A Hero of Our Time Part 9

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"I am speaking to you, my friend!" he said, touching the uncivil fellow on the shoulder.

"Whose carriage?--My master's."

"And who is your master?"

"Pechorin--"

"What did you say? What? Pechorin?--Great Heavens!... Did he not serve in the Caucasus?" exclaimed Maksim Maksimych, plucking me by the sleeve.

His eyes were sparkling with joy.

"Yes, he served there, I think--but I have not been with him long."

"Well! Just so!... Just so!... Grigori Aleksandrovich?... that is his name, of course? Your master and I were friends," he added, giving the manservant a friendly clap on the shoulder with such force as to cause him to stagger.

"Excuse me, sir, you are hindering me," said the latter, frowning.

"What a fellow you are, my friend! Why, don't you know, your master and I were bosom friends, and lived together?... But where has he put up?"

The servant intimated that Pechorin had stayed to take supper and pa.s.s the night at Colonel N----'s.

"But won't he be looking in here in the evening?" said Maksim Maksimych.

"Or, you, my man, won't you be going over to him for something?... If you do, tell him that Maksim Maksimych is here; just say that--he'll know!--I'll give you half a ruble for a tip!"

The manservant made a scornful face on hearing such a modest promise, but he a.s.sured Maksim Maksimych that he would execute his commission.

"He'll be sure to come running up directly!" said Maksim Maksimych, with an air of triumph. "I will go outside the gate and wait for him! Ah, it's a pity I am not acquainted with Colonel N----!"

Maksim Maksimych sat down on a little bench outside the gate, and I went to my room. I confess that I also was awaiting this Pechorin's appearance with a certain amount of impatience--although, from the staff-captain's story, I had formed a by no means favourable idea of him. Still, certain traits in his character struck me as remarkable. In an hour's time one of the old soldiers brought a steaming samovar and a teapot.

"Won't you have some tea, Maksim Maksimych?" I called out of the window.

"Thank you. I am not thirsty, somehow."

"Oh, do have some! It is late, you know, and cold!"

"No, thank you"...

"Well, just as you like!"

I began my tea alone. About ten minutes afterwards my old captain came in.

"You are right, you know; it would be better to have a drop of tea--but I was waiting for Pechorin. His man has been gone a long time now, but evidently something has detained him."

The staff-captain hurriedly sipped a cup of tea, refused a second, and went off again outside the gate--not without a certain amount of disquietude. It was obvious that the old man was mortified by Pechorin's neglect, the more so because a short time previously he had been telling me of their friends.h.i.+p, and up to an hour ago had been convinced that Pechorin would come running up immediately on hearing his name.

It was already late and dark when I opened the window again and began to call Maksim Maksimych, saying that it was time to go to bed. He muttered something through his teeth. I repeated my invitation--he made no answer.

I left a candle on the stove-seat, and, wrapping myself up in my cloak, I lay down on the couch and soon fell into slumber; and I would have slept on quietly had not Maksim Maksimych awakened me as he came into the room. It was then very late. He threw his pipe on the table, began to walk up and down the room, and to rattle about at the stove. At last he lay down, but for a long time he kept coughing, spitting, and tossing about.

"The bugs are biting you, are they not?" I asked.

"Yes, that is it," he answered, with a heavy sigh.

I woke early the next morning, but Maksim Maksimych had antic.i.p.ated me.

I found him sitting on the little bench at the gate.

"I have to go to the Commandant," he said, "so, if Pechorin comes, please send for me."...

I gave my promise. He ran off as if his limbs had regained their youthful strength and suppleness.

The morning was fresh and lovely. Golden clouds had ma.s.sed themselves on the mountaintops like a new range of aerial mountains. Before the gate a wide square spread out; behind it the bazaar was seething with people, the day being Sunday. Barefooted Ossete boys, carrying wallets of honeycomb on their shoulders, were hovering around me. I cursed them; I had other things to think of--I was beginning to share the worthy staff-captain's uneasiness.

Before ten minutes had pa.s.sed the man we were awaiting appeared at the end of the square. He was walking with Colonel N., who accompanied him as far as the inn, said good-bye to him, and then turned back to the fortress. I immediately despatched one of the old soldiers for Maksim Maksimych.

Pechorin's manservant went out to meet him and informed him that they were going to put to at once; he handed him a box of cigars, received a few orders, and went off about his business. His master lit a cigar, yawned once or twice, and sat down on the bench on the other side of the gate. I must now draw his portrait for you.

He was of medium height. His shapely, slim figure and broad shoulders gave evidence of a strong const.i.tution, capable of enduring all the hards.h.i.+ps of a nomad life and changes of climates, and of resisting with success both the demoralising effects of life in the Capital and the tempests of the soul. His velvet overcoat, which was covered with dust, was fastened by the two lower b.u.t.tons only, and exposed to view linen of dazzling whiteness, which proved that he had the habits of a gentleman.

His gloves, soiled by travel, seemed as though made expressly for his small, aristocratic hand, and when he took one glove off I was astonished at the thinness of his pale fingers. His gait was careless and indolent, but I noticed that he did not swing his arms--a sure sign of a certain secretiveness of character. These remarks, however, are the result of my own observations, and I have not the least desire to make you blindly believe in them. When he was in the act of seating himself on the bench his upright figure bent as if there was not a single bone in his back. The att.i.tude of his whole body was expressive of a certain nervous weakness; he looked, as he sat, like one of Balzac's thirty-year-old coquettes resting in her downy arm-chair after a fatiguing ball. From my first glance at his face I should not have supposed his age to be more than twenty-three, though afterwards I should have put it down as thirty. His smile had something of a child-like quality. His skin possessed a kind of feminine delicacy. His fair hair, naturally curly, most picturesquely outlined his pale and n.o.ble brow, on which it was only after lengthy observation that traces could be noticed of wrinkles, intersecting each other: probably they showed up more distinctly in moments of anger or mental disturbance. Notwithstanding the light colour of his hair, his moustaches and eyebrows were black--a sign of breeding in a man, just as a black mane and a black tail in a white horse. To complete the portrait, I will add that he had a slightly turned-up nose, teeth of dazzling whiteness, and brown eyes--I must say a few words more about his eyes.

In the first place, they never laughed when he laughed. Have you not happened, yourself, to notice the same peculiarity in certain people?...

It is a sign either of an evil disposition or of deep and constant grief. From behind his half-lowered eyelashes they shone with a kind of phosph.o.r.escent gleam--if I may so express myself--which was not the reflection of a fervid soul or of a playful fancy, but a glitter like to that of smooth steel, blinding but cold. His glance--brief, but piercing and heavy--left the unpleasant impression of an indiscreet question and might have seemed insolent had it not been so unconcernedly tranquil.

It may be that all these remarks came into my mind only after I had known some details of his life, and it may be, too, that his appearance would have produced an entirely different impression upon another; but, as you will not hear of him from anyone except myself, you will have to rest content, nolens volens, with the description I have given.

In conclusion, I will say that, speaking generally, he was a very good-looking man, and had one of those original types of countenance which are particularly pleasing to women.

The horses were already put to; now and then the bell jingled on the shaft-bow; [19] and the manservant had twice gone up to Pechorin with the announcement that everything was ready, but still there was no sign of Maksim Maksimych. Fortunately Pechorin was sunk in thought as he gazed at the jagged, blue peaks of the Caucasus, and was apparently by no means in a hurry for the road.

I went up to him.

"If you care to wait a little longer," I said, "you will have the pleasure of meeting an old friend."

"Oh, exactly!" he answered quickly. "They told me so yesterday. Where is he, though?"

I looked in the direction of the square and there I descried Maksim Maksimych running as hard as he could. In a few moments he was beside us. He was scarcely able to breathe; perspiration was rolling in large drops from his face; wet tufts of grey hair, escaping from under his cap, were glued to his forehead; his knees were shaking... He was about to throw himself on Pechorin's neck, but the latter, rather coldly, though with a smile of welcome, stretched out his hand to him. For a moment the staffcaptain was petrified, but then eagerly seized Pechorin's hand in both his own. He was still unable to speak.

"How glad I am to see you, my dear Maksim Maksimych! Well, how are you?"

said Pechorin.

"And... thou... you?" [20] murmured the old man, with tears in his eyes. "What an age it is since I have seen you!... But where are you off to?"...

"I am going to Persia--and farther."...

"But surely not immediately?... Wait a little, my dear fellow!... Surely we are not going to part at once?... What a long time it is since we have seen each other!"...

"It is time for me to go, Maksim Maksimych," was the reply.

"Good heavens, good heavens! But where are you going to in such a hurry?

There was so much I should have liked to tell you! So much to question you about!... Well, what of yourself? Have you retired?... What?... How have you been getting along?"

A Hero of Our Time Part 9

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A Hero of Our Time Part 9 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 9. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 217 views.

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