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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOn The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 7
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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 7 Post by :astoller Category :Long Stories Author :Ivan Turgenev Date :May 2012 Read :3214

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On The Eve: A Novel - Chapter 7

Chapter VII

The next day at twelve o'clock, Bersenyev set off in a return coach
to Moscow. He had to get some money from the post-office, to buy some
books, and he wanted to seize the opportunity to see Insarov and have
some conversation with him. The idea had occurred to Bersenyev, in the
course of his last conversation with Shubin, to invite Insarov to stay
with him at his country lodgings. But it was some time before he found
him out; from his former lodging he had moved to another, which it was
not easy to discover; it was in the court at the back of a squalid stone
house, built in the Petersburg style, between Arbaty Road and Povarsky
Street. In vain Bersenyev wandered from one dirty staircase to another,
in vain he called first to a doorkeeper, then to a passer-by. Porters
even in Petersburg try to avoid the eyes of visitors, and in Moscow much
more so; no one answered Bersenyev's call; only an inquisitive tailor,
in his shirt sleeves, with a skein of grey thread on his shoulder,
thrust out from a high casement window a dirty, dull, unshorn face, with
a blackened eye; and a black and hornless goat, clambering up on to a
dung heap, turned round, bleated plaintively, and went on chewing the
cud faster than before. A woman in an old cloak, and shoes trodden
down at heel, took pity at last on Bersenyev and pointed out Insarov's
lodging to him. Bersenyev found him at home. He had taken a room with
the very tailor who had stared down so indifferently at the perplexity
of a wandering stranger; a large, almost empty room, with dark green
walls, three square windows, a tiny bedstead in one corner, a little
leather sofa in another, and a huge cage hung up to the very ceiling;
in this cage there had once lived a nightingale. Insarov came to meet
Bersenyev directly he crossed the threshold, but he did not exclaim,
'Ah, it's you!' or 'Good Heavens, what happy chance has brought you?' He
did not even say, 'How do you do?' but simply pressed his hand and led
him up to the solitary chair in the room.

'Sit down,' he said, and he seated himself on the edge of the table.

'I am, as you see, still in disorder,' added Insarov, pointing to a pile
of papers and books on the floor, 'I haven't got settled in as I ought.
I have not had time yet.'

Insarov spoke Russian perfectly correctly, pronouncing every word fully
and purely; but his guttural though pleasant voice sounded somehow not
Russian. Insarov's foreign extraction (he was a Bulgarian by birth)
was still more clearly marked in his appearance; he was a young man
of five-and-twenty, spare and sinewy, with a hollow chest and knotted
fingers; he had sharp features, a hooked nose, blue-black hair, a low
forehead, small, intent-looking, deep-set eyes, and bushy eyebrows; when
he smiled, splendid white teeth gleamed for an instant between his thin,
hard, over-defined lips. He was in a rather old but tidy coat, buttoned
up to the throat.

'Why did you leave your old lodging?' Bersenyev asked him.

'This is cheaper, and nearer to the university.'

'But now it's vacation.... And what could induce you to stay in the
town in summer! You should have taken a country cottage if you were
determined to move.'

Insarov made no reply to this remark, and offered Bersenyev a pipe,
adding: 'Excuse me, I have no cigarettes or cigars.'

Bersenyev began smoking the pipe.

'Here have I,' he went on, 'taken a little house near Kuntsovo, very
cheap and very roomy. In fact there is a room to spare upstairs.'

Insarov again made no answer.

Bersenyev drew at the pipe: 'I have even been thinking,' he began
again, blowing out the smoke in a thin cloud, 'that if any one could
be found--you, for instance, I thought of--who would care, who would
consent to establish himself there upstairs, how nice it would be! What
do you think, Dmitri Nikanorovitch?'

Insarov turned his little eyes on him. 'You propose my staying in your
country house?'

'Yes; I have a room to spare there upstairs.'

'Thanks very much, Andrei Petrovitch; but I expect my means would not
allow of it.'

'How do you mean?'

'My means would not allow of my living in a country house. It's
impossible for me to keep two lodgings.'

'But of course I'--Bersenyev was beginning, but he stopped short. 'You
would have no extra expense in that way,' he went on. 'Your lodging here
would remain for you, let us suppose; but then everything there is very
cheap; we could even arrange so as to dine, for instance, together.'

Insarov said nothing. Bersenyev began to feel awkward.

'You might at least pay me a visit sometime,' he began, after a short
pause. 'A few steps from me there's a family living with whom I want
very much to make you acquainted. If only you knew, Insarov, what a
marvellous girl there is there! There is an intimate friend of mine
staying there too, a man of great talent; I am sure you would get on
with him. (The Russian loves to be hospitable--of his friends if he can
offer nothing else.) Really, you must come. And what would be better
still, come and stay with me, do. We could work and read together....
I am busy, as you know, with history and philosophy. All that would
interest you. I have a lot of books.'

Insarov got up and walked about the room. 'Let me know,' he said, 'how
much do you pay for your cottage?'

'A hundred silver roubles.'

'And how many rooms are there?'

'Five.'

'Then one may reckon that one room costs twenty roubles?'

'Yes, one may reckon so.... But really it's utterly unnecessary for me.
It simply stands empty.'

'Perhaps so; but listen,' added Insarov, with a decided, but at the same
time good-natured movement of his head: 'I can only take advantage of
your offer if you agree to take the sum we have reckoned. Twenty roubles
I am able to give, the more easily, since, as you say, I shall be
economising there in other things.'

'Of course; but really I am ashamed to take it.'

'Otherwise it's impossible, Andrei Petrovitch.'

'Well, as you like; but what an obstinate fellow you are!'

Insarov again made no reply.

The young men made arrangements as to the day on which Insarov was to
move. They called the landlord; at first he sent his daughter, a little
girl of seven, with a large striped kerchief on her head; she listened
attentively, almost with awe, to all Insarov said to her, and went away
without speaking; after her, her mother, a woman far gone with child,
made her appearance, also wearing a kerchief on her head, but a very
diminutive one. Insarov informed her that he was going to stay at a
cottage near Kuntsovo, but should keep on his lodging and leave all his
things in their keeping; the tailor's wife too seemed scared and
went away. At last the man himself came in: he seemed to understand
everything from the first, and only said gloomily: 'Near Kuntsovo?' then
all at once he opened the door and shouted: 'Are you going to keep the
lodgings then?' Insarov reassured him. 'Well, one must know,' repeated
the tailor morosely, as he disappeared.

Bersenyev returned home, well content with the success of his proposal.
Insarov escorted him to the door with cordial good manners, not common
in Russia; and, when he was left alone, carefully took off his coat, and
set to work upon sorting his papers.

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