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Chapter 14

  • Since Vera's departure Raisky had experienced the meaning of unmitigate_olitude. He felt as if he were surrounded by a desert, now that he wa_eprived of the sight of her, although nature around him was radiant an_miling. Tatiana Markovna's anxious solicitude, Marfinka's charming rule, he_ongs, her lively chatter with the gay and youthful Vikentev, the arrival an_eparture of guests, the eccentricities of the freakish Paulina Karpovna—non_f these things existed for him. He only saw that the lilac curtain wa_otionless, the blinds had been drawn down, and that Vera's favourite benc_emained empty.
  • He did not want to love Vera, and if he had wished it he ought still t_esist, for Vera had denied him every hope; indeed her beauty seemed to hav_ost its power over him, and he was now drawn to her by a differen_ttraction.
  • "What is Vera's real nature?" he asked his aunt one day.
  • "You see for yourself. She recognises only her own understanding and her ow_ill. She was born in my arms, and has spent her whole life with me, yet I d_ot know what is in her mind, what are her likes and dislikes. I do not forc_er, or worry her, so that she can hardly think herself unfortunate. You se_or yourself that my girls live with me as free as the birds of the air."
  • "You are right, Grandmother. It is not fear, or anxiety, or the power o_uthority that binds you to them, but the tenderest of home ties. They ador_ou, and so they ought to do, but it is the fruit of their upbringing. Wh_hould worn-out conceptions of duty be pressed upon them, and why should the_ive like caged birds? Let them dip into the reservoir of life itself. A bir_mprisoned in a cage loses the capacity for freedom, and, even if the door o_is cage is opened, he will not take flight."
  • "I have never tried to exercise restraint on Marfinka or Vera. Supposing _espectable, rich man of old and blameless family were to ask for Marfinka'_and, and she refused it, do you think I should persuade her?"
  • "Well, Granny, I leave Marfinka to you, but do not attempt to do anything wit_era. You must not restrain her in any way, must leave her her freedom. On_ird is born for the cage, another for freedom. Vera will be able to direc_er own life."
  • "Do I restrain or repress her? I am like the police inspector who only see_hat there is an outward semblance of order; I do not penetrate below th_urface unless my assistance is invited."
  • "Tell me, Grandmother, what sort of a woman is this priest's wife, and wha_re the links that bind her to Vera?"
  • "Natalie Ivanovna and Vera made friends at a boarding school. She is a good,
  • modest woman."
  • "Is she sensible? Possibly a woman of weight and character?"
  • "Oh no! She is not stupid, is fairly educated, a great reader, and fond o_ress. The pope, who is much liked by the local landowner, is not poor, an_ives in comfort on his own land. He is a sensible man, belongs to the younge_eneration, but he leads too worldly a life for the priesthood, as is th_ustom in landed society. He reads French books, and smokes, for instance;
  • things that are unsuited to the priestly garb. Every glance of Veroshka's,
  • every mood of hers is sacred to Natalie Ivanovna; whatever she may say is wis_nd good. This suits Vera, who does not want a friend, but an obedien_ervant; that is why she loves the pope's wife."
  • "And Vera loves you too?" asked Raisky, who wanted to know if Vera love_nybody else except the pope's wife.
  • "Yes, she loves me," answered Tatiana Markovna with conviction, "but in he_wn fashion. She never shows it, and never will, though she loves me and woul_e ready to die for me."
  • "And you love Vera?"
  • "Ah, how I love her!" she sighed, and tears stood in her eyes. "She does no_now, but perhaps one day she may learn."
  • "Have you noticed how thoughtful she has been for some time. Is she not i_ove?" he added in a half-whisper, but immediately regretted the question,
  • which it was too late to withdraw. His aunt started back as if a stone had hi_er.
  • "God forbid!" she cried, making the sign of the Cross. "This sorrow has bee_pared us. Do not disturb my peace, but confess, as you would to the priest,
  • if you know anything."
  • Raisky was annoyed with himself, and made an effort, partially successful, t_acify his aunt.
  • "I have not noticed anything more than you have. She would hardly be likely t_ay anything to me that she kept secret from you."
  • "Yes, yes, it is true she will say nothing. The pope's wife knows everything,
  • but she would rather die than betray Vera's secrets. Her own secrets sh_catters for anyone to pick up, but not Vera's."
  • "With whom could she fall in love?" remarked Tatiana Markovna after a silence.
  • "There is no one here."
  • "No one?" interrupted Raisky quickly.
  • Tatiana Markovna shook her head, then went on after a while:—
  • "There might be the Forester. He is an excellent individual, and has shown a_nclination, I notice. He would be certainly an admirable match for Vera, but…
  • ."
  • "Well?"
  • "She is so strange. Heaven knows how any one would dare, how any man would wo_er. He is splendid—well-established and rich. The wood alone yield_housands."
  • "Is the Forester young, educated, a man that counts?"
  • Vassilissa entered and announced Paulina Karpovna.
  • "The evil one himself has brought her," grumbled Tatiana Markovna. "Show he_n, and be quick with breakfast."