Part 6 out of 7
understand," he went on, looking at her with sympathy and admiration,
"what you mean by saying that he has justification, and that you bring
no accusation against him. If that's the case, why did you wish to speak
to me and call me here into the avenue?"
"Because I wanted you to know the whole truth."
"Don't leave me in the dark, Vera Vassilievna. You must have had some
reason for confiding your secret to me."
"You looked at me so strangely to-day that I could not understand your
meaning, and thought you must already be informed of all that had
happened and could not rest until I knew what was in your mind. I was
too hasty, but it comes to the same thing, for sooner or later I should
have told you. Sit down, and hear what I have to say, and then have done
with me." She explained the situation to him in a few words.
"So you forgive him," he asked, after a moment's thought.
"Forgive him, of course. I tell you that I alone am guilty."
"Have you separated from him, or do you hope for his return?"
"There is nothing whatever in common between us, and we shall never see
one another again."
"Now, I understand a little, for the first time, but still not
everything," said Tushin, sighing bitterly. "I thought you had been
vulgarly betrayed, and, since you called me to your help, I imagined
that the time had come for the Bear to do his duty. I was on the point
of rendering you the service of a Bear, and it was for that reason that
I permitted myself to ask boldly for the man's name. Forgive me, and now
tell me why you have revealed the story to me."
"Because I was not willing that you should think better of me than I
deserve, and esteem me...."
"But how would you accomplish that? I shall not cease to think of you as
I have always thought of you, and I cannot do otherwise than respect
A gleam of pleasure lighted her eyes, only to be immediately
extinguished. "You want to restore my self-esteem," she said, "because
you are good and generous. You are sorry for a poor unfortunate girl and
want to raise her up again. I understand your generosity, Ivan Ivanovich,
but I will have none of it."
"Vera Vassilievna," he said, kissing her hand. "I could not esteem
anybody under compulsion. If I give anyone a greeting in the street, he
has my esteem; if he has not my esteem, I pass him by. I greet you as
before, and because you are unhappy my love for you is greater than
before. You are enduring a great sorrow, as I am. You have lost your
hopes of happiness," he added in a low, melancholy tone. "If you had
kept your secret from me and I had heard it by chance, even so my esteem
for you could not have been diminished. For there is no duty laid on you
to reveal a secret which belongs to you alone. No one has the right to
judge you." The last words were spoken in a trembling voice which made
it clear that he also was oppressed by the secret, the weight of which
he desired to lighten for Vera.
"I had to tell you to-day when you made your declaration to me. I felt
it was impossible to leave you in ignorance."
"You might very well have answered me with a categorical 'No.' But since
you do me the honour, Vera Vassilievna, of bestowing your particular
friendship on me, you might have gilded your 'No' by saying that you
loved another. That would have been sufficient for me, for I should
never have asked you who, and your secret would, without doubt, have
remained your own." He pointed to the precipice, and collecting his
whole strength whispered, "A misfortune...." Although he tried with all
his might not to let her see how disturbed he was, he was hardly able to
speak clearly. "A misfortune," he repeated. "You say that he has
justification, that the guilt is yours; if that is so, where does
"I told you, Ivan Ivanovich, that my confession was not necessary for
your sake, but for mine. You know how I esteem your friendship, and it
would have caused me unspeakable pain to deceive you. Even now, when I
have hidden nothing from you, I cannot look you in the eyes." Tears
stifled her voice, and it was with difficulty that Tushin held back his
own tears; he stooped and kissed her hand once more.
"Thanks, a thousand thanks, Vera Vassilievna. I see that an affection
for another has no power to lessen your friendship for me, and that is a
"Ivan Ivanovich, if I could only cut this year out of my life."
"A speedy forgetfulness," he said, "comes to the same thing."
"How can I forget, and where can I find the strength to endure its
"You will find strength in friendship, and I am one of your friends."
She breathed another air for the moment, conscious that there was beside
her a tower of strength, under whose shadow her passion and her pain
were alleviated. "I believe in your friendship, Ivan Ivanovich, and
thank you for it," she said, drying her tears. "I already feel calmer,
and should feel still calmer if Grandmother...."
"She does not yet know anything of this?" he asked, but broke off
immediately in the consciousness that his question involved a reproach.
"She has guests to-day and could not possibly be told, but to-morrow she
shall learn all. Farewell, Ivan Ivanovich, my head aches, and I am going
back to the house to lie down." Tushin looked at Vera, asking himself
how any man could be such a blind fool as Volokov. Or is he merely a
beast, he thought to himself in impotent rage. He pulled himself
together, however, and asked her if she had any instructions for him.
"Please ask Natasha," she said, "to come over to me to-morrow or the
"And may I come one day next week to inquire whether you are better?"
"Do not be anxious, Ivan Ivanovich. And now good-bye, for I can hardly
When he left her, he drove his horses so wildly down the steep hill that
he himself was in danger of being hurled to the bottom of the precipice.
When he put his hand out as usual for his whip, it was not there, and he
remembered that he had broken it, and threw away the useless pieces on
the road. In spite of his mad haste he reached the Volga too late for
the ferry. He had to stay in the town with a friend, and drove next
morning to his home in the forest.
In Tatiana Markovna's house, servants, cooks and coachmen were all
astir, and at a very early hour in the morning were already drunk. The
mistress of the house herself was unusually silent and sad when she let
Marfinka go with her future mother-in-law. She had no instructions or
advice to give, and hardly listened to Marfinka's questions about what
she ought to take with her. "What you like," she said absently, and gave
orders to Vassilissa and the maid who was going with Marfinka to
Kolchino to put everything in order and pack up what was necessary. She
handed over her dear child to Marfa Egorovna's charge, at the same time
pointing out to Marfinka's fiance that he must take the greatest care of
her, and that in order not to give strangers a wrong impression, he must
be more dignified and must not chase about the garden and the woods with
her as he did in Malinovka.
When she saw that Vikentev coloured at this advice, which indicated
doubt of his tactfulness, and that Marfa Egorovna bit her underlip,
Tatiana Markovna changed her tone; she laid her hand on his shoulder
calling him "Dear Nikolinka," and telling him that she knew herself how
unnecessary her words were, but that old women liked to preach. Then she
sighed, and said not another word to her guests before their departure.
Vera too came to breakfast; she looked pale, and it was clear that she
had had a sleepless night. She said she still had a headache, but felt
better than she did yesterday. There was no change in Tatiana Markovna's
affectionate manner to her. Now and then Marfa Egorovna cast questioning
glances in Vera's direction. What was the meaning of pain without any
definite illness? Why did she not appear yesterday until after dinner,
and then only for a moment, to go out followed by Tushin. What had they
found to say to one another for an hour in the twilight? Being a
sensible woman she did not pursue these inquiries, though they flashed
for a moment in her eyes; nevertheless Vera saw them, although they were
quickly exchanged for looks of sympathy. Neither did Marfa Egorovna's
questioning glances escape Tatiana Markovna, who kept her eyes on the
ground, while Vera maintained her indifferent manner. Already people are
wondering what had happened, thought Tatiana Markovna sadly; on my arms
she came into the world, she is my child and yet I do not know what her
Raisky had been out for a walk before breakfast, and wore on his face a
look as if he had just come to a decision on a momentous question. He
looked at Vera as calmly as at the others, and did not avoid Tatiana
Markovna's eyes. He promised Vikentev to come over to see him in a day
or two, and listened attentively to his guest's conversation about
hunting and fishing.
At last everything was ready for their departure. Tatiana Markovna and
Raisky went with their guests as far as the Volga, leaving Vera at home.
Vera's world had always been a small one, and its boundaries were now
drawn more narrowly than ever. She had been contented during the long
years with the observation and experience which were accessible to her
in her immediate environment. Her small circle represented to her the
crowd; she made her own in a short time what it took others many years
in many places to learn. Unlike Marfinka she was cautious in her
sympathies, granting her friendship only to the priest's wife and to
Tushin, whom she openly called her friend. The simple things and the
simple people who surrounded her did not serve only trivial purposes.
She understood how to embroider on this ordinary canvas the bold pattern
of a richer life with other needs, thoughts and feelings; she guessed at
these by reading between the lines of everyday life other lines which
expressed the desires of her mind and heart. If she was cautious in her
sympathies she was excessively so in the sphere of thought and knowledge.
She read books from the library in the old house, taking from the
shelves at first without choice or system as a pastime whatever came
into her hands; then she began to experience curiosity, and finally a
definite desire for knowledge. She was keen-sighted enough to understand
how aimless and unfruitful it was to wander among these other minds
without any guiding thread. Without making direct inquiries she procured
some explanations from Koslov, and although she understood many things
at a bound, she never let it be seen that she had any knowledge of
things beyond her immediate circle. Without losing sight of Koslov's
instructions she read the books once more, to find that they meant much
more to her and that her interest in them was steadily increasing. At
the request of the young priest, Natasha's husband, she brought him
books too, and listened when he expressed his views on this or that
author, without herself adopting the seminarist view.
Later on she came into contact with Mark, who brought a new light to
bear on all that she had read and heard and known; his attitude was one
of blank denial. No authority in heaven or earth weighed with him, he
despised science as it had hitherto developed, and made no distinction
between virtue and crime. If he thought that he would soon be able to
triumph over Vera's convictions he was mistaken. She regarded these bold
and often alluring ideas with shy admiration, without giving herself up
blindly to their influence; she listened cautiously to the preaching of
the apostle, but found in it neither a new life, nor happiness, nor
truth, and, though she followed attentively what he had to say, it was
only because she was drawn on by the ardent desire to find the reality
that lay behind Mark's extraordinary and audacious personality. Mark
displayed his unsparing negation, enmity and scorn against all that men
believe, love and hope for; Vera did not agree with all she heard,
because she observed the malady that lay concealed behind the teaching,
even if she could not discover where it lay. Her Columbus could show her
nothing but a row of open graves standing ready to receive all that by
which society had hitherto existed. Vera remembered the story of
Pharaoh's lean kine, which without themselves becoming fatter devoured
the fat kine.
Mark would have despoiled mankind of his crown in the name of wisdom; he
would acknowledge in him nothing but an animal organism. And while he
denied man in man, denied him the possession of a soul and the right to
immortality, he yet spoke of his strivings to introduce a better order
of things, neglecting to observe that in accordance with his own theory
of the chance arrangement of existence, by which men herd together like
flies in the hot weather; such efforts were useless.
Granting the correctness of his ideas as a premiss, thought Vera, there
can be no sense in striving to be better, kinder, truer and purer, if
this life enduring only for a few decades is the end of all things. When
she looked deeper into the matter and examined the new truth taught by
the young apostle, the new conception of good and the new revelation,
she saw with astonishment that what in his talk was good and
incontrovertible was not new, that it was derived from sources from
which others also drew, who certainly did not belong to the new society;
she recognised that the seed of the new civilisation which he preached
with so much boastfulness and such a parade of mystery lay in the
old-fashioned doctrine, and for this reason she believed more firmly than
ever in the older philosophy of life. She looked on Mark's personality
with such suspicion that she gradually withdrew herself from his
influence. Hideously disturbed by his audacity of thought, she had even
gone so far as to tell Tatiana Markovna of this accidental acquaintance,
with the result that the old lady told the servants to keep a watch on
the garden, but Volokov came from the direction of the precipice, from
which the watchmen were effectually kept away by their superstitious
fears. Mark himself had noted Vera's distrust, and he set himself to
He was the more easily able to accomplish this because, when her
interest was once awakened, she met him halfway, imperceptibly to
herself. She meditated carefully on the facts that made up her life; her
mind was occupied by new questionings, and for that reason she listened
more attentively to his words when she met him in the fields. Often they
went out walking on the banks of the Volga, and eventually found a
meeting-place in the arbour at the bottom of the precipice. Gradually
Vera adopted a more active role in their intercourse. She wanted to
convert him, to lead him back to the acceptance of proved truth, the
truth of love, of human as opposed to animal happiness, of faith and
hope. Mark gave way in some things, though only gradually; his manners
became less eccentric, he was less provocative in his behaviour to the
police than before, he lived in a more orderly fashion, and ceased to
stud his conversation with cynical remarks.
The change pleased Vera, and this was the cause of the happy excitement
that Tatiana Markovna and Raisky had remarked in her. Since her
influence was effective even if only in what affected his external life,
she hoped by incessant effort and sacrifice gradually to produce a
miracle; her reward was to be the happiness of being loved by the man of
her heart's choice. She flattered herself that she would be introducing
a new strong man into society. If he were to show himself in wisdom and
strength of will, simply and reliable, as Tushin was, her life was
mapped out for her. While she was engaged in these efforts she allowed
her passionate nature to be carried away by his personality; she fell in
love, not with his doctrine, which she refused to accept, but with
himself. He called to new activity, but she saw in his appeal nothing
more than the lending of forbidden books. She agreed with him that work
was necessary, and herself avoided idleness; she drew up for herself a
picture of simple genuine activity for the future, and envied Marfinka
because she understood how to make herself useful in the house and the
village. She intended to share these labours with her sister when once
the stiff battle with Mark had been brought to a conclusion; but the
struggle was not to end with a victory for either one or the other, but
with mutual overthrow and a permanent separation.
These were the thoughts that passed through Vera's mind while Tatiana
Markovna and Raisky were accompanying their guests and Marfinka as far
as the Volga. What was the Wolf doing now? was he enjoying his triumph?
She took from her letter case a sealed letter on blue paper which she
had received early that morning and looked at it thoughtfully for a
minute before she threw it down with its seals unbroken on the table.
All her troubles were submerged in the painful question, what would
become of her Grandmother. Raisky had already whispered to Vera that he
would speak to Tatiana Markovna that evening if she were alone, and that
he would take care that none of the servants should have the opportunity
of seeing the impression which the news was bound to make on her. Vera
shivered with foreboding when he spoke of these precautions; she would
have liked to have died before evening came. After her talk of past
events with Raisky and Tushin she recovered something of her usual
calmness; a part of her burden was gone now that, like a sailor in a
storm, she had lightened the ship of some of its ballast, but she felt
that the heaviest load of all still lay on her conscience. It is
impossible to go on living like this, she told herself, as she made her
way to the chapel. There, on her knees, she looked anxiously up at the
holy picture as if she expected a sign, but the sign she longed for was
not granted, and she passed out of the chapel in despair as one who lay
under the ban of God.
When Tatiana Markovna returned from the ferry she sat down to work at
her accounts, but soon laid them aside, and dismissed the servants. She
asked for Raisky, who had gone over to see Koslov because he did not
want to be left alone with his aunt. She sent across to ask Vera whether
she was coming to dinner. Vera said that she would rather stay in her
room and go to bed early.
In the courtyard a scene by no means unusual was being enacted. Savili
had nearly broken Marina's back with a severe beating because he had
seen her slipping out at dawn from the room in which Vikentev's servant
was quartered. She hid herself in the fields and the vegetable garden,
but at last she emerged, thinking that he would have forgotten. He
struck her with the whip while she sought refuge in one corner after
another, swearing by all that was sacred that the devil had taken on her
figure and had made a fool of him. But when he exchanged the whip for
the stick she cried out aloud at the first blow and fell at his feet. "I
am guilty," she cried, begging for mercy. She promised not to transgress
again, calling God to witness of her sincerity. Thereupon Savili threw
away the stick and wiped his face with his sleeve.
"You may go this time," he said, "since you have confessed, and since
you call God to witness."
Tatiana Markovna was informed of this proceeding, but she only wrinkled
her forehead, and made a sign to Vassilissa not to be too severe with
There were visitors to dinner who had heard of Vera's indisposition and
had come to inquire. Tatiana Markovna spoke of a chill, suffering all
the time from her insincerity, since she did not know what was the truth
that lay behind this feigned illness. She had not dared to send for the
doctor, who would have immediately seen that it was a moral, not a
She ate no supper; Tiet Nikonich politely said that he had no appetite
either. Then came Raisky, who also wanted no supper, but sat silently at
table pretending not to notice the glances which Tatiana Markovna
directed towards him from time to time.
When Tiet Nikonich had made his bow and departed, Tatiana Markovna
prepared to retire. She hardly looked at Raisky when she bade him
good-night, because her affections and her self-esteem were both too
deeply wounded. A secret and serious misfortune had befallen the family,
but she was left on one side like a stranger, as if she were a useless,
incapable woman. Raisky said in a low voice that he must speak with her.
"Bad news?" she whispered, shivering and looking fixedly at him before
she passed with him into her own room. She dropped into her old chair
and pushed the lamp farther away, first covering it with a shade, so
that the room was dimly lighted. Raisky began his tale as cautiously as
possible, but his lips trembled and now and again his tongue refused its
office, but he collected all his strength and went on, although towards
the end of his story his voice was hardly audible.
Dawn had come, but throughout the long hours Tatiana Markovna had sat
motionless and speechless with bowed head, giving vent now and then to a
low moan. Raisky fell on his knees before her and implored her, "Go to
"She has sent too late for Grandmother. God will go to her help. Spare
her and console her as you know how to do. She no longer has a
Grandmother," she said, going towards the door.
"Grandmother, what is the matter with you?" cried Raisky barring her way.
"You have no longer a Grandmother," she said absently. "Go, go." As he
did not obey, she cried angrily, "Don't come here. I will see no one.
You must all of you leave me in peace." He would have replied, but she
made an impatient gesture with her hand. "Go to her," she continued.
"Help her as far as you can. Grandmother can do nothing: you have no
longer a Grandmother."
She made another gesture with her hand, so imperious this time that he
went without further parley, but he concealed himself in the yard and
watched her window. Tatiana Markovna sank back in her chair and closed
her eyes, and for a long time she remained there, cold and stiff as if
she were a dead woman. Raisky, who had not gone to bed, and Vassilissa
and Yakob as well, saw Tatiana Markovna with her head uncovered and her
Turkish shawl thrown round her shoulders leave the house in the early
morning and go out into the garden. It was as if a bronze figure had
descended from its pedestal and had begun to walk.
She passed through the flower garden and then through the avenue to the
precipice; then, striding slowly along, with her head held high and
without looking round, she went down the face of the cliff, and
disappeared. Concealing his presence in the trees, Raisky hurried after
her, following her as she passed deeper and deeper down the precipice
and until she reached the arbour, where she paused. Raisky came closer,
and held his breath as he listened to Tatiana Markovna's heavy sighs,
and then heard her whisper, "My sin." With her hands above her head she
walked hastily on, until she came to the bank of the river and stood
still. The wind wound her dress round her ankles, disordered her hair,
and tugged at her shawl, but she noticed nothing. A terrible idea dawned
on Raisky that she intended to drown herself. But his aunt turned back
as she had come, with slow strides which left deep prints in the damp
sand. Raisky breathed more freely; but when, following her track in a
parallel direction, he caught sight of her face, he held his breath in
horror at the agony he saw written there. She had spoken truly, their
grandmother existed no longer. This was not grandmother, not Tatiana
Markovna, the warm-hearted mistress of Malinovka, where the life and
prosperity of the whole place depended on her, the wise and happy ruler
of her little kingdom. It was as if she were not walking of her own
accord but was driven on by an impulse exterior to herself, as
unconscious of her movements she climbed the steep hill through the
brushwood, with her shawl hanging down from her shoulders dragging its
corners in the dust; her eyes, from which stony horror looked forth,
were unwinking; her manner was that of a moonstruck woman. Raisky found
it difficult to follow her. She paused once, leaning both hands on a
tree. "My sin," she exclaimed again. "How heavy is the burden! If it is
not lightened, I can bear it no longer." She began again to climb
quickly up the hill, surmounting the difficulties of the steep path
with unnatural strength and leaving tags of her dress and her shawl
behind her in the bushes.
Overcome with amazement and horror, Raisky watched this new strange
woman. He knew that only great souls conquer heavy trouble with strength
like hers. They have wings like eagles to soar into the clouds and eagle
eyes to gaze into the abyss. This was not his grandmother; she seemed to
him to be one of those feminine figures which emerge from the family
circle in the supreme moments of life under the heavy blows of fate, who
bear great misfortunes majestically and are not overwhelmed. He saw in
her a Jewess of the olden days, a noble woman of Jerusalem, who scorns
the prophecy that her people will lose their fame and their honour to
the Romans, but when the hour of fate has arrived, when the men of
Jerusalem are watering its walls with their tears and beating their
heads against the stones, then she takes the ornaments from her hair,
puts on mourning garments, and goes on her pilgrimage wherever the hand
of Jehovah leads. His mind went back to another queen of misfortune, to
the Russian Marfa, the enemy of the city of Moscow, who maintained her
defiance even in her chains, and, dying, directed the destiny of free
Novgorod. Before his imagination there passed a procession of other
suffering women, Russian Tsaritsas, who, at the wish of their husbands,
had adopted the dress of the nun and had maintained their intellect and
their strength of character in the cloister....
Raisky diverted his attention from these unsummoned apparitions, and
looked attentively at the suffering woman before him. Tatiana Markovna's
kingdom was perishing. Her house was left desolate; her dearest treasure,
her pride, her pearl, had been taken from her, and she wandered lonely
among the ruins. When she paused in her walk in order to collect her
strength, she tottered and would have fallen but for an inner whisper
which assured her she would yet reach her goal. She pulled herself
together, and wandered on until evening. Half asleep, terrified by her
crowding fancies, she spent the night on the sofa. At dawn she rose, and
went once more to the precipice. With her head resting on the bare
boards she sat for a long time on the crumbling threshold of the arbour,
then she went through the fields, and was lost in the thicket on the
bank of the river. By chance her steps led her to the chapel, where new
terror seized her at the sight of the picture of the Christ. She fell on
her knees like a wounded animal, covered her face with her shawl, and
moaned, "My sin! my sin!"
Tatiana Markovna's servants had lost their heads in terror. Vassilissa
and Yakob hardly stirred from the church. She intended, if her mistress
recovered, to make her pilgrimage on foot to Kiev in order to venerate
the miracle worker; he promised to the patron saint of the village a
thick wax candle ornamented with gold. The rest of the servants hid
themselves, and only looked shyly out after their mistress as she
wandered distraught through the fields and the woods.
For two days already Tatiana Markovna had eaten nothing. Raisky indeed
tried to restrain her from leaving the house again, but she waved him
imperiously away. Then with decision he took a jug of water, came up to
her, and took her hand. She looked at him as if she did not know who he
was, then mechanically seized the jug in her trembling hand, and drank
greedily in big mouthfuls.
"Grandmother, come home again, and do not make both yourself and us
wretched," he begged. "You will kill yourself."
"It is God's will; I shall not lose my reason, for I am upheld by His
strength. I must endure to the end. Do you raise me if I fall. My sin!"
she murmured and went on her way. After she had gone a few steps, she
turned round and he ran to her.
"If I do not survive," she began, signing to him to bow his head. Raisky
knelt down, and she pressed his head to her breast, laid her hands on it
and kissed him. "Accept my blessing, deliver it to Marfinka, and to her,
to my poor Vera. Do you understand, to her also."
"Grandmother!" he cried, kissing her hand.
She tore her hand away, and set out to wander once more through the
thicket, by the river bank, and in the fields. A devout soul obeys its
own laws, thought Raisky, as he dried his tears; only a saint could
suffer like this for the object of her love.
Things were not going any better with Vera. Raisky made haste to tell
her of his conversation with their aunt; when she sent for him early
next morning, in her anxiety to have news of Tatiana Markovna, he
pointed out of the window, and Vera saw how Tatiana Markovna was
drifting, urged on by the heavy hand of misfortune. For a moment she
caught sight of her expression, and sank horrified on the floor, but she
pulled herself up again, ran from one window to the other, and stretched
her hands out towards her grandmother. Then she rushed through the wide
empty hall of the old house in a wild desire to follow Tatiana Markovna,
but she realised in time that it would have killed her aunt if she
approached her just now. Vera was conscious now how deeply she had
wounded another life so close to her own, as she saw the tragic figure
of her aunt, so happy until recently and now bearing the punishment of
another's sin. Raisky brought her Tatiana Markovna's blessing, and Vera
fell on his neck and wept for a long time.
On the evening of the second day, Vera was found sitting in a corner of
the great hall, half dressed. Raisky and the priest's wife, who had just
arrived, led her almost by force into her room and laid her down on the
bed. Raisky sent for the doctor, to whom he tried to explain her
indisposition. The doctor prescribed a sedative, which Vera drank
without being any calmer for it; she often waked in her sleep to ask
after her grandmother.
"Give me something to drink ... don't say a word. Do not let anyone come
to see me. Find out what Grandmother is doing." It was just the same in
the night. When she awoke, she would whisper, "Grandmother doesn't come,
Grandmother doesn't love me any more. She has not forgiven me."
On the third day Tatiana Markovna left the house without being observed.
After two sleepless nights, Raisky had lain down and had given
instructions to wake him if she left the house, but Yakob and Vassilissa
had gone to early Mass, and the other servants had paid no attention.
Later on Savili saw that his mistress, catching hold of the trees as she
went, was making her way from the precipice to the fields. Raisky
hurried after her and watched her slow return to the house; she stood
still, looked round as if she were saying goodbye to the group of houses,
groped with her hands, and swayed violently. Then he rushed up to her,
brought her back to the house with Vassilissa's help, put her in her
armchair and sent for the doctor. Vassilissa fell on her knees before
"Little mother! Tatiana Markovna," she begged, "come back to us. Make
the sign of the Cross."
Tatiana Markovna crossed herself, sighed, and signed that she could not
speak and wanted something to drink. Vassilissa undressed her, wrapped
her in warm sheets, rubbed her hands and feet with spirit, and then gave
her some warm wine to drink. The doctor prescribed for her, but said
that it was most important of all that she should not be disturbed, but
should be allowed to sleep.
An incautious word that Tatiana Markovna was ill reached Vera's ears.
She pushed past Natalie Ivanovna, and wanted to go over to the new house;
Raisky had great difficulty in persuading her to abandon her intention
as Tatiana Markovna lay in a deep sleep. In the evening Vera was worse,
she had fever and was delirious, and during the night she flung herself
from one side to another, calling on her grandmother in her sleep, and
weeping. Raisky wanted to call the old doctor; he waited impatiently
till the morning and spent his time in going from Vera to Tatiana
Markovna, and from Tatiana Markovna back to Vera.
As Vera's condition had not improved next morning, Raisky went with
Vassilissa into Tatiana Markovna's bedroom, where they found the old
lady in the same state as she had been in the whole of the day before.
"I am afraid of going near her in case I alarm her," he whispered.
"Should I awaken the mistress?"
"She must be awakened. Vera Vassilievna is ill, and I don't know whether
I ought to send for the old doctor."
The words were hardly out of his mouth when Tatiana Markovna sat up. "Is
Vera ill?" she said in a low voice.
Raisky breathed more freely, for his aunt, in her present anxiety, had
lost the stony expression of yesterday. She signed to him to leave the
room. Half an hour later she was walking across the courtyard to the old
house with trouble plainly depicted on her face, but apparently without
a trace of weariness. She entered Vera's room cautiously, and when she
saw the pale sleeping face, whispered to Raisky, "Send for the old
doctor." She now noticed for the first time the priest's wife and her
weary eyes; she embraced Natalie Ivanovna, and advised her kindly to go
and get a whole day's rest.
When the doctor arrived, Tatiana Markovna gave him an ingenious
explanation of Vera's indisposition. He discovered symptoms of a nervous
fever and prescribed medicine; but on the whole he did not think that
serious consequences need be expected if the patient could be kept quiet.
Vera was half asleep when she took the medicine and towards evening fell
fast asleep. Tatiana Markovna sat down at the head of the bed, watching
her movements and listening to her breathing. Presently Vera woke up and
asked, "Are you asleep, Natasha?"
As she received no answer she closed her eyes, but she could not go to
sleep again, and the darkness seemed to her to be a dark and terrible
prison. After a time she asked for something to drink. Someone handed
her a cup.
"How is Grandmother?" asked Vera, opening her eyes only to close them
again immediately. "Natasha, where are you? Come here. Why are you
hiding?" she sighed and fell asleep again. Presently she woke again and
whispered pitifully, "Grandmother doesn't come. Grandmother loves me no
longer, and has not forgiven me."
"Grandmother is here. She loves you and has forgiven you."
Vera sprang from the bed and rushed up to Tatiana Markovna.
"Grandmother," she cried, half fainting and hiding her head on her
Tatiana Markovna put her to bed again, leaned her grey head by Vera's
white suffering face, while the girl in a low voice, with sighs and
tears, made her confession on her breast. Her aunt listened without
speaking, and presently wiped away Vera's tears with her handkerchief,
and kissed her warmly and affectionately.
"Do not waste your caresses on me, Grandmother; only do not leave me. I
do not deserve your caresses. Keep your kisses for my sister."
"Your sister is no longer in need of my caresses. But I need your love.
If you forsake me, Vera, I shall be a desolate old woman." Tatiana
"Mother, forgive me," whispered Vera, embracing her with her whole
strength. "I have not been obedient to you, and God has punished me,"
she went on, but Tatiana Markovna shut her mouth with a kiss.
"Do not talk like that, Vera," interrupted her grandmother, who had
turned pale with horror and once more wore the aspect of the old woman
who had been wandering about in the thicket by the precipice.
"Yes, I thought that my own brain and will were self-sufficing, that I
was wiser than you all."
"You are wiser than I and have more learning," said Tatiana Markovna,
breathing more freely. "God has given you a clear understanding, but you
have not my experience."
Vera thought that she had more experience also, but she merely said,
"Take me away from here. There is no Vera any longer. I want to be your
Marfinka. Take me away from this old house over there to you."
The two heads rested side by side on the pillow. They lay in a close
embrace and fell asleep.
Vera rose the next morning pale and exhausted, but without any fever.
She had wept out her malady on her grandmother's breast. The doctor
professed himself satisfied, and said she should stay in her room for a
few days. Everything in the house went on as before. There were no
festivities in honour of Vera's name day, as she had expressed a wish
that there should be none. Neither Marfinka nor the Vikentevs came; a
messenger was sent to Kolchino with the announcement that Vera
Vassilievna was unwell and was keeping her room. Tushin sent his
congratulations in a respectful note, asking for permission to come and
see her. Her reply was that he should wait a little until she was better.
Under the pretext of Vera's illness, callers who came from the town to
present their congratulations were not admitted. Only the servants
celebrated the occasion in their own way; the maids appeared in their
gay dresses, and the coachmen and the lackeys got drunk.
Vera and her aunt developed a new relationship. Tatiana Markovna's
consideration for Vera was by no means assumed, but her kindness did not
make Vera's heart lighter. What she had expected and wished was severe
judgment, a penance, perhaps exile for half a year or a year to Tatiana
Markovna's distant estate, where she would gradually win back her peace
of mind or at any rate forget, if it was true, as Raisky said, that time
extinguishes all impressions. "I see," thought Vera, "that Grandmother
suffers inexpressibly. Grief has changed her altogether; her figure is
bowed and her face more deeply furrowed. Perhaps she is only sparing me
now because her heart has opened itself to pity. She cannot bear to
punish me, now that I am ill and repentant." Vera had lost her pride,
her self-respect and her dignity, and if once these flowers are taken
out of the crown which adorns the head of man, his doom is at hand. She
tried to pray and could not, for she had nothing to pray for, and could
only bow her head in humility.
Raisky came into much closer relation with his aunt and Vera. His
naturalness and genuine affection, the friendly intimacy of his
conversation, his straightforwardness, his talkative humour, and the
gleaming play of his fancy were a distraction and a consolation to both
of them. He often drew a laugh from them, but he tried in vain to
distract them from the grief which hung like a cloud over them both and
over the whole house. He himself was sad when he saw that neither his
esteem nor Tatiana Markovna's kindness could give back to poor Vera her
courage, her pride, her confidence and her strength of will.
Tatiana Markovna spent the nights in the old house on the divan opposite
Vera's bed and watched her sleep. But it nearly always happened that
they were both observing one another, so that neither of them found
refreshing sleep. On the morning after a sleepless night of this kind,
Tatiana Markovna sent for Tiet Nikonich. He came gladly, plainly
delighted that the illness which threatened Vera Vassilievna had blown
over, and bringing with him a water melon of extraordinary size and a
pineapple for a present. But a glance at his old friend was enough to
make him change colour. Tatiana Markovna hastily put on her fur-trimmed
cloak, threw a scarf over her head, and signed to him to follow her as
she led the way into the garden. They sat for two hours on Vera's bench.
Then she went back to the house with bowed head, while he drove home,
overcome with grief, ordered his servants to pack, sent for post horses,
and drove to his estate, to which he had not been for many years.
Raisky, who had gone to see him, heard the news with astonishment. He
questioned his aunt, who told him that some disturbance had broken out
on Tiet Nikonich's estate. Vera was sadder than ever. Lines began to
appear on her forehead, which would one day become furrows. Sometimes
she would approach the table on which the unopened blue letter lay and
then turn away. Where should she flee, where conceal herself from the
world? When night fell, she lay down, put out the light, and stared
wide-eyed in front of her. She wanted to forget, to sleep, but sleep
would not come. Dark spots, blacker than night, danced before her eyes,
shadows moved up and down with a wave-like motion in the glimmer of
light that lay around the window. But she felt no fear, she would not
have died of terror if there had risen suddenly out of the corner a
ghost, a thief or a murderer; she would not have felt any fear if she
had been told that her last hour was come. She looked out unceasingly
into the darkness, at the waving shadows, at the flitting specks which
stood out the more clearly in the blackness of the night, at the rings
of changing colour which whirled shimmering round her.
Slowly and quietly the door opened. Vera propped herself on her elbow
and saw a hand carrying a lamp carefully shaded. Tatiana Markovna
dropped her cloak from her shoulder on to a chair and approached the bed,
looking not unlike a ghost in her white dressing-gown. Vera had laid her
head back on the pillow and pretended to sleep. Tatiana Markovna put the
lamp on the table behind the bed-head, and sat down carefully and
quietly on the divan with her head leaning on her hand. She did not take
her eyes from Vera, and when Vera opened her own an hour later Tatiana
Markovna was still looking fixedly at her. "Can't you sleep, Vera?"
"Why do you punish me in the night too, Grandmother?" asked Vera in a
low tone. The two women looked at one another and both seemed to
understand the speech in their eyes. "You are killing me with sympathy,
Grandmother," Vera went on. "It would be better to drive me from your
sight. But it is very hard for me to bear when you measure out your
scorn drop by drop. Either forgive me or, if that is impossible, bury me
alive. Why are you silent? What is in your mind? Your silence tortures
me; it seems to say something, and yet never says it."
"It is so hard, Vera, to speak. Pray, and understand your Grandmother
even when she is silent."
"I have tried to pray, and cannot. What have I to pray for, except that
I should die the sooner. I shall die I know; only let it come quickly,
for like this it is impossible to live."
"It is possible," said Tatiana Markovna, drawing a deep sigh.
"After ... that?"
"After _that_," replied her grandmother.
"You don't know, Grandmother," said Vera with a hopeless sigh. "You have
not been a woman like me."
Tatiana Markovna stooped down to Vera, and whispered in a hardy audible
voice, "A woman like you."
Vera looked at her in amazement, then let her head fall back on the
pillow and said wearily, "You were never in my position. You are a
"A sinner," rejoined Tatiana Markovna.
"We are all sinners, but not a sinner of that kind."
"Of that kind."
Vera seized Tatiana Markovna's dress with both hands, and pressed her
face to hers. The words that came from her troubled breast sounded like
hisses. "Why do you slander yourself? Is it in order to calm and help me?
Grandmother, do not lie!"
"I never lie and you know it, and how should I begin to do so now. I am
a sinner, and myself need forgiveness," she said, throwing herself on
her knees and bowing her grey head.
"Why do you say these things to me?" said Vera, staring at the kneeling
woman, and pressing her head to her breast. "Take your words back again.
I have not heard them or will forget them; will regard them as the
product of a dream. Do not torture yourself for my sake. Rise,
Grandmother." Tatiana Markovna lay on her breast, sobbing like a child.
"Why did you tell me this?" said Vera.
"It was God's wish that I should humble myself to ask you, my child, for
forgiveness. If you grant me your forgiveness, Vera, I, too, can forgive
you. I had hoped to keep my secret until I died, and now my sin has
plunged you into ruin."
"You rescue me, Grandmother, from despair."
"And myself, Vera. God forgives, but he demands cleansing. I thought my
sin was forgotten and forgiven. Because of my silence I seemed to men to
be virtuous, but my virtue was a lie. God has punished my sin. Forgive
me from your heart."
"Does one forgive one's Mother? You are a saint, a Mother without a peer
in the whole wide world. If I had known you, as you really are, how
could I have acted contrary to your will?"
"That is my second terrible sin. I was silent, and did not tell you to
beware of the precipice. Your dead Mother will call me to account for my
failure, I know. She comes to me in my dreams, and is now here between
us. Do you also forgive me, Departed One," she cried wildly, stretching
out her arms in supplication.
"Forgive me, Vera. I ask forgiveness of you both. We will pray."
Vera tried to raise her to her feet, and Tatiana Markovna raised herself
with difficulty, and sat down on the divan.
Vera bathed her temples with eau de Cologne, and gave her a sedative;
then she kneeled down before her and covered her hand with kisses.
"What is hidden must be revealed," began Tatiana Markovna, when she had
recovered a little. "For forty-five years only two human beings beside
myself have known it, _he_ and Vassilissa, and I thought the secret
would die with me. And now it is made public. My God!" she cried, wildly,
stretching her folded arms to the picture of the Christ. "Had I known
that this stroke would ever fall on another, on _my_ child, I would
have confessed my sin there and then to the all world in the Cathedral
Vera still hesitated to believe what she heard. Was it a heroic measure,
a generous invention to rescue and restore her own self-respect? But her
aunt's prayers, her tears, her appeal to Vera's dead mother, no actress
would have dared to use such devices, and her aunt was the soul of truth
Warm life pulsed in Vera's heart, and her heart was lightened. She felt
as if life was streaming through her veins after an evil dream. Peace
tapped at the door of her soul, the dark forsaken temple, which was now
gaily lighted once more and a home of prayer. She felt that Tatiana
Markovna and she were inseparable sisters, and she even began
involuntarily to address her as "thou," as she had done Raisky when her
heart responded to his kindness. As these thoughts whirled in her head,
she had a sensation of lightness and freedom, like a prisoner whose
fetters have been removed.
"Grandmother," she said, rising, "you have forgiven me, and you love me
more than you do any of the others, more than Marfinka, that I realise.
But do you know and understand my love for you? I should not have
suffered as I did, but for my love for you. How long we have been
"I will tell you all, Vera, and you must hear my confession. Judge me
severely, but pardon me, and God will pardon us both."
"I will not, I ought not, I may not," cried Vera. "To what end should I
"So that I may suffer once more, as I suffered five-and-forty years ago.
You know my sin, and Boris shall know it. He may laugh at the grey hairs
of old Kunigunde."
As she strode up and down, shaking her head in her fanatical seriousness,
with sorrow and triumphant dignity in her face, her resemblance to the
old family portrait in the gallery was very marked.
Beside her Vera felt like a small and pitiful child as she gazed timidly
into her aunt's eyes; she measured her own young strength by the
strength of this old woman who had ripened and remained unbroken in the
long struggle of life.
"My whole life can never repay what you have done for me, Grandmother.
Let this be the end of your penance, and tell me no more. If you are
determined that Boris shall know, I will whisper a word about your past
to him. Since I have seen your anguish, why should you suffer a longer
martyrdom? I will not listen. It is not my place to sit in judgment on
you. Let me hold your grey hairs sacred."
Tatiana Markovna sighed, and embraced Vera.
"As you will. Your will is like God's forgiveness to me, and I am
grateful to you for sparing my grey hairs."
"Now," said Vera, "let us go across to your house, where we can both
Tatiana Markovna almost carried her across to the new house, laid her on
her own bed, and lay down beside her.
When Vera had fallen peacefully asleep, her aunt rose cautiously, and,
in the light of the lamp, watched the marble beauty of her forehead, her
closed eyes, all sculptured pure and delicate as if by a master hand,
and at the expression of deep peace that lay on her face. She made the
sign of the cross over Vera as she slept, touched her forehead with her
lips, and sank on her knees in prayer.
"Have mercy on her!" she breathed. "If Thy anger is not yet appeased,
turn it from her and strike my grey head."
Presently she lay down beside Vera, with her arm around her neck. Vera
woke occasionally, opened her eyes, and closed them again. She pressed
closer and closer to Tatiana Markovna as if no harm could befall her
within the circle of those faithful arms.
As the days went by Malinovka assumed its wonted calm. The quiet life
which had been brought to a pause by the catastrophe, flowed evenly on.
The peaceful atmosphere was not undisturbed by anxiety. Autumn had laid
her hand on men as well as on nature. The household was thoughtful,
silent, and cold; smiles, laughter, and joy had vanished like the
falling leaves, and even though the worst crisis was passed, it had left
behind it an atmosphere of gloom.
Tatiana Markovna ruled her little kingdom once more. Vera was busily
engaged in the house, and devoted much care and taste to the choice of
Marfinka's trousseau. She had determined not to avoid any task, however
simple and trivial it might be, while she awaited the opportunity of
some serious work that life might offer her; she recognised that with
most people avoidance of the trivial and the hope of something
extraordinary and unprecedented were dictated either by idleness and
incompetence, or by morbid self-love and vanity.
She was paler than before, her eyes were less sparkling, and she had
lost some of her vivacity of gesture; but these changes were put down by
everyone to her narrow escape from nervous fever.
In fulfilment of Tatiana Markovna's insistently expressed wish, Vera had
spoken to Raisky of their aunt's passion, of which Tiet Nikonich had
been the object, but she said nothing of the sin. Even this partial
confidence explained to Raisky the riddle, how Tatiana Markovna, who in
his eyes was an old maid, could find the strength, not only to bear the
brunt of Vera's misfortune, but to soothe her, and to rescue her from
moral collapse and despair.
He showed in his intercourse with her, more clearly than before, a deep
and affectionate esteem, and an unbounded devotion. He now no longer
contradicted her, so that an end was put to the earlier semi-comic
warfare he had waged against her; even in his gestures there was a
certain reserve. She inspired him with the astonishment and admiration
which are called forth by women of exceptional moral strength.
The servants, too, were different, even though the cloud had passed.
There was no sound of quarrelling, abuse or laughter. Vassilissa found
herself in an exceptionally difficult position, since, now that her
mistress was restored to health, she was called on to fulfil her vow.
One morning Yakob vanished from the yard. He had taken money from the
box where the cash was kept for buying the oil for the lamps kept
burning in front of the ikons, which were in his charge, and had bought
the promised candle, which he set up before the sacred picture in the
village church at early Mass. As there was a small surplus he crossed
himself piously, then betook himself to the poorer quarter of the town,
where he spent his riches, and then reeled home again on his unsteady
legs, displaying a slight redness on his nose and his cheeks. Tatiana
Markovna happened to meet him. She immediately smelt the brandy, and
asked in surprise what he had been doing. He replied that he had been to
church, bowed his head devoutly, and folded his arms on his breast.
He explained to Vassilissa that he had done his duty in fulfilling his
vow. She looked at him in perturbation, for in her anxieties about her
mistress and in the preparations for the wedding she had not thought of
her own vow. Here was Yakob who had fulfilled his and was going about
with a pious jubilant air, and reminding her of her promised pilgrimage
"I don't feel strong enough," she complained. "I have hardly any bones
in me, only flesh. Lord, have mercy on me!"
For thirty years she had been steadily putting on flesh; she lived on
coffee, tea, bread, potatoes and gherkins, and often fish, even at those
times of the year when meat was permitted. In her distress she went to
Father Vassili, to ask him to set her doubts at rest. She had heard that
kind priests were willing to release people from their vows or to allow
substituted vows, where weakness of body hindered the performance of the
"As you agreed to go, you must go," said Father Vassili.
"I agreed because I was frightened, Little Father. I thought that
Mistress would die, but she was well again in three days; why then
should I make the long journey?"
"Yes, there is no short road to Kiev. If you had no inclination to go
you should not have registered the vow."
"The inclination is there, but strength fails me. I suffer from want of
breath even when I go to church. I am already in my seventh decade,
Father. It would be different if Mistress had been three months in bed,
if she had received the sacraments and the last unction, and then had
been restored to health by God in answer to my prayer; then I would have
gone to Kiev on my hands and knees."
"Well, what is to be done?" asked Father Vassili, smiling.
"Now I should like to promise something different. I will lay a fast on
myself, never to eat another bit of meat until I die."
"Do you like meat?"
"I can't bear the sight of it, and have weaned myself from eating it."
"A difficult vow," said Father Vassili with another smile, "must be
replaced by something as difficult or more difficult, but you have
chosen the easiest. Isn't there anything that it would be hard for you
to carry out? Think again!"
Vassilissa thought, and said there was nothing.
"Very well then, you must go to Kiev."
"I would gladly go, if I were not so stout."
"How can your vow be eased?" said Father Vassili, thinking aloud. "What
do you live on?"
"On tea, coffee, mushroom soup, potatoes...."
"Do you like coffee?"
"Yes, Little Father."
"Abstain from coffee."
"That is nearly as bad," she sighed, "as going to Kiev. What am I to
It seemed to her that he was laughing, and indeed he did laugh when he
saw her face.
"You don't like it," he said. "But make the sacrifice."
"What good does it do me, and to eat meat is not fasting, Father."
"Eat it on the days when it may be eaten. The good it will do is that
you will lay on less fat. In six months you are absolved of your vow."
She went away in some distress, and began to execute the priest's
instructions the next day, turning her nose sadly away from the steaming
coffee that she brought her mistress in the morning.
In about ten days Marfinka returned in company with her fiance and his
mother. Vikentev and she brought their laughter, their gaiety and their
merry talk into the quiet house. But within a couple of hours after
their arrival they had become quiet and timid, for their gaiety had
aroused a melancholy echo, as in an empty house. A mist lay on
everything. Even the birds had ceased to fly to the spot where Marfinka
fed them; swallows, starlings and all the feathered inhabitants of the
park were gone, and not a stork was to be seen flying over the Volga.
The gardener had thrown away the withered flowers; the space in front of
the house, usually radiant and sweet with flowers, now showed black
rings of newly-dug earth framed in yellowish grass. The branches of some
of the trees had been enveloped in bast, and the trees in the park
became barer with every day. The Volga grew darker and darker, as if the
river were preparing for its icy winter sleep.
Nature does not create, but it does emphasise human melancholy. Marfinka
asked herself what had happened to everybody in the house, as she looked
doubtfully round her. Even her own pretty little room did not look so
gay; it was as if Vera's nervous silence had invaded it.
Her eyes filled with tears. Why was everything so different? Why had
Veroshka come over from the other house, and why did she walk no more in
the field or in the thicket? Where was Tiet Nikonich?
They all looked worried, and hardly spoke to one another; they did not
even tease Marfinka and her fiance. Vera and grandmother were silent.
What had happened to the whole house? It was the first trouble that
Marfinka had encountered in her happy life, and she fell in
unconsciously with the serious, dull tone that obtained in Malinovka.
Silence, reserve and melancholy were equally foreign to Vikentev's
nature. He urged his mother to persuade Tatiana Markovna to allow
Marfinka to go back with them to Kolchino until the wedding at the end
of October. To his surprise permission was given easily and quickly, and
the young people flew like swallows from autumn to the warmth, light,
and brightness of their future home.
Raisky drove over to fetch Tiet Nikonich. He was haggard and yellow, and
hardly stirred from his place, and he only gradually recovered, like a
child whose toys have been restored to him, when he saw Tatiana Markovna
in her usual surroundings and found himself in the middle of the picture,
either at table with his serviette tucked in his collar, or in the
window on the stool near her chair, with a cup of tea before him poured
out by her hands.
Another member was added to the family circle at Malinovka, for Raisky
brought Koslov to dinner one day, to receive the heartiest of welcomes.
Tatiana Markovna had the tact not to let the poor forsaken man see that
she was aware of his trouble. She greeted him with a jest.
"Why have you not been near us for so long, Leonti Ivanovich? Borushka
says that I don't know how to entertain you, and that you don't like my
table. Did you tell him so?"
"How should I not like it? When did I say such a thing?" he asked Raisky
severely. "You are joking!" he went on, as everybody laughed, and he
himself had to smile.
He had had time to find his own bearings, and had begun to realise the
necessity of hiding his grief from others.
"Yes, it is a long time since I was here. My wife has gone to Moscow to
visit her relations, so that I could not...."
"You ought to have come straight to us," observed Tatiana Markovna,
"when it was so dull by yourself at home."
"I expect her, and am always afraid she may come when I am not at home."
"You would soon hear of her arrival, and she must pass our house. From
the windows of the old house we can see who comes along the road, and we
will stop her."
"It is true that the road to Moscow can be seen from there," said Koslov,
looking quickly, and almost happily, at his hostess.
"Come and stay with us," she said.
"I simply will not let you go to-day," said Raisky. "I am bored by
myself, and we will move over into the old house. After Marfinka's
wedding I am going away, and you will be Grandmother's and Vera's first
minister, friend and protector."
"Thank you. If I am not in the way...."
"How can you talk like that. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Forgive me, Tatiana Markovna."
"Better eat your dinner; the soup is getting cold."
"I am hungry too," he said suddenly, seizing his spoon. He ate his soup
silently, looking round him as if he were seeking the road to Moscow,
and he preserved the same demeanour all through the meal.
"It is so quiet here," he said after dinner, as he looked out of the
window. "There is still some green left, and the air is so fresh. Listen,
Boris Pavlovich, I should like to bring the library here."
"As you like. To-morrow, as far as I am concerned. It is your possession
to do as you please with."
"What should I do with it now? I will have it brought over, so that I
can take care of it; else in the end that man Mark will...."
Raisky strode about the room, Vera's eyes were fixed on her needlework,
and Tatiana Markovna went to the window. Shortly after this Raisky took
Leonti to the old house, to show him the room that Tatiana Markovna had
arranged for him. Leonti went from one window to another to see which of
them commanded a view of the Moscow road.
On a misty autumn day, as Vera sat at work in her room, Yakob brought
her a letter written on blue paper, which had been brought by a lad who
had instructions to wait for an answer. When she had recovered from the
first shock at the sight of the letter, she took it, laid it on the
table, and dismissed Yakob. She tried to go on with her work but her
hands fell helplessly on her lap.
"When will there be an end of this torture?" she whispered, nervously.
Then she took from her bureau the earlier unopened blue letter, laid it
by the side of the other, and covered her face with her hands. What
answer could he expect from her, she asked herself, when they had parted
for ever? Surely he dare not call her once more. If so, an answer must
be given, for the messenger was waiting. She opened the letters and read
the earlier one:--
"Are we really not to meet again, Vera? That would be incredible. A few
days ago there would have been reason in our separation, now it is a
useless sacrifice, hard for both of us. We have striven obstinately with
one another for a whole year for the prize of happiness; and now that
the goal is attained you run away. Yet it is you who spoke of an eternal
love. Is that logical?"
"Logical!" she repeated, but she collected her courage and read on.
"I am now permitted to choose another place of residence. But now I
cannot leave you, for it would be dishonourable. You cannot think that I
am proud of my victory, and that it is easy for me to go away. I cannot
allow you to harbour such an idea. I cannot leave you, because you love
Once more she interrupted her reading, but resumed it with an effort--
"And because my whole being is in a fever. Let us be happy, Vera. Be
convinced that our conflict, our quarrelling was nothing but the mask of
passion. The mask has fallen, and we have no other ground of dispute. In
reality we have long been one. You ask for a love which shall be eternal;
many desire that, but it is an impossibility."
She stopped her reading to tell herself with a pitying smile that his
conception of love was of a perpetual fever.
"My mistake was in openly asserting this truth, which life itself would
have revealed in due course. From this time onwards, I will not assail
your convictions, for it is not they, but passion, which is the
essential factor in our situation. Let us enjoy our happiness in silence.
I hope that you will agree to this logical solution."
Vera smiled bitterly as she continued to read.
"They would hardly allow you to go away with me, and indeed that is
hardly possible. Nothing but a wild passion could lead you to do such a
thing, and I do not expect it. Other convictions, indifferent to me,
would be needed to impel you to this course; you would be faced with a
future which fulfils neither your own wishes nor the demands of your
relations, for mine is an uncertain existence, without home, hearth or
possessions. But if you think you can persuade your Grandmother, we will
be betrothed, and I will remain here until--for an indefinite time. A
separation now would be like a bad comedy, in which the unprofitable
role is yours, at which Raisky, when he hears of it, will be the first
to laugh. I warn you again now, as I did before. Send your reply to the
address of my landlady, Sekletaia Burdalakov."
In spite of her exhaustion after reading this epistle Vera took up the
one which Yakob had just brought. It was hastily written in pencil.
"Every day I have been wandering about by the precipice, hoping to see
you in answer to my earlier letter. I have only just heard by chance of
your indisposition. Come, Vera. If you are ill, write two words, and I
will come myself to the old house. If I receive no answer to-day, I will
expect you to-morrow at five o'clock in the arbour. I must know quickly
whether I should go or stay. But I do not think we shall part. In any
case, I expect either you or an answer. If you are ill, I will make my
way into your house."
Terrified by his threat of coming, she seized pen and paper, but her
hands trembled too much to allow her to write.
"I cannot," she exclaimed. "I have no strength, I am stifled! How shall
I begin, and what can I write? I have forgotten how I used to write to
him, to speak to him."
She sent for Yakob, and told him to dismiss the messenger and to say
that an answer would follow later. She wondered as she walked slowly
back to her room, when she would find strength that day to write to him;
what she should say. She could only repeat that she could not, and would
not, and to-morrow she told herself, he would wait for her in the arbour,
he would be wild with disappointment, and if he repeats his signals with
the rifle he will come into conflict with the servants, and eventually
with grandmother herself. She tried to write, but threw the pen aside;
then she thought she would go to him herself, tell him all she had to
say, and then leave him. As once before her hands sought in vain her
mantilla, her scarf, and without knowing what she did, she sank
helplessly down on the divan.
If she told her grandmother the necessary steps would be taken, but
otherwise the letters would begin again. Or should she send her cousin,
who was after all her natural and nearest friend and protector, to
convince Mark that there was no hope for him? But she considered that he
also was in the toils of passion, and that it would be hard for him to
execute the mission, that he might be involved in a heated dispute,
which might develop into a dangerous situation. She turned to Tushin,
whom she could trust to accomplish the errand effectively without
blundering. But it seemed impossible to set Tushin face to face with the
rival who had robbed him of his desires. Yet she saw no alternative. No
delay was possible; to-morrow would bring another letter, and then,
failing an answer, Mark himself.
After brief consideration, she wrote a note to Tushin, and this time the
same pen covered easily and quickly the same paper that had been so
impracticable half an hour before. She asked him to come and see her the
Until now Vera had been accustomed to guard her own secrets, and to
exercise an undivided rule in the world of her thoughts. If she had
given her confidence to the priest's wife, it was out of charity. She
had confided to her the calendar of her everyday life, its events, its
emotions and impressions; she had told her of her secret meetings with
Mark, but concealed from her the catastrophe, telling her simply that
all was over between them. As the priest's wife was ignorant of the
denouement of the story at the foot of the precipice, she put down
Vera's illness to grief at their parting.
Vera loved Marfinka as she loved Natalie Ivanovna, not as a comrade, but
as a child. In more peaceful times she would again confide the details
of her life to Natalie Ivanovna as before; but in a crisis she went to
Tatiana Markovna, sent for Tushin, or sought help from her cousin Boris.
Now she put the letters in her pocket, found her aunt, and sat down
"What has happened, Vera? You are upset."
"Not upset, but worried. I have received letters, from _there_."
"From _there_!" repeated Tatiana Markovna, turning pale.
"The first was written some time ago, but I have only just opened it,
and the second was brought to me to-day," she said, laying them both on
"You want me to know what is in them?"
"Read them, Grandmother."
Tatiana Markovna put on her glasses, and tried to read them, but she
found that she could not decipher them, and eventually Vera had to read
them. She read in a whisper, suppressing a phrase here and there; then
she crumpled them up and put them back in her pocket.
"What do you think, Veroshka?" asked Tatiana Markovna, uncertainly. "He
is willing to be betrothed and to remain here. Perhaps if he is prepared
to live like other people, if he loves you, and if you think you could
"He calls betrothal a comedy, and yet suggests it. He thinks that only
that is needed to make me happy. Grandmother, you know my frame of mind;
so why do you ask me?"
"You came to me to ask me what you should decide," began Tatiana
Markovna with some hesitation, as she did not yet understand why Vera
had read her the letters. She was incensed at Mark's audacity, and
feared that Vera herself might be seized with a return of her passion.
For these reasons she concealed her anxiety.
"It was not for that that I came to you, Grandmother. You know that my
mind has long been made up. I will have no more to do with him. And if I
am to breathe freely again, and to hope to be able to live once more, it
is under the condition that I hear nothing of him, that I can forget
everything. He reminds me of what has happened, calls me down there,
seeks to allure me with talk of happiness, will marry me.... Gracious
Heaven! Understand, Grandmother," she went on, as Tatiana Markovna's
anxiety could no longer be concealed, "that if by a miracle he now
became the man I hoped he would be, if he now were to believe all that I
believe, and loved me as I desired to love him, even if all this
happened I would not turn aside from my path at his call." No song could
have been sweeter to the ears of Tatiana Markovna. "I should not be
happy with him," Vera continued. "I could never forget what he had been,
or believe in the new Mark. I have endured more than enough to kill any
passion. There is nothing left in my heart but a cold emptiness, and but
for you, Grandmother, I should despair."
She wept convulsively, her head pressed against her aunt's shoulder.
"Do not recall your sufferings, Veroshka, and do not distress yourself
unnecessarily. We agreed never to speak of it again."
"But for the letters I should not have spoken, for I need peace. Take me
away, Grandmother, hide me, or I shall die. He calls me--to that place."
Tatiana Markovna rose and drew Vera into the armchair, while she drew
herself to her full height.
"If that is so," she said, "if he thinks he can continue to annoy you,
he will have to reckon with me. I will shield and protect you. Console
yourself, child, you will hear no more of him."
"What will you do?" she asked in amazement, springing from her chair.
"He summons you. Well, I will go to the rendezvous in your place, and we
will see if he calls you any more, or comes here, or writes to you." She
strode up and down the room trembling with anger. "At what time does he
go to the arbour to-morrow. At five, I think?" she asked sharply.
"Grandmother, you don't understand," said Vera gently, taking her hand.
"Calm yourself. I make no accusation against him. Never forget that I
alone am guilty. He does not know what has happened to me during these
days, and therefore he writes. Now it is necessary to explain to him how
ill and spiritless I am, and you want to fight. I don't wish that. I
would have written to him, but could not; and I have not the strength to
see him. I would have asked Ivan Ivanovich, but you know how he cares
for me and what hopes he cherishes. To bring him into contact with a man
who has destroyed those hopes is impossible."
"Impossible," agreed Tatiana Markovna. "God knows what might happen
between them. You have a near relation, who knows all and loves you like
a sister, Borushka."
"If that were how he loved me," thought Vera. She did not mean to reveal
Raisky's passion for her, which remained her secret.
"Perhaps I will ask my cousin," she said. "Or I will collect my strength,
and answer the letter myself, so as to make him understand my position
and renounce all hope. But in the mean time, I must let him know so that
he does not come to the arbour to wait in vain for me."
"I will do that," struck in Tatiana Markovna.
"But you will not go yourself?" asked Vera, looking direct into her eyes.
"Remember that I make no complaint against him, and wish him no evil."
"Nor do I," returned her aunt, looking away. "You may be assured I will
not go myself, but I will arrange it so that he does not await you in
"Forgive me, Grandmother, for this fresh disturbance."
Tatiana Markovna sighed, and kissed her niece. Vera left the room in a
calmer frame of mind, wondering what means her aunt proposed to take to
prevent Mark from coming next day to the arbour.
Next day at noon Vera heard horse's hoofs at the gate. When she looked
out of the window her eyes shone with pleasure for a moment, as she saw
Tushin ride into the courtyard. She went to meet him.
"I saw you from the window," she said, adding, as she looked at him,
"Are you well?"
"What else should I be?" he answered with embarrassment, turning his
head away so that she should not notice the signs of suffering on his
face. "And you?"
"I fell ill, and my illness might have taken an ill turn, but now it is
over. Where is Grandmother?" she asked, turning to Vassilissa.
"The Mistress went out after tea, and took Savili with her."
Vera invited Tushin to her room, but for the moment both were
"Have you forgiven me?" asked Vera after a pause, without looking at him.
"For all you have endured. Ivan Ivanovich, you have changed. I can see
that you carry a heavy heart. Your suffering and Grandmother's is a hard
penance for me. But for you three, Grandmother, you, and Cousin Boris,
I could not survive."
"And yet you say that you give us pain. Look at me; I think I am better
already. If you would only recover your own peace of mind it will all be
over and forgotten."
"I had begun to recover, and to forget. Marfinka's marriage is close at
hand, there was a great deal to do and my attention was distracted, but
yesterday I was violently excited, and am not quite calm now."
"What has happened? Can I serve you, Vera Vassilievna?"
"I cannot accept your service."
"Because you do not think me able...."
"Not that. You know all that has happened; read what I have received,"
she said, taking the letters from a box, and handing them to him.
Tushin read, and turned as pale as he had been when he arrived.
"You are right. In this matter my assistance is superfluous. You alone
"I cannot, Ivan Ivanovich," she said, while he looked at her
interrogatively. "I can neither write a word to him, nor see him; yet I
must give him an answer. He will wait there in the arbour, or if I leave
him without an answer he will come here, and I can do nothing."
"What kind of answer?"
"You ask the same question as Grandmother. Yet you have read the letter!
He promises me happiness, will submit to a betrothal. Yesterday I tried
to write to him to tell him that I was not happy, and should not be
happy after betrothal, and to bid him farewell. But I cannot put these
lines on paper, and I cannot commission anyone to deliver my answer.
Grandmother flared up when she read the letter, and I fear she would not
be able to restrain her feelings. So I...."
"You thought of me," said Tushin, standing up. "Tushin, you thought,
would do you this service, and then you sent for me." Pride, joy, and
affection shone in his eyes.
"No, Ivan Ivanovich. I sent for you, so that you might be at my side in
these difficult hours. I am calmer when you are here. But I will not
send you--down there, I will not inflict on you this last insult, will
not set you face to face with a man, who cannot be an object of
indifference to you--no, no."
Tushin was about to speak, but instead he stretched out his hands in
silence, and Vera looked at him with mixed feelings of gratitude and
sorrow, as she realised with what small things he was made happy.
"Insult!" he said. "It would have been hard to bear if you were to send
me to him with an olive branch, to bring him up here from the depths of
the precipice. But even though that dove-like errand would not suit me,
I would still undertake it to give you peace, if I thought it would make
"Ivan Ivanovich," replied Vera, hardly restraining her tears, "I believe
you would have done it, but I would never send you."
"But now I am not asked to go outside my role of Bear; to tell him what
you cannot write to him, Vera Vassilievna, would give me happiness."
She reflected that this was all the happiness with which she had to
reward him, and dropped her eyes. His mood changed when he noticed her
thoughtful, melancholy air; his proud bearing, the gleam in his eyes,
and the colour in his face disappeared. He regretted his incautious
display of pleasure. It seemed to him that his delight and his mention
of the word "happiness!" had been tantamount to a renewal of his
profession of love and the offer of his hand, and had betrayed to her
the fact that he rejoiced selfishly at her breach with Mark.
Vera guessed that he was deceiving himself once more. Her heart, her
feminine instinct, her friendship, these things prevented Tushin from
abandoning his hope; she gave what she could, an unconditional trust and
a boundless esteem.
"Yes, Ivan Ivanovich, I see now that I have placed my hopes on you,
though I did not confess it to myself, and no one would have persuaded
me to ask this service of you. But since you make the generous offer
yourself, I am delighted, and thank you with all my heart. No one can
help me as you do, because no one else loves me as you do."
"You spoil me, Vera Vassilievna, when you talk like that. But it is true;
you read my very soul."
"Will it not be hard for you to see him."
"No, I shan't faint," he smiled.
"Go at five o'clock to the arbour and tell him...." She considered a
moment, then scribbled with a pencil what she had said she wished to say
without adding a word. "Here is my answer," she said, handing him the
open envelope. "You may add anything you think necessary, for you know
all. And don't forget, Ivan Ivanovich, that I blame him for nothing, and
consequently," she added, looking away, "you may leave your whip
"Very well," he said between his teeth.
"Forgive me," said Vera, offering her hand. "I do not say it as a
reproach. I breathe more freely now that I have told you what I wish,
and what I don't wish in your interview."
"And you thought I needed the hint?"
"Pardon a sick woman," she said, and he pressed her hand again.
A little later Tatiana Markovna and Raisky returned to the house.
Raisky and Tushin were embarrassed in one another's presence, and found
it difficult to talk naturally about the simplest things. But at the
dinner-table the real sympathy between them conquered the awkwardness of
the situation. They looked one another straight in the eyes and read
there a mutual confidence. After dinner Raisky went to his room, and
Tushin excused himself on the ground of business. Vera's thoughts
It was nearly five o'clock when he was trying to find his direction in
the thicket. Although he was no stranger there he seemed not to be able
to find what he sought; he looked from side to side where the bushes
grew more thickly, certain that he must be in the neighbourhood of the
arbour. He stood still and looked impatiently at his watch. It was
nearly five o'clock, and neither the arbour nor Mark were visible.
Suddenly he heard a rustle in the distance, and among the young pines a
figure appeared and disappeared alternately. Mark was approaching, and
reached the place where Tushin was standing. They looked at one another
a full minute when they met.
"Where is the arbour?" said Mark at last.
"I don't exactly know in which direction...."
"In which direction? We are standing on the spot where it was still
standing yesterday morning."
The arbour had vanished to allow of the literal carrying out of Tatiana
Markovna's promise that Mark should not wait for Vera in the arbour. An
hour after her conversation with Vera she had descended the precipice,
accompanied by Savili and five peasants with axes, and within two hours
the arbour had been carried away, the peasant women and children helping
to remove beams and boards. Next day the site of the arbour was levelled,
covered with turf, and planted with young fir trees. "If I had had the
arbour removed before," thought Tatiana Markovna regretfully, "the
rascal would have noticed it, and would not have written her the
The situation was clear enough to the "rascal" now. "That is the old
lady's handiwork," he thought, when he saw the young fir trees. "Her
Vera, like a well-bred young woman, has told her the whole story." He
nodded to Tushin, and was turning away, when he saw his rival's eyes
were fixed on him.
"Are you out for a stroll?" said Mark. "Why do you look at me in that
extraordinary fashion? I suppose you are visiting at Malinovka."
Tushin replied drily and politely that he was a visitor at the house,
and had come down especially to see Mark.
"To see me?" asked Mark quickly with a look of inquiry. Has he heard too?
he wondered. He remembered that Tushin admired Vera and wondered whether
the "Forest Othello" was meditating tragedy and murder on the green.
"I have a commission for you," said Tushin, handing him the letter.
Without betraying any sense of discomfort, or any sign of pain or rage
Mark read it rapidly.
"Do you know the whole story?" he asked.
"Allow me to leave that question unanswered, and instead to ask you
whether you have any answer to give," said Tushin.
Mark shook his head.
"I take it for granted, that, in accordance with her wish, you will
leave her in peace in the future, that you will not remind her of your
existence in any way, will not write to her, nor visit this place...."
"What business is it of yours?" asked Mark. "Are you her declared lover,
that you make these demands?"
"One does not need to be her fiance to execute a commission; it is
sufficient to be a friend."
"And if I do write, or do come here, what then?" cried Mark angrily.
"I cannot say how Vera Vassilievna would take it, but if she gives me
another commission, I will undertake it," said Tushin.
"You are an obedient friend," observed Mark maliciously.
"Yes, I am her friend," replied Tushin seriously. "I thought her wish
would be law to you too. She is just beginning to recover from a serious
"What is the matter with her?" said Mark, gently for him. As he received
no answer he went on, "Excuse my outburst, but you see my agitation."
"Calmness is desirable for you too. Is there any answer to this letter?"
"I do not need your assistance for that. I will write."
"She will not receive your letter. Her state of health necessitates
quiet, which she cannot have if you force yourself on her. I tell you
what was told me, and what I have seen for myself."
"Do you wish her well?" asked Mark.
"You see that she loves me. She has told you so."
"She has not said so to me; indeed she never spoke of love. She gave me
the letter I handed you, and asked me to make it clear that she did not
wish, and was not indeed in a condition to see you or to receive any
letter from you."
"How ridiculous to make herself and other people suffer. If you are her
friend you can relieve her of her misery, her illness, and her collapse
of strength. The old lady has broken down the arbour, but she has not
destroyed passion, and passion will break Vera. You say yourself she is
"I did not say that passion was the cause of her illness."
"What can have made her ill?" asked Mark.
"Your letters. You expect her in the arbour, and threaten to come to her
yourself. That she cannot endure, and has asked me to tell you so."
"She says that, but in reality...."
"She always speaks the truth."
"Why did she give you this commission?" Receiving no answer, Mark
continued: "You have her confidence, and can therefore tell her how
strange it is to refuse happiness. Advise her to put an end to the
wretched situation, to renounce her Grandmother's morality, and then I
"If you understood Vera Vassilievna, you would know that hers is one of
those natures that declines explanations and advice."
"You execute your errands most brilliantly and diplomatically," said
Tushin looked at him without replying, and his calm silence enraged Mark.
He saw in the disappearance of the arbour and the appearance on the
scene of Tushin as a mediator, the certain end of his hopes. Vera's
hesitation was over, and she was now firmly determined on separation.
He was enraged by his consciousness that Vera's illness was really not
the result of her infatuation for him, which she would not have
confessed to her aunt, much less to Tushin. Mark knew her obstinacy,
which resisted even the flame of passion, and on that very account he
had, almost in despair, resigned himself to submit to a formal betrothal,
and had communicated his decision to her, had consented to remain in the
town indefinitely, that is, so long as the tie between them held.
Convinced of the truth of his conception of love, he foresaw that in the
course of time passion would grow cool and disappear, that they would
not for ever be held by it, and then.... Then, he was convinced, Vera
would herself recognise the situation, and acquiesce in the consequences.
And now his offer had become superfluous; no one was prepared to accept
it, and he was simply to be dismissed.
"I do not know what to do," he said proudly. "I cannot find any answer
to your diplomatic mission. Naturally, I shall not again visit the
arbour, as it has ceased to exist."
"And you will write no more letters either," added Tushin, "as they
would not in any case reach her. Neither will you come to the house,
where you would not be admitted."
"Are you her guardian?"
"That would depend on Vera Vassilievna's wishes. There is a mistress of
the house who commands her servants. I take it that you accept the
"The devil knows," cried Mark, "how ridiculous all this is. Mankind have
forged chains for themselves, and make martyrs of themselves." Although
he still justified himself in making no reply, he felt that his position
was untenable. "I am leaving the place shortly," he said, "in about a
week's time. Can I not see Vera--Vassilievna for a minute?"
"That cannot be arranged, because she is ill."
"Is any pressure being put upon her?"
"She requires only one medicine--not to be reminded of you."
"I do not place entire confidence in you, because you do not appear to
me to be an indifferent party."
Tushin did not answer in the same tone. He understood Mark's feeling of
bitter disillusion, and made another attempt at conciliation. "If you do
not trust me," he said, "you hold the evidence in your hand."
"A dismissal. Yes, but that proves nothing. Passion is a sea, where
storm reigns to-day, and tomorrow dead calm. Perhaps she already repents
having sent this."
"I think not. She takes counsel with herself before acting. It is plain
from your last words that you don't understand Vera Vassilievna. You
will, of course, act in accordance with her wishes. I will not insist
any more on an answer."
"There is no answer to give. I am going away."
"That is an answer."
"It is not she who needs an answer, but you, the romantic Raisky, and
the old lady."
"Why not include the whole town! But I will take on myself to assure
Vera Vassilievna that your answer will be literally carried out.
"Farewell ... Sir Knight."
Tushin frowned slightly, touched his cap, and was gone.
Mark's face was very pale. He recognised bitterly that he was beaten,
that his romance ended here at the foot of the precipice, which he must
leave without once turning round, with no pity, no word of farewell to
speed him; he was bidden to go as if he were a contemptible enemy. Why
had all this come about? He was not conscious of any fault. Why should
he part from her like this. She could not pretend that he had been the
cause of what old-fashioned people would call her "fall." He had gone so
far as to belie his own convictions, to neglect his mission, and was
even prepared to contemplate marriage. Yet he received a laconic note
instead of a friendly letter, a go-between instead of herself. It was as
if he had been struck with a knife, and a cold shiver ran through his
body. It was not the old lady who had invented these measures, for Vera
did not allow others to dictate to her. It must have been she herself.
What had he done, and why should she act with such severity?
He went slowly away. When he reached the fence he swung himself on to
the top and sat there, asking himself again where his fault lay. He
remembered that at their last meeting he had fairly warned her. He had
said in effect: "Remember that I have warned you. If you stretch out
your hand to me you are mine, and the responsibility for the
consequences rests with you; I am innocent." That was surely logical, he
thought. Suddenly he sprang down on to the road, and went without
looking back. He remembered how at this very spot he had prepared to
leave her. But he heard her nervous, despairing cry of farewell, and had
then looked round and rushed to her. As he answered these questions his
blood hammered in his veins. He strode up the hill. The knife had done
its work; it bored deeper and deeper. Memory pitilessly revived a series
of fleeting pictures. The inner voice told him that he had not acted
honourably, and spared her when her strength had failed.
She used to call you a "Wolf" in jest, but the name will be no jest in
her memory, for you joined to the fierceness of a wolf a fox's cunning
and the malice of a yapping dog; there was nothing human about you. She
took with her from the depths of the precipice nothing but a bitter
memory and a lifelong sorrow. How could she be so blind as to be led
astray, to let herself be dazzled, to forget herself? You may triumph,
for she will never forget you.
He understood now the laconic note, her illness and the appearance of
Tushin instead of herself at the foot of the precipice.
Leonti told Raisky that Mark had informed him that he was going to spend
some time with his old aunt in the government of Novgorod; he intended
to enter the army once more as an ensign, in the hope of being sent to
Raisky and Tushin had been talking all the evening, and for the first
time in their lives observed one another closely, with the result that
both felt a desire for a closer acquaintance. Tushin asked Raisky to be
his guest for a week, to have a look at the forest, the steam-saw, and
the timber industry. Raisky accepted, and the next day they crossed the
river together in Tushin's boat.
Vera's name did not cross their lips. Each was conscious that the other
knew his secret. Raisky in any case had learned of Tushin's offer, of
his behaviour on that occasion, and of his part in the whole drama from
Vera herself. His jealous prejudices had instantly vanished, and he felt
nothing but esteem and sympathy for Tushin. As he studied the
personality of Vera's friend, as his fancy did him its usual service of
putting the object, not in itself a romantic one, in the best light, he
admired Tushin's simplicity and frankness.
After a week spent at "Smoke," after seeing him at home, in the factory,
in field and forest, after talking through the night with him by the
flickering light of the fire, he understood how Vera's eye and heart
should have recognised the simple completeness of the man and placed
Tushin side by side with Tatiana Markovna and her sister in her
affections. Raisky himself was attracted to this simple, gentle and yet
strong personality, and would like to have stayed longer at "Smoke," but
Tatiana Markovna wrote asking him to return without delay as his
presence was necessary at Malinovka.
Tushin offered to drive with him, for company's sake, as he said; in
reality he wanted to know why Tatiana Markovna had sent for Raisky,
whether there was a new turn in Vera's affairs, or any service to be
rendered her. He remembered uncomfortably his meeting with Mark, and how
unwillingly he had said that he was going away. Tushin wondered
anxiously whether he had kept his promise, whether he was annoying Vera
in any way.
When Raisky reached Malinovka he hurried straight to Vera. While his
impressions were still fresh, he drew in vivid colours a full length
portrait of Tushin, describing his surroundings and his activities with
Vera sighed, perhaps for sorrow that she did not love Tushin more and
Raisky would have gone on talking about his visit if he had not had a
message from his aunt that she would like to see him immediately. He
asked Vera if she knew why he had been sent for.
"I know something is wrong, but she has not told me, and I don't like to
ask. Indeed, I fear...."
She broke off, and at that moment Tushin sent in word to know if she
would receive him. She assented.
When Raisky entered her room, Tatiana Markovna dismissed Pashutka and
locked the door. She looked worried and old, and her appearance
"Has something disagreeable happened?" he asked, sitting down opposite
"What is done is done," she said sadly.
"I am sitting on needles, Grandmother. Tell me quickly."
"That old thief Tychkov has had his revenge on us both. He wormed out a
tale about me from a crazy old woman, but this has had no special
results, for people are indifferent to the past, and in any case I stand
with one foot in the grave, and don't care about myself, but Vera--"
"What about Vera, Grandmother?"
"Her secret has ceased to be a secret. Rumours are going about the town.
At first I did not understand why on Sunday at church, the
Vice-governor's wife asked me twice after Vera's health, and why two other
ladies listened curiously for my answers. I looked round, and read on
every face the same question, what was the matter with Vera? I said she
had been ill, but was better again. Then there were further questions,
and I extricated myself with difficulty. The real misfortune, thank God,
is concealed. I learned from Tiet Nikonich yesterday, that the gossip is
on the wrong track. Ivan Ivanovich is suspected. Do you remember that on
Marfinka's birthday he said not a word, but sat there like a mute, until
Vera came in, when he suddenly woke up. The guests, of course, noticed
it. In any case it has long been no secret that he loves Vera, and he
has no arts of concealment. People said that they vanished into the
garden, that Vera went later to the old house and Tushin drove away. Do
you know what he came for?"
"Vera and Tushin are coupled together in everybody's mouth."
"You said that Tychkov had dragged me in too."
"Paulina Karpovna did that. She went out to find you in the evening when
you were out late with Vera. You said something to her, apparently in
jest, which she understood in her own way, and she has involved you.
They say she had alienated you from Vera, with whom you were supposed to
be in love, and she keeps on repeating that she dragged you from the
precipice. What had you to do with her, and what is the tale about Vera?
Perhaps you had been in her confidence for a long time, and you both
kept silence with me--this is what your freedom has brought you to." She
"That silly old bird got off too easily," said Raisky, clenching his
fists. "To-morrow I will have it out with her."
"You have found someone whom you can call to account. What is the use of
reproaching her? She is ridiculous, and no one cares what she says. But
the old chatterbox Tychkov has established that on Marfinka's birthday,
Vera and Tushin had a long conversation in the avenue, that the day
before she stayed out far into the night, and was subsequently ill, and
he has put his own construction on Paulina Karpovna's tale. He is
trumpeting it in the town that it was not with you, but with Tushin that
she was walking about at night. Then to crown all a drunken old woman
made revelations about me. Tychkov has extracted everything...."
Tatiana's eyes dropped, and her face flushed for a moment.
"That is another story," said Raisky seriously, striding up and down the
room. "The lesson you gave him was not sufficient. I will try a
repetition of it."
"What do you mean? God forbid that you should. You will try to prove
that the tale is not true, which is not difficult; it is only necessary
to know where Ivan Ivanovich spent the evening before Marfinka's
birthday. Supposing he was in his forest, then people will ask who was
with Vera in the park. The Kritzki woman saw you at the top of the
precipice, and Vera was--"
"What is to be done?" asked Raisky in fear for Vera.
"God's judgments are put in the mouths of men," whispered Tatiana
Markovna sadly, "and they must not be despised. We must humble ourselves,
and our cup is apparently not yet full."
Conscious of the difficulties of their position, both were silent.
Vera's retired way of life, Tushin's devotion to her, her independence
of her aunt's authority, were familiar and accustomed facts. But
Raisky's attentions to her wrapped this simple situation in an
uncertainty, which Paulina Karpovna had noticed, and had naturally not
kept to herself. It was not only Tatiana Markovna who had marked out
Tushin as Vera's probable husband. The town expected two great events,
Marfinka's marriage with Vikentev which was about to take place, and, in
no distant future, Tushin's marriage with Vera. Then suddenly there were
these incomprehensible, unexpected happenings. On her sister's birthday
Vera appeared among the guests only for a moment, hardly spoke to anyone,
then vanished into the garden with Tushin, and afterwards to the old
house, while Tushin left without even saying good-bye to his hostess.
Paulina Markovna had related how Raisky, on the eve of the family
festival, had gone out for a walk with Vera.
Following on this Vera had fallen ill, then Tatiana Markovna, no one was
admitted to the house, Raisky wandered about like one possessed, and the
doctors gave no definite report.
There was no word or sign of a wedding. Why had Tushin not made his
offer, and if he made it, why was it not accepted? People surmised that
Raisky had entrapped Vera; if so, why did he not marry her. They were
determined to know who was wrong and who was right, and to give judgment
accordingly. Both Tatiana Markovna and Raisky were conscious of all this,
and feared the verdict for Vera's sake.
"Grandmother," said Raisky at last, "you must tell Ivan Ivanovich this
yourself, and be guided by what he says. I know his character now, and
am confident that he will decide on the right course. He loves Vera, and
cares more for what happens to her than to himself. He came over the
Volga with me because your letter to me made him anxious about Vera.
When you have talked this over with him, I will go to Paulina Karpovna,
and perhaps see Tychkov as well."