A Hero of Our Time Part 10

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"Getting bored!" answered Pechorin, smiling.

"You remember the life we led in the fortress? A splendid country for hunting! You were awfully fond of shooting, you know!... And Bela?"...

Pechorin turned just the slightest bit pale and averted his head.

"Yes, I remember!" he said, almost immediately forcing a yawn.

Maksim Maksimych began to beg him to stay with him for a couple of hours or so longer.

"We will have a splendid dinner," he said. "I have two pheasants; and the Kakhetian wine is excellent here... not what it is in Georgia, of course, but still of the best sort... We will have a talk... You will tell me about your life in Petersburg... Eh?"...

"In truth, there's nothing for me to tell, dear Maksim Maksimych...

However, good-bye, it is time for me to be off... I am in a hurry...

I thank you for not having forgotten me," he added, taking him by the hand.

The old man knit his brows. He was grieved and angry, although he tried to hide his feelings.

"Forget!" he growled. "I have not forgotten anything... Well, G.o.d be with you!... It is not like this that I thought we should meet."

"Come! That will do, that will do!" said Pechorin, giving him a friendly embrace. "Is it possible that I am not the same as I used to be?... What can we do? Everyone must go his own way... Are we ever going to meet again?--G.o.d only knows!"

While saying this he had taken his seat in the carriage, and the coachman was already gathering up the reins.

"Wait, wait!" cried Maksim Maksimych suddenly, holding on to the carriage door. "I was nearly forgetting altogether. Your papers were left with me, Grigori Aleksandrovich... I drag them about everywhere I go... I thought I should find you in Georgia, but this is where it has pleased Heaven that we should meet. What's to be done with them?"...

"Whatever you like!" answered Pechorin. "Good-bye."...

"So you are off to Persia?... But when will you return?" Maksim Maksimych cried after him.

By this time the carriage was a long way off, but Pechorin made a sign with his hand which might be interpreted as meaning:

"It is doubtful whether I shall return, and there is no reason, either, why I should!"

The jingle of the bell and the clatter of the wheels along the flinty road had long ceased to be audible, but the poor old man still remained standing in the same place, deep in thought.

"Yes," he said at length, endeavouring to a.s.sume an air of indifference, although from time to time a tear of vexation glistened on his eyelashes. "Of course we were friends--well, but what are friends nowadays?... What could I be to him? I'm not rich; I've no rank; and, moreover, I'm not at all his match in years!--See what a dandy he has become since he has been staying in Petersburg again!... What a carriage!... What a quant.i.ty of luggage!... And such a haughty manservant too!"...

These words were p.r.o.nounced with an ironical smile.

"Tell me," he continued, turning to me, "what do you think of it?

Come, what the devil is he off to Persia for now?... Good Lord, it is ridiculous--ridiculous!... But I always knew that he was a fickle man, and one you could never rely on!... But, indeed, it is a pity that he should come to a bad end... yet it can't be otherwise!... I always did say that there is no good to be got out of a man who forgets his old friends!"...

Hereupon he turned away in order to hide his agitation and proceeded to walk about the courtyard, around his cart, pretending to be examining the wheels, whilst his eyes kept filling with tears every moment.

"Maksim Maksimych," I said, going up to him, "what papers are these that Pechorin left you?"

"Goodness knows! Notes of some sort"...

"What will you do with them?"

"What? I'll have cartridges made of them."

"Hand them over to me instead."

He looked at me in surprise, growled something through his teeth, and began to rummage in his portmanteau. Out he drew a writing-book and threw it contemptuously on the ground; then a second--a third--a tenth shared the same fate. There was something childish in his vexation, and it struck me as ridiculous and pitiable...

"Here they are," he said. "I congratulate you on your find!"...

"And I may do anything I like with them?"

"Yes, print them in the newspapers, if you like. What is it to me? Am I a friend or relation of his? It is true that for a long time we lived under one roof... but aren't there plenty of people with whom I have lived?"...

I seized the papers and lost no time in carrying them away, fearing that the staff-captain might repent his action. Soon somebody came to tell us that the "Adventure" would set off in an hour's time. I ordered the horses to be put to.

I had already put my cap on when the staffcaptain entered the room.

Apparently he had not got ready for departure. His manner was somewhat cold and constrained.

"You are not going, then, Maksim Maksimych?"

"No, sir!"

"But why not?"

"Well, I have not seen the Commandant yet, and I have to deliver some Government things."

"But you did go, you know."

"I did, of course," he stammered, "but he was not at home... and I did not wait."

I understood. For the first time in his life, probably, the poor old man had, to speak by the book, thrown aside official business 'for the sake of his personal requirements'... and how he had been rewarded!

"I am very sorry, Maksim Maksimych, very sorry indeed," I said, "that we must part sooner than necessary."

"What should we rough old men be thinking of to run after you? You young men are fas.h.i.+onable and proud: under the Circa.s.sian bullets you are friendly enough with us... but when you meet us afterwards you are ashamed even to give us your hand!"

"I have not deserved these reproaches, Maksim Maksimych."

"Well, but you know I'm quite right. However, I wish you all good luck and a pleasant journey."

We took a rather cold farewell of each other. The kind-hearted Maksim Maksimych had become the obstinate, cantankerous staff-captain! And why?

Because Pechorin, through absent-mindedness or from some other cause, had extended his hand to him when Maksim Maksimych was going to throw himself on his neck! Sad it is to see when a young man loses his best hopes and dreams, when from before his eyes is withdrawn the rose-hued veil through which he has looked upon the deeds and feelings of mankind; although there is the hope that the old illusions will be replaced by new ones, none the less evanescent, but, on the other hand, none the less sweet. But wherewith can they be replaced when one is at the age of Maksim Maksimych? Do what you will, the heart hardens and the soul shrinks in upon itself.

I departed--alone.

FOREWORD TO BOOKS III, IV, AND V

A Hero of Our Time Part 10

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A Hero of Our Time Part 10 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 10. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 222 views.

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