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- Rudin - 5/32 -
'Oh, Lezhnyov! was he driving somewhere?'
'Yes, and fancy; he was in a racing droshky, and dressed in a kind of linen sack, all covered with dust. . . . What a queer creature he is!'
'Perhaps so; but he's a capital fellow.'
'Who? Mr. Lezhnyov?' inquired Pandalevsky, as though he were surprised.
'Yes, Mihailo Mihailitch Lezhnyov,' replied Volintsev. 'Well, good-bye; it's time I was off to the field; they are sowing your buckwheat. Mr. Pandalevsky will escort you home.' And Volintsev rode off at a trot.
'With the greatest of pleasure!' cried Konstantin Diomiditch, offering Alexandra Pavlovna his arm.
She took it and they both turned along the path to her house.
Walking with Alexandra Pavlovna on his arm seemed to afford Konstantin Diomiditch great delight; he moved with little steps, smiling, and his Oriental eyes were even be-dimmed by a slight moisture, though this indeed was no rare occurrence with them; it did not mean much for Konstantin Diomiditch to be moved and dissolve into tears. And who would not have been pleased to have on his arm a pretty, young and graceful woman? Of Alexandra Pavlovna the whole of her district was unanimous in declaring that she was charming, and the district was not wrong. Her straight, ever so slightly tilted nose would have been enough alone to drive any man out of his senses, to say nothing of her velvety dark eyes, her golden brown hair, the dimples in her smoothly curved cheeks, and her other beauties. But best of all was the sweet expression of her face; confiding, good and gentle, it touched and attracted at the same time. Alexandra Pavlovna had the glance and the smile of a child; other ladies found her a little simple. . . . Could one wish for anything more?
'Darya Mihailovna sent you to me, did you say?' she asked Pandalevsky.
'Yes; she sent me,' he answered, pronouncing the letter _s_ like the English _th_. 'She particularly wishes and told me to beg you very urgently to be so good as to dine with her to-day. She is expecting a new guest whom she particularly wishes you to meet'
'Who is it?'
'A certain Muffel, a baron, a gentleman of the bed-chamber from Petersburg. Darya Mihailovna made his acquaintance lately at the Prince Garin's, and speaks of him in high terms as an agreeable and cultivated young man. His Excellency the baron is interested, too, in literature, or more strictly speaking----ah! what an exquisite butterfly! pray look at it!----more strictly speaking, in political economy. He has written an essay on some very interesting question, and wants to submit it to Darya Mihailovna's criticism.'
'An article on political economy?'
'From the literary point of view, Alexandra Pavlovna, from the literary point of view. You are well aware, I suppose, that in that line Darya Mihailovna is an authority. Zhukovsky used to ask her advice, and my benefactor, who lives at Odessa, that benevolent old man, Roxolan Mediarovitch Ksandrika----No doubt you know the name of that eminent man?'
'No; I have never heard of him.'
'You never heard of such a man? surprising! I was going to say that Roxolan Mediarovitch always had the very highest opinion of Darya Mihailovna's knowledge of Russian!
'Is this baron a pedant then?' asked Alexandra Pavlovna.
'Not in the very least. Darya Mihailovna says, on the contrary, that you see that he belongs to the best society at once. He spoke of Beethoven with such eloquence that even the old prince was quite delighted by it. That, I own, I should like to have heard; you know that is in my line. Allow me to offer you this lovely wild-flower.'
Alexandra Pavlovna took the flower, and when she had walked a few steps farther, let it drop on the path. They were not more than two hundred paces from her house. It had been recently built and whitewashed, and looked out hospitably with its wide light windows from the thick foliage of the old limes and maples.
'So what message do you give me for Darya Mihailovna?' began Pandalevsky, slightly hurt at the fate of the flower he had given her. 'Will you come to dinner? She invites your brother too.'
'Yes; we will come, most certainly. And how is Natasha?'
'Natalya Alexyevna is well, I am glad to say. But we have already passed the road that turns off to Darya Mihailovna's. Allow me to bid you good-bye.'
Alexandra Pavlovna stopped. 'But won't you come in?' she said in a hesitating voice.
'I should like to, indeed, but I am afraid it is late. Darya Mihailovna wishes to hear a new etude of Thalberg's, so I must practise and have it ready. Besides, I am doubtful, I must confess, whether my visit could afford you any pleasure.'
'Oh, no! why?'
Pandalevsky sighed and dropped his eyes expressively.
'Good-bye, Alexandra Pavlovna!' he said after a slight pause; then he bowed and turned back.
Alexandra Pavlovna turned round and went home.
Konstantin Diomiditch, too, walked homewards. All softness had vanished at once from his face; a self-confident, almost hard expression came into it. Even his walk was changed; his steps were longer and he trod more heavily. He had walked about two miles, carelessly swinging his cane, when all at once he began to smile again: he saw by the roadside a young, rather pretty peasant girl, who was driving some calves out of an oat-field. Konstantin Diomiditch approached the girl as warily as a cat, and began to speak to her. She said nothing at first, only blushed and laughed, but at last she hid her face in her sleeve, turned away, and muttered:
'Go away, sir; upon my word . . .'
Konstantin Diomiditch shook his finger at her and told her to bring him some cornflowers.
'What do you want with cornflowers?--to make a wreath?' replied the girl; 'come now, go along then.'
'Stop a minute, my pretty little dear,' Konstantin Diomiditch was beginning.
'There now, go along,' the girl interrupted him, 'there are the young gentlemen coming.'
Konstantin Diomiditch looked round. There really were Vanya and Petya, Darya Mihailovna's sons, running along the road; after them walked their tutor, Bassistoff, a young man of two-and-twenty, who had only just left college. Bassistoff was a well-grown youth, with a simple face, a large nose, thick lips, and small pig's eyes, plain and awkward, but kind, good, and upright. He dressed untidily and wore his hair long--not from affectation, but from laziness; he liked eating and he liked sleeping, but he also liked a good book, and an earnest conversation, and he hated Pandalevsky from the depths of his soul.
Darya Mihailovna's children worshipped Bassistoff, and yet were not in the least afraid of him; he was on a friendly footing with all the rest of the household, a fact which was not altogether pleasing to its mistress, though she was fond of declaring that for her social prejudices did not exist.
'Good-morning, my dears,' began Konstantin Diomiditch, 'how early you have come for your walk to-day! But I,' he added, turning to Bassistoff, 'have been out a long while already; it's my passion--to enjoy nature.'
'We saw how you were enjoying nature,' muttered Bassistoff.
'You are a materialist, God knows what you are imagining! I know you.' When Pandalevsky spoke to Bassistoff or people like him, he grew slightly irritated, and pronounced the letter _s_ quite clearly, even with a slight hiss.
'Why, were you asking your way of that girl, am I to suppose?' said Bassistoff, shifting his eyes to right and to left.
He felt that Pandalevsky was looking him straight in the face, and this fact was exceedingly unpleasant to him. 'I repeat, a materialist and nothing more.'
'You certainly prefer to see only the prosaic side in everything.'
'Boys!' cried Bassistoff suddenly, 'do you see that willow at the corner? let's see who can get to it first. One! two! three! and away!'
The boys set off at full speed to the willow. Bassistoff rushed after them.
'What a lout!' thought Pandalevsky, 'he is spoiling those boys. A perfect peasant!'
And looking with satisfaction at his own neat and elegant figure, Konstantin Diomiditch struck his coat-sleeve twice with his open hand, pulled up his collar, and went on his way. When he had reached his own room, he put on an old dressing-gown and sat down with an anxious face to the piano.
Darya Mihailovna's house was regarded as almost the first in the whole province. It was a huge stone mansion, built after designs of Rastrelli in the taste of last century, and in a commanding position on the summit of a hill, at whose base flowed one of the principal rivers of central Russia. Darya Mihailovna herself was a wealthy and distinguished lady, the widow of a privy councillor. Pandalevsky said of her, that she knew all Europe and all Europe knew her! However,
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