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<SPAN name="link2H_4_0025" id="link2H_4_0025"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> XXV. WOLODA'S FRIENDS </h2> <p> Although, when in the society of Woloda's friends, I had to play a part that hurt my pride, I liked sitting in his room when he had visitors, and silently watching all they did. The two who came most frequently to see him were a military adjutant called Dubkoff and a student named Prince Nechludoff. Dubkoff was a little dark-haired, highly-strung man who, though short of stature and no longer in his first youth, had a pleasing and invariably cheerful air. His was one of those limited natures which are agreeable through their very limitations; natures which cannot regard matters from every point of view, but which are nevertheless attracted by everything. Usually the reasoning of such persons is false and one-sided, yet always genuine and taking; wherefore their narrow egotism seems both amiable and excusable. There were two other reasons why Dubkoff had charms for Woloda and myself&mdash;namely, the fact that he was of military appearance, and, secondly (and principally), the fact that he was of a certain age&mdash;an age with which young people are apt to associate that quality of "gentlemanliness" which is so highly esteemed at their time of life. However, he was in very truth un homme comme il faut. The only thing which I did not like about it all was that, in his presence, Woloda always seemed ashamed of my innocent behaviour, and still more so of my youthfulness. As for Prince Nechludoff, he was in no way handsome, since neither his small grey eyes, his low, projecting forehead, nor his disproportionately long hands and feet could be called good features. The only good points about him were his unusually tall stature, his delicate colouring, and his splendid teeth. Nevertheless, his face was of such an original, energetic character (owing to his narrow, sparkling eyes and ever-changing expression&mdash;now stern, now childlike, now smiling indeterminately) that it was impossible to help noticing it. As a rule he was very shy, and would blush to the ears at the smallest trifle, but it was a shyness altogether different from mine, seeing that, the more he blushed, the more determined-looking he grew, as though he were vexed at his own weakness. </p> <p> Although he was on very good terms with Woloda and Dubkoff, it was clearly chance which had united them thus, since their tastes were entirely dissimilar. Woloda and Dubkoff seemed to be afraid of anything like serious consideration or emotion, whereas Nechludoff was beyond all things an enthusiast, and would often, despite their sarcastic remarks, plunge into dissertations on philosophical matters or matters of feeling. Again, the two former liked talking about the fair objects of their adoration (these were always numerous, and always shared by the friends in common), whereas Nechludoff invariably grew annoyed when taxed with his love for a certain red-haired lady. </p> <p> Again, Woloda and Dubkoff often permitted themselves to criticise their relatives, and to find amusement in so doing, but Nechludoff flew into a tremendous rage when on one occasion they referred to some weak points in the character of an aunt of his whom he adored. Finally, after supper Woloda and Dubkoff would usually go off to some place whither Nechludoff would not accompany them; wherefore they called him "a dainty girl." </p> <p> The very first time that I ever saw Prince Nechludoff I was struck with his exterior and conversation. Yet, though I could discern a great similarity between his disposition and my own (or perhaps it was because I COULD so discern it), the impression which he produced upon me at first was anything but agreeable. I liked neither his quick glance, his hard voice, his proud bearing, nor (least of all) the utter indifference with which he treated me. Often, when conversing, I burned to contradict him, to punish his pride by confuting him, to show him that I was clever in spite of his disdainful neglect of my presence. But I was invariably prevented from doing so by my shyness. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0026" id="link2H_4_0026"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> XXVI. DISCUSSIONS </h2> <p> Woloda was lying reading a French novel on the sofa when I paid my usual visit to his room after my evening lessons. He looked up at me for a moment from his book, and then went on reading. This perfectly simple and natural movement, however, offended me. I conceived that the glance implied a question why I had come and a wish to hide his thoughts from me (I may say that at that period a tendency to attach a meaning to the most insignificant of acts formed a prominent feature in my character). So I went to the table and also took up a book to read. Yet, even before I had actually begun reading, the idea struck me how ridiculous it was that, although we had never seen one another all day, we should have not a word to exchange. </p> <p> "Are you going to stay in to-night, Woloda?" </p> <p> "I don't know. Why?" </p> <p> "Oh, because&mdash;" Seeing that the conversation did not promise to be a success, I took up my book again, and began to read. Yet it was a strange thing that, though we sometimes passed whole hours together without speaking when we were alone, the mere presence of a third&mdash;sometimes of a taciturn and wholly uninteresting person&mdash;sufficed to plunge us into the most varied and engrossing of discussions. The truth was that we knew one another too well, and to know a person either too well or too little acts as a bar to intimacy. </p> <p> "Is Woloda at home?" came in Dubkoff's voice from the ante-room. </p> <p> "Yes!" shouted Woloda, springing up and throwing aside his book. </p> <p> Dubkoff and Nechludoff entered. </p> <p> "Are you coming to the theatre, Woloda?" </p> <p> "No, I have no time," he replied with a blush. </p> <p> "Oh, never mind that. Come along." </p> <p> "But I haven't got a ticket." </p> <p> "Tickets, as many as you like, at the entrance." </p> <p> "Very well, then; I'll be back in a minute," said Woloda evasively as he left the room. I knew very well that he wanted to go, but that he had declined because he had no money, and had now gone to borrow five roubles of one of the servants&mdash;to be repaid when he got his next allowance. </p> <p> "How do you do, DIPLOMAT?" said Dubkoff to me as he shook me by the hand. Woloda's friends had called me by that nickname since the day when Grandmamma had said at luncheon that Woloda must go into the army, but that she would like to see me in the diplomatic service, dressed in a black frock-coat, and with my hair arranged a la coq (the two essential requirements, in her opinion, of a DIPLOMAT). </p> <p> "Where has Woloda gone to?" asked Nechludoff. </p> <p> "I don't know," I replied, blushing to think that nevertheless they had probably guessed his errand. </p> <p> "I suppose he has no money? Yes, I can see I am right, O diplomatist," he added, taking my smile as an answer in the affirmative. "Well, I have none, either. Have you any, Dubkoff?" </p> <p> "I'll see," replied Dubkoff, feeling for his pocket, and rummaging gingerly about with his squat little fingers among his small change. "Yes, here are five copecks-twenty, but that's all," he concluded with a comic gesture of his hand. </p> <p> At this point Woloda re-entered. </p> <p> "Are we going?" </p> <p> "No." </p> <p> "What an odd fellow you are!" said Nechludoff. "Why don't you say that you have no money? Here, take my ticket." </p> <p> "But what are you going to do?" </p> <p> "He can go into his cousin's box," said Dubkoff. </p> <p> "No, I'm not going at all," replied Nechludoff. </p> <p> "Why?" </p> <p> "Because I hate sitting in a box." </p> <p> "And for what reason?" </p> <p> "I don't know. Somehow I feel uncomfortable there." </p> <p> "Always the same! I can't understand a fellow feeling uncomfortable when he is sitting with people who are fond of him. It is unnatural, mon cher." </p> <p> "But what else is there to be done si je suis tant timide? You never blushed in your life, but I do at the least trifle," and he blushed at that moment. </p> <p> "Do you know what that nervousness of yours proceeds from?" said Dubkoff in a protecting sort of tone, "D'un exces d'amour propre, mon cher." </p> <p> "What do you mean by 'exces d'amour propre'?" asked Nechludoff, highly offended. "On the contrary, I am shy just because I have TOO LITTLE amour propre. I always feel as though I were being tiresome and disagreeable, and therefore&mdash;" </p> <p> "Well, get ready, Woloda," interrupted Dubkoff, tapping my brother on the shoulder and handing him his cloak. "Ignaz, get your master ready." </p> <p> "Therefore," continued Nechludoff, "it often happens with me that&mdash;" </p> <p> But Dubkoff was not listening. "Tra-la-la-la," and he hummed a popular air. </p> <p> "Oh, but I'm not going to let you off," went on Nechludoff. "I mean to prove to you that my shyness is not the result of conceit." </p> <p> "You can prove it as we go along." </p> <p> "But I have told you that I am NOT going." </p> <p> "Well, then, stay here and prove it to the DIPLOMAT, and he can tell us all about it when we return." </p> <p> "Yes, that's what I WILL do," said Nechludoff with boyish obstinacy, "so hurry up with your return." </p> <p> "Well, do you think I am egotistic?" he continued, seating himself beside me. </p> <p> True, I had a definite opinion on the subject, but I felt so taken aback by this unexpected question that at first I could make no reply. </p> <p> "Yes, I DO think so," I said at length in a faltering voice, and colouring at the thought that at last the moment had come when I could show him that I was clever. "I think that EVERYBODY is egotistic, and that everything we do is done out of egotism." </p> <p> "But what do you call egotism?" asked Nechludoff&mdash;smiling, as I thought, a little contemptuously. </p> <p> "Egotism is a conviction that we are better and cleverer than any one else," I replied. </p> <p> "But how can we ALL be filled with this conviction?" he inquired. </p> <p> "Well, I don't know if I am right or not&mdash;certainly no one but myself seems to hold the opinion&mdash;but I believe that I am wiser than any one else in the world, and that all of you know it." </p> <p> "At least I can say for myself," observed Nechludoff, "that I have met a FEW people whom I believe to excel me in wisdom." </p> <p> "It is impossible," I replied with conviction. </p> <p> "Do you really think so?" he said, looking at me gravely. </p> <p> "Yes, really," I answered, and an idea crossed my mind which I proceeded to expound further. "Let me prove it to you. Why do we love ourselves better than any one else? Because we think ourselves BETTER than any one else&mdash;more worthy of our own love. If we THOUGHT others better than ourselves, we should LOVE them better than ourselves: but that is never the case. And even if it were so, I should still be right," I added with an involuntary smile of complacency. </p> <p> For a few minutes Nechludoff was silent. </p> <p> "I never thought you were so clever," he said with a smile so goodhumoured and charming that I at once felt happy. </p> <p> Praise exercises an all-potent influence, not only upon the feelings, but also upon the intellect; so that under the influence of that agreeable sensation I straightway felt much cleverer than before, and thoughts began to rush with extraordinary rapidity through my head. From egotism we passed insensibly to the theme of love, which seemed inexhaustible. Although our reasonings might have sounded nonsensical to a listener (so vague and one-sided were they), for ourselves they had a profound significance. Our minds were so perfectly in harmony that not a chord was struck in the one without awakening an echo in the other, and in this harmonious striking of different chords we found the greatest delight. Indeed, we felt as though time and language were insufficient to express the thoughts which seethed within us. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0027" id="link2H_4_0027"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> XXVII. THE BEGINNING OF OUR FRIENDSHIP </h2> <p> From that time forth, a strange, but exceedingly pleasant, relation subsisted between Dimitri Nechludoff and myself. Before other people he paid me scanty attention, but as soon as ever we were alone, we would sit down together in some comfortable corner and, forgetful both of time and of everything around us, fall to reasoning. </p> <p> We talked of a future life, of art, service, marriage, and education; nor did the idea ever occur to us that very possibly all we said was shocking nonsense. The reason why it never occurred to us was that the nonsense which we talked was good, sensible nonsense, and that, so long as one is young, one can appreciate good nonsense, and believe in it. In youth the powers of the mind are directed wholly to the future, and that future assumes such various, vivid, and alluring forms under the influence of hope&mdash;hope based, not upon the experience of the past, but upon an assumed possibility of happiness to come&mdash;that such dreams of expected felicity constitute in themselves the true happiness of that period of our life. How I loved those moments in our metaphysical discussions (discussions which formed the major portion of our intercourse) when thoughts came thronging faster and faster, and, succeeding one another at lightning speed, and growing more and more abstract, at length attained such a pitch of elevation that one felt powerless to express them, and said something quite different from what one had intended at first to say! How I liked those moments, too, when, carried higher and higher into the realms of thought, we suddenly felt that we could grasp its substance no longer and go no further! </p> <p> At carnival time Nechludoff was so much taken up with one festivity and another that, though he came to see us several times a day, he never addressed a single word to me. This offended me so much that once again I found myself thinking him a haughty, disagreeable fellow, and only awaited an opportunity to show him that I no longer valued his company or felt any particular affection for him. Accordingly, the first time that he spoke to me after the carnival, I said that I had lessons to do, and went upstairs, but a quarter of an hour later some one opened the schoolroom door, and Nechludoff entered. </p> <p> "Am I disturbing you?" he asked. </p> <p> "No," I replied, although I had at first intended to say that I had a great deal to do. </p> <p> "Then why did you run away just now? It is a long while since we had a talk together, and I have grown so accustomed to these discussions that I feel as though something were wanting." </p> <p> My anger had quite gone now, and Dimitri stood before me the same good and lovable being as before. </p> <p> "You know, perhaps, why I ran away?" I said. </p> <p> "Perhaps I do," he answered, taking a seat near me. "However, though it is possible I know why, I cannot say it straight out, whereas YOU can." </p> <p> "Then I will do so. I ran away because I was angry with you&mdash;well, not angry, but grieved. I always have an idea that you despise me for being so young." </p> <p> "Well, do you know why I always feel so attracted towards you?" he replied, meeting my confession with a look of kind understanding, "and why I like you better than any of my other acquaintances or than any of the people among whom I mostly have to live? It is because I found out at once that you have the rare and astonishing gift of sincerity." </p> <p> "Yes, I always confess the things of which I am most ashamed&mdash;but only to people in whom I trust," I said. </p> <p> "Ah, but to trust a man you must be his friend completely, and we are not friends yet, Nicolas. Remember how, when we were speaking of friendship, we agreed that, to be real friends, we ought to trust one another implicitly." </p> <p> "I trust you in so far as that I feel convinced that you would never repeat a word of what I might tell you," I said. </p> <p> "Yet perhaps the most interesting and important thoughts of all are just those which we never tell one another, while the mean thoughts (the thoughts which, if we only knew that we had to confess them to one another, would probably never have the hardihood to enter our minds)&mdash;Well, do you know what I am thinking of, Nicolas?" he broke off, rising and taking my hand with a smile. "I propose (and I feel sure that it would benefit us mutually) that we should pledge our word to one another to tell each other EVERYTHING. We should then really know each other, and never have anything on our consciences. And, to guard against outsiders, let us also agree never to speak of one another to a third person. Suppose we do that?" </p> <p> "I agree," I replied. And we did it. What the result was shall be told hereafter. </p> <p> Kerr has said that every attachment has two sides: one loves, and the other allows himself to be loved; one kisses, and the other surrenders his cheek. That is perfectly true. In the case of our own attachment it was I who kissed, and Dimitri who surrendered his cheek&mdash;though he, in his turn, was ready to pay me a similar salute. We loved equally because we knew and appreciated each other thoroughly, but this did not prevent him from exercising an influence over me, nor myself from rendering him adoration. </p> <p> It will readily be understood that Nechludoff's influence caused me to adopt his bent of mind, the essence of which lay in an enthusiastic reverence for ideal virtue and a firm belief in man's vocation to perpetual perfection. To raise mankind, to abolish vice and misery, seemed at that time a task offering no difficulties. To educate oneself to every virtue, and so to achieve happiness, seemed a simple and easy matter. </p> <p> Only God Himself knows whether those blessed dreams of youth were ridiculous, or whose the fault was that they never became realised. </p> <p> <br /> <br /> </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Boyhood, by Leo Tolstoy
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