THE NEXT day Lavretsky got up rather early, had a talk with the village bailiff, visited the threshing-floor, ordered the chain to be taken off the yard dog, who only barked a little, but did not even come out of his kennel, and, returning home, sank into a kind of peaceful torpor, which he did not shake off the whole day.
Here I am at the very bottom of the river, he said to himself more than once. He sat at the window without stirring, and, as it were, listened to the current of the quiet life surrounding him, to the few sounds of the country solitude. Something from behind the nettles chirps with a shrill, shrill little note; a gnat seems to answer it. Now it has ceased, but still the gnat keeps up its sharp whirr; across the pleasant, persistent, fretful buzz of the flies sounds the hum of a big bee, constantly knocking its head against the ceiling; a cock crows in the street, hoarsely prolonging the last note; there is the rattle of a cart; in the village a gate is creaking. Then the jarring voice of a peasant woman, What? Hey, you are my little sweetheart, cries Anton to the little two-year-old girl he is dandling in his arms. Fetch the kvas, repeats the same womans voice, and all at once there follows a deathly silence; nothing rattles, nothing is moving; the wind is not stirring a leaf; without a sound the swallows fly one after another over the earth, and sadness weighs on the heart from their noiseless flight. Here I am at the very bottom of the river, thought Lavretsky again. And always, at all times life here is quiet, unhasting, he thought; whoever comes within its circle must submit; here there is nothing to agitate, nothing to harass; one can only get on here by making ones way slowly, as the ploughman cuts the furrow with his plough. And what vigour, what health abound in this inactive place! Here under the window the sturdy burdock creeps out of the thick grass; above it the lovage trails its juicy stalks and the Virgins tears fling still higher their pink tendrils; and yonder further in the fields is the silky rye, and the oats are already in ear, and every leaf on every tree, every grass on its stalk is spread to its fullest width. In the love of a woman my best years have gone by, Lavretsky went on thinking, let me be sobered by the sameness of life here, let me be soothed and made ready, so that I may learn to do my duty without haste. And again he fell to listening to the silence, expecting nothingand at the same time constantly expecting something; the silence enfolded him on all sides, the sun moved calmly in the peaceful blue sky, and the clouds sailed calmly across it; they seemed to know why and whither they were sailing. At this same time in other places on the earth there is the seething, the bustle, the clash of life; life here slipped by noiseless, as water over marshy grass; and even till evening Lavretsky could not tear himself from the contemplation of this life as it passed and glided by; sorrow for the past was melting in his soul like snow in spring, and strange to say, never had the feeling of home been so deep and strong within him.