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The Precipice by Ivan Goncharov

Part 5 out of 7

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the contemplation of her suffering.

"Something is wrong with Vera," said Tatiana Markovna, shaking her grey
head as she saw how grimly he avoided her questioning glance.

"What can it be?" asked Raisky negligently, with an effort to assume

"Something is wrong, Borushka. She looks so melancholy and is so silent,
and often seems to have tears in her eyes. I have spoken to the doctor,
but he only talks the old nonsense about nerves," she said, relapsing
into a gloomy silence.

Raisky looked anxiously for Vera's appearance next morning. She came at
last, accompanied by the maid, who carried a warm coat and her hat and
shoes. She said good morning to her aunt, asked for coffee, ate her roll
with appetite, and reminded Raisky that he had promised to go shopping
with her in the town and to take a walk in the park. It amazed him that
she should be once more transformed, but there was a certain audacity in
her gestures and a haste in her speech which seemed forced and alien
from her usual manner and reminded him of her behaviour the day before.

She was plainly making a great effort to conceal her real mood. She
chatted volubly with Paulina Karpovna, who had turned up unexpectedly
and was displaying the pattern of a dress intended for Marfinka's
trousseau. That lady's visit was really directed towards Raisky, of
whose return she had heard. She sought in vain an occasion to speak with
him alone, but seized a moment to sit down beside him, when she made
eyes at him and said in a low voice: _"Je comprends; dites tout, du

Raisky wished her anywhere, and moved away. Vera meanwhile put on her
coat and asked him to come with her. Paulina Karpovna wished to
accompany them, but Vera declined on the ground that they were walking
and had far to go, that the ground was damp, and that Paulina's elegant
dress with a long train was unsuited for the expedition.

"I want to have you this whole day for myself," she said to Raisky as
they went out together, "indeed every day until you go."

"But, Vera, how can I help you when I don't know what is making you
suffer. I only see that you have your own drama, that the catastrophe is
approaching, or is in process. What is it?" he asked anxiously, as she

"I don't feel well, and am far from gay. Autumn is beginning. Nature
grows dark and sinister, the birds are already deserting us, and my mood,
too, is autumnal. Do you see the black line high above the Volga? Those
are the cranes in flight. My thoughts, too, fly away into the distance."

She realised halfway that this strange explanation was unconvincing, and
only pursued it because she did not wish to tell the truth.

"I wanted to ask you, Vera, about the letters you wrote to me."

"I am ill and weak; you saw what an attack I had yesterday. I cannot
remember just now all that I wrote."

"Another time then!" he sighed. "But tell me, Vera, how I can help you.
Why do you keep me back, and why do you want to spend these days in my
society? I have a right to ask this, and it is your duty to give a plain
answer unless you want me to think you false."

"Don't let us talk of it now."

"No," he cried angrily. "You play with me as a cat does with a mouse. I
will endure it no longer. You can either reveal your own secrets or keep
them as you please, but in so far as it touches me, I demand an
immediate answer. What is my part in this drama?"

"Do not be angry! I did not keep you back to wound you. But don't talk
about it, don't agitate me so that I have another attack like
yesterday's. You see that I can hardly stand. I don't want my weakness
to be seen at home. Defend me from myself. Come to me at dusk, about six,
and I will tell you why I detained you."

"Pardon me, Vera. I am not myself either," he said, struck by her
suffering. "I don't know what lies on your heart, and I will not ask. I
will come later to fetch you."

"I will tell you if I have the strength," she said.

They went into the shops, where Vera made purchases for herself and
Marfinka, she talked eagerly to the acquaintances they met, and even
visited a poor godchild, for whom she took gifts. She assented readily
to Raisky's suggestion that they should visit Koslov.

When they reached the house, Mark walked out of the door. He was plainly
startled, made no answer to Raisky's inquiry after Leonti's health, and
walked quickly away. Vera was still more disconcerted but pulled herself
together, and followed Raisky into the house.

"What is the matter with him?" asked Raisky. "He did not answer a word,
but simply bolted. You were frightened, too, Vera. Is it Mark who
signalises his presence at the foot of the precipice by a shot? I have
seen him wandering round with a gun," he said joking.

She answered in the same tone: "Of course, Cousin," but she did not look
at him.

No, thought Raisky to himself, she could not have taken for her idol a
wandering, ragged gipsy like that. Then he wondered whether the
possibility could be entirely excluded, since passion wanders where he
lists, and not in obedience to the convictions and dictates of man. He
is invincible, and master of his own inexplicable moods. But Vera had
never had any opportunity of meeting Mark, he concluded, and was merely
afraid of him as every one else was.

Leonti's condition was unchanged. He wandered about like a drunken man,
silent and listening for the noise of any carriage in the street, when
he would rush to the window to look if it bore his fugitive wife.

He would come to them in a few weeks, he said, after Marfinka's wedding,
as Vera suggested. Then he became aware of Vera's presence.

"Vera Vassilievna!" he cried in surprise, staring at her as he addressed
Raisky. "Do you know, Boris Pavlovich, who else has read your books and
helped me to arrange them?"

"Who has been reading my books?" asked Raisky.

But Leonti had been distracted by the sound of a passing carriage and
did not hear the question. Vera whispered to Raisky that they should go.

"I wanted to say something, Boris Pavlovich," said Leonti thoughtfully,
raising his head, "but I can't remember what."

"You said some one else had been reading my books."

Leonti pointed to Vera, who was looking out of the window, but who now
pulled Raisky's sleeve "Come!" she said and they left the house.

When they reached home Vera made over some of her purchases to her aunt,
and had others taken to her room. She asked Raisky to go out with her
again in the park and down by the Volga.

"Why are you tiring yourself out, Vera?" he asked, as they went. "You
are weak."

"Air, I must have air!" she exclaimed, turning her face to the wind.

She is collecting all her strength, he thought, as they entered the room
where the family was waiting for them for dinner. In the afternoon he
slept for weariness, and only awoke at twilight, when six o'clock had
already struck. He went to find Vera, but Marina told him she had gone
to vespers, she did not know whether in the village church on the hill
or in the church on the outskirts of the town. He went to the town
church first, and after studying the faces of all the old women
assembled there, he climbed the hill to the village church. Old people
stood in the corners and by the door, and by a pillar in a dark corner
knelt Vera, with a veil wrapped round her bowed head. He took his stand
near her, behind another pillar, and, engrossed in his thoughts of her
state of mind, watched her intently as she prayed motionless, with her
eyes fixed on the cross. He went sadly into the porch to wait for her,
and there she joined him, putting her hand in his arm without a word.

As they crossed the big meadow into the park he thought of nothing but
the promised explanation. His own intense desire to be freed from his
miserable uncertainty weighed with him less than his duty, as he
conceived it, of shielding her, of illuminating her path with his
experience, and of lending his undivided strength to keep her from
overstepping her moral precipice. Perhaps it was merely a remnant of
pride that prevented her from telling him why she had summoned him and
detained him.

He could not, and, even if he could, he had not the right to share his
apprehensions with anyone else. Even if he might confide in Tatiana
Markovna, if he spoke to her of his suspicion and his surmises, he was
not clear that it would help matters, for he feared that their aunt's
practical, but old-fashioned wisdom would be shattered on Vera's
obstinacy. Vera possessed the bolder mind, the quicker will. She was
level with contemporary thought, and towered above the society in which
she moved. She must have derived her ideas and her knowledge from some
source accessible to her alone. Though she took pains to conceal her
knowledge, it was betrayed by a chance word, by the mention of a name or
an authority in this or that sphere of learning, and it was betrayed
also in her speech; in the remarkable aptness of the words in which she
clothed her thoughts and feelings. In this matter she held so great an
advantage over Tatiana Markovna that the old lady's efforts in argument
were more likely to be disastrous than not.

Undoubtedly Tatiana Markovna was a wise woman with a correct judgment of
the general phenomena of life. She was a famous housewife, ruling her
little tsardom magnificently; she knew the ways, the vices and the
virtues of mankind as they are set out in the Ten Commandments and the
Gospels, but she knew nothing of the life where the passions rage and
steep everything in their colours. And even if she had known such a
world in her youth it must have been passion divorced from experience,
an unshared passion, or one stifled in its development, not a stormy
drama of love, but rather a lyric tenderness which unfolded and perished
without leaving a trace on her pure life. How could she lend a rescuing
hand to snatch Vera from the precipice, she who had no faith in passion,
but had merely sought to understand facts?

The shots in the depths of the precipice, and Vera's expeditions were
indeed facts, against which Tatiana Markovna might be able to adopt
measures. She might double the watch kept on the property, set men to
watch for the lover, while Vera, shut up in the house, endured
humiliation and a fresh kind of suffering.

Vera would not endure any such rough constraint, and would make her
escape, just as she had fled across the Volga from Raisky. These would
be, in fact, no means at all, for she had outgrown Tatiana Markovna's
circle of experience and morals. No, authority might serve with Marfinka,
but not with the clear-headed, independent Vera.

Such were Raisky's thoughts as he walked silently by Vera's side, no
longer desiring full knowledge for his own sake, but for her salvation.
Perhaps, he thought, he would best gain his end by indirect efforts to
make her betray herself.

"Leonti said," he began, "that you have been reading books out of my
library. Did you read them with him?"

"Sometimes he told me of the contents of certain books; others I read
with the priest, Natasha's husband."

"What books did you read with the priest?"

"For the moment I don't remember, but he read the writings of the
Fathers, for instance, and explained them to Natasha and me, to my great
advantage. We also read with him Voltaire and Spinoza. Why do you
laugh?" she asked, looking at Raisky.

"There seems a remarkable gap between the Fathers and Spinoza and
Voltaire. The Encyclopaedists are also included in my library. Did you
read them?"

"Nikolai Ivanovich read some to us, and talked about others."

"Did you also occupy yourselves with Feuerbach, with the Socialists and
the Materialists?"

"Yes, Natasha's husband asked us to copy out passages, which he
indicated by pencil marks."

"What was his object in this?"

"I think he was preparing to publish a refutation."

"Where did you obtain the newer books that are not in my library?
Not the exile," he suggested as she gave no answer, "who lives
here under police supervision, the same man about whom you wrote
to me? But you are not listening."

"Yes, I am. Who gave me the books? Sometimes one person, sometimes
another here in the town."

"Volokov borrowed these books."

"Perhaps so, I had them from professors."

The thought flashed through Raisky's head that there might be other
professors of the same kind as Monsieur Charles. But he merely asked
what were the views of Nikolai Ivanovich on Spinoza and these other

"He says." replied Vera, "that these writings are the efforts of bold
minds to evade the truth; they have beaten out for themselves side paths
which must in the end unite with the main road. He says too, that all
these attempts serve the cause of truth, in that the truth shines out
with greater splendour in the end."

"But he does not tell you where truth lies?"

By way of answer she pointed to the little chapel now in sight.

"And you think he is right?"

"I don't think, I believe. And don't you also believe he is right."

He agreed, and she asked him why, that being so, he had asked her.

"I wanted," he said, "to know your opinion."

"But you have often seen me at prayer," said Vera.

"Yes, but I do not overhear your prayers. Do you pray for the
alleviation of the restless sorrow that afflicts your mind?"

They had reached the chapel, and Vera stood still for a moment. She did
not appear to have heard his question, and she answered only with a deep
sigh. It was growing dark as they retraced their steps, Vera's growing
slower and more uncertain as they approached the old house, where she
stood still and glanced in the direction of the precipice.

"To still the storm I must not go near the precipice, you say--I beg of
you to stand by me, for I am sick and helpless."

"Will not Grandmother know better how to help you, Vera? Confide in her,
a woman, who will perhaps understand your pain."

She shook her head. "I will tell you, Grandmother and you, but not now;
now I cannot. And yet I beg of you not to leave me, not to allow me out
of your sight. If a shot summons me, keep me away from the precipice,
and, if necessary, hold me back by force. Things are as bad as that with
me. That is all you can do for me. That is why I asked you not to go
away, because I felt that my strength is failing, because except you I
have no one to help me, for Grandmother would not understand. Forgive

"You did right, Vera," he replied, deeply moved. "Depend on me. I am
willing to stay here for ever, if that will bring you peace."

"No, in a week's time the shots will cease."

She dried her eyes, and pressed his hand; then with slow, uneven steps,
supporting herself by the balustrade she passed up the steps and into
the house.


Two days had passed, and Raisky had had small opportunity of seeing
Vera alone, though she came to dinner and to tea, and spoke of ordinary
things. Raisky turned once more to his novel, or rather to the plan of
it. He visited Leonti, and did not neglect the Governor and other
friends. But in order to keep watch on Vera he wandered about the park
and the garden. Two days were now gone, he thought, since he sat on the
bench by the precipice, but there were still five days of danger.
Marfinka's birthday lay two days' ahead, and on that day Vera would
hardly leave the family circle. On the next Marfinka was to go with her
fiance and his mother to Kolchino, and Vera would not be likely to leave
Tatiana Markovna alone. By that time the week would be over and the
threatening clouds dispersed.

After dinner Vera asked him to come over to her in the evening, as she
wished him to undertake a commission for her. When he arrived she
suggested a walk, and, as she chose the direction of the fields he
realised that she wished to go to the chapel, and took the field path

As she crossed the threshold, she looked up at the thoughtful face of
the Christ.

"You have sought more powerful aid than mine," said Raisky. "Moreover,
you will not now go there without me."

She nodded in assent. She seemed to be seeking strength, sympathy and
support from the glance of the Crucified, but His eyes kept their
expression of quiet thought and detachment.

When she turned her eyes from the picture she reiterated, "I will not
go." Raisky read on her face neither prayer nor desire; it wore an
expression of weariness, indifference and submission.

He suggested that they should return, and reminded her that she had a
commission for him.

"Will you take the bouquet-holder that I chose the other week for
Marfinka's birthday to the goldsmith?" she said, handing him her purse.
"I gave him some pearls to set in it, and her name should be engraved.
And could you be up as early as eight o'clock on her birthday?"

"Of course. If necessary, I can stay up all night!"

"I have already spoken to the gardener, who owns the big orangery. Would
you choose me a nice bouquet and send it to me. I have confidence in
your taste."

"Your confidence in me makes progress, Vera," he laughed. "You already
trust my taste and my honour."

"I would have seen to all this myself," she went on, "but I have not the

Next day Raisky took the bouquet holder, and discussed the arrangement
of the flowers with the gardener. He himself bought for Marfinka an
elegant watch and chain, with two hundred roubles which he borrowed from
Tiet Nikonich, for Tatiana Markovna would not have given him so much
money for the purpose, and would have betrayed the secret. In Tiet
Nikonich's room he found a dressing table decked with muslin and lace,
with a mirror encased in a china frame of flowers and Cupids, a
beautiful specimen of Sevres work.

"Where did you get this treasure?" cried Raisky, who could not take his
eyes from the thing. "What a lovely piece!"

"It is my gift for Marfa Vassilievna," said Tiet Nikonich with his kind
smile. "I am glad it pleases you, for you are a connoisseur. Your liking
for it assures me that the dear birthday child will appreciate it as a
wedding gift. She is a lovely girl, just like these roses. The Cupids
will smile when they see her charming face in the mirror. Please don't
tell Tatiana Markovna of my secret."

"This beautiful piece must have cost over two thousand roubles, and you
cannot possibly have bought it here."

"My Grandfather gave five thousand roubles for it, and it was part of my
Mother's house-furnishing and until now it stood in her bedroom, left
untouched in my birth-place. I had it brought here last month, and to
make sure it should not be broken, six men carried it in alternate
shifts for the whole hundred and fifty versts. I had a new muslin cover
made, but the lace is old; you will notice how yellow it is. Ladies like
these things, although they don't matter to us."

"What will Grandmother say?"

"There will be a storm. I do feel rather uneasy about it, but perhaps
she will forgive me. I may tell you, Boris Pavlovich, that I love both
the girls, as if they were my own daughters. I held them on my knee as
babies, and with Tatiana Markovna gave them their first lessons. I tell
you in confidence that I have also arranged a wedding present for Vera
Vassilievna which I hope she will like when the time comes." He showed
Raisky a magnificent antique silver dinner service of fine workmanship
for twelve persons. "I may confess to you, as you are her cousin, that
in agreement with Tatiana Markovna I have a splendid and a rich marriage
in view for her, for whom nothing can be too good. The finest
_partie_ in this neighbourhood," he said in a confidential tone,
"is Ivan Ivanovich Tushin, who is absolutely devoted to her, as he well
may be."

Raisky repressed a sigh and went home where he found Vikentev and his
mother, who had arrived for Marfinka's birthday, with Paulina Karpovna
and other guests from the town, who stayed until nearly seven o'clock.
Tatiana Markovna and Marfa Egorovna carried on an interminable
conversation about Marfinka's trousseau and house furnishing. The lovers
went into the garden, and from there to the village. Vikentev carrying a
parcel which he threw in the air and caught again as he walked. Marfinka
entered every house, said good-bye to the women, and caressed the
children. In two cases she washed the children's faces, she distributed
calico for shirts and dresses, and told two elder children to whom she
presented shoes that it was time they gave up paddling in the puddles.

"God reward you, our lovely mistress, Angel of God!" cried the women in
every yard as she bade them farewell for a fortnight.


In the evening the house was aglow with light. Tatiana Markovna could
not do enough in honour of her guest and future connexion. She had a
great bed put up in the guest-chamber, that nearly reached to the
ceiling and resembled a catafalque. Marfinka and Vikentev gave full rein
to their gay humour, as they played and sang. Only Raisky's windows were
dark. He had gone out immediately after dinner and had not returned to

The moon illuminated the new house but left the old house in shadow.
There was bustle in the yard, in the kitchen, and in the servants' rooms,
where Marfa Egorovna's coachman and servants were being entertained.

From seven o'clock onwards Vera had sat idle in the dusk by the feeble
light of a candle, her head supported on her hand, leaning over the
table, while with her other hand she turned over the leaves of a book at
which she hardly glanced. She was protected from the cold autumn air
from the open window, by a big white woollen shawl thrown round her
shoulders. She stood up after a time, laid the book on the table, and
went to the window. She looked towards the sky, and then at the
gaily-lighted house opposite. She shivered, and was about to shut the
window when the report of a gun rolled up from the park through the
quiet dusk.

She shuddered, and seemed to have lost the use of her limbs, then sank
into a chair and bowed her head. When she rose and looked wildly round,
her face had changed. Sheer fright and distress looked from her eyes.
Again and again she passed her hand over her forehead, and sat down at
the table, only to jump up again. She tore the shawl from her shoulders
and threw it on the bed; then with nervous haste she opened and shut the
cupboard; she looked on the divan, on the chairs, for something she
apparently could not find, and then collapsed wearily on her chair.

On the back of the chair hung a wrap, a gift from Tiet Nikonich. She
seized it and threw it over her head, rushed to the wardrobe, hunted in
it with feverish haste, taking out first one coat, then another, until
she had nearly emptied the cupboard and dresses and cloaks lay in a heap
on the floor. At last she found something warm and dark, put out the
light, and went noiselessly down the steps into the open. She crossed
the yard, hidden in the shadows, and took her way along the dark avenue.
She did not walk, she flew; and when she crossed the open light patches
her shadow was hardly visible for a moment, as if the moon had not time
to catch the flying figure.

When she reached the end of the avenue, by the ditch which divided the
garden from the park, she stopped a moment to get her breath. Then she
crossed the park, hurried through the bushes, past her favourite bench,
and reached the precipice. She picked up her skirts for the descent,
when suddenly, as if he had risen out of the ground, Raisky stood
between her and her goal.

"Where are you going, Vera?"

There was no answer.

"Go back," he said, offering his hand, but she tried to push past him.
"Vera, where are you going?"

"It is for the last time." she said in a pleading, shamed whisper. "I
must say good-bye. Make way for me, Cousin! I will return in a moment.
Wait for me here, on this bench."

Without replying, he took her firmly by the hand, and she struggled in
vain to free herself.

"Let me go! You are hurting me!"

But he did not give way, and the struggle proceeded.

"You will not hold me by force," she cried, and with unnatural strength
freed herself, and sought to dash past him.

But he put his arm round her waist, took her to the bench, and sat down
beside her.

"How rough and rude!" she cried.

"I cannot hold you back by force, Vera. I may be saving you from ruin."

"Can I be ruined against my own will?"

"It is against your will; yet you go to your ruin."

"There is no question of ruin. We must see one another again in order to

"It is not necessary to see one another in order to separate."

"I must, and will. An hour or a day later, it is all the same. You may
call the servants, the whole town, a file of soldiers, but no power will
keep me back."

A second shot resounded.

She pulled herself up, but was pressed down on the bench with the weight
of Raisky's hands. She shook her head wildly in powerless rage.

"What reward do you hope from me for this virtuous deed?" she hissed.

He said nothing, but kept a watchful eye on her movements. After a time
she besought him gently: "Let me go, Cousin," but he refused.

"Cousin," she said, laying her hand gently on his shoulder. "Imagine
that you sat upon hot coals, and were dying every minute of terror, and
of wild impatience, that happiness rose before you, stretching out
enticing arms, only to vanish, that your whole being rose to meet it;
imagine that you saw before you a last hope, a last glimmer. That is how
it is with me at this moment. The moment will be lost, and with it
everything else."

"Think, Vera, if in the hot thirst of fever you ask for ice, it is
denied you. In your soberer moments yesterday you pointed out to me the
practical means of rescue, you said I was not to let you go, and I will

She fell on her knees before him, and wrung her hands.

"I should curse you my whole life long for your violence. Give way.
Perhaps it is my destiny that calls me."

"I was a witness yesterday, Vera, of where you seek your fate. You
believe in a Providence, and there is no other destiny."

"Yes," she answered submissively. "I do believe. There before the sacred
picture I sought for a spark to lighten my path, but in vain. What shall
I do?" she said, rising.

"Do not go, Vera."

"Perhaps it is my destiny that sends me there, there where my presence
may be needed. Don't try any longer to keep me, for I have made up my
mind. My weakness is gone, and I have recovered control of myself and
feel I am strong. It is not my destiny alone, but the destiny of another
human being that is to be decided down there. Between me and him you are
digging an abyss, and the responsibility will rest upon you. I shall
never be consoled, and shall accuse you of having destroyed our
happiness. Do not hold me back. You can only do it out of egoism, out of
jealousy. You lied when you spoke to me of freedom."

"I hear the voice of passion, Vera, with all its sophistry and its
deviations. You are practising the arts of a Jesuit. Remember that you
yourself bade me, only yesterday, not to leave you. Will you curse me
for not yielding to you? On whom does the responsibility rest? Tell me
who the man is?"

"If I tell you will you promise not to keep me back?" she said quickly.

"I don't know. Perhaps."

"Give me your word not to keep me any longer, and I give the name."

Another shot rang out.

She sprang to one side, before he had time to take her by the hand.

"Go to Grandmother," he commanded, adding gently, "Tell her your

"For Christ's sake let me go. I ask for alms like a beggar. I must be
free! I take him to whom I prayed yesterday to witness that I am going
for the last time. Do you hear? I will not break my oath. Wait here for
me. I will return immediately, will only say farewell to the 'Wolf,'
will hear a word from him, and perhaps he will yield!" She rushed
forward, fell to the ground in her haste, and tried in vain to rise. Tom
by an unutterable pity, Raisky took no heed of his own suffering, but
raised her in his arms and bore her down the precipice.

"The path is so steep here that you would fall again," he whispered.
Presently he set her down on the path, and she stooped to kiss his hand.

"You are generous, Cousin. Vera will not forget."

With that she hurried into the thicket, jubilant as a bird set free from
his cage.

Raisky heard the rustle of the bushes as she pushed them aside, and the
crackle of the dry twigs.

In the half-ruined arbour waited Mark, with gun and cap laid upon the
table. He walked up and down on the shaky floor, and whenever he trod on
one end of a board the other rose in the air, and then fell clattering
back again.

"The devil's music!" he murmured angrily, sat down on a bench near the
table, and pushed his hands through his thick hair. He smoked one
cigarette after another, the burning match lighting up his pale,
agitated face for a moment. After each shot he listened for a few
minutes, went out on the steps, and looked out into the bushes. When he
returned he walked up and down, raising the "devil's music" once more,
threw himself on the bench, and ran his hands through his hair. After
the third shot he listened long and earnestly. As he heard nothing he
was on the point of going away. To relieve his gloomy feelings he
murmured a curse between his teeth, took the gun and prepared to descend
the path. He hesitated a few moments longer, then walked off with
decision. Suddenly he met Vera.

She stood still, breathing with difficulty, and laid her hand on her
heart. As soon as he took her hand she was calm. Mark could not conceal
his joy, but his words of greeting did not betray it.

"You used to be punctual, Vera," he said, "and I used not to have to
waste three shots."

"A reproach instead of a welcome!" she said, drawing her hand away.

"It's only by way of beginning a conversation Happiness makes a fool of
me, like Raisky."

"If happiness gleamed before us, we should not be meeting in secret by
this precipice," she said, drawing a long breath.

"We should be sitting at your Grandmother's tea-table, and waiting till
someone arranged our betrothal. Why dream of these impossible things.
Your Grandmother would not give you to me."

"She would. She does what I wish. That is not the hindrance."

"You are starting on this endless polemic again, Vera. We are meeting
for the last time, as you determined we should. Let us make an end of
this torture."

"I took an oath never to come here again."

"Meanwhile, the time is precious. We are parting for ever, if stupidity
commands, if your Grandmother's antiquated convictions separate us. I
leave here a week from now. As you know the document assuring my freedom
has arrived. Let us be together, and not be separated again."


"Never!" he repeated angrily, with a gesture of impatience. "What lying
words those are, 'never' and 'always.' Of course 'never.' Does not a
year, perhaps two, three years, mean never? You want a never ending
tenderness. Does such a thing exist?"

"Enough, Mark! I have heard enough of this temporary affection. Ah! I am
very unhappy. The separation from you is not the only cloud over my soul.
For a year now I have been hiding myself from my Grandmother, which
oppresses me, and her still more. I hoped that in these days my trouble
would end; we should put our thoughts, our hopes, our intentions on a
clear footing. Then I would go to Grandmother and say: 'This is what I
have chosen for my whole life.' But it is not to be, and we are to
part?" she asked sadly.

"If I conceived myself to be an angel," said Mark, "I might say 'for our
whole lives,' and you would be justified. That gray-headed dreamer,
Raisky, also thinks that women are created for a higher purpose."

"They are created above all for the family. They are not angels, neither
are they, most certainly, mere animals. I am no wolf's mate, Mark, but a

"For the family, yes. But is that any hindrance for us. You want
draperies, for fine feeling, sympathies and the rest of the stuff are
nothing but draperies, like those famous leaves with which, it is said,
human beings covered themselves in Paradise."

"Yes, Mark, human beings!"

Mark smiled sarcastically, and shrugged his shoulders.

"They may be draperies," continued Vera, "but they also, according to
your own teaching, are given by nature. What, I ask, is it that attaches
you to me? You say you love me. You have altered, grown thinner. Is it
not, by your conception of love, a matter of indifference whether you
choose a companion in me, or from the poor quarter of our town, or from
a village on the Volga. What has induced you to come down here for a
whole year?"

"Examine your own fallacy, Vera," he said, looking at her gloomily.
"Love is not a concept merely, but a driving force, a necessity, and
therefore is mostly blind. But I am not blindly chained to you. Your
extraordinary beauty, your intellect and your free outlook hold me
longer in thrall than would be possible with any other woman."

"Very flattering!" she said in a low, pained voice.

"These ideas of yours, Vera, will bring us to disaster. But for them we
should for long have been united and happy."

"Happy for a time. And then a new driving force will appear on the scene,
the stage will be cleared, and so on."

"The responsibility is not ours. Nature has ordered it so, and rightly.
Can we alter Nature, in order to live on concepts?"

"These concepts are essential principles. You have said yourself that
Nature has her laws, and human beings their principles."

"That is where the germ of disintegration lies, in that men want to
formulate principles from the driving force of Nature, and thus to
hamper themselves hand and foot. Love is happiness, which Nature has
conferred on man. That is my view."

"The happiness of which you speak," said Vera, rising, "has as its
complement, duty. That is my view."

"How fantastic! Forget your duty, Vera, and acquiesce in the fact that
love is a driving force of Nature, often an uncontrollable one." Then
standing up to her embraced her, saying, "Is that not so, you most
obstinate, beautiful and wisest of women?"

"Yes, duty," she said haughtily, disengaging herself. "For the years of
happiness retribution will be exacted."

"How? In making soup, nursing one another, looking at one another and
pretending, in harping on principles, as we ourselves fade? If one half
falls ill and retrogresses, shall the other who is strong, who hears the
call of life, allow himself to be held back by duty?"

"Yes. In that case he must not listen to the calls that come to him; he
must, to use Grandmother's expression, avoid the voice as he would the
brandy bottle. That is how I understand happiness."

"Your case must be a bad one if it has to be bolstered up by quotations
from your Grandmother's wisdom. Tell me how firmly your principles are

"I will go to her to-day direct from here."

"To tell her what?"

"To tell her what there is between us, all that she does not know," she
said, sitting down on the bench again.


"You don't understand, because you don't know what duty means. I have
been guilty before her for a long time."

"That is the morality which smothers life with mould and dulness. Vera,
Vera, you don't love, you do not know how!"

"You ought not to speak like that, unless you wish to drive me to
despair. Am I to think that there is deception in your past, that you
want to ruin me when you do not love me?"

"No, no, Vera," he said, rising hastily to his feet. "If I had wanted to
deceive you I could have done so long ago."

"What a desperate war you wage against yourself, Mark, and how you ruin
your own life!" she cried, wringing her hands.

"Let us cease to quarrel, Vera. Your Grandmother speaks through you, but
with another voice. That was all very well once, but now we are in the
flood of another life where neither authority nor preconceived ideas
will help us, where truth alone asserts her power."

"Where is truth?"

"In happiness, in the joy of love. And I love you. Why do you torture me.
Why do you fight against me and against yourself, and make two victims?"

"It is a strange reproach. Look at me. It is only a few days since we
saw one another, and have I not changed?"

"I see that you suffer, and that makes it the more senseless. Now, I too
ask what has induced you to come down here for all this time?"

"Because I had not earlier realised the horror of my position, you will
say," she said, with a look that was almost hostile. "We might have
asked one another this question, and made this reproach, long ago, and
might have ceased to meet here. Better late than never! To-day we must
answer the question, What is it that we wanted and expected from one

"Here is my irrefragable opinion--I want your love, and I give you mine.
In love I recognise solely the principle of reciprocation, as it obtains
in Nature. The law that I acknowledge is to follow unfettered our strong
impression, to exchange happiness for happiness. This answers your
question of why I came here. Is sacrifice necessary? Call it what you
will there is no sacrifice in my scheme of life. I will no longer wander
in this morass, and don't understand how I have wasted my strength so
long, certainly not for your sake, but essentially for my own. Here I
will stay so long as I am happy, so long as I love. If my love grows
cold, I shall tell you so, and go wherever Life leads me, without taking
any baggage of duties and privileges with me; those I leave here in the
depths below the precipice. You see, Vera, I don't deceive you, but
speak frankly. Naturally you possess the same rights as I. The mob above
there lies to itself and others, and calls these his principles. But in
secret and by cunning it acts in the same way, and only lays its ban on
the women. Between us there must be equality. Is that fair or not?"

"Sophistry!" she said, shaking her head. "You know my principles, Mark."

"To hang like stones round one another's necks."

"Love imposes duties, just as life demands them. If you had an old,
blind mother you would maintain and support her, would remain by her. An
honourable man holds it to be his duty and his pleasure too."

"You philosophise, Vera, but you do not love."

"You avoid my argument, Mark. I speak my opinion plainly, for I am a
woman, not an animal, or a machine."

"Your love is the fantastic, elaborate type described in novels. Is what
you ask of me honourable? Against my convictions I am to go into a
church, to submit to a ceremony which has no meaning for me. I don't
believe any of it and can't endure the parson. Should I be acting
logically or honourably?"

Vera hastily wrapped herself in her mantilla, and stood up to go.

"We met, Mark, to remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of our
happiness, but instead of that we are increasing them. You handle
roughly things that are sacred to me. Why did you call me here? I
thought you had surrendered, that we should take one another's hands for
ever. Every time I have taken the path down the cliff it has been in
this hope, and in the end I am disappointed. Do you know, Mark, where
true life lies?"


"In the heart of a loving woman. To be the friend of such a woman...."

Tears stifled her voice, but through her sobs she whispered: "I cannot,
Mark. Neither my intellect nor my strength are sufficient to dispute
with you. My weapon is weak, and has no value except that I have drawn
it from the armoury of a quiet life, not from books or hearsay. I had
thought to conquer you with other weapons. Do you remember how all this
began?" she said, sitting down once more. "At first I was sorry for you.
You were here alone, with no one to understand you, and everyone fled at
the sight of you. I was drawn to you by sympathy, and saw something
strange and undisciplined in you. You had no care for propriety, you
were incautious in speech, you played rashly with life, cared for no
human being, had no faith of your own, and sought to win disciples. From
curiosity I followed your steps, allowed you to meet me, took books from
you. I recognised in you intellect and strength, but strangely mixed and
directed away from life. Then, to my sorrow, I imagined that I could
teach you to value life, I wanted you to live so that you should be
higher and better than anyone else, I quarrelled with you over your
undisciplined way of living. You submitted to my influence, and I
submitted to yours, to your intellect, your audacity, and even adopted
part of your sophistry."

"But you soon," put in Mark, "retraced your steps, and were seized with
fear of your Grandmother. Why did you not leave me when you first became
aware of my sophistry? Sophistry!"

"It was too late, for I had already taken your fate too intimately to
heart. I believed with all possible ardour that you would for my sake
comprehend life, that you would cease to wander about to your own injury
and without advantage to anyone else, that you would accept a
substantial position of some kind...."

"Vice-governor, Councillor or something of the kind," he mocked.

"What's in the name? Yes, I thought that you would show yourself a man
of action in a wide sphere of influence."

"As a well-disposed subject and as jack of all trades, and what else?"

"My lifelong friend. I let my hopes of you take hold on me, and was
carried away by them, and what are my gains in the terrible conflict?
One only, that you flee from love, from happiness, from life, and from
your Vera." She drew closer to him and touched his shoulder. "Don't fly
from us, Mark. Look in my eyes, listen to my voice, which speaks with
the voice of truth. Let us go to-morrow up the hill into the garden, and
to-morrow there will be no happier pair than we are. You love me, Mark.
Mark, do you hear? Look at me."

She stooped, and looked into his eyes.

He got sharply to his feet, and shook his mass of hair.

Vera took up her black mantilla once more, but her hands refused to obey
her, and the mantilla fell on the floor. She took a step towards the
door, but sank down again on the bench. Where could she find strength to
hold him, when she had not even strength to leave the arbour, she
wondered. And even if she could hold him, what would be the consequences?
Not one life, but two separate lives, two prisons, divided by a grating.

"We are both brusque and strong, Vera; that is why we torture one
another, why we are separating."

"If I were strong, you would not leave Malinovka; you would ascend the
hill with me, not clandestinely, but boldly by my side. Come and share
life and happiness with me. It is impossible that you should not trust
me, impossible that you are insincere, for that would be a crime. What
shall I do? How shall I bring home to you the truth?"

"You would have to be stronger than I, but we are of equal strength.
That is why we dispute and are not of one mind. We must separate without
bringing our struggle to an issue, one must submit to the other. I could
take forcible possession of you as I could of any other woman. But what
in another woman is prudery, or petty fear, or stupidity, is in you
strength and womanly determination. The mist that divided us is
dispersed; we have made our position clear. Nature has endued you with a
powerful weapon, Vera. The antiquated ideas, morality, duty, principles,
and faiths that do not exist for me are firmly established with you. You
are not easily carried away, you put up a desperate fight and will only
confess yourself conquered under terms of equality with your opponent.
You are wrong, for it is a kind of theft. You ask to be conquered, and
to carry off all the spoils! I, Vera, cannot give everything, but I
respect you."

Vera gave him a glance in which there was a trace of pride, but her
heart beat with the pain of parting. His words were a model of what a
farewell should be.

"We have gone to the bottom of the matter," said Mark dully, "and I
leave the decision in your hands." He went to the other side of the
arbour, keeping his eyes fixed upon her. "I am not deceiving you even
now, in this decisive moment, when my head is giddy--I cannot. I do not
promise you an unending love, because I do not believe in such a thing.
I will not be your betrothed. But I love you more than anything else in
the world. If, after all I have told you, you come to my arms, it means
that you love me, that you are mine."

She looked across at him with wide open eyes, and felt that her whole
body was trembling. A doubt shot through her mind. Was he a Jesuit, or
was the man who brought her into this dangerous dilemma in reality of
unbending honour?

"Yours for ever?" she said in a low voice. If he said, "yes," it would,
she knew, be a bridge for the moment to help her over the abyss that
divided them, but that afterwards she would be plunged into the abyss.
She was afraid of him.

Mark was painfully agitated, but he answered in a subdued tone, "I do
not know. I only know what I am doing now, and do not see even into the
near future. Neither can you. Let us give love for love, and I remain
here, quieter than the waters of the pool, humbler than grass. I will do
what you will, and what do you ask more. Or," he added suddenly, coming
nearer, "we will leave this place altogether...."

In a lightning flash the wide world seemed to smile before her, as if
the gates of Paradise were open. She threw herself in Mark's arms and
laid her hand on his shoulder. If she went away into the far distance
with him, she thought, he could not tear himself from her, and once
alone with her he must realise that life was only life in her presence.

"Will you decide!" he asked seriously. She said nothing, but bowed her
head. "Or do you fear your Grandmother?"

The last words brought her to her senses, and she stepped back.

"If I do not decide," she whispered, "it is only because I fear her."

"The old lady would not let you go."

"She would let me go, and would give me her blessing, but she herself
would die of grief. That is what I fear. To go away together," she said
dreamily, "and what then?" She looked up at him searchingly.

"And then? How can I know, Vera?"

"You will suddenly be driven from me; you will go and leave me, as if I
were merely a log?"

"Why a log? We could separate as friends."

"Separation! Do the ideas of love and separation exist side by side in
your mind? They are extremes which should never meet. Separation must
only come with death. Farewell, Mark! You can never promise me the
happiness that I seek. All is at an end. Farewell!"

"Farewell, Vera!" he said in a voice quite unlike his own.

Both were pale, and avoided one another's eyes. In the white moonlight
that gleamed through the trees Vera sought her mantilla, and grasped the
gun instead. At last she found the mantilla, but could not put it on her
shoulders. Mark helped her mechanically, but left his own belongings
behind. They went silently up the path, with slow and hesitating steps,
as if each expected something from the other, both of them occupied with
the same mental effort to find a pretext for delay. They came at last to
the spot where Mark's way lay across a low fence, and hers by the
winding path through the bushes up to the park.

Vera stood still. She seemed to see the events of her whole life pass
before her in quick succession, but saw none filled with bitterness like
the present. Her eyes filled with tears. She felt a violent impulse to
look round once more, to see him once more, to measure with her eyes the
extent of her loss, and then to hurry on again. But however great her
sorrow for her wrecked happiness she dare not look round, for she knew
it would be equivalent to saying Yes to destiny. She took a few steps up
the path.

Mark strode fiercely away towards the hedge, like a wild beast baulked
of his prey. He had not lied when he said that he esteemed Vera, but it
was an esteem wrung from him against his will, the esteem of the soldier
for a brave enemy. He cursed the old-fashioned ideas which had enchained
her free and vivacious spirit. His suffering was the suffering of
despair; he was in the mood of a madman who would shatter a treasure of
which the possession was denied him, in order that no one else might
possess it. He was ready to spring, and could hardly restrain himself
from laying violent hands on Vera. By his own confession to her he would
have treated any other woman so, but not Vera. Then the conviction
gnawed at his heart that for the sake of the woman who was now escaping
him he was neglecting his "mission." His pride suffered unspeakably by
the confession of his own powerlessness. He admitted that the beautiful
statue filled with the breath of life had character; she acted in
accordance with her own proud will, not by the influence of outside
suggestion. His new conception of truth did not subdue her strong,
healthy temperament; it rather induced her to submit it to a minute
analysis and to stick closer to her own conception of the truth. And now
she was going, and as the traces of her footsteps would vanish, so all
that had passed between them would be lost. And with her went all the
charm and glory of life, never to return.

He stamped his feet with rage and swung himself on to the fence. He
would cast one glance in her direction to see if the haughty creature
was really going.

"One more glance," thought Vera. She turned, and shuddered to see Mark
sitting on the fence and gazing at her.

"Farewell, Mark," she cried, in a voice trembling with despair.

From his throat there issued a low, wild cry of triumph. In a moment he
was by her side, with victory and the conviction of her surrender in his


"You have come back, for always? You have at last understood. What
happiness! God forgive...."

She did not complete her sentence, for she lay wrapt in his embrace, her
sobs quenched by his kisses. He raised her in his arms, and like a wild
animal carrying off his prey, ran with her back to the arbour.

God forgive her for having turned back.


Raisky lay on the grass at the top of the cliff for a long time in
gloomy meditation, groaning over the penalty he must pay for his
generosity, suffering alike for himself and Vera. "Perhaps she is
laughing at my folly, down there with him. Who is there?" he cried aloud,
stung with rage. "I will have his name." He saw himself merely as a
shield to cover her passion. He sprang up wildly, and hurried down the
precipice, tearing his clothes in the bushes and listening in vain for a
suspicious rustling. He told himself that it was an evil thing to pry
into another's secret; it was robbery. He stood still a moment to wipe
the sweat from his brow, but his sufferings overcame his scruples. He
felt his way stealthily forward, cursing every broken branch that
cracked under his feet, and unconscious of the blows he received on his
face from the rebounding branches as he forced his way through. He threw
himself on the ground to regain his breath, then in order not to betray
his presence crept along, digging his nails into the ground as he went.
When he reached the suicide's grave he halted, uncertain which way to
follow, and at length made for the arbour, listening and searching the
ground as he went.

Meanwhile everything was going on as usual in Tatiana Markovna's
household. After supper the company sat yawning in the hall, Tiet
Nikonich alone being indefatigable in his attentions, shuffling his foot
when he made a polite remark, and looking at each lady as if he were
ready to sacrifice everything for her sake.

"Where is Monsieur Boris?" inquired Paulina Karpovna, addressing Tatiana

"Probably he is paying a visit in the town. He never says where he
spends his time, so that I never know where to send the carriage for

Inquiries made of Yakob revealed the fact that he had been in the garden
up to a late hour. Vera was not in the house when she was summoned to
tea. She had left word that they were not to keep supper for her, and
that she would send across for some if she were hungry. No one but
Raisky had seen her go.

Tatiana Markovna sighed over their perversity, to be wandering about at
such hours, in such cold weather.

"I will go into the garden," said Paulina Karpovna. "Perhaps Monsieur
Boris is not far away. He will be delighted to see me. I noticed," she
continued confidentially, "that he had something to say to me. He could
not have known I was here."

Marfinka whispered to Vikentev that he did know, and had gone out on
that account.

"I will go, Marfa Vassilievna, and hide behind a bush, imitate Boris
Pavlovich's voice and make her a declaration," suggested Vikentev.

"Stay here, Nikolai Andreevich. Paulina Karpovna might be frightened and
faint. Then you would have to reckon with Grandmother."

"I am going into the garden for a moment to fetch the fugitive," said
Paulina Karpovna.

"God be with you, Paulina Karpovna," said Tatiana Markovna. "Don't put
your nose outside in the darkness, or at any rate take Egorka with you
to carry a lantern."

"No, I will go alone. It is not necessary for anyone to disturb us."

"You ought not," intervened Tiet Nikonich politely, "to go out after
eight o'clock on these damp nights. I would not have ventured to detain
you, but a physician from Duesseldorf on the Rhine, whose book I am now
reading and can lend you if you like, and who gives excellent advice,

Paulina Karpovna interrupted him by asking him if he would see her home,
and then went into the garden before he could resume his remarks. He
agreed to her request and shut the door after her.

Soon after Paulina Karpovna's exit there was a rustling and crackling on
the precipice, and Raisky wearing the aspect of a restless, wounded
animal, appeared out of the darkness. He sat for several minutes
motionless on Vera's favourite bench, covering his eyes with his hands.
Was it dream or reality, he asked himself. He must have been mistaken.
Such a thing could not be. He stood up, then sat down again to listen.
With his hands lying listlessly on his knees, he broke into laughter
over his doubts, his questionings, his secret. Again he had an access of
terrible laughter. Vera--and _he_. The cloak which he himself had
sent to the "exile" lay near the arbour. The rogue had been clever
enough to get two hundred and twenty roubles for the settlement of his
wager, and the earlier eighty in addition. Sekleteia Burdalakov!

Again he laughed with a laugh very near a groan. Suddenly he stopped,
and put his hand to his side, seized with a sudden consciousness of pain.
Vera was free, but he told himself she had dared to mock another fellow
human being who had been rash enough to love her; she had mocked her
friend. His soul cried for revenge.

He sprang up intent on revenge, but was checked by the question of how
to avenge himself. To bring Tatiana Markovna, with lanterns, and a crowd
of servants and to expose the scandal in a glare of light; to say to her,
"Here is the serpent you have carried for two and twenty years in your
bosom"--that would be a vulgar revenge of which he knew himself to be
incapable. Such a revenge would hit, not Vera, but his aunt, who was to
him like his mother. His head drooped for a moment; then he rose and
hurried like a madman down the precipice once more.

There in the depths passion was holding her festival, night drew her
curtain over the song of love, love ... with Mark. If she had
surrendered to another lover, to the tall, handsome Tushin, the owner of
land, lake, and forest, and the Olympian tamer of horses....

He could hardly breathe. Against his will there rose before him, from
the depths of the precipice, the vision of Vera's figure, glorified with
a seductive beauty that he had never yet seen in her, and though he was
devoured by agony he could not take his eyes from the vision. At her
feet, like a lion at rest, lay Mark, with triumph on his face. Her foot
rested on his head. Horror seized him, and drove him onward, to destroy
and mar the vision. He seemed to hear in the air the flattering words,
the songs and the sighs of passion; the vision became fainter,
mist-enshrouded, and finally vanished into air, but the rage for
revenge remained.

Everywhere was stillness and darkness, as he climbed the hill once more,
but when he reached Vera's bench he saw a human shadow.

"Who is there?" he cried.

"Monsieur Boris, it is I, Paulina."

"You, what are you doing here?"

"I came, because I knew, I knew that you have long had something to say
to me, but have hesitated. Du courage. There is no one to see or hear us.
_Esperez tout...._"

"What do you want? Speak out."

_"Que vous m'aimez._ I have known it for a long time. _Vous
m'avez fui, mais la passion vous a ramene ici...._"

He seized her roughly by the hand, and pushed her to the edge of the

"Ah, _de grace. Mais pas si brusquement ... qu'est-ce que vous
faites ... mais laissez donc,_" she groaned.

Her anxiety was not altogether groundless, for she stood on the edge of
an abrupt fall of the ground, and he grasped her hand more determinedly.

"You want love," he cried to the terrified woman. "Listen, to-night is
love's night. Do you hear the sighs, the kisses, the breath of passion?"

"Let me go! Let me go! I shall fall."

"Away from here," he cried, loosening his grasp and drawing a deep

Like a madman he ran across the garden and the flower garden into the
yard, where Egorka was washing his hands and face at the spring.

"Bring my trunk," he cried. "I am going to St. Petersburg in the
morning." He ran water over his hands and washed his face and eyes
before he turned to go to his room.

He could not stay within the four walls of his chamber. He went out
again and again, unprotected against the cold, to look at Vera's window.
It was hardly possible to see ten paces ahead in the darkness. He went
to the acacia arbour to watch for Vera's return, and was furious because
he could not conceal himself there, now that the leaves had fallen. He
sat there in torture until morning dawned, not from passion, which had
been drowned in that night's experiences. What passion would stand such
a shock as this? But he had an unconquerable desire to look Vera in the
face, this new Vera, and with one glance of scorn to show her the shame,
the affront she had put on him, on their aunt, on the whole household,
on their society, on womanhood itself. He awaited her return in a fever
of impatience. Suddenly he sprang up with an evil look of triumph on his

"Fate has given me the idea," he thought. He found the gates still
locked, but there was a lamp before the ikon in Savili's room, and he
ordered him to let him out and to leave the gates unlocked. He took from
his room the bouquet holder and hastened to the orangery to the gardener.
He had to wait a long time before it opened. The light grew stronger.
When he looked over at the trees in the orangery, an evil smile again
crossed his face. The gardener was arranging Marfinka's bouquet.

"I want another bouquet," said Raisky unsteadily.

"One like this?"

"No, only orange blossoms," he whispered, turning paler as he spoke.

"Right, Sir," said the gardener, recalling that one of Tatiana
Markovna's young ladies was betrothed.

"I am thirsty," said Raisky. "Give me a glass of water."

He drank the water greedily, and hurried the gardener on. When the
second bouquet was ready he paid lavishly.

He returned to the house cautiously, carrying the two bouquets. As he
did not know whether Vera had returned in his absence, he had Marina
called, and sent her to see if her mistress was at home or had already
gone out walking. On hearing she was out he ordered Marfinka's bouquet
to be put on Vera's table and the window to be opened. Then he dismissed
Marina, and returned to the acacia arbour. Passion and jealousy set
loose raged unchecked, and when pity raised her head she was quenched by
the torturing, overmastering feeling of outrage. He suppressed the low
voice of sympathy, and his better self was silent. He was shuddering,
conscious that poison flowed in his veins, the poison of lies and

"I must either shoot this dog Mark, or myself," he thought.

He held the bouquet of orange-blossoms in his two hands, like a sacred
thing, and drank in its beauty with a wild delight. Then he fixed his
eyes on the dark avenue, but she did not come.

Broad daylight came, a fine rain began to fall and made the paths sodden.
At last Vera appeared in the distance. His heart beat faster, and his
knees trembled so that he had to steady himself by the bench to keep
from falling.

She came slowly nearer, with her bowed head wrapped in a dark mantilla,
held in place over her breast by her pale hands, and walked into the
porch without seeing him. Raisky sprang from his place of observation,
and hid himself under her window.

She entered her room in a dream, without noticing that her clothes which
she had flung on the floor when she went out had been put back again,
and without observing the bouquet on the table or the opened window.
Mechanically she threw aside her mantilla, and changed her muddy shoes
for satin slippers; then she sank down on the divan, and closed her eyes.
After a brief minute she was awakened from her dream by the thud of
something falling on the floor. She opened her eyes and saw on the floor
a great sheaf of orange blossoms, which had plainly been thrown through
the window.

Pale as death, and without picking up the flowers, she hurried to the
window. She saw Raisky, as he went away, and stood transfixed. He looked
round, and their eyes met.

She was seized by pain so sharp that she could hardly breathe, and
stepped back. Then she saw the bouquet intended for Marfinka on the
table. She picked it up, half unconsciously, to press it to her face,
but it slipped from her hands, and she herself fell unconscious on the


At ten o'clock the big bell in the village church began to sound for
Mass. Tatiana Markovna's household was full of stir and bustle. The
horses were being harnessed to the caleche and to an old fashioned
carriage. The coachmen, already drunk, donned their new dark blue
caftans, and their hair shone with grease. The women servants made a gay
picture in their many coloured cotton dresses, head and neck kerchiefs,
and the maids employed in the house diffused a scent of cloves within a
ten yards radius. The cooks had donned their white caps in the early
morning, and had been incessantly busy in the preparation of the
breakfast, dinner and supper to be served to the family and their guests,
the kitchen, and the servants the visitors brought with them.

Tatiana Markovna had begun to make her toilet at eight o'clock, as soon
as she had given her orders; she descended to the hall to greet her
guests with the reserved dignity of a great lady, and the gentle smile
of a happy mother and a hospitable hostess. She had set a small simple
cap on her grey hair; the light brown silk dress that Raisky had brought
from St. Petersburg suited her well, and round her neck she wore
beautiful old lace; the Turkish shawl lay on the arm-chair in her room.

Now she was preparing to drive to Mass, and walked slowly up and down
the hall with crossed hands, awaiting the assembly of the household. She
hardly noticed the bustle around her, as the servants went hither and
thither, sweeping the carpets, cleaning the lamps, dusting the mirrors,
and taking the covers from the furniture. She went first to one window
and then to the other, looking out meditatively on the road, the garden
and the courtyards.

Vikentev's mother was dressed in pearl grey with dark lace trimmings.
Vikentev himself had been in his dress coat and white gloves from eight
o'clock onwards.

Tatiana Markovna's pride and joy knew no bounds when Marfinka appeared,
radiating gaiety from her bright eyes. While she slept the walls of her
two rooms had been decorated with flowers and garlands. She was going to
put on her simple blouse when she woke, but instead there lay on the
chair by her bed a morning gown of lace and muslin with pink ribbons.
She had not had time to give vent to her admiration when she saw on two
other chairs two lovely dresses, one pink and one blue, for her to make
her choice for the gala day.

She jumped up, and threw on her new morning gown without waiting to put
on her stockings, and when she approached her mirror she found a new
surprise in the gifts that lay on her toilet table. She did not know
which to look at, or which to take up.

First she opened a lovely rosewood casket which contained a complete
dressing set, flasks, combs, brushes and endless trifles in glass and
silver, with a card bearing the name of her future Mama. Beside it lay
cases of different sizes. She threw a quick glance in the mirror,
smoothed back her abundant hair from her eyes, seized all the cases in a
heap, and sat down on the bed to look at them. She hesitated to open
them, and finally began with the smallest, which contained an emerald
ring, which she hastily put on her finger. A larger case held earrings
which she inserted in her ears and admired in the glass from the bed.
There were massive gold bracelets, set with rubies and diamonds, which
she also put on. Last of all she opened the largest case, and looked
astonished and dazzled at its splendid contents: a chain of strung
diamonds, twenty-one to match her years. The accompanying card said:
"With this gift I confide to you another, a costly one, my best of
friends--myself. Take care of him. Your lover, Vikentev."

She laughed, looked round, kissed the card, blushed, sprang from the bed
and laid the case in her cupboard, in the box where she kept her bonbons.
There was still another case on the table, containing Raisky's gift of a
watch, whose enamel cover bore her monogram, and its chain.

She looked at it with wide eyes, threw another glance at the other gifts
and the garlanded walls, then threw herself on a chair and wept hot
tears of joy. "Oh, God!" she sobbed happily. "Why does everyone love me
so. I do no good to anyone, and never shall."

And so, undressed, without shoes and stockings, but adorned with rings,
bracelets, diamond earrings, she tearfully sought her aunt, who caressed
and kissed her darling when she heard the cause of her tears.

"God loves you, Marfinka, because you love others, because all who see
you are infected by your happiness."

Marfinka dried her tears.

"Nikolai Andreevich loves me, but he is my fiance; so does his Mama, but
so does my cousin, Boris Pavlovich, and what am I to him?"

"The same as you are to everyone. No one can look at you and not be
happy; you are modest, pure and good, obedient to your Grandmother.
Spendthrift," she murmured in an aside, to hide her pleasure. "Such a
costly gift! You shall hear of this, Borushka!"

"Grandmother! As if Boris Pavlovich could have guessed it. I have wanted
a little enamelled watch like this for a long time."

"You haven't asked your Grandmother why she gives you nothing?"

Marfinka shut her mouth with a kiss.

"Grandmother," she said, "love me always, if you want to make me happy."

"With my love I will give you my enduring gift," she said, making the
sign of the cross over Marfinka. "So that you shall not forget my
blessing," she went on, feeling in her pocket--"You have given me two
dresses, Grandmother, but who decorated my room so magnificently?"

"Your fiance and Paulina Karpovna sent the things yesterday, and kept
them out of your sight. Vassilissa and Pashutka hung the garlands up at
daybreak. The dresses are part of your trousseau, and there are more to
follow." Then taking from its case a gold cross with four large diamonds
she hung it round the girl's neck, and gave her a plain, simple bracelet
with the inscription: "From Grandmother to her Grandchild," and with the
name and the date.

Marfinka kissed her aunt's hand, and nearly wept once more.

"All that Grandmother has, and she has many things, will be divided
between you and Veroshka. Now make haste."

"How lovely you are to-day, Grandmother. Cousin is right. Tiet Nikonich
will fall in love with you."

"Nonsense, chatterbox. Go to Veroshka, and tell her not to be late for
Mass. I would have gone myself, but am afraid of the steps."

"Directly, Grandmother," cried Marfinka, and hastened to change her

Vera lay unconscious for half an hour before she came to herself. The
cold wind that streamed through the open window fell on her face, and
she sat up to look around her. Then she rose, shut the window, walked
unsteadily to the bed, sank down on it, and drawing the cover over
herself, lay motionless.

Overpowered with weakness she fell into a deep sleep, with her hair
loose over the pillow. She slept heavily for about three hours until she
was awakened by the noise in the courtyard, the many voices, the
creaking of wheels and the sound of bells. She opened her eyes, looked
round, and listened.

There was a light knock at the door, but Vera did not stir. There was a
louder knock, but she remained motionless. At the third she got up,
glanced in the glass, and was terrified by the sight of her own face.
She pushed her hair into order, threw a shawl over her shoulders, picked
up Marfinka's bouquet from the floor, and laid it on the table. There
was another knock and she opened the door. Marfinka, gay and lovely,
gleaming like a rainbow in her pretty clothes, flew into the room. When
she saw her sister she stood still in amazement.

"What is the matter with you, Veroshka? Aren't you well?"

"Not quite. I offer you my congratulations."

The sisters kissed one another.

"How lovely you are, and how beautifully dressed!" said Vera, making a
faint attempt to smile. Her lips framed one, but her eyes were like the
eyes of a corpse that no one has remembered to close. But she felt she
must control herself, and hastened to present Marfinka with the bouquet.

"What a lovely bouquet! And what is this?" asked Marfinka as she felt a
hard substance, and discovered the holder set with her name and the
pearls. "You, too, Veroshka! How is it you all love me so? I love you
all, how I love you! But how and when you found out that I did, I cannot

Vera was not capable of answering, but she caressed Marfinka's shoulder

"I must sit down," she said. "I have slept badly through the night."

"Grandmother calls you to Mass."

"I cannot, darling. Tell her I am unwell, and cannot leave the house

"What! you are not coming?"

"I shall stay in bed. Perhaps I caught cold yesterday. Tell

"We will come to you."

"You would only disturb me."

"Then we shall send everything over. Ah, Veroshka, people have sent me
so many presents, and flowers and bonbons. I must show them to you," and
she ran over a list of them.

"Yes, show me everything; perhaps I will come later," said Vera absently.

"Another bouquet?" asked Marfinka, pointing to the one that lay on the
floor. "For whom? How lovely!"

"For you too," said Vera, turning paler. She picked a ribbon hastily
from a drawer and fastened the bouquet with it. Then she kissed her
sister, and sank down on the divan.

"You are really ill. How pale you are! Shall I tell Grandmother, and let
her send for the doctor? How sad that it should be on my birthday. The
day is spoiled for me!"

"It will pass. Don't say a word to Grandmother. Don't frighten her.
Leave me now, for I must rest."

At last Marfinka went. Vera shut the door after her, and lay down on the


When Raisky returned to his room at daybreak and looked in the mirror,
he hardly recognised himself. He felt chilly, and sent Marina for a
glass of wine which he drank before he threw himself on his bed.
Overcome by moral and physical exhaustion he slept as if he had thrown
himself into the arms of a friend and had confided his trouble to him.
Sleep did him the service of a friend, for it carried him far from Vera,
from Malinovka, from the precipice, from the fantastic vision of last
night. When the ringing of many bells awoke him he lay for several
minutes under the soothing influence of the physical rest, which built a
rampart between him and yesterday. There was no agony in his awakening
moments. But soon memory revived, and his face wore an expression more
terrible than in the worst moments of yesterday. A pain different from
yesterday's, a new devil had hurled itself upon him. He seized one piece
of clothing after another and dressed as hastily and nervously as Vera
had done as she prepared to go to the precipice.

He rang for Egorka, from whom he learnt that everybody except Vera, who
was not well, had driven to Mass. In wild agitation he dashed across to
the old house. There was no response when he knocked at Vera's door. He
opened it cautiously, and stole in like a man with murderous intent,
with horror imprinted on his features, and advanced on tiptoe, trembling,
deadly pale, with swaying steps as if he might fall at any minute.

Vera lay on the divan, with her face turned away, her hair falling down
almost to the floor, and her slipper-clad feet hardly covered by her
grey skirt. She tried to turn round when she heard the noise of the
opening door, but could not.

He approached, knelt at her feet, and pressed his lips to the slipper
she wore. Suddenly she turned, and stared at him in astonishment. "Is it
comedy or romance, Boris Pavlovich," she asked brusquely, turned in
annoyance, and hid her foot under the skirt which she straightened

"No, Vera, tragedy," he whispered in a lifeless voice, and sat down on
the chair near the divan.

The tone of his voice moved her to turn and look keenly at him, and her
eyes opened wide with astonishment. She threw aside her shawl, and rose,
she had divined in Raisky's face the presence of the same deadly
suffering that she herself endured.

"What is your trouble? Are _you_ unhappy?" she said, laying her
hand on his shoulder. In the simple word and in the tone of her voice
there were revealed the generous qualities of a woman, sympathy,
selflessness, and love.

Keenly touched by the kindness and tenderness in her voice he looked at
her with the same rapturous gratitude which she had worn on her face
yesterday when in self-forgetfulness he had helped her down the
precipice. She returned generosity with generosity, just as yesterday
there had streamed from him a gleam of one of the highest qualities of
the human mind. He was all the more in despair over what he had done,
and wept hot tears. He hid his face in his hands like a man for whom all
is lost.

"What have I done? I have insulted you, woman and sister."

"Do not make us both suffer," she said in a gentle, friendly tone.
"Spare me; you see how I am."

He tried not to meet her eyes, and she again lay down on the divan.

"What a blow I dealt you," he whispered in horror. "You see my
punishment, Vera!"

"Your blow gave me a minute's pain, and then I understood that it was
not delivered with an indifferent hand, that you loved me. And it became
clear to me how you must have suffered ... yesterday."

"Don't justify my crime, Vera. A knife is a knife, and I aimed a knife
at you."

"You brought me to myself. I was as if I slept, and you, Grandmother,
Marfinka and the whole house I saw as if in a dream."

"What am I to do, Vera? Fly from here? In what a state of mind I should
leave! Let me endure my penance here, and be reconciled, as far as is
possible, with myself, with all that has happened here."

"Your imagination paints what was only a fault as a crime. Remember your
condition when you did it, your agitation!" She gave him her hand, and
continued, "I know now what one is capable of doing in the fever of

She set herself to calm him in spite of her own weariness.

"You are good, Vera, and, womanlike, judge not with your brain, but with
your heart."

"You are too severe with yourself. Another would have thought himself
justified after all the jesting.... You remember those letters. With
whatever good intention of calming your agitation, of answering your
jest with jests, it was malicious mockery. You suffered more from those
letters than I did yesterday."

"Oh, dear, no! I have often laughed over them, especially when you asked
for a cloak, a rug, and money for the exile."

"What money? what cloak? what exile?" she exclaimed in astonishment. "I
don't understand."

"I myself had suspicions," he said, his face clearing a little. "I could
not believe that that was your idea." And in a few words he told her the
contents of the two letters.

Her lips turned white.

"Natasha and I wrote to you turn and turn about in the same handwriting,
amusing little letters in which we tried to imitate yours; that is all.
I didn't know anything about the other letters," she whispered, turning
her face to the wall.

Raisky strode up and down in thought, while Vera appeared to be resting,
exhausted by the conversation.

"Cousin," she said suddenly, "I ask your help in a very important matter,
and I know you will not refuse me." A glance at his face told her that
there was nothing she could not ask of him. "While I still have strength,
I want to tell you the whole history of this year."

"Why should you do that? I will not and I ought not to know."

"Do not disturb me, Boris. I can hardly breathe and time is precious. I
will tell you the whole story, and you must repeat it to our Grandmother.
I could not do it," she said. "My tongue would not say the words--I
would rather die."

He looked at her with an expression of blank terror. "But why should
Grandmother be told? Think of the consequences. Would it not be better
to keep her in ignorance?"

"No, the burden must be borne. It is possible that Grandmother and I
will both die of it, or we shall lose our senses, but I will not deceive
her. She ought to have known it long ago, but I hoped to be able to tell
her another story, and therefore was silent."

"To tell her everything, even of yesterday evening," he asked in a low
tone. "And the name also?"

She nodded almost imperceptibly in assent. Then she made him sit down on
the divan beside her, and in low, broken sentences told the story of her
relations with Mark. When she had finished she wrapped herself,
shivering with cold, in her shawl. He rose from his seat. Both were
silent, each of them in terror, she as she thought of her grandmother,
he as he thought of them both. Before him lay the prospect of having to
deal Tatiana Markovna one thrust after another, and that not in the heat
of passion, or in an access of blind revenge, but in the consciousness
of a most painful duty. It might be as she said an important service,
but it was certainly a terrible commission.

"When shall I tell her?" he asked.

"As soon as possible, for I shall suffer so long as I know she is in
ignorance, and now, give me the eau-de-Cologne from the dressing-table,
and leave me alone."

"It would not do to tell Grandmother to-day when the house is full of
guests, but to-morrow...." said Raisky.

"How shall I survive it? But till to-morrow, calm her by some means or
other, so that she has no suspicion and sends no one here."

She closed her eyes in a longing for impenetrable night, for rest
without an awakening; she would like to have been turned into a thing of
stone so that she could neither think nor feel.

When he left her he was weighed down with a greater weight of fear than
that which he had brought to the interview. Vera rose as soon as he left
her, closed the door, and lay down again. She had found consolation and
help in Raisky's friendship, his sympathy and devotion, as a drowning
man rises to the surface for a moment, but as soon as he was gone she
fell back deeper into the depths. She told herself in despair that life
was over. Before her there stretched the bare steppe; there was no
longer for her a family, nor anything on which a woman's life depends.
She would have to stand before her aunt, to look her in the eyes, and to
tell her how she had recompensed her love and care. Suddenly she heard
steps and her aunt's voice. Pale and motionless, as if she had lost the
use of hands and feet, she listened to the light tap at the door. I will
not get up, I cannot, she thought. But when the knock was repeated, she
sprang up with a strength which astonished herself, dried her eyes and
went smiling to meet her aunt.

When Tatiana Markovna had heard from Marfinka that Vera was ill, and
would remain in her room all day, she had come herself to inquire; she
glanced at Vera and sat down on the divan.

"The service has tired me so that I could hardly walk up the steps.
What's the matter with you, Vera?" she continued, looking keenly at her.

"I congratulate Marfinka on her birthday," said Vera, in the voice of a
little girl who has learnt her speech by heart. She kissed her
grandmother's hand and wondered how she had managed to bring the words
over her lips. "I got wet feet yesterday, and have a headache." She
tried to smile, but there was no smile on her lips.

"You must rub your feet with spirit," remarked Tatiana Markovna, who had
noticed the strained voice and the unnatural smile, and guessed a lack
of frankness. "Are you coming to be with us, Vera? Don't force yourself
to do so, and so make yourself worse," she continued, seeing that Vera
was incapable of answering.

Vera was all the more frightened by her aunt's consideration for her.
Her conscience stirred, and she felt that Tatiana Markovna must already
know all, and that her confession would come too late. She was on the
point of falling on her breast, and making her confession there and then,
but her strength failed her.

"Excuse me, Grandmother, from dinner; perhaps I will come over in the

"As you like. I will send your dinner across."

"Thank you, I am already quite hungry," said Vera quickly, without
knowing what she said.

Tatiana Markovna kissed her, and stroked her hair, remarking casually
that one of the maids should come and do her room, as she might have a

Tatiana Markovna returned sadly to the house. She was, indeed, politely
attentive to her guests as she always was, but Raisky noticed
immediately that something was wrong with her after her visit to Vera.
She found it hard to restrain her emotion, hardly touched the food, did
not even look round when Petrushka smashed a pile of plates, and more
than once broke off in the middle of a sentence. In the afternoon as the
guests took coffee on the broad terrace in the mild September sunshine,
Tatiana Markovna moved among her guests as if she were hardly aware of
them. Raisky wore a gloomy air and had eyes for no one but his aunt.
"Something is wrong with Vera," she whispered to him. "She is in trouble.
Have you seen her?"

"No," he said. But his aunt looked at him as if she doubted what he said.

Paulina Karpovna had not come. She had sent word that she was ill, and
the messenger brought flowers and plants for Marfinka. In order to
explain the scene of the day before, and to find out whether she had
guessed anything, Raisky had paid a visit in the morning to Paulina
Karpovna. She received him with a pretence of being offended, but with
hardly disguised satisfaction. His excuse was that he had dined with
friends that night and had had a glass too much. He begged for
forgiveness which was accorded with a smile, all which did not prevent
Paulina Karpovna from recounting to all her acquaintance her love scene.

Tushin came to dinner, and brought Marfinka a lovely pony to ride. He
asked for Vera, and was plainly disturbed when he heard of the
indisposition which prevented her from coming to dinner. Tatiana
Markovna observed him, wondering why Vera's absence had such a
remarkable effect on him, though this had often been the case before
without exciting any surprise on her part. She could not keep out of her
head anxiety as to what change had come over Vera since yesterday
evening. She had had a little quarrel with Tiet Nikonich, and had
scolded him for having brought Marfinka the Sevres mirror. Afterwards
she was closeted with him for a quarter of an hour in her sitting-room,
and he emerged from the interview looking serious. He shifted his foot
less, and even when he was talking to ladies his serous inquiring glance
would wander to Raisky or Tushin.

Up till this time Tatiana Markovna had been so gay. Her one anxiety, and
at the moment the only one perhaps, had been the celebration of Vera's
nameday a fortnight ahead, she would have liked to have celebrated it
with the same magnificence as Marfinka's birthday, although Vera had
roundly declared that on that day she meant to go on a visit to Anna
Ivanovna Tushin, or to her friend Natasha. But how Tatiana Markovna had
changed since Mass. As she talked with her guests she was thinking only
of Vera, and gave absent-minded answers. The excuse of a cold had not
deceived her, and as she had touched Vera's brow on leaving her, she had
realised that a cold could be nothing but a pretext. She remembered that
Vera and Raisky had vanished in the afternoon and that neither had
appeared at supper. She was constantly watching Raisky, who sought to
avoid her glance, thereby only arousing her suspicions the more.
Then Vera herself unexpectedly appeared amongst the guests, wearing a
warm mantilla over her light dress and a wrap round her throat. Raisky
was so astonished that he looked at her as if she were an apparition. A
few hours ago she had been almost too exhausted to speak, and now here
she was in person. He wondered where women found their strength. Vera
went round speaking to the guests, looked at Marfinka's presents, and
ate, to quench her thirst, as she said, a slice of water melon. Tatiana
Markovna was to some extent relieved to see Vera, but it disturbed her
to notice that Raisky's face had changed. For the first time in her life
she cursed her guests; they were just sitting down to cards, then there
would be tea, and then supper, and Vikentev was not going until
to-morrow morning.


Raisky found himself between two fires. On the one hand, Tatiana
Markovna looked at him as much as to say that he probably knew what was
the matter with Vera, while Vera's despairing glance betrayed her
anxiety for the moment of her confession. He himself would have liked to
have sunk into the earth. Tushin looked in an extraordinary manner at
Vera, as both Tatiana Markovna and Raisky, but most of all Vera herself,
noticed. She was terrified, and asked herself whether he had heard any
rumour. He esteemed her so highly, thought her the noblest woman in the
world, and, if she were silent, she would be accepting his esteem on
false premisses. He, too, would have to be told, she thought. She
exchanged greetings with him without meeting his eyes; and he looked
strangely at her, timidly and sympathetically. Vera told herself that
she must know what was in his mind, that if he looked at her again like
that she would collapse. He did look at her again, and she could endure
no more and left the company. Before she went she signed secretly to
Tushin to follow her.

"I cannot receive you in the old house," she said, "Come into the

"Is it not too damp, as you are not well?"

"That does not matter," she said.

He looked at his watch and said that he would be going in an hour. After
giving orders to have his horses taken out of the stable and brought
into the yard, he picked up his silver-handled whip and with his cloak
on his arm followed Vera into the avenue. "I will not beat about the
bush," he said. "What is the matter with you to-day? You have something
on your mind."

She wrapped her face in her mantilla as she spoke, and her shoulders
shivered as if with cold. She dare not raise her eyes to him as he
strode silently beside her.

"But you are ill, Vera Vassilievna. I had better talk to you another
time. You were not wrong in thinking I had something to say to you."

"No, Ivan Ivanovich, let it be to-day. I want to know what you have to
say to me. I myself wanted to talk to you, but perhaps it is too late
for what I have to say. Do you speak," she said, wondering painfully how
and where he could have learnt her secret.

"I came here to-day...." he said as they sat down on the bench.

"What have you to say to me? Speak!" she interrupted.

"How can I say it to you now, Vera Vassilievna?" said Tushin springing
to his feet.

"Do not make me suffer," she murmured.

"I love you...."

"Yes, I know it," she interrupted. "But what have you heard?"

"I have heard nothing," he said, looking round in amazement. He was now
for the first time aware of her agitation, and his heart stood still
with delight. She has guessed my secret and shares my feelings, he
thought, and what she is asking, is for a frank, brief avowal. "You are
so noble, so beautiful, Vera Vassilievna, so pure...." An exclamation
was wrung from her, and she would have risen, but could not.

"You mock me, you mock me," she said, raising her hands beseechingly.

"You are ill, Vera Vassilievna," he said, looking at her in terror.
"Forgive me for having spoken to you at such a time."

"A day earlier or later makes no difference. Say what you have to say,
for I also desire to tell you why I have brought you here."

"Is it really true?" he cried, hardly knowing how to contain his delight.

"What is true? You want to say something else, not what I expected," she
said. "Speak, and do not prolong my sufferings."

"I love you," he repeated. "If you can grant what I have confessed to
you (and I am not worthy of it), if your love is not given elsewhere,
then be my forest queen, my wife, and there will be no happier man on
earth than I. That is what I have long wished to say to you and have not
dared. I should have done it on your nameday but I could no longer
endure the suspense, and have come to-day, on the family festival, on
your sister's birthday."

"Ivan Ivanovich," she moaned. The thought flashed through his head like
lightning that this was no expression of joy, and he felt his hair was
beginning to stand on end. He sat down beside her and said, "What is
wrong with you, Vera Vassilievna? You are either ill, or are bearing a
great sorrow."

"Yes, Ivan Ivanovich! I feel that I shall die."

"What is your trouble? For God's sake, tell me. You said that you had
something to confide in me, which means that I must be necessary to you;
there is nothing I would not do for you. You have only to command me.
Forgive me my too hasty speech."

"You, too, my poor Ivan Ivanovich! I can find neither prayers nor tears,
nor is there any guidance or help for me anywhere."

"What words of despair are these, Vera Vassilievna?"

"Do you know _whom_ you love?"

He threw his cloak on the bench, and wiped the sweat from his brow. Her
words told him that his hopes were ruined, that her love was given
elsewhere. He drew a deep breath, and sat motionless, awaiting her
further explanations.

"My poor friend," she said, taking his hand. The simple words filled him
with new sorrow; he knew that he was in fact to be pitied.

"Thank you," he whispered. "Forgive me ... I did not know, Vera
Vassilievna ... I am a fool.... Please forget my declaration. But I
should like to help you, since you say yourself you rely on me for a
service. I thank you for holding me worthy of that. You stand so high
above me; I always feel that you stand so high, Vera Vassilievna."

"My poor Ivan Ivanovich, I have fallen from those heights, and no human
power can reinstate me," she said, as she led him to the edge of the

"Do you know this place?" she asked.

"Yes, a suicide is buried there."

"There, in the depths below the precipice, your 'pure' Vera also lies
buried," she said with the decision of despair.

"What are you saying? I don't understand. Enlighten me, Vera

Summoning all her strength she bent her head and whispered a few words
to him, then returned, and sank down on the bench. Tushin turned pale,
swayed, lost his balance, and sat down beside her. Even in the dim light
Vera noticed his pallor.

"And I thought," he said, with a strange smile, as if he were ashamed of
his weakness, rising to his feet with difficulty, "that only a bear was
strong enough to knock me over." Then he stooped to her and whispered,

The question sent a shudder through her, but she answered quickly:

"Mark Volokov."

His face twitched ominously. Then he pressed his whip over his knee so
that it split in pieces, which he hurled away from him.

"So it will end with him too," he shouted. As he stood trembling before
her, stooping forward, with wild eyes, he was like an animal ready to
spring on the enemy. "Is he there now?" he cried, pointing with a
violent gesture in the direction of the precipice.

She looked at him as if he were a dangerous animal, as he stood there,
breathing heavily; then she rose and took refuge behind the bench.

"I am afraid, Ivan Ivanovich! Spare me! Go!" she exclaimed, warding him
off with her arms.

"First I will kill him, and then I will go."

"Are you going to do this for my sake, for my peace of mind or for your
own sake?"

He kept silence, his eyes fixed on the ground, and then began to walk
about in great strides. "What should I do?" he said, still trembling
with agitation. "Tell me, Vera Vassilievna."

"First of all, calm yourself, and explain to me why you wish to kill him
and whether I desire it."

"He is your enemy, consequently also mine."

"Does one kill one's enemies?"

He bent his head and seeing the pieces of the whip lying on the ground
he picked them up as if he were ashamed, and put them in his pocket.

"I do not accuse him. I alone bear the blame, and he has justification,"
she said with such bitter misery that Tushin took her hand.

"Vera Vassilievna," he said, "you are suffering horribly. I do not

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