makes no effort, no exertion himself,
I look at him, and feel pleased, and that's all, and when he goes, I
always go over his words, and feel vexed with myself, and upset even. I
can't tell why. (He speaks French badly and isn't ashamed of it--I like
that.) I always think a lot about new people, though. As I talked to
him, I suddenly was reminded of our butler, Vassily, who rescued an old
cripple out of a hut that was on fire, and was almost killed himself.
Papa called him a brave fellow, mamma gave him five roubles, and I
felt as though I could fall at his feet. And he had a simple
face--stupid-looking even--and he took to drink later on....

'I gave a penny to-day to a beggar woman, and she said to me, "Why are
you so sorrowful?" I never suspected I looked sorrowful. I think it must
come from being alone, always alone, for better, for worse! There is no
one to stretch out a hand to me. Those who come to me, I don't want; and
those I would choose--pass me by.

'... I don't know what's the matter with me to-day; my head is confused,
I want to fall on my knees and beg and pray for mercy. I don't know by
whom or how, but I feel as if I were being tortured, and inwardly I
am shrieking in revolt; I weep and can't be quiet.... O my God, subdue
these outbreaks in me! Thou alone canst aid me, all else is useless; my
miserable alms-giving, my studies can do nothing, nothing, nothing to
help me. I should like to go out as a servant somewhere, really; that
would do me good.

'What is my youth for, what am I living for, why have I a soul, what is
it all for?

'... Insarov, Mr. Insarov--upon my word I don't know how to write--still
interests me, I should like to know what he has within, in his soul? He
seems so open, so easy to talk to, but I can see nothing. Sometimes he
looks at me with such searching eyes--or is that my fancy? Paul keeps
teasing me. I am angry with Paul. What does he want? He's in love with
me... but his love's no good to me. He's in love with Zoya too. I'm
unjust to him; he told me yesterday I didn't know how to be unjust by
halves... that's true. It's very horrid.

'Ah, I feel one needs unhappiness, or poverty or sickness, or else one
gets conceited directly.

'... What made Andrei Petrovitch tell me to-day about those two
Bulgarians! He told me it as it were with some intention. What have I to
do with Mr. Insarov? I feel cross with Andrei Petrovitch.

'... I take my pen and don't know how to begin. How unexpectedly he
began to talk to me in the garden to-day! How friendly and confiding
he was! How quickly it happened! As if we were old, old friends and had
only just recognised each other. How could I have not understood him
before? How near he is to me now! And--what's so wonderful--I feel ever
so much calmer now. It's ludicrous; yesterday I was angry with Andrei
Petrovitch, and angry with him, I even called him _Mr. Insarov_, and
to-day... Here at last is a true man; some one one may depend upon. He
won't tell lies; he's the first man I have met who never tells lies; all
the others tell lies, everything's lying. Andrei Petrovitch, dear good
friend, why do I wrong you? No! Andrei Petrovitch is more learned than
he is, even, perhaps more intellectual. But I don't know, he seems so
small beside him. When he speaks of his country he seems taller, and his
face grows handsome, and his voice is like steel, and... no... it seems
as though there were no one in the world before whom he would flinch.
And he doesn't only talk.... he has acted and he will act I shall ask
him.... How suddenly he turned to me and smiled!... It's only brothers
that smile like that! Ah, how glad I am! When he came the first time, I
never dreamt that we should so soon get to know each other. And now I am
even pleased that I remained indifferent to him at first. Indifferent?
Am I not indifferent then now?... It's long since I have felt such
inward peace. I feel so quiet, so quiet. And there's nothing to write? I
see him often and that's all. What more is there to write?

'... Paul shuts himself up, Andrei Petrovitch has taken to coming less
often.... poor fellow! I fancy he... But that can never be, though.
I like talking to Andrei Petrovitch; never a word of self, always of
something sensible, useful. Very different from Shubin. Shubin's as fine
as a butterfly, and admires his own finery; which butterflies don't do.
But both Shubin and Andrei Petrovitch.... I know what I mean.

'... He enjoys coming to us, I see that. But why? what does he find in
me? It's true our tastes are alike; he and I, both of us don't care for
poetry; neither of us knows anything of art. But how much better he
is than I! He is calm, I am in perpetual excitement; he has chosen his
path, his aim--while I--where am I going? where is my home? He is calm,
but all his thoughts are far away. The time will come, and he will leave
us for ever, will go home, there over the sea. Well? God grant he may!
Any way I shall be glad that I knew him, while he was here.

'Why isn't he a Russian? No, he could not be Russian.

'Mamma too likes him; she says: an unassuming young man. Dear mamma! She
does not understand him. Paul says nothing; he guessed I didn't like his
hints, but he's jealous of him. Spiteful boy! And what right has he? Did
I ever... All that's nonsense! What makes all that come into my head?

'... Isn't it strange though, that up till now, up to twenty, I have
never loved any one! I believe that the reason why D.'s (I shall
call him D.--I like that name Dmitri) soul is so clear, is that he is
entirely given up to his work, his ideal. What has he to trouble about?
When any one has utterly... utterly... given himself up, he has little
sorrow, he is not responsible for anything. It's not _I want, but _it_
wants. By the way, he and I both love the same flowers. I picked a rose
this morning, one leaf fell, he picked it up.... I gave him the whole
rose.

'... D. often comes to us. Yesterday he spent the whole evening. He
wants to teach me Bulgarian. I feel happy with him, quite at home, more
than at home.

'... The days fly past.... I am happy, and somehow discontent and I am
thankful to God, and tears are not far off. Oh these hot bright days!

'... I am still light-hearted as before, and only at times, and only a
little, sad. I am happy. Am I happy?

'... It will be long before I forget the expedition yesterday. What
strange, new, terrible impressions when he suddenly took that great
giant and flung him like a ball into the water. I was not frightened ...
yet he frightened me. And afterwards--what an angry face, almost cruel!
How he said, "He will swim out!" It gave me a shock. So I did not
understand him. And afterwards when they all laughed, when I was
laughing, how I felt for him! He was ashamed, I felt that he was ashamed
before me. He told me so afterwards in the carriage in the dark, when I
tried to get a good view of him and was afraid of him. Yes, he is not
to be trifled with, and he is a splendid champion. But why that wicked
look, those trembling lips, that angry fire in his eyes? Or is it,
perhaps, inevitable? Isn't it possible to be a man, a hero, and to
remain soft and gentle? "Life is a coarse business," he said to me once
lately. I repeated that saying to Andrei Petrovitch; he did not agree
with D. Which of them is right? But the beginning of that day! How happy
I was, walking beside him, even without speaking. ... But I am glad of
what happened. I see that it was quite as it should be.

'... Restlessness again... I am not quite well.... All these days I have
written nothing in this book, because I have had no wish to write. I
felt, whatever I write, it won't be what is in my heart. ... And what
is in my heart? I have had a long talk with him, which revealed a great
deal. He told me his plan (by the way, I know now how he got the wound
in his neck.... Good God! when I think he was actually condemned
to death, that he was only just saved, that he was wounded.... ) He
prophesies war and will be glad of it. And for all that, I never saw D.
so depressed. What can he... he!... be depressed by? Papa arrived home
from town and came upon us two. He looked rather queerly at us. Andrei
Petrovitch came; I noticed he had grown very thin and pale. He reproved
me, saying I behave too coldly and inconsiderately to Shubin. I had
utterly forgotten Paul's existence. I will see him, and try to smooth
over my offence. He is nothing to me now... nor any one else in the
world. Andrei Petrovitch talked to me in a sort of commiserating way.
What does it all mean? Why is everything around me and within me so
dark? I feel as if about me and within me, something mysterious were
happening, for which I want to find the right word.... I did not sleep
all night; my head aches. What's the good of writing? He went away so
quickly to-day and I wanted to talk to him.... He almost seems to avoid
me. Yes, he avoids me.

'... The word is found, light has dawned on me! My God, have pity on
me.... I love him!'

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