Alexey Arseniev was born in the 70’s. XIX century. in the middle zone of Russia, in his father’s farmstead, on Kamenka farmstead. Childhood years passed in the silence of the discreet Russian nature. Endless fields with aromas of grasses and flowers in summer, vast snowy expanses in winter gave rise to a heightened sense of beauty that shaped its inner world and survived for a lifetime.
For hours he could observe the movement of clouds in the high sky, the work of the beetle, entangled in corn ears, the play of sun rays on the parquet parlor. Ayyudi entered the circle of his attention gradually. A special place among them was occupied by the mother: he felt his “inseparability” with her. Father attracted cheerfulness, cheerful disposition, breadth of nature and still his glorious past (he participated in the Crimean War). The brothers were older, and in the children’s games the younger sister of Olya became the girl’s boyfriend. Together they
examined the secret corners of the garden, the garden, the manor buildings – everywhere there was its own charm.
Then in the house there was a man named Baskakov, who became the first teacher of Alyosha. He did not have any pedagogical experience, and, having quickly learned the boy to write, read and even French, he did not really attach a student to the sciences. His influence was in another – in a romantic attitude to history and literature, in the worship of Pushkin and Lermontov, who had taken possession of Alyosha’s soul forever. All that was acquired in communicating with Baskakov gave impetus to the imagination and poetic perception of life. These carefree days were over when it was time to enter the gymnasium.
Parents took his son to the city and settled with the philistine Rostovtsev. The situation was poor, the environment is completely strange. Lessons in the gymnasium were conducted publicly, among the teachers there were no people of any interest. All the gymnasium years Alyosha lived only a dream about vacations, a trip to his relatives – now in Baturino, the estate
of the deceased grandmother, as Kamenka’s father, constrained in funds, sold.
When Alyosha moved to the 4th form, a misfortune happened: Brother Georgy was arrested for involvement in the “socialists”. He lived for a long time under a false name, hiding, and then came to Baturin, where he was reported by a gendarme on the denunciation of a clerk of one of the neighbors. This event was a great shock for Alyosha. A year later he dropped out of the gymnasium and returned to the parental shelter. Father first scolded, but then decided that the calling of his son was not a service or an economy (the more that the economy was declining), but the “poetry of the soul and life” and that maybe a new Pushkin or Lermontov would emerge from it. Alyosha himself dreamed of devoting himself to “verbal creativity.” His development was greatly facilitated by long conversations with George, who was released from prison and sent to Baturin under police supervision. From a teenager Alexei turned into a young man,
Soon he experienced the first love, having met in the house of one of the relatives the young girl Anhen, who was staying there, the separation from which she experienced as a true grief, because of which even the St. Petersburg magazine, published on the day of her departure with the publication of his poems, did not bring real joy. But then came the easy hobbies of the young ladies who came to the neighboring estates, and then the connection with the married woman who served as a maid in the estate of Brother Nikolai. This “insanity,” as Alexei called his passion, ended in the fact that Nicholas eventually calculated the culprit of the unseemly story.
In Aleksey, the desire to leave the almost ruined native nest and to start an independent life was growing more and more palpable. George by this time moved to stalls, and the younger brother decided to go there. From the first day, a lot of new acquaintances and impressions came upon him. The environment of George sharply differed from the village. Many of the people who entered it passed through student circles and movements, visited prisons and exile. During the meetings, the talk about vital issues of Russian life was boiling, the image of the government and the rulers were blamed, the need for struggle for the constitution and republic was proclaimed, the political positions of the literary idols Korolenko, Chekhov, and Tolstoy were discussed. These drinking conversations and arguments fueled Alex’s desire to write, but at the same time he was tormented by the inability to implement it in practice.
A confused mental disorder led to some kind of change. He decided to see new places, went to the Crimea, was in Sevastopol, on the banks of the Donets and, having decided to return to Baturino, drove into the Eagle on the way to look at the “city of Leskov and Turgenev.” There he found the editorial staff of Golos, where he had previously planned to find a job, got acquainted with the editor Nadezhda Avilova, and received an offer to cooperate in the publication. Having talked about business, Avilova invited him to the dining room, accepted home, and introduced her cousin Lika to the guest. Everything was unexpected and pleasant, but he could not even guess what an important role the destiny of this random acquaintance meant.
At first there were just funny conversations and walks, giving pleasure, but gradually the sympathy for Lika turned into a stronger feeling. Captured by him, Alex constantly rushed between Baturin and Eagle, abandoned his studies and lived only with meetings with the girl, she then brought him closer to her, then pushed her away, then again called out on a date. Their relationship could not go unnoticed. One day Leka’s father invited Alexey to his house and ended a rather friendly conversation with a resolute disagreement on marriage with his daughter, explaining that he did not want to see them both languishing in need, for he realized how vague the situation of the young man.
Learning about this, Lika said that she would never go against her father’s will. Nevertheless, nothing has changed. On the contrary, there was a final rapprochement. Alexei moved to Orel on the pretext of working in Golos and lived in a hotel, Lika settled with Avilova under the pretext of music lessons. But little by little the difference in natures began to affect: he wanted to share his memories of poetic childhood, observations of life, literary predilections, and it was all alien to her. He was jealous of her to the gentlemen at the city balls, to partners in amateur theatricals. There was a misunderstanding of each other.
One day, Leka’s father came to Orel, accompanied by the rich young tanner Bogomolov, who was presented as a pretender to the hand and heart of his daughter. Lika spent all the time with them. Alexey stopped talking to her. It ended in the fact that she refused Bogomolov, but still left the Eagle with her father. Alex was tormented by separation, not knowing how and why to live now. He continued to work in Golos, again began to write and print what he had written, but he languished in the wretchedness of the Orel life and again decided to embark on a journey. Having replaced several cities, nowhere to stay for long, he finally broke down and sent a telegram to Lika: “I’ll be the day after tomorrow.” They met again. Existence separately for both was unbearable.
Started a joint life in a small town, where he moved to George. Both worked in the government for zemstvo statistics, were constantly together, visited Baturina. The relatives reacted to Lika with warmth. Everything seemed to be working out. But gradually the roles changed: now Lika lived only with her feelings for Alexei, and he could no longer live only with her. He went on business trips, met with different people, reveled in the feeling of freedom, entered even casual relationships with women, although he still could not imagine himself without Lika. She saw changes, languished in solitude, was jealous, was offended by his indifference to her dream of a wedding and a normal family, and in response to Alexei’s assurances in the immutability of his feelings, somehow said that, apparently, she was for him something like air, without which there is no life, but which you do not notice.
Alexei’s letters and telegrams remained unanswered until Leka’s father reported that she had forbidden anyone to open her own shelter. Alexei almost shot himself, quit his service, did not show himself anywhere. Attempt to see her father did not have success: he simply was not accepted. He returned to Baturin, and a few months later learned that Aika came home with pneumonia and very soon died. It was her wish that Alexei was not informed of her death.
He was only twenty years old. Still a lot had to be experienced, but time did not erase this love from memory – it remained for him the most significant event in life.