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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOn The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 32
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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 32 Post by :pGwtech Category :Long Stories Author :Ivan Turgenev Date :May 2012 Read :3649

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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 32

Chapter XXXII

The day of departure drew near. November was already over; the latest
date for starting had come. Insarov had long ago made his preparations,
and was burning with anxiety to get out of Moscow as soon as possible.
And the doctor was urging him on. 'You need a warm climate,' he told
him; 'you will not get well here.' Elena, too, was fretting with
impatience; she was worried by Insarov's pallor, and his emaciation. She
often looked with involuntary terror at his changed face. Her position
in her parents' house had become insupportable. Her mother mourned over
her, as over the dead, while her father treated her with contemptuous
coldness; the approaching separation secretly pained him too, but he
regarded it as his duty--the duty of an offended father--to disguise his
feelings, his weakness. Anna Vassilyevna at last expressed a wish to see
Insarov. He was taken up to her secretly by the back stairs. After he
had entered her room, for a long time she could not speak to him, she
could not even bring herself to look at him; he sat down near her chair,
and waited, with quiet respectfulness, for her first word. Elena sat
down close, and held her mother's hand in hers. At last Anna Vassilyevna
raised her eyes, saying: 'God is your judge, Dmitri Nikanorovitch'--she
stopped short: the reproaches died away on her lips. 'Why, you are ill,'
she cried: 'Elena, your husband's ill!'

'I have been unwell, Anna Vassilyevna,' answered Insarov; 'and even
now I am not quite strong yet: but I hope my native air will make me
perfectly well again.'

'Ah--Bulgaria!' murmured Anna Vassilyevna, and she thought: 'Good God,
a Bulgarian, and dying; a voice as hollow as a drum; and eyes like
saucers, a perfect skeleton; his coat hanging loose on his shoulders,
his face as yellow as a guinea, and she's his wife--she loves him--it
must be a bad dream. But----' she checked herself at once: 'Dmitri
Nikanorovitch,' she said, 'are you absolutely, absolutely bound to go
away?'

'Absolutely, Anna Vassilyevna.'

Anna Vassilyevna looked at him.

'Ah, Dmitri Nikanorovitch, God grant you never have to go through what
I am going through now. But you will promise me to take care of her--to
love her. You will not have to face poverty while I am living!'

Tears choked her voice. She opened her arms, and Elena and Insarov flung
themselves into her embrace.

The fatal day had come at last. It had been arranged that Elena should
say good-bye to her parents at home, and should start on the journey
from Insarov's lodgings. The departure was fixed for twelve o'clock.
About a quarter of an hour before the appointed time Bersenyev arrived.
He had expected to find Insarov's compatriots at his lodgings, anxious
to see him off; but they had already gone before; and with them the
two mysterious persons known to the reader (they had been witnesses at
Insarov's wedding). The tailor met the 'kind gentlemen' with a bow; he,
presumably, to drown his grief, but possibly to celebrate his delight at
getting the furniture, had been drinking heavily; his wife soon led him
away. In the room everything was by this time ready; a trunk, tied
up with cord, stood on the floor. Bersenyev sank into thought: many
memories came rushing upon him.

Twelve o'clock had long ago struck; and the driver had already brought
round the horses, but the 'young people' still did not appear. At last
hurrying steps were heard on the stairs, and Elena came out escorted by
Insarov and Shubin. Elena's eyes were red; she had left her mother lying
unconscious; the parting had been terrible. Elena had not seen Bersenyev
for more than a week: he had been seldom of late at the Stahovs'. She
had not expected to meet him; and crying, 'You! thank you!' she threw
herself on his neck; Insarov, too, embraced him. A painful silence
followed. What could these three say to one another? what were they
feeling in their hearts? Shubin realised the necessity of cutting short
everything painful with light words.

'Our trio has come together again,' he began, 'for the last time. Let us
submit to the decrees of fate; speak of the past with kindness; and in
God's name go forward to the new life! In God's name, on our distant
way,' he began to hum, and stopped short. He felt suddenly ashamed
and awkward. It is a sin to sing where the dead are lying: and at that
instant, in that room, the past of which he had spoken was dying, the
past of the people met together in it. It was dying to be born again in
a new life--doubtless--still it was death.

'Come, Elena,' began Insarov, turning to his wife, 'I think everything
is done? Everything paid, and everything packed. There's nothing more
except to take the box down.' He called his landlord.

The tailor came into the room, together with his wife and daughter. He
listened, slightly reeling, to Insarov's instructions, dragged the box
up on to his shoulders, and ran quickly down the staircases, tramping
heavily with his boots.

'Now, after the Russian custom, we must sit down,' observed Insarov.

They all sat down; Bersenyev seated himself on the old sofa, Elena sat
next him; the landlady and her daughter squatted in the doorway. All
were silent; all smiled constrainedly, though no one knew why he was
smiling; each of them wanted to say something at parting, and each
(except, of course, the landlady and her daughter, they were simply
rolling their eyes) felt that at such moments it is only permissible to
utter common-places, that any word of importance, of sense, or even of
deep feeling, would be somehow out of place, almost insincere. Insarov
was the first to get up, and he began crossing himself. 'Farewell, our
little room!' he cried.

Then came kisses, the sounding but cold kisses of leave-taking, good
wishes--half expressed--for the journey, promises to write, the last,
half-smothered words of farewell.

Elena, all in tears, had already taken her seat in the sledge; Insarov
had carefully wrapped her feet up in a rug; Shubin, Bersenyev, the
landlord, his wife, the little daughter, with the inevitable kerchief
on her head, the doorkeeper, a workman in a striped bedgown, were all
standing on the steps, when suddenly a splendid sledge, harnessed with
spirited horses, flew into the courtyard, and from the sledge, shaking
the snow off the collar of his cloak, leapt Nikolai Artemyevitch.

'I am not too late, thank God,' he cried, running up to their sledge.
'Here, Elena, is our last parental benediction,' he said, bending down
under the hood, and taking from his pocket a little holy image, sewn in
a velvet bag, he put it round her neck. She began to sob, and kiss
his hands; and the coachman meantime pulled out of the forepart of the
sledge a half bottle of champagne, and three glasses.

'Come!' said Nikolai Artemyevitch--and his own tears were trickling on
to the beaver collar of his cloak--'we must drink to--good journey--good
wishes----' He began pouring out the champagne: his hands were shaking,
the foam rose over the edge and fell on to the snow. He took one glass,
and gave the other two to Elena and Insarov, who by now was seated
beside hen 'God give you----' began Nikolai Artemyevitch, and he could
not go on: he drank off the wine; they, too, drank off their glasses.
'Now you should drink, gentlemen,' he added, turning to Shubin and
Bersenyev, but at that instant the driver started the horses. Nikolai
Artemyevitch ran beside the sledge. 'Mind and write to us,' he said in
a broken voice. Elena put out her head, saying: 'Good-bye, papa, Andrei
Petrovitch, Pavel Yakovlitch, good-bye all, good-bye, Russia!' and
dropped back in her place. The driver flourished his whip, and gave a
whistle; the sledge, its runners crunching on the snow, turned out of
the gates to the right and disappeared.

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