Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
HOW WE RECEIVED THE NEWS
Yet, even on the eve of the official announcement, every one had
learnt of the matter, and was discussing it. Mimi never left her
room that day, and wept copiously. Katenka kept her company, and
only came out for luncheon, with a grieved expression on her face
which was manifestly borrowed from her mother. Lubotshka, on the
contrary, was very cheerful, and told us after luncheon that she
knew of a splendid secret which she was going to tell no one.
"There is nothing so splendid about your secret," said Woloda,
who did not in the least share her satisfaction. "If you were
capable of any serious thought at all, you would understand that
it is a very bad lookout for us."
Lubotshka stared at him in amazement, and said no more. After the
meal was over, Woloda made a feint of taking me by the arm, and
then, fearing that this would seem too much like "affection,"
nudged me gently by the elbow, and beckoned me towards the salon.
"You know, I suppose, what the secret is of which Lubotshka was
speaking?" he said when he was sure that we were alone. It was
seldom that he and I spoke together in confidence: with the
result that, whenever it came about, we felt a kind of
awkwardness in one another's presence, and "boys began to jump
about" in our eyes, as Woloda expressed it. On the present
occasion, however, he answered the excitement in my eyes with a
grave, fixed look which said: "You need not be surprised, for we
are brothers, and we have to consider an important family
matter." I understood him, and he went on:
"You know, I suppose, that Papa is going to marry Avdotia
I nodded, for I had already heard so. "Well, it is not a good
thing," continued Woloda.
"Why?" he repeated irritably. "Because it will be so pleasant,
won't it, to have this stuttering 'colonel' and all his family
for relations! Certainly she seems nice enough, as yet; but who
knows what she will turn out to be later? It won't matter much to
you or myself, but Lubotshka will soon be making her debut, and
it will hardly be nice for her to have such a 'belle mere' as
this--a woman who speaks French badly, and has no manners to
Although it seemed odd to hear Woloda criticising Papa's choice
so coolly, I felt that he was right.
"Why is he marrying her?" I asked.
"Oh, it is a hole-and-corner business, and God only knows why,"
he answered. "All I know is that her brother, Peter, tried to
make conditions about the marriage, and that, although at first
Papa would not hear of them, he afterwards took some fancy or
knight-errantry or another into his head. But, as I say, it is a
hole-and-corner business. I am only just beginning to understand
my father "--the fact that Woloda called Papa "my father" instead
of "Papa" somehow hurt me--"and though I can see that he is kind
and clever, he is irresponsible and frivolous to a degree that--
Well, the whole thing is astonishing. He cannot so much as look
upon a woman calmly. You yourself know how he falls in love with
every one that he meets. You know it, and so does Mimi."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"What I say. Not long ago I learnt that he used to be in love
with Mimi herself when he was a young man, and that he used to
send her poetry, and that there really was something between
them. Mimi is heart-sore about it to this day"--and Woloda burst
"Impossible!" I cried in astonishment.
"But the principal thing at this moment," went on Woloda,
becoming serious again, and relapsing into French, "is to think
how delighted all our relations will be with this marriage! Why,
she will probably have children!"
Woloda's prudence and forethought struck me so forcibly that I
had no answer to make. Just at this moment Lubotshka approached
"So you know?" she said with a joyful face.
"Yes," said Woloda. "Still, I am surprised at you, Lubotshka. You
are no longer a baby in long clothes. Why should you be so
pleased because Papa is going to marry a piece of trash?"
At this Lubotshka's face fell, and she became serious.
"Oh, Woloda!" she exclaimed. "Why 'a piece of trash' indeed? How
can you dare to speak of Avdotia like that? If Papa is going to
marry her she cannot be 'trash.'"
"No, not trash, so to speak, but--"
"No 'buts' at all!" interrupted Lubotshka, flaring up. "You have
never heard me call the girl whom you are in love with 'trash!'
How, then, can you speak so of Papa and a respectable woman?
Although you are my elder brother, I won't allow you to speak
like that! You ought not to!"
"Mayn't I even express an opinion about--"
"No, you mayn't!" repeated Lubotshka. "No one ought to criticise
such a father as ours. Mimi has the right to, but not you,
however much you may be the eldest brother."
"Oh you don't understand anything," said Woloda contemptuously.
"Try and do so. How can it be a good thing that a 'Dunetchka' of
an Epifanov should take the place of our dead Mamma?"
For a moment Lubotshka was silent. Then the tears suddenly came
into her eyes.
"I knew that you were conceited, but I never thought that you
could be cruel," she said, and left us.
"Pshaw!" said Woloda, pulling a serio-comic face and make-
believe, stupid eyes. "That's what comes of arguing with them."
Evidently he felt that he was at fault in having so far forgot
himself as to descend to discuss matters at all with Lubotshka.
Next day the weather was bad, and neither Papa nor the ladies had
come down to morning tea when I entered the drawing-room. There
had been cold rain in the night, and remnants of the clouds from
which it had descended were still scudding across the sky, with
the sun's luminous disc (not yet risen to any great height)
showing faintly through them. It was a windy, damp, grey morning.
The door into the garden was standing open, and pools left by the
night's rain were drying on the damp-blackened flags of the
terrace. The open door was swinging on its iron hinges in the
wind, and all the paths looked wet and muddy. The old birch trees
with their naked white branches, the bushes, the turf, the
nettles, the currant-trees, the elders with the pale side of
their leaves turned upwards--all were dashing themselves about,
and looking as though they were trying to wrench themselves free
from their roots. From the avenue of lime-trees showers of round,
yellow leaves were flying through the air in tossing, eddying
circles, and strewing the wet road and soaked aftermath of the
hayfield with a clammy carpet. At the moment, my thoughts were
wholly taken up with my father's approaching marriage and with
the point of view from which Woloda regarded it. The future
seemed to me to bode no good for any of us. I felt distressed to
think that a woman who was not only a stranger but young should
be going to associate with us in so many relations of life,
without having any right to do so--nay, that this young woman was
going to usurp the place of our dead mother. I felt depressed,
and kept thinking more and more that my father was to blame in
the matter. Presently I heard his voice and Woloda's speaking
together in the pantry, and, not wishing to meet Papa just then,
had just left the room when I was pursued by Lubotshka, who said
that Papa wanted to see me.
He was standing in the drawing-room, with his hand resting on the
piano, and was gazing in my direction with an air at once grave
and impatient. His face no longer wore the youthful, gay
expression which had struck me for so long, but, on the contrary,
looked sad. Woloda was walking about the room with a pipe in his
hand. I approached my father, and bade him good morning.
"Well, my children," he said firmly, with a lift of his head and
in the peculiarly hurried manner of one who wishes to announce
something obviously unwelcome, but no longer admitting of
reconsideration, "you know, I suppose, that I am going to marry
Avdotia Epifanov." He paused a moment. "Hitherto I had had no
desire for any one to succeed your mother, but"--and again he
paused--"it-it is evidently my fate. Dunetchka is an excellent,
kind girl, and no longer in her first youth. I hope, therefore,
my children, that you will like her, and she, I know, will be
sincerely fond of you, for she is a good woman. And now," he went
on, addressing himself more particularly to Woloda and myself,
and having the appearance of speaking hurriedly in order to
prevent us from interrupting him, "it is time for you to depart,
while I myself am going to stay here until the New Year, and then
to follow you to Moscow with"--again he hesitated a moment--"my
wife and Lubotshka." It hurt me to see my father standing as
though abashed and at fault before us, so I moved a little nearer
him, but Woloda only went on walking about the room with his head
down, and smoking.
"So, my children, that is what your old father has planned to
do," concluded Papa--reddening, coughing, and offering Woloda and
myself his hands. Tears were in his eyes as he said this, and I
noticed, too, that the hand which he was holding out to Woloda
(who at that moment chanced to be at the other end of the room)
was shaking slightly. The sight of that shaking hand gave me an
unpleasant shock, for I remembered that Papa had served in 1812,
and had been, as every one knew, a brave officer. Seizing the
great veiny hand, I covered it with kisses, and he squeezed mine
hard in return. Then, with a sob amid his tears, he suddenly
threw his arms around Lubotshka's dark head, and kissed her again
and again on the eyes. Woloda pretended that he had dropped his
pipe, and, bending down, wiped his eyes furtively with the back
of his hand. Then, endeavouring to escape notice, he left the
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.