Smoke, by Ivan Turgenev

Chapter 18

AMONG the persons assembled on the 18th of August at twelve o’clock on the platform at the railway station was Litvinov. Not long before, he had seen Irina: she was sitting in an open carriage with her husband and another gentleman, somewhat elderly. She caught sight of Litvinov, and he perceived that some obscure emotion flitted over her eyes; but at once she hid herself from him with her parasol.

A strange transformation had taken place in him since the previous day — in his whole appearance, his movements, the expression of his face; and indeed he felt himself a different man. His self-confidence had vanished, and his peace of mind had vanished, too, and his respect for himself; of his former spiritual condition nothing was left. Recent ineffaceable impressions obscured all the rest from him. Some sensation unknown before had come, strong, sweet — and evil; the mysterious guest had made its way to the innermost shrine and taken possession and lain down in it, in silence, but in all its magnitude, like the owner in a new house. Litvinov was no longer ashamed, he was afraid; at the same time a desperate hardihood had sprung up in him; the captured, the vanquished know well this mixture of opposing feelings; the thief, too, knows something of it after his first robbery. Litvinov had been vanquished, vanquished suddenly . . . and what had become of his honesty? The train was a few minutes late. Litvinov’s suspense passed into agonizing torture; he could not stop still in one place, and, pale all over, moved about jostling in the crowd. “My God,” he thought, “if I only had another twenty-four hours.” . . . The first look at Tanya, the first look of Tanya . . . that was what filled him with terror . . . that was what he had to live through directly . . . And afterwards? Afterwards . . . come, what may come! . . . He now made no more resolutions, he could not answer for himself now. His phrase of yesterday flashed painfully through his head. . . . And this was how he was meeting Tanya. . . . A prolonged whistle sounded at last, a heavy momentarily increasing rumble was heard, and, slowly rolling around a bend in the line, the train came into sight. The crowd hurried to meet it, and Litvinov followed it, dragging his feet like a condemned man. Faces, ladies’ hats began to appear out of the carriages, at one window a white handkerchief gleamed. . Kapitolina Markovna was waving to him. . . . It was over; she had caught sight of Litvinov and he recognized her. The train stood still; Litvinov rushed to the carriage door, and opened it; Tatyana was standing near her aunt, smiling brightly and holding out her hand.

He helped them both to get out, uttered a few words of welcome, unfinished and confused, and at once bustled about, began taking their tickets, their traveling bags, and rugs, ran to find a porter, called a fly; other people were bustling around them. He was glad of their presence, their fuss, and loud talk. Tatyana moved a little aside, and, still smiling, waited calmly for his hurried arrangements to be concluded. Kapitolina Markovna, on the other hand, could not keep still; she could not believe that she was at last at Baden.

She suddenly cried, “But the parasols? Tanya, where are our parasols?” all unconscious that she was holding them fast under her arm; then she began taking a loud and prolonged farewell of another lady with whom she had made friends on the journey from Heidelberg to Baden. This lady was no other than our old friend Madame Suhantchikov. She had gone away to Heidelberg to do obeisance to Gubaryov, and was returning with “instructions.” Kapitolina Markovna wore a rather peculiar striped mantle and a round traveling hat of a mushroom-shape, from under which her short white hair fell in disorder; short and thin, she was flushed with traveling and kept talking Russian in a shrill and penetrating voice. . . . She was an object of attention at once.

Litvinov at last put her and Tatyana into a fly, and placed himself opposite them. The horses started. Then followed questionings, renewed handshaking, interchanging of smiles and welcomes. . . . Litvinov breathed freely; the first moment had passed off satisfactorily. Nothing in him, apparently, had struck or bewildered Tanya; she was smiling just as brightly and confidently, she was blushing as charmingly, and laughing as goodnaturedly. He brought himself at last to take a look at her; not a stealthy cursory glance, but a direct steady look at her, hitherto his own eyes had refused to obey him. His heart throbbed with involuntary emotion: the serene expression of that honest, candid face gave him a pang of bitter reproach. “So you are here, poor girl,” he thought, “you whom I have so longed for, so urged to come, with whom I had hoped to spend my life to the end, you have come, you believed in me . . . while I . . . while I.” . . . Litvinov’s head sank; but Kapitolina Markovna gave him no time for musing; she was pelting him with questions.

“What is that building with columns? Where is it the gambling’s done? Who is that coming along? Tanya, Tanya, look, what crinolines! And who can that be? I suppose they are mostly French creatures from Paris here? Mercy, what a hat! Can you get everything here just as in Paris? But, I expect, everything’s awfully dear, eh? Ah, I’ve made the acquaintance of such a splendid, intellectual woman! You know her, Grigory Mihalitch; she told me she had met you at some Russian’s, who’s a wonderfully intellectual person, too, She promised to come and see us. How she does abuse all these aristocrats — it’s simply superb! What is that gentleman with gray moustaches? The Prussian king? Tanya, Tanya, look, that’s the Prussian king. No? not the Prussian king, the Dutch ambassador, did you say? I can’t hear, the wheels rattle so. Ah, what exquisite trees!”

“Yes, exquisite, aunt,” Tanya assented, “and how green everything is here, how bright and gay! Isn’t it, Grigory Mihalitch?”

“Oh, very bright and gay” . . . he answered through his teeth. The carriage stopped at last before the hotel. Litvinov conducted the two travelers to the room taken for them, promised to come back within an hour, and went to his own room. Directly he entered it, he fell again under the spell which had been lulled for a while. Here, in that room, since the day before, Irina reigned supreme; everything was eloquent of her, the very air seemed to have kept secret traces of her visit. . . . Again Litvinov felt himself her slave. He drew out her handkerchief, hidden in his bosom, pressed it to his lips, and burning memories flowed in subtle poison through his veins. He realized that there was no turning back, no choosing now; the sorrowful emotion aroused in him by Tatyana melted away like snow in the fire, and remorse died down . . . died down so completely that his uneasiness even was soothed, and the possibility — present to his intellect — of hypocrisy no longer revolted him. . . . Love, Irina’s love, that was now his truth, his bond, his conscience. . . . The sensible Litvinov did not even ponder how to get out of a position, the horror and hideousness of which he bore lightly, as if it did not concern him.

The hour had not yet passed when a waiter came to Litvinov from the newly arrived ladies; they begged him to come to them in the public drawing-room. He followed the messenger, and found them already dressed and in their hats; They both expressed a desire to go out at once to see Baden, as the weather was so fine. Kapitolina Markovna, especially, seemed burning with impatience; she was quite cast down when she heard that the hour of the fashionable promenade before the Konversation Hall had not yet arrived. Litvinov gave her his arm, and the ceremony of sight-seeing began. Tatyana walked beside her aunt, looking about her with quiet interest; Kapitolina Markovna pursued her inquiries. The sight of the roulette, the dignified croupiers, whom — had she met them in any other place — she would certainly have taken for ministers, the quickly moving scoops, the heaps of gold and silver on the green cloth, the old women gambling, and the painted cocottes reduced Kapitolina Markovna to a sort of speechless stupor; she altogether forgot that she ought to feel moral indignation, and could only gaze and gaze, giving a start of surprise at every new sight. . . . The whiz of the ivory ball into the bottom of the roulette thrilled her to the marrow of her bones, and it was only when she was again in the open air that, drawing a long breath, she recovered energy enough to denounce games of chance as an immoral invention of aristocracy. A fixed, unpleasant smile had made its appearance on Litvinov’s lips; he had spoken abruptly and lazily, as though he were annoyed or bored. . . . But now he turned round towards Tatyana, and was thrown into secret confusion; she was looking attentively at him, with an expression as though she were asking herself what sort of an impression was being made on her. He made haste to nod his head to her, she responded with the same gesture, and again looked at him questioningly, with a sort of strained effort, as though he were standing much farther off than he really was. Litvinov led his ladies away from the Konversation Hall, and passing the “Russian tree,” under which two Russian ladies were already sitting, he went towards Lichtenthaler Alice. He had hardly entered the avenue when he saw Irina in the distance.

She was walking towards him with her husband and Potugin. Litvinov turned white as a sheet; he did not slacken his pace, however, and when he was on a level with her, he made a bow without speaking. She too bowed to him, politely, but coldly, and taking in Tatyana in a rapid glance, she glided by. . . . Ratmirov lifted his hat high, Potugin muttered something.

“Who is that lady?” Tatyana asked suddenly. Till that instant she had hardly opened her lips.

“That lady?” repeated Litvinov, “that lady? That is a Madame Ratmirov.”

“Is she Russian?”

“Yes.”

“Did you make her acquaintance here?”

“No; I have known her a long while.”

“How beautiful she is!” “Did you notice her dress?” put in Kapitolina Markovna. “Ten families might live for a whole year on the cost of her lace alone. Was that her husband with her?” she inquired turning to Litvinov.

“Yes.”

“He must be awfully rich, I suppose?”

“Really I don’t know; I don’t think so.”

“What is his rank?”

“He’s a general.”

“What eyes she has!” said Tatyana, “and what a strange expression in them: pensive and penetrating at the same time. . . . I have never seen such eyes.”

Litvinov made no answer; he fancied that he felt again Tatyana’s questioning glance bent on his face, but he was wrong, she was looking at her own feet, at the sand of the path. “Mercy on us! Who is that fright?” cried Kapitolina Markovna suddenly, pointing to a low, jaunting-car in which a red-haired pug-nosed woman lay lolling impudently, in an extraordinarily gorgeous costume and lilac stockings.

“That fright! why, that’s the celebrated Ma’mselle Cora.”

“Who?”

“Ma’mselle Cora . . . a Parisian . . . notoriety.”

“What? That pug? Why, but she’s hideous!”

“It seems that’s no hindrance.”

Kapitolina Markovna could only lift her hands in astonishment.

“Well, this Baden of yours!” she brought out at last. “Can one sit down on a seat here? I’m rather tired.”

“Of course you can, Kapitolina Markovna. . That’s what the seats are put here for.”

“Well, really, there’s no knowing! . But there in Paris, I’m told, there are seats, too, along the boulevards; but it’s not proper to sit on them.”

Litvinov made no reply to Kapitolina Markovna; only at that moment he realized that two paces away was the very spot where he had had that explanation with Irina, which had decided everything. Then he recalled that he had noticed a small rosy spot on her cheek to-day. . Kapitolina Markovna sank down on to the seat, Tatyana sat down beside her. Litvinov remained on the path; between Tatyana and him — or was it only his fancy? — something seemed to have happened . . . unconsciously and gradually.

“Ah, she’s a wretch, a perfect wretch!” Kapitolina Markovna declared, shaking her head commiseratingly; “why, with the price of her get-up, you could keep not ten, but a hundred families. Did you see under her hat, on her red hair, there were diamonds? Upon my word, diamonds in the day-time!”

“Her hair’s not red,” remarked Litvinov; “she dyes it red — that’s the fashion now.”

Again Kapitolina Markovna could only lift her hands; she was positively dumbfounded. “Well,” she said at last, “where we were, in Dresden, things had not got to such a scandalous pitch, yet. It’s a little further from Paris, anyway, that’s why. Don’t you think that’s it, Grigory Mihalitch, eh?”

“Don’t I think so?” answered Litvinov. While he thought to himself, “What on earth is she talking of?” “I? Of course . . . of course . . . .”

But at this point the sound of slow footsteps was heard, and Potugin approached the seat. “Good-morning, Grigory Mihalitch,” he began, smiling and nodding.

Litvinov grasped him by the hand at once.

“Good-morning, good-morning, Sozont IvÆnitch. I fancy I passed you just now with . . . just now in the avenue?”

“Yes, it was me.”

Potugin bowed respectfully to the ladies sitting on the seat.

“Let me introduce you, Sozont Ivanitch. Old friends and relatives of mine, who have only just arrived in Baden. Potugin, Sozont Ivanitch, a countryman of ours, also staying in Baden.”

Both ladies rose a little. Potugin renewed his bows. “It’s quite a levée here,” Kapitolina Markovna began in a delicate voice; the kind-hearted old lady was easily intimidated, but she tried before all to keep up her dignity. “Every one regards it as an agreeable duty to stay here.”

“Baden is an agreeable place, certainly,” answered Potugin, with a sidelong look at Tatyana; “a very agreeable place, Baden.”

“Yes; but it’s really too aristocratic, so far as I can form an opinion. You see we have been staying all this time in Dresden . . . a very interesting town; but here there’s positively a levée.”

“She’s pleased with the word,” thought Potugin. “You are perfectly right in that observation,” he said aloud; “but then the scenery here is exquisite, and the site of the place is something one cannot often find. Your fellow-traveler, especially, is sure to appreciate that. Are you not, madam?” he added, addressing himself this time directly to Tatyana.

Tatyana raised her large, clear eyes to Potugin. It seemed as though she were perplexed. What was wanted of her, and why had Litvinov introduced her, on the first day of her arrival, to this unknown man, who had, though, a kind and clever face, and was looking at her with cordial and friendly eyes.

“Yes,” she said at last, “it’s very nice here.”

“You ought to visit the old castle,” Potugin went on; “I especially advise a drive to —” “The Saxon Switzerland —” Kapitolina Markovna was beginning. The blare of wind instruments floated up the avenue; it was the Prussian military band from Rastadt (in 1862 Rastadt was still an allied fortress), beginning its weekly concert in the pavilion. Kapitolina Markovna got up. “The music!” she said; “the music à la Conversation! . . . We must go there. It’s four o’clock now . . . isn’t it? Will the fashionable world be there now?” “Yes,” answered Potugin: “this is the most fashionable time, and the music is excellent.”

“Well, then, don’t let us linger. Tanya, come along.”

“You allow me to accompany you?” asked Potugin, to Litvinov’s considerable astonishment; it was not possible for it even to enter his head that Irina had sent Potugin.

Kapitolina Markovna simpered.

“With the greatest pleasure — M’sieu . . .M’sieu ——”

“Potugin,” he murmured, and he offered her his arm.

Litvinov gave his to Tatyana, and both couples walked towards the Konversation Hall.

Potugin went on talking with Kapitolina Markovna. But Litvinov walked without uttering a word; yet twice, without any cause, he smiled, and faintly pressed Tatyana’s arm against his. There was a falsehood in those demonstrations, to which she made no response, and Litvinov was conscious of the lie. They did not express a mutual confidence in the close union of two souls given up to one another; they were a temporary substitute — for words which he could not find. That unspoken something which was beginning between them grew and gained strength. Once more Tatyana looked attentively, almost intently, at him.

It was the same before the Konversation Hall at the little table round which they all four seated themselves, with this sole difference, that, in the noisy bustle of the crowd, the clash and roar of the music, Litvinov’s silence seemed more comprehensible. Kapitolina Markovna became quite excited; Potugin hardly had time to answer her questions, to satisfy her curiosity. Luckily for him, there suddenly appeared. in the mass of moving figures the lank person and everlastingly leaping eyes of Madame Suhantchikov. Kapitolina Markovna at once recognized her, invited her to their table, made her sit down, and a hurricane of words arose. Potugin turned to Tatyana, and began a conversation with her in a soft, subdued voice, his face bent slightly down towards her with a very friendly expression; and she, to her own surprise, answered him easily and freely; she was glad to talk with this stranger, this outsider, while Litvinov sat immovable as before, with the same fixed and unpleasant smile on his lips.

Dinner-time came at last. The music ceased, the crowd thinned. Kapitolina Markovna parted from Madame Suhantchikov on the warmest terms. She had conceived an immense respect for her, though she did say afterwards to her niece, that “this person is really too severe; but then she does know everything and everybody; and we must really get sewing-machines directly the wedding festivities are over.” Potugin took leave of them; Litvinov conducted his ladies home. As they were going into the hotel, he was handed a note; he moved aside and hurriedly tore open the envelope. On a tiny scrap of vellum paper were the following words, scribbled in pencil: “Come to me this evening at seven, for one minute, I entreat you. — Irina.” Litvinov thrust the note into his pocket, and, turning round, put on his smile again . . . to whom? why? Tatyana was standing with her back to him. They dined at the common table of the hotel. Litvinov was sitting between Kapitolina Markovna and Tatyana, and he began talking, telling anecdotes and pouring out wine for himself and the ladies, with a strange, sudden joviality. He conducted himself in such a free and easy manner, that a French infantry officer from Strasbourg, sitting opposite, with a beard and moustaches à la Napoleon III., thought it admissible to join in the conversation, and even wound up by a toast à la santé des belles Moscovites! After dinner, Litvinov escorted the two ladies to their room, and after standing a little while at the window with a scowl on his face, he suddenly announced that he had to go out for a short time on business, but would be back without fail by the evening. Tatyana said nothing; she turned pale and dropped her eyes. Kapitolina Markovna was in the habit of taking a nap after dinner; Tatyana was well aware that Litvinov knew of this habit of her aunt’s; she had expected him to take advantage of it, to remain with her, for he had not been alone with her, nor spoken frankly to her, since her arrival. And now he was going out! What was she to make of it? And, indeed, his whole behavior all along. . . . Litvinov withdrew hurriedly, not waiting for remonstrances; Kapitolina Markovna lay down on the sofa, and with one or two sighs and groans, fell into a serene sleep; while Tatyana moved away into a corner, and sat down in a low chair, folding her arms tightly across her bosom.

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01