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- Rudin - 10/32 -
remarkable man. His clothes were so shabby, so little was known of him. Every one felt it strange and incomprehensible that such a clever man should have suddenly made his appearance in the country. He seemed all the more wonderful and, one may even say, fascinating to all of them, beginning with Darya Mihailovna. She was pluming herself on having discovered him, and already at this early date was dreaming of how she would introduce Rudin into the world. In her quickness to receive impressions there was much that was almost childish, in spite of her years. Alexandra Pavlovna, to tell the truth, understood little of all that Rudin said, but was full of wonder and delight; her brother too was admiring him. Pandalevsky was watching Darya Mihailovna and was filled with envy. Pigasov thought, 'If I have to give five hundred roubles I will get a nightingale to sing better than that!' But the most impressed of all the party were Bassistoff and Natalya. Scarcely a breath escaped Bassistoff; he sat the whole time with open mouth and round eyes and listened--listened as he had never listened to any one in his life--while Natalya's face was suffused by a crimson flush, and her eyes, fastened unwaveringly on Rudin, were both dimmed and shining.
'What splendid eyes he has!' Volintsev whispered to her.
'Yes, they are.'
'It's only a pity his hands are so big and red.'
Natalya made no reply.
Tea was brought in. The conversation became more general, but still by the sudden unanimity with which every one was silent, directly Rudin opened his mouth, one could judge of the strength of the impression he had produced. Darya Mihailovna suddenly felt inclined to tease Pigasov. She went up to him and said in an undertone, 'Why don't you speak instead of doing nothing but smile sarcastically? Make an effort, challenge him again,' and without waiting for him to answer, she beckoned to Rudin.
'There's one thing more you don't know about him,' she said to him, with a gesture towards Pigasov,--'he is a terrible hater of women, he is always attacking them; pray, show him the true path.'
Rudin involuntarily looked down upon Pigasov; he was a head and shoulders taller. Pigasov almost withered up with fury, and his sour face grew pale.
'Darya Mihailovna is mistaken,' he said in an unsteady voice, 'I do not only attack women; I am not a great admirer of the whole human species.'
'What can have given you such a poor opinion of them?' inquired Rudin.
Pigasov looked him straight in the face.
'The study of my own heart, no doubt, in which I find every day more and more that is base. I judge of others by myself. Possibly this too is erroneous, and I am far worse than others, but what am I to do? it's a habit!'
'I understand you and sympathise with you!' was Rudin's rejoinder. 'What generous soul has not experienced a yearning for self-humiliation? But one ought not to remain in that condition from which there is no outlet beyond.'
'I am deeply indebted for the certificate of generosity you confer on my soul,' retorted Pigasov. 'As for my condition, there's not much amiss with it, so that even if there were an outlet from it, it might go to the deuce, I shouldn't look for it!'
'But that means--pardon the expression--to prefer the gratification of your own pride to the desire to be and live in the truth.'
'Undoubtedly,' cried Pigasov, 'pride--that I understand, and you, I expect, understand, and every one understands; but truth, what is truth? Where is it, this truth?'
'You are repeating yourself, let me warn you,' remarked Darya Mihailovna.
Pigasov shrugged his shoulders.
'Well, where's the harm if I do? I ask: where is truth? Even the philosophers don't know what it is. Kant says it is one thing; but Hegel--no, you're wrong, it's something else.'
'And do you know what Hegel says of it?' asked Rudin, without raising his voice.
'I repeat,' continued Pigasov, flying into a passion, 'that I cannot understand what truth means. According to my idea, it doesn't exist at all in the world, that is to say, the word exists but not the thing itself.'
'Fie, fie!' cried Darya Mihailovna, 'I wonder you're not ashamed to say so, you old sinner! No truth? What is there to live for in the world after that?'
'Well, I go so far as to think, Darya Mihailovna,' retorted Pigasov, in a tone of annoyance, 'that it would be much easier for you, in any case, to live without truth than without your cook, Stepan, who is such a master hand at soups! And what do you want with truth, kindly tell me? you can't trim a bonnet with it!'
'A joke is not an argument,' observed Darya Mihailovna, 'especially when you descend to personal insult.'
'I don't know about truth, but I see speaking it does not answer,' muttered Pigasov, and he turned angrily away.
And Rudin began to speak of pride, and he spoke well. He showed that man without pride is worthless, that pride is the lever by which the earth can be moved from its foundations, but that at the same time he alone deserves the name of man who knows how to control his pride, as the rider does his horse, who offers up his own personality as a sacrifice to the general good.
'Egoism,' so he ended, 'is suicide. The egoist withers like a solitary barren tree; but pride, ambition, as the active effort after perfection, is the source of all that is great. . . . Yes! a man must prune away the stubborn egoism of his personality to give it the right of self-expression.'
'Can you lend me a pencil?' Pigasov asked Bassistoff.
Bassistoff did not at once understand what Pigasov had asked him.
'What do you want a pencil for?' he said at last
'I want to write down Mr. Rudin's last sentence. If one doesn't write it down, one might forget it, I'm afraid! But you will own, a sentence like that is such a handful of trumps.'
'There are things which it is a shame to laugh at and make fun of, African Semenitch!' said Bassistoff warmly, turning away from Pigasov.
Meanwhile Rudin had approached Natalya. She got up; her face expressed her confusion. Volintsev, who was sitting near her, got up too.
'I see a piano,' began Rudin, with the gentle courtesy of a travelling prince; 'don't you play on it?'
'Yes, I play,' replied Natalya, 'but not very well. Here is Konstantin Diomiditch plays much better than I do.'
Pandalevsky put himself forward with a simper. 'You should not say that, Natalya Alexyevna; your playing is not at all inferior to mine.'
'Do you know Schubert's "Erlkonig"?' asked Rudin.
'He knows it, he knows it!' interposed Darya Mihailovna. 'Sit down, Konstantin. You are fond of music, Dmitri Nikolaitch?'
Rudin only made a slight motion of the head and ran his hand through his hair, as though disposing himself to listen. Pandalevsky began to play.
Natalya was standing near the piano, directly facing Rudin. At the first sound his face was transfigured. His dark blue eyes moved slowly about, from time to time resting upon Natalya. Pandalevsky finished playing.
Rudin said nothing and walked up to the open window. A fragrant mist lay like a soft shroud over the garden; a drowsy scent breathed from the trees near. The stars shed a mild radiance. The summer night was soft--and softened all. Rudin gazed into the dark garden, and looked round.
'That music and this night,' he began, 'reminded me of my student days in Germany; our meetings, our serenades.'
'You have been in Germany then?' said Darya Mihailovna.
'I spent a year at Heidelberg, and nearly a year at Berlin.'
'And did you dress as a student? They say they wear a special dress there.'
'At Heidelberg I wore high boots with spurs, and a hussar's jacket with braid on it, and I let my hair grow to my shoulders. In Berlin the students dress like everybody else.'
'Tell us something of your student life,' said Alexandra Pavlovna.
Rudin complied. He was not altogether successful in narrative. There was a lack of colour in his descriptions. He did not know how to be humorous. However, from relating his own adventures abroad, Rudin soon passed to general themes, the special value of education and science, universities, and university life generally. He sketched in a large and comprehensive picture in broad and striking lines. All listened to him with profound attention. His eloquence was masterly and attractive, not altogether clear, but even this want of clearness added a special charm to his words.
The exuberance of his thought hindered Rudin from expressing himself definitely and exactly. Images followed upon images; comparisons started up one after another--now startlingly bold, now strikingly true. It was not the complacent effort of the practised speaker, but the very breath of inspiration that was felt in his impatient improvising. He did not seek out his words; they came obediently and spontaneously to his lips, and each word seemed to flow straight from
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