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The Precipice by Ivan Goncharov

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"Ah, I have hit the bull's eye."

Raisky put compulsion on himself to restrain his rage, for every
involuntary expression or gesture of anger would have meant nothing less
than acquiescence.

"I should very well like to fall in love, but I cannot," he yawned,
counterfeiting indifference. "It is unsuited to my years and doesn't
cure my boredom."

"Try it," teased Mark. "Let us have a wager that in a week you will be
as enamoured as a young cat. And within two months, or perhaps one, you
will have perpetrated so many follies that you will not know how to get
away from here."

"If I am, with what will you pay?" asked Raisky in a tone bordering on

"I will give you my trousers or my gun. I possess only two pairs of
trousers. The tailor has recovered a third pair for debt. Wait, I will
try on your coat. Why, it fits as if I were poured into a mould. Try


"I should like to see whether it suits you. Please try it on, do."

Raisky was indulgent enough to allow himself to be persuaded, and put on
Mark's worn, dirty coat.

"Well, does it suit?"

"It fits!"

"Wear it then. You don't wear a coat long, while for me it lasts for two
years. Besides, whether you are contented or not I shan't take yours off
my shoulders. You would have to steal it from me."

Raisky shrugged his shoulders.

"Does the wager hold!" asked Mark.

"What put you on to that--you will excuse me--ridiculous idea?"

"Don't excuse yourself. Does it hold?"

"The wager is not equal. You have no possessions."

"Don't be disturbed on that account. I shall not have to pay. If my
prophecy comes true, then you will pay me three hundred roubles, which
would come in very conveniently."

"What nonsense," said Raisky, as he stood up and reached for his cap and

"At the latest you will be in love in a fortnight. In a month you will
be groaning, wandering about like a ghost, playing your part in a drama,
or possibly in a tragedy, and ending, as all your like do, with some
piece of folly. I know you, I can see through you."

"But if, instead my falling in love with her, she were to fall in love
with me...."

"Vera! with you!"

"Yes, Vera, with me."

"Then I will find a double pledge, and bring it to you."

"You are a madman!" said Raisky, and went without bestowing a further
glance on Mark.

"In one month's time I shall have won three hundred roubles," Mark cried
after him.

Raisky walked angrily home. "I wonder where our charmer is now," he
wondered gloomily. "Probably sitting on her favourite bench, admiring
the view. I will see." As he knew Vera's habits, he could say with
nearly complete certainty where she would be at any hour of the day. He
went over to the precipice, and saw her, as he had thought, sitting on
the bench with a book in her hand. Instead of reading she looked out,
now over the Volga, now into the bushes. When she saw Raisky, she rose
slowly and walked over to the old house. He signed to her to wait for
him, but she either did not perceive the sign, or did not wish to do so.
When she reached the courtyard she quickened her steps, and disappeared
within the door of the old house.

Raisky could hardly control his rage. "And a stupid girl like that
thinks that I am in love with her," he thought. "She has not the
remotest conception of manners." In offering the wager, Mark had stirred
up all the bitterness latent in him. He hardly looked at Vera when he
sat opposite her at dinner. If he happened to raise his eyes, it was as
if he were dazed by a flash of lightning. Once or twice she had looked
at him in a kind, almost affectionate way, but his wild glance betrayed
to her the agitation, of which she deemed herself to be the cause, and
to avoid meeting his eyes she bent her head over her empty plate.

"After dinner, I shall drive with Marfinka to the hay harvest," said
Tatiana Markovna to Raisky. "Will you bestow on your meadows the honour
of your presence, Sir?"

"I have no inclination to go," he murmured.

"Does the world go so hard with you?" asked Tatiana Markovna. "You are
indeed weighed down with work."

He looked at Vera, who was mixing red wine with water. She emptied her
glass, rose, kissed her aunt's hand, and went out.

Raisky too rose, and went to his room. His aunt, Marfinka, and Vikentev,
who had just happened to turn up, drove to the hay harvest, and the
afternoon peace soon reigned over the house. One man crawled into the
hayrick, another in the outhouse, another slept in the family carriage
itself, while others took advantage of the mistress's absence to go into
the outskirts of the town.

Raisky's thoughts were filled with Vera. Although he had sworn to
himself to think of her no more, he could not conquer his thoughts.
Where was she? He would go to her and talk it all over. He was inspired
only with curiosity, he assured himself. He took his cap and hurried out.
Vera was neither in the room nor in the old house; he searched for her
in vain on the field, in the vegetable garden, in the thicket on the
cliff, and went to look for her down along the bank of the Volga. When
he found no one he turned homewards, and suddenly came across her a few
steps from him, not far from the house.

"Ah!" he cried, "there you are. I have been hunting for you everywhere."

"And I have been waiting for you here," she returned.

He felt as if he were suddenly enveloped in winter in the soft airs of
the South.

"You--waiting for me," he said in a strange voice, and looked at her in

"I wanted to ask you why you pursue me?"

Raisky looked at her fixedly.

"I hardly ever speak to you."

"It is true that you rarely talk to me, but you look at me in such a
wild and extraordinary fashion that it constitutes a kind of pursuit.
And that is not all; you quietly follow my steps. You get up earlier
than I do, and wait for me to wake, draw my curtains back, and open the
window; whatever way I take in the park, and wherever I sit down, I must
meet you."

"Very rarely."

"Three or four times a week. It would not be often and would not annoy
me, quite the reverse, if it occurred without intention. But in your
eyes and steps I see only one thing, the continual effort to give me no
peace, to master my every glance, word and thought."

He was amazed at her boldness and independence, at the freedom of her
speech. He saw before him, as he imagined, the little girl who had
nervously concealed herself from him for fear that her egoism might
suffer through the inequality of her brains, her ideas and her education.
This was a new figure, a new Vera.

"What if all this exists only in your imagination?" he said undecidedly.

"Don't lie to me," she interrupted. "If you are successful in observing
my every footstep, my every moment, at least permit me to be conscious
of the discomfort of such observation. I tell you plainly that it
oppresses me; it is slavery; I feel like a prisoner."

"What do you ask of me?"

"My freedom."

"Freedom--I am your chevalier--therefore...."

"Therefore you will not leave a poor girl room to breathe. Tell me, what
reason have I given you to regard me differently from any other girl?"

"Beauty adores admiration; it is her right."

"Beauty has also a right to esteem and freedom. Is it an apple hanging
on the other side of the hedge, that every passer-by can snatch at?"

"Don't agitate yourself, Vera!" he begged, taking her hands. "I confess
my guilt. I am an artist, have a susceptible temperament, and perhaps
abandoned myself too much to my impressions. Then I am no stranger. Let
us be reconciled, Vera. Tell me your wishes, and they shall be sacredly
fulfilled. I will do what pleases you, will avoid what offends you, in
order to deserve your friendship."

"I told you from the beginning, you remember, how you could show me your
sympathy, by not observing me, by letting me go my way and taking no
notice of me. Then I will come of myself, and we will fix the hours that
we will spend together, reading or walking."

"You ask me, Vera, to be utterly indifferent to you?"


"Not to notice how lovely you are? To look at you as if you were
Grandmother. But even if I adore your beauty in silence from a distance,
you would know it, and can you forbid me that? Passion may melt the
surface and there may steal into your heart an affection for me. Don't
let me leave you without any hope. Can you not give me any?"

"I cannot!"

"How can you tell? There may come a time."

"No, Cousin, never."

Unmanned by terror, he collected his strength to say breathlessly:

"You are no longer free? You love?"

She knit her brow and looked down on the Volga.

"And is there any sin if I do? Will you not permit it, Cousin?" she
asked ironically.

"I! I, who bring you the lofty philosophy of freedom, how should I not
permit you to love. Love independently of everybody, conceal nothing,
fear neither Granny nor anyone else. The dawn of freedom is red in the
sky, and shall woman alone be enslaved? You love. Say so boldly, for
passion is happiness, and allow others at least to envy you."

"I concede no one the right to call me to account; I am free."

"But you are afraid of Grandmother."

"I am afraid of no one. Grandmother knows it, and respects my freedom.
And my wish is that you should follow her example. That is all I wanted
to say," she concluded as she rose from the bench.

"Yes, Vera, now I understand, and am in accord with you," he replied,
rising also. "Here is my hand on it, that from to-day you will neither
hear nor notice my presence."

She gave her hand, but drew it rapidly back as he pressed it to his lips.

"We will see," she said. "But if you don't keep your word, we will see--"

"Say all you have to say, Vera, or my head will go to pieces."

Vera looked long at the prospect before her before she ended with

"Then however dearly I love this place, I will leave it."

"To go where?"

"God's world is wide. Au revoir, Cousin!"

A few days later Raisky got up about five o'clock. The sun was already
full on the horizon, a wholesome freshness rose from garden and park,
flowers breathed a deeper perfume, and the dew glittered on the grass.
He dressed quickly and went out into the garden, when he suddenly met

"It is not intentional, not intentional, I swear," he stammered in his
first surprise.

They both laughed. She picked a flower, threw it to him, and gave him
her hand; and in reply to the kiss he gave she kissed him on the

"It was not intentional, Vera," he repeated. "You see yourself."

"I see you are good and kind."

"Generous," he added.

"We have not got to generosity yet," she said laughing, and took his arm.
"Let us go for a walk; it's a lovely morning."

He felt unspeakably happy.

"What coat are you wearing?" she asked in surprise as they walked. "It
is not yours."

"Ah, it is Mark's."

"Is he here? How did you come by his coat?"

"Are you frightened? The whole house fears him like fire?" And he
explained how he got the coat. She listened absently as they went
silently down the main path of the garden, Vera with her eyes on the

Against his will he felt impelled to seek another argument with her.

"You seem to have something on your mind," she began, "which you do not
wish to tell."

"I did wish to, but I feared the storm I might draw upon myself."

"You did not wish to discuss beauty once more?"

"No, no, I want to explain what my feeling for you is. I am convinced
that this time I am not in error. You have opened to me a special door
of your heart, and I recognise that your friendship would bring great
happiness, and that its soft tones would bring colour into my dull life.
Do you think, Vera, that friendship is possible between a man and a

"Why not? If two such friends can make up their minds to respect one
another's freedom, if one does not oppress the other, does not seek to
discover the secret of the other's heart, if they are in constant,
natural intercourse, and know how to respect secrets...."

His eyes blazed. "Pitiless woman," he broke in.

She had seen the glance, and lowered her eyes.

"We will go in to Grandmother. She has just opened the window, and will
call us to tea?"

"One word more, Vera. You have wisdom, lucidity, decision...."

"What is wisdom?" she asked mischievously.

"Observation and experience, harmoniously applied to life."

"I have hardly any experience."

"Nature has bestowed on you a sharp eye and a clear brain."

"Is not such a possession disgraceful for a girl?"

"Your wholesome ideas, your cultivated speech...."

"You are surprised that a drop of village wisdom should have descended
on your poor sister. You would have preferred to find a fool in my place,
wouldn't you, and now you are annoyed?"

"No, Vera, you intoxicate me. You do indeed forbid me to mention your
beauty by so much as a syllable, and will not hear why I place it so
high. Beauty is the aim and at the same time the driving power of art,
and I am an artist. The beauty of which I speak is no material thing,
she does not kindle her fires with the glow of passionate desire alone;
more especially she awakens the man in man, arouses thought, inspires
courage, fertilises the creative power of genius, even when that genius
stands at the culmination of its dignity and power; she does not scatter
her beams for trifles, does not besmirch purity--she is womanly wisdom.
You are a woman, Vera, and understand what I mean. Your hand will not be
raised to punish the man, the artist, for this worship of beauty."

"According to you wisdom lies in keeping these rules before one's eyes
as the guiding thread of life, in which case I am not wise, I have not
'received this baptism.'"

An emotion closely related to sadness shone in her eyes, as she gazed
upwards for a moment before she entered the house. Raisky anxiously told
himself that she was as enigmatic as night itself, and he wondered what
was the origin of these foreign ideas and whether her young life was
already darkened.


On Sunday Tatiana Markovna had guests for the second breakfast. The
covers had been removed from the purple damask-covered chairs in the
reception room. Yakob had rubbed the eyes of the family portraits with a
damp rag, and they appeared to look forth more sharply than on ordinary
days. The freshly waxed floors shone. Yakob himself paraded in a dress
coat and a white necktie, while Egorka, Petrushka and Stepka, the latter
of whom had been fetched from the village and had not yet found his legs,
had been put into old liveries which did not fit them and smelt of moth.
The dining-room and the reception room had been fumigated just before
the meal.

Tatiana Markovna herself, in a silk dress and shawl, with her cap on the
back of her head, sat on the divan. Near her the guests had taken their
places in accordance with their rank and dignity. The place of honour
was occupied by Niel Andreevich Tychkov, in a dress coat with an order,
an important old gentleman whose eyebrows met in his great fat face,
while his chin was lost in his cravat. The consciousness of his dignity
appeared in every gesture and in his condescending speech. Next him sat
the invariably modest Tiet Nikonich, also in a dress coat, with a glance
of devotion for Tatiana Markovna, and a smile for all. Then followed the
priest in a silk gown with a broad embroidered girdle, the councillors
of the local court, the colonel of the garrison, ladies from the town;
young officials who stood talking in undertones in a corner; young girls,
friends of Marfinka, who timidly clasped their damp hands and
continually changed colour; finally a proprietor from the neighbourhood
with three half-grown sons.

When the company had already been assembled for some little time at the
breakfast-table, Raisky entered. He felt that he was playing the role of
an actor, fresh to the place, making his first appearance on the
provincial stage after the most varying reports had been spread about

Tatiana Markovna introduced him as "My nephew, the son of my late niece
Sfonichka," though everybody knew who he was. Several people stood up to
greet him. Niel Andreevich, who expected that he would come and speak to
him, gave him a friendly smile; the ladies pulled their dresses straight
and glanced at the mirror; the young officials who were standing eating
off their plates in the corner shifted from one foot to the other; and
the young girls blushed still more and pressed their hands as if danger

Raisky bowed to the assembled guests, and sat down beside his aunt on
the divan.

"Look how he throws himself down," whispered a young official to his
neighbour. "His Excellency is looking at him."

"Niel Andreevich has been wanting to see you for a long time," said
Tatiana Markovna aloud, adding under her breath, "His Excellency, don't
forget." In the same low tone Raisky asked who the little lady was with
the fine teeth and the well-developed figure.

"Shame, Boris Pavlovich," and aloud, "Niel Andreevich, Borushka has been
desiring to present himself to you for a long time."

Raisky was about to reply when Tatiana Markovna pressed his hand,
enjoining silence.

"Why have you not given me the pleasure of a visit from you before,"
said Niel Andreevich with a kindly air. "Good men are always welcome.
But it is not amusing to visit us old people, and the new generation do
not care for us, do they? And you hold with the young people. Answer

"I do not divide mankind into the old and the new generation," said
Raisky, helping himself to a slice of cake.

"Don't hurry about eating; talk to him," whispered Tatiana Markovna.

"I will eat and talk at the same time," he returned aloud.

Tatiana Markovna looked confused, and turned her back on him.

"Don't disturb him," continued Niel Andreevich. "Young people are like
that. I am curious to know how you judge men, Boris Pavlovich."

"By the impression they produce on me."

"Admirable. I like you for your candour. Let us take an example. What is
your opinion of me?"

"I am afraid of you."

Niel Andreevich laughed complacently.

"Tell me why. You may speak quite plainly."

"Why I am afraid of you? They say you find fault with everybody," he
went on, heedless of Tatiana Markovna's efforts to interrupt. "My
Grandmother tells me that you lectured one man for not having attended

Tatiana Markovna went hot all over, and taking off her cap, put it down
behind her.

"I am glad she told you that. I like to have my doings correctly
reported. Yes, I do lecture people sometimes. Do you remember?" he
appealed to the young men at the door.

"At your service, your Excellency," answered one of them quickly,
putting one foot forward and his hands behind his back. "I once received

"And why?"

"I was unsuitably dressed."

"You came to me one Sunday after Mass. I was glad to see you, but
instead of appearing in a dress coat, you came in a short jacket."

At this point Paulina Karpovna rustled in, wearing a muslin dress with
wide sleeves so that her white arms were visible almost to the shoulder.
She was followed by a cadet.

"What heat! _Bonjour, Bonjour_," she cried, nodding in all
directions, and then sat down on the divan beside Raisky.

"There is not room here," he said, and sat down on a chair beside her.

"Ah, Dalila Karpovna," remarked Niel Andreevich. "Good-day. How are

"Good-day," she answered drily, turning away.

"Why don't you bestow a kind glance on me, and let me admire your
swanlike neck!"

The young officials in the corner giggled, the ladies smiled, and
Paulina Karpovna whispered to Raisky: "The rude creature. The first word
he speaks is folly."

"Ah, you despise an old man. But if I were to seek for your hand? Do I
look like a bridegroom, or am I too old for you?"

"I decline the honour. _Bonjour_, Natalie Ivanovna, where did you
buy that pretty hat, at Madame Pichet's?"

"My husband ordered it from Moscow, as a surprise for me."

"Very pretty."

"But listen seriously," cried Niel Andreevich insistently. "I am going
to woo you in earnest. I need a housekeeper, a modest woman, who is no
coquette, and has no taste for finery, who never glances at another man,
and you are an example."

Paulina Karpovna pretended not to hear, but fanned herself and attempted
to draw Raisky into a conversation.

"In our esteem," went on Niel Andreevich, pitilessly, "you are a model
for our mothers and daughters. At church your eyes remain fixed on the
sacred picture without a moment's diversion, and never even perceive the
presence of young men...."

The giggling in the corner increased, the ladies made faces in their
efforts to restrain their laughter, and Tatiana Markovna tried to divert
Niel Andreevich's attention from her guest, by herself addressing her,
but he returned to the attack.

"You are as retiring as a nun," he went on, "never display your arms and
shoulders, but bear yourself in accordance with your years."

"Why don't you leave me alone?" returned Paulina Karpovna, and turning
to Raisky she added: "_Est-il bete, grossier_."

"Because I wish to marry you, we are a suitable pair."

"It will be difficult to find a wife for you."

"We are well matched. I was still an assessor when you married the late
Ivan Egorovich. And that must be--"

"How hot it is! Stifling! Let us go into the garden. Please give me my
mantilla, Michel," she said turning to the cadet who had come with her.

At this moment Vera appeared, and the company rose and crowded round her,
so that the conversation took another turn. Raisky was bored by the
guests, and by the exhibition he had just witnessed. He would have left
the room, but that Vera's presence provided a strong incentive to remain.
Vera looked quickly round at the guests, said a few words here and there,
shook hands with the young girls, smiled at the ladies, and sat down on
a chair by the stove. The young officials smoothed their coats, Niel
Andreevich kissed her hand with evident pleasure, and the girls fixed
their eyes on her. Meanwhile Marfinka was busily employed in pouring out
time, handing dishes and particularly in entertaining her friends.

"Vera Vassilievna, my dear, do take my part," cried Niel Andreevich.

"Is any one offending you?"

"Indeed there is. There is Dalila, no, Pelageia Karpovna--"

"Impertinent creature," said that lady aloud, as she rose and went
quickly towards the door.

Tatiana Markovna also rose. "Where are you going, Paulina Karpovna?" she
cried. "Marfinka, do not let her go."

"No, no, Tatiana Markovna," came Paulina Karpovna's voice from the hall,
"I am always grateful to you, but I do not wish to meet such a loon. If
my husband were alive, no man would dare...."

"Do not be vexed; he means nothing by it, but is in reality a decent old

"Please let me go. I will come again and see you when he is not here,"
she said as she left the house in tears.

In the room she had left everyone was in gay humour, and Niel Andreevich
condescended to share the general laughter, in which however, neither
Raisky nor Vera joined. Paulina Karpovna might be eccentric, but that
did not excuse either the loonish amusement of the people assembled or
the old man's attacks. Raisky remained gloomily silent, and shifted his
feet ominously.

"She is offended and has departed," remarked Niel Andreevich, as Tatiana
Markovna, visibly agitated returned, and resumed her seat in silence.
"It won't do her any harm, but will be good for her health. She
shouldn't appear naked in society. This is not a bathing establishment."

At this point the ladies lowered their eyes, and the young girls grew
crimson, and pressed their hands nervously together.

"Neither should she stare about her in church and have young men
following her footsteps. Come, Ivan Ivanovich, you were once her
indefatigable cavalier. Do you still visit her?" he asked a young man

"Not for a long time, your Excellency. I got tired of forever exchanging

"It's a good thing you have given it up. What an example she sets to
women and young girls, going about dressed in pink with ribbons and
frills, when she is over forty. How can anybody help reading her a
lecture? You see," he added turning to Raisky. "that I am only a terror
to evildoers. Who has made you fear me?"

"Mark," answered Raisky, to the excitement of all present.

"What Mark?" asked Niel Andreevich, frowning.

"Mark Volokov, who is in exile here."

"Ah! that thief. Do you know him?"

"We are friends."

"Friends!" hissed the old man. "Tatiana Markovna, what do I hear?"

"Don't believe him, Niel Andreevich. He does not know what he is talking
about. What sort of a friend of yours is he?"

"Why, Grandmother, did he not sup here with me and spend the night?
Didn't you yourself give orders to have a soft bed made up for him?"

"Boris Pavlovich, for pity's sake, be silent," whispered his aunt

But Tychkov was already looking at her with amazement, the ladies with
sympathy, while the men stared and the young girls drew closer to one
another. Vera looked round the company, thanking Raisky by a friendly
glance, and Marfinka hid behind her aunt.

"What a confession! You admitted this Barabbas under your roof," said
Niel Andreevich.

"Not I, Niel Andreevich. Borushka brought him in at night, and I did not
even know who was sleeping in his room."

"You go round with him at night? Don't you know that he is a suspicious
character, an enemy of the administration, a renegade from Church and
Society. So he has been telling you about me?"

"Yes," Raisky said.

"By his description I am a wild beast, a devourer of men."

"No, you do not devour them, but you allow yourself, by what right God
only knows, to insult them."

"And did you believe that?"

"Until to-day, no."

"And to-day?"

"To-day, I believe it," agreed Raisky to the terror and agitation of the
company. Most of the officials present escaped to the hall, and stood
near the door listening.

"How so," asked Niel Andreevich haughtily.

"Because you have just insulted a lady."

"You hear, Tatiana Markovna."

"Boris Pavlovich, Borushka," she said, seeking to restrain him.

"That old fashion-plate, that frivolous, dangerous woman!"

"What do her faults matter to you. Who gave you the right to judge other

"Who gave you the right, young man, to reproach me? Do you know that I
have been in the service for forty years, and that no minister has ever
made the slightest criticism to me."

"My right is that you have insulted a lady in my house. I should be a
miserable creature to permit that. If you don't understand that, the
worse for you."

"If you receive a person who is, to the knowledge of the whole town,
a frivolous butterfly, dressing in a way unsuited to her age, and
leaving unfulfilled her duties to her family...."

"Well, what then?"

"Then both you and Tatiana Markovna deserve to hear the truth. Yes, I
have been meaning to tell you for a long time, Matushka."

"Frivolity, flightiness and the desire to please are not such terrible
crimes. But the whole town knows that you have accumulated money through
bribery that you robbed your own nieces and had them locked up in an
asylum. Yet my Grandmother and I have received you in our house, and you
take it upon yourself to lecture us."

The guests who heard this indictment were horror-stricken. The ladies
hurried out into the hall without taking leave of their hostess, the
rest followed them like sheep, and soon all were gone. Tatiana Markovna
motioned Marfinka and Vera to the door, but Marfinka alone obeyed the
indication. As for Niel Andreevich he had become deadly pale.

"Who," he cried, "who has brought you these tales? Speak! That brigand
Mark? I am going straight to the Governor. Tatiana Markovna, if this
young man again sets foot in your house, you and I are strangers.
Otherwise within twenty four hours, both he and you and your whole
household shall be transferred to a place where not even a raven can
penetrate with food. Who? Who told him? I will know. Who? Speak," he
hissed, gasping for breath, and hardly knowing what he said.

"Stop talking rubbish, Niel Andreevich," commanded Tatiana Markovna,
rising suddenly from her place. "You will explode with fury. Better
drink some water. You ask who has said it. There is no secret about it,
for I have said it, and it is common knowledge in the town."

"Tatiana Markovna!" shrieked Niel Andreevich.
"You have your deserts. Why make so much noise about it? In another
person's house you attack a woman, and that is not the action of a

"How dare you speak like that to me?"

Raisky would have thrown himself on him if his aunt had not waved him
aside. Then with the commanding dignity she knew how to assume, she put
on her cap, wrapt herself in her shawl, and went right up to Niel
Andreevich, while Raisky looked on in amazement, with a sense of his own
smallness in her majestic presence.

"Who are you?" she began. "A clerk in the chancellery, an upstart. And
yet you dare to address a noblewoman with violence. You have too good an
opinion of yourself, and have asked for your lesson, which you shall
have from me once and for all. Have you forgotten the days when you used
to bring documents from the office to my father, and did not dare to sit
down in my presence, when you used to receive gifts from my hand on
feast-days? If you were an honest man no one would reproach you. But you
have, as my nephew says, accumulated stolen wealth, and it has been
endured out of weakness. You should hold your tongue, and repent in your
old age of your evil life. But you are bursting, intoxicated with pride.
Sober yourself and bow your head. Before you stands Tatiana Markovna
Berezhkov, and also my nephew Boris Pavlovich Raisky. If I had not
restrained him he would have thrown you out of the house, but I prefer
that he should not soil his hands with you; the lackeys are good

As she stood there with blazing eyes, she bore a close resemblance to a
portrait of one of her ancestors that hung on the wall. Tychkov turned
his eyes this way and that seemingly beside himself with rage.

"I shall write to St. Petersburg," he gasped, "the town is in danger."
Then he slunk out, so agitated by her furious aspect that he dared not
raise his eyes to her face.

Tatiana Markovna maintained her proud bearing, though her fingers
grasped nervously at her shawl. Raisky approached her hesitatingly,
seeing in her, not his aunt, but another, and to him an almost unknown

"I did not understand the majesty of your temperament. But I make my bow,
not as a grandson before to an honoured grandmother, but as man to woman.
I offer you my admiration and respect, Tatiana Markovna, best of women,"
he said, kissing her hand.

"I accept your courtesy, Boris Pavlovich, as an honour which I have
deserved. Do you accept for your honourable championship the kiss, not
of a grandmother, but of a woman."

As she kissed him on the cheek, he received another kiss from the other

"This kiss is from another woman," said Vera in a low voice as she left
the room, before Raisky's outstretched arms could reach her.

"Vera and I have not spoken to one another, but we have both understood
you. We do, in fact, talk very little, but we resemble one another,"
said Tatiana Markovna.

"Granny, you are an extraordinary woman!" cried Raisky, looking at her
with as much enthusiasm as if he saw her for the first time.

"Drive to the Governor's, Borushka, and tell him exactly what has
happened so that the other party may not be first with his lying
nonsense. I am going to beg Paulina Karpovna's pardon."


For three days the impression of this Sunday morning breakfast remained
with Raisky. He had been surprised by this sudden transformation of
Tatiana Markovna from grandmother and kindly hostess into a lioness, but
he had been still more agitated by Vera's kiss. He could have wept for
emotion, and would like to have built new hopes on it, but it was a kiss
that led no further, a flash of lightning immediately extinguished.

Raisky kept his promise, and neither went to Vera's room, nor followed
her; he saw her only at meals and then rarely talked to her. He
succeeded in hiding from her the fact that she still occupied his
thoughts; he would like to have wiped out of her recollection his hasty
revelation of himself to her.

Then he began a portrait of Tatiana Markovna, and occupied himself
seriously with the plan of his novel. With Vera as the central figure,
and the scene his own estate and the bank of the Volga his fancy took
shape and the secret of artistic creation became clear to him.

It chanced once or twice that he found himself walking with Vera. Gaily
and almost indifferently he poured out for her his store of thought and
knowledge, even of anecdote, as he might do to any amiable, clever
stranger, without second thoughts or any wish to reap an advantage. He
led in fact a peaceful, pleasant life, demanding nothing and regretting
nothing. He perceived with satisfaction that Vera no longer avoided him,
that she confided in him and drew closer to him; she would herself come
to his room to fetch books, and he made no effort to retain her.

They often spent the afternoon with Tatiana Markovna. Vera apparently
liked to hear him talk, and smiled at his jokes, though from time to
time she would get up suddenly in the middle of a sentence when he was
reading aloud or talking, and with some slight excuse, go out and not
appear again for hours. He made no effort to follow her.

He found recreation with friends in the town, driving occasionally with
the Governor or taking part with Marfinka and Vera in some rural

The month which Mark had set as a limit for their wager, was nearly over,
and Raisky felt himself free from passion. At least he thought so, and
put down all his symptoms to the working of his imagination and to
curiosity. On some days even Vera appeared to him in the same light as
Marfinka. He saw in them two charming young girls, only late left school
with all the ideas and adorations of the schoolgirl, with the
schoolgirl's dream-theory of life, which is only shattered by experience.
He told himself that he was absolutely cold and indifferent, and in a
position truthfully to call himself her friend. He would shortly leave
the place, but before that he must visit "Barabbas," take his last pair
of trousers, and warn him against making a wager.

He went to Leonti to ask where Mark was to be found and discovered them
both at breakfast.

"You might develop into a decent individual," cried Mark to him, "if you
were a little bolder."

"You mean if I had the boldness to shoot my neighbour or to storm an inn
by night."

"How will you take an inn by storm? Besides, there is no need, since
your aunt has her own guesthouse. Many thanks for having chased that old
swine from your house, I am told in conjunction with Tatiana Markovna.

"Where did you hear that?"

"The whole town is talking of it. I wanted to come and show my respect
to you, when I suddenly heard that you were on friendly terms with the
Governor, had invited him to your house, and that you and your aunt had
stood on your hind paws before him. That is abominable, when I thought
you had only invited him to show him the door."

"That is what is called bourgeois courage, I believe."

"I don't know what it is called, but I can best give you an example of
the kind of courage. For some time the police inspector has been
sniffing round our vegetable garden, so probably his Excellency has been
kind enough to show an interest in me, and to enquire after my health
and amusements. Well, I am training a couple of bull-dogs, and I hadn't
had them a week before the garden was clear of cats. I have them ready
at dark, and if the Colonel or his suite arrive, I shall let my beasts
loose. Of course it will happen by accident."

"I have come to say goodbye, for I am leaving here shortly."

"You are going away?" asked Mark in astonishment, then added in a low,
serious voice, "I should like to have a word with you."

"Speak, by all means. Is it a question of money again?"

"Money as far as I am concerned, but it is not of that I wish to speak
to you. I will come to you later. I cannot speak of that now," he said
looking significantly at Koslov's wife to indicate that he could not
explain himself in her presence.

"No one will let you go?" whispered Juliana Andreevna. "I have not once
spoken to you out of hearing of my husband."

"Have you brought the money with you," asked Mark suddenly, "the three
hundred roubles for the wager?"

"Where is the pair of trousers?" asked Raisky ironically.

"I am not joking; you must pay me my three hundred roubles."

"Why? I am not in love as you see."

"I see that you are head over ears in love."

"How do you see that."

"In your face."

"The month is past, and with it the wager at an end. As I don't need the
trousers I will make you a present of them to go with the coat."

"How can you go away?" complained Leonti. "And the books--"

"What books?"

"Your books. See for yourself by the catalogue that they are all right."

"I have made you a present of them."

"Be serious for a moment. Where shall I send them?"

"Goodbye. I have no time to spare. Don't come to me with the books, or I
will burn them. And you, wise man, who can tell a lover by his face,
farewell. I don't know whether we shall meet again."

"Where is the money? It isn't honest not to surrender it. I see the
presence of love, which like measles has not yet come out, but soon will.
Your face is already red. How tiresome that I fixed a limit, and so lose
three hundred roubles by my own stupidity."


"You will not go," said Mark with decision.

"I shall have another opportunity of seeing you, Koslov. I am not
starting until next week."

"You will not go," repeated Mark.

"What about your novel?" asked Leonti. "You intended to finish it here."

"I am already near the end of it, though there is still some arranging
to be done, which I can do in St. Petersburg."

"You will not end your romance either, neither the paper one nor the
real one." said Mark.

Raisky was about to answer, but thought better of it, and was quickly

"Why do you think he won't finish the novel?" asked Leonti.

"He is only half a man," replied Mark with a scornful, bitter laugh.

Raisky walked in the direction of home. His victory over himself seemed
so assured that he was ashamed of his earlier weakness. He pictured to
himself how he would now appear to her in a new and surprising guise,
bold, deliberately scornful, with neither eyes nor desire for her beauty;
and he pictured her astonishment and sorrow.

In his impatience to see the effect of this new development in himself
he stole into her room and crossed the carpet without betraying his
presence. She sat with her elbows on the table, reading a letter,
written as he noticed on blue paper in irregular lines and sealed with
common blackish-brown sealing wax.

"Vera!" he said in a low voice. She shrank back with such obvious
terror that he too trembled, then quickly put the letter in her pocket.

They looked at one another without stirring.

"You are busy. Excuse my coming," he said, and took a step backward, as
if to leave her.

She made no answer, but, gradually recovering her self-possession, and
without removing her eyes from his face she advanced towards him with
her hand still in her pocket.

"It must be a very interesting letter and a great secret," he said with
a forced laugh, "since you conceal it so quickly."

With her eyes still upon him she sat down on the divan.

"Show me the letter," he laughed, betraying his agitation by a tremor of
the voice. "You will not show it?" he went on as she looked at him in
amazement and pressed her hand tighter in her pocket.

She shook her head.

"I don't need to read it. What possible interest could I have in another
person's letter? I only wanted a proof of your confidence, of your
friendly disposition towards me. You see my indifference. See, I am not
as I was," he said, telling himself at the same time that the letter
obsessed him.

She tried, to read in his face the indifference in which he was
insisting. His face indeed wore an aspect of indifference, but his voice
sounded as if he were pleading for alms.

"You will not show it," he said. "Then God be with you," and he turned
to the door.

"Wait," she said, putting her hand in her pocket and drawing out a
letter which she showed him.

He looked at both sides, and glanced at the signature, Pauline Kritzki.

"That is not the letter," he said, returning it.

"Do you see another?" she asked drily.

He replied that he had not, fearing that she might accuse him of spying,
and at her request began to read:

"Ma belle chamante divine Vera Vassilievna! I am enraptured and fall on
my knees before your dear, noble, handsome cousin; he has avenged me,
and I am triumphant and weep for joy. He was great. Tell him that he is
ever my knight, that I am his devoted slave. Ah, how I admire him, I
would say--the word is on the tip of my tongue--but I dare not. Yet why
should I not? Yes, I love him, I adore him. Everyone must adore him...."

Here Raisky attempted to return the letter, but Vera bade him continue,
as there was a request for him. He skipped a few lines and proceeded:--

"Implore your cousin (he adores you. Do not deny it, for I have seen his
passionate glances. What would I not give to be in your place).

"Implore your cousin, darling Vera Vassilievna, to paint my portrait. I
don't really care about the portrait, but to be with an artist to admire
him, to speak to him, to breathe the same air with him! _Ma pauvre
tete, je deviens folle. Je compte sur vous, ma belle et bonne amie, et
j'attends la reponse_."

"What answer shall I give her?" asked Vera, as Raisky laid the letter on
the table.

He was thinking of the other letter, wondering why she had hidden it,
and did not hear her question.

"May I write that you agree?"

"God forbid! on no account."

"How is it to be done then? She wants to breathe the same air as you."

"I should stifle in that atmosphere."

"But if I ask you to do it?" whispered Vera.

"You, what difference can it make to you?" he asked trembling.

"I should like to say something pleasant to her," she returned, but did
not add that she seized this means of detaching him from herself.
Paulina Karpovna would not lightly let him out of her hands.

"Should you accept it as a sign of friendship if I fulfilled your wish?
Well, then," as she nodded, "I make two conditions, one that you should
be present at the sittings. Otherwise I should be clearing out at the
first sitting. Do you agree?" Then, as she nodded unwillingly, "the
second is that you show me the other letter."

"Which letter?"

"The one you hid so quickly in your pocket."

"There isn't another."

"You would not have hidden this letter in terror; will you show the

"You are beginning again," she said reproachfully.

"You need not trouble. I was only jesting. But for God's sake do not
look on me as a despot or a spy; it was mere curiosity. God be with you
and your secrets."

"I have no secrets," she returned drily as he rose to go.

"Do you know that I am soon leaving?" he asked suddenly.

"I heard so; is it true?"

"Why do you doubt?"

She dropped her eyes and said nothing.

"You will be glad for me to go?"

"Yes," she answered in a whisper.

"Why," he said sadly, and came nearer.

She thought for a moment, drew out another letter, glanced through it,
carefully scratching out a word or a line here and there, and handed it
to him.

"Read that letter," she said, again slipping her hand into her pocket.

He began to read the delicate handwriting: "I am sorry, dear Natasha,"
and then asked, "Who is Natasha?"

"The priest's wife, my school friend."

"Ah! the pope's wife. It is your own letter. That is interesting," and
he became absorbed in the reading.

"I am sorry, dear Natasha," the letter ran, "that I have not written to
you since my return. As usual I have been idle, but I had other reasons,
which you shall learn. The chief reason you already know (here some
words were scratched out), which agitates me very much. But of that we
will speak when we meet.

"The other reason is the arrival of our relative, Boris Pavlovich Raisky.
For my misfortune he scarcely ever leaves the house, so that for a
fortnight I did hardly anything except hide from him. What an abundance
of reason, of different kinds of knowledge, of brilliance, of talent he
brought with him, and with it all what unrest. He upsets the whole
household. He had hardly arrived before he was seized with the firm
conviction that not only the estate, but all that lived on it, were his
property. Taking his stand on a relationship, which hardly deserves the
name, and on the fact that he knew us when we were little, he treated us
as if we were children or schoolgirls. Although I have hidden myself
from him, I have only just succeeded in preventing him from seeing how I
sleep and dream, and what I hope and wait for.

"This pursuit has almost made me ill, and I have seen no one, written to
no one. I feel like a prisoner. It is as if he were playing with me,
perhaps quite against his own will. One day he is cold and indifferent,
the next his eyes are ablaze, and I fear him as I would a madman. The
worst of all seems to me to be that he does not know himself, so that no
reliance can be placed on his plans and promises; he decides on one
course, and the next day takes another. He himself says he is nervous,
susceptible and passionate, and he may be right. He is no play actor,
and does not disguise himself; he is, I think, too sensible and
well-bred, indeed, too honest, for that.

"He is by way of being an artist, draws, writes, improvises very nicely
on the piano, and dreams of art. Yet it seems to me that he does
substantially nothing, but is spending his life, as he says, in the
adoration of beauty; he is a lover by temperament, like (do you
remember?) Dashenka Sfemechkin, who fell in love with a Spanish prince,
whose portrait she had seen in a German calendar, and would admit no one,
not even the piano-tuner, Kish. But Boris Pavlovich is full of kindness
and honour, is upright, gay, original, but all these qualities are so
disconnected and uncertain in their expression that we don't know what
to make of them. Now he seeks my friendship, but I am afraid of him, am
afraid he may do anything, am afraid (here some lines were crossed out).
Ah, if only he would go away. It is terrible to think he may one day
(here again words were crossed out).

"And I need one thing--rest. The doctor says I am nervous, must spare
myself, and avoid all agitation. Thank God, he is also attached to
Grandmother, and I am left in peace. I do not want to step out of the
circle I have drawn for myself; and nobody else should cross the line.
In its sanctity lies my peace and my whole happiness.

"If Raisky oversteps this line, the only course that remains to me is to
fly from here. That is easy to say, but where? And then I have some
conscience about it, because he is so good, so kind to me and my sister,
and means to make a gift to us of this place, this Paradise, where I
have learned to live and not to vegetate. It lies on my conscience that
he should squander these undeserved tokens of affection, that he tries
to be brilliant for my sake, and to awaken in me some affection,
although I have denied him every hope. Ah, if he only knew how vain his
efforts are.

"Now I will tell you about _him_...."

The letter went no further, and Raisky looked at the lines as if he were
trying to read behind them. Vera had said practically nothing about
herself; she remained in the shadow, while the whole garish light fell
on him.

"There was another letter," he said sharply, "written on blue paper."

Vera had not left the room, but someone's hand was on the lock.

"Who is there?" asked Raisky with a start.

In the doorway appeared Vassilissa's anxious face.

"It's I," she said in a low voice. "It's a good thing you are here,
Boris Pavlovich; they are asking for you. Please make haste. There is
nobody in the hall. Yakob is at church. Egorka has been sent to the
Volga for some fish, and I am alone with Pashutka."

"Who is asking for me?"

"A gendarme from the Governor. The Governor asks you to go to see him,
at once, if possible, if not to-morrow morning. The business is

"Very well. I will go."

"Please, as quickly as possible. Then _he_ has also come."


"The man they would like to horsewhip. He has made himself at home in
the hall, and is waiting for you. The Mistress and Marfa Vassilievna
have not yet returned from the town."

"Didn't you ask his name?"

"He gave his name, but I have forgotten. He is the man who stayed the
night with you when you were drinking. Please, Boris Pavlovich, be quick.
Pashutka and I have locked ourselves in."


"Because we were afraid. I climbed out of the window into the yard to
come and tell you. If only he does not nose anything out."

Raisky went with her, laughing. He sent a message by the gendarme that
he would be with the Governor in an hour. Then he sought out Mark and
led him into his room.

"Do you wish to spend the night with me?" he asked ironically.

"I am indeed a nightbird," answered Mark, who looked anxious. "I receive
too much attention in the daytime, and it puts less shame on your Aunt's
house. The magnificent old lady, to show Tychkov the door. But I have
come to you on important business," he said, looking serious.

"You have business! That is interesting."

"Yes, more serious than yours. To-day I was at the police-station, not
exactly paying a call. The police inspector had invited me, and I was
politely fetched with a pair of grey horses."

"What has happened?"
"A trifling thing. I had lent books to one or two people...."

"Perhaps mine, that you had taken from Leonti?"

"Those and others--here is the list," he said, handing him a slip of

"To whom did you give the books?"

"To many people, mostly young people. One fool, the son of an advocate,
did not understand some French phrases, and showed the book to his
mother, who handed it on to the father, and he in his turn to the
magistrate. The magistrate, having heard of the name of the author, made
a great commotion and informed the Governor. At first the lad would not
give me away, but when they applied the rod to him he gave my name, and
to-day they summoned me to court."

"And what line did you adopt?"

"What line?" said Mark laughing, as he looked at Raisky. "They asked me
whose books they were, and where I had got them, and I said from you;
some you had brought with you; others, Voltaire, for instance, I had
found in your library."

"I'm much obliged. Why did you put this honour on me?"

"Nobody will meddle with you, since you are in his Excellency's favour.
Then you are not living here under official compulsion. But I shall be
sent off to a third place of exile; this is already the second. At any
other time this would be a matter of indifference to me, but just now,
for the time being, at least, I should like to stay here."

"And what else?"

"Nothing. I only wanted to tell you what I have done, and to ask whether
you will take it on yourself or not."

"But what if I won't, and I don't intend to."

"Then instead of your name I will give Koslov's. He is growing mouldy
here. Let him go to prison. He can take up his Greeks again later."

"No, he will never take them up again if he is robbed of his position,
and of his bread and butter."

"There you are right, my conclusions were illogical. It would be better
for you to take it on yourself."

"What are you to me that I should do so?"

"On the former occasion I needed money, and you had what I lacked. This
is the same case. No one will touch you, while I should be sent off. I
am now logical enough."

"You ask a remarkable service. I am just going to the Governor, who has
sent for me. Good-bye."

"He has sent for you, then?"

"What am I to do? What should I say?"

"Say that you are the hero of the piece, and the Governor will quash the
whole matter, for he does not like sending special reports to St.
Petersburg. With me it is quite different. I am under police supervision,
and it is his duty to return a report every month as to my circumstances
and my mode of life. However," he added with apparent indifference, "do
as you like. And now come, for I have no more time either. Let us go as
far as the wood together, and I will climb down the precipice. I will
wait at the fisherman's on the island to see how the matter ends."

At the edge of the precipice Mark vanished into the bushes. Raisky drove
to the Governor's, and returned home about two o'clock in the morning.

Although he had gone so late to bed, he rose early. The windows of
Vera's room were still darkened. She is still sleeping, he thought, and
he went into the garden, where he walked up and down for an hour,
waiting for the drawing back of the lilac curtain. He hoped Marina would
cross the yard, but she did not come. Then Tatiana Markovna's window was
opened, the pigeons and the sparrows began to gather on the spot were
they were wont to receive crumbs from Marfinka, doors opened and shut,
the grooms and the servants crossed the yard, but the lilac curtain
remained untouched. The gloomy Savili came out of his room and looked
silently round the yard. When Raisky called him he came towards him with
slow steps.

"Tell Marina to let me know when Vera Vassilievna is dressed."

"Marina is not here."

"Where is she?"

"She started at dawn to accompany the young lady over the Volga."

"What young lady, Vera Vassilievna?"


"How did they go, and with whom?"

"In the _brichka_, with the dun horse. They will return in the
evening," he added.

"Do you think they will return to-day?" asked Raisky with interest.

"Assuredly. Prokor with the horse, and Marina too. They will see the
young lady safely there, and return immediately."

Raisky looked at Savili without seeing him, and they stood opposite one
another for some time speechless.

"Have you any further orders?" Savili asked at length.

Raisky recovered himself, and inquired whether Savili was awaiting
Marina. Savili replied by a curse on his wife.

"Why do you beat her?" asked Raisky. "I have been intending for a long
time to advise you to leave her alone."

"I don't beat her any more."

"Since when?"

"For the last week, since she has stayed quietly at home."

"Go, I have no orders. But do not beat Marina. It will be better both
for you and her if you give her complete liberty."

Raisky passed on his way with bent head, glancing sadly at Vera's window.
Savili's eyes too were on the ground, and he had forgotten to put his
cap on again in his amazement at Raisky's last words.

"Passion once more!" thought Raisky. "Alas, for Savili, and for me!"


Since Vera's departure Raisky had experienced the meaning of unmitigated
solitude. He felt as if he were surrounded by a desert, now that he was
deprived of the sight of her, although nature around him was radiant and
smiling. Tatiana Markovna's anxious solicitude, Marfinka's charming rule,
her songs, her lively chatter with the gay and youthful Vikentev, the
arrival and departure of guests, the eccentricities of the freakish
Paulina Karpovna--none of these things existed for him. He only saw that
the lilac curtain was motionless, the blinds had been drawn down, and
that Vera's favourite bench remained empty.

He did not want to love Vera, and if he had wished it he ought still to
resist, for Vera had denied him every hope; indeed her beauty seemed to
have lost its power over him, and he was now drawn to her by a different

"What is Vera's real nature?" he asked his aunt one day.

"You see for yourself. She recognises only her own understanding and her
own will. She was born in my arms, and has spent her whole life with me,
yet I do not know what is in her mind, what are her likes and dislikes.
I do not force her, or worry her, so that she can hardly think herself
unfortunate. You see for yourself that my girls live with me as free as
the birds of the air."

"You are right, Grandmother. It is not fear, or anxiety, or the power of
authority that binds you to them, but the tenderest of home ties. They
adore you, and so they ought to do, but it is the fruit of their
upbringing. Why should worn-out conceptions of duty be pressed upon them,
and why should they live like caged birds? Let them dip into the
reservoir of life itself. A bird imprisoned in a cage loses the capacity
for freedom, and, even if the door of his cage is opened, he will not
take flight."

"I have never tried to exercise restraint on Marfinka or Vera. Supposing
a respectable, rich man of old and blameless family were to ask for
Marfinka's hand, and she refused it, do you think I should persuade

"Well, Granny, I leave Marfinka to you, but do not attempt to do
anything with Vera. You must not restrain her in any way, must leave her
her freedom. One bird is born for the cage, another for freedom. Vera
will be able to direct her own life."

"Do I restrain or repress her? I am like the police inspector who only
sees that there is an outward semblance of order; I do not penetrate
below the surface unless my assistance is invited."

"Tell me, Grandmother, what sort of a woman is this priest's wife, and
what are the links that bind her to Vera?"

"Natalie Ivanovna and Vera made friends at a boarding school. She is a
good, modest woman."

"Is she sensible? Possibly a woman of weight and character?"

"Oh no! She is not stupid, is fairly educated, a great reader, and fond
of dress. The pope, who is much liked by the local landowner, is not
poor, and lives in comfort on his own land. He is a sensible man,
belongs to the younger generation, but he leads too worldly a life for
the priesthood, as is the custom in landed society. He reads French
books, and smokes, for instance; things that are unsuited to the
priestly garb. Every glance of Veroshka's, every mood of hers is sacred
to Natalie Ivanovna; whatever she may say is wise and good. This suits
Vera, who does not want a friend, but an obedient servant; that is why
she loves the pope's wife."

"And Vera loves you too?" asked Raisky, who wanted to know if Vera loved
anybody else except the pope's wife.

"Yes, she loves me," answered Tatiana Markovna with conviction, "but in
her own fashion. She never shows it, and never will, though she loves me
and would be ready to die for me."

"And you love Vera?"

"Ah, how I love her!" she sighed, and tears stood in her eyes. "She does
not know, but perhaps one day she may learn."

"Have you noticed how thoughtful she has been for some time. Is she not
in love?" he added in a half-whisper, but immediately regretted the
question, which it was too late to withdraw. His aunt started back as if
a stone had hit her.

"God forbid!" she cried, making the sign of the Cross. "This sorrow has
been spared us. Do not disturb my peace, but confess, as you would to
the priest, if you know anything."

Raisky was annoyed with himself, and made an effort, partially
successful, to pacify his aunt.

"I have not noticed anything more than you have. She would hardly be
likely to say anything to me that she kept secret from you."

"Yes, yes, it is true she will say nothing. The pope's wife knows
everything, but she would rather die than betray Vera's secrets. Her own
secrets she scatters for anyone to pick up, but not Vera's."

"With whom could she fall in love?" remarked Tatiana Markovna after a
silence. "There is no one here."

"No one?" interrupted Raisky quickly.

Tatiana Markovna shook her head, then went on after a while:--

"There might be the Forester. He is an excellent individual, and has
shown an inclination, I notice. He would be certainly an admirable match
for Vera, but...."


"She is so strange. Heaven knows how any one would dare, how any man
would woo her. He is splendid--well-established and rich. The wood alone
yields thousands."

"Is the Forester young, educated, a man that counts?"

Vassilissa entered and announced Paulina Karpovna.

"The evil one himself has brought her," grumbled Tatiana Markovna. "Show
her in, and be quick with breakfast."


One evening a thunderstorm was brewing. The black clouds lay entrenched
beyond the Volga, and the air was as hot and moist as in a bath-house.
Here and there over the fields and roads rose pillars of dust.

In the house Tatiana Markovna sent her household hurrying to close the
stove pipes, the doors and the windows. She was not only afraid of a
thunderstorm herself, but she was not pleased if her fear was not shared
by everybody else--that would be freethinking. So at each flash of
lightning everyone must make the sign of the Cross, on pain of being
thought a blockhead. She chased Egorka from the ante-room into the
servants' room, because during the approach of the storm he would not
stop giggling with the maids.

The storm approached majestically, with the dull distant noise of the
thunder, with a storm of sand, when suddenly there was a flash of
lightning over the village and a sharp clap of thunder.

Disregarding the passionate warnings of his aunt, Raisky took his cap
and umbrella and hurried into the park, anxious to see the landscape
under the shadow of the storm, to find new ideas for his drawings, and
to observe his own emotions. He descended the cliff, and passed through
the undergrowth by a winding, hardly perceptible path. The rain fell by
bucketfuls, one flash of lightning followed another, the thunder rolled,
and the whole prospect was veiled in mist and cloud. He soon regretted
his intention. His soaked umbrella did not protect him from the rain,
which whipped his face and poured down on his clothes, and his feet sank
ankle-deep in the muddy ground. He was continually knocking against and
stumbling over unevennesses in the ground or tree stumps, treading in
holes and pools. He was obliged to stand still until a flash of
lightning lighted up a few yards of the path. He knew that not far away
lay a ruined arbour, dating from the time when the precipice formed part
of the garden. Not long before he had seen it in the thicket, but now it
was indiscoverable, however much he would have preferred to observe the
storm from its shelter. And since he did not wish to retrace the
horrible path by which he had come, he resolved to make his way to the
nearest carriage road, to climb over the twisted hedge and to reach the

He could hardly drag his soaked boots free of the mud and weeds, and he
was dazzled by the lightning and nearly deafened by the noise. He
confessed that he might as well have admired the storm from the shelter
of the house. In the end he struck the fence, but when he tried to leap
over it he slipped and fell in the ditch. With difficulty he dragged
himself out and clambered over. There was little traffic on the steep
and dangerous ridge, used for the most part as a short cut by empty
one-horse carriages with their quiet beasts.

He closed his dripping umbrella, and put it under his arm. Dazzled by
the lightning, slipping every minute, he toiled painfully up the slope,
and when he reached the summit he heard close by the noise of wheels,
the neighing of horses and the cry of the coachman. He stood on one side
and pressed himself against the fence to allow the passage of the
carriage, since the road was very narrow. In a flash of lightning Raisky
saw before him a char-a-banc with several persons in it, drawn by two
well-kept, apparently magnificent horses. In the light of another flash
he was amazed to recognise Vera.

"Vera," he cried loudly.

The carriage stood still.

"Who is there? Is it you, cousin, in this weather?"

"And you?"

"I am hurrying home."

"So do I want to. I came down the precipice, and lost my way in the

"Who is driving you? Is there room for me."

"Plenty of room," said a masculine voice. "Give me your hand to get up."
Raisky gave his hand, and was hauled up by a strong arm. Next to Vera
sat Marina, and the two, huddled together like wet chickens, were trying
to protect themselves from the drenching rain by the leather covering.

"Who is with you?" asked Raisky in a low voice. "Whose horses are these,
and who is driving?"

"Ivan Ivanovich."

"I don't know him."

"The Forester," whispered Vera, and he would have repeated her words if
she had not nudged him to keep silence. "Later," she said.

He remembered the talk with his aunt, her praises of the Forester, her
hints of his being a good match. This then was the hero of the romance,
the Forester. He tried to get a look at him, but only saw an ordinary
hat with a wide brim, and a tall, broad-shouldered figure wrapped in a
rain coat.

The Forester handled the reins skilfully as he drove up the steep hill,
cracked his whip, whistled, held the horses' heads with a firm hand when
they threatened to shy at a flash of lightning, and turned round to
those sheltered in the body of the vehicle.

"How do you feel, Vera Vassilievna," he inquired anxiously. "Are you
very cold and wet?"

"I am quite comfortable, Ivan Ivanovich; the rain does not catch me."

"You must take my raincoat. God forbid that you should take cold. I
should never forgive myself all my life for having driven you."

"You weary me with your friendly anxiety. Don't bother about anything
but your horses."

"As you please," replied Ivan Ivanovich with hasty obedience, turning to
his horses, and he cast only an occasional anxious glance towards Vera.

They drove past the village to the door of the new house. Ivan Ivanovich
jumped down and hammered on the door with his riding whip. Handing over
the care of his horses to Prokor, Tarasska and Egorka, who hurried up
for the purpose, he stood by the steps, took Vera in his arms, and
carried her carefully and respectfully, like a precious burden, through
the ranks of wide-eyed lackeys and maid-servants bearing lights, to the
divan in the hall.

Raisky followed, wet and dirty, without once removing his eyes from them.

The Forester went back into the ante-room, made himself as respectable
as he could, shook himself, pushed his fingers through his hair, and
demanded a brush.

Meanwhile Tatiana Markovna bade Vera welcome and reproached her for
venturing on such a journey; she must change her clothes throughout and
in a few moments the samovar would be brought in, and supper served.

"Quick, quick, Grandmother!" said Vera, rubbing herself affectionately
against her. "Let us have tea, soup, roast and wine. Ivan Ivanovich is
hungry." She knew how to quiet her aunt's anxiety.

"That's splendid. It shall be served in a minute. Where is Ivan

"I am making myself a bit decent," cried a voice from the ante-room.

Egor, Yakob and Stepan hummed round the Forester as if he had been a
good horse. Then he entered the hall and respectfully kissed the hands
of Tatiana Markovna, and of Marfinka, who had only just decided to get
out of bed, where she had hidden herself for fear of the storm.

"It is not necessary, Marfinka," said her aunt, "to hide from the storm.
You should pray to God, and will not then be struck."

"I am not afraid of thunder and lightning, of which the peasants are
usually the victims, but it makes me nervous," replied Marfinka.

Raisky, with the water still dripping off him, stood in the window
watching the guest. Ivan Ivanovich Tushin was a tall, broad-shouldered
man of thirty-eight, with strongly-marked features, a dark, thick beard,
and large grey rather timid eyes, and hands disproportionately large,
with broad nails. He wore a grey coat and a high-buttoned vest, with a
broad turned-down home-spun collar. He was a fine man, but with marked
simplicity, not to put a fine point on it in his glance and his manners.
Raisky wondered jealously whether he was Vera's hero. Why not? Women
like these tall men with open faces and highly developed muscular
strength. But Vera--

"And you, Borushka," cried Tatiana Markovna suddenly, clapping her hands.
"Look at your clothes. Egorka and the rest of you! Where are you? There
is a pool on the floor round you, Borushka. You will be ill. Vera was
driving home, but there was no reason for you to go out into the storm.
Go and change your clothes, Borushka, and have some rum in your tea.
Ivan Ivanovich, you ought to go with him. Are you acquainted? My nephew
Boris Raisky--Ivan Ivanovich Tushin."

"We have already made acquaintance," said Tushin, with a bow. "We picked
up your nephew on the way. Many thanks, I need nothing, but you, Boris
Pavlovich, ought to change."

"You must forgive an old woman for telling you you are all half mad. No
animal leaves his hole in weather like this. Yakob, shut the shutters
closer. Fancy crossing the Volga in weather like this."

"My carriage is solid, and has a cover. Vera Vassilievna sat as dry as
if she were in a room."

"But in this terrible storm."

"Only old women are afraid of a storm."

"I'm much obliged."

"I beg your pardon," said Tushin in embarrassment. "It slipped from my
tongue. I meant ordinary women."

"God will forgive you," laughed Tatiana Markovna. "It won't indeed hurt
you, but Vera! Were you not afraid?"

"One does not think of fear with Ivan Ivanovich."

"If Ivan Ivanovich went bear-hunting, would you go with him?"

"Yes, Grandmother. Take me with you sometimes, Ivan Ivanovich."

"With pleasure, Vera Vassilievna, in winter. You have only to command."

"That is just like her, not to mind what her Grandmother thinks."

"I was joking, Grandmother."

"I know you would be equal to it. Had you no scruples about hindering
Ivan Ivanovich; this distance...."

"It is my fault. As soon as I heard from Natalie Ivanovna that Vera
Vassilievna wanted to come home, I asked for the pleasure," he said
looking at Vera with a mixed air of modesty and respect.

"A nice pleasure in this weather."

"It was lighter while we were driving, and Vera Vassilievna was not

"Is Anna Ivanovna well?"

"Thank you. She sends her kindest regards, and has sent you some
preserves, also some peaches out of the orangery, and mushrooms. They
are in the char-a-banc."

"It is very good of her. We have no peaches. I have put aside for her
some of the tea that Borushka brought with him."

"Many thanks."

"How could you let your horses climb the hill in such weather? Were they
terrified by the storm?"

"My horses obey me like dogs. Should I have driven Vera Vassilievna if
there were any danger?"

"You are a good friend," interrupted Vera. "I have absolute trust both
in you, and in your horses."

At this moment Raisky returned, having changed his clothes. He had
noticed the glance which Vera gave Tushin, and had heard her last remark.

"Thank you, Vera Vassilievna," answered Tushin. "Don't forget what you
have just said. If you ever need anything, if...."

"If there is another such raging storm," said Tatiana Markovna.

"Any storm," added Tushin firmly.

"There are other storms in life," said Tatiana Markovna with a sigh.

"Whatever they are, if they break on you, Vera Vassilievna, seek refuge
in the forest over the Volga, where lives a bear who will serve you, as
the fairytale tells."

"I will remember," returned Vera laughing. "If a sorcerer wants to carry
me off, as in the fairy-tale, I will take refuge in the wood."

Raisky saw Tushin's glance of devotion and modest reserve, he heard his
words, so quietly and modestly spoken, and thought the letter written on
the blue paper could be from no one else. He looked at Vera to see if
she were moved or would relapse into a stony silence, but she showed no
sign. Vera appeared to him in a new light. In her manner and her words
to Tushin he saw simplicity, trust, gentleness and affection such as she
showed to no one else, not even to her aunt or to Marfinka.

"She is on her guard with her Grandmother," he thought, "and takes no
heed of Marfinka. But when she looks at Tushin, speaks to him, or gives
her hand it is plain to see that they are friends."

The Forester, who had business to do in the town, stayed for three days
with Tatiana Markovna, and for three days Raisky sought for the key to
this new character and to his place in Vera's heart.

They called Ivan Ivanovich the "Forester," because he lived on his
estate in the midst of the forest. He loved the forest, growing new
timber on the one hand and on the other allowing it to be cut down and
loaded up on the Volga for sale. The several thousand _dessiatins_
of surrounding forest were exceedingly well managed, and nothing was
lacking; there was even a steam saw. He attended to everything himself,
and in his spare time hunted and fished and amused himself with his
bachelor neighbours. From time to time he sought a change of scene, and
then arranged with his friends to drive in a three-horse carriage, drawn
by fresh horses, forty versts away to the seat of a landed proprietor,
where for three days the fun was fast enough. Then they returned, put up
with Tushin, or waked the sleepy town. In these festivals all class
distinctions were lost.

After this dissipation he would again remain lost to the world for three
months in his forest home, see after the wood cutting, and go hunting
with two servants, and occasionally have to lie up with a wounded arm.
The life suited him. He read works on agriculture and forestry, took
counsel with his German assistant, an experienced forester, who was
nevertheless not allowed to be the master. All orders must come from
Tushin himself, and were carried out by the help of two foremen and a
gang of hired labourers. In his spare time he liked to read French
novels, the only distraction that he permitted himself. There was
nothing extraordinary in a retired life like this in the wide district
in which he lived.

Raisky learnt that Tushin saw Vera at the pope's house, that he went
there expressly when he heard that Vera was a visitor. Vera herself told
him so. She and Natalie Ivanovna, too, visited Tushin's property, known
as "Smoke," because far away from the hills could be seen the smoke
rising from the chimneys of the house in the depth of the forest.

Tushin lived with his spinster sister, Anna Ivanovna, to whom Tatiana
Markovna was much attached. Tatiana Markovna was delighted when she came
to town. There was no one with whom she liked more to drink coffee, no
one to whom she gave her confidence in the same degree; they shared the
same liking for household management, the same deep-rooted self-esteem
and the same respect for family tradition.

Of Tushin himself there was little more to say than was revealed on a
first occasion; his character lay bare to the daylight, with no secret,
no romantic side. He possessed more than plain good sense, for his
understanding did not derive from the brain alone, but from the heart
and will. Men of his type, especially when they care nothing for the
superfluous things of life, but keep their eyes fixed undeviatingly on
the necessary, do not make themselves noticed in the crowd and rarely
reach the front of the world's stage.

Raisky noticed in the Forester's behaviour towards Vera a constant
adoration expressed by his glance and his voice, and sometimes by his
timidity; on her side an equally constant confidence, frankness and
affection, nothing more. He did not surprise in her a single sign or
gesture, a single word or glance that might have betrayed her. Tushin
showed pure esteem and a consistent readiness to serve her as her bear,
and no more. Surely he was not the man who wrote the letter on the blue

After the Forester had taken his leave, the household fell back into its
regular routine. Vera seemed untroubled and in possession of a quiet
happiness, and showed herself kind and affectionate to her aunt and
Marfinka. Yet there were days when unrest suddenly came upon her, when
she went hastily to her room in the old house, or descended the
precipice into the park, and displayed a gloomy resentment if Raisky or
Marfinka ventured to disturb her solitude. After a short interval she
resumed an even, sympathetic temper, helped in the household, looked
over her aunt's accounts, and even paid visits to the ladies in the town.
She discussed literary questions with Raisky, who realised from the
opinions she expressed that her reading was wide and enticed her into
thorough-going discussions. They read together, though not regularly.
Sometimes a wild intoxication flared up in her, but it was a
disconcerting merriment. One evening, when she suddenly left the room,
Tatiana Markovna and Raisky exchanged a long questioning glance.

"What do you think of Vera?" she began. "She seems to have recovered
from her malady of the soul."

"I think it is more serious than before."

"What is the matter with you, Borushka? You can see how gay and friendly
she has become."

"Is she like the Vera you have known. I fear that this is not gladness,
but rather agitation, even intoxication."

"You are right. She is changed."

"Don't you notice that she is ecstatic?"

"Ecstatic?" repeated Tatiana Markovna anxiously. "Why do you say that,
especially just at night? I shan't sleep. The ecstasy of a young girl
spells disaster."


Not only Raisky, but Tatiana Markovna gave up her attitude of
acquiescence, and secretly began to watch Vera narrowly. Tatiana
Markovna became thoughtful, she even neglected the affairs of the house
and farm, left the keys lying on the table, did not speak to Savili,
kept no accounts, and did not drive out into the fields. She grew
melancholy as she sought in vain how she might seek from Vera a frank
avowal, or find means to avert misfortune.

Vera in love, in an ecstasy! It seemed to her more than small-pox or
measles, worse even than brain fever. And with whom was she in love? God
grant that it were Ivan Ivanovich. If Vera were married to him, she
herself would die in peace. But her feminine instinct told her that
whatever deep affection the Forester cherished for Vera, it was
reciprocated by nothing more than friendship.

Who then was the man? Of the neighbouring landowners there was only
Tushin whom she saw and knew anything of. The young men in the town, the
officers and councillors, had long since given up any hope of being
received into her favour.

She looked keenly and suspiciously at Vera when she came to dinner or
tea, and tried to follow her into the garden, but as soon as Vera was
aware of her aunt's presence she quickened her steps and vanished into
the distance.

"Spirited away like a ghost!" said Tatiana Markovna to Raisky. "I wanted
to follow her, but where, with my old limbs? She flits like a bird into
the woods, into the bushes, over the precipice."

Raisky went immediately into the park, where he met Yakob, and asked him
if he had seen the young lady.

"I saw Vera Vassilievna just now by the chapel."

"What was she doing there?"


Raisky went to the chapel, wondering to himself how she had come to take
refuge in prayer. On the left there lay in the meadow between the park
and the road, a lonely, weather-beaten, half-ruined wooden chapel,
adorned with a picture of the Christ, a Byzantine painting in a bronze
frame. The ikon had grown dark with age, the paint had been cracked in
many places, so that the Christ face was hardly recognisable, but the
eyelids were still plainly discernible, and the eyes looked out dreamily
on the worshippers; the folded hands were also preserved.

Raisky advanced noiselessly over the grass. Vera was standing with her
back to him, her face turned towards the ikon, unconscious of his
approach. On the grass by the chapel lay her straw hat and sunshade. Her
hands did not make the sign of the Cross, her lips uttered no prayers,
her whole body appeared motionless, as if she hardly breathed; her whole
being was at prayer.

Involuntarily Raisky too held his breath. Is she begging for happiness,
or is she confiding her sorrow to the Crucified?

Suddenly she awoke from her prayer, turned and started when she caught
sight of Raisky.

"What are you doing here?" she said severely.

Yakob met me and said you were here; so I came. Grandmother...."

"Since you mention Grandmother, I will point out that she has been
watching me for some time. Do you know the reason?" she asked, looking
straight into his eyes.

"I think she always does."

"No, it was not her idea to watch me. Tell me without concealing
anything, have you communicated to her your suppositions about love and
a letter written on blue paper?"

"I think not of the letter."

"Then of love. I must know what you said?"

"We were speaking of you. Grandmother has her own questionings as to why
you are so serious one moment and so gay the next. I said (it is a long
time ago) that perhaps you were in love."

"And Grandmother?"

"She was terrified."


"Chiefly because of your evident excitement."

"Grandmother's peace of mind is dear to me; dearer, perhaps, than you

"She told me herself that she believed in your boundless love for her."

"Thank God! I am grateful to you for repeating this to me. Go to
Grandmother and destroy this curiosity of hers about my being in love,
in ecstasy. It cannot be difficult for you, and you will fulfil my
wishes if you love me."

"What would I not do to prove it to you. Later in the evening...."

"No, this minute. When I come to dinner her eyes are to look on me as
before, do you understand?"

"Well, I will go!" promised Raisky, but did not stir.

"Make haste!"

"And you?"

For answer she pointed in the direction of the house.

"One word more," she said, detaining him. "You must never, never talk
about me to Grandmother, do you understand?"

"Agreed, sister."

She motioned him to be gone, and when turning into an avenue he looked
round for a moment, she had vanished. She had, as Grandmother said,
disappeared like a ghost. A moment later there was the report of a gun
from the precipice. Raisky wondered who was playing tricks there, and
went towards the house.

Vera appeared punctually at the midday meal. Keenly as he looked at her,
Raisky could observe no change in her. Tatiana Markovna glanced at him
once or twice in inquiry, but was visibly reassured when she saw no
signs of anything unusual. Raisky had executed Vera's commission, and
had alleviated her acutest anxiety, but it was impossible to reassure
her completely.

Tatiana Markovna was saddened and wounded by the lack of confidence
shown her by Vera, her niece, her daughter, her dearest child, entrusted
to her care by her mother. Terror overcame her. She lay awake anxiously
through the night, she questioned Marina, sent Marfinka to find out what
Vera was doing, but without result. Suddenly there occurred to her what
seemed to her a good plan; as she put it to Raisky, she would make use
of allegory. She remembered that she possessed a moral tale which she
had read and wept over in her own youth. Its theme was the disastrous
consequences which followed on passion and disobedience to parents. A
young man and a girl loved one another, and met against the will of
their parents. She stood on the balcony beckoning and talking to him,
and they wrote one another long epistles. Others intervened, the young
girl lost her reputation, and the young man was sent to some vague place
in America by his father.

Like many others Tatiana Markovna pinned her faith to the printed word,

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