“Ah! but here we are obliged to be linguists, because, if we travel at all, we must speak other languages, and, if we entertain at all, we meet people who cannot speak ours, which is very difficult to learn. But languages are easy.”
“Oh! are they?” said Jimmie, involuntarily, and everybody laughed.
“Jimmie’s languages are unique,” said Bee.
“Are you going to Italy?” said the countess.
“Yes, we hope to spend next spring in Italy, beginning with Sicily and working slowly northward.”
“How delightful! How charming!” cried the countess. “How I wish, how I wish I could go with you.”
“Go with us?” I cried in delight. “Could you manage it? We should be so flattered to have your company.”
“Oh, if I could! I shall ask. It will do no harm to ask.”
We had all stood up to go and had begun to shake hands when she cried across to her husband:
“Leo, Leo, may I go—”
Then seeing she had not engaged her husband’s attention, who was talking to Jimmie about single tax, she went over and pulled his sleeve.
“Leo, may I go with them to Italy in the spring? Please, dear Leo, say yes.”
He shook his head gravely, and the little countess smiled at her mother’s enthusiasm.
“It would cost too much,” said Tolstoy, “besides, I cannot spare you. I need you.”
“You need me!” cried the countess in gay derision. Then pleadingly, “Do let me go.”
“I cannot,” said Tolstoy, turning to Jimmie again.
The countess came back to us with a face full of disappointment.
“He doesn’t need me at all,” she whispered. “I’d go anyway if I had the money.”
As I said before, Russia and America are very much alike.
As we left the house my mind recurred to Max Nordau, whose personality and methods I have so imperfectly presented. The contrast to Tolstoy would intrude itself. In all the conversations I ever had with Max Nordau, he spent most of the time in trying to be a help and a benefit to me. The physician in him was always at the front. His aim was healing, and I only regret that their intimate personality prevents me from relating them word for word, as they would interest and benefit others quite as much as they did me.
The difference between these two great leaders of thought—these two great reformers, Nordau and Tolstoy—is the theme of many learned discussions, and admits many different points of view.
To me they present this aspect: Tolstoy, like Goethe, is an interesting combination of genius and hypocrisy. He preaches unselfishness, while himself the embodiment of self. Max Nordau is his antithesis. Nordau gives with generous enthusiasm—of his time, his learning, his genius, most of all, of himself. Tolstoy fastens himself upon each newcomer politely, like a courteous leech, sucks him dry, and then writes.