Part 3 out of 5
Polozov only rolled his eyes. The juice from the orange was trickling
down his chin.
'Was it your wife sent you to Frankfort to shop for her?' asked Sanin
after a short time.
'Yes, it was she.'
'What are the purchases?'
'Toys, of course.'
'Toys? have you any children?'
Polozov positively moved away from Sanin.
'That's likely! What do I want with children? Feminine fallals ...
finery. For the toilet.'
'Do you mean to say you understand such things?'
'To be sure I do.'
'But didn't you tell me you didn't interfere in any of your wife's
'I don't in any other. But this ... is no consequence. To pass the
time--one may do it. And my wife has confidence in my taste. And I'm a
first-rate hand at bargaining.'
Polozov began to speak by jerks; he was exhausted already. 'And is
your wife very rich?'
'Rich; yes, rather! Only she keeps the most of it for herself.'
'But I expect you can't complain either?'
'Well, I'm her husband. I'm hardly likely not to get some benefit from
it! And I'm of use to her. With me she can do just as she likes! I'm
Polozov wiped his face with a silk handkerchief and puffed painfully,
as though to say, 'Have mercy on me; don't force me to utter another
word. You see how hard it is for me.'
Sanin left him in peace, and again sank into meditation.
* * * * *
The hotel in Wiesbaden, before which the carriage stopped, was exactly
like a palace. Bells were promptly set ringing in its inmost recesses;
a fuss and bustle arose; men of good appearance in black frock-coats
skipped out at the principal entrance; a door-keeper who was a blaze
of gold opened the carriage doors with a flourish.
Like some triumphant general Polozov alighted and began to ascend a
staircase strewn with rugs and smelling of agreeable perfumes. To
him flew up another man, also very well dressed but with a Russian
face--his valet. Polozov observed to him that for the future he
should always take him everywhere with him, for the night before at
Frankfort, he, Polozov, had been left for the night without hot water!
The valet portrayed his horror on his face, and bending down quickly,
took off his master's goloshes.
'Is Maria Nikolaevna at home?' inquired Polozov.
'Yes, sir. Madam is pleased to be dressing. Madam is pleased to be
dining to-night at the Countess Lasunsky's.'
'Ah! there?... Stay! There are things there in the carriage; get them
all yourself and bring them up. And you, Dmitri Pavlovitch,' added
Polozov, 'take a room for yourself and come in in three-quarters of an
hour. We will dine together.'
Polozov waddled off, while Sanin asked for an inexpensive room for
himself; and after setting his attire to rights, and resting a
little, he repaired to the immense apartment occupied by his Serenity
(Durchlaucht) Prince von Polozov.
He found this 'prince' enthroned in a luxurious velvet arm-chair in
the middle of a most magnificent drawing-room. Sanin's phlegmatic
friend had already had time to have a bath and to array himself in a
most sumptuous satin dressing-gown; he had put a crimson fez on his
head. Sanin approached him and scrutinised him for some time. Polozov
was sitting rigid as an idol; he did not even turn his face in his
direction, did not even move an eyebrow, did not utter a sound. It was
truly a sublime spectacle! After having admired him for a couple of
minutes, Sanin was on the point of speaking, of breaking this hallowed
silence, when suddenly the door from the next room was thrown open,
and in the doorway appeared a young and beautiful lady in a white
silk dress trimmed with black lace, and with diamonds on her arms and
neck--Maria Nikolaevna Polozov. Her thick fair hair fell on both sides
of her head, braided, but not fastened up into a knot.
'Ah, I beg your pardon!' she said with a smile half-embarrassed,
half-ironical, instantly taking hold of one end of a plait of her hair
and fastening on Sanin her large, grey, clear eyes.
'I did not think you had come yet.'
'Sanin, Dmitri Pavlovitch--known him from a boy,' observed Polozov, as
before not turning towards him and not getting up, but pointing at him
with one finger.
'Yes.... I know.... You told me before. Very glad to make your
acquaintance. But I wanted to ask you, Ippolit Sidorovitch.... My maid
seems to have lost her senses to-day ...'
'To do your hair up?'
'Yes, yes, please. I beg your pardon,' Maria Nikolaevna repeated with
the same smile. She nodded to Sanin, and turning swiftly, vanished
through the doorway, leaving behind her a fleeting but graceful
impression of a charming neck, exquisite shoulders, an exquisite
Polozov got up, and rolling ponderously, went out by the same door.
Sanin did not doubt for a single second that his presence in 'Prince
Polozov's' drawing-room was a fact perfectly well known to its
mistress; the whole point of her entry had been the display of her
hair, which was certainly beautiful. Sanin was inwardly delighted
indeed at this freak on the part of Madame Polozov; if, he thought,
she is anxious to impress me, to dazzle me, perhaps, who knows, she
will be accommodating about the price of the estate. His heart was so
full of Gemma that all other women had absolutely no significance for
him; he hardly noticed them; and this time he went no further than
thinking, 'Yes, it was the truth they told me; that lady's really
magnificent to look at!'
But had he not been in such an exceptional state of mind he would most
likely have expressed himself differently; Maria Nikolaevna Polozov,
by birth Kolishkin, was a very striking personality. And not that she
was of a beauty to which no exception could be taken; traces of her
plebeian origin were rather clearly apparent in her. Her forehead was
low, her nose rather fleshy and turned up; she could boast neither
of the delicacy of her skin nor of the elegance of her hands and
feet--but what did all that matter? Any one meeting her would not,
to use Pushkin's words, have stood still before 'the holy shrine of
beauty,' but before the sorcery of a half-Russian, half-Gipsy woman's
body in its full flower and full power ... and he would have been
nothing loath to stand still!
But Gemma's image preserved Sanin like the three-fold armour of which
the poets sing.
Ten minutes later Maria Nikolaevna appeared again, escorted by her
husband. She went up to Sanin ... and her walk was such that some
eccentrics of that--alas!--already, distant day, were simply crazy
over her walk alone. 'That woman, when she comes towards one, seems as
though she is bringing all the happiness of one's life to meet one,'
one of them used to say. She went up to Sanin, and holding out her
hand to him, said in her caressing and, as it were, subdued voice in
Russian, 'You will wait for me, won't you? I'll be back soon.'
Sanin bowed respectfully, while Maria Nikolaevna vanished behind the
curtain over the outside door; and as she vanished turned her head
back over her shoulder, and smiled again, and again left behind her
the same impression of grace.
When she smiled, not one and not two, but three dimples came out on
each cheek, and her eyes smiled more than her lips--long, crimson,
juicy lips with two tiny moles on the left side of them.
Polozov waddled into the room and again established himself in the
arm-chair. He was speechless as before; but from time to time a queer
smile puffed out his colourless and already wrinkled cheeks. He looked
like an old man, though he was only three years older than Sanin.
The dinner with which he regaled his guest would of course have
satisfied the most exacting gourmand, but to Sanin it seemed endless,
insupportable! Polozov ate slowly, 'with feeling, with judgment,
with deliberation,' bending attentively over his plate, and sniffing
at almost every morsel. First he rinsed his mouth with wine, then
swallowed it and smacked his lips.... Over the roast meat he suddenly
began to talk--but of what? Of merino sheep, of which he was intending
to order a whole flock, and in such detail, with such tenderness,
using all the while endearing pet names for them. After drinking a cup
of coffee, hot to boiling point (he had several times in a voice of
tearful irritation mentioned to the waiter that he had been served the
evening before with coffee, cold--cold as ice!) and bitten off the end
of a Havannah cigar with his crooked yellow teeth, he dropped off, as
his habit was, into a nap, to the intense delight of Sanin, who began
walking up and down with noiseless steps on the soft carpet, and
dreaming of his life with Gemma and of what news he would bring back
to her. Polozov, however, awoke, as he remarked himself, earlier than
usual--he had slept only an hour and a half--and after drinking a
glass of iced seltzer water, and swallowing eight spoonfuls of jam,
Russian jam, which his valet brought him in a dark-green genuine
'Kiev' jar, and without which, in his own words, he could not live,
he stared with his swollen eyes at Sanin and asked him wouldn't he
like to play a game of 'fools' with him. Sanin agreed readily; he
was afraid that Polozov would begin talking again about lambs and
ewes and fat tails. The host and the visitor both adjourned to the
drawing-room, the waiter brought in the cards, and the game began,
not,--of course, for money.
At this innocent diversion Maria Nikolaevna found them on her return
from the Countess Lasunsky's. She laughed aloud directly she came into
the room and saw the cards and the open card-table. Sanin jumped up,
but she cried, 'Sit still; go on with the game. I'll change my dress
directly and come back to you,' and vanished again with a swish of her
dress, pulling off her gloves as she went.
She did in fact return very soon. Her evening dress she had exchanged
for a full lilac silk tea-gown, with open hanging sleeves; a thick
twisted cord was fastened round her waist. She sat down by her
husband, and, waiting till he was left 'fool,' said to him, 'Come,
dumpling, that's enough!' (At the word 'dumpling' Sanin glanced at her
in surprise, and she smiled gaily, answering his look with a look,
and displaying all the dimples on her cheeks.) 'I see you are sleepy;
kiss my hand and get along; and Monsieur Sanin and I will have a chat
'I'm not sleepy,' observed Polozov, getting up ponderously from his
easy-chair; 'but as for getting along, I'm ready to get along and to
kiss your hand.' She gave him the palm of her hand, still smiling and
looking at Sanin.
Polozov, too, looked at him, and went away without taking leave of
'Well, tell me, tell me,' said Maria Nikolaevna eagerly, setting both
her bare elbows on the table and impatiently tapping the nails of one
hand against the nails of the other, 'Is it true, they say, you are
going to be married?'
As she said these words, Maria Nikolaevna positively bent her head a
little on one side so as to look more intently and piercingly into
The free and easy deportment of Madame Polozov would probably for the
first moment have disconcerted Sanin--though he was not quite a novice
and had knocked about the world a little--if he had not again seen in
this very freedom and familiarity a good omen for his undertaking.
'We must humour this rich lady's caprices,' he decided inwardly; and
as unconstrainedly as she had questioned him he answered, 'Yes; I am
going to be married.'
'To whom? To a foreigner?'
'Did you get acquainted with her lately? In Frankfort?'
'And what is she? May I know?'
'Certainly. She is a confectioner's daughter.'
Maria Nikolaevna opened her eyes wide and lifted her eyebrows.
'Why, this is delightful,' she commented in a drawling voice; 'this is
exquisite! I imagined that young men like you were not to be met with
anywhere in these days. A confectioner's daughter!'
'I see that surprises you,' observed Sanin with some dignity; 'but in
the first place, I have none of these prejudices ...'
'In the first place, it doesn't surprise me in the least,' Maria
Nikolaevna interrupted; 'I have no prejudices either. I'm the daughter
of a peasant myself. There! what can you say to that? What does
surprise and delight me is to have come across a man who's not afraid
to love. You do love her, I suppose?'
'Is she very pretty?'
Sanin was slightly stung by this last question.... However, there was
no drawing back.
'You know, Maria Nikolaevna,' he began, 'every man thinks the face
of his beloved better than all others; but my betrothed is really
'Really? In what style? Italian? antique?'
'Yes; she has very regular features.'
'You have not got her portrait with you?'
'No.' (At that time photography was not yet talked off. Daguerrotypes
had hardly begun to be common.)
'What's her name?'
'Her name is Gemma.'
'And your father's?'
'Do you know,' Maria Nikolaevna said, still in the same drawling
voice, 'I like you very much, Dimitri Pavlovitch. You must be an
excellent fellow. Give me your hand. Let us be friends.'
She pressed his hand tightly in her beautiful, white, strong fingers.
Her hand was a little smaller than his hand, but much warmer and
smoother and whiter and more full of life.
'Only, do you know what strikes me?'
'You won't be angry? No? You say she is betrothed to you. But was that
... was that quite necessary?'
Sanin frowned. 'I don't understand you, Maria Nikolaevna.'
Maria Nikolaevna gave a soft low laugh, and shaking her head tossed
back the hair that was falling on her cheeks. 'Decidedly--he's
delightful,' she commented half pensively, half carelessly. 'A perfect
knight! After that, there's no believing in the people who maintain
that the race of idealists is extinct!'
Maria Nikolaevna talked Russian all the time, an astonishingly pure
true Moscow Russian, such as the people, not the nobles speak.
'You've been brought up at home, I expect, in a God-fearing, old
orthodox family?' she queried. 'You're from what province?'
'Oh! so we're from the same part. My father ... I daresay you know who
my father was?'
'Yes, I know.'
'He was born in Tula.... He was a Tula man. Well ... well. Come, let
us get to business now.'
'That is ... how come to business? What do you mean to say by that?'
Maria Nikolaevna half-closed her eyes. 'Why, what did you come here
for?' (when she screwed up her eyes, their expression became very
kindly and a little bantering, when she opened them wide, into their
clear, almost cold brilliancy, there came something-ill-natured
... something menacing. Her eyes gained a peculiar beauty from her
eyebrows, which were thick, and met in the centre, and had the
smoothness of sable fur). 'Don't you want me to buy your estate? You
want money for your nuptials? Don't you?'
'And do you want much?'
'I should be satisfied with a few thousand francs at first. Your
husband knows my estate. You can consult him--I would take a very
Maria Nikolaevna tossed her head from left to right. '_In the first
place_,' she began in deliberate tones, drumming with the tips of
her fingers on the cuff of Sanin's coat, 'I am not in the habit of
consulting my husband, except about matters of dress--he's my right
hand in that; _and in the second place_, why do you say that you will
fix a low price? I don't want to take advantage of your being very
much in love at the moment, and ready to make any sacrifices....
I won't accept sacrifices of any kind from you. What? Instead of
encouraging you ... come, how is one to express it properly?--in your
noble sentiments, eh? am I to fleece you? that's not my way. I can be
hard on people, on occasion--only not in that way.'
Sanin was utterly unable to make out whether she was laughing at him
or speaking seriously, and only said to himself: 'Oh, I can see one
has to mind what one's about with you!'
A man-servant came in with a Russian samovar, tea-things, cream,
biscuits, etc., on a big tray; he set all these good things on the
table between Sanin and Madame Polozov, and retired.
She poured him out a cup of tea. 'You don't object?' she queried, as
she put sugar in his cup with her fingers ... though sugar-tongs were
lying close by.
'Oh, please!... From such a lovely hand ...'
He did not finish his phrase, and almost choked over a sip of tea,
while she watched him attentively and brightly.
'I spoke of a moderate price for my land,' he went on, 'because as you
are abroad just now, I can hardly suppose you have a great deal of
cash available, and in fact, I feel myself that the sale ... the
purchase of my land, under such conditions is something exceptional,
and I ought to take that into consideration.'
Sanin got confused, and lost the thread of what he was saying, while
Maria Nikolaevna softly leaned back in her easy-chair, folded her
arms, and watched him with the same attentive bright look. He was
silent at last.
'Never mind, go on, go on,' she said, as it were coming to his aid;
'I'm listening to you. I like to hear you; go on talking.'
Sanin fell to describing his estate, how many acres it contained, and
where it was situated, and what were its agricultural advantages,
and what profit could be made from it ... he even referred to the
picturesque situation of the house; while Maria Nikolaevna still
watched him, and watched more and more intently and radiantly, and her
lips faintly stirred, without smiling: she bit them. He felt awkward
at last; he was silent a second time.
'Dimitri Pavlovitch' began Maria Nikolaevna, and sank into thought
again.... 'Dimitri Pavlovitch,' she repeated.... 'Do you know what:
I am sure the purchase of your estate will be a very profitable
transaction for me, and that we shall come to terms; but you must give
me two days.... Yes, two days' grace. You are able to endure two days'
separation from your betrothed, aren't you? Longer I won't keep you
against your will--I give you my word of honour. But if you want five
or six thousand francs at once, I am ready with great pleasure to let
you have it as a loan, and then we'll settle later.'
Sanin got up. 'I must thank you, Maria Nikolaevna, for your
kindhearted and friendly readiness to do a service to a man almost
unknown to you. But if that is your decided wish, then I prefer to
await your decision about my estate--I will stay here two days.'
'Yes; that is my wish, Dimitri Pavlovitch. And will it be very hard
for you? Very? Tell me.'
'I love my betrothed, Maria Nikolaevna, and to be separated from her
is hard for me.'
'Ah! you're a heart of gold!' Maria Nikolaevna commented with a sigh.
'I promise not to torment you too much. Are you going?'
'It is late,' observed Sanin.
'And you want to rest after your journey, and your game of "fools"
with my husband. Tell me, were you a great friend of Ippolit
Sidorovitch, my husband?'
'We were educated at the same school.'
'And was he the same then?'
'The same as what?' inquired Sanin. Maria Nikolaevna burst out
laughing, and laughed till she was red in the face; she put her
handkerchief to her lips, rose from her chair, and swaying as though
she were tired, went up to Sanin, and held out her hand to him.
He bowed over it, and went towards the door.
'Come early to-morrow--do you hear?' she called after him. He looked
back as he went out of the room, and saw that she had again dropped
into an easy-chair, and flung both arms behind her head. The loose
sleeves of her tea-gown fell open almost to her shoulders, and it was
impossible not to admit that the pose of the arms, that the whole
figure, was enchantingly beautiful.
Long after midnight the lamp was burning in Sanin's room. He sat down
to the table and wrote to 'his Gemma.' He told her everything; he
described the Polozovs--husband and wife--but, more than all, enlarged
on his own feelings, and ended by appointing a meeting with her in
three days!!! (with three marks of exclamation). Early in the morning
he took this letter to the post, and went for a walk in the garden
of the Kurhaus, where music was already being played. There were few
people in it as yet; he stood before the arbour in which the orchestra
was placed, listened to an adaptation of airs from 'Robert le Diable,'
and after drinking some coffee, turned into a solitary side walk, sat
down on a bench, and fell into a reverie. The handle of a parasol
gave him a rapid, and rather vigorous, thump on the shoulder. He
started.... Before him in a light, grey-green barége dress, in a white
tulle hat, and _suède_ gloves, stood Maria Nikolaevna, fresh and rosy
as a summer morning, though the languor of sound unbroken sleep had
not yet quite vanished from her movements and her eyes.
'Good-morning,' she said. 'I sent after you to-day, but you'd already
gone out. I've only just drunk my second glass--they're making me
drink the water here, you know--whatever for, there's no telling ...
am I not healthy enough? And now I have to walk for a whole hour. Will
you be my companion? And then we'll have some coffee.'
'I've had some already,' Sanin observed, getting up; 'but I shall be
very glad to have a walk with you.'
'Very well, give me your arm then; don't be afraid: your betrothed is
not here--she won't see you.'
Sanin gave a constrained smile. He experienced a disagreeable
sensation every time Maria Nikolaevna referred to Gemma. However, he
made haste to bend towards her obediently.... Maria Nikolaevna's arm
slipped slowly and softly into his arm, and glided over it, and seemed
to cling tight to it.
'Come--this way,' she said to him, putting up her open parasol over
her shoulder. 'I'm quite at home in this park; I will take you to the
best places. And do you know what? (she very often made use of this
expression), we won't talk just now about that sale, we'll have a
thorough discussion of that after lunch; but you must tell me now
about yourself ... so that I may know whom I have to do with. And
afterwards, if you like, I will tell you about myself. Do you agree?'
'But, Maria Nikolaevna, what interest can there be for you ...'
'Stop, stop. You don't understand me. I don't want to flirt with you.'
Maria Nikolaevna shrugged her shoulders. 'He's got a betrothed like an
antique statue, is it likely I am going to flirt with him? But you've
something to sell, and I'm the purchaser. I want to know what your
goods are like. Well, of course, you must show what they are like.
I don't only want to know what I'm buying, but whom I'm buying
from. That was my father's rule. Come, begin ... come, if not from
childhood--come now, have you been long abroad? And where have you
been up till now? Only don't walk so fast, we're in no hurry.'
'I came here from Italy, where I spent several months.'
'Ah, you feel, it seems, a special attraction towards everything
Italian. It's strange you didn't find your lady-love there. Are you
fond of art? of pictures? or more of music?'
'I am fond of art.... I like everything beautiful.'
'I like music too.'
'Well, I don't at all. I don't care for anything but Russian
songs--and that in the country and in the spring--with dancing, you
know ... red shirts, wreaths of beads, the young grass in the meadows,
the smell of smoke ... delicious! But we weren't talking of me. Go on,
Maria Nikolaevna walked on, and kept looking at Sanin. She was
tall--her face was almost on a level with his face.
He began to talk--at first reluctantly, unskilfully--but afterwards
he talked more freely, chattered away in fact. Maria Nikolaevna was
a very good listener; and moreover she seemed herself so frank, that
she led others unconsciously on to frankness. She possessed that
great gift of 'intimateness'--_le terrible don de la familiarité_--to
which Cardinal Retz refers. Sanin talked of his travels, of his life
in Petersburg, of his youth.... Had Maria Nikolaevna been a lady
of fashion, with refined manners, he would never have opened out
so; but she herself spoke of herself as a 'good fellow,' who had
no patience with ceremony of any sort; it was in those words that
she characterised herself to Sanin. And at the same time this 'good
fellow' walked by his side with feline grace, slightly bending towards
him, and peeping into his face; and this 'good fellow' walked in the
form of a young feminine creature, full of the tormenting, fiery, soft
and seductive charm, of which--for the undoing of us poor weak sinful
men--only Slav natures are possessed, and but few of them, and those
never of pure Slav blood, with no foreign alloy. Sanin's walk with
Maria Nikolaevna, Sanin's talk with Maria Nikolaevna lasted over an
hour. And they did not stop once; they kept walking about the endless
avenues of the park, now mounting a hill and admiring the view as
they went, and now going down into the valley, and getting hidden in
the thick shadows,--and all the while arm-in-arm. At times Sanin felt
positively irritated; he had never walked so long with Gemma, his
darling Gemma ... but this lady had simply taken possession of him,
and there was no escape! 'Aren't you tired?' he said to her more
than once. 'I never get tired,' she answered. Now and then they met
other people walking in the park; almost all of them bowed--some
respectfully, others even cringingly. To one of them, a very handsome,
fashionably dressed dark man, she called from a distance with the best
Parisian accent, '_Comte, vous savez, il ne faut pas venir me voir--ni
aujourd'hui ni demain_.' The man took off his hat, without speaking,
and dropped a low bow.
'Who's that?' asked Sanin with the bad habit of asking questions
characteristic of all Russians.
'Oh, a Frenchman, there are lots of them here ... He's dancing
attendance on me too. It's time for our coffee, though. Let's go home;
you must be hungry by this time, I should say. My better half must
have got his eye-peeps open by now.'
'Better half! Eye-peeps!' Sanin repeated to himself ... 'And speaks
French so well ... what a strange creature!'
* * * * *
Maria Nikolaevna was not mistaken. When she went back into the hotel
with Sanin, her 'better half or 'dumpling' was already seated, the
invariable fez on his head, before a table laid for breakfast.
'I've been waiting for you!' he cried, making a sour face. 'I was on
the point of having coffee without you.'
'Never mind, never mind,' Maria Nikolaevna responded cheerfully. 'Are
you angry? That's good for you; without that you'd turn into a mummy
altogether. Here I've brought a visitor. Make haste and ring! Let us
have coffee--the best coffee--in Saxony cups on a snow-white cloth!'
She threw off her hat and gloves, and clapped her hands.
Polozov looked at her from under his brows.
'What makes you so skittish to-day, Maria Nikolaevna?' he said in an
'That's no business of yours, Ippolit Sidoritch! Ring! Dimitri
Pavlovitch, sit down and have some coffee for the second time. Ah, how
nice it is to give orders! There's no pleasure on earth like it!'
'When you're obeyed,' grumbled her husband again.
'Just so, when one's obeyed! That's why I'm so happy! Especially with
you. Isn't it so, dumpling? Ah, here's the coffee.'
On the immense tray, which the waiter brought in, there lay also a
playbill. Maria Nikolaevna snatched it up at once.
'A drama!' she pronounced with indignation, 'a German drama.
No matter; it's better than a German comedy. Order a box for
me--_baignoire_--or no ... better the _Fremden-Loge_,' she turned to
the waiter. 'Do you hear: the _Fremden-Loge_ it must be!'
'But if the _Fremden-Loge_ has been already taken by his excellency,
the director of the town (_seine Excellenz der Herr Stadt-Director_),'
the waiter ventured to demur.
'Give his excellency ten _thalers_, and let the box be mine! Do you
The waiter bent his head humbly and mournfully.
'Dimitri Pavlovitch, you will go with me to the theatre? the German
actors are awful, but you will go ... Yes? Yes? How obliging you are!
Dumpling, are you not coming?
'You settle it,' Polozov observed into the cup he had lifted to his
'Do you know what, you stay at home. You always go to sleep at the
theatre, and you don't understand much German. I'll tell you what
you'd better do, write an answer to the overseer--you remember, about
our mill ... about the peasants' grinding. Tell him that I won't have
it, and I won't and that's all about it! There's occupation for you
for the whole evening.'
'All right,' answered Polozov.
'Well then, that's first-rate. You're a darling. And now, gentlemen,
as we have just been speaking of my overseer, let's talk about our
great business. Come, directly the waiter has cleared the table,
you shall tell me all, Dimitri Pavlovitch, about your estate, what
price you will sell it for, how much you want paid down in advance,
everything, in fact! (At last, thought Sanin, thank God!) You have
told me something about it already, you remember, you described your
garden delightfully, but dumpling wasn't here.... Let him hear, he
may pick a hole somewhere! I'm delighted to think that I can help you
to get married, besides, I promised you that I would go into your
business after lunch, and I always keep my promises, isn't that the
truth, Ippolit Sidoritch?'
Polozov rubbed his face with his open hand. 'The truth's the truth.
You don't deceive any one.'
'Never! and I never will deceive any one. Well, Dimitri Pavlovitch,
expound the case as we express it in the senate.'
Sanin proceeded to expound his case, that is to say, again, a second
time, to describe his property, not touching this time on the beauties
of nature, and now and then appealing to Polozov for confirmation of
his 'facts and figures.' But Polozov simply gasped and shook his head,
whether in approval or disapproval, it would have puzzled the devil,
one might fancy, to decide. However, Maria Nikolaevna stood in no need
of his aid. She exhibited commercial and administrative abilities that
were really astonishing! She was familiar with all the ins-and-outs of
farming; she asked questions about everything with great exactitude,
went into every point; every word of hers went straight to the root
of the matter, and hit the nail on the head. Sanin had not expected
such a close inquiry, he had not prepared himself for it. And this
inquiry lasted for fully an hour and a half. Sanin experienced all
the sensations of the criminal on his trial, sitting on a narrow
bench confronted by a stern and penetrating judge. 'Why, it's
a cross-examination!' he murmured to himself dejectedly. Maria
Nikolaevna kept laughing all the while, as though it were a joke; but
Sanin felt none the more at ease for that; and when in the course of
the 'cross-examination' it turned out that he had not clearly realised
the exact meaning of the words 'repartition' and 'tilth,' he was in a
cold perspiration all over.
'Well, that's all right!' Maria Nikolaevna decided at last. 'I know
your estate now ... as well as you do. What price do you suggest per
soul?' (At that time, as every one knows, the prices of estates were
reckoned by the souls living as serfs on them.)
'Well ... I imagine ... I could not take less than five hundred
roubles for each,' Sanin articulated with difficulty. O Pantaleone,
Pantaleone, where were you! This was when you ought to have cried
Maria Nikolaevna turned her eyes upwards as though she were
'Well?' she said at last. 'I think there's no harm in that price.
But I reserved for myself two days' grace, and you must wait till
to-morrow. I imagine we shall come to an arrangement, and then you
will tell me how much you want paid down. And now, _basta cosi_!'
she cried, noticing Sanin was about to make some reply. 'We've spent
enough time over filthy lucre ... _à demain les affaires_. Do you
know what, I'll let you go now ... (she glanced at a little enamelled
watch, stuck in her belt) ... till three o'clock ... I must let you
rest. Go and play roulette.'
'I never play games of chance,' observed Sanin.
'Really? Why, you're a paragon. Though I don't either. It's stupid
throwing away one's money when one's no chance. But go into the
gambling saloon, and look at the faces. Very comic ones there are
there. There's one old woman with a rustic headband and a moustache,
simply delicious! Our prince there's another, a good one too. A
majestic figure with a nose like an eagle's, and when he puts down a
_thaler_, he crosses himself under his waistcoat. Read the papers,
go a walk, do what you like, in fact. But at three o'clock I expect
you ... _de pied ferme_. We shall have to dine a little earlier. The
theatre among these absurd Germans begins at half-past six. She held
out her hand. '_Sans rancune, n'est-ce pas?_'
'Really, Maria Nikolaevna, what reason have I to be annoyed?'
'Why, because I've been tormenting you. Wait a little, you'll see.
There's worse to come,' she added, fluttering her eyelids, and all her
dimples suddenly came out on her flushing cheeks. 'Till we meet!'
Sanin bowed and went out. A merry laugh rang out after him, and in
the looking-glass which he was passing at that instant, the following
scene was reflected: Maria Nikolaevna had pulled her husband's fez
over his eyes, and he was helplessly struggling with both hands.
Oh, what a deep sigh of delight Sanin heaved, when he found himself
in his room! Indeed, Maria Nikolaevna had spoken the truth, he
needed rest, rest from all these new acquaintances, collisions,
conversations, from this suffocating atmosphere which was affecting
his head and his heart, from this enigmatical, uninvited intimacy with
a woman, so alien to him! And when was all this taking place? Almost
the day after he had learnt that Gemma loved him, after he had become
betrothed to her. Why, it was sacrilege! A thousand times he mentally
asked forgiveness of his pure chaste dove, though he could not really
blame himself for anything; a thousand times over he kissed the cross
she had given him. Had he not the hope of bringing the business, for
which he had come to Wiesbaden, to a speedy and successful conclusion,
he would have rushed off headlong, back again, to sweet Frankfort, to
that dear house, now his own home, to her, to throw himself at her
loved feet.... But there was no help for it! The cup must be drunk
to the dregs, he must dress, go to dinner, and from there to the
theatre.... If only she would let him go to-morrow!
One other thing confounded him, angered him; with love, with
tenderness, with grateful transport he dreamed of Gemma, of their life
together, of the happiness awaiting him in the future, and yet this
strange woman, this Madame Polozov persistently floated--no! not
floated, poked herself, so Sanin with special vindictiveness expressed
it--_poked herself_ in and faced his eyes, and he could not rid
himself of her image, could not help hearing her voice, recalling her
words, could not help being aware even of the special scent, delicate,
fresh and penetrating, like the scent of yellow lilies, that was
wafted from her garments. This lady was obviously fooling him, and
trying in every way to get over him ... what for? what did she want?
Could it be merely the caprice of a spoiled, rich, and most likely
unprincipled woman? And that husband! What a creature he was! What
were his relations with her? And why would these questions keep coming
into his head, when he, Sanin, had really no interest whatever in
either Polozov or his wife? Why could he not drive away that intrusive
image, even when he turned with his whole soul to another image,
clear and bright as God's sunshine? How, through those almost divine
features, dare _those others_ force themselves upon him? And not only
that; those other features smiled insolently at him. Those grey,
rapacious eyes, those dimples, those snake-like tresses, how was it
all that seemed to cleave to him, and to shake it all off, and fling
it away, he was unable, had not the power?
Nonsense! nonsense! to-morrow it would all vanish and leave no
trace.... But would she let him go to-morrow?
Yes.... All these question he put to himself, but the time was moving
on to three o'clock, and he put on a black frockcoat and after a turn
in the park, went in to the Polozovs!
* * * * *
He found in their drawing-room a secretary of the legation, a very
tall light-haired German, with the profile of a horse, and his hair
parted down the back of his head (at that time a new fashion), and ...
oh, wonder! whom besides? Von Dönhof, the very officer with whom he
had fought a few days before! He had not the slightest expectation of
meeting him there and could not help being taken aback. He greeted
'Are you acquainted?' asked Maria Nikolaevna who had not failed to
notice Sanin's embarrassment.
'Yes ... I have already had the honour,' said Dönhof, and bending a
little aside, in an undertone he added to Maria Nikolaevna, with a
smile, 'The very man ... your compatriot ... the Russian ...'
'Impossible!' she exclaimed also in an undertone; she shook her finger
at him, and at once began to bid good-bye both to him and the long
secretary, who was, to judge by every symptom, head over ears in love
with her; he positively gaped every time he looked at her. Dönhof
promptly took leave with amiable docility, like a friend of the family
who understands at half a word what is expected of him; the secretary
showed signs of restiveness, but Maria Nikolaevna turned him out
without any kind of ceremony.
'Get along to your sovereign mistress,' she said to him (there was
at that time in Wiesbaden a certain princess di Monaco, who looked
surprisingly like a _cocotte_ of the poorer sort); 'what do you want
to stay with a plebeian like me for?'
'Really, dear madam,' protested the luckless secretary,' all the
princesses in the world....'
But Maria Nikolaevna was remorseless, and the secretary went away,
parting and all.
Maria Nikolaevna was dressed that day very much 'to her advantage,'
as our grandmothers used to say. She wore a pink glacé silk dress,
with sleeves _à la Fontange_, and a big diamond in each ear. Her eyes
sparkled as much as her diamonds; she seemed in a good humour and in
She made Sanin sit beside her, and began talking to him about Paris,
where she was intending to go in a few days, of how sick she was of
Germans, how stupid they were when they tried to be clever, and how
inappropriately clever sometimes when they were stupid; and suddenly,
point-blank, as they say--_à brûle pourpoint_--asked him, was it true
that he had fought a duel with the very officer who had been there
just now, only a few days ago, on account of a lady?
'How did you know that?' muttered Sanin, dumfoundered.
'The earth is full of rumours, Dimitri Pavlovitch; but anyway, I know
you were quite right, perfectly right, and behaved like a knight. Tell
me, was that lady your betrothed?'
Sanin slightly frowned ...
'There, I won't, I won't,' Maria Nikolaevna hastened to say. 'You
don't like it, forgive me, I won't do it, don't be angry!' Polozov
came in from the next room with a newspaper in his hand. 'What do you
want? Or is dinner ready?'
'Dinner'll be ready directly, but just see what I've read in the
_Northern Bee_ ... Prince Gromoboy is dead.'
Maria Nikolaevna raised her head.
'Ah! I wish him the joys of Paradise! He used,' she turned to Sanin,
'to fill all my rooms with camellias every February on my birthday,
But it wasn't worth spending the winter in Petersburg for that. He
must have been over seventy, I should say?' she said to her husband.
'Yes, he was. They describe his funeral in the paper. All the court
were present. And here's a poem too, of Prince Kovrizhkin's on the
'Shall I read them? The prince calls him the good man of wise
'No, don't. The good man of wise counsel? He was simply the goodman
of Tatiana Yurevna. Come to dinner. Life is for the living. Dimitri
Pavlovitch, your arm.'
* * * * *
The dinner was, as on the day before, superb, and the meal was a very
lively one. Maria Nikolaevna knew how to tell a story ... a rare gift
in a woman, and especially in a Russian one! She did not restrict
herself in her expressions; her countrywomen received particularly
severe treatment at her hands. Sanin was more than once set laughing
by some bold and well-directed word. Above all, Maria Nikolaevna
had no patience with hypocrisy, cant, and humbug. She discovered it
almost everywhere. She, as it were, plumed herself on and boasted of
the humble surroundings in which she had begun life. She told rather
queer anecdotes of her relations in the days of her childhood, spoke
of herself as quite as much of a clodhopper as Natalya Kirilovna
Narishkin. It became apparent to Sanin that she had been through a
great deal more in her time than the majority of women of her age.
Polozov ate meditatively, drank attentively, and only occasionally
cast first on his wife, then on Sanin, his lightish, dim-looking, but,
in reality, very keen eyes.
'What a clever darling you are!' cried Maria Nikolaevna, turning to
him; 'how well you carried out all my commissions in Frankfort! I
could give you a kiss on your forehead for it, but you're not very
keen after kisses.'
'I'm not,' responded Polozov, and he cut a pine-apple with a silver
Maria Nikolaevna looked at him and drummed with her fingers on the
table. 'So our bet's on, isn't it?' she said significantly. 'Yes, it's
'All right. You'll lose it.'
Polozov stuck out his chin. 'Well, this time you mustn't be too
sanguine, Maria Nikolaevna, maybe you will lose.'
'What is the bet? May I know?' asked Sanin.
'No ... not now,' answered Maria Nikolaevna, and she laughed.
It struck seven. The waiter announced that the carriage was ready.
Polozov saw his wife out, and at once waddled back to his easy-chair.
'Mind now! Don't forget the letter to the overseer,' Maria Nikolaevna
shouted to him from the hall.
'I'll write, don't worry yourself. I'm a business-like person.'
In the year 1840, the theatre at Wiesbaden was a poor affair even
externally, and its company, for affected and pitiful mediocrity, for
studious and vulgar commonplaceness, not one hair's-breadth above the
level, which might be regarded up to now as the normal one in all
German theatres, and which has been displayed in perfection lately by
the company in Carlsruhe, under the 'illustrious' direction of Herr
Devrient. At the back of the box taken for her 'Serenity Madame von
Polozov' (how the waiter devised the means of getting it, God knows,
he can hardly have really bribed the stadt-director!) was a little
room, with sofas all round it; before she went into the box, Maria
Nikolaevna asked Sanin to draw up the screen that shut the box off
from the theatre.
'I don't want to be seen,' she said, 'or else they'll be swarming
round directly, you know.' She made him sit down beside her with his
back to the house so that the box seemed to be empty. The orchestra
played the overture from the _Marriage of Figaro_. The curtain rose,
the play began.
It was one of those numerous home-raised products in which well-read
but talentless authors, in choice, but dead language, studiously and
cautiously enunciated some 'profound' or 'vital and palpitating'
idea, portrayed a so-called tragic conflict, and produced dulness ...
an Asiatic dulness, like Asiatic cholera. Maria Nikolaevna listened
patiently to half an act, but when the first lover, discovering the
treachery of his mistress (he was dressed in a cinnamon-coloured
coat with 'puffs' and a plush collar, a striped waistcoat with
mother-of-pearl buttons, green trousers with straps of varnished
leather, and white chamois leather gloves), when this lover pressed
both fists to his bosom, and poking his two elbows out at an acute
angle, howled like a dog, Maria Nikolaevna could not stand it.
'The humblest French actor in the humblest little provincial town acts
better and more naturally than the highest German celebrity,' she
cried in indignation; and she moved away and sat down in the little
room at the back. 'Come here,' she said to Sanin, patting the sofa
beside her. 'Let's talk.'
Maria Nikolaevna glanced at him. 'Ah, I see you're as soft as silk!
Your wife will have an easy time of it with you. That buffoon,' she
went on, pointing with her fan towards the howling actor (he was
acting the part of a tutor), 'reminded me of my young days; I, too,
was in love with a teacher. It was my first ... no, my second passion.
The first time I fell in love with a young monk of the Don monastery.
I was twelve years old. I only saw him on Sundays. He used to wear
a short velvet cassock, smelt of lavender water, and as he made his
way through the crowd with the censer, used to say to the ladies in
French, "_Pardon, excusez_" but never lifted his eyes, and he had
eyelashes like that!' Maria Nikolaevna marked off with the nail of her
middle finger quite half the length of the little finger and showed
Sanin. 'My tutor was called--Monsieur Gaston! I must tell you he was
an awfully learned and very severe person, a Swiss,--and with such an
energetic face! Whiskers black as pitch, a Greek profile, and lips
that looked like cast iron! I was afraid of him! He was the only man I
have ever been afraid of in my life. He was tutor to my brother, who
died ... was drowned. A gipsy woman has foretold a violent death for
me too, but that's all moonshine. I don't believe in it. Only fancy
Ippolit Sidoritch with a dagger!'
'One may die from something else than a dagger,' observed Sanin.
'All that's moonshine! Are you superstitious? I'm not a bit. What is
to be, will be. Monsieur Gaston used to live in our house, in the room
over my head. Sometimes I'd wake up at night and hear his footstep--he
used to go to bed very late--and my heart would stand still with
veneration, or some other feeling. My father could hardly read and
write himself, but he gave us an excellent education. Do you know, I
'You? learnt Latin?'
'Yes; I did. Monsieur Gaston taught me. I read the _Ĉneid_ with him.
It's a dull thing, but there are fine passages. Do you remember when
Dido and Ĉneas are in the forest?...'
'Yes, yes, I remember,' Sanin answered hurriedly. He had long ago
forgotten all his Latin, and had only very faint notions about the
Maria Nikolaevna glanced at him, as her way was, a little from one
side and looking upwards. 'Don't imagine, though, that I am very
learned. Mercy on us! no; I'm not learned, and I've no talents of any
sort. I scarcely know how to write ... really; I can't read aloud; nor
play the piano, nor draw, nor sew--nothing! That's what I am--there
you have me!'
She threw out her hands. 'I tell you all this,' she said, 'first,
so as not to hear those fools (she pointed to the stage where at
that instant the actor's place was being filled by an actress, also
howling, and also with her elbows projecting before her) and secondly,
because I'm in your debt; you told me all about yourself yesterday.'
'It was your pleasure to question me,' observed Sanin.
Maria Nikolaevna suddenly turned to him. 'And it's not your pleasure
to know just what sort of woman I am? I can't wonder at it, though,'
she went on, leaning back again on the sofa cushions. 'A man just
going to be married, and for love, and after a duel.... What thoughts
could he have for anything else?'
Maria Nikolaevna relapsed into dreamy silence, and began biting the
handle of her fan with her big, but even, milkwhite teeth.
And Sanin felt mounting to his head again that intoxication which he
had not been able to get rid of for the last two days.
The conversation between him and Maria Nikolaevna was carried on in an
undertone, almost in a whisper, and this irritated and disturbed him
When would it all end?
Weak people never put an end to things themselves--they always wait
for the end.
Some one sneezed on the stage; this sneeze had been put into the play
by the author as the 'comic relief' or 'element'; there was certainly
no other comic element in it; and the audience made the most of it;
This laugh, too, jarred upon Sanin.
There were moments when he actually did not know whether he was
furious or delighted, bored or amused. Oh, if Gemma could have seen
'It's really curious,' Maria Nikolaevna began all at once. 'A man
informs one and in such a calm voice, "I am going to get married"; but
no one calmly says to one, "I'm going to throw myself in the water."
And yet what difference is there? It's curious, really.'
Annoyance got the upper hand of Sanin. 'There's a great difference,
Maria Nikolaevna! It's not dreadful at all to throw oneself in the
water if one can swim; and besides ... as to the strangeness of
marriages, if you come to that ...'
He stopped short abruptly and bit his tongue.
Maria Nikolaevna slapped her open hand with her fan.
'Go on, Dimitri Pavlovitch, go on--I know what you were going to say.
"If it comes to that, my dear madam, Maria Nikolaevna Polozov," you
were going to say, "anything more curious than _your_ marriage it
would be impossible to conceive.... I know your husband well, from a
child!" That's what you were going to say, you who can swim!'
'Excuse me,' Sanin was beginning....
'Isn't it the truth? Isn't it the truth?' Maria Nikolaevna pronounced
'Come, look me in the face and tell me I was wrong!'
Sanin did not know what to do with his eyes. 'Well, if you like; it's
the truth, if you absolutely insist upon it,' he said at last.
Maria Nikolaevna shook her head. 'Quite so, quite so. Well, and did
you ask yourself, you who can swim, what could be the reason of such
a strange ... step on the part of a woman, not poor ... and not a
fool ... and not ugly? All that does not interest you, perhaps, but
no matter. I'll tell you the reason not this minute, but directly the
_entr'acte_ is over. I am in continual uneasiness for fear some one
should come in....'
Maria Nikolaevna had hardly uttered this last word when the outer door
actually was half opened, and into the box was thrust a head--red,
oily, perspiring, still young, but toothless; with sleek long hair,
a pendent nose, huge ears like a bat's, with gold spectacles on
inquisitive dull eyes, and a _pince-nez_ over the spectacles. The head
looked round, saw Maria Nikolaevna, gave a nasty grin, nodded.... A
scraggy neck craned in after it....
Maria Nikolaevna shook her handkerchief at it. 'I'm not at home! _Ich
bin nicht zu Hause, Herr P....! Ich bin nicht zu Hause.... Ksh-sk!
The head was disconcerted, gave a forced laugh, said with a sort of
sob, in imitation of Liszt, at whose feet he had once reverently
grovelled, '_Sehr gut, sehr gut!_' and vanished.
'What is that object?' inquired Sanin.
'Oh, a Wiesbaden critic. A literary man or a flunkey, as you like. He
is in the pay of a local speculator here, and so is bound to praise
everything and be ecstatic over every one, though for his part he is
soaked through and through with the nastiest venom, to which he does
not dare to give vent. I am afraid he's an awful scandalmonger; he'll
run at once to tell every one I'm in the theatre. Well, what does it
The orchestra played through a waltz, the curtain floated up again....
The grimacing and whimpering began again on the stage.
'Well,' began Maria Nikolaevna, sinking again on to the sofa. 'Since
you are here and obliged to sit with me, instead of enjoying the
society of your betrothed--don't turn away your eyes and get cross--I
understand you, and have promised already to let you go to the other
end of the earth--but now hear my confession. Do you care to know what
I like more than anything?'
'Freedom,' hazarded Sanin.
Maria Nikolaevna laid her hand on his hand.
'Yes, Dimitri Pavlovitch,' she said, and in her voice there was a note
of something special, a sort of unmistakable sincerity and gravity,
'freedom, more than all and before all. And don't imagine I am
boasting of this--there is nothing praiseworthy in it; only it's _so_
and always will be _so_ with me to the day of my death. I suppose it
must have been that I saw a great deal of slavery in my childhood and
suffered enough from it. Yes, and Monsieur Gaston, my tutor, opened
my eyes too. Now you can, perhaps, understand why I married Ippolit
Sidoritch: with him I'm free, perfectly free as air, as the wind....
And I knew that before marriage; I knew that with him I should be a
Maria Nikolaevna paused and flung her fan aside.
'I will tell you one thing more; I have no distaste for reflection ...
it's amusing, and indeed our brains are given us for that; but on the
consequences of what I do I never reflect, and if I suffer I don't
pity myself--not a little bit; it's not worth it. I have a favourite
saying: _Cela ne tire pas à conséquence_,--I don't know how to say
that in Russian. And after all, what does _tire à consequence_? I
shan't be asked to give an account of myself here, you see--in this
world; and up there (she pointed upwards with her finger), well, up
there--let them manage as best they can. When they come to judge me
up there, _I_ shall not be _I_! Are you listening to me? Aren't you
Sanin was sitting bent up. He raised his head. 'I'm not at all bored,
Maria Nikolaevna, and I am listening to you with curiosity. Only I ...
confess ... I wonder why you say all this to me?'
Maria Nikolaevna edged a little away on the sofa.
'You wonder?... Are you slow to guess? Or so modest?'
Sanin lifted his head higher than before.
'I tell you all this,' Maria Nikolaevna continued in an unmoved tone,
which did not, however, at all correspond with the expression of her
face, 'because I like you very much; yes, don't be surprised, I'm not
joking; because since I have met you, it would be painful to me that
you had a disagreeable recollection of me ... not disagreeable even,
that I shouldn't mind, but untrue. That's why I have made you come
here, and am staying alone with you and talking to you so openly....
Yes, yes, openly. I'm not telling a lie. And observe, Dimitri
Pavlovitch, I know you're in love with another woman, that you're
going to be married to her.... Do justice to my disinterestedness!
Though indeed it's a good opportunity for you to say in your turn:
_Cela ne tire pas à conséquence_!'
She laughed, but her laugh suddenly broke off, and she stayed
motionless, as though her own words had suddenly struck her, and in
her eyes, usually so gay and bold, there was a gleam of something like
timidity, even like sadness.
'Snake! ah, she's a snake!' Sanin was thinking meanwhile; 'but what a
'Give me my opera-glass,' Maria Nikolaevna said suddenly. 'I want to
see whether this _jeune première_ really is so ugly. Upon my word, one
might fancy the government appointed her in the interests of morality,
so that the young men might not lose their heads over her.'
Sanin handed her the opera-glass, and as she took it from him,
swiftly, but hardly audibly, she snatched his hand in both of hers.
'Please don't be serious,' she whispered with a smile. 'Do you know
what, no one can put fetters on me, but then you see I put no fetters
on others. I love freedom, and I don't acknowledge duties--not only
for myself. Now move to one side a little, and let us listen to the
Maria Nikolaevna turned her opera-glass upon the stage, and Sanin
proceeded to look in the same direction, sitting beside her in the
half dark of the box, and involuntarily drinking in the warmth and
fragrance of her luxurious body, and as involuntarily turning over
and over in his head all she had said during the evening--especially
during the last minutes.
The play lasted over an hour longer, but Maria Nikolaevna and Sanin
soon gave up looking at the stage. A conversation sprang up between
them again, and went on the same lines as before; only this time Sanin
was less silent. Inwardly he was angry with himself and with Maria
Nikolaevna; he tried to prove to her all the inconsistency of her
'theory,' as though she cared for theories! He began arguing with her,
at which she was secretly rejoiced; if a man argues, it means that he
is giving in or will give in. He had taken the bait, was giving way,
had left off keeping shyly aloof! She retorted, laughed, agreed, mused
dreamily, attacked him ... and meanwhile his face and her face were
close together, his eyes no longer avoided her eyes.... Those eyes
of hers seemed to ramble, seemed to hover over his features, and he
smiled in response to them--a smile of civility, but still a smile.
It was so much gained for her that he had gone off into abstractions,
that he was discoursing upon truth in personal relations, upon
duty, the sacredness of love and marriage.... It is well known that
these abstract propositions serve admirably as a beginning ... as a
People who knew Maria Nikolaevna well used to maintain that when her
strong and vigorous personality showed signs of something soft and
modest, something almost of maidenly shamefacedness, though one
wondered where she could have got it from ... then ... then, things
were taking a dangerous turn.
Things had apparently taken such a turn for Sanin.... He would have
felt contempt for himself, if he could have succeeded in concentrating
his attention for one instant; but he had not time to concentrate his
mind nor to despise himself.
She wasted no time. And it all came from his being so very
good-looking! One can but exclaim, No man knows what may be his making
or his undoing!
The play was over. Maria Nikolaevna asked Sanin to put on her shawl
and did not stir, while he wrapped the soft fabric round her really
queenly shoulders. Then she took his arm, went out into the corridor,
and almost cried out aloud. At the very door of the box Dönhof sprang
up like some apparition; while behind his back she got a glimpse of
the figure of the Wiesbaden critic. The 'literary man's' oily face was
positively radiant with malignancy.
'Is it your wish, madam, that I find you your carriage?' said
the young officer addressing Maria Nikolaevna with a quiver of
ill-disguised fury in his voice.
'No, thank you,' she answered ... 'my man will find it. Stop!' she
added in an imperious whisper, and rapidly withdrew drawing Sanin
along with her.
'Go to the devil! Why are you staring at me?' Dönhof roared suddenly
at the literary man. He had to vent his feelings upon some one!
'_Sehr gut! sehr gut!_' muttered the literary man, and shuffled off.
Maria Nikolaevna's footman, waiting for her in the entrance, found her
carriage in no time. She quickly took her seat in it; Sanin leapt in
after her. The doors were slammed to, and Maria Nikolaevna exploded in
a burst of laughter.
'What are you laughing at?' Sanin inquired.
'Oh, excuse me, please ... but it struck me: what if Dönhof were to
have another duel with you ... on my account.... wouldn't that be
'Are you very great friends with him?' Sanin asked.
'With him? that boy? He's one of my followers. You needn't trouble
yourself about him!'
'Oh, I'm not troubling myself at all.'
Maria Nikolaevna sighed. 'Ah, I know you're not. But listen, do you
know what, you're such a darling, you mustn't refuse me one last
request. Remember in three days' time I am going to Paris, and you are
returning to Frankfort.... Shall we ever meet again?'
'What is this request?'
'You can ride, of course?'
'Well, then, to-morrow morning I'll take you with me, and we'll go a
ride together out of the town. We'll have splendid horses. Then we'll
come home, wind up our business, and amen! Don't be surprised, don't
tell me it's a caprice, and I'm a madcap--all that's very likely--but
simply say, I consent.'
Maria Nikolaevna turned her face towards him. It was dark in the
carriage, but her eyes glittered even in the darkness.
'Very well, I consent,' said Sanin with a sigh.
'Ah! You sighed!' Maria Nikolaevna mimicked him. 'That means to say,
as you've begun, you must go on to the bitter end. But no, no....
You're charming, you're good, and I'll keep my promise. Here's my
hand, without a glove on it, the right one, for business. Take it, and
have faith in its pressure. What sort of a woman I am, I don't know;
but I'm an honest fellow, and one can do business with me.'
Sanin, without knowing very well what he was doing, lifted the hand to
his lips. Maria Nikolaevna softly took it, and was suddenly still, and
did not speak again till the carriage stopped.
She began getting out.... What was it? Sanin's fancy? or did he really
feel on his cheek a swift burning kiss?
'Till to-morrow!' whispered Maria Nikolaevna on the steps, in the
light of the four tapers of a candelabrum, held up on her appearance
by the gold-laced door-keeper. She kept her eyes cast down. 'Till
When he got back to his room, Sanin found on the table a letter from
Gemma. He felt a momentary dismay, and at once made haste to rejoice
over it to disguise his dismay from himself. It consisted of a few
lines. She was delighted at the 'successful opening of negotiations,'
advised him to be patient, and added that all at home were well, and
were already rejoicing at the prospect of seeing him back again. Sanin
felt the letter rather stiff, he took pen and paper, however ... and
threw it all aside again. 'Why write? I shall be back myself to-morrow
... it's high time!'
He went to bed immediately, and tried to get to sleep as quickly as
possible. If he had stayed up and remained on his legs, he would
certainly have begun thinking about Gemma, and he was for some reason
... ashamed to think of her. His conscience was stirring within him.
But he consoled himself with the reflection that to-morrow it would
all be over for ever, and he would take leave for good of this
feather-brained lady, and would forget all this rotten idiocy!...
Weak people in their mental colloquies, eagerly make use of strong
_Et puis ... cela ne tire pas à consequence!_
Such were Sanin's thoughts, as he went to bed; but what he thought
next morning when Maria Nikolaevna knocked impatiently at his door
with the coral handle of her riding-whip, when he saw her in the
doorway, with the train of a dark-blue riding habit over her arm, with
a man's small hat on her thickly coiled curls, with a veil thrown
back over her shoulder, with a smile of invitation on her lips, in
her eyes, over all her face--what he thought then--history does not
'Well? are you ready?' rang out a joyous voice.
Sanin buttoned his coat, and took his hat in silence. Maria Nikolaevna
flung him a bright look, nodded to him, and ran swiftly down the
staircase. And he ran after her.
The horses were already waiting in the street at the steps. There
were three of them, a golden chestnut thorough-bred mare, with a
thin-lipped mouth, that showed the teeth, with black prominent eyes,
and legs like a stag's, rather thin but beautifully shaped, and full
of fire and spirit, for Maria Nikolaevna; a big, powerful, rather
thick-set horse, raven black all over, for Sanin; the third horse was
destined for the groom. Maria Nikolaevna leaped adroitly on to her
mare, who stamped and wheeled round, lifting her tail, and sinking
on to her haunches. But Maria Nikolaevna, who was a first-rate
horse-woman, reined her in; they had to take leave of Polozov, who in
his inevitable fez and in an open dressing-gown, came out on to the
balcony, and from there waved a _batiste_ handkerchief, without the
faintest smile, rather a frown, in fact, on his face. Sanin too
mounted his horse; Maria Nikolaevna saluted Polozov with her whip,
then gave her mare a lash with it on her arched and flat neck. The
mare reared on her hind legs, made a dash forward, moving with a smart
and shortened step, quivering in every sinew, biting the air and
snorting abruptly. Sanin rode behind, and looked at Maria Nikolaevna;
her slender supple figure, moulded by close-fitting but easy stays,
swayed to and fro with self-confident grace and skill. She turned her
head and beckoned him with her eyes alone. He came alongside of her.
'See now, how delightful it is,' she said. 'I tell you at the last,
before parting, you are charming, and you shan't regret it.'
As she uttered those last words, she nodded her head several times as
if to confirm them and make him feel their full weight.
She seemed so happy that Sanin was simply astonished; her face even
wore at times that sedate expression which children sometimes have
when they are very ... very much pleased.
They rode at a walking pace for the short distance to the city walls,
but then started off at a vigorous gallop along the high road. It was
magnificent, real summer weather; the wind blew in their faces, and
sang and whistled sweetly in their ears. They felt very happy; the
sense of youth, health and life, of free eager onward motion, gained
possession of both; it grew stronger every instant.
Maria Nikolaevna reined in her mare, and again went at a walking pace;
Sanin followed her example.
'This,' she began with a deep blissful sigh, 'this now is the only
thing worth living for. When you succeed in doing what you want to,
what seemed impossible--come, enjoy it, heart and soul, to the last
drop!' She passed her hand across her throat. 'And how good and kind
one feels oneself then! I now, at this moment ... how good I feel!
I feel as if I could embrace the whole world! No, not the whole
world.... That man now I couldn't.' She pointed with her whip at a
poorly dressed old man who was stealing along on one side. 'But I
am ready to make him happy. Here, take this,' she shouted loudly in
German, and she flung a net purse at his feet. The heavy little bag
(leather purses were not thought of at that time) fell with a ring
on to the road. The old man was astounded, stood still, while Maria
Nikolaevna chuckled, and put her mare into a gallop.
'Do you enjoy riding so much?' Sanin asked, as he overtook her.
Maria Nikolaevna reined her mare in once more: only in this way could
she bring her to a stop.
'I only wanted to get away from thanks. If any one thanks me, he
spoils my pleasure. You see I didn't do that for his sake, but for my
own. How dare he thank me? I didn't hear what you asked me.'
'I asked ... I wanted to know what makes you so happy to-day.'
'Do you know what,' said Maria Nikolaevna; either she had again not
heard Sanin's question, or she did not consider it necessary to answer
it. 'I'm awfully sick of that groom, who sticks up there behind us,
and most likely does nothing but wonder when we gentlefolks are going
home again. How shall we get rid of him?' She hastily pulled a little
pocket-book out of her pocket. 'Send him back to the town with a note?
No ... that won't do. Ah! I have it! What's that in front of us? Isn't
it an inn?'
Sanin looked in the direction she pointed. 'Yes, I believe it is an
'Well, that's first-rate. I'll tell him to stop at that inn and drink
beer till we come back.'
'But what will he think?'
'What does it matter to us? Besides, he won't think at all; he'll
drink beer--that's all. Come, Sanin (it was the first time she had
used his surname alone), on, gallop!'
When they reached the inn, Maria Nikolaevna called the groom up
and told him what she wished of him. The groom, a man of English
extraction and English temperament, raised his hand to the beak of his
cap without a word, jumped off his horse, and took him by the bridle.
'Well, now we are free as the birds of the air!' cried Maria
Nikolaevna. 'Where shall we go. North, south, east, or west? Look--I'm
like the Hungarian king at his coronation (she pointed her whip in
each direction in turn). All is ours! No, do you know what: see, those
glorious mountains--and that forest! Let's go there, to the mountains,
to the mountains!'
'_In die Berge wo die Freiheit thront!_'
She turned off the high-road and galloped along a narrow untrodden
track, which certainly seemed to lead straight to the hills. Sanin
galloped after her.
This track soon changed into a tiny footpath, and at last disappeared
altogether, and was crossed by a stream. Sanin counselled turning
back, but Maria Nikolaevna said, 'No! I want to get to the mountains!
Let's go straight, as the birds fly,' and she made her mare leap the
stream. Sanin leaped it too. Beyond the stream began a wide meadow,
at first dry, then wet, and at last quite boggy; the water oozed up
everywhere, and stood in pools in some places. Maria Nikolaevna rode
her mare straight through these pools on purpose, laughed, and said,
'Let's be naughty children.'
'Do you know,' she asked Sanin, 'what is meant by pool-hunting?'
'Yes,' answered Sanin.
'I had an uncle a huntsman,' she went on.
'I used to go out hunting with him--in the spring. It was delicious!
Here we are now, on the pools with you. Only, I see, you're a Russian,
and yet mean to marry an Italian. Well, that's your sorrow. What's
that? A stream again! Gee up!'
The horse took the leap, but Maria Nikolaevna's hat fell off her head,
and her curls tumbled loose over her shoulders. Sanin was just going
to get off his horse to pick up the hat, but she shouted to him,
'Don't touch it, I'll get it myself,' bent low down from the saddle,
hooked the handle of her whip into the veil, and actually did get the
hat. She put it on her head, but did not fasten up her hair, and again
darted off, positively holloaing. Sanin dashed along beside her, by
her side leaped trenches, fences, brooks, fell in and scrambled out,
flew down hill, flew up hill, and kept watching her face. What a face
it was! It was all, as it were, wide open: wide-open eyes, eager,
bright, and wild; lips, nostrils, open too, and breathing eagerly; she
looked straight before her, and it seemed as though that soul longed
to master everything it saw, the earth, the sky, the sun, the air
itself; and would complain of one thing only--that dangers were so
few, and all she could overcome. 'Sanin!' she cried, 'why, this is
like Bürger's Lenore! Only you're not dead--eh? Not dead ... I am
alive!' She let her force and daring have full fling. It seemed not an
Amazon on a galloping horse, but a young female centaur at full speed,
half-beast and half-god, and the sober, well-bred country seemed
astounded, as it was trampled underfoot in her wild riot!
Maria Nikolaevna at last drew up her foaming and bespattered mare; she
was staggering under her, and Sanin's powerful but heavy horse was
gasping for breath.
'Well, do you like it?' Maria Nikolaevna asked in a sort of exquisite
'I like it!' Sanin echoed back ecstatically. And his blood was on
'This isn't all, wait a bit.' She held out her hand. Her glove was
'I told you I would lead you to the forest, to the mountains.... Here
they are, the mountains!' The mountains, covered with tall forest,
rose about two hundred feet from the place they had reached in their
wild ride. 'Look, here is the road; let us turn into it--and forwards.
Only at a walk. We must let our horses get their breath.'
They rode on. With one vigorous sweep of her arm Maria Nikolaevna
flung back her hair. Then she looked at her gloves and took them off.
'My hands will smell of leather,' she said, 'you won't mind that, eh?'
... Maria Nikolaevna smiled, and Sanin smiled too. Their mad gallop
together seemed to have finally brought them together and made them
'How old are you?' she asked suddenly.
'Really? I'm twenty-two too. A nice age. Add both together and you're
still far off old age. It's hot, though. Am I very red, eh?'
'Like a poppy!'
Maria Nikolaevna rubbed her face with her handkerchief. 'We've only
to get to the forest and there it will be cool. Such an old forest is
like an old friend. Have you any friends?'
Sanin thought a little. 'Yes ... only few. No real ones.'
'I have; real ones--but not old ones. This is a friend too--a horse.
How carefully it carries one! Ah, but it's splendid here! Is it
possible I am going to Paris the day after to-morrow?'
'Yes ... is it possible?' Sanin chimed in.
'And you to Frankfort?'
'I am certainly going to Frankfort.'
'Well, what of it? Good luck go with you! Anyway, to-day's ours ...
ours ... ours!'
* * * * *
The horses reached the forest's edge and pushed on into the forest.
The broad soft shade of the forest wrapt them round on all sides.
'Oh, but this is paradise!' cried Maria Nikolaevna. 'Further, deeper
into the shade, Sanin!'
The horses moved slowly on, 'deeper into the shade,' slightly swaying
and snorting. The path, by which they had come in, suddenly turned
off and plunged into a rather narrow gorge. The smell of heather and
bracken, of the resin of the pines, and the decaying leaves of last
year, seemed to hang, close and drowsy, about it. Through the clefts
of the big brown rocks came strong currents of fresh air. On both
sides of the path rose round hillocks covered with green moss.
'Stop!' cried Maria Nikolaevna, 'I want to sit down and rest on this
velvet. Help me to get off.'
Sanin leaped off his horse and ran up to her. She leaned on both his
shoulders, sprang instantly to the ground, and seated herself on one
of the mossy mounds. He stood before her, holding both the horses'
bridles in his hand.
She lifted her eyes to him.... 'Sanin, are you able to forget?'
Sanin recollected what had happened yesterday ... in the carriage.
'What is that--a question ... or a reproach?'
'I have never in my life reproached any one for anything. Do you
believe in magic?'
'In magic?--you know what is sung of in our ballads--our Russian
'Ah! That's what you're speaking of,' Sanin said slowly.
'Yes, that's it. I believe in it ... and you will believe in it.'
'Magic is sorcery ...' Sanin repeated, 'Anything in the world is
possible. I used not to believe in it--but I do now. I don't know
Maria Nikolaevna thought a moment and looked about her. 'I fancy this
place seems familiar to me. Look, Sanin, behind that bushy oak--is
there a red wooden cross, or not?'
Sanin moved a few steps to one side. 'Yes, there is.' Maria Nikolaevna
smiled. 'Ah, that's good! I know where we are. We haven't got lost as
yet. What's that tapping? A wood-cutter?'
Sanin looked into the thicket. 'Yes ... there's a man there chopping
up dry branches.'
'I must put my hair to rights,' said Maria Nikolaevna. 'Else he'll see
me and be shocked.' She took off her hat and began plaiting up her
long hair, silently and seriously. Sanin stood facing her ... All the
lines of her graceful limbs could be clearly seen through the dark
folds of her habit, dotted here and there with tufts of moss.
One of the horses suddenly shook itself behind Sanin's back; he
himself started and trembled from head to foot. Everything was in
confusion within him, his nerves were strung up like harpstrings. He
might well say he did not know himself.... He really was bewitched.
His whole being was filled full of one thing ... one idea, one desire.
Maria Nikolaevna turned a keen look upon him.
'Come, now everything's as it should be,' she observed, putting on her
hat. 'Won't you sit down? Here! No, wait a minute ... don't sit down!
Over the tree-tops, over the air of the forest, rolled a dull
'Can it be thunder?'
'I think it really is thunder,' answered Sanin.
'Oh, this is a treat, a real treat! That was the only thing wanting!'
The dull rumble was heard a second time, rose, and fell in a crash.
'Bravo! Bis! Do you remember I spoke of the _Ĉneid_ yesterday? They
too were overtaken by a storm in the forest, you know. We must be off,
though.' She rose swiftly to her feet. 'Bring me my horse.... Give me
your hand. There, so. I'm not heavy.'
She hopped like a bird into the saddle. Sanin too mounted his horse.
'Are you going home?' he asked in an unsteady voice.
'Home indeed!' she answered deliberately and picked up the reins.
'Follow me,' she commanded almost roughly. She came out on to the road
and passing the red cross, rode down into a hollow, clambered up again
to a cross road, turned to the right and again up the mountainside....
She obviously knew where the path led, and the path led farther and
farther into the heart of the forest. She said nothing and did not
look round; she moved imperiously in front and humbly and submissively
he followed without a spark of will in his sinking heart. Rain began
to fall in spots. She quickened her horse's pace, and he did not
linger behind her. At last through the dark green of the young firs
under an overhanging grey rock, a tumbledown little hut peeped out at
him, with a low door in its wattle wall.... Maria Nikolaevna made
her mare push through the fir bushes, leaped off her, and appearing
suddenly at the entrance to the hut, turned to Sanin, and whispered
* * * * *
Four hours later, Maria Nikolaevna and Sanin, accompanied by the
groom, who was nodding in the saddle, returned to Wiesbaden, to the
hotel. Polozov met his wife with the letter to the overseer in his
hand. After staring rather intently at her, he showed signs of some
displeasure on his face, and even muttered, 'You don't mean to say
you've won your bet?'
Maria Nikolaevna simply shrugged her shoulders.
* * * * *
The same day, two hours later, Sanin was standing in his own room
before her, like one distraught, ruined....
'Where are you going, dear?' she asked him. 'To Paris, or to
'I am going where you will be, and will be with you till you drive me
away,' he answered with despair and pressed close to him the hands
of his sovereign. She freed her hands, laid them on his head, and
clutched at his hair with her fingers. She slowly turned over and
twisted the unresisting hair, drew herself up, her lips curled with
triumph, while her eyes, wide and clear, almost white, expressed
nothing but the ruthlessness and glutted joy of conquest. The hawk, as
it clutches a captured bird, has eyes like that.
This was what Dimitri Sanin remembered when in the stillness of his
room turning over his old papers he found among them a garnet cross.
The events we have described rose clearly and consecutively before his
mental vision.... But when he reached the moment when he addressed
that humiliating prayer to Madame Polozov, when he grovelled at her
feet, when his slavery began, he averted his gaze from the images he
had evoked, he tried to recall no more. And not that his memory failed
him, oh no! he knew only too well what followed upon that moment, but
he was stifled by shame, even now, so many years after; he dreaded
that feeling of self-contempt, which he knew for certain would
overwhelm him, and like a torrent, flood all other feelings if he did
not bid his memory be still. But try as he would to turn away from
these memories, he could not stifle them entirely. He remembered the
scoundrelly, tearful, lying, pitiful letter he had sent to Gemma, that
never received an answer.... See her again, go back to her, after such
falsehood, such treachery, no! no! he could not, so much conscience
and honesty was left in him. Moreover, he had lost every trace of
confidence in himself, every atom of self-respect; he dared not rely
on himself for anything. Sanin recollected too how he had later
on--oh, ignominy!--sent the Polozovs' footman to Frankfort for his
things, what cowardly terror he had felt, how he had had one thought
only, to get away as soon as might be to Paris--to Paris; how in
obedience to Maria Nikolaevna, he had humoured and tried to please
Ippolit Sidoritch and been amiable to Dönhof, on whose finger he
noticed just such an iron ring as Maria Nikolaevna had given him!!!
Then followed memories still worse, more ignominious ... the waiter
hands him a visiting card, and on it is the name, 'Pantaleone
Cippatola, court singer to His Highness the Duke of Modena!' He hides
from the old man, but cannot escape meeting him in the corridor, and
a face of exasperation rises before him under an upstanding topknot
of grey hair; the old eyes blaze like red-hot coals, and he hears
menacing cries and curses: '_Maledizione!_' hears even the terrible
words: '_Codardo! Infame traditore!_' Sanin closes his eyes, shakes
his head, turns away again and again, but still he sees himself
sitting in a travelling carriage on the narrow front seat ... In the
comfortable places facing the horses sit Maria Nikolaevna and Ippolit
Sidoritch, the four horses trotting all together fly along the paved
roads of Wiesbaden to Paris! to Paris! Ippolit Sidoritch is eating a
pear which Sanin has peeled for him, while Maria Nikolaevna watches
him and smiles at him, her bondslave, that smile he knows already, the
smile of the proprietor, the slave-owner.... But, good God, out there
at the corner of the street not far from the city walls, wasn't it
Pantaleone again, and who with him? Can it be Emilio? Yes, it was
he, the enthusiastic devoted boy! Not long since his young face had
been full of reverence before his hero, his ideal, but now his pale
handsome face, so handsome that Maria Nikolaevna noticed him and poked
her head out of the carriage window, that noble face is glowing with
anger and contempt; his eyes, so like _her_ eyes! are fastened upon
Sanin, and the tightly compressed lips part to revile him....
And Pantaleone stretches out his hand and points Sanin out to
Tartaglia standing near, and Tartaglia barks at Sanin, and the very
bark of the faithful dog sounds like an unbearable reproach....
And then, the life in Paris, and all the humiliations, all the
loathsome tortures of the slave, who dare not be jealous or complain,
and who is cast aside at last, like a worn-out garment....
Then the going home to his own country, the poisoned, the devastated
life, the petty interests and petty cares, bitter and fruitless
regret, and as bitter and fruitless apathy, a punishment not apparent,
but of every minute, continuous, like some trivial but incurable
disease, the payment farthing by farthing of the debt, which can never
The cup was full enough.
* * * * *
How had the garnet cross given Sanin by Gemma existed till now, why
had he not sent it back, how had it happened that he had never come
across it till that day? A long, long while he sat deep in thought,
and taught as he was by the experience of so many years, he still
could not comprehend how he could have deserted Gemma, so tenderly and
passionately loved, for a woman he did not love at all.... Next day he
surprised all his friends and acquaintances by announcing that he was
The surprise was general in society. Sanin was leaving Petersburg, in
the middle of the winter, after having only just taken and furnished a
capital flat, and having even secured seats for all the performances
of the Italian Opera, in which Madame Patti ... Patti, herself,
herself, was to take part! His friends and acquaintances wondered;
but it is not human nature as a rule to be interested long in other
people's affairs, and when Sanin set off for abroad, none came to the
railway station to see him off but a French tailor, and he only in
the hope of securing an unpaid account '_pour un saute-en-barque en
velours noir tout à fait chic_.'
Sanin told his friends he was going abroad, but he did not say where
exactly: the reader will readily conjecture that he made straight for
Frankfort. Thanks to the general extension of railways, on the fourth
day after leaving Petersburg he was there. He had not visited the
place since 1840. The hotel, the White Swan, was standing in its old
place and still flourishing, though no longer regarded as first class.
The _Zeile_, the principal street of Frankfort was little changed,
but there was not only no trace of Signora Roselli's house, the very
street in which it stood had disappeared. Sanin wandered like a man in
a dream about the places once so familiar, and recognised nothing; the
old buildings had vanished; they were replaced by new streets of huge
continuous houses and fine villas; even the public garden, where that
last interview with Gemma had taken place, had so grown up and altered
that Sanin wondered if it really were the same garden. What was he to
do? How and where could he get information? Thirty years, no little
thing! had passed since those days. No one to whom he applied had
even heard of the name Roselli; the hotel-keeper advised him to have
recourse to the public library, there, he told him, he would find
all the old newspapers, but what good he would get from that, the
hotel-keeper owned he didn't see. Sanin in despair made inquiries
about Herr Klüber. That name the hotel-keeper knew well, but there too
no success awaited him. The elegant shop-manager, after making much
noise in the world and rising to the position of a capitalist, had
speculated, was made bankrupt, and died in prison.... This piece of
news did not, however, occasion Sanin the slightest regret. He was
beginning to feel that his journey had been rather precipitate....
But, behold, one day, as he was turning over a Frankfort directory,
he came on the name: Von Dönhof, retired major. He promptly took a
carriage and drove to the address, though why was this Von Dönhof
certain to be that Dönhof, and why even was the right Dönhof likely
to be able to tell him any news of the Roselli family? No matter, a
drowning man catches at straws.
Sanin found the retired major von Dönhof at home, and in the
grey-haired gentleman who received him he recognised at once his
adversary of bygone days. Dönhof knew him too, and was positively
delighted to see him; he recalled to him his young days, the escapades
of his youth. Sanin heard from him that the Roselli family had long,
long ago emigrated to America, to New York; that Gemma had married a
merchant; that he, Dönhof, had an acquaintance also a merchant, who
would probably know her husband's address, as he did a great deal of
business with America. Sanin begged Dönhof to consult this friend,
and, to his delight, Dönhof brought him the address of Gemma's
husband, Mr. Jeremy Slocum, New York, Broadway, No. 501. Only this
address dated from the year 1863.
'Let us hope,' cried Dönhof, 'that our Frankfort belle is still alive
and has not left New York! By the way,' he added, dropping his voice,
'what about that Russian lady, who was staying, do you remember, about
that time at Wiesbaden--Madame von Bo ... von Bolozov, is she still
'No,' answered Sanin, 'she died long ago.' Dönhof looked up, but
observing that Sanin had turned away and was frowning, he did not say
another word, but took his leave.
* * * * *
That same day Sanin sent a letter to Madame Gemma Slocum, at New York.
In the letter he told her he was writing to her from Frankfort, where
he had come solely with the object of finding traces of her, that
he was very well aware that he was absolutely without a right to
expect that she would answer his appeal; that he had not deserved her
forgiveness, and could only hope that among happy surroundings she had
long ago forgotten his existence. He added that he had made up his
mind to recall himself to her memory in consequence of a chance
circumstance which had too vividly brought back to him the images
of the past; he described his life, solitary, childless, joyless;
he implored her to understand the grounds that had induced him to
address her, not to let him carry to the grave the bitter sense of his
own wrongdoing, expiated long since by suffering, but never forgiven,
and to make him happy with even the briefest news of her life in the
new world to which she had gone away. 'In writing one word to me,'
so Sanin ended his letter, 'you will be doing a good action worthy
of your noble soul, and I shall thank you to my last breath. I am
stopping here at the _White Swan_ (he underlined those words) and
shall wait, wait till spring, for your answer.'
He despatched this letter, and proceeded to wait. For six whole weeks
he lived in the hotel, scarcely leaving his room, and resolutely
seeing no one. No one could write to him from Russia nor from
anywhere; and that just suited his mood; if a letter came addressed to
him he would know at once that it was the one he was waiting for.
He read from morning till evening, and not journals, but serious
books--historical works. These prolonged studies, this stillness, this
hidden life, like a snail in its shell, suited his spiritual condition
to perfection; and for this, if nothing more, thanks to Gemma! But was
she alive? Would she answer?
At last a letter came, with an American postmark, from New York,
addressed to him. The handwriting of the address on the envelope was
English.... He did not recognise it, and there was a pang at his
heart. He could not at once bring himself to break open the envelope.
He glanced at the signature--Gemma! The tears positively gushed from
his eyes: the mere fact that she signed her name, without a surname,
was a pledge to him of reconciliation, of forgiveness! He unfolded the
thin sheet of blue notepaper: a photograph slipped out. He made haste
to pick it up--and was struck dumb with amazement: Gemma, Gemma
living, young as he had known her thirty years ago! The same eyes,
the same lips, the same form of the whole face! On the back of the
photograph was written, 'My daughter Mariana.' The whole letter was
very kind and simple. Gemma thanked Sanin for not having hesitated to
write to her, for having confidence in her; she did not conceal from
him that she had passed some painful moments after his disappearance,
but she added at once that for all that she considered--and had always
considered--her meeting him as a happy thing, seeing that it was that
meeting which had prevented her from becoming the wife of Mr. Klüber,
and in that way, though indirectly, had led to her marriage with her
husband, with whom she had now lived twenty-eight years, in perfect
happiness, comfort, and prosperity; their house was known to every
one in New York. Gemma informed Sanin that she was the mother of five
children, four sons and one daughter, a girl of eighteen, engaged
to be married, and her photograph she enclosed as she was generally
considered very like her mother. The sorrowful news Gemma kept for the
end of the letter. Frau Lenore had died in New York, where she had
followed her daughter and son-in-law, but she had lived long enough to
rejoice in her children's happiness and to nurse her grandchildren.
Pantaleone, too, had meant to come out to America, but he had died on
the very eve of leaving Frankfort. 'Emilio, our beloved, incomparable
Emilio, died a glorious death for the freedom of his country in
Sicily, where he was one of the "Thousand" under the leadership of the
great Garibaldi; we all bitterly lamented the loss of our priceless
brother, but, even in the midst of our tears, we were proud of
him--and shall always be proud of him--and hold his memory sacred!
His lofty, disinterested soul was worthy of a martyr's crown!' Then
Gemma expressed her regret that Sanin's life had apparently been
so unsuccessful, wished him before everything peace and a tranquil
spirit, and said that she would be very glad to see him again, though
she realised how unlikely such a meeting was....
We will not attempt to describe the feelings Sanin experienced as
he read this letter. For such feelings there is no satisfactory
expression; they are too deep and too strong and too vague for any
word. Only music could reproduce them.
Sanin answered at once; and as a wedding gift to the young girl, sent
to 'Mariana Slocum, from an unknown friend,' a garnet cross, set in a
magnificent pearl necklace. This present, costly as it was, did not
ruin him; during the thirty years that had elapsed since his first
visit to Frankfort, he had succeeded in accumulating a considerable
fortune. Early in May he went back to Petersburg, but hardly for long.
It is rumoured that he is selling all his lands and preparing to go to
The party had long ago broken up. The clock struck half-past twelve.
There was left in the room only the master of the house and Sergei
Nikolaevitch and Vladimir Petrovitch.
The master of the house rang and ordered the remains of the supper
to be cleared away. 'And so it's settled,' he observed, sitting back
farther in his easy-chair and lighting a cigar; 'each of us is to tell
the story of his first love. It's your turn, Sergei Nikolaevitch.'