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- Rudin - 20/32 -
her 'dainty little African' and her 'hoarse little crow.' Darya Mihailovna laughed, but Pigasov spoke the truth; he really was in a position to boast of his conquests. He maintained that nothing could be easier than to make any woman you chose fall in love with you; you only need repeat to her for ten days in succession that heaven is on her lips and bliss in her eyes, and that the rest of womankind are all simply rag-bags beside her; and on the eleventh day she will be ready to say herself that there is heaven on her lips and bliss in her eyes, and will be in love with you. Everything comes to pass in the world; so who knows, perhaps Pigasov was right?
At half-past nine Rudin was already in the arbour. The stars had come out in the pale, distant depths of the heaven; there was still a red glow where the sun had set, and there the horizon seemed brighter and clearer; a semi-circular moon shone golden through the black network of the weeping birch-tree. The other trees stood like grim giants, with thousands of chinks looking like eyes, or fell into compact masses of darkness. Not a leaf was stirring; the topmost branches of the lilacs and acacias seemed to stretch upwards into the warm air, as though listening for something. The house was a dark mass now; patches of red light showed where the long windows were lighted up. It was a soft and peaceful evening, but under this peace was felt the secret breath of passion.
Rudin stood, his arms folded on his breast, and listened with strained attention. His heart beat violently, and involuntarily he held his breath. At last he caught the sound of light, hurrying footsteps, and Natalya came into the arbour.
Rudin rushed up to her, and took her hands. They were cold as ice.
'Natalya Alexyevna!' he began, in an agitated whisper, 'I wanted to see you. . . . I could not wait till to-morrow. I must tell you what I did not suspect--what I did not realise even this morning. I love you!'
Natalya's hands trembled feebly in his.
'I love you!' he repeated, 'and how could I have deceived myself so long? How was it I did not guess long ago that I love you? And you? Natalya Alexyevna, tell me!'
Natalya could scarcely draw her breath.
'You see I have come here,' she uttered, at last
'No, say that you love me!'
'I think--yes,' she whispered.
Rudin pressed her hands still more warmly, and tried to draw her to him.
Natalya looked quickly round.
'Let me go--I am frightened. . . . I think some one is listening to us. . . . For God's sake, be on your guard. Volintsev suspects.'
'Never mind him! You saw I did not even answer him to-day. . . . Ah, Natalya Alexyevna, how happy I am! Nothing shall sever us now!'
Natalya looked into his eyes.
'Let me go,' she whispered; 'it's time.'
'One instant,' began Rudin.
'No, let me go, let me go.'
'You seem afraid of me.'
'No, but it's time.'
'Repeat, then, at least once more.' . . .
'You say you are happy?' asked Natalya.
'I? No man in the world is happier than I am! Can you doubt it?'
Natalya lifted up her head. Very beautiful was her pale, noble, young face, transformed by passion, in the mysterious shadows of the arbour, in the faint light reflected from the evening sky.
'I tell you then,' she said, 'I will be yours.'
'Oh, my God!' cried Rudin.
But Natalya made her escape, and was gone.
Rudin stood still a little while, then walked slowly out of the arbour. The moon threw a light on his face; there was a smile on his lips.
'I am happy,' he uttered in a half whisper. 'Yes, I am happy,' he repeated, as though he wanted to convince himself.
He straightened his tall figure, shook back his locks, and walked quickly into the garden, with a happy gesture of his hands.
Meanwhile the bushes of the lilac arbour moved apart, and Pandalevsky appeared. He looked around warily, shook his head, pursed up his mouth, and said, significantly, 'So that's how it is. That must be brought to Darya Mihailovna's knowledge.' And he vanished.
On his return home, Volintsev was so gloomy and dejected, he gave his sister such listless answers, and so quickly locked himself up in his room, that she decided to send a messenger to Lezhnyov. She always had recourse to him in times of difficulty. Lezhnyov sent her word that he would come in the next day.
Volintsev was no more cheerful in the morning. After tea he was starting to superintend the work on the estate, but he stayed at home instead, lay on the sofa, and took up a book--a thing he did not often do. Volintsev had no taste for literature, and poetry simply alarmed him. 'This is as incomprehensible as poetry,' he used to say, and, in confirmation of his words, he used to quote the following lines from a Russian poet:--
'And till his gloomy lifetime's close Nor reason nor experience proud Will crush nor crumple Destiny's Ensanguined forget-me-nots.'
Alexandra Pavlovna kept looking uneasily at her brother, but she did not worry him with questions. A carriage drew up at the steps.
'Ah!' she thought, 'Lezhnyov, thank goodness!'
A servant came in and announced the arrival of Rudin.
Volintsev flung his book on the floor, and raised his head. 'Who has come?' he asked.
'Rudin, Dmitri Nikolaitch,' repeated the man. Volintsev got up.
'Ask him in,' he said, 'and you, sister,' he added, turning to Alexandra Pavlovna, 'leave us alone.'
'But why?' she was beginning.
'I have a good reason,' he interrupted, passionately. 'I beg you to leave us.'
Rudin entered. Volintsev, standing in the middle of the room, received him with a chilly bow, without offering his hand.
'Confess you did not expect me,' began Rudin, and he laid his hat down by the window His lips were slightly twitching. He was ill at ease, but tried to conceal his embarrassment.
'I did not expect you, certainly,' replied Volintsev, 'after yesterday. I should have more readily expected some one with a special message from you.'
'I understand what you mean,' said Rudin, taking a seat, 'and am very grateful for your frankness. It is far better so. I have come myself to you, as to a man of honour.'
'Cannot we dispense with compliments?' observed Volintsev.
'I want to explain to you why I have come.'
'We are acquainted; why should you not come? Besides, this is not the first time you have honoured me with a visit.'
'I came to you as one man of honour to another,' repeated Rudin, 'and I want now to appeal to your sense of justice. . . . I have complete confidence in you.'
'What is the matter?' said Volintsev, who all this time was still standing in his original position, staring sullenly at Rudin, and sometimes pulling the ends of his moustache.
'If you would kindly . . . I came here to make an explanation, certainly, but all the same it cannot be done off-hand.'
'A third person is involved in this matter.'
'What third person?'
'Sergei Pavlitch, you understand me?'
'Dmitri Nikolaitch, I don't understand you in the least.'
'I prefer you should speak plainly!' broke in Volintsev.
He was beginning to be angry in earnest.
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