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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOn The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 20
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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 20 Post by :astoller Category :Long Stories Author :Ivan Turgenev Date :May 2012 Read :1796

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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 20

Chapter XX

'Come to my room for a minute,' Shubin said to Bersenyev, directly the
latter had taken leave of Anna Vassilyevna: 'I have something to show
you.'

Bersenyev followed him to his attic. He was surprised to see a number of
studies, statuettes, and busts, covered with damp cloths, set about in
all the corners of the room.

'Well I see you have been at work in earnest,' he observed to Shubin.

'One must do something,' he answered. 'If one thing doesn't do, one must
try another. However, like a true Corsican, I am more concerned with
revenge than with pure art. _Trema, Bisanzia!_'

'I don't understand you,' said Bersenyev.

'Well, wait a minute. Deign to look this way, gracious friend and
benefactor, my vengeance number one.'

Shubin uncovered one figure, and Bersenyev saw a capital bust of
Insarov, an excellent likeness. The features of the face had been
correctly caught by Shubin to the minutest detail, and he had given him
a fine expression, honest, generous, and bold.

Bersenyev went into raptures over it.

'That's simply exquisite!' he cried. 'I congratulate you. You must
send it to the exhibition! Why do you call that magnificent work your
vengeance?'

'Because, sir, I intended to offer this magnificent work as you call it
to Elena Nikolaevna on her name day. Do you see the allegory? We are not
blind, we see what goes on about us, but we are gentlemen, my dear sir,
and we take our revenge like gentlemen.... But here,' added Shubin,
uncovering another figure, 'as the artist according to modern aesthetic
principles enjoys the enviable privilege of embodying in himself every
sort of baseness which he can turn into a gem of creative art, we in
the production of this gem, number two, have taken vengeance not as
gentlemen, but simply en canaille.'

He deftly drew off the cloth, and displayed to Bersenyev's eyes a
statuette in Dantan's style, also of Insarov. Anything cleverer and more
spiteful could not be imagined. The young Bulgarian was represented as
a ram standing on his hind-legs, butting forward with his horns. Dull
solemnity and aggressiveness, obstinacy, clumsiness and narrowness were
simply printed on the visage of the 'sire of the woolly flock,' and yet
the likeness to Insarov was so striking that Bersenyev could not help
laughing.

'Eh? is it amusing?' said Shubin. 'Do you recognise the hero? Do you
advise me to send it too to the exhibition? That, my dear fellow, I
intend as a present for myself on my own name day.... Your honour will
permit me to play the fool.'

And Shubin gave three little leaps, kicking himself behind with his
heels.

Bersenyev picked up the cloth off the floor--and threw it over the
statuette.

'Ah, you, magnanimous'--began Shubin. 'Who the devil was it in history
was so particularly magnanimous? Well, never mind! And now,' he
continued, with melancholy triumph, uncovering a third rather large mass
of clay, 'you shall behold something which will show you the humility
and discernment of your friend. You will realise that he, like a true
artist again, feels the need and the use of self-castigation. Behold!'

The cloth was lifted and Bersenyev saw two heads, modelled side by side
and close as though growing together.... He did not at once know what
was the subject, but looking closer, he recognised in one of them
Annushka, in the other Shubin himself. They were, however, rather
caricatures than portraits. Annushka was represented as a handsome fat
girl with a low forehead, eyes lost in layers of fat, and a saucily
turned-up nose. Her thick lips had an insolent curve; her whole
face expressed sensuality, carelessness, and boldness, not without
goodnature. Himself Shubin had modelled as a lean emaciated rake, with
sunken cheeks, his thin hair hanging in weak wisps about his face, a
meaningless expression in his dim eyes, and his nose sharp and thin as a
dead man's.

Bersenyev turned away with disgust. 'A nice pair, aren't they, my dear
fellow?' said Shubin; 'won't you graciously compose a suitable title?
For the first two I have already thought of titles. On the bust shall be
inscribed: "A hero resolving to liberate his country." On the statuette:
"Look out, sausage-eating Germans!" And for this work what do you think
of "The future of the artist Pavel Yakovlitch Shubin?" Will that do?'

'Leave off,' replied Bersenyev. 'Was it worth while to waste your time
on such a ----' He could not at once fix on a suitable word.

'Disgusting thing, you mean? No, my dear fellow, excuse me, if anything
ought to go to the exhibition, it's that group.'

'It's simply disgusting,' repeated Bersenyev. 'And besides, it's
nonsense. You have absolutely no such degrading tendencies to which,
unhappily, our artists have such a frequent bent. You have simply
libelled yourself.'

'Do you think so?' said Shubin gloomily. 'I have none of them, and
if they come upon me, the fault is all one person's. Do you know,'
he added, tragically knitting his brows, 'that I have been trying
drinking?'

'Nonsense?'

'Yes, I have, by God,' rejoined Shubin; and suddenly grinning and
brightening,--'but I didn't like it, my dear boy, the stuff sticks in my
throat, and my head afterwards is a perfect drum. The great Lushtchihin
himself--Harlampy Lushtchihin--the greatest drunkard in Moscow, and a
Great Russian drunkard too, declared there was nothing to be made of me.
In his words, the bottle does not speak to me.'

Bersenyev was just going to knock the group over but Shubin stopped him.

'That'll do, my dear boy, don't smash it; it will serve as a lesson, a
scare-crow.'

Bersenyev laughed.

'If that's what it is, I will spare your scarecrow then,' he said. And
now, 'Long live eternal true art!'

'Long live true art!' put in Shubin. 'By art the good is better and the
bad is not all loss!'

The friends shook hands warmly and parted.

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Chapter XIXAn hour later, Elena, with her hat in one hand, her cape in the other,walked slowly into the drawing-room of the villa. Her hair was in slightdisorder; on each cheek was to be seen a small bright spot of colour,the smile would not leave her lips, her eyes were nearly shutting andhalf hidden under the lids; they, too, were smiling. She could scarcelymove for weariness, and this weariness was pleasant to her; everything,indeed, was pleasant to her. Everything seemed sweet and friendly toher. Uvar Ivanovitch was sitting at the window; she went up to him, laidher hand on his shoulder,
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