Part 3 out of 7
Yourii, who had already donned cartridge-belt and game bag, and carried
his gun, came out, looking somewhat overweighted and ill at ease.
"I'm ready, I'm ready," he said.
Riasantzeff, who was lightly and comfortably clad, seemed somewhat
astonished at Yourii's accoutrements.
"You'll find those things too heavy," he said, smiling. "Take them all
off and put them here. You needn't wear them till we get there." He
helped Yourii to divest himself of his shooting-kit and placed them
underneath the seat. Then they drove away at a good pace. The day was
drawing to a close, but it was still warm and dusty. The _droschky_
swayed from side to side so that Yourii had to hold tightly to the
seat. Riasantzeff talked and laughed the whole time, and Yourii was
compelled to join in his merriment. When they got out into the fields
where the stiff meadow-grass lightly brushed against their feet it was
cooler, and there was no dust.
On reaching a broad level field Riasantzeff pulled up the sweating
horse and, placing his hand to his mouth, shouted, in a clear, ringing
voice, "Kousma--a ... Kousma--a--a!"
At the extreme end of the field, like silhouettes, a row of little men
could be descried who, at the sound of Riasantzeff's voice, looked
eagerly in his direction.
One of the men then came across the field, walking carefully between
the furrows. As he approached, Yourii saw that he was a burly, grey-
haired peasant with a long beard and sinewy arms.
He came up to them slowly, and said, with a smile, "You know how to
shout, Anatole Pavlovitch!"
"Good day, Kousma; how are you? Can I leave the horse with you?"
"Yes, certainly you can," said the peasant in a calm, friendly voice,
as he caught hold of the horse's bridle. "Come for a little shooting,
eh? And who is that?" he asked, with a kindly glance at Yourii.
"It is Nicolai Yegorovitch's son," replied Riasantzeff.
"Ah, yes! I see that he is just like Ludmilla Nicolaijevna! Yes, yes!"
Yourii was pleased to find that this genial old peasant knew his sister
and spoke of her in such a simple, friendly way.
"Now, then, let us go!" said Riasantzeff, in his cheery voice, as he
walked first, after getting his gun and game-bag.
"May you have luck!" cried Kousma, and then they could hear him coaxing
the horse as he led it away to his hut.
They had to walk nearly a verst before they reached the marsh. The sun
had almost set, and the soil, covered with lush grasses and reeds, felt
moist beneath their feet. It looked darker, and had a damp smell, while
in places water shimmered. Riasantzeff had ceased smoking, and stood
with legs wide apart, looking suddenly grave as if he had to begin an
important and responsible task. Yourii kept to the right, trying to
find a dry comfortable place. In front of them lay the water which,
reflecting the clear evening sky, looked pure and deep. The other bank,
like a black stripe, could be discerned in the distance.
Almost immediately, in twos and threes, ducks rose and flew slowly over
the water, starting up suddenly out of the rushes, and then passing
over the sportsmen's heads, a row of silhouettes against the saffron
sky. Raisantzeff had the first shot, and with success. A wounded duck
tumbled sideways into the water, beating down the rushes with its
"I hit it!" exclaimed Riasantzeff, as he gaily laughed aloud.
"He's really a good sort of fellow," thought Yourii, whose turn it was
to shoot. He brought down his bird also, but it fell at such a distance
that he could not find it, though he scratched his hands and waded
knee-deep through the water. This disappointment only made him more
keen; it was fine fun, so he thought.
Amid the clear, cool air from the river the gun-smoke had a strangely
pleasant smell, and, in the darkening landscape, the merry shots
flashed out with charming effect. The wounded wild fowl, as they fell,
described graceful curves against the pale green sky where now the
first faint stars gleamed. Yourii felt unusually energetic and gay. It
was as if he had never taken part in anything so interesting or
exhilarating. The birds rose more rarely now, and the deepening dusk
made it more difficult to take aim.
"Hullo there! We must get home!" shouted Riasantzeff, from a distance.
Yourii felt sorry to go, but in accordance with his companion's
suggestion he advanced to meet him, stumbling over rushes and splashing
through the water which in the dusk was not distinguishable from dry
soil. As they met, their eyes flashed, and they were both breathless.
"Well," asked Riasantzeff, "did you have any luck?"
"I should say so," replied Yourii, displaying his well-filled bag.
"Ah! you're a better shot than I am," said Riasantzeff pleasantly.
Yourii was delighted by such praise, although he always professed to
care nothing for physical strength or skill. "I don't know about
better," he observed carelessly, "It was just luck."
By the time they reached the hut it was quite dark. The melon-field was
immersed in gloom, and only the foremost rows of melons shimmered white
in the firelight, casting long shadows. The horse stood, snorting,
beside the hut, where a bright little fire of dried steppe-grass burnt
and crackled. They could hear men talking and women laughing, and one
voice, mellow and cheery in tone, seemed familiar to Yourii.
"Why, it's Sanine," said Riasantzeff, in astonishment. "How did he get
They approached the fire. Grey-bearded Kousma, seated beside it, looked
up, and nodded to welcome them.
"Any luck?" he asked, in his deep bass voice, through a drooping
"Just a bit," replied Riasantzeff.
Sanine, sitting on a huge pumpkin, also raised his head and smiled at
"How is it that you are here?" asked Riasantzeff.
"Oh! Kousma Prokorovitch and I are old friends," explained Sanine,
smiling the more.
Kousma laughed, showing the yellow stumps of his decayed teeth as he
slapped Sanine's knee good-naturedly with his rough hand.
"Yes, yes," he said. "Sit down here, Anatole Pavlovitch, and taste this
melon. And you, my young master, what is your name?"
"Yourii Nicolaijevitch," replied Yourii, pleasantly.
He felt somewhat embarrassed, but he at once took a liking to this
gentle old peasant with his friendly speech, half Russian, half
"Yourii Nicolaijevitch! Aha! We must make each other's acquaintance,
eh? Sit you down, Yourii Nicolaijevitch."
Yourii and Riasantzeff sat down by the fire on two big pumpkins.
"Now, then show us what you have shot," said Kousma.
A heap of dead birds fell out of the game-bags, and the ground was
dabbled with their blood. In the flickering firelight they had a weird,
unpleasant look. The blood was almost black, and the claws seemed to
move. Kousma took up a duck, and felt beneath its wings.
"That's a fat one," he said approvingly. "You might spare me a brace,
Anatole Pavlovitch. What will you do with such a lot?"
"Have them all!" exclaimed Yourii, blushing.
"Why all? Come, come, you're too generous," laughed the old man. "I'll
just have a brace, to show that there's no ill-feeling."
Other peasants and their wives now approached the fire, but, dazzled by
the blaze, Yourii could not plainly distinguish them. First one and
then another face swiftly emerged from the gloom, and then vanished.
Sanine, frowning, regarded the dead birds, and, turning away, suddenly
rose. The sight of these beautiful creatures lying there in blood and
dust, with broken wings, was distasteful to him.
Yourii watched everything with great interest as he greedily ate large,
luscious slices of a ripe melon which Kousma cut off with his pocket-
knife that had a yellow bone handle.
"Eat, Yourii Nicolaijevitch; this melon's good," he said. "I know your
little sister, Ludmilla Nicolaijevna, and your father, too. Eat, and
Everything pleased Yourii; the smell of the peasants, an odour as of
newly-baked bread and sheepskins; the bright blaze of the fire; the
gigantic pumpkin upon which he sat; and the glimpse of Kousma's face
when he looked downwards, for when the old man raised his head it was
hidden in the gloom and only his eyes gleamed. Overhead there was
darkness now, which made the lighted place seem pleasant and
comfortable. Looking upwards, Yourii could at first see nothing, and
then suddenly the calm, spacious heaven appeared and the distant stars.
He felt, however, somewhat embarrassed, not knowing what to say to
these peasants. The others, Kousma, Sanine, and Riasantzeff, chatted
frankly and simply to them about this or that, never troubling to
choose some special theme for talk.
"Well, how's the land?" he asked, when there was a short pause in the
conversation, though he felt that the question sounded forced and out
Kousma looked up, and answered:
"We must wait, just wait a while, and see." Then he began talking about
the melon-fields and other personal matters, Yourii feeling only more
and more embarrassed, although he rather liked listening to it all.
Footsteps were heard approaching. A little red dog with a curly white
tail appeared in the light, sniffing at Yourii and Riasantzeff, and
rubbing itself against Sanine's knees, who patted its rough coat. It
was followed by a little, old man with a sparse beard and small bright
eyes. He carried a rusty single-barrelled gun.
"It is grandfather, our guardian," said Kousma. The old man sat down on
the ground, deposited his weapon, and looked hard at Yourii and
"Been out shooting; yes, yes!" he mumbled, showing his shrivelled,
discoloured gums. "He! He! Kousma, it's time to boil the potatoes! He!
Riasantzeff picked up the old fellow's flint-lock, and laughingly
showed it to Yourii. It was a rusty old barrel-loader, very heavy, with
wire wound round it.
"I say," said he, "what sort of a gun do you call this? Aren't you
afraid to shoot with it?"
"He! He! I nearly shot myself with it once! Stepan Schapka, he told me
that one could shoot without ... caps? He! He! ... without caps! He
said that if there were any sulphur left in the gun one could fire
without a cap. So I put the loaded rifle on my knee like this, and
fired it off at full cock with my finger, like this, see? Then bang! it
went off! Nearly killed myself! He! He! Loaded the rifle, and bang!!
Nearly killed myself!"
They all laughed, and there were tears of mirth in Yourii's eyes, so
absurd did the little man seem with his tufted grey beard and his
The old fellow laughed, too, till his little eyes watered. "Very nearly
killed myself! He! He!"
In the darkness, and beyond the circle of light, one could hear
laughter, and the voices of girls whom shyness had kept at a distance.
A few feet away from the fire, and in quite a different place from
where Yourii imagined him to be seated, Sanine struck a match. In the
reddish flare of it Yourii saw his calm, friendly eyes, and beside him
a young face whose soft eyes beneath their dark brows looked up at
Sanine with simple joy.
Riasantzeff, as he winked to Kousma, said:
"Grandfather, hadn't you better keep an eye on your granddaughter, eh?"
"What's the good!" replied Kousma, with a careless gesture. "Youth is
"He! He!" laughed the old man in his turn, as with his fingers he
plucked a red-hot coal from the fire.
Sanine's laugh was heard in the darkness. The girls may have felt
ashamed, for they had moved away, and their voices were scarcely
"It is time to go," said Riasantzeff, as he got up. "Thank you,
"Not at all," replied the other, as with his sleeve he brushed away the
black melon-pips that had stuck to his grey beard. He shook hands with
both of them, and Yourii again felt a certain repugnance to the touch
of his rough, bony hand. As they retreated from the fire, the gloom
seemed less intense. Above were the cold, glittering stars and the vast
dome of heaven, serenely fair. The group by the fire, the horses, and
the pile of melons all became blacker against the light.
Yourii tripped over a pumpkin and nearly fell.
"Look out!" said Sanine. "Good-bye!"
"Good-bye!" replied Yourii, looking round at the other's tall, dark
form, leaning against which he fancied that he saw another, the
graceful figure of a woman. Yourii's heart beat faster. He suddenly
thought of Sina Karsavina, and envied Sanine.
Once more the wheels of the _droschky_ rattled, and once again the good
old horse snorted as it ran.
The fire faded in distance, as did the sound of voices and laughter.
Stillness reigned. Yourii slowly looked upwards to the sky with its
jewelled web of stars. As they reached the outskirts of the town,
lights flashed here and there, and dogs barked. Riasantzeff said to
"Old Kousma's a philosopher, eh?"
Seated behind, Yourii looked at Riasantzeff's Deck, and roused from his
own melancholy thoughts, endeavoured to understand what he said.
"Oh!... Yes!" he replied hesitatingly.
"I didn't know that Sanine was such a gay dog," laughed Riasantzeff.
Yourii was not dreaming now, and he recalled the momentary vision of
Sanine and that pretty girlish face illumined by the light of a match.
Again he felt jealous, yet suddenly it occurred to him that Sanine's
treatment of the girl was base and contemptible.
"No, I had no idea of it, either," said Yourii, with a touch of irony
that was lost upon Riasantzeff, who whipped up the horse and, after a
"Pretty girl, wasn't she? I know her. She's the old fellow's
Yourii was silent. His contemplative mood was in a moment dispelled,
and he now felt convinced that Sanine was a coarse, bad man.
Riasantzeff shrugged his shoulders, and at last blurted out:
"Deuce take it! Such a night, eh? It seems to have got hold of me, too.
I say, suppose we drive back, and--"
Yourii did not at first understand what he meant.
"There are some fine girls there, you know. What do you say? Shall we
go back?" continued Riasantzeff, sniggering.
Yourii blushed deeply. A thrill of animal lust shot through his frame,
and enticing pictures rose up before his heated imagination. Yet,
controlling himself, he answered, in a dry voice:
"No; it is time that we were at home." Then he added, maliciously:
"Lialia is waiting for us."
"Oh, yes, of course; yes, we ought to be back by now!" he hastily
Yourii ground his teeth, and, glaring at the driver's broad back in its
white jacket, remarked aggressively:
"I have no particular liking for adventures of that sort."
"No, no; I understand. Ha! Ha!" replied Riasantzeff, laughing in a
faint half-hearted way. After that he was silent.
"Damn it! How stupid of me!" he thought.
They drove home without uttering another word, and to each the way
"You will come in, won't you?" asked Yourii, without looking up.
"Er ... No! I have got to see a patient. Besides it is rather late,"
replied Riasantzeff hesitatingly.
Yourii got out of the _droschky_, not caring to take the gun or the
game. Everything that belonged to Riasantzeff he now seemed to loathe.
The latter called out to him.
"I say, you've left your gun!"
Yourii turned round, took this and the bag with an air of disgust.
After shaking hands awkwardly with Riasantzeff, he entered the house.
The latter drove on slowly for a short distance and then turned sharply
into a side-street. The rattle of wheels on the road could now be heard
in another direction. Yourii listened to it, furious, and yet secretly
jealous. "A bad lot!" he muttered, feeling sorry for his sister.
Having carried the things indoors, Yourii, for want of something else
to do, went down the steps leading to the garden. It was dark as the
grave, and the sky with it vast company of gleaming stars enhanced the
weird effect. There, on one of the steps, sat Lialia; her little grey
form was scarcely perceptible in the gloom.
"Is that you, Yourii?" she asked.
"Yes, it is," he replied, as he sat down beside her. Dreamily she leant
her head on his shoulder, and the fragrance of her fresh, sweet
girlhood touched his senses.
"Did you have good sport?" said Lialia. Then after a pause, she added
softly, "and where is Anatole Pavlovitch? I heard you drive up."
"Your Anatole Pavlovitch is a dirty beast!" is what Yourii, feeling
suddenly incensed, would have liked to say. However, he answered
"I really don't know. He had to see a patient."
"A patient," repeated Lialia mechanically. She said no more, but gazed
at the stars.
She was not vexed that Riasantzeff had not come. On the contrary, she
wished to be alone, so that, undisturbed by his presence, she might
give herself up to delicious meditation. To her, the sentiment that
filled her youthful being was strange and sweet and tender. It was the
consciousness of a climax, desired, inevitable, and yet disturbing,
which should close the page of her past life and commence that of her
new one. So new, indeed, that Lialia was to become an entirely
To Yourii it was strange that his merry, laughing sister should have
become so quiet and pensive. Depressed and irritable himself,
everything, Lialia, the dark garden the distant starlit sky seemed to
him sad and cold. He did not perceive that this dreamy mood concealed
not sorrow, but the very essence and fulness of life. In the wide
heaven surged forces immeasurable and unknown; the dim garden drew
forth vital sap from the earth; and in Lialia's heart there was a joy
so full, so complete, that she feared lest any movement, any impression
should break the spell. Radiant as the starry heaven, mysterious as the
dark garden, harmonies of love and yearning vibrated within her soul.
"Tell me, Lialia, do you love Anatole Pavlovitch very much?" asked
Yourii, gently, as if he feared to rouse her.
"How can you ask?" she thought, but, recollecting herself, she nestled
closer to her brother, grateful to him for not speaking of anything
else but of her life's one interest--the man she adored.
"Yes, very much," she replied, so softly that Yourii guessed rather
than heard what she said, striving to restrain her tears of joy. Yet
Yourii thought that he could detect a certain note of sadness in her
voice, and his pity for her, as his hatred of Riasantzeff, increased.
"Why?" he asked, feeling amazed at such a question.
Lialia looked up in astonishment, and laughed gently.
"You silly boy! Why, indeed! Because ... Well, have you never been in
love yourself? He's so good, so honest and upright ..."
"So good-looking, and strong," she would have added, but she only
blushed and said nothing.
"Do you know him well?" asked Yourii.
"I ought not to have asked that," he thought, inwardly vexed, "for, of
course she thinks that he is the best man in the whole world."
"Anatole tells me everything," replied Lialia timidly, yet
Yourii smiled, and, aware now that there was no going back, retorted,
"Are you quite sure?"
"Of course I am; why should I not be?" Lialia's voice trembled.
"Oh! nothing. I merely asked," said Yourii, somewhat confused.
Lialia was silent. He could not guess what was passing through her
"Perhaps you know something about him?" she said suddenly. There was a
suggestion of pain in her voice, which puzzled Yourii.
"Oh! no," he said, "not at all. What should I know about Anatole
"But you would not have spoken like that, otherwise," persisted Lialia.
"All that I meant was--well," Yourii stopped short, feeling half
ashamed, "well, we men, generally speaking, are all thoroughly
depraved, all of us."
Lialia was silent for a while, and then burst out laughing.
"Oh! yes, I know that!" she exclaimed.
Her laughter to him seemed quite out of place.
"You can't take matters so lightly," he replied petulantly, "nor can
you be expected to know everything that goes on. You have no idea of
all the vile things of life; you are too young, too pure."
"Oh! indeed!" said Lialia, laughing, and flattered. Then in a more
serious tone she continued, "Do you suppose that I have not thought of
such things? Indeed, I have; and it has always pained and grieved me
that we women should care so much for our reputation and our chastity,
being afraid to take a step lest we--well, lest we should fall, while
men almost look upon it as an heroic deed to seduce a girl. That is all
horribly unjust, isn't it?"
"Yes," replied Yourii, bitterly, finding a certain pleasure in lashing
his own sins, though conscious that he, Yourii, was absolutely
different from other men. "Yes; that is one of the most monstrously
unjust things in the world. Ask any one of us if he would like to
marry" (he was going to say "a whore," but substituted) "a _cocotte_,
and he will always tell you 'No.' But in what respect is a man really
any better than a _cocotte_? She sells herself at least for money, to
earn a living, whereas a man simply gives rein to his lust in wanton
and shameless fashion."
Lialia was silent.
A bat darted backwards and forwards beneath the balcony, unseen, struck
the wall repeatedly with its wings and then, with faint fluttering,
vanished. Yourii listened to all these strange noises of the night, and
then he continued speaking with increasing bitterness. The very of his
voice drew him on.
"The worst of it is that not only do they all know this, and tacitly
agree that it must be so, but they enact complete tragi-comedies,
allowing themselves to become betrothed, and then lying to God and man.
It is always the purest and most innocent girls, too," (he was thinking
jealously of Sina Karsavina) "who become the prey of the vilest
debauchees, tainted physically and morally. Semenoff once said to me,
'the purer the woman, the filthier the man who possesses her,' and he
"Is that true?" asked Lialia, in a strange tone.
"Yes, most assuredly it is." Yourii smiled bitterly.
"I know nothing--nothing about it," faltered Lialia, with tears in her
"What?" cried Yourii, for he had not heard her remark.
"Surely Tolia is not like the rest? It's impossible."
She had never spoken of him by his pet name to Yourii before. Then, all
at once, she began to weep.
Touched by her distress, Yourii seized her hand.
"Lialia! Lialitschka! What's the matter? I didn't mean to--Come, come,
my dear little Lialia, don't cry!" he stammered, as he pulled her hands
away from her face and kissed her little wet fingers.
"No! It's true! I know it is!" she sobbed.
Although she had said that she had thought about this, it was in fact
pure imagination on her part, for of Riasantzeff's intimate life she
had never yet formed the slightest conception. Of course she knew that
she was not his first love, and she understood what that meant, though
the impression upon her mind had been a vague and never a permanent
She felt that she loved him, and that he loved her. This was the
essential thing; all else for her was of no importance whatever. Yet
now that her brother had spoken thus, in a tone of censure and
contempt, she seemed to stand on the verge of a precipice; that of
which they talked was horrible, and indeed irreparable, her happiness
was at an end; of her love for Riasantzeff there could be no thought
Almost in tears himself, Yourii sought to comfort her, as he kissed her
and stroked her hair. Yet still she wept, bitterly, hopelessly.
"Oh! dear! Oh! dear!" she sobbed, just like a child.
There, in the dusk, she seemed so helpless, so pitiful, that Yourii
felt unspeakably grieved. Pale and confused, he ran into the house,
striking his head against the door, and brought her a glass of water,
half of which he spilt on the ground and over his hands.
"Oh! don't cry, Lialitschka! You mustn't cry like that! What is the
matter? Perhaps Anatole Pavlovitch is better than the rest, Lialia!" he
repeated in despair. Lialia, still sobbing, shook violently, and he
teeth rattled against the rim of the glass.
"What is the matter, miss?" asked the maid-servant in alarm, as she
appeared in the doorway. Lialia rose, and, leaning against the
balustrade, went trembling and in tears towards her room.
"My dear little mistress, tell me, what is it? Shall I call the master,
Nicolai Yegorovitch at that moment came out of his study, walking in
slow, measured fashion. He stopped short in the doorway, amazed at the
sight of Lialia.
"What has happened?"
"Oh! nothing! A mere trifle!" replied Yourii, with a forced laugh. "We
were talking about Riasantzeff. It's all nonsense!"
Nicolai Yegorovitch looked hard at him and suddenly his face wore a
look of extreme displeasure.
"What the devil have you been saying?" he exclaimed as, shrugging his
shoulders, he turned abruptly on his heel and withdrew.
Yourii flushed angrily, and would have made some insolent reply, but a
sudden sense of shame caused him to remain silent. Feeling irritated
with his father, and grieved for Lialia, while despising himself, he
went down the steps into the garden. A little frog, croaking beneath
his feet, burst like an acorn. He slipped, and with a cry of disgust
sprang aside. Mechanically he wiped his foot for a long while on the
wet grass, feeling a cold shiver down his back.
He frowned. Disgust mental and physical made him think that all things
were revolting and abominable. He groped his way to a seat, and sat
there, staring vacantly at the garden, seeing only broad black patches
amid the general gloom. Sad, dismal thoughts drifted through his brain.
He looked across to where in the dark grass that poor little frog was
dying, or perhaps, after terrible agony, lay dead. A whole world had,
as it were, been destroyed; an individual and independent life had come
to a hideous and, yet utterly unnoticed and unheard.
And then, by ways inscrutable, Yourii was led to the strange,
disquieting thought that all which went to make up a life, the secret
instincts of loving or of hating that involuntarily caused him to
accept one thing and to reject another; his intuitive sense regarding
good or bad; that all this was merely as a faint mist, in which his
personality alone was shrouded. By the world in its huge, vast entirety
all his profoundest and most agonising experiences were as utterly and
completely ignored as the death-agony of this little frog. In imagining
that his sufferings and his emotions were of interest to others, he had
expressly and senselessly woven a complicated net between himself and
the universe. The moment of death sufficed to destroy this net, and to
leave him, devoid of pity or pardon, utterly alone.
Once more his thoughts reverted to Semenoff and to the indifference
shown by the deceased student towards all lofty ideals which so
profoundly interested him, Yourii, and millions of his kind. This
brought him to think of the simple joy of living, the charm of
beautiful women, of moonlight, of nightingales, a theme upon which he
had mournfully reflected on the day following his last sad talk with
At that time he had not understood why Semenoff attached importance to
futile things such as boating or the comely shape of a girl, while
deliberately refusing to be interested in the loftiest and most
profound conceptions. Now, however, Yourii perceived that it could not
have been otherwise for it was these trivial things that constituted
life, the real life, full of sensations, emotions, enjoyments; and that
all these lofty conceptions were but empty thoughts, vain verbiage,
powerless to influence in the slightest the great mystery of life and
death. Important, complete though these might be, other words, other
thoughts no less weighty and important must follow in the future.
At this conclusion, evolved unexpectedly from his thoughts concerning
good and evil, Yourii seemed utterly nonplussed. It was as though a
great void lay before him, and, for a moment, his brain felt free and
clear, as one in dream feels able to float through space just whither
he will. It alarmed him. With all his might he strove to collect his
habitual conceptions of life, and then the alarming sensation
disappeared. All became gloomy and confused as before.
Yourii came near to admitting that life was the realization of freedom,
and consequently that it was natural for a man to live for enjoyment.
Thus Riasantzeff's point of view, though inferior, was yet a perfectly
logical one in striving to satisfy his sexual needs as much as
possible, they being the most urgent. But then he had to admit that the
conceptions of debauchery and of purity were merely as withered leaves
that cover fresh grown grass, and that girls romantic and chaste as
Lialia or Sina Karsavina had the right to plunge into the stream of
sensual enjoyment. Such an idea shocked him as being both frivolous and
nasty, and he endeavoured to drive it from his brain and heart with his
usual vehement, stern phrases.
"Well, yes," he thought, gazing upwards at the starry sky, "life is
emotion, but men are not unreasoning beasts. They must master their
passions; their desires must be set upon what is good. Yet, is there a
God beyond the stars?"
As he suddenly asked himself this, a confused, painful sense of awe
seemed to crush him to the ground. Persistently he gazed at a brilliant
star in the tail of the Great Bear and recollected how Kousma the
peasant in the melon-field had called this majestic constellation a
"wheelbarrow." He felt annoyed, in a way, that such an irrelevant
thought should have crossed his mind. He gazed at the black garden in
sharp contrast to the shining sky, pondering, meditating.
"If the world were deprived of feminine purity and grace, that are as
the first sweet flowers of spring, what would remain sacred to
As he thought thus, he pictured to himself a company of lovely maidens,
fair as spring flowers, seated in sunlight on green meadows beneath
blossoming boughs. Their youthful breasts, delicately moulded
shoulders, and supple limbs moved mysteriously before his eyes,
provoking exquisitely voluptuous thrills. As if dazed, he passed his
hand across his brow.
"My nerves are overwrought; I must get to bed," thought he. With
sensuous visions such as these before his eyes, depressed and ill at
ease, Yourii went hurriedly indoors. When in bed, after vain efforts to
sleep, his thoughts reverted to Lialia and Riasantzeff.
"Why am I so indignant because Lialia is not Riasantzeff's only love?"
To this question he could find no reply. Suddenly the image of Sina
Karsavina rose up before him, soothing his heated senses. Yet, though
he strove to suppress his feelings, it became ever clearer to him why
he wanted her to be just as she was, untouched and pure.
"Yes, but I love her," thought Yourii, for the first time, and it was
this idea that banished all others, even bringing tears to his eyes.
But in another moment he was asking himself with a bitter smile, "Why,
then, did I make love to other women, before her? True, I did not know
of her existence, yet neither did Riasantzeff know of Lialia. At that
time we both thought that the woman whom we desired to possess was the
real, the sole, the indispensable one. We were wrong then; perhaps we
are wrong now. It comes to this, that we must either remain perpetually
chaste, or else enjoy absolute sexual liberty, allowing women, of
course, to do the same. Now, after all, Riasantzeff is not to blame for
having loved other women before Lialia, but because he still carries on
with several; and that is not what I do."
The thought made Yourii feel very proud and pure, but only for a
moment, for he suddenly recollected his seductive vision of sweet,
supple girls in sunlight. He was utterly overwhelmed. His mind became a
chaos of conflicting thoughts.
Finding it uncomfortable to lie on his right side, he awkwardly turned
over on to his left. "The fact is," he thought, "not one of all the
women I have known could ever satisfy me for the whole of my life.
Thus, what I have called true love is impossible, not to be realized;
and to dream of such a thing is sheer folly."
Feeling just as uncomfortable when lying on his left side, he turned
over again, restless and perspiring, beneath the hot coverlet; and now
his head ached.
"Chastity is an ideal, but, to realize this, humanity would perish.
Therefore, it is folly. And life? what is life but folly too?" He
almost uttered the words in a loud voice, grinding his teeth with such
fury that yellow stars flashed before his eyes.
So, till morning, he tossed from side to side, his heart and brain
heavy with despairing thoughts. At last, to escape from them, he sought
to persuade himself that he too, was a depraved, sensual egoist, and
that his scruples were but the outcome of hidden lust. Yet this only
depressed him the more, and relief was finally obtained by the simple
"Why, after all, do I torment myself in this way?"
Disgusted at all such futile processes of self-examination, Yourii,
nerveless and exhausted, finally fell asleep.
Lialia wept in her room for such a long while that at last, her face
buried in the pillows, she fell asleep. She woke next morning with
aching head and swollen eyes, her first thought being that she must not
cry, as Riasantzeff, who was coming to lunch, would be shocked to see
her looking so plain. Then, suddenly, she recollected that all was over
between them, and a sense of bitter pain and burning love caused her to
"How base, how horrible!" she murmured, striving to keep back her
tears. "And why? Why?" she repeated, as infinite grief for love that
was lost seemed to overwhelm her. It was revolting to think that
Riasantzeff had always lied to her in such a facile, heartless way.
"And not only he, but all the others lied, too," she thought. "They all
of them professed to be so delighted at our marriage, and said that he
was such a good, honest fellow! Well, no, they didn't actually lie
about it, but they simply didn't think it was wrong. How hateful of
Thus all those who surrounded her seemed odious, evil persons. She
leant her forehead against the window-pane and through her tears, gazed
at the garden. It was gloomy, there; and large raindrops beat
incessantly against the panes, so that Lialia could not tell if it were
these or her tears which hid the garden from her view. The trees looked
sad and forlorn, their pale, dripping leaves and black boughs faintly
discernible amid the general downpour that converted the lawn into a
And Lialia's whole life seemed to her utterly unhappy; the future was
hopeless, the past all dark.
When the maid-servant came to call her to breakfast, Lialia, though she
heard the words, failed to understand their meaning. Afterwards, at
table, she felt confused when her father spoke to her. It was as if he
spoke with special pity in his voice; no doubt, every one knew by this
time how abominably false to her the beloved one had been. She hastily
returned to her room and once more sat down and gazed at the grey,
"Why should he be so false? Why should he have hurt me like this? Is it
that he does not love me? No, Tolia loves me, and I love him. Well,
then, what is wrong? Why it's this; he's deceived me; he's been making
love to all sorts of nasty women. I wonder if they loved him as I love
him?" she asked herself, naively, ardently. "Oh! how silly I am, to be
sure! What's the good of worrying about that? He has been false to me,
and everything now is at an end. Oh! how perfectly miserable I am! Yes,
I ought to worry about it! He was false to me! At least, he might have
confessed it to me! But he didn't! Oh! it's abominable! Kissing a lot
of other women, and perhaps, even ... It's awful. Oh I I'm so
_A little frog hopped across the path,
With legs outstretched_!
Thus sang Lialia, mentally, as she spied a little grey ball hopping
timidly across the slippery foot-path.
"Yes, I am miserable, and it is all over," thought she, as the frog
disappeared in the long grass. "For me it was all so beautiful, so
wonderful, and for him, well--just an ordinary, commonplace affair!
That is why he always avoided speaking to me of his past life! That is
why he always looked so strange, as if he were thinking of something;
as if he were thinking 'I know all about that; I know exactly what you
feel and what the result of it will be.' While all the time, I was....
Oh! it's horrible! It's shameful! I'll never, never love anybody
And she wept again, her cheek pressed against the cool window-pane, as
she watched the drifting clouds.
"But Tolia is coming to lunch to-day!" The thought of it made her
shiver. "What am I to say to him? What ought one to say in cases of
Lialia opened her mouth and stared anxiously at the wall.
"I must ask Yourii about it. Dear Yourii! He's so good and upright!"
she thought, as tears of sympathy filled her eyes. Then, being never
wont to postpone matters, she hastened to her brother's room. There she
found Schafroff who was discussing something with Yourii. She stood,
irresolute, in the doorway.
"Good morning," she said absently.
"Good morning!" replied Schafroff. "Pray come in, Ludmilla
Nicolaijevna; your help is absolutely necessary in this matter."
Still somewhat embarrassed, Lialia sat down obediently at the table and
began fingering in desultory fashion some of the green and red
pamphlets which were heaped upon it.
"You see, it's like this," began Schafroff, turning towards her as if
he were about to explain something extremely complicated, "several of
our comrades at Koursk are very hard up, and we must absolutely do what
we can to help them. So I think of getting up a concert, eh, what?"
This favourite expression of Schafroff's, "eh, what?" reminded Lialia
of her object in coming to her brother's room, and she glanced
hopefully at Yourii.
"Why not? It's a very good idea!" she replied, wondering why Yourii
avoided her glance.
After Lialia's torrent of tears and the gloomy thoughts which had
harassed him all night long, Yourii felt too depressed to speak to his
sister. He had expected that she would come to him for advice, yet to
give this in a satisfactory way seemed impossible. So, too, it was
impossible to take back what he had said in order to comfort Lialia,
and thrust her back into Riasantzeff's arms; nor had he the heart to
give the death-blow to her childish happiness.
"Well, this is what we have decided to do," continued Schafroff, moving
nearer to Lialia, as if the matter were becoming much more complex, "we
mean to ask Lida Sanina and Sina Karsavina to sing. Each a solo, first
of all, and afterwards a duet. One is a contralto, and the other, a
soprano, so that will do nicely. Then I shall play the violin, and
afterwards Sarudine might sing, accompanied by Tanaroff."
"Oh! then, officers are to take part in the concert, are they?" asked
Lialia mechanically, thinking all the while of something quite
"Why, of course!" exclaimed Schafroff, with a wave of his hand. "Lida
has only got to accept, and they'll all swarm round her like bees. As
for Sarudine, he'll be delighted to sing; it doesn't matter where, so
long as he can sing. This will attract a good many of his brother-
officers, and we shall get a full house."
"You ought to ask Sina Karsavina," said Lialia, looking wistfully at
her brother. "He surely can't have forgotten," she thought. "How can he
discuss this stupid concert, whilst I ..."
"Why, I told you just now we had done so!" replied Schafroff. "Oh! yes,
so you did," said Lialia, smiling faintly. "Then there's Lida. But you
mentioned her I think?"
"Of course I did! Whom else can we ask, eh?"
"I really ... don't know!" faltered Lialia. "I've got such a headache."
Yourii glanced hurriedly at his sister, and then continued to pore over
his pamphlets. Pale and heavy-eyed, she excited his compassion.
"Oh! why, why did I say all that to her?" he thought. "The whole
question is so obscure, to me, as to so many others, and now it must
needs trouble her poor little heart! Why, why did I say that!"
He felt as if he could tear his hair.
"If you please, miss," said the maid at the door, "Mr. Anatole
Pavlovitch has just come."
Yourii gave another frightened glance at his sister, and met her sad
eyes. In confusion he turned to Schafroff, and said hastily:
"Have you read Charles Bradlaugh?"
"Yes, we read some of his works with Dubova, and Sina Karsavina. Most
"Yes. Oh! have they come back?"
"Since when?" asked Yourii, hiding his emotion.
"Since the day before yesterday."
"Oh! really!" replied Yourii, as he watched Lialia. He felt ashamed and
afraid in her presence, as if he had deceived her.
For a moment Lialia stood there irresolute, touching things nervously
on the table. Then she approached the door.
"Oh! what have I done!" thought Yourii, as, sincerely grieved, he
listened to the sound of her faltering footsteps. As she went towards
the other room, Lialia, doubting and distressed, felt as if she were
frozen. It seemed as though she were wandering in a dark wood. She
glanced at a mirror, and saw the reflection of her own rueful
"He shall just see me looking like this!" she thought.
Riasantzeff was standing in the dining-room, saying in his remarkably
pleasant voice to Nicolai Yegorovitch;
"Of course, it's rather strange, but quite harmless."
At the sound of his voice Lialia felt her heart throb violently, as if
it must break. When Riasantzeff saw her, he suddenly stopped talking
and came forward to meet her with outstretched arms. She alone knew
that this gesture signified his desire to embrace her.
Lialia looked up shyly at him, and her lips trembled. Without a word
she pulled her hand away, crossed the room and opened the glass door
leading to the balcony. Riasantzeff watched her, calmly, but with
"My Ludmilla Nicolaijevna is cross," he said to Nicolai Yegorovitch
with serio-comic gravity of manner. The latter burst out laughing.
"You had better go and make it up."
"There's nothing else to be done!" sighed Riasantzeff, in droll
fashion, as he followed Lialia on to the balcony.
It was still raining. The monotonous sound of falling drops filled the
air; but the sky seemed clearer now, and there was a break in the
Lialia, her cheek propped against one of the cold, damp pillars of the
veranda, let the rain beat upon her bare head, so that her hair was wet
"My princess is displeased ... Lialitschka!" said Riasantzeff, as he
drew her closer to him, and lightly kissed moist, fragrant hair.
At this touch, so intimate and familiar, something seemed to melt in
Lialia's breast, and without knowing what she did, she flung her arms
round her lover's strong neck as, amid a shower of kisses, she
"I am very, very angry with you! You're a bad man!"
All the while she kept thinking that after all there was nothing so
bad, or awful, or irreparable as she had supposed. What did it matter?
All that she wanted was to love and be loved by this big, handsome man.
Afterwards, at table, it was painful to her to notice Yourii's look of
amazement, and, when the chance came, she whispered to him, "It's awful
of me, I know!" at which he only smiled awkwardly. Yourii was really
pleased that the matter should have ended happily like this, while yet
affecting to despise such an attitude of bourgeois complacency and
toleration. He withdrew to his room, remaining there alone until the
evening, and as, before sunset, the sky grew clear, he took his gun,
intending to shoot in the same place where he and Riasantzeff had been
After the rain, the marsh seemed full of new life. Many strange sounds
were now audible, and the grasses waved as if stirred by some secret
vital force. Frogs croaked lustily in a chorus; now and again some
birds uttered a sharp discordant cry; while at no great distance, yet
out of range, ducks could be heard cackling in the wet reeds. Yourii,
however, felt no desire to shoot, but he shouldered his gun and turned
homeward, listening to sounds of crystalline clearness in the grey calm
"How beautiful!" thought he. "All is beautiful; man alone is vile!"
Far away he saw the little fire burning in the melon-field, and ere
long by its light he recognized the faces of Kousma and Sanine.
"What does he always come here for?" thought Yourii, surprised and
Seated by the fire, Kousma was telling a story, laughing and
gesticulating meanwhile. Sanine was laughing, too. The fire burned with
a slender flame, as that of a taper, the light being rosy, not red as
at night-time, while overhead, in the blue dome of heaven, the first
stars glittered. There was an odour of fresh mould and rain-drenched
For some reason or other Yourii felt afraid lest they should see him,
yet at the same time it saddened him to think that he could not join
them. Between himself and them there seemed to be a barrier
incomprehensible and yet unreal; a space devoid of atmosphere, a gulf
that could never be bridged.
This sense of utter isolation depressed him greatly. He was alone; from
this world with its vesper lights and hues, and fires, and stars, and
human sounds, he stood aloof and apart, as though shut close within a
dark room. So distressful was this sense of solitude, that as he
crossed the melon-field where hundreds of melons were growing in the
gloom, to him they seemed like human skulls that Jay strewn upon the
Summer now came on, abounding in light and warmth. Between the luminous
blue heaven and the sultry earth there floated a tremulous veil of
golden haze. Exhausted with the heat, the trees seemed asleep; their
leaves, drooping and motionless, cast short, transparent shadows on the
parched, arid turf. Indoors it was cool. Pale green reflections from
the garden quivered on the ceiling, and while everything else stirred
not, the curtains by the window waved.
His linen jacket all unbuttoned, Sarudine slowly paced up and down the
room languidly smoking a cigarette, and displaying his large white
teeth. Tanaroff, in just his shirt and riding-breeches, lay at full
length on the sofa, furtively watching Sarudine with his little black
eyes. He was in urgent need of fifty roubles, and had already asked his
friend twice for them. He did not venture to do this a third time, and
so was anxiously waiting to see if Sarudine himself would return to the
subject. The latter had not forgotten by any means, but, having gambled
away seven hundred roubles last month, begrudged any further outlay.
"He already owes me two hundred and fifty," thought he, as he glanced
at Tanaroff in passing. Then, more irritably, "It's astonishing, upon
my word! Of course we're good friends, and all that, but I wonder that
he's not the least bit ashamed of himself. He might at any rate make
some excuse for owing me all that money. No, I won't lend him another
penny," he thought maliciously.
The orderly now entered the room, a little freckled fellow who in slow,
clumsy fashion stood at attention, and, without looking at Sarudine,
"If you please, sir, you asked for beer, but there isn't any more."
Sarudine's face grew red, as involuntarily he glanced at Tanaroff.
"Well, this is really a bit too much!" he thought. "He knows that I am
hard up, yet beer has to be sent for."
"There's very little vodka left, either," added the soldier.
"All right! Damn you! You've still got a couple of roubles. Go and buy
what is wanted."
"Please, sir, I haven't got any money at all."
"How's that? What do you mean by lying?" exclaimed Sarudine, stopping
"If you please, sir, I was told to pay the washerwoman one rouble and
seventy copecks, which I did, and I put the other thirty copecks on the
"Yes, that's right," said Tanaroff, with assumed carelessness of
manner, though blushing for very shame, "I told him to do that
yesterday ... the woman had been worrying me for a whole week, don't
Two red spots appeared on Sarudine's scrupulously shaven cheeks, and
the muscles of his face worked convulsively. He silently resumed his
walk up and down the room and suddenly stopped in front of Tanaroff.
"Look here," he said, and his voice trembled with anger, "I should be
much obliged if, in future, you would leave me to manage my own money-
Tanaroff's face flushed crimson.
"H'm! A trifle like that!" he muttered, shrugging his shoulders.
"It is not a question of trifles," continued Sarudine, bitterly, "it is
the principle of the thing. May I ask what right you ..."
"I ..." stammered Tanaroff.
"Pray don't explain," said Sarudine, in the same cutting tone. "I must
beg you not to take such a liberty again."
Tanaroff's lips quivered. He hung his head, and nervously fingered his
mother-of-pearl cigarette-holder. After a moment's pause, Sarudine
turned sharply round, and, jingling the keys loudly, opened the drawer
of his bureau.
"There! go and buy what is wanted!" he said irritably, but in a calmer
tone, as he handed the soldier a hundred-rouble note.
"Very good, sir," replied the soldier, who saluted and withdrew.
Sarudine pointedly locked his cash-box and shut the drawer of the
bureau. Tanaroff had just time to glance at the box containing the
fifty roubles which he needed so much, and then, sighing, lit a
cigarette. He felt deeply mortified, yet he was afraid to show this,
lest Sarudine should become more angry.
"What are two roubles to him?" he thought, "He knows very well that I
am hard up."
Sarudine continued walking up and down obviously irritated, but
gradually growing calmer. When the servant brought in the beer, he
drank off a tumbler of the ice-cold foaming beverage with evident
gusto. Then as he sucked the end of his moustache, he said, as if
nothing had happened.
"Lida came again to see me yesterday, A fine girl, I tell you! As hot
as they make them."
Tanaroff, still smarting, made no reply.
Sarudine, however, did not notice this, and slowly crossed the room,
his eyes laughing as if at some secret recollection. His strong,
healthy organism, enervated by the heat, was the more sensible to the
influence of exciting thought. Suddenly he laughed, a short laugh; it
was as if he had neighed. Then he stopped.
"You know yesterday I tried to ..." (here he used a coarse, and in
reference to a woman, a most humiliating, expression) "She jibbed a
bit, at first; that wicked look in her eyes; you know the sort of
His animal instincts roused in their turn, Tanaroff grinned
"But afterwards, it was all right; never had such a time in my life!"
said Sarudine, and he shivered at the recollection.
"Lucky chap!" exclaimed Tanaroff, enviously.
"Is Sarudine at home?" cried a loud voice from the Street. "May we come
in?" It was Ivanoff.
Sarudine started, fearful lest his words about Lida Sanina should have
been heard by some one else. But Ivanoff had hailed him from the
roadway, and was not even visible.
"Yes, yes, he's at home!" cried Sarudine from the window.
In the ante-room there was a noise of laughter and clattering of feet,
as if the house were being invaded by a merry crowd. Then Ivanoff,
Novikoff, Captain Malinowsky, two other officers, and Sanine all
"Hurrah!" cried Malinowsky, as he pushed his way in. His face was
purple, he had fat, flabby cheeks and a moustache like two wisps of
straw. "How are you, boys?"
"Bang goes another twenty-five-rouble note!" thought Sarudine with some
As he was mainly anxious, however, not to lose his reputation for being
a wealthy, open-handed fellow, he exclaimed, smiling,
"Hallo! Where are you all going? Here! Tcherepanoff get some vodka, and
whatever's wanted. Run across to the club and order some beer. You
would like some beer, gentlemen, eh? A hot day like this?"
When beer and vodka had been brought, the din grew greater. All were
laughing, and shouting and drinking, apparently bent on making as much
noise as possible. Only Novikoff seemed moody and depressed; his good-
tempered face wore an evil expression.
It was not until yesterday that he had discovered what the whole town
had been talking about; and at first a sense of humiliation and
jealousy utterly overcame him.
"It's impossible! It's absurd! Silly gossip!" he said to himself,
refusing to believe that Lida, so fair, so proud, so unapproachable,
Lida whom he so deeply loved, could possibly have scandalously
compromised herself with such a creature as Sarudine whom he looked
upon as infinitely inferior and more stupid than himself. Then wild,
bestial jealousy took possession of his soul. He had moments of the
bitterest despair, and anon he was consumed by fierce hatred of Lida,
and specially of Sarudine, To his placid, indolent temperament this
feeling was so strange that it craved an outlet. All night long he had
pitied himself, even thinking of suicide, but when morning came he only
longed with a wild, inexplicable longing to set eyes upon Sarudine.
Now amid the noise and drunken laughter, he sat apart, drinking
mechanically glass after glass, while intently watching every movement
of Sarudine's, much as some wild beast in a wood watches another wild
beast, pretending to see nothing, yet ever ready to spring. Everything
about Sarudine, his smile, his white teeth, his good looks, his voice,
were for Novikoff, all so many daggers thrust into an open wound.
"Sarudine," said a tall lean officer with exceptionally long, unwieldy
arms, "I've brought you a book."
Above the general clamour Novikoff instantly caught the name, Sarudine,
and the sound of his voice, as well, all other voices seeming mute.
"What sort of book?"
"It's about women, by Tolstoi," replied the lanky officer, raising his
voice as if he were making a report. On his long sallow face there was
a look of evident pride at being able to read and discuss Tolstoi.
"Do you read Tolstoi?" asked Ivanoff, who had noticed this naively
"Von Deitz is mad about Tolstoi," exclaimed Malinowsky, with a loud
Sarudine took the slender red-covered pamphlet, and, turning over a few
"Is it interesting?"
"You'll see for yourself," replied Von Deitz with enthusiasm. "There's
a brain for you, my word! It's just as if one had known it all one's
"But why should Victor Sergejevitsch read Tolstoi when he has his own
special views concerning women?" asked Novikoff, in a low tone, not
taking his eyes off his glass.
"What makes you think that?" rejoined Sarudine warily, scenting an
Novikoff was silent. With all that was in him, he longed to hit
Sarudine full in the face, that pretty self-satisfied-looking face, to
fling him to the ground, and kick him, in a blind fury of passion. But
the words that he wanted would not come; he knew, and it tortured him
the more to know, that he was saying the wrong thing, as with a sneer,
"It is enough to look at you, to know that."
The strange, menacing tone of his voice produced a sudden lull, almost
as if a murder had been committed. Ivanoff guessed what was the matter.
"It seems to me that ..." began Sarudine coldly. His manner had changed
somewhat, though he did not lose his self-control.
"Come, come, gentlemen! What's the matter?" cried Ivanoff.
"Don't interfere! Let them fight it out!" interposed Sanine, laughing.
"It does not seem, but it is so!" said Novikoff, in the same tone, his
eyes still fixed on his glass.
Instantly, as it were, a living wall rose up between the rivals, amid
much shouting, waving of arms, and expressions of amusement or of
surprise. Sarudine was held back by Malinowsky and Von Deitz, while
Ivanoff and the other officers kept Novikoff in check. Ivanoff filled
up the glasses, and shouted out something, addressing no one in
particular. The gaiety was now forced and insincere, and Novikoff felt
suddenly that he must get away.
He could bear it no longer. Smiling foolishly, he turned to Ivanoff and
the officers who were trying to engage his attention.
"What is the matter with me?" he thought, half-dazed. "I suppose I
ought to strike him ... rush at him, and give him one in the eye!
Otherwise, I shall look such a fool, for they must all have guessed
that I wanted to pick a quarrel...."
But, instead of doing this, he pretended to be interested in what
Ivanoff and Von Deitz were saying.
"As regards women, I don't altogether agree with Tolstoi," said the
"A woman's just a female," replied Ivanoff, "In every thousand men you
might find one worthy to be called a man. But women, bah! They're all
alike--just little naked, plump, rosy apes without tails!"
"Rather smart, that!" said Von Deitz, approvingly.
"And true, too," thought Novikoff, bitterly.
"My dear fellow," continued Ivanoff, waving his hands close to the
other's nose, "I'll tell you what, if you were to go to people and say,
'Whatsoever woman looketh on a man to lust after him hath committed
adultery with him already in her heart,' most of them would probably
think that you had made a most original remark."
Von Deitz burst into a fit of hoarse laughter that sounded like the
barking of a dog. He had not understood Ivanoff's joke, but felt sorry
not to have made it himself.
Suddenly Novikoff held out his hand to him.
"What? Are you off?" asked Von Deitz in surprise.
Novikoff made no reply.
"Where are you going?" asked Sanine.
Still Novikoff was silent. He felt that in another moment the grief
pent up within his bosom must break forth in a flood of tears.
"I know what's wrong with you," said Sanine. "Spit on it all!"
Novikoff glanced piteously at him. His lips trembled and with a
deprecating gesture, he silently went out, feeling utterly overcome at
his own helplessness. To soothe himself, he thought:
"Of what good would it have been to hit that blackguard in the face? It
would have only led to a stupid fight. Better not soil my hands!"
But the sense of jealously unsatisfied and of utter impotence still
oppressed him, and he returned home in deep dejection. Flinging himself
on his bed, he buried his face in the pillows and lay thus almost the
whole day long, bitterly conscious that he could do nothing.
"Shall we play makao?" asked Malinowsky.
"All right!" said Ivanoff.
The orderly at once opened the card-table and gaily the green cloth
beamed upon them all. Malinowsky's suggestion had roused the company,
and he now began to shuffle the cards with his short, hairy fingers.
The bright coloured cards were now scattered circle-wise on the green
table, as the chink of silver roubles was heard after each deal, while
on all sides fingers like spiders closed greedily on the coin. Only
brief, hoarse ejaculations were audible, expressing either vexation or
pleasure. Sarudine had no luck. He obstinately made a point of staking
fifteen roubles, and lost every time. His handsome face wore a look of
extreme irritation. Last month he had gambled away seven hundred
roubles, and now there was all this to add to his previous loss. His
ill-humour was contagious, for soon between Von Deitz and Malinowsky
there was an interchange of high words.
"I have staked on the side, there!" exclaimed Von Deitz irritably.
It amazed him that this drunken boor, Malinowsky, should dare to
dispute with such a clever, accomplished person as himself.
"Oh! so you say!" replied Malinowsky, rudely. "Damnation, take it! when
I win, then you tell me you've staked on the side, and when I lose ..."
"I beg your pardon," said Von Deitz, dropping his Russian accent, as he
was wont to do when angry.
"Pardon be hanged! Take back your stake! No! No! Take it back, I say!"
"But let me tell you, sir, that ..."
"Good God, gentlemen! what the devil does all this mean?" shouted
Sarudine, as he flung down his cards.
At this juncture a new comer appeared in the doorway, Sarudine was
ashamed of his own vulgar outburst, and of his noisy, drunken guests,
with their cards and bottles, for the whole scene suggested a low
The visitor was tall and thin, and wore a loosely-fitting white suit,
and an extremely high collar. He stood on the threshold amazed,
endeavouring to recognize Sarudine.
"Hallo! Pavel Lvovitsch! What brings you here?" cried Sarudine, as,
crimson with annoyance, he advanced to greet him.
The newcomer entered in hesitating fashion, and the eyes of all were
fixed on his dazzlingly white shoes picking their way through the beer-
bottles, corks and cigarette-ends. So white and neat and scented was
he, that, in all these clouds of smoke, and amid all these flushed,
drunken fellows, he might have been likened to a lily in the marsh, had
he not looked so frail and worn-out, and if his features had not been
so puny, nor his teeth so decayed under his scanty, red moustache.
"Where have you come from? Have you been away a long while from
Pitjer?" [Footnote: A slang term for St. Petersburg.] said Sarudine,
somewhat flurried, as he feared that "Pitjer" was not exactly the word
which he ought to have used.
"I only got here yesterday," said the gentleman in white, in a
determined tone, though his voice sounded like the suppressed crowing
of a cock. "My comrades," said Sarudine, introducing the others.
"Gentlemen, this is Mr. Pavel Lvovitsch Volochine."
Volochine bowed slightly.
"We must make a note of that!" observed the tipsy Ivanoff, much to
"Pray sit down, Pavel Lvovitsch. Would you like some wine or some
Volochine sat down carefully in an arm-chair and his white, immaculate
form stood out sharply against the dingy oil-cloth cover.
"Please don't trouble. I just came to see you for a moment," he said,
somewhat coldly, as he surveyed the company.
"How's that? I'll send for some white wine. You like white wine, don't
you?" asked Sarudine, and he hurried out.
"Why on earth does the fool want to come here today?" he thought,
irritably, as he sent the orderly to fetch wine. "This Volochine will
say such things about me in Petersburg that I shan't be able to get a
footing in any decent house."
Meanwhile Volochine was taking stock of the others with undisguised
curiosity, feeling that he himself was immeasurably superior. There was
a look in his little glassy, grey eyes of unfeigned interest, as if he
were being shown a collection of wild beasts. He was specially
attracted by Sanine's height, his powerful physique, and his dress.
"An interesting type, that! He must be pretty strong!" he thought, with
the genuine admiration of the weakling for the athlete. In fact, he
began to speak to Sanine but the latter, leaning against the window-
sill, was looking out at the garden. Volochine stopped short; the very
sound of his own squeaky voice vexed him.
"Hooligans!" he thought.
At this moment Sarudine came back. He sat down next to Volochine and
asked questions about St. Petersburg, and also about the latter's
factory, so as to let the others know what a very wealthy and important
person his visitor was. The handsome face of this sturdy animal now
wore an expression of petty vanity and self-importance.
"Everything's the same with us, just the same!" replied Volochine, in a
bored tone of voice. "How is it with you?"
"Oh! I'm just vegetating," said Sarudine with a mournful sigh.
Volochine was silent, and looked up disdainfully at the ceiling where
the green reflections from the garden wavered.
"Our one and only amusement is this," continued Sarudine, as with a
gesture he indicated the cards, the bottles, and his guests.
"Yes, yes!" drawled Volochine; to Sarudine his tone seemed to say, "and
you're no better, either."
"I think I must be going now. I'm staying at the hotel on the
boulevard. I may see you again!" Volochine rose to take his leave.
At this moment the orderly entered and saluting in slovenly fashion,
"The young lady is there, sir."
Sarudine started. "What?" he cried.
"She has come, sir."
"Ah I yes, I know," said Sarudine. He glanced about him nervously,
feeling a sudden presentiment.
"I wonder if it's Lida?" he thought. "Impossible!"
Volochine's inquisitive eyes twinkled. His puny little body in its
loose white clothes seemed to acquire new vitality.
"Well, good-bye!" he said, laughing. "Up to your old tricks, as usual!
Sarudine smiled uneasily, as he accompanied his visitor to the door,
and with a parting stare the latter in his immaculate shoes hurried
"Now, sirs," said Sarudine, on his return, "how's the game going? Take
the bank for me, will you, Tanaroff? I shall be back directly." He
spoke hastily; his eyes were restless.
"That's a lie!" growled the drunken, bestial Malinowsky. "We mean to
have a good look at that young lady of yours."
Tanaroff seized him by the shoulders and forced him back into his
chair. The others hurriedly resumed their places at the card-table, not
looking at Sarudine. Sanine also sat down, but there was a certain
seriousness in his smile. He had guessed that it was Lida who had come,
and a vague sense of jealousy and pity was roused within him for his
handsome sister, now obviously in great distress.
Sideways, on Sarudine's bed, sat Lida, in despair, convulsively
twisting her handkerchief. As he came in he was struck by her altered
appearance. Of the proud, high-spirited girl there was not a trace. He
now saw before him a dejected woman, broken by grief, with sunken
cheeks and lifeless eyes. These dark eyes instantly met his, and then
as swiftly shunned his gaze. Instinctively he knew that Lida feared
him, and a feeling of intense irritation suddenly arose within him.
Closing the door with a bang, he walked straight up to her.
"You really are a most extraordinary person," he began, with difficulty
checking his fierce wish to strike her. "Here am I, with a room full of
people; your brother's there, too! Couldn't you have chosen some other
time to come? Upon my word, it is too provoking!"
From the dark eyes there shot such a strange flash that Sarudine
quailed. His tone changed. He smiled, showing his white teeth, and
taking Lida's hand, sat down beside her on the bed.
"Well, well, it doesn't matter. I was only anxious on your account. I
am ever so glad that you've come. I was longing to see you."
Sarudine raised her hot, perfumed little hand to his lips, and kissed
it just above the glove.
"Is that the truth?" asked Lida. The curious tone of her voice
surprised him. Again she looked up at him, and her eyes said plainly,
"Is it true that you love me? You see how wretched I am, now. Not like
I was once. I am afraid of you, and I feel all the humiliation of my
present state, but I have no one except you that can help me."
"How can you doubt it?" replied Sarudine. The words sounded insincere,
Again he took her hand and kissed it. He was entangled in a strange
coil of sensations and of thoughts. Only two days ago on this very
pillow had lain the dark tresses of Lida's dishevelled hair as he held
her in his arms and their lips had met in a frenzy of passion
uncontrolled. In that moment of desire the whole world and all his
countless sensuous schemes of enjoyment with other women seemed
realized and attained; the desire in deliberate and brutal fashion
deeply to wrong this nature placed by passion within his power. And
now, all at once, his feeling for her was one of loathing. He would
have liked to thrust her from him; he wished never to see her or hear
her again. So overpowering was this desire, that to sit beside her
became positive torture. At the same time a vague dread of her deprived
him of will-power and forced him to remain. He was perfectly aware that
there was nothing whatever to bind him to her, and that it was with her
own consent that he had possessed her, without any promise on his part.
Each had given just as each had taken. Nevertheless he felt as if
caught in some sticky substance from which he could not free himself.
He foresaw that Lida would make some claim upon him, and that he must
either consent, or else commit a base, vile act. He appeared to be as
utterly powerless as if the bones had been removed from his legs and
arms, and as if, instead of a tongue in his mouth, there were a moist
rag. He wanted to shout at her, and let her know once for all that she
had no right to ask anything of him, but his heart was benumbed by
craven fear, and to his lips there rose a senseless phrase which he
knew to be absolutely unfitting.
"Oh! women, women!"
Lida looked at him in horror. A pitiless light seemed to flash across
her mind. In one instant she realized that she was lost. What she had
given that was noble and pure, she had given to a man that did not
exist. Her fair young life, her purity, her pride, had all been flung
at the feet of a base, cowardly brute who instead of being grateful to
her had merely soiled her by acts of coarse lubricity. For a moment she
felt ready to wring her hands and fall to the ground in an agony of
despair, but lightning-swift her mood changed to one of revenge and
"Can't you really see how intensely stupid you are?" she hissed through
her clenched teeth, as she looked straight into his eyes.
The insolent words and the look of hatred were so unsuited to Lida,
gracious, feminine Lida, that Sarudine instinctively recoiled. He had
not quite understood their import, and sought to pass them by with a
"What words to use!" he said, surprised and annoyed.
"I'm not in a mood to choose my words," replied Lida bitterly, as she
wrung her hands. Sarudine frowned.
"Why all these tragic airs?" he asked. Unconsciously allured by their
beauty of outline, he glanced at her soft shoulders and exquisitely
moulded arms. Her gesture of helplessness and despair made him feel
sure of his superiority. It was as if they were being weighed in
scales, one sinking when the other rose. Sarudine felt a cruel pleasure
in knowing that this girl whom instinctively he had considered superior
to himself was now made to suffer through him. In the first stage of
their intimacy he had feared her. Now she had been brought to shame and
dishonour; at which he was glad.
He grew softer. Gently he took her strengthless hands in his, and drew
her closer to him. His senses were roused; his breath came quicker.
"Never mind! It'll be all right! There is nothing so dreadful about it,
"So you think, eh?" replied Lida scornfully. It was scorn that helped
her to recover herself, and she gazed at him with strange intensity.
"Why, of course I do," said Sarudine, attempting to embrace her in a
way that he knew to be effective. But she remained cold and lifeless.
"Come, now, why are you so cross, my pretty one?" he murmured in a
gentle tone of reproof.
"Let me go! Let me go, I say!" exclaimed Lida, as she shook him off.
Sarudine felt physically hurt that his passion should have been roused
"Women are the very devil!" he thought.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked testily, and his face flushed.
As if the question had brought something to her mind, she suddenly
covered her face with both hands and burst into tears. She wept just as
peasant-women weep, sobbing loudly, her face buried in her hands, her
body being bent forward, while her dishevelled hair drooped over her
wet, distorted countenance. Sarudine was utterly nonplussed. He smiled,
though yet afraid that this might give offence, and tried to pull away
her hands from her face. Lida stubbornly resisted, weeping all the
"Oh! my God!" he exclaimed. He longed to shout at her, to wrench her
hands aside, to call her hard names,
"What are you whining for like this? You've gone wrong with me, worse
luck, and there it is! Why all this weeping just to-day? For heaven's
sake, stop!" Speaking thus roughly, he caught hold of her hand.
The jerk caused her head to oscillate to and fro. She suddenly stopped
crying, and removed her hands from her tear-stained face, looking up at
him in childish fear. A crazy thought flashed through her mind that
anybody might strike her now. But Sarudine's manner again softened, and
he said in a consoling voice:
"Come, my Lidotschka, don't cry any more! You're to blame, as well! Why
make a scene? You've lost a lot, I know; but, still, we had so much
happiness, too, didn't we? And we must just forget...." Lida began to
sob once more.
"Oh! stop it, do!" he shouted. Then he walked across the room,
nervously pulling his moustache, and his lips quivered.
In the room it was quite still. Outside the window the slender boughs
of a tree swayed gently, as if a bird had just perched thereon.
Sarudine, endeavouring to check himself, approached Lida, and gently
placed his arm round her waist. But she instantly broke away from him
and in so doing struck him violently on the chin, so that his teeth
"Devil take it!" he exclaimed angrily. It hurt him considerably, and
the droll sound of his rattling teeth annoyed him even more. Lida had
not heard this, yet instinctively she felt that Sarudine's position was
a ridiculous one, and with feminine cruelty she took advantage of it.
"What words to use!" she said, imitating him.
"It's enough to make any one furious," replied Sarudine peevishly.
"If only I knew what was the matter!"
"You mean to say that you still don't know?" said Lida in a cutting
There was a pause. Lida looked hard at him, her face red as fire.
Sarudine turned pale, as if suddenly covered by a grey veil.
"Well, why are you silent? Why don't you speak? Speak! Say something to
comfort me!" she shrieked, her voice becoming hysterical in tone. The
very sound of it alarmed her.
"I ..." began Sarudine, and his under-lip quivered.
"Yes, you, and nobody else but you, worse luck!" she screamed, almost
stifled with tears of rage and of despair.
From him as from her the mask of comeliness and good manners had
fallen. The wild untrammelled beast became increasingly evident in
Ideas like scurrying mice rushed through Sarudine's mind. His first
thought was to give Lida money, and persuade her to get rid of the
child. He must break with her at once, and for ever. That would end the
whole business. Yet though he considered this to be the best way, he
"I really never thought that ..." he stammered.
"You never thought!" exclaimed Lida wildly. "Why didn't you? What right
had you not to think?"
"But, Lida, I never told you that I ..." he faltered, feeling afraid of
what he was going to say, yet conscious that he would yet do so, all
Lida, however, had understood, without waiting for him to speak. Her
beautiful face grew dark, distorted by horror and despair. Her hands
fell limply to her side as she sat down on the bed.
"What shall I do?" she said, as if thinking aloud. "Drown myself?"
"No, no! Don't talk like that!"
Lida looked hard at him.
"Do you know, Victor Sergejevitsch, I feel pretty sure that such a
thing would not displease you," she said.
In her eyes and in her pretty quivering mouth there was something so
sad, so pitiful, that Sarudine involuntarily turned away.
Lida rose. The thought, consoling at first, that she would find in him
her saviour with whom she would always live, now inspired her with
horror and loathing. She longed to shake her fist at him, to fling her
scorn in his face, to revenge herself on him for having humiliated her
thus. But she felt that at the very first words she would burst into
tears. A last spark of pride, all that remained of the handsome,
dashing Lida, deterred her. In a tone of such intense scorn that it
surprised herself as much as Sarudine, she hissed out,
Then she rushed out of the room, tearing the lace trimming of her
sleeve which caught on the bolt of the door.
Sarudine flushed to the roots of his hair. Had she called him "wretch,"
or "villain," he could have borne that calmly, but "brute" was such a
coarse word so absolutely opposed to his conception of his own engaging
personality, that it utterly stunned him. Even the whites of his eyes
became bloodshot. He sniggered uneasily, shrugged his shoulders,
buttoned and then unbuttoned his jacket, feeling thoroughly upset. But
simultaneously a sense of satisfaction and relief waxed greater within
him. All was at an end. It irked him to think that he would never again
possess such a woman as Lida, that he had lost so comely and desirable
a mistress. But he dismissed all such regret with a gesture of disdain.
"Devil take the lot! I can get hold of as many as I please!"
He put his jacket straight, and, his lips still quivering, lit a
cigarette. Then assuming his wonted air of nonchalance, he returned to
All the gamblers except the drunken Malinowsky had lost their interest
in the game. They were intensely curious to know who the lady was that
had come to see Sarudine, Those who guessed that it was Lida Sanina
felt instinctively jealous, picturing to themselves her white body in
Sarudine's embrace. After a while Sanine got up from the table and
"I shall not play any more. Good-bye."
"Wait a minute, my friend, where are you going?" asked Ivanoff.
"I'm going to see what they are about, in there," replied Sanine,
pointing to the closed door.
"Don't be a fool I Sit down and have a drink!" said Ivanoff.
"You're the fool!" rejoined Sanine, as he went out.
On reaching a narrow side-street where nettles grew in profusion,
Sanine bethought himself of the exact spot which Sarudine's windows
overlooked. Carefully treading down the nettles, he climbed the wall.
When on the top, he almost forgot why he had got up there at all, so
charming was it to look down on the green grass and the pretty garden,
and to feel the soft breeze blowing pleasantly on his hot, muscular
limbs. Then he dropped down into the nettles on the other side,
irritably rubbing the places where they had stung him. Crossing the
garden, he reached the window just as Lida said:
"You mean to say that you still don't know?"
By the strange tone of her voice Sanine instantly guessed what was the
matter. Leaning against the wall and looking at the garden, he eagerly
listened. He felt pity for his handsome sister for whose beautiful
personality the gross term "pregnant" seemed so unfitting. What
impressed him even more than the conversation peas the singular
contrast between these furious human voices and the sweet silence of
the verdurous garden.
A white butterfly fluttered across the grass, revelling the sunlight.
Sanine watched its progress just as intently as he listened to the
When Lida exclaimed:
"You brute!" Sanine laughed merrily, and slowly crossed the garden,
careless as to who should see him.
A lizard darted across his path, and for a long while he followed the
swift movements of its little supple green body in the long grass.
Lida did not go home, but hurriedly turned her steps in an opposite
direction. The streets were empty, the air stifling. Close to the wall
and fence lay the short shadows, vanquished by the triumphant sun.
Through mere force of habit, Lida opened her parasol. She never noticed
if it was cold or hot, light or dark. She walked swiftly past the
fences all dusty and overgrown with weeds, her head bowed, her eyes
downcast. Now and again she met a few gasping pedestrians half-
suffocated by the heat. Over the town lay silence, the oppressive
silence of a summer afternoon.
A little white puppy had followed Lida. After eagerly sniffing her
dress, it ran on in front, and, looking round, wagged its tail, as if
to say that they were comrades. At the corner of a street stood a funny
little fat boy, a portion of whose shirt peeped out at the back of his
breeches. With cheeks distended and fruit-stained, he was vigorously
blowing a wooden pipe.
Lida beckoned to the little puppy and smiled at the boy. Yet she did so
almost unconsciously; her soul was imprisoned. An obscure force,
separating her from the world, swept her onward, past the sunlight, the
verdure, and all the joy of life, towards a black gulf that by the dull
anguish within her she knew to be near.
An officer of her acquaintance rode by. On seeing Lida he reined in his
horse, a roan, whose glossy coat shone in the sunlight.
"Lidia Petrovna!" he cried, in a pleasant, cheery voice, "Where are you
going in all this heat?"
Mechanically her eyes glanced at his forage-cap, jauntily poised on his
moist, sunburnt brow. She did not speak, but merely smiled her
habitual, coquettish smile.
At that moment, ignorant herself as to what might happen, she echoed
"Ah! where, indeed?"
She no longer felt angry with Sarudine. Hardly knowing why she had gone
to him, for it seemed impossible to live without him, or bear her grief
alone. Yet it was as if he had just vanished from her life. The past
was dead. That which remained concerned her alone; and as to that she
alone could decide.
Her brain worked with feverish haste, her thoughts being yet clear and
plain. The most dreadful thing was, that the proud, handsome Lida would
disappear, and in her stead there would be a wretched being,
persecuted, besmirched, defenceless. Pride and beauty must be retained.
Therefore, she must go, she must get away to some place where the mud
could not touch her. This fact clearly established, Lida suddenly
imagined herself encircled by a void; life, sunlight, human beings, no
longer existed; she was alone in their midst, absolutely alone. There
was no escape; she must die, she must drown herself. In a moment this
became such a certainty that it was as if round her a wall of stone had
arisen to shut her off from all that had been, and from all that might
"How simple it really is!" she thought, looking round, yet seeing
She walked faster now; and though hindered by her wide skirts, she
almost ran, it seemed to her as if her progress were intolerably slow.
"Here's a house, and yonder there's another one, with green shutters;
and then, an open space."
The river, the bridge, and what was to happen there--she had no clear
conception of this. It was as a cloud, a mist that covered all. But
such a state of mind only lasted until she reached the bridge.
As she leant over the parapet and saw the greenish, turbid water, her
confidence instantly forsook her. She was seized with fear and a wild
desire to live. Now her perception of living things came back to her.
She heard voices, and the twittering of sparrows; she saw the sunlight,
the daisies in the grass, and the little white dog, that evidently
looked upon her as his rightful mistress. It sat opposite to her, put
up a tiny paw, and beat the ground with its tail.
Lida gazed at it, longing to hug it convulsively, and large tears
filled her eyes. Infinite regret for her beautiful, ruined life
overcame her. Half fainting, she leant forward, over the edge of the
sun-baked parapet, and the sudden movement caused her to drop one of
her gloves into the water. In mute horror she watched it fall
noiselessly on the smooth surface of the water, making large circles.
She saw her pale yellow glove become darker and darker, and then
filling slowly with water, and turning over once, as in its death-
agony, sink down gradually with a spiral movement to the green depths
of the stream. Lida strained her eyes to mark its descent, but the
yellow spot grew ever smaller and more indistinct, and at last
disappeared. All that met her gaze was the smooth, dark surface of the
"How did that happen, miss?" asked a female voice, close to her.
Lida started backwards, and saw a fat, snub-nosed peasant-woman who
looked at her with sympathetic curiosity.
Although such sympathy was only intended for the lost glove, to Lida it
seemed as if the good-natured, fat woman knew all, and pitied her. For
a moment she was minded to tell her the whole story, and thus gain some
relief, but she swiftly rejected the idea as foolish. She blushed, and
stammered out, "Oh, it's nothing!" as she reeled backwards from the
"Here it's impossible! They would pull me out!" she thought.
She walked farther along the river-bank and followed a smooth foot-path
to the left between the river and a hedge. On either side were nettles
and daisies, sheep's parsley and ill-smelling garlic. Here it was calm
and peaceful as in some village church. Tall willows bent dreamily over
the stream; the steep, green banks were bathed in sunlight; tall
burdocks flourished amid the nettles, and prickly thistles became
entangled in the lace trimming of Lida's dress. One huge plant powdered
her with its white seeds.
Lida had now to force herself to go farther, striving to overcome a
mighty power within which held her back. "It must be! It must! It
must!" she repeated, as, dragging herself along, her feet seemed to
break their bonds at every step which took her farther from the bridge
and nearer to the place at which unconsciously she had determined to
On reaching it, when she saw the black, cold water underneath over-
arching boughs, and the current swirling past a corner of the steep
bank, then she realized for the first time how much she longed to live,
and how awful it was to die. Yet die she must, for to live on was
impossible. Without looking round, she flung down her other glove and
her parasol, and, leaving the path, walked through the tall grasses to
the water. In that moment a thousand thoughts passed through her brain.
Deep in her soul, where long it had lain dormant, her childish faith
awoke, as with simple fervour she repeated this short prayer, "Lord,
save me! Lord, help me!" She suddenly recollected the refrain of a
song that latterly she had been studying; for an instant she thought of
Sarudine, and then she saw the face of her mother who seemed doubly
dear to her in this awful moment. Indeed it was this last recollection
which drove her faster to the river. Never till then had Lida so keenly
realized that her mother and all those who loved her, did not love her
for what she really was, with all her defects and desires, but only for
that which they wished her to be. Now that she had strayed from the
path that according to them was the only right one, these persons, and
especially her mother, having loved her much, would now prove
Then, as in a delirious dream, all became confused; fear, the longing
to live, the sense of the inevitable, unbelief, the conviction that all
was at an end, hope, despair, the horrible consciousness that this was
the spot where she must die, and then the vision of a man strangely
like her brother who leapt over a hedge and rushed towards her.
"You could not have thought of anything sillier!" cried Sanine,
By a strange coincidence it so happened that Lida had reached the very
spot adjoining Sarudine's garden where first she had surrendered to
him, a place, screened by dark trees from the light of the moon. Sanine
had seen her in the distance, and had guessed her intention. At first
he was for letting her have her way, but her wild, convulsive movements
aroused his pity, and vaulting the garden-seats and the bushes he
hastened to her rescue.
Her brother's voice had an alarming effect upon Lida. Her nerves,
wrought to the utmost pitch by her inward conflict, suddenly gave way.
She became giddy; everything swam before her eyes, and she no longer
knew if she were in the water or on the river-bank. Sanine had just
time to seize her firmly and drag her backwards, secretly pleased at
his own strength and adroitness.
"There!" he said.
He placed her in a sitting posture against the hedge, and then looked
"What shall I do with her?" he thought. Lida in that moment recovered
consciousness, as pale and confused, she began to weep piteously. "My
God! My God!" she sobbed, like a child.
"Silly thing!" said Sanine, chiding her good-humouredly.
Lida did not hear him, but, as he moved, she clutched at his arm,
sobbing more violently.
"Ah! what am I doing?" she thought fearfully. "I ought not to weep; I
must try and laugh it off, or else he'll guess what is wrong."
"Well, why are you so upset?" asked Sanine, as he patted her shoulder
Lida looked up at him under her hat, timidly as a child, and stopped
"I know all about it," said Sanine; "the whole story. I've done so for
ever so long."
Though Lida was aware that several persons suspected the nature of her
relations with Sarudine, yet when Sanine said this, it was as if he had
struck her in the face. Her supple form recoiled in horror; she gazed
at him dry-eyed, like some wild animal at bay.
"What's the matter, now? You behave as if I had trodden on your foot,"
laughed Sanine. Taking hold of her round, soft shoulders, which
quivered at his touch, he tenderly drew her back to her former place by
the hedge, and she obediently submitted.