Tentyotnikoff; or, the Sorrows of Love

Why, it may be asked, why depict misery upon misery, and the imperfection of our lives, by unearthing people from the wilderness, from the remote nooks and corners of our empire? But what is to be done if the character of the author is such that, conscious of his own imperfection, he is unable to depict anything except misery upon misery, and the imperfections of our life, unearthing people from the wilderness, from remote nooks and corners of the empire? And here we have again arrived in the wilds, again we have hit upon a distant nook. But, on the whole, what a nook, what wilds!

Like the gigantic escarpment of some interminable fortress, with angles and batteries, the mountainous elevation extends for more than a thousand versts. Grandly does it pursue its course across the boundless expanse of the plain, now breaking off in the shape of a perpendicular wall, of a clayey or limestone formation, hollowed out into gullies and watercourses, and rounding over in a swelling which pleases the eye, covered, as with a lambskin coat, with young bushes, which have sprouted forth amid the trees which had been felled; and, last of all, with dark clumps of forest, which have escaped the axe by some miracle. The river, now faithful to its bed, displays sharp angles and round curves, and now stretches to a distance into the meadows, where, after several windings, it glitters like fire beneath the sun. Then it hides itself in a grove of beeches, ash-trees, and alders, and thence emerges in triumph in company with bridges, mills, and dams, which seem to pursue it at every step.

Here had met examples of the whole vegetable kingdom. The oak, the fir, the wild-pear, the maple, the cherry, the thorn or nettle-tree, with wild wreathing ivy and hops, climbed all over the mountain side from summit to base, now aiding now stifling each other in their growth. And aloft, mingled with their verdant crests, appeared the red roofs of a manorial building, the peaks and frets of the peasants’ cabins being concealed in the rear, behind the carved balcony and large half-rounded windows of the mansion. And over all these roofs and trees the ancient church reared its five glittering golden crests. On all its cupolas there were open-work gilt crosses, and, at a distance, it seemed as though the gold, sparkling like burning ducats, hung suspended in the air without support. And all this—roofs, tree-tops, and crosses—was charmingly reflected, but in a reversed position, in the river, where the hollow, deformed willows, standing, some in the water and others on the margin, with their branches and their leaves drooping thence, all enveloped in the green slime which floated on the stream with the yellow water-lilies, appeared to be gazing upon their wondrous reflection.

Who was the owner of this picturesque village, approached from a long avenue of oaks, which received the visitor courteously, stretching out their drooping boughs as though for a friendly embrace, and accompanying him to the very front of the house, of which we have already seen the upper storey from afar, and which now stands face to face with one, having on one side a row of peasants’ cabins displaying peaks and carved gables, and on the other hand a church glittering with golden crosses? To what fortunate individual did this labyrinth belong?

To a landowner of the Tremalakhansky district, Andrei Ivanovitch Tentyotnikoff by name, a lucky young fellow of thirty, who was still unmarried.

Who was he? what was he? what qualities, what capacities, did he possess? We must inquire of his neighbours—of his neighbours, dear readers. One neighbour expressed his opinion of him by the laconic phrase, “A perfect beast!” A general, who lived at a distance of ten versts off, said, “He is by no means a stupid young man, but he has got a great many queer notions into his head. I might be of service to him, for I am not without influence in St. Petersburg, and even with——” However, the general did not finish his speech. As for the captain-ispravnik, he gave this answer: “There’s something low about him—he’s a worthless fellow; and I must go after him to-morrow for his arrears!” The moujiks of the village, when questioned as to what sort of a man their master was, made no reply at all. So, of course, their opinion of him was unfavourable.

But, to speak dispassionately, he was not a bad fellow: he simply encumbered the earth. Since there are a great many people in the wide world who are utterly useless, why should not Tentyotnikoff be one of them too?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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