Part 2 out of 5
'If you feel the very slightest affection or respect for me,' said
Sanin, 'you will go at once home or to Herr Klüber's shop, and you
won't say one word to any one, and will wait for my return!'
'Your return,' moaned Emil--and his voice quivered and broke, 'but if
'Emil!' Sanin interrupted--and he pointed to the coachman, 'do control
yourself! Emil, please, go home! Listen to me, my dear! You say you
love me. Well, I beg you!' He held out his hand to him. Emil bent
forward, sobbed, pressed it to his lips, and darting away from the
road, ran back towards Frankfort across country.
'A noble heart too,' muttered Pantaleone; but Sanin glanced severely
at him.... The old man shrank into the corner of the carriage. He was
conscious of his fault; and moreover, he felt more and more bewildered
every instant; could it really be he who was acting as second, who had
got horses, and had made all arrangements, and had left his peaceful
abode at six o'clock? Besides, his legs were stiff and aching.
Sanin thought it as well to cheer him up, and he chanced on the very
thing, he hit on the right word.
'Where is your old spirit, Signor Cippatola? Where is _il antico
Signor Cippatola drew himself up and scowled '_Il antico valor_?' he
boomed in a bass voice. '_Non è ancora spento_ (it's not all lost
yet), _il antico valor!_'
He put himself in a dignified attitude, began talking of his career,
of the opera, of the great tenor Garcia--and arrived at Hanau a hero.
After all, if you think of it, nothing is stronger in the world ...
and weaker--than a word!
The copse in which the duel was to take place was a quarter of a mile
from Hanau. Sanin and Pantaleone arrived there first, as the latter
had predicted; they gave orders for the carriage to remain outside
the wood, and they plunged into the shade of the rather thick and
close-growing trees. They had to wait about an hour.
The time of waiting did not seem particularly disagreeable to Sanin;
he walked up and down the path, listened to the birds singing, watched
the dragonflies in their flight, and like the majority of Russians in
similar circumstances, tried not to think. He only once dropped into
reflection; he came across a young lime-tree, broken down, in all
probability by the squall of the previous night. It was unmistakably
dying ... all the leaves on it were dead. 'What is it? an omen?'
was the thought that flashed across his mind; but he promptly began
whistling, leaped over the very tree, and paced up and down the path.
As for Pantaleone, he was grumbling, abusing the Germans, sighing
and moaning, rubbing first his back and then his knees. He even
yawned from agitation, which gave a very comic expression to his tiny
shrivelled-up face. Sanin could scarcely help laughing when he looked
They heard, at last, the rolling of wheels along the soft road. 'It's
they!' said Pantaleone, and he was on the alert and drew himself up,
not without a momentary nervous shiver, which he made haste, however,
to cover with the ejaculation 'B-r-r!' and the remark that the morning
was rather fresh. A heavy dew drenched the grass and leaves, but the
sultry heat penetrated even into the wood.
Both the officers quickly made their appearance under its arched
avenues; they were accompanied by a little thick-set man, with a
phlegmatic, almost sleepy, expression of face--the army doctor. He
carried in one hand an earthenware pitcher of water--to be ready for
any emergency; a satchel with surgical instruments and bandages hung
on his left shoulder. It was obvious that he was thoroughly used to
such excursions; they constituted one of the sources of his income;
each duel yielded him eight gold crowns--four from each of the
combatants. Herr von Richter carried a case of pistols, Herr von
Dönhof--probably considering it the thing--was swinging in his hand a
'Pantaleone!' Sanin whispered to the old man; 'if ... if I'm
killed--anything may happen--take out of my side pocket a
paper--there's a flower wrapped up in it--and give the paper to
Signorina Gemma. Do you hear? You promise?'
The old man looked dejectedly at him, and nodded his head
affirmatively.... But God knows whether he understood what Sanin was
asking him to do.
The combatants and the seconds exchanged the customary bows; the
doctor alone did not move as much as an eyelash; he sat down yawning
on the grass, as much as to say, 'I'm not here for expressions of
chivalrous courtesy.' Herr von Richter proposed to Herr 'Tshibadola'
that he should select the place; Herr 'Tshibadola' responded, moving
his tongue with difficulty--'the wall' within him had completely given
way again. 'You act, my dear sir; I will watch....'
And Herr von Richter proceeded to act. He picked out in the wood close
by a very pretty clearing all studded with flowers; he measured out
the steps, and marked the two extreme points with sticks, which he cut
and pointed. He took the pistols out of the case, and squatting on his
heels, he rammed in the bullets; in short, he fussed about and exerted
himself to the utmost, continually mopping his perspiring brow with a
white handkerchief. Pantaleone, who accompanied him, was more like a
man frozen. During all these preparations, the two principals stood at
a little distance, looking like two schoolboys who have been punished,
and are sulky with their tutors.
The decisive moment arrived.... 'Each took his pistol....'
But at this point Herr von Richter observed to Pantaleone that it was
his duty, as the senior second, according to the rules of the duel,
to address a final word of advice and exhortation to be reconciled
to the combatants, before uttering the fatal 'one! two! three!'; that
although this exhortation had no effect of any sort and was, as a
rule, nothing but an empty formality, still, by the performance of
this formality, Herr Cippatola would be rid of a certain share of
responsibility; that, properly speaking, such an admonition formed the
direct duty of the so-called 'impartial witness' (_unpartheiischer
Zeuge_) but since they had no such person present, he, Herr von
Richter, would readily yield this privilege to his honoured colleague.
Pantaleone, who had already succeeded in obliterating himself behind
a bush, so as not to see the offending officer at all, at first made
out nothing at all of Herr von Richter's speech, especially, as it
had been delivered through the nose, but all of a sudden he started,
stepped hurriedly forward, and convulsively thumping at his chest, in
a hoarse voice wailed out in his mixed jargon: '_A la la la ... Che
bestialita! Deux zeun ommes comme ça que si battono--perchè? Che
diavolo? An data a casa!_'
'I will not consent to a reconciliation,' Sanin intervened hurriedly.
'And I too will not,' his opponent repeated after him.
'Well, then shout one, two, three!' von Richter said, addressing the
distracted Pantaleone. The latter promptly ducked behind the bush
again, and from there, all huddled together, his eyes screwed up, and
his head turned away, he shouted at the top of his voice: '_Una ...
due ... tre!_'
The first shot was Sanin's, and he missed. His bullet went
ping against a tree. Baron von Dönhof shot directly after
him--intentionally, to one side, into the air.
A constrained silence followed.... No one moved. Pantaleone uttered a
'Is it your wish to go on?' said Dönhof.
'Why did you shoot in the air?' inquired Sanin.
'That's nothing to do with you.'
'Will you shoot in the air the second time?' Sanin asked again.
'Possibly: I don't know.'
'Excuse me, excuse me, gentlemen ...' began von Richter; 'duellists
have not the right to talk together. That's out of order.'
'I decline my shot,' said Sanin, and he threw his pistol on the
'And I too do not intend to go on with the duel,' cried Dönhof, and he
too threw his pistol on the ground. 'And more than that, I am prepared
to own that I was in the wrong--the day before yesterday.'
He moved uneasily, and hesitatingly held out his hand. Sanin went
rapidly up to him and shook it. Both the young men looked at each
other with a smile, and both their faces flushed crimson.
'_Bravi! bravi!_' Pantaleone roared suddenly as if he had gone mad,
and clapping his hands, he rushed like a whirlwind from behind the
bush; while the doctor, who had been sitting on one side on a felled
tree, promptly rose, poured the water out of the jug and walked off
with a lazy, rolling step out of the wood.
'Honour is satisfied, and the duel is over!' von Richter announced.
'_Fuori!_' Pantaleone boomed once more, through old associations.
* * * * *
When he had exchanged bows with the officers, and taken his seat in
the carriage, Sanin certainly felt all over him, if not a sense of
pleasure, at least a certain lightness of heart, as after an operation
is over; but there was another feeling astir within him too, a feeling
akin to shame.... The duel, in which he had just played his part,
struck him as something false, a got-up formality, a common officers'
and students' farce. He recalled the phlegmatic doctor, he recalled
how he had grinned, that is, wrinkled up his nose when he saw him
coming out of the wood almost arm-in-arm with Baron Dönhof. And
afterwards when Pantaleone had paid him the four crowns due to him ...
Ah! there was something nasty about it!
Yes, Sanin was a little conscience-smitten and ashamed ... though, on
the other hand, what was there for him to have done? Could he have
left the young officer's insolence unrebuked? could he have behaved
like Herr Klüber? He had stood up for Gemma, he had championed her ...
that was so; and yet, there was an uneasy pang in his heart, and he
was conscience--smitten, and even ashamed.
Not so Pantaleone--he was simply in his glory! He was suddenly
possessed by a feeling of pride. A victorious general, returning from
the field of battle he has won, could not have looked about him with
greater self-satisfaction. Sanin's demeanour during the duel filled
him with enthusiasm. He called him a hero, and would not listen to his
exhortations and even his entreaties. He compared him to a monument
of marble or of bronze, with the statue of the commander in Don Juan!
For himself he admitted he had been conscious of some perturbation
of mind, 'but, of course, I am an artist,' he observed; 'I have a
highly-strung nature, while you are the son of the snows and the
Sanin was positively at a loss how to quiet the jubilant artist.
* * * * *
Almost at the same place in the road where two hours before they had
come upon Emil, he again jumped out from behind a tree, and, with a
cry of joy upon his lips, waving his cap and leaping into the air,
he rushed straight at the carriage, almost fell under the wheel,
and, without waiting for the horses to stop, clambered up over the
carriage-door and fairly clung to Sanin.
'You are alive, you are not wounded!' he kept repeating. 'Forgive me,
I did not obey you, I did not go back to Frankfort ... I could not! I
waited for you here ... Tell me how was it? You ... killed him?'
Sanin with some difficulty pacified Emil and made him sit down.
With great verbosity, with evident pleasure, Pantaleone communicated
to him all the details of the duel, and, of course, did not omit to
refer again to the monument of bronze and the statue of the commander.
He even rose from his seat and, standing with his feet wide apart to
preserve his equilibrium, folding his arm on his chest and looking
contemptuously over his shoulder, gave an ocular representation of the
commander--Sanin! Emil listened with awe, occasionally interrupting
the narrative with an exclamation, or swiftly getting up and as
swiftly kissing his heroic friend.
The carriage wheels rumbled over the paved roads of Frankfort, and
stopped at last before the hotel where Sanin was living.
Escorted by his two companions, he went up the stairs, when suddenly a
woman came with hurried steps out of the dark corridor; her face was
hidden by a veil, she stood still, facing Sanin, wavered a little,
gave a trembling sigh, at once ran down into the street and vanished,
to the great astonishment of the waiter, who explained that 'that
lady had been for over an hour waiting for the return of the foreign
gentleman.' Momentary as was the apparition, Sanin recognised Gemma.
He recognised her eyes under the thick silk of her brown veil.
'Did Fräulein Gemma know, then?'... he said slowly in a displeased
voice in German, addressing Emil and Pantaleone, who were following
close on his heels.
Emil blushed and was confused.
'I was obliged to tell her all,' he faltered; 'she guessed, and I
could not help it.... But now that's of no consequence,' he hurried to
add eagerly, 'everything has ended so splendidly, and she has seen you
well and uninjured!'
Sanin turned away.
'What a couple of chatterboxes you are!' he observed in a tone of
annoyance, as he went into his room and sat down on a chair.
'Don't be angry, please,' Emil implored.
'Very well, I won't be angry'--(Sanin was not, in fact, angry--and,
after all, he could hardly have desired that Gemma should know nothing
about it). 'Very well ... that's enough embracing. You get along now.
I want to be alone. I'm going to sleep. I'm tired.'
'An excellent idea!' cried Pantaleone. 'You need repose! You have
fully earned it, noble signor! Come along, Emilio! On tip-toe! On
When he said he wanted to go to sleep, Sanin had simply wished to get
rid of his companions; but when he was left alone, he was really aware
of considerable weariness in all his limbs; he had hardly closed his
eyes all the preceding night, and throwing himself on his bed he fell
immediately into a sound sleep.
He slept for some hours without waking. Then he began to dream that
he was once more fighting a duel, that the antagonist standing facing
him was Herr Klüber, and on a fir-tree was sitting a parrot, and this
parrot was Pantaleone, and he kept tapping with his beak: one, one,
'One ... one ... one!' he heard the tapping too distinctly; he opened
his eyes, raised his head ... some one was knocking at his door.
'Come in!' called Sanin.
The waiter came in and answered that a lady very particularly wished
to see him.
'Gemma!' flashed into his head ... but the lady turned out to be her
mother, Frau Lenore.
Directly she came in, she dropped at once into a chair and began to
'What is the matter, my dear, good Madame Roselli?' began Sanin,
sitting beside her and softly touching her hand. 'What has happened?
calm yourself, I entreat you.'
'Ah, Herr Dimitri, I am very ... very miserable!'
'You are miserable?'
'Ah, very! Could I have foreseen such a thing? All of a sudden, like
thunder from a clear sky ...'
She caught her breath.
'But what is it? Explain! Would you like a glass of water?'
'No, thank you.' Frau Lenore wiped her eyes with her handkerchief and
began to cry with renewed energy. 'I know all, you see! All!'
'All? that is to say?'
'Everything that took place to-day! And the cause ... I know that too!
You acted like an honourable man; but what an unfortunate combination
of circumstances! I was quite right in not liking that excursion to
Soden ... quite right!' (Frau Lenore had said nothing of the sort
on the day of the excursion, but she was convinced now that she had
foreseen 'all' even then.) 'I have come to you as to an honourable
man, as to a friend, though I only saw you for the first time five
days ago.... But you know I am a widow, a lonely woman.... My
Tears choked Frau Lenore's voice. Sanin did not know what to think.
'Your daughter?' he repeated.
'My daughter, Gemma,' broke almost with a groan from Frau Lenore,
behind the tear-soaked handkerchief, 'informed me to-day that she
would not marry Herr Klüber, and that I must refuse him!'
Sanin positively started back a little; he had not expected that.
'I won't say anything now,' Frau Lenore went on, 'of the disgrace
of it, of its being something unheard of in the world for a girl to
jilt her betrothed; but you see it's ruin for us, Herr Dimitri!' Frau
Lenore slowly and carefully twisted up her handkerchief in a tiny,
tiny little ball, as though she would enclose all her grief within it.
'We can't go on living on the takings of our shop, Herr Dimitri! and
Herr Klüber is very rich, and will be richer still. And what is he to
be refused for? Because he did not defend his betrothed? Allowing that
was not very handsome on his part, still, he's a civilian, has not had
a university education, and as a solid business man, it was for him
to look with contempt on the frivolous prank of some unknown little
officer. And what sort of insult was it, after all, Herr Dimitri?'
'Excuse me, Frau Lenore, you seem to be blaming me.'
'I am not blaming you in the least, not in the least! You're quite
another matter; you are, like all Russians, a military man ...'
'Excuse me, I'm not at all ...'
'You're a foreigner, a visitor, and I'm grateful to you,' Frau Lenore
went on, not heeding Sanin. She sighed, waved her hands, unwound her
handkerchief again, and blew her nose. Simply from the way in which
her distress expressed itself, it could be seen that she had not been
born under a northern sky.
'And how is Herr Klüber to look after his shop, if he is to fight
with his customers? It's utterly inconsistent! And now I am to send
him away! But what are we going to live on? At one time we were the
only people that made angel cakes, and nougat of pistachio nuts, and
we had plenty of customers; but now all the shops make angel cakes!
Only consider; even without this, they'll talk in the town about your
duel ... it's impossible to keep it secret. And all of a sudden, the
marriage broken off! It will be a scandal, a scandal! Gemma is a
splendid girl, she loves me; but she's an obstinate republican, she
doesn't care for the opinion of others. You're the only person that
can persuade her!'
Sanin was more amazed than ever. 'I, Frau Lenore?'
'Yes, you alone ... you alone. That's why I have come to you; I could
not think of anything else to do! You are so clever, so good! You
have fought in her defence. She will trust you! She is bound to trust
you--why, you have risked your life on her account! You will make her
understand, for I can do nothing more; you make her understand that
she will bring ruin on herself and all of us. You saved my son--save
my daughter too! God Himself sent you here ... I am ready on my knees
to beseech you....' And Frau Lenore half rose from her seat as though
about to fall at Sanin's feet.... He restrained her.
'Frau Lenore! For mercy's sake! What are you doing?'
She clutched his hand impulsively. 'You promise ...'
'Frau Lenore, think a moment; what right have I ...'
'You promise? You don't want me to die here at once before your eyes?'
Sanin was utterly nonplussed. It was the first time in his life he had
had to deal with any one of ardent Italian blood.
'I will do whatever you like,' he cried. 'I will talk to Fräulein
Frau Lenore uttered a cry of delight.
'Only I really can't say what result will come of it ...'
'Ah, don't go back, don't go back from your words!' cried Frau Lenore
in an imploring voice; 'you have already consented! The result is
certain to be excellent. Any way, _I_ can do nothing more! She won't
listen to _me_!'
'Has she so positively stated her disinclination to marry Herr
Klüber?' Sanin inquired after a short silence.
'As if she'd cut the knot with a knife! She's her father all over,
Giovanni Battista! Wilful girl!'
'Wilful? Is she!' ... Sanin said slowly. 'Yes ... yes ... but she's
an angel too. She will mind you. Are you coming soon? Oh, my dear
Russian friend!' Frau Lenore rose impulsively from her chair, and as
impulsively clasped the head of Sanin, who was sitting opposite her.
'Accept a mother's blessing--and give me some water!'
Sanin brought Signora Roselli a glass of water, gave her his word of
honour that he would come directly, escorted her down the stairs to
the street, and when he was back in his own room, positively threw up
his arms and opened his eyes wide in his amazement.
'Well,' he thought, 'well, _now_ life is going round in a whirl! And
it's whirling so that I'm giddy.' He did not attempt to look within,
to realise what was going on in himself: it was all uproar and
confusion, and that was all he knew! What a day it had been! His lips
murmured unconsciously: 'Wilful ... her mother says ... and I have got
to advise her ... her! And advise her what?'
Sanin, really, was giddy, and above all this whirl of shifting
sensations and impressions and unfinished thoughts, there floated
continually the image of Gemma, the image so ineffaceably impressed on
his memory on that hot night, quivering with electricity, in that dark
window, in the light of the swarming stars!
With hesitating footsteps Sanin approached the house of Signora
Roselli. His heart was beating violently; he distinctly felt, and even
heard it thumping at his side. What should he say to Gemma, how should
he begin? He went into the house, not through the shop, but by the
back entrance. In the little outer room he met Frau Lenore. She was
both relieved and scared at the sight of him.
'I have been expecting you,' she said in a whisper, squeezing his hand
with each of hers in turn. 'Go into the garden; she is there. Mind, I
rely on you!'
Sanin went into the garden.
Gemma was sitting on a garden-seat near the path, she was sorting a
big basket full of cherries, picking out the ripest, and putting them
on a dish. The sun was low--it was seven o'clock in the evening--and
there was more purple than gold in the full slanting light with which
it flooded the whole of Signora Roselli's little garden. From time
to time, faintly audibly, and as it were deliberately, the leaves
rustled, and belated bees buzzed abruptly as they flew from one
flower to the next, and somewhere a dove was cooing a never-changing,
unceasing note. Gemma had on the same round hat in which she had
driven to Soden. She peeped at Sanin from under its turned-down brim,
and again bent over the basket.
Sanin went up to Gemma, unconsciously making each step shorter, and
... and ... and nothing better could he find to say to her than to ask
why was she sorting the cherries.
Gemma was in no haste to reply.
'These are riper,' she observed at last, 'they will go into jam, and
those are for tarts. You know the round sweet tarts we sell?'
As she said those words, Gemma bent her head still lower, and her
right hand with two cherries in her fingers was suspended in the air
between the basket and the dish.
'May I sit by you?' asked Sanin.
'Yes.' Gemma moved a little along on the seat. Sanin placed himself
beside her. 'How am I to begin?' was his thought. But Gemma got him
out of his difficulty.
'You have fought a duel to-day,' she began eagerly, and she turned
all her lovely, bashfully flushing face to him--and what depths of
gratitude were shining in those eyes! 'And you are so calm! I suppose
for you danger does not exist?'
'Oh, come! I have not been exposed to any danger. Everything went off
very satisfactorily and inoffensively.'
Gemma passed her finger to right and to left before her eyes ... Also
an Italian gesture. 'No! no! don't say that! You won't deceive me!
Pantaleone has told me everything!'
'He's a trustworthy witness! Did he compare me to the statue of the
'His expressions may be ridiculous, but his feeling is not ridiculous,
nor is what you have done to-day. And all that on my account ... for
me ... I shall never forget it.'
'I assure you, Fräulein Gemma ...'
'I shall never forget it,' she said deliberately; once more she looked
intently at him, and turned away.
He could now see her delicate pure profile, and it seemed to him that
he had never seen anything like it, and had never known anything like
what he was feeling at that instant. His soul was on fire.
'And my promise!' flashed in among his thoughts.
'Fräulein Gemma ...' he began after a momentary hesitation.
She did not turn to him, she went on sorting the cherries, carefully
taking them by their stalks with her finger-tips, assiduously picking
out the leaves.... But what a confiding caress could be heard in that
'Has your mother said nothing to you ... about ...'
Gemma suddenly flung back into the basket the cherries she had taken.
'Has she been talking to you?' she asked in her turn.
'What has she been saying to you?'
'She told me that you ... that you have suddenly decided to change
... your former intention.' Gemma's head was bent again. She vanished
altogether under her hat; nothing could be seen but her neck, supple
and tender as the stalk of a big flower.
'Your intentions ... relative to ... the future arrangement of your
'That is ... you are speaking ... of Herr Klüber?'
'Mamma told you I don't want to be Herr Klüber's wife?'
Gemma moved forward on the seat. The basket tottered, fell ... a few
cherries rolled on to the path. A minute passed by ... another.
'Why did she tell you so?' he heard her voice saying. Sanin as before
could only see Gemma's neck. Her bosom rose and fell more rapidly than
'Why? Your mother thought that as you and I, in a short time, have
become, so to say, friends, and you have some confidence in me, I am
in a position to give you good advice--and you would mind what I say.'
Gemma's hands slowly slid on to her knees. She began plucking at the
folds of her dress.
'What advice will you give me, Monsieur Dimitri?' she asked, after a
Sanin saw that Gemma's fingers were trembling on her knees.... She was
only plucking at the folds of her dress to hide their trembling. He
softly laid his hand on those pale, shaking fingers.
'Gemma,' he said, 'why don't you look at me?' She instantly tossed her
hat back on to her shoulder, and bent her eyes upon him, confiding and
grateful as before. She waited for him to speak.... But the sight of
her face had bewildered, and, as it were, dazed him. The warm glow of
the evening sun lighted up her youthful head, and the expression of
that head was brighter, more radiant than its glow.
'I will mind what you say, Monsieur Dimitri,' she said, faintly
smiling, and faintly arching her brows; 'but what advice do you give
'What advice?' repeated Sanin. 'Well, you see, your mother considers
that to dismiss Herr Klüber simply because he did not show any special
courage the day before yesterday ...'
'Simply because?' said Gemma. She bent down, picked up the basket, and
set it beside her on the garden seat.
'That ... altogether ... to dismiss him, would be, on your part
... unreasonable; that it is a step, all the consequences of which
ought to be thoroughly weighed; that in fact the very position of
your affairs imposes certain obligations on every member of your
'All that is mamma's opinion,' Gemma interposed; 'those are her words;
but what is your opinion?'
'Mine?' Sanin was silent for a while. He felt a lump rising in his
throat and catching at his breath. 'I too consider,' he began with an
Gemma drew herself up. 'Too? You too?'
'Yes ... that is ...' Sanin was unable, positively unable to add a
single word more.
'Very well,' said Gemma. 'If you, as a friend, advise me to change my
decision--that is, not to change my former decision--I will think it
over.' Not knowing what she was doing, she began to tip the cherries
back from the plate into the basket.... 'Mamma hopes that I will mind
what you say. Well ... perhaps I really will mind what you say.'
'But excuse me, Fräulein Gemma, I should like first to know what
reason impelled you ...'
'I will mind what you say,' Gemma repeated, her face right up to her
brows was working, her cheeks were white, she was biting her lower
lip. 'You have done so much for me, that I am bound to do as you wish;
bound to carry out your wishes. I will tell mamma ... I will think
again. Here she is, by the way, coming here.'
Frau Lenore did in fact appear in the doorway leading from the house
to the garden. She was in an agony of impatience; she could not
keep still. According to her calculations, Sanin must long ago have
finished all he had to say to Gemma, though his conversation with her
had not lasted a quarter of an hour.
'No, no, no, for God's sake, don't tell her anything yet,' Sanin
articulated hurriedly, almost in alarm. 'Wait a little ... I will tell
you, I will write to you ... and till then don't decide on anything
He pressed Gemma's hand, jumped up from the seat, and to Frau Lenore's
great amazement, rushed past her, and raising his hat, muttered
something unintelligible--and vanished.
She went up to her daughter.
'Tell me, please, Gemma...'
The latter suddenly got up and hugged her. 'Dear mamma, can you wait a
little, a tiny bit ... till to-morrow? Can you? And till to-morrow not
a word?... Ah!...'
She burst into sudden happy tears, incomprehensible to herself. This
surprised Frau Lenore, the more as the expression of Gemma's face was
far from sorrowful,--rather joyful in fact.
'What is it?' she asked. 'You never cry and here, all at once ...'
'Nothing, mamma, never mind! you only wait. We must both wait a
little. Don't ask me anything till to-morrow--and let us sort the
cherries before the sun has set.'
'But you will be reasonable?'
'Oh, I'm very reasonable!' Gemma shook her head significantly. She
began to make up little bunches of cherries, holding them high above
her flushed face. She did not wipe away her tears; they had dried of
Almost running, Sanin returned to his hotel room. He felt, he knew
that only there, only by himself, would it be clear to him at last
what was the matter, what was happening to him. And so it was;
directly he had got inside his room, directly he had sat down to the
writing-table, with both elbows on the table and both hands pressed to
his face, he cried in a sad and choked voice, 'I love her, love her
madly!' and he was all aglow within, like a fire when a thick layer
of dead ash has been suddenly blown off. An instant more ... and he
was utterly unable to understand how he could have sat beside her
... her!--and talked to her and not have felt that he worshipped the
very hem of her garment, that he was ready as young people express
it 'to die at her feet.' The last interview in the garden had decided
everything. Now when he thought of her, she did not appear to him with
blazing curls in the shining starlight; he saw her sitting on the
garden-seat, saw her all at once tossing back her hat, and gazing at
him so confidingly ... and the tremor and hunger of love ran through
all his veins. He remembered the rose which he had been carrying about
in his pocket for three days: he snatched it out, and pressed it with
such feverish violence to his lips, that he could not help frowning
with the pain. Now he considered nothing, reflected on nothing, did
not deliberate, and did not look forward; he had done with all his
past, he leaped forward into the future; from the dreary bank of his
lonely bachelor life he plunged headlong into that glad, seething,
mighty torrent--and little he cared, little he wished to know, where
it would carry him, or whether it would dash him against a rock! No
more the soft-flowing currents of the Uhland song, which had lulled
him not long ago ... These were mighty, irresistible torrents! They
rush flying onwards and he flies with them....
He took a sheet of paper, and without blotting out a word, almost with
one sweep of the pen, wrote as follows:--
'DEAR GEMMA,--You know what advice I undertook to give you, what your
mother desired, and what she asked of me; but what you don't know and
what I must tell you now is, that I love you, love you with all the
ardour of a heart that loves for the first time! This passion has
flamed up in me suddenly, but with such force that I can find no words
for it! When your mother came to me and asked me, it was still only
smouldering in me, or else I should certainly, as an honest man, have
refused to carry out her request.... The confession I make you now is
the confession of an honest man. You ought to know whom you have to do
with--between us there should exist no misunderstandings. You see that
I cannot give you any advice.... I love you, love you, love you--and I
have nothing else--either in my head or in my heart!!
When he had folded and sealed this note, Sanin was on the point of
ringing for the waiter and sending it by him.... 'No!' he thought, 'it
would be awkward.... By Emil? But to go to the shop, and seek him out
there among the other employés, would be awkward too. Besides, it's
dark by now, and he has probably left the shop.' Reflecting after this
fashion, Sanin put on his hat, however, and went into the street; he
turned a corner, another, and to his unspeakable delight, saw Emil
before him. With a satchel under his arm, and a roll of papers in his
hand, the young enthusiast was hurrying home.
'They may well say every lover has a lucky star,' thought Sanin, and
he called to Emil.
The latter turned and at once rushed to him.
Sanin cut short his transports, handed him the note, and explained to
whom and how he was to deliver it.... Emil listened attentively.
'So that no one sees?' he inquired, assuming an important and
mysterious air, that said, 'We understand the inner meaning of it
'Yes, my friend,' said Sanin and he was a little disconcerted;
however, he patted Emil on the cheek.... 'And if there should be an
answer.... You will bring me the answer, won't you? I will stay at
'Don't worry yourself about that!' Emil whispered gaily; he ran off,
and as he ran nodded once more to him.
Sanin went back home, and without lighting a candle, flung himself
on the sofa, put his hands behind his head, and abandoned himself to
those sensations of newly conscious love, which it is no good even to
describe. One who has felt them knows their languor and sweetness; to
one who has felt them not, one could never make them known.
The door opened--Emil's head appeared.
'I have brought it,' he said in a whisper: 'here it is--the answer!'
He showed and waved above his head a folded sheet of paper.
Sanin leaped up from the sofa and snatched it out of Emil's hand.
Passion was working too powerfully within him: he had no thought of
reserve now, nor of the observance of a suitable demeanour--even
before this boy, her brother. He would have been scrupulous, he would
have controlled himself--if he could!
He went to the window, and by the light of a street lamp which stood
just opposite the house, he read the following lines:--
I beg you, I beseech you--_don't come to see us, don't show yourself
all day to-morrow_. It's necessary, absolutely necessary for me,
and then everything shall be settled. I know you will not say no,
Sanin read this note twice through. Oh, how touchingly sweet and
beautiful her handwriting seemed to him! He thought a little, and
turning to Emil, who, wishing to give him to understand what a
discreet young person he was, was standing with his face to the wall,
and scratching on it with his finger-nails, he called him aloud by
Emil ran at once to Sanin. 'What do you want me to do?'
'Listen, my young friend...'
'Monsieur Dimitri,' Emil interrupted in a plaintive voice, 'why do you
address me so formally?'
Sanin laughed. 'Oh, very well. Listen, my dearest boy--(Emil gave a
little skip of delight)--listen; _there_ you understand, there, you
will say, that everything shall be done exactly as is wished--(Emil
compressed his lips and nodded solemnly)--and as for me ... what are
you doing to-morrow, my dear boy?'
'I? what am I doing? What would you like me to do?'
'If you can, come to me early in the morning--and we will walk about
the country round Frankfort till evening.... Would you like to?'
Emil gave another little skip. 'I say, what in the world could be
jollier? Go a walk with you--why, it's simply glorious! I'll be sure
'And if they won't let you?'
'They will let me!'
'Listen ... Don't say _there_ that I asked you to come for the whole
'Why should I? But I'll get away all the same! What does it matter?'
Emil warmly kissed Sanin, and ran away.
Sanin walked up and down the room a long while, and went late to bed.
He gave himself up to the same delicate and sweet sensations, the same
joyous thrill at facing a new life. Sanin was very glad that the idea
had occurred to him to invite Emil to spend the next day with him; he
was like his sister. 'He will recall her,' was his thought.
But most of all, he marvelled how he could have been yesterday other
than he was to-day. It seemed to him that he had loved Gemma for all
time; and that he had loved her just as he loved her to-day.
At eight o'clock next morning, Emil arrived at Sanin's hotel leading
Tartaglia by a string. Had he sprung of German parentage, he could
not have shown greater practicality. He had told a lie at home; he
had said he was going for a walk with Sanin till lunch-time, and then
going to the shop. While Sanin was dressing, Emil began to talk to
him, rather hesitatingly, it is true, about Gemma, about her rupture
with Herr Klüber; but Sanin preserved an austere silence in reply, and
Emil, looking as though he understood why so serious a matter should
not be touched on lightly, did not return to the subject, and only
assumed from time to time an intense and even severe expression.
After drinking coffee, the two friends set off together--on foot,
of course--to Hausen, a little village lying a short distance from
Frankfort, and surrounded by woods. The whole chain of the Taunus
mountains could be seen clearly from there. The weather was lovely;
the sunshine was bright and warm, but not blazing hot; a fresh wind
rustled briskly among the green leaves; the shadows of high, round
clouds glided swiftly and smoothly in small patches over the earth.
The two young people soon got out of the town, and stepped out boldly
and gaily along the well-kept road. They reached the woods, and
wandered about there a long time; then they lunched very heartily at
a country inn; then climbed on to the mountains, admired the views,
rolled stones down and clapped their hands, watching the queer droll
way in which the stones hopped along like rabbits, till a man passing
below, unseen by them, began abusing them in a loud ringing voice.
Then they lay full length on the short dry moss of yellowish-violet
colour; then they drank beer at another inn; ran races, and tried for
a wager which could jump farthest. They discovered an echo, and began
to call to it; sang songs, hallooed, wrestled, broke up dry twigs,
decked their hats with fern, and even danced. Tartaglia, as far as he
could, shared in all these pastimes; he did not throw stones, it is
true, but he rolled head over heels after them; he howled when they
were singing, and even drank beer, though with evident aversion;
he had been trained in this art by a student to whom he had once
belonged. But he was not prompt in obeying Emil--not as he was with
his master Pantaleone--and when Emil ordered him to 'speak,' or to
'sneeze,' he only wagged his tail and thrust out his tongue like a
The young people talked, too. At the beginning of the walk, Sanin, as
the elder, and so more reflective, turned the conversation on fate and
predestination, and the nature and meaning of man's destiny; but the
conversation quickly took a less serious turn. Emil began to question
his friend and patron about Russia, how duels were fought there, and
whether the women there were beautiful, and whether one could learn
Russian quickly, and what he had felt when the officer took aim
at him. Sanin, on his side, questioned Emil about his father, his
mother, and in general about their family affairs, trying every time
not to mention Gemma's name--and thinking only of her. To speak more
precisely, it was not of her he was thinking, but of the morrow, the
mysterious morrow which was to bring him new, unknown happiness! It
was as though a veil, a delicate, bright veil, hung faintly fluttering
before his mental vision; and behind this veil he felt ... felt the
presence of a youthful, motionless, divine image, with a tender smile
on its lips, and eyelids severely--with affected seventy--downcast.
And this image was not the face of Gemma, it was the face of happiness
itself! For, behold, at last _his_ hour had come, the veil had
vanished, the lips were parting, the eyelashes are raised--his
divinity has looked upon him--and at once light as from the sun,
and joy and bliss unending! He dreamed of this morrow--and his soul
thrilled with joy again in the melting torture of ever-growing
And this expectation, this torture, hindered nothing. It accompanied
every action, and did not prevent anything. It did not prevent him
from dining capitally at a third inn with Emil; and only occasionally,
like a brief flash of lightning, the thought shot across him, What
if any one in the world knew? This suspense did not prevent him from
playing leap-frog with Emil after dinner. The game took place on an
open green lawn. And the confusion, the stupefaction of Sanin may be
imagined! At the very moment when, accompanied by a sharp bark from
Tartaglia, he was flying like a bird, with his legs outspread over
Emil, who was bent double, he suddenly saw on the farthest border of
the lawn two officers, in whom he recognised at once his adversary and
his second, Herr von Dönhof and Herr von Richter! Each of them had
stuck an eyeglass in his eye, and was staring at him, chuckling!...
Sanin got on his feet, turned away hurriedly, put on the coat he had
flung down, jerked out a word to Emil; the latter, too, put on his
jacket, and they both immediately made off.
It was late when they got back to Frankfort. 'They'll scold me,' Emil
said to Sanin as he said good-bye to him. 'Well, what does it matter?
I've had such a splendid, splendid day!'
When he got home to his hotel, Sanin found a note there from Gemma.
She fixed a meeting with him for next day, at seven o'clock in the
morning, in one of the public gardens which surround Frankfort on all
How his heart throbbed! How glad he was that he had obeyed her so
unconditionally! And, my God, what was promised ... what was not
promised, by that unknown, unique, impossible, and undubitably certain
He feasted his eyes on Gemma's note. The long, elegant tail of the
letter G, the first letter of her name, which stood at the bottom of
the sheet, reminded him of her lovely fingers, her hand.... He thought
that he had not once touched that hand with his lips.... 'Italian
women,' he mused, 'in spite of what's said of them, are modest and
severe.... And Gemma above all! Queen ... goddess ... pure, virginal
'But the time will come; and it is not far off....' There was that
night in Frankfort one happy man.... He slept; but he might have said
of himself in the words of the poet:
'I sleep ... but my watchful heart sleeps not.'
And it fluttered as lightly as a butterfly flutters his wings, as he
stoops over the flowers in the summer sunshine.
At five o'clock Sanin woke up, at six he was dressed, at half-past
six he was walking up and down the public garden within sight of the
little arbour which Gemma had mentioned in her note. It was a still,
warm, grey morning. It sometimes seemed as though it were beginning
to rain; but the outstretched hand felt nothing, and only looking at
one's coat-sleeve, one could see traces of tiny drops like diminutive
beads, but even these were soon gone. It seemed there had never been
a breath of wind in the world. Every sound moved not, but was shed
around in the stillness. In the distance was a faint thickening of
whitish mist; in the air there was a scent of mignonette and white
In the streets the shops were not open yet, but there were already
some people walking about; occasionally a solitary carriage rumbled
along ... there was no one walking in the garden. A gardener was in a
leisurely way scraping the path with a spade, and a decrepit old woman
in a black woollen cloak was hobbling across the garden walk. Sanin
could not for one instant mistake this poor old creature for Gemma;
and yet his heart leaped, and he watched attentively the retreating
patch of black.
Seven! chimed the clock on the tower. Sanin stood still. Was it
possible she would not come? A shiver of cold suddenly ran through
his limbs. The same shiver came again an instant later, but from a
different cause. Sanin heard behind him light footsteps, the light
rustle of a woman's dress.... He turned round: she!
Gemma was coming up behind him along the path. She was wearing a grey
cape and a small dark hat. She glanced at Sanin, turned her head away,
and catching him up, passed rapidly by him.
'Gemma,' he articulated, hardly audibly.
She gave him a little nod, and continued to walk on in front. He
He breathed in broken gasps. His legs shook under him.
Gemma passed by the arbour, turned to the right, passed by a small
flat fountain, in which the sparrows were splashing busily, and, going
behind a clump of high lilacs, sank down on a bench. The place was
snug and hidden. Sanin sat down beside her.
A minute passed, and neither he nor she uttered a word. She did not
even look at him; and he gazed not at her face, but at her clasped
hands, in which she held a small parasol. What was there to tell, what
was there to say, which could compare, in importance, with the simple
fact of their presence there, together, alone, so early, so close to
'You ... are not angry with me?' Sanin articulated at last.
It would have been difficult for Sanin to have said anything more
foolish than these words ... he was conscious of it himself.... But,
at any rate, the silence was broken.
'Angry?' she answered. 'What for? No.'
'And you believe me?' he went on.
'In what you wrote?'
Gemma's head sank, and she said nothing. The parasol slipped out of
her hands. She hastily caught it before it dropped on the path.
'Ah, believe me! believe what I wrote to you!' cried Sanin; all his
timidity suddenly vanished, he spoke with heat; 'if there is truth
on earth--sacred, absolute truth--it's that I love, love you
She flung him a sideway, momentary glance, and again almost dropped
'Believe me! believe me!' he repeated. He besought her, held out his
hands to her, and did not dare to touch her. 'What do you want me to
do ... to convince you?'
She glanced at him again.
'Tell me, Monsieur Dimitri,' she began; 'the day before yesterday,
when you came to talk to me, you did not, I imagine, know then ... did
not feel ...'
'I felt it,' Sanin broke in; 'but I did not know it. I have loved you
from the very instant I saw you; but I did not realise at once what
you had become to me! And besides, I heard that you were solemnly
betrothed.... As far as your mother's request is concerned--in the
first place, how could I refuse?--and secondly, I think I carried out
her request in such a way that you could guess....'
They heard a heavy tread, and a rather stout gentleman with a knapsack
over his shoulder, apparently a foreigner, emerged from behind the
clump, and staring, with the unceremoniousness of a tourist, at the
couple sitting on the garden-seat, gave a loud cough and went on.
'Your mother,' Sanin began, as soon as the sound of the heavy
footsteps had ceased, 'told me your breaking off your engagement would
cause a scandal'--Gemma frowned a little--that I was myself in part
responsible for unpleasant gossip, and that ... consequently ... I
was, to some extent, under an obligation to advise you not to break
with your betrothed, Herr Klüber....'
'Monsieur Dimitri,' said Gemma, and she passed her hand over her hair
on the side turned towards Sanin, 'don't, please, call Herr Klüber my
betrothed. I shall never be his wife. I have broken with him.'
'You have broken with him? when?'
'You saw him?'
'Yes. At our house. He came to see us.'
'Gemma? Then you love me?'
She turned to him.
'Should ... I have come here, if not?' she whispered, and both her
hands fell on the seat.
Sanin snatched those powerless, upturned palms, and pressed them to
his eyes, to his lips.... Now the veil was lifted of which he had
dreamed the night before! Here was happiness, here was its radiant
He raised his head, and looked at Gemma, boldly and directly. She,
too, looked at him, a little downwards. Her half-shut eyes faintly
glistened, dim with light, blissful tears. Her face was not smiling
... no! it laughed, with a blissful, noiseless laugh.
He tried to draw her to him, but she drew back, and never ceasing to
laugh the same noiseless laugh, shook her head. 'Wait a little,' her
happy eyes seemed to say.
'O Gemma!' cried Sanin: 'I never dreamed that you would love me!'
'I did not expect this myself,' Gemma said softly.
'How could I ever have dreamed,' Sanin went on, 'when I came to
Frankfort, where I only expected to remain a few hours, that I should
find here the happiness of all my life!'
'All your life? Really?' queried Gemma.
'All my life, for ever and ever!' cried Sanin with fresh ardour.
The gardener's spade suddenly scraped two paces from where they were
'Let's go home,' whispered Gemma: 'we'll go together--will you?'
If she had said to him at that instant 'Throw yourself in the sea,
will you?' he would have been flying headlong into the ocean before
she had uttered the last word.
They went together out of the garden and turned homewards, not by the
streets of the town, but through the outskirts.
Sanin walked along, at one time by Gemma's side, at another time a
little behind her. He never took his eyes off her and never ceased
smiling. She seemed to hasten ... seemed to linger. As a matter of
fact, they both--he all pale, and she all flushed with emotion--were
moving along as in a dream. What they had done together a few instants
before--that surrender of each soul to another soul--was so intense,
so new, and so moving; so suddenly everything in their lives had been
changed and displaced that they could not recover themselves, and were
only aware of a whirlwind carrying them along, like the whirlwind
on that night, which had almost flung them into each other's arms.
Sanin walked along, and felt that he even looked at Gemma with other
eyes; he instantly noted some peculiarities in her walk, in her
movements,--and heavens! how infinitely sweet and precious they were
to him! And she felt that that was how he was looking at her.
Sanin and she were in love for the first time; all the miracles of
first love were working in them. First love is like a revolution; the
uniformly regular routine of ordered life is broken down and shattered
in one instant; youth mounts the barricade, waves high its bright
flag, and whatever awaits it in the future--death or a new life--all
alike it goes to meet with ecstatic welcome.
'What's this? Isn't that our old friend?' said Sanin, pointing to a
muffled-up figure, which hurriedly slipped a little aside as though
trying to remain unobserved. In the midst of his abundant happiness he
felt a need to talk to Gemma, not of love--that was a settled thing
and holy--but of something else.
'Yes, it's Pantaleone,' Gemma answered gaily and happily. 'Most likely
he has been following me ever since I left home; all day yesterday he
kept watching every movement I made ... He guesses!'
'He guesses!' Sanin repeated in ecstasy. What could Gemma have said at
which he would not have been in ecstasy?
Then he asked her to tell him in detail all that had passed the day
And she began at once telling him, with haste, and confusion, and
smiles, and brief sighs, and brief bright looks exchanged with Sanin.
She said that after their conversation the day before yesterday,
mamma had kept trying to get out of her something positive; but that
she had put off Frau Lenore with a promise to tell her her decision
within twenty-four hours; how she had demanded this limit of time
for herself, and how difficult it had been to get it; how utterly
unexpectedly Herr Klüber had made his appearance more starched and
affected than ever; how he had given vent to his indignation at the
childish, unpardonable action of the Russian stranger--'he meant
your duel, Dimitri,'--which he described as deeply insulting to him,
Klüber, and how he had demanded that 'you should be at once refused
admittance to the house, Dimitri.' 'For,' he had added--and here
Gemma slightly mimicked his voice and manner--'"it casts a slur on
my honour; as though I were not able to defend my betrothed, had
I thought it necessary or advisable! All Frankfort will know by
to-morrow that an outsider has fought a duel with an officer on
account of my betrothed--did any one ever hear of such a thing! It
tarnishes my honour!" Mamma agreed with him--fancy!--but then I
suddenly told him that he was troubling himself unnecessarily about
his honour and his character, and was unnecessarily annoyed at the
gossip about his betrothed, for I was no longer betrothed to him and
would never be his wife! I must own, I had meant to talk to you first
... before breaking with him finally; but he came ... and I could not
restrain myself. Mamma positively screamed with horror, but I went
into the next room and got his ring--you didn't notice, I took it off
two days ago--and gave it to him. He was fearfully offended, but as he
is fearfully self-conscious and conceited, he did not say much, and
went away. Of course I had to go through a great deal with mamma, and
it made me very wretched to see how distressed she was, and I thought
I had been a little hasty; but you see I had your note, and even apart
from it I knew ...'
'That I love you,' put in Sanin.
'Yes ... that you were in love with me.'
So Gemma talked, hesitating and smiling and dropping her voice or
stopping altogether every time any one met them or passed by. And
Sanin listened ecstatically, enjoying the very sound of her voice, as
the day before he had gloated over her handwriting.
'Mamma is very much distressed,' Gemma began again, and her words
flew very rapidly one after another; 'she refuses to take into
consideration that I dislike Herr Klüber, that I never was betrothed
to him from love, but only because of her urgent entreaties....
She suspects--you, Dimitri; that's to say, to speak plainly, she's
convinced I'm in love with you, and she is more unhappy about it
because only the day before yesterday nothing of the sort had occurred
to her, and she even begged you to advise me.... It was a strange
request, wasn't it? Now she calls you ... Dimitri, a hypocrite and
a cunning fellow, says that you have betrayed her confidence, and
predicts that you will deceive me....'
'But, Gemma,' cried Sanin, 'do you mean to say you didn't tell
'I told her nothing! What right had I without consulting you?'
Sanin threw up his arms. 'Gemma, I hope that now, at least, you will
tell all to her and take me to her.... I want to convince your mother
that I am not a base deceiver!'
Sanin's bosom fairly heaved with the flood of generous and ardent
Gemma looked him full in the face. 'You really want to go with me
now to mamma? to mamma, who maintains that ... all this between us
is impossible--and can never come to pass?' There was one word Gemma
could not bring herself to utter.... It burnt her lips; but all the
more eagerly Sanin pronounced it.
'Marry you, Gemma, be your husband--I can imagine no bliss greater!'
To his love, his magnanimity, his determination--he was aware of no
When she heard those words, Gemma, who had stopped still for an
instant, went on faster than ever.... She seemed trying to run away
from this too great and unexpected happiness! But suddenly her
steps faltered. Round the corner of a turning, a few paces from
her, in a new hat and coat, straight as an arrow and curled like a
poodle--emerged Herr Klüber. He caught sight of Gemma, caught sight
of Sanin, and with a sort of inward snort and a backward bend of his
supple figure, he advanced with a dashing swing to meet them. Sanin
felt a pang; but glancing at Klüber's face, to which its owner
endeavoured, as far as in him lay, to give an expression of scornful
amazement, and even commiseration, glancing at that red-cheeked,
vulgar face, he felt a sudden rush of anger, and took a step forward.
Gemma seized his arm, and with quiet decision, giving him hers, she
looked her former betrothed full in the face.... The latter screwed up
his face, shrugged his shoulders, shuffled to one side, and muttering
between his teeth, 'The usual end to the song!' (Das alte Ende vom
Liede!)--walked away with the same dashing, slightly skipping gait.
'What did he say, the wretched creature?' asked Sanin, and would have
rushed after Klüber; but Gemma held him back and walked on with him,
not taking away the arm she had slipped into his.
The Rosellis' shop came into sight. Gemma stopped once more.
'Dimitri, Monsieur Dimitri,' she said, 'we are not there yet, we have
not seen mamma yet.... If you would rather think a little, if ... you
are still free, Dimitri!'
In reply Sanin pressed her hand tightly to his bosom, and drew her on.
'Mamma,' said Gemma, going with Sanin to the room where Frau Lenore
was sitting, 'I have brought the real one!'
If Gemma had announced that she had brought with her cholera or death
itself, one can hardly imagine that Frau Lenore could have received
the news with greater despair. She immediately sat down in a corner,
with her face to the wall, and burst into floods of tears, positively
wailed, for all the world like a Russian peasant woman on the grave of
her husband or her son. For the first minute Gemma was so taken aback
that she did not even go up to her mother, but stood still like a
statue in the middle of the room; while Sanin was utterly stupefied,
to the point of almost bursting into tears himself! For a whole hour
that inconsolable wail went on--a whole hour! Pantaleone thought it
better to shut the outer door of the shop, so that no stranger should
come; luckily, it was still early. The old man himself did not know
what to think, and in any case, did not approve of the haste with
which Gemma and Sanin had acted; he could not bring himself to blame
them, and was prepared to give them his support in case of need:
he greatly disliked Klüber! Emil regarded himself as the medium of
communication between his friend and his sister, and almost prided
himself on its all having turned out so splendidly! He was positively
unable to conceive why Frau Lenore was so upset, and in his heart he
decided on the spot that women, even the best of them, suffer from a
lack of reasoning power! Sanin fared worst of all. Frau Lenore rose to
a howl and waved him off with her hands, directly he approached her;
and it was in vain that he attempted once or twice to shout aloud,
standing at a distance, 'I ask you for your daughter's hand!' Frau
Lenore was particularly angry with herself. 'How could she have been
so blind--have seen nothing? Had my Giovann' Battista been alive,'
she persisted through her tears, 'nothing of this sort would have
happened!' 'Heavens, what's it all about?' thought Sanin; 'why, it's
positively senseless!' He did not dare to look at Gemma, nor could she
pluck up courage to lift her eyes to him. She restricted herself to
waiting patiently on her mother, who at first repelled even her....
At last, by degrees, the storm abated. Frau Lenore gave over weeping,
permitted Gemma to bring her out of the corner, where she sat huddled
up, to put her into an arm-chair near the window, and to give her some
orange-flower water to drink. She permitted Sanin--not to approach
... oh, no!--but, at any rate, to remain in the room--she had kept
clamouring for him to go away--and did not interrupt him when he
spoke. Sanin immediately availed himself of the calm as it set in, and
displayed an astounding eloquence. He could hardly have explained his
intentions and emotions with more fire and persuasive force even to
Gemma herself. Those emotions were of the sincerest, those intentions
were of the purest, like Almaviva's in the _Barber of Seville_. He
did not conceal from Frau Lenore nor from himself the disadvantageous
side of those intentions; but the disadvantages were only apparent!
It is true he was a foreigner; they had not known him long, they knew
nothing positive about himself or his means; but he was prepared to
bring forward all the necessary evidence that he was a respectable
person and not poor; he would refer them to the most unimpeachable
testimony of his fellow-countrymen! He hoped Gemma would be happy with
him, and that he would be able to make up to her for the separation
from her own people!... The allusion to 'separation'--the mere word
'separation'--almost spoiled the whole business.... Frau Lenore began
to tremble all over and move about uneasily.... Sanin hastened to
observe that the separation would only be temporary, and that, in
fact, possibly it would not take place at all!
Sanin's eloquence was not thrown away. Frau Lenore began to glance at
him, though still with bitterness and reproach, no longer with the
same aversion and fury; then she suffered him to come near her, and
even to sit down beside her (Gemma was sitting on the other side);
then she fell to reproaching him,--not in looks only, but in words,
which already indicated a certain softening of heart; she fell to
complaining, and her complaints became quieter and gentler; they were
interspersed with questions addressed at one time to her daughter, and
at another to Sanin; then she suffered him to take her hand and did
not at once pull it away ... then she wept again, but her tears were
now quite of another kind.... Then she smiled mournfully, and lamented
the absence of Giovanni Battista, but quite on different grounds from
before.... An instant more and the two criminals, Sanin and Gemma,
were on their knees at her feet, and she was laying her hands on their
heads in turn; another instant and they were embracing and kissing
her, and Emil, his face beaming rapturously, ran into the room and
added himself to the group so warmly united.
Pantaleone peeped into the room, smiled and frowned at the same time,
and going into the shop, opened the front door.
The transition from despair to sadness, and from that to 'gentle
resignation,' was accomplished fairly quickly in Frau Lenore; but
that gentle resignation, too, was not slow in changing into a
secret satisfaction, which was, however, concealed in every way and
suppressed for the sake of appearances. Sanin had won Frau Lenore's
heart from the first day of their acquaintance; as she got used to
the idea of his being her son-in-law, she found nothing particularly
distasteful in it, though she thought it her duty to preserve
a somewhat hurt, or rather careworn, expression on her face.
Besides, everything that had happened the last few days had been so
extraordinary.... One thing upon the top of another. As a practical
woman and a mother, Frau Lenore considered it her duty also to put
Sanin through various questions; and Sanin, who, on setting out that
morning to meet Gemma, had not a notion that he should marry her--it
is true he did not think of anything at all at that time, but simply
gave himself up to the current of his passion--Sanin entered, with
perfect readiness, one might even say with zeal, into his part--the
part of the betrothed lover, and answered all her inquiries
circumstantially, exactly, with alacrity. When she had satisfied
herself that he was a real nobleman by birth, and had even expressed
some surprise that he was not a prince, Frau Lenore assumed a serious
air and 'warned him betimes' that she should be quite unceremoniously
frank with him, as she was forced to be so by her sacred duty as a
mother! To which Sanin replied that he expected nothing else from her,
and that he earnestly begged her not to spare him!
Then Frau Lenore observed that Herr Klüber--as she uttered the name,
she sighed faintly, tightened her lips, and hesitated--Herr Klüber,
Gemma's former betrothed, already possessed an income of eight
thousand guldens, and that with every year this sum would rapidly be
increased; and what was his, Herr Sanin's income? 'Eight thousand
guldens,' Sanin repeated deliberately.... 'That's in our money ...
about fifteen thousand roubles.... My income is much smaller. I have
a small estate in the province of Tula.... With good management, it
might yield--and, in fact, it could not fail to yield--five or six
thousand ... and if I go into the government service, I can easily get
a salary of two thousand a year.'
'Into the service in Russia?' cried Frau Lenore, 'Then I must part
'One might be able to enter in the diplomatic service,' Sanin put
in; 'I have some connections.... There one's duties lie abroad. Or
else, this is what one might do, and that's much the best of all:
sell my estate and employ the sum received for it in some profitable
undertaking; for instance, the improvement of your shop.' Sanin was
aware that he was saying something absurd, but he was possessed by an
incomprehensible recklessness! He looked at Gemma, who, ever since
the 'practical' conversation began, kept getting up, walking about
the room, and sitting down again--he looked at her--and no obstacle
existed for him, and he was ready to arrange everything at once in the
best way, if only she were not troubled!
'Herr Klüber, too, had intended to give me a small sum for the
improvement of the shop,' Lenore observed after a slight hesitation.
'Mother! for mercy's sake, mother!' cried Gemma in Italian.
'These things must be discussed in good time, my daughter,' Frau
Lenore replied in the same language. She addressed herself again to
Sanin, and began questioning him as to the laws existing in Russia
as to marriage, and whether there were no obstacles to contracting
marriages with Catholics as in Prussia. (At that time, in 1840,
all Germany still remembered the controversy between the Prussian
Government and the Archbishop of Cologne upon mixed marriages.)
When Frau Lenore heard that by marrying a Russian nobleman, her
daughter would herself become of noble rank, she evinced a certain
satisfaction. 'But, of course, you will first have to go to Russia?'
'Why? Why, to obtain the permission of your Tsar.'
Sanin explained to her that that was not at all necessary ... but that
he might certainly have to go to Russia for a very short time before
his marriage--(he said these words, and his heart ached painfully,
Gemma watching him, knew it was aching, and blushed and grew
dreamy)--and that he would try to take advantage of being in his own
country to sell his estate ... in any case he would bring back the
'I would ask you to bring me back some good Astrakhan lambskin for
a cape,' said Frau Lenore. 'They're wonderfully good, I hear, and
'Certainly, with the greatest pleasure, I will bring some for you and
for Gemma!' cried Sanin.
'And for me a morocco cap worked in silver,' Emil interposed, putting
his head in from the next room.
'Very well, I will bring it you ... and some slippers for Pantaleone.'
'Come, that's nonsense, nonsense,' observed Frau Lenore. 'We are
talking now of serious matters. But there's another point,' added the
practical lady. 'You talk of selling your estate. But how will you do
that? Will you sell your peasants then, too?'
Sanin felt something like a stab at his heart. He remembered that in
a conversation with Signora Roselli and her daughter about serfdom,
which, in his own words, aroused his deepest indignation, he had
repeatedly assured them that never on any account would he sell his
peasants, as he regarded such a sale as an immoral act.
'I will try and sell my estate to some man I know something of,'
he articulated, not without faltering, 'or perhaps the peasants
themselves will want to buy their freedom.'
'That would be best of all,' Frau Lenore agreed. 'Though indeed
selling live people ...'
'_Barbari_!' grumbled Pantaleone, who showed himself behind Emil in
the doorway, shook his topknot, and vanished.
'It's a bad business!' Sanin thought to himself, and stole a look
at Gemma. She seemed not to have heard his last words. 'Well, never
mind!' he thought again. In this way the practical talk continued
almost uninterruptedly till dinner-time. Frau Lenore was completely
softened at last, and already called Sanin 'Dimitri,' shook her finger
affectionately at him, and promised she would punish him for his
treachery. She asked many and minute questions about his relations,
because 'that too is very important'; asked him to describe the
ceremony of marriage as performed by the ritual of the Russian Church,
and was in raptures already at Gemma in a white dress, with a gold
crown on her head.
'She's as lovely as a queen,' she murmured with motherly pride,'
indeed there's no queen like her in the world!'
'There is no one like Gemma in the world!' Sanin chimed in.
'Yes; that's why she is Gemma!' (Gemma, as every one knows, means in
Italian a precious stone.)
Gemma flew to kiss her mother.... It seemed as if only then she
breathed freely again, and the load that had been oppressing her
dropped from off her soul.
Sanin felt all at once so happy, his heart was filled with such
childish gaiety at the thought, that here, after all, the dreams had
come true to which he had abandoned himself not long ago in these very
rooms, his whole being was in such a turmoil that he went quickly
out into the shop. He felt a great desire, come what might, to sell
something in the shop, as he had done a few days before.... 'I have a
full right to do so now!' he felt. 'Why, I am one of the family now!'
And he actually stood behind the counter, and actually kept shop, that
is, sold two little girls, who came in, a pound of sweets, giving them
fully two pounds, and only taking half the price from them.
At dinner he received an official position, as betrothed, beside
Gemma. Frau Lenore pursued her practical investigations. Emil kept
laughing and urging Sanin to take him with him to Russia. It was
decided that Sanin should set off in a fortnight. Only Pantaleone
showed a somewhat sullen face, so much so that Frau Lenore reproached
him. 'And he was his second!' Pantaleone gave her a glance from under
Gemma was silent almost all the time, but her face had never been
lovelier or brighter. After dinner she called Sanin out a minute into
the garden, and stopping beside the very garden-seat where she had
been sorting the cherries two days before, she said to him. 'Dimitri,
don't be angry with me; but I must remind you once more that you are
not to consider yourself bound ...'
He did not let her go on....
Gemma turned away her face. 'And as for what mamma spoke of, do you
remember, the difference of our religion--see here!...'
She snatched the garnet cross that hung round her neck on a thin cord,
gave it a violent tug, snapped the cord, and handed him the cross.
'If I am yours, your faith is my faith!' Sanin's eyes were still wet
when he went back with Gemma into the house.
By the evening everything went on in its accustomed way. They even
played a game of _tresette_.
Sanin woke up very early. He found himself at the highest pinnacle of
human happiness; but it was not that prevented him from sleeping; the
question, the vital, fateful question--how he could dispose of his
estate as quickly and as advantageously as possible--disturbed his
rest. The most diverse plans were mixed up in his head, but nothing
had as yet come out clearly. He went out of the house to get air and
freshen himself. He wanted to present himself to Gemma with a project
ready prepared and not without.
What was the figure, somewhat ponderous and thick in the legs, but
well-dressed, walking in front of him, with a slight roll and waddle
in his gait? Where had he seen that head, covered with tufts of flaxen
hair, and as it were set right into the shoulders, that soft cushiony
back, those plump arms hanging straight down at his sides? Could it be
Polozov, his old schoolfellow, whom he had lost sight of for the last
five years? Sanin overtook the figure walking in front of him, turned
round.... A broad, yellowish face, little pig's eyes, with white
lashes and eyebrows, a short flat nose, thick lips that looked glued
together, a round smooth chin, and that expression, sour, sluggish,
and mistrustful--yes; it was he, it was Ippolit Polozov!
'Isn't my lucky star working for me again?' flashed through Sanin's
'Polozov! Ippolit Sidorovitch! Is it you?'
The figure stopped, raised his diminutive eyes, waited a little, and
ungluing his lips at last, brought out in a rather hoarse falsetto,
'That's me!' cried Sanin, and he shook one of Polozov's hands; arrayed
in tight kid-gloves of an ashen-grey colour, they hung as lifeless as
before beside his barrel-shaped legs. 'Have you been here long? Where
have you come from? Where are you stopping?'
'I came yesterday from Wiesbaden,' Polozov replied in deliberate
tones, 'to do some shopping for my wife, and I'm going back to
'Oh, yes! You're married, to be sure, and they say, to such a beauty!'
Polozov turned his eyes away. 'Yes, they say so.'
Sanin laughed. 'I see you're just the same ... as phlegmatic as you
were at school.'
'Why should I be different?'
'And they do say,' Sanin added with special emphasis on the word 'do,'
'that your wife is very rich.'
'They say that too.'
'Do you mean to say, Ippolit Sidorovitch, you are not certain on that
'I don't meddle, my dear Dimitri ... Pavlovitch? Yes, Pavlovitch!--in
my wife's affairs.'
'You don't meddle? Not in any of her affairs?'
Polozov again shifted his eyes. 'Not in any, my boy. She does as she
likes, and so do I.'
'Where are you going now?' Sanin inquired.
'I'm not going anywhere just now; I'm standing in the street and
talking to you; but when we've finished talking, I'm going back to my
hotel, and am going to have lunch.'
'Would you care for my company?'
'You mean at lunch?'
'Delighted, it's much pleasanter to eat in company. You're not a great
talker, are you?'
'I think not.'
'So much the better.'
Polozov went on. Sanin walked beside him. And Sanin
speculated--Polozov's lips were glued together, again he snorted
heavily, and waddled along in silence--Sanin speculated in what way
had this booby succeeded in catching a rich and beautiful wife. He
was not rich himself, nor distinguished, nor clever; at school he had
passed for a dull, slow-witted boy, sleepy, and greedy, and had borne
the nickname 'driveller.' It was marvellous!
'But if his wife is very rich, they say she's the daughter of some
sort of a contractor, won't she buy my estate? Though he does say he
doesn't interfere in any of his wife's affairs, that passes belief,
really! Besides, I will name a moderate, reasonable price! Why not
try? Perhaps, it's all my lucky star.... Resolved! I'll have a try!'
Polozov led Sanin to one of the best hotels in Frankfort, in which
he was, of course, occupying the best apartments. On the tables and
chairs lay piles of packages, cardboard boxes, and parcels. 'All
purchases, my boy, for Maria Nikolaevna!' (that was the name of the
wife of Ippolit Sidorovitch). Polozov dropped into an arm-chair,
groaned, 'Oh, the heat!' and loosened his cravat. Then he rang up the
head-waiter, and ordered with intense care a very lavish luncheon.
'And at one, the carriage is to be ready! Do you hear, at one o'clock
The head-waiter obsequiously bowed, and cringingly withdrew.
Polozov unbuttoned his waistcoat. From the very way in which he raised
his eyebrows, gasped, and wrinkled up his nose, one could see that
talking would be a great labour to him, and that he was waiting in
some trepidation to see whether Sanin was going to oblige him to
use his tongue, or whether he would take the task of keeping up the
conversation on himself.
Sanin understood his companion's disposition of mind, and so he did
not burden him with questions; he restricted himself to the most
essential. He learnt that he had been for two years in the service (in
the Uhlans! how nice he must have looked in the short uniform jacket!)
that he had married three years before, and had now been for two years
abroad with his wife, 'who is now undergoing some sort of cure at
Wiesbaden,' and was then going to Paris. On his side too, Sanin did
not enlarge much on his past life and his plans; he went straight to
the principal point--that is, he began talking of his intention of
selling his estate.
Polozov listened to him in silence, his eyes straying from time to
time to the door, by which the luncheon was to appear. The luncheon
did appear at last. The head-waiter, accompanied by two other
attendants, brought in several dishes under silver covers.
'Is the property in the Tula province?' said Polozov, seating himself
at the table, and tucking a napkin into his shirt collar.
'In the Efremovsky district ... I know it.'
'Do you know my place, Aleksyevka?' Sanin asked, sitting down too at
'Yes, I know it.' Polozov thrust in his mouth a piece of omelette
with truffles. 'Maria Nikolaevna, my wife, has an estate in that
neighbourhood.... Uncork that bottle, waiter! You've a good piece of
land, only your peasants have cut down the timber. Why are you selling
'I want the money, my friend. I would sell it cheap. Come, you might
as well buy it ... by the way.'
Polozov gulped down a glass of wine, wiped his lips with the napkin,
and again set to work chewing slowly and noisily.
'Oh,' he enunciated at last.... 'I don't go in for buying estates;
I've no capital. Pass the butter. Perhaps my wife now would buy it.
You talk to her about it. If you don't ask too much, she's not above
thinking of that.... What asses these Germans are, really! They can't
cook fish. What could be simpler, one wonders? And yet they go on
about "uniting the Fatherland." Waiter, take away that beastly stuff!'
'Does your wife really manage ... business matters herself?' Sanin
'Yes. Try the cutlets--they're good. I can recommend them. I've told
you already, Dimitri Pavlovitch, I don't interfere in any of my wife's
concerns, and I tell you so again.'
Polozov went on munching.
'H'm.... But how can I have a talk with her, Ippolit Sidorovitch?'
'It's very simple, Dimitri Pavlovitch. Go to Wiesbaden. It's not far
from here. Waiter, haven't you any English mustard? No? Brutes! Only
don't lose any time. We're starting the day after to-morrow. Let me
pour you out a glass of wine; it's wine with a bouquet--no vinegary
Polozov's face was flushed and animated; it was never animated but
when he was eating--or drinking.
'Really, I don't know, how that could be managed,' Sanin muttered.
'But what makes you in such a hurry about it all of a sudden?'
'There is a reason for being in a hurry, brother.'
'And do you need a lot of money?'
'Yes, a lot. I ... how can I tell you? I propose ... getting married.'
Polozov set the glass he had been lifting to his lips on the table.
'Getting married!' he articulated in a voice thick with astonishment,
and he folded his podgy hands on his stomach. 'So suddenly?'
'Yes ... soon.'
'Your intended is in Russia, of course?'
'No, not in Russia.'
'Here in Frankfort.'
'And who is she?'
'A German; that is, no--an Italian. A resident here.'
'With a fortune?'
'No, without a fortune.'
'Then I suppose your love is very ardent?'
'How absurd you are! Yes, very ardent.'
'And it's for that you must have money?'
'Well, yes ... yes, yes.'
Polozov gulped down his wine, rinsed his mouth, and washed his hands,
carefully wiped them on the napkin, took out and lighted a cigar.
Sanin watched him in silence.
'There's one means,' Polozov grunted at last, throwing his head back,
and blowing out the smoke in a thin ring. 'Go to my wife. If she
likes, she can take all the bother off your hands.'
'But how can I see your wife? You say you are starting the day after
Polozov closed his eyes.
'I'll tell you what,' he said at last, rolling the cigar in his lips,
and sighing. 'Go home, get ready as quick as you can, and come here.
At one o'clock I am going, there's plenty of room in my carriage. I'll
take you with me. That's the best plan. And now I'm going to have a
nap. I must always have a nap, brother, after a meal. Nature demands
it, and I won't go against it And don't you disturb me.'
Sanin thought and thought, and suddenly raised his head; he had made
up his mind.
'Very well, agreed, and thank you. At half-past twelve I'll be
here, and we'll go together to Wiesbaden. I hope your wife won't be
But Polozov was already snoring. He muttered, 'Don't disturb me!' gave
a kick, and fell asleep, like a baby.
Sanin once more scanned his clumsy figure, his head, his neck, his
upturned chin, round as an apple, and going out of the hotel, set off
with rapid strides to the Rosellis' shop. He had to let Gemma know.
He found her in the shop with her mother. Frau Lenore was stooping
down, measuring with a big folding foot-rule the space between the
windows. On seeing Sanin, she stood up, and greeted him cheerfully,
though with a shade of embarrassment.
'What you said yesterday,' she began, 'has set my head in a whirl with
ideas as to how we could improve our shop. Here, I fancy we might put
a couple of cupboards with shelves of looking-glass. You know, that's
the fashion nowadays. And then ...'
'Excellent, excellent,' Sanin broke in, 'we must think it all over....
But come here, I want to tell you something.' He took Frau Lenpre and
Gemma by the arm, and led them into the next room. Frau Lenore was
alarmed, and the foot-rule slipped out of her hands. Gemma too was
almost frightened, but she took an intent look at Sanin, and was
reassured. His face, though preoccupied, expressed at the same time
keen self-confidence and determination. He asked both the women to sit
down, while he remained standing before them, and gesticulating with
his hands and ruffling up his hair, he told them all his story; his
meeting with Polozov, his proposed expedition to Wiesbaden, the chance
of selling the estate. 'Imagine my happiness,' he cried in conclusion:
'things have taken such a turn that I may even, perhaps, not have
to go to Russia! And we can have our wedding much sooner than I had
'When must you go?' asked Gemma.
'To-day, in an hour's time; my friend has ordered a carriage--he will
'You will write to us?'
'At once! directly I have had a talk with this lady, I will write.'
'This lady, you say, is very rich?' queried the practical Frau Lenore.
'Exceedingly rich! her father was a millionaire, and he left
everything to her.'
'Everything--to her alone? Well, that's so much the better for you.
Only mind, don't let your property go too cheap! Be sensible and
firm. Don't let yourself be carried away! I understand your wishing
to be Gemma's husband as soon as possible ... but prudence before
everything! Don't forget: the better price you get for your estate,
the more there will be for you two, and for your children.'
Gemma turned away, and Sanin gave another wave of his hand. 'You can
rely on my prudence, Frau Lenore! Indeed, I shan't do any bargaining
with her. I shall tell her the fair price; if she'll give it--good; if
not, let her go.'
'Do you know her--this lady?' asked Gemma.
'I have never seen her.'
'And when will you come back?'
'If our negotiations come to nothing--the day after to-morrow; if they
turn out favourably, perhaps I may have to stay a day or two longer.
In any case I shall not linger a minute beyond what's necessary. I am
leaving my heart here, you know! But I have said what I had to say to
you, and I must run home before setting off too.... Give me your hand
for luck, Frau Lenore--that's what we always do in Russia.'
'The right or the left?'
'The left, it's nearer the heart. I shall reappear the day after
to-morrow with my shield or on it! Something tells me I shall come
back in triumph! Good-bye, my good dear ones....'
He embraced and kissed Frau Lenore, but he asked Gemma to follow him
into her room--for just a minute--as he must tell her something of
great importance. He simply wanted to say good-bye to her alone. Frau
Lenore saw that, and felt no curiosity as to the matter of such great
Sanin had never been in Gemma's room before. All the magic of love,
all its fire and rapture and sweet terror, seemed to flame up and
burst into his soul, directly he crossed its sacred threshold.... He
cast a look of tenderness about him, fell at the sweet girl's feet and
pressed his face against her waist....
'You are mine,' she whispered: 'you will be back soon?'
'I am yours. I will come back,' he declared, catching his breath.
'I shall be longing for you back, my dear one!'
A few instants later Sanin was running along the street to his
lodging. He did not even notice that Pantaleone, all dishevelled, had
darted out of the shop-door after him, and was shouting something to
him and was shaking, as though in menace, his lifted hand.
* * * * *
Exactly at a quarter to one Sanin presented himself before Polozov.
The carriage with four horses was already standing at the hotel gates.
On seeing Sanin, Polozov merely commented, 'Oh! you've made up your
mind?' and putting on his hat, cloak, and over-shoes, and stuffing
cotton-wool into his ears, though it was summer-time, went out on to
the steps. The waiters, by his directions, disposed all his numerous
purchases in the inside of the carriage, lined the place where he
was to sit with silk cushions, bags, and bundles, put a hamper of
provisions for his feet to rest on, and tied a trunk on to the box.
Polozov paid with a liberal hand, and supported by the deferential
door-keeper, whose face was still respectful, though he was unseen
behind him, he climbed gasping into the carriage, sat down,
disarranged everything about him thoroughly, took out and lighted a
cigar, and only then extended a finger to Sanin, as though to say,
'Get in, you too!' Sanin placed himself beside him. Polozov sent
orders by the door-keeper to the postillion to drive carefully--if he
wanted drinks; the carriage steps grated, the doors slammed, and the
carriage rolled off.
It takes less than an hour in these days by rail from Frankfort to
Wiesbaden; at that time the extra post did it in three hours. They
changed horses five times. Part of the time Polozov dozed and part of
the time he simply shook from side to side, holding a cigar in his
teeth; he talked very little; he did not once look out of the window;
picturesque views did not interest them; he even announced that
'nature was the death of him!' Sanin did not speak either, nor did he
admire the scenery; he had no thought for it. He was all absorbed in
reflections and memories. At the stations Polozov paid with exactness,
took the time by his watch, and tipped the postillions--more or
less--according to their zeal. When they had gone half way, he took
two oranges out of the hamper of edibles, and choosing out the better,
offered the other to Sanin. Sanin looked steadily at his companion,
and suddenly burst out laughing.
'What are you laughing at?' the latter inquired, very carefully
peeling his orange with his short white nails.
'What at?' repeated Sanin. 'Why, at our journey together.'
'What about it?' Polozov inquired again, dropping into his mouth one
of the longitudinal sections into which an orange parts.
'It's so very strange. Yesterday I must confess I thought no more of
you than of the Emperor of China, and to-day I'm driving with you to
sell my estate to your wife, of whom, too, I have not the slightest
'Anything may happen,' responded Polozov. 'When you've lived a bit
longer, you won't be surprised at anything. For instance, can you
fancy me riding as an orderly officer? But I did, and the Grand Duke
Mihail Pavlovitch gave the order, 'Trot! let him trot, that fat
cornet! Trot now! Look sharp!'
Sanin scratched behind his ear.
'Tell me, please, Ippolit Sidorovitch, what is your wife like? What is
her character? It's very necessary for me to know that, you see.'
'It was very well for him to shout, "Trot!"' Polozov went on with
sudden vehemence, 'But me! how about me? I thought to myself, "You
can take your honours and epaulettes--and leave me in peace!" But ...
you asked about my wife? What my wife is? A person like any one else.
Don't wear your heart upon your sleeve with her--she doesn't like
that. The great thing is to talk a lot to her ... something for her to
laugh at. Tell her about your love, or something ... but make it more
amusing, you know.'
'How more amusing?'
'Oh, you told me, you know, that you were in love, wanting to get
married. Well, then, describe that.'
Sanin was offended. 'What do you find laughable in that?'