A Hero of Our Time, part 5: Pechorin’s Operation Continues

Continuing where we left off, Grushnitsky and Pechorin visit Princess Mary the day after the incident of the mazurka.


Around nine o’clock we went together to the princess’s house. Princess Ligovskaya made her daughter sit down to the piano and everybody begged her to sing. I said nothing, and taking advantage of the hubbub retreated to a window.

My indifference did not please the young princess, however, as I could guess by the one angry flashing glance she gave me . . . How well do I understand this mute but eloquent way of communicating, so brief yet so forceful!

She sang; her voice is pleasant but she sings badly . . . as a matter of fact, I didn’t listen. But Grushnitsky, with his elbows on the piano facing the princess, ate her up her with his eyes, mumbling “Charmant! Déclicieux!” over and over again.

In the meantime Princess Mary had stopped singing. A chorus of praise broke out around her. I walked up to her last and said something very casual about her voice.

She pouted and made a mock curtsy.

“It is all the more flattering to me,” she said, “because you weren’t listening at all. But perhaps you don’t care for music?”

“On the contrary, I do, particularly after dinner.”

“Grushnitsky is right when he says that your tastes are most prosaic. Even I can see that you appreciate music from the point of view of the gourmand. . .”

“You are wrong again. I am no gourmand and I have a poor digestion. Nevertheless music after dinner lulls you to sleep and a nap after dinner is good for you; hence I like music in the medical sense. In the evening, on the contrary, it excites my nerves too much, and I find myself either too depressed or too gay. Both are tedious when there is no good reason either to mope or to rejoice. Besides, to be downcast in company is ridiculous and excessive gaiety is in bad taste . . . .”

She walked off without waiting for me to finish and sat down beside Grushnitsky. The two engaged in a sentimental conversation: the princess seemed to respond to his wise sayings in an absent-minded and rather inept way, though she simulated interest, and he glanced at her every now and then with a look of surprise as if trying to determine the cause of the inner turmoil reflected in her troubled eyes.

But I have unraveled your secret, my charming princess, so beware! You wish to repay me in the same currency by wounding my vanity–but you won’t succeed! And if you declare war on me, I’ll be ruthless.

Several times in the course of the evening I deliberately tried to join in their conversation, but she countered my remarks rather dryly, and I finally withdrew pretending resentment. The princess was triumphant, and so was Grushnitsky. Triumph, my friends, while you may . . . you have not long to triumph! What will happen? I have a presentiment . . . Upon meeting a woman I have always been able to tell for certain whether she’ll fall in love with me or not . . .

I left together with Grushnitsky. Outside he took my arm and after a long silence said: “Well, what do you say?”

I wanted to tell him, “You are a fool,” but restrained myself and merely shrugged my shoulders.


About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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One Response to A Hero of Our Time, part 5: Pechorin’s Operation Continues

  1. Pingback: A Hero of Our Time: Introduction | Pechorin

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