Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ivan Turgenev > A House of Gentlefolk > Chapter XV
Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883).  A House of Gentlefolk.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Chapter XV
AND so his offer was accepted, but on certain conditions. In the first place, Lavretsky was at once to leave the university; who would be married to a student, and what a strange idea too—how could a landowner, a rich man, at twenty-six, take lessons and be at school? Secondly, Varvara Pavlovna took upon herself the labour of ordering and purchasing her trousseau, and even choosing her present from the bridegroom. She had much practical sense, a great deal of taste, and a very great love of comfort, together with a great faculty for obtaining it for herself. Lavretsky was especially struck by this faculty when, immediately after their wedding, he travelled alone with his wife in the comfortable carriage, bought by her, to Lavriky. How carefully everything with which he was surrounded had been thought of, devised and provided beforehand by Varvara Pavlovna! What charming travelling knick-knacks appeared from various snug corners, what fascinating toilet-cases and coffee-pots, and how delightfully Varvara Pavlovna herself made the coffee in the morning! Lavretsky, however, was not at that time disposed to be observant; he was blissful, drunk with happiness; he gave himself up to it like a child. Indeed he was as innocent as a child, this young Hercules. Not in vain was the whole personality of his young wife breathing with fascination; not in vain was her promise to the senses of a mysterious luxury of untold bliss; her fulfilment was richer than her promise. When she reached Lavriky in the very height of the summer, she found the house dark and dirty, the servants absurd and old-fashioned, but she did not think it necessary even to hint at this to her husband. If she had proposed to establish herself at Lavriky, she would have changed everything in it, beginning of course with the house; but the idea of staying in that out-of-the-way corner of the steppes never entered her head for an instant; she lived as in a tent, good-temperedly putting up with all its inconveniences, and indulgently making merry over them. Marfa Timofyevna came to pay a visit to her former charge; Varvara Pavlovna liked her very much, but she did not like Varvara Pavlovna. The new mistress did not get on with Glafira Petrovna either; she would have left her in peace, but old Korobyin wanted to have a hand in the management of his son-in-law’s affairs; to superintend the property of such a near relative, he said, was not beneath the dignity even of a general. One must add that Pavel Petrovitch would not have been above managing the property even of a total stranger. Varvara Pavlovna conducted her attack very skilfully, without taking any step in advance, apparently completely absorbed in the bliss of the honeymoon, in the peaceful life of the country, in music and reading, she gradually worked Glafira up to such a point that she rushed one morning, like one possessed, into Lavretsky’s study, and throwing a bunch of keys on the table, she declared that she was not equal to undertaking the management any longer, and did not want to stop in the place. Lavretsky, having been suitably prepared beforehand, at once agreed to her departure. This Glafira Petrovna had not anticipated. ‘Very well,’ she said, and her face darkened, ‘I see that I am not wanted here! I know who is driving me out of the home of my fathers. Only you mark my words, nephew; you will never make a home anywhere, you will come to be a wanderer for ever. That is my last word to you.’ The same day she went away to her own little property, and in a week General Korobyin was there, and with a pleasant melancholy in his looks and movements he took the superintendence of the whole property into his hands.   1
  In the month of September, Varvara Pavlovna carried her husband off to Petersburg. She passed two winters in Petersburg (for the summer she went to stay at Tsarskoe Selo), in a splendid, light, artistically-furnished flat; they made many acquaintances among the middle and even higher ranks of society; went out and entertained a great deal, and gave the most charming dances and musical evenings. Varvara Pavlovna attracted guests as a fire attracts moths. Fedor Ivanitch did not altogether like such a frivolous life. His wife advised him to take some office under government; but from old association with his father, and also through his own ideas, he was unwilling to enter government service, still he remained in Petersburg for Varvara Pavlovna’s pleasure. He soon discovered, however, that no one hindered him from being alone; that it was not for nothing that he had the quietest and most comfortable study in all Petersburg; that his tender wife was even ready to aid him to be alone; and from that time forth all went well. He again applied himself to his own, as he considered, unfinished education; he began again to read, and even began to learn English. It was a strange sight to see his powerful, broad-shouldered figure for ever bent over his writing table, his full-bearded ruddy face half buried in the pages of a dictionary or note-book. Every morning he set to work, then had a capital dinner (Varvara Pavlovna was unrivaled as a housekeeper), and in the evenings he entered an enchanted world of light and perfume, peopled by gay young faces, and the centre of this world was also the careful housekeeper, his wife. She rejoiced his heart by the birth of a son, but the poor child did not live long; it died in the spring, and in the summer, by the advice of the doctors, Lavretsky took his wife abroad to a watering-place. Distraction was essential for her after such a trouble, and her health, too, required a warm climate. The summer and autumn they spent in Germany and Switzerland, and for the winter, as one would naturally expect, they went to Paris. In Paris, Varvara Pavlovna bloomed like a rose, and was able to make herself a little nest as quickly and cleverly as in Petersburg. She found very pretty apartments in one of the quiet but fashionable streets in Paris; she embroidered her husband such a dressing-gown as he had never worn before; engaged a coquettish waiting maid, an excellent cook, and a smart footman, procured a fascinating carriage, and an exquisite piano. Before a week had passed, she crossed the street, wore her shawl, opened her parasol, and put on her gloves in a manner equal to the most true-born Parisian. And she soon drew round herself acquaintances. At first, only Russians visited her, afterwards Frenchmen too, very agreeable, polite, and unmarried, with excellent manners and well-sounding names; they all talked a great deal and very fast, bowed easily, grimaced agreeably; their white teeth flashed under their rosy lips—and how they could smile! All of them brought their friends, and la belle Madame de Lavretsky was soon known from Chaussée d’Antin to Rue de Lille. In those days—it was in 1836—there had not yet arisen the tribe of journalists and reporters who now swarm on all sides like ants in an ant-hill; but even then there was seen in Varvara Pavlovna’s salon a certain M. Jules, a gentleman of unprepossessing exterior, with a scandalous reputation, insolent and mean, like all duellists and men who have been beaten. Varvara Pavlovna felt a great aversion to this M. Jules, but she received him because he wrote for various journals, and was incessantly mentioning her, calling her at one time Madame de L——tski, at another Madame de ——, cette grande dame russe si distinguée, qui demeure rue de P—— and telling all the world, that is, some hundreds of readers who had nothing to do with Madame de L——tski, how charming and delightful this lady was; a true Frenchwoman in intelligence (une vraie française par l’esprit)—Frenchmen have no higher praise than this—what an extraordinary musician she was, and how marvellously she waltzed (Varvara Pavlovna did in fact waltz so that she drew all her hearts to the hem of her light flying skirts)——in a word, he spread her fame through the world, and, whatever one may say, that is pleasant. Mademoiselle Mars had already left the stage, and Mademoiselle Rachel had not yet made her appearance; nevertheless, Varvara Pavlovna was assiduous in visiting the theatres. She went into raptures over Italian music, yawned decorously at the Comédie Française, and wept at the acting of Madame Dorval in some ultra-romantic melodrama; and a great thing—Liszt played twice in her salon, and was so kind, so simple—it was charming! In such agreeable sensations was spent the winter, at the end of which Varvara Pavlovna was even presented at court. Fedor Ivanitch, for his part, was not bored, though his life, at times, weighed rather heavily on him—because it was empty. He read the papers, listened to the lectures at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France, followed the debates in the Chambers, and set to work on a translation of a well-known scientific treatise on irrigation. ‘I am not wasting my time,’ he thought, ‘it is all of use; but next winter I must, without fail, return to Russia and set to work.’ It is difficult to say whether he had any clear idea of precisely what this work would consist of; and there is no telling whether he would have succeeded in going to Russia in the winter; in the meantime, he was going with his wife to Baden … An unexpected incident broke up all his plans.   2


Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors