A House of Gentlefolk/Chapter XLIV

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A House of Gentlefolk by Ivan Turgenev, translated by Constance Garnett
Chapter XLIV


The following day was Sunday. The sound of bells ringing for early mass did not wake Lavretsky--he had not closed his eyes all night--but it reminded him of another Sunday, when at Lisa's desire he had gone to church. He got up hastily; some secret voice told him that he would see her there to-day. He went noiselessly out of the house, leaving a message for Varvara Pavlovna that he would be back to dinner, and with long strides he made his way in the direction in which the monotonously mournful bells were calling him. He arrived early; there was scarcely any one in the church; a deacon was reading the service in the chair; the measured drone of his voice--sometimes broken by a cough--fell and rose at even intervals. Lavretsky placed himself not far from the entrance. Worshippers came in one by one, stopped, crossed themselves, and bowed in all directions; their steps rang out in the empty, silent church, echoing back distinctly under the arched roof. An infirm poor little old woman in a worn-out cloak with a hood was on her knees near Lavretsky, praying assiduously; her toothless, yellow, wrinkled face expressed intense emotion; her red eyes were gazing fixedly upwards at the holy figures on the iconostasis; her bony hand was constantly coming out from under her cloak, and slowly and earnestly making a great sign of the cross. A peasant with a bushy beard and a surly face, dishevelled and unkempt, came into the church, and at once fell on both knees, and began directly crossing himself in haste, bending back his head with a shake after each prostration. Such bitter grief was expressed in his face, and in all his actions, that Lavretsky made up his mind to go up to him and ask him what was wrong. The peasant timidly and morosely started back, looked at him. . . . "My son is dead," he articulated quickly, and again fell to bowing to the earth. "What could replace the consolations of the Church to them?" thought Lavretsky; and he tried! himself to pray, but his heart was hard and heavy, and his thoughts were far away. he kept expecting Lisa, but Lisa did not come. The church began to be full of people; but still she was not there. The service commenced, the deacon had already read the gospel, they began ringing for the last prayer; Lavretsky moved a little forward--and suddenly caught sight of Lisa. She had com before him, but he had not seen her; she was hidden in a recess between the wall and the choir, and neither moved nor looked round. Lavretsky did not take his eyes off he till the very end of the service; he was saying farewell to her. The people began to disperse, but she still remained; it seemed as though she were waiting for Lavretsky to go out. at last she crossed herself for the last time and went out--there was only a maid with her--not turning round. Lavretsky went out of the church after her and overtook her in the street; she was walking very quickly, with downcast head, and a veil over her face.

"Good-morning, Lisaveta Mihalovna," he said aloud with assumed carelessness: "may I accompany you?"

She made no reply; he walked beside her.

"Are you content with me?" he asked her, dropping his voice. "Have you heard what happened yesterday?"

"Yes, yes," she replied in a whisper, "that was well." And she went still more quickly.

"Are you content?"

Lisa only bent her head in assent.

"Fedor Ivanitch," she began in a calm but faint voice, "I wanted to beg you not to come to see us any more; go away as soon as possible, we may see each other again later--sometime--in a year. But now, do this for my sake; fulfil my request, for God's sake."

"I am ready to obey you in everything, Lisaveta Mihalovna; but are we really to part like this? will you not say one word to me?"

"Fedor Ivanitch, you are walking near me now . . . . But already you are so far from me. And not only you, but--"

"Speak out, I entreat you!" cried Lavretsky, "what do you mean?"

"You will hear perhaps . . . but whatever it may be, forget . . . no, do not forget; remember me."

"Me forget you--"

"That's enough, good-bye. Do not come after me."

"Lisa!" Lavretsky was beginning.

"Good-bye, good-bye!" she repeated, pulling her veil still lower and almost running forward. Lavretsky looked after her, and with bowed head, turned back along the street. He stumbled up against Lemm, who was also walking along with his eyes on the ground, and his hat pulled down to his nose.

They looked at one another without speaking.

"Well, what have you to say?" Lavretsky brought out at last.

"What have I to say?" returned Lemm, grimly. "I have nothing to say. All is dead, and we are dead (Alles ist todt, und wir sind todt). So you're going to the right, are you?"

"Yes."

"And I go to the left. Good-bye."

The following morning Fedor Ivanitch set off with his wife for Lavriky. She drove in front in the carriage with Ada and Justine; he behind, in the coach. The pretty little girl did not move away from the window the whole journey; she was astonished at everything; the peasants, the women, the wells, the yokes over the horses' heads, the bells and the flocks of crows. Justine shared her wonder. Varvara Pavlovna laughed at their remarks and exclamations. She was in excellent spirits; before leaving town, she had come to an explanation with her husband.

"I understand your position," she said to him, and from the look in her subtle eyes, he was able to infer that she understood his position fully, "but you must do me, at least, this justice, that I am easy to live with; I will not fetter you or hinder you; I wanted to secure Ada's future, I want nothing more."

"Well, you have obtained your object," observed Fedor Ivanitch.

"I only dream of one thing now: to hide myself for ever in obscurity. I shall remember your goodness always."

"Enough of that," he interrupted.

"And I shall know how to respect your independence and tranquillity," she went on, completing the phrases she had prepared.

Lavretsky made her a low bow.

Varvara Pavlovna then believed her husband was thanking her in his heart.

On the evening of the next day they reached Lavriky; a week later, Lavretsky set off for Moscow, leaving his wife five thousand roubles for her household expenses; and the day after Lavretsky's departure, Panshin made his appearance. Varvara Pavlovna had begged him not to forget her in her solitude. She gave him the best possible reception, and, till a late hour of the night, the lofty apartments of the house and even the garden re-echoed with the sound of music, singing, and lively French talk. For three days Varvara Pavlovna entertained Panshin; when he took leave of her, warmly pressing her lovely hands, he promised to come back very soon--and he kept his word.