YOU dont recognise me, he said, taking off his hat, but I recognise you in spite of its being seven years since I saw you last. You were a child then. I am Lavretsky. Is your mother at home? Can I see her?
Lisa blushed and thought what a queer man. Lavretsky stopped for an instant in the hall. Lisa went into the drawing-room, where Panshins voice and laugh could be heard; he had been communicating some gossip of the town to Marya Dmitrievna, and Gedeonovsky, who by this time had come in from the garden, and he was himself laughing aloud at the story he was telling. At the name of Lavretsky, Marya Dmitrievna was all in a flutter. She turned pale and went up to meet him.
To think how long it is since we met! observed Marya Dmitrievna dreamily. Where have you come from now? Where did you leave that is, I meant to say, she put in hastily, I meant to say, are you going to be with us for long?
Marya Dmitrievna was again thrown into such a state of agitation that she became quite stiff, and her hands hung lifeless by her sides. Panshin came to her support by entering into conversation with Lavretsky. Marya Dmitrievna regained her composure, she leaned back in her arm-chair and now and then put in a word. But she looked all the while with such sympathy at her guest, sighed so significantly, and shook her head so dejectedly, that the latter at last lost patience and asked her rather sharply if she was unwell.
Marya Dmitrievna assumed a dignified and somewhat offended air. If thats how the land lies, she thought, its absolutely no matter to me; I see, my good fellow, its all like water on a ducks back for you; any other man would have wasted away with grief, but youve grown fat on it. Marya Dmitrievna did not mince matters in her own mind; she expressed herself with more elegance aloud.
Lavretsky certainly did not look like the victim of fate. His rosy-cheeked typical Russian face, with its large white brow, rather thick nose, and wide straight lips seemed breathing with the wild health of the steppes, with vigorous primÆval energy. He was splendidly well-built, and his fair curly hair stood up on his head like a boys. It was only in his blue eyes, with their overhanging brows and somewhat fixed look, that one could trace an expression, not exactly of melancholy, nor exactly of weariness, and his voice had almost too measured a cadence.
Panshin meanwhile continued to keep up the conversation. He turned it upon the profits of sugar-boiling, on which he had lately read two French pamphlets, and with modest composure undertook to expound their contents, without mentioning, however, a single word about the source of his information.
Good God, it is Fedya! came through the half-opened door the voice of Marfa Timofyevna in the next room. Fedya himself! and the old woman ran hurriedly into the room. Lavretsky had not time to get up from his seat before she had him in her arms. Let me have a look at you, she said, holding his face off at arms length. Ah! what a splendid fellow you are! Youve grown older a little, but not a bit changed for the worse, upon my word! But why are you kissing my handskiss my face if youre not afraid of my wrinkled cheeks. You never asked after mewhether your aunt was aliveI warrant: and you were in my arms as soon as you were born, you great rascal! Well, that is nothing to you, I suppose; why should you remember me? But it was a good idea of yours to come back. And pray, she added, turning to Marya Dmitrievna, have you offered him something to eat?
Come, you must at least have some tea, my dear. Lord have mercy on us! He has come from I dont know where, and they dont even give him a cup of tea! Lisa, run and stir them up, and make haste. I remember he was dreadfully greedy when he was a little fellow, and he likes good things now, I daresay.
Pardon me, sir, replied Marfa Timofyevna, for not observing you in my delight. You have grown like your mother, the poor darling, she went on, turning again to Lavretsky, but your nose was always your fathers, and your fathers it has remained. Well, and are you going to be with us for long?
Well, if to-morrow it must be. God bless youyou know best. Only mind you come and say good-bye to me. The old woman patted his cheek. I did not think I should be here to see you; not that I have made up my mind to die yet a whileI shall last another ten years, I daresay: all we Pestovs live long; your late grandfather used to say we had two lives; but you see there was no telling how much longer you were going to dangle about abroad. Well, youre a fine lad, a fine lad; can you lift twenty stone with one hand as you used to do, eh? Your late papa was fantastical in some things, if I may say so; but he did well in having that Swiss to bring you up; do you remember you used to fight with your fists with him?gymnastics, wasnt it they called it? But there, why I am gabbling away like this; I have only been hindering Mr. Panshín (she never pronounced his name Pánshin as was correct) from holding forth. Besides, wed better go and have tea; yes, lets go on to the terrace, my boy, and drink it there; we have some real cream, not like what you get in your Londons and Parises. Come along, come along, and you, Fedusha, give me your arm. Oh! but what an arm it is! Upon my word, no fear of my stumbling with you!
Every one got up and went out on to the terrace, except Gedeonovsky, who quietly took his departure. During the whole of Lavretskys conversation with Marya Dmitrievna, Panshin, and Marfa Timofyevna, he sat in a corner, blinking attentively, with an open mouth of childish curiosity; now he was in haste to spread the news of the new arrival through the town.
At eleven oclock on the evening of the same day, this is what was happening in Madame Kalitins house. Downstairs, Vladimir Nikolaitch, seizing a favourable moment, was taking leave of Lisa at the drawing-room door, and saying to her, as he held her hand, You know who it is draws me here; you know why I am constantly coming to your house; what need of words when all is clear as it is? Lisa did not speak, and looked on the ground, without smiling, with her brows slightly contracted, and a flush on her cheek, but she did not draw away her hands. While up-stairs, in Marfa Timofyevnas room, by the light of a little lamp hanging before the tarnished old holy images, Lavretsky was sitting in a low chair, his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands; the old woman, standing before him, now and then silently stroked his hair. He spent more than an hour with her, after taking leave of his hostess; he had scarcely said anything to his kind old friend, and she did not question him Indeed, what need to speak, what was there to ask? Without that she understood all, and felt for everything of which his heart was full.