Volintsev got up at ten o’clock. When he heard that Lezhnyov was sitting in the balcony, he was much surprised, and sent to ask him to come to him.
‘What has happened?’ he asked him. ‘I thought you meant to drive home?’
‘Yes; I did mean to, but I met Rudin. . . . He was wandering about the country with such a distracted countenance. So I turned back at once.’
‘You came back because you met Rudin?’
‘That’s to say,—to tell the truth, I don’t know why I came back myself, I suppose because I was reminded of you; I wanted to be with you, and I have plenty of time before I need go home.’
Volintsev smiled bitterly.
‘Yes; one cannot think of Rudin now without thinking of me. . . . Boy!’ he cried harshly, ‘bring us some tea.’
The friends began to drink tea. Lezhnyov talked of agricultural matters,—of a new method of roofing barns with paper. . . .
Suddenly Volintsev leaped up from his chair and struck the table with such force that the cups and saucers rang.
‘No!’ he cried, ‘I cannot bear this any longer! I will call out this witty fellow, and let him shoot me,—at least I will try to put a bullet through his learned brains!’
‘What are you talking about? Upon my word!’ grumbled Lezhnyov, ‘how can you scream like that? I dropped my pipe. . . . What’s the matter with you?’
‘The matter is, that I can’t hear his name and keep calm; it sets all my blood boiling!’
‘Hush, my dear fellow, hush! aren’t you ashamed?’ rejoined Lezhnyov, picking up his pipe from the ground. ‘Leave off! Let him alone!’
‘He has insulted me,’ pursued Volintsev, walking up and down the room. ‘Yes! he has insulted me. You must admit that yourself. At first I was not sharp enough; he took me by surprise; and who could have expected this? But I will show him that he cannot make a fool of me. . . . I will shoot him, the damned philosopher, like a partridge.’
‘Much you will gain by that, indeed! I won’t speak of your sister now. I can see you’re in a passion . . . how could you think of your sister! But in relation to another individual—what! do you imagine, when you’ve killed the philosopher, you can improve your own chances?’
Volintsev flung himself into a chair.
‘Then I must go away somewhere! For here my heart is simply being crushed by misery; only I can find no place to go.’
‘Go away . . . that’s another matter! That I am ready to agree to. And do you know what I should suggest? Let us go together—to the Caucasus, or simply to Little Russia to eat dumplings. That’s a capital idea, my dear fellow!’
‘Yes; but whom shall we leave my sister with?’
‘And why should not Alexandra Pavlovna come with us? Upon my soul, it will be splendid. As for looking after her—yes, I’ll undertake that! There will be no difficulty in getting anything we want: if she likes, I will arrange a serenade under her window every night; I will sprinkle the coachmen with eau de cologne and strew flowers along the roads. And we shall both be simply new men, my dear boy; we shall enjoy ourselves so, we shall come back so fat that we shall be proof against the darts of love!’
‘You are always joking, Misha!’
‘I’m not joking at all. It was a brilliant idea of yours.’
‘No; nonsense!’ Volintsev shouted again. ‘I want to fight him, to fight him! . . .’
‘Again! What a rage you are in!’
A servant entered with a letter in his hand.
‘From whom?’ asked Lezhnyov.
‘From Rudin, Dmitri Nikolaitch. The Lasunsky’s servant brought it.’
‘From Rudin?’ repeated Volintsev, ‘to whom?’
‘To me! . . . give it me!’
Volintsev seized the letter, quickly tore it open, and began to read. Lezhnyov watched him attentively; a strange, almost joyful amazement was expressed on Volintsev’s face; he let his hands fall by his side.
‘What is it?’ asked Lezhnyov.
‘Read it,’ Volintsev said in a low voice, and handed him the letter.
Lezhnyov began to read. This is what Rudin wrote:
‘I am going away from Darya Mihailovna’s house to-day, and leaving it for ever. This will certainly be a surprise to you, especially after what passed yesterday. I cannot explain to you what exactly obliges me to act in this way; but it seems to me for some reason that I ought to let you know of my departure. You do not like me, and even regard me as a bad man. I do not intend to justify myself; time will justify me. In my opinion it is even undignified in a man and quite unprofitable to try to prove to a prejudiced man the injustice of his prejudice. Whoever wishes to understand me will not blame me, and as for any one who does not wish, or cannot do so,—his censure does not pain me. I was mistaken in you. In my eyes you remain as before a noble and honourable man, but I imagined you were able to be superior to the surroundings in which you were brought up. I was mistaken. What of that? It is not the first, nor will it be the last time. I repeat to you, I am going away. I wish you all happiness. Confess that this wish is completely disinterested, and I hope that now you will be happy. Perhaps in time you will change your opinion of me. Whether we shall ever meet again, I don’t know, but in any case I remain your sincere well-wisher,
‘P.S. The two hundred roubles I owe you I will send directly I reach my estate in T—— province. Also I beg you not to speak to Darya Mihailovna of this letter.
‘P.P.S. One last, but important request more; since I am going away, I hope you will not allude before Natalya Alexyevna to my visit to you.’
‘Well, what do you say to that?’ asked Volintsev, directly Lezhnyov had finished the letter.
‘What is one to say?’ replied Lezhnyov, ‘Cry “Allah! Allah!” like a Mussulman and sit gaping with astonishment—that’s all one can do. . . . Well, a good riddance! But it’s curious: you see he thought it his duty to write you this letter, and he came to see you from a sense of duty . . . these gentlemen find a duty at every step, some duty they owe . . . or some debt,’ added Lezhnyov, pointing with a smile to the postscript.
‘And what phrases he rounds off!’ cried Volintsev. ‘He was mistaken in me. He expected I would be superior to my surroundings. What a rigmarole! Good God! it’s worse than poetry!’
Lezhnyov made no reply, but his eyes were smiling. Volintsev got up.
‘I want to go to Darya Mihailovna’s,’ he announced. ‘I want to find out what it all means.’
‘Wait a little, my dear boy; give him time to get off. What’s the good of running up against him again? He is to vanish, it seems. What more do you want? Better go and lie down and get a little sleep; you have been tossing about all night, I expect. But everything will be smooth for you.’
‘What leads you to that conclusion?’
‘Oh, I think so. There, go and have a nap; I will go and see your sister. I will keep her company.’
‘I don’t want to sleep in the least. What’s the object of my going to bed? I had rather go out to the fields,’ said Volintsev, putting on his out-of-door coat.
‘Well, that’s a good thing too. Go along, and look at the fields. . . .’
And Lezhnyov betook himself to the apartments of Alexandra Pavlovna. He found her in the drawing-room. She welcomed him effusively. She was always pleased when he came; but her face still looked sorrowful. She was uneasy about Rudin’s visit the day before.
‘You have seen my brother?’ she asked Lezhnyov. ‘How is he to-day?’
‘All right, he has gone to the fields.’
Alexandra Favlovna did not speak for a minute.
‘Tell me, please,’ she began, gazing earnestly at the hem of her pocket-handkerchief, ‘don’t you know why . . .’
‘Rudin came here?’ put in Lezhnyov. ‘I know, he came to say good-bye.’
Alexandra Pavlovna lifted up her head.
‘What, to say good-bye!’
‘Yes. Haven’t you heard? He is leaving Darya Mihailovna’s.’
‘He is leaving?’
‘For ever; at least he says so.’
‘But pray, how is one to explain it, after all? . . .’
‘Oh, that’s a different matter! To explain it is impossible, but it is so. Something must have happened with them. He pulled the string too tight—and it has snapped.’
‘Mihailo Mihailitch!’ began Alexandra Pavlovna, ‘I don’t understand; you are laughing at me, I think. . . .’
‘No indeed! I tell you he is going away, and he even let his friends know by letter. It’s just as well, I daresay, from one point of view; but his departure has prevented one surprising enterprise from being carried out that I had begun to talk to your brother about.’
‘What do you mean? What enterprise?’
‘Why, I proposed to your brother that we should go on our travels, to distract his mind, and take you with us. To look after you especially I would take on myself. . . .’
‘That’s capital!’ cried Alexandra Pavlovna. ‘I can fancy how you would look after me. Why, you would let me die of hunger.’
‘You say so, Alexandra Pavlovna, because you don’t know me. You think I am a perfect blockhead, a log; but do you know I am capable of melting like sugar, of spending whole days on my knees?’
‘I should like to see that, I must say!’
Lezhnyov suddenly got up. ‘Well, marry me, Alexandra Pavlovna, and you will see all that’
Alexandra Pavlovna blushed up to her ears.
‘What did you say, Mihailo Mihailitch?’ she murmured in confusion.
‘I said what it has been for ever so long,’ answered Lezhnyov, ‘on the tip of my tongue to say a thousand times over. I have brought it out at last, and you must act as you think best. But I will go away now, so as not to be in your way. If you will be my wife . . . I will walk away . . . if you don’t dislike the idea, you need only send to call me in; I shall understand. . . .’
Alexandra Pavlovna tried to keep Lezhnyov, but he went quickly away, and going into the garden without his cap, he leaned on a little gate and began looking about him.
‘Mihailo Mihailitch!’ sounded the voice of a maid-servant behind him, ‘please come in to my lady. She sent me to call you.’
Mihailo Mihailitch turned round, took the girl’s head in both his hands, to her great astonishment, and kissed her on the forehead, then he went in to Alexandra Pavlovna.