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- On the Eve - 6/36 -


a Schellingist; he used terms which were not always very clear----'

'Andrei Petrovitch,' interrupted Elena, 'excuse my ignorance, what does that mean, a Schellingist?'

Bersenyev smiled slightly.

'A Schellingist means a follower of Schelling, a German philosopher; and what the philosophy of Schelling consists in----'

'Andrei Petrovitch!' cried Shubin suddenly, 'for mercy's sake! Surely you don't mean to give Elena Nikolaevna a lecture on Schelling? Have pity on her!'

'Not a lecture at all,' murmured Bersenyev, turning crimson. 'I meant----'

'And why not a lecture?' put in Elena. 'You and I are in need of lectures, Pavel Yakovlitch.'

Shubin stared at her, and suddenly burst out laughing.

'What are you laughing at?' she said coldly, and almost sharply.

Shubin did not answer.

'Come, don't be angry,' he said, after a short pause. 'I am sorry. But really it's a strange taste, upon my word, to discuss philosophy in weather like this under these trees. Let us rather talk of nightingales and roses, youthful eyes and smiles.'

'Yes; and of French novels, and of feminine frills and fal-lals,' Elena went on.

'Fal-lals, too, of course,' rejoined Shubin, 'if they're pretty.'

'Of course. But suppose we don't want to talk of frills? You are always boasting of being a free artist; why do you encroach on the freedom of others? And allow me to inquire, if that's your bent of mind, why do you attack Zoya? With her it would be peculiarly suitable to talk of frills and roses?'

Shubin suddenly fired up, and rose from the garden seat. 'So that's it?' he began in a nervous voice. 'I understand your hint; you want to send me away to her, Elena Nikolaevna. In other words, I'm not wanted here.'

'I never thought of sending you away from here.'

'Do you mean to say,' Shubin continued passionately, 'that I am not worthy of other society, that I am her equal; that I am as vain, and silly and petty as that mawkish German girl? Is that it?'

Elena frowned. 'You did not always speak like that of her, Pavel Yakovlitch,' she remarked.

'Ah! reproaches! reproaches now!' cried Shubin. 'Well, then I don't deny there was a moment--one moment precisely, when those fresh, vulgar cheeks of hers . . . But if I wanted to repay you with reproaches and remind you . . . Good-bye,' he added suddenly, 'I feel I shall say something silly.'

And with a blow on the clay moulded into the shape of a head, he ran out of the arbour and went off to his room.

'What a baby,' said Elena, looking after him.

'He's an artist,' observed Bersenyev with a quiet smile. 'All artists are like that. One must forgive them their caprices. That is their privilege.'

'Yes,' replied Elena; 'but Pavel has not so far justified his claim to that privilege in any way. What has he done so far? Give me your arm, and let us go along the avenue. He was in our way. We were talking of your father's works.'

Bersenyev took Elena's arm in his, and walked beside her through the garden; but the conversation prematurely broken off was not renewed. Bersenyev began again unfolding his views on the vocation of a professor, and on his own future career. He walked slowly beside Elena, moving awkwardly, awkwardly holding her arm, sometimes jostling his shoulder against her, and not once looking at her; but his talk flowed more easily, even if not perfectly freely; he spoke simply and genuinely, and his eyes, as they strayed slowly over the trunks of the trees, the sand of the path and the grass, were bright with the quiet ardour of generous emotions, while in his soothed voice there was heard the delight of a man who feels that he is succeeding in expressing himself to one very dear to him. Elena listened to him very attentively, and turning half towards him, did not take her eyes off his face, which had grown a little paler--off his eyes, which were soft and affectionate, though they avoided meeting her eyes. Her soul expanded; and something tender, holy, and good seemed half sinking into her heart, half springing up within it.

V

Shubin did not leave his room before night. It was already quite dark; the moon--not yet at the full--stood high in the sky, the milky way shone white, and the stars spotted the heavens, when Bersenyev, after taking leave of Anna Vassilyevna, Elena, and Zoya, went up to his friend's door. He found it locked. He knocked.

'Who is there?' sounded Shubin's voice.

'I,' answered Bersenyev.

'What do you want?'

'Let me in, Pavel; don't be sulky; aren't you ashamed of yourself?'

'I am not sulky; I'm asleep and dreaming about Zoya.'

'Do stop that, please; you're not a baby. Let me in. I want to talk to you.'

'Haven't you had talk enough with Elena?'

'Come, come; let me in!' Shubin responded by a pretended snore.

Bersenyev shrugged his shoulders and turned homewards.

The night was warm and seemed strangely still, as though everything were listening and expectant; and Bersenyev, enfolded in the still darkness, stopped involuntarily; and he, too, listened expectant. On the tree-tops near there was a faint stir, like the rustle of a woman's dress, awaking in him a feeling half-sweet, half-painful, a feeling almost of fright. He felt a tingling in his cheeks, his eyes were chill with momentary tears; he would have liked to move quite noiselessly, to steal along in secret. A cross gust of wind blew suddenly on him; he almost shuddered, and his heart stood still; a drowsy beetle fell off a twig and dropped with a thud on the path; Bersenyev uttered a subdued 'Ah!' and again stopped. But he began to think of Elena, and all these passing sensations vanished at once; there remained only the reviving sense of the night freshness, of the walk by night; his whole soul was absorbed by the image of the young girl. Bersenyev walked with bent head, recalling her words, her questions. He fancied he heard the tramp of quick steps behind. He listened: some one was running, some one was overtaking him; he heard panting, and suddenly from a black circle of shadow cast by a huge tree Shubin sprang out before him, quite pale in the light of the moon, with no cap on his disordered curls.

'I am glad you came along this path,' he said with an effort. 'I should not have slept all night, if I had not overtaken you. Give me your hand. Are you going home?'

'Yes.'

'I will see you home then.'

'But why have you come without a cap on?'

'That doesn't matter. I took off my neckerchief too. It is quite warm.'

The friends walked a few paces.

'I was very stupid to-day, wasn't I?' Shubin asked suddenly.

'To speak frankly, you were. I couldn't make you out. I have never seen you like that before. And what were you angry about really? Such trifles!'

'H'm,' muttered Shubin. 'That's how you put it; but they were not trifles to me. You see,' he went on, 'I ought to point out to you that I--that--you may think what you please of me--I--well there! I'm in love with Elena.'

'You in love with Elena!' repeated Bersenyev, standing still.

'Yes,' pursued Shubin with affected carelessness. 'Does that astonish you? I will tell you something else. Till this evening I still had hopes that she might come to love me in time. But to-day I have seen for certain that there is no hope for me. She is in love with some one else.'

'Some one else? Whom?'

'Whom? You!' cried Shubin, slapping Bersenyev on the shoulder.

'Me!'

'You,' repeated Shubin.

Bersenyev stepped back a pace, and stood motionless. Shubin looked intently at him.

'And does that astonish you? You are a modest youth. But she loves you. You can make your mind easy on that score.'

'What nonsense you talk!' Bersenyev protested at last with an air of vexation.

'No, it's not nonsense. But why are we standing still? Let us go on. It's easier to talk as we walk. I have known her a long while, and I know her well. I cannot be mistaken. You are a man after her own


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