Torrents of Spring, by Ivan Turgenev

XLIII

This was what Dimitri Sanin remembered when in the stillness of his room turning over his old papers he found among them a garnet cross. The events we have described rose clearly and consecutively before his mental vision. . . . But when he reached the moment when he addressed that humiliating prayer to Madame Polozov, when he grovelled at her feet, when his slavery began, he averted his gaze from the images he had evoked, he tried to recall no more. And not that his memory failed him, oh no! he knew only too well what followed upon that moment, but he was stifled by shame, even now, so many years after; he dreaded that feeling of self-contempt, which he knew for certain would overwhelm him, and like a torrent, flood all other feelings if he did not bid his memory be still. But try as he would to turn away from these memories, he could not stifle them entirely. He remembered the scoundrelly, tearful, lying, pitiful letter he had sent to Gemma, that never received an answer. . . . See her again, go back to her, after such falsehood, such treachery, no! no! he could not, so much conscience and honesty was left in him. Moreover, he had lost every trace of confidence in himself, every atom of self-respect; he dared not rely on himself for anything. Sanin recollected too how he had later on — oh, ignominy! — sent the Polozovs’ footman to Frankfort for his things, what cowardly terror he had felt, how he had had one thought only, to get away as soon as might be to Paris — to Paris; how in obedience to Maria Nikolaevna, he had humoured and tried to please Ippolit Sidoritch and been amiable to Dönhof, on whose finger he noticed just such an iron ring as Maria Nikolaevna had given him!!! Then followed memories still worse, more ignominious . . . the waiter hands him a visiting card, and on it is the name, ‘Pantaleone Cippatola, court singer to His Highness the Duke of Modena!’ He hides from the old man, but cannot escape meeting him in the corridor, and a face of exasperation rises before him under an upstanding topknot of grey hair; the old eyes blaze like red-hot coals, and he hears menacing cries and curses: ‘Maledizione!’ hears even the terrible words: ‘Codardo! Infame traditore!’ Sanin closes his eyes, shakes his head, turns away again and again, but still he sees himself sitting in a travelling carriage on the narrow front seat . . . In the comfortable places facing the horses sit Maria Nikolaevna and Ippolit Sidoritch, the four horses trotting all together fly along the paved roads of Wiesbaden to Paris! to Paris! Ippolit Sidoritch is eating a pear which Sanin has peeled for him, while Maria Nikolaevna watches him and smiles at him, her bondslave, that smile he knows already, the smile of the proprietor, the slave-owner. . . . But, good God, out there at the corner of the street not far from the city walls, wasn’t it Pantaleone again, and who with him? Can it be Emilio? Yes, it was he, the enthusiastic devoted boy! Not long since his young face had been full of reverence before his hero, his ideal, but now his pale handsome face, so handsome that Maria Nikolaevna noticed him and poked her head out of the carriage window, that noble face is glowing with anger and contempt; his eyes, so like her eyes! are fastened upon Sanin, and the tightly compressed lips part to revile him. . . .

And Pantaleone stretches out his hand and points Sanin out to Tartaglia standing near, and Tartaglia barks at Sanin, and the very bark of the faithful dog sounds like an unbearable reproach. . . . Hideous!

And then, the life in Paris, and all the humiliations, all the loathsome tortures of the slave, who dare not be jealous or complain, and who is cast aside at last, like a worn-out garment. . . .

Then the going home to his own country, the poisoned, the devastated life, the petty interests and petty cares, bitter and fruitless regret, and as bitter and fruitless apathy, a punishment not apparent, but of every minute, continuous, like some trivial but incurable disease, the payment farthing by farthing of the debt, which can never be settled. . . .

The cup was full enough.

* * * * *

How had the garnet cross given Sanin by Gemma existed till now, why had he not sent it back, how had it happened that he had never come across it till that day? A long, long while he sat deep in thought, and taught as he was by the experience of so many years, he still could not comprehend how he could have deserted Gemma, so tenderly and passionately loved, for a woman he did not love at all. . . . Next day he surprised all his friends and acquaintances by announcing that he was going abroad.

The surprise was general in society. Sanin was leaving Petersburg, in the middle of the winter, after having only just taken and furnished a capital flat, and having even secured seats for all the performances of the Italian Opera, in which Madame Patti . . . Patti, herself, herself, was to take part! His friends and acquaintances wondered; but it is not human nature as a rule to be interested long in other people’s affairs, and when Sanin set off for abroad, none came to the railway station to see him off but a French tailor, and he only in the hope of securing an unpaid account ‘pour un saute-en-barque en velours noir tout à fait chic.’

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05