FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 19

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Stepan Arkadyevitch was about to go
away when Korney came in to announce: 

“Sergey Alexyevitch!”

“Who’s Sergey Alexyevitch?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch was beginning, but he remembered
immediately.

“Ah, Seryozha!” he said
aloud.  “Sergey Alexyevitch!  I thought
it was the director of a department.  Anna asked
me to see him too,” he thought.

And he recalled the timid, piteous
expression with which Anna had said to him at parting: 
“Anyway, you will see him.  Find out exactly
where he is, who is looking after him.  And Stiva…if
it were possible!  Could it be possible?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch knew what was meant by that “if
it were possible,” ­if it were possible
to arrange the divorce so as to let her have her son…. 
Stepan Arkadyevitch saw now that it was no good to
dream of that, but still he was glad to see his nephew.

Alexey Alexandrovitch reminded his
brother-in-law that they never spoke to the boy of
his mother, and he begged him not to mention a single
word about her.

“He was very ill after that
interview with his mother, which we had not foreseen,”
said Alexey Alexandrovitch.  “Indeed, we
feared for his life.  But with rational treatment,
and sea-bathing in the summer, he regained his strength,
and now, by the doctor’s advice, I have let
him go to school.  And certainly the companionship
of school has had a good effect on him, and he is
perfectly well, and making good progress.”

“What a fine fellow he’s
grown!  He’s not Seryozha now, but quite
full-fledged Sergey Alexyevitch!” said Stepan
Arkadyevitch, smiling, as he looked at the handsome,
broad-shouldered lad in blue coat and long trousers,
who walked in alertly and confidently.  The boy
looked healthy and good-humored.  He bowed to
his uncle as to a stranger, but recognizing him, he
blushed and turned hurriedly away from him, as though
offended and irritated at something.  The boy
went up to his father and handed him a note of the
marks he had gained in school.

“Well, that’s very fair,”
said his father, “you can go.”

“He’s thinner and taller,
and has grown out of being a child into a boy; I like
that,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.  “Do
you remember me?”

The boy looked back quickly at his uncle.

“Yes, mon oncle,”
he answered, glancing at his father, and again he
looked downcast.

His uncle called him to him, and took his hand.

“Well, and how are you getting
on?” he said, wanting to talk to him, and not
knowing what to say.

The boy, blushing and making no answer,
cautiously drew his hand away.  As soon as Stepan
Arkadyevitch let go his hand, he glanced doubtfully
at his father, and like a bird set free, he darted
out of the room.

A year had passed since the last time
Seryozha had seen his mother.  Since then he
had heard nothing more of her.  And in the course
of that year he had gone to school, and made friends
among his schoolfellows.  The dreams and memories
of his mother, which had made him ill after seeing
her, did not occupy his thoughts now.  When they
came back to him, he studiously drove them away, regarding
them as shameful and girlish, below the dignity of
a boy and a schoolboy.  He knew that his father
and mother were separated by some quarrel, he knew
that he had to remain with his father, and he tried
to get used to that idea.

He disliked seeing his uncle, so like
his mother, for it called up those memories of which
he was ashamed.  He disliked it all the more
as from some words he had caught as he waited at the
study door, and still more from the faces of his father
and uncle, he guessed that they must have been talking
of his mother.  And to avoid condemning the father
with whom he lived and on whom he was dependent, and,
above all, to avoid giving way to sentimentality,
which he considered so degrading, Seryozha tried not
to look at his uncle who had come to disturb his peace
of mind, and not to think of what he recalled to him.

But when Stepan Arkadyevitch, going
out after him, saw him on the stairs, and calling
to him, asked him how he spent his playtime at school,
Seryozha talked more freely to him away from his father’s
presence.

“We have a railway now,”
he said in answer to his uncle’s question. 
“It’s like this, do you see:  two
sit on a bench ­ they’re the passengers;
and one stands up straight on the bench.  And
all are harnessed to it by their arms or by their belts,
and they run through all the rooms ­the
doors are left open beforehand.  Well, and it’s
pretty hard work being the conductor!”

“That’s the one that stands?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch inquired, smiling.

“Yes, you want pluck for it,
and cleverness too, especially when they stop all
of a sudden, or someone falls down.”

“Yes, that must be a serious
matter,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, watching
with mournful interest the eager eyes, like his mother’s;
not childish now ­no longer fully innocent. 
And though he had promised Alexey Alexandrovitch
not to speak of Anna, he could not restrain himself.

“Do you remember your mother?” he asked
suddenly.

“No, I don’t,” Seryozha
said quickly.  He blushed crimson, and his face
clouded over.  And his uncle could get nothing
more out of him.  His tutor found his pupil on
the staircase half an hour later, and for a long while
he could not make out whether he was ill-tempered
or crying.

“What is it?  I expect you
hurt yourself when you fell down?” said the
tutor.  “I told you it was a dangerous game. 
And we shall have to speak to the director.”

“If I had hurt myself, nobody
should have found it out, that’s certain.”

“Well, what is it, then?”

“Leave me alone!  If I
remember, or if I don’t remember?…what business
is it of his?  Why should I remember?  Leave
me in peace!” he said, addressing not his tutor,
but the whole world.

 

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