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Chapter 18

  • The weather was gloomy. Rain fell unintermittently, the sky was enshrouded i_ thick cloud of fog, and on the ground lay banks of mist. No one had venture_ut all day, and the family had already gone early to bed, when about te_'clock the rain ceased, Raisky put on his overcoat to get a breath of air i_he garden. The rustle of the bushes and the plants from which the rain wa_till dripping, alone broke the stillness of the night. After a few turns u_nd down he turned his steps to the vegetable garden, through which his way t_he fields lay. Here and there a glimmering star hung above in the dens_arkness, and before him the village lay like a dark spot on the dar_ackground of the indistinguishable fields beyond. Suddenly he heard a sligh_oise from the old house, and saw that a window on the ground floor had bee_pened. Since the window looked out not into the garden, but on to the field, he hastened to reach the grove of acacias, leapt the fence and landed in _uddle of water, where he stood motionless.
  • "Is it you?" said a low voice from the window. It was Vera's voice.
  • Though his knees trembled under him, he was just able to answer in the sam_ow tone, "Yes."
  • "The rain has kept me in all day, but to-morrow morning at ten. Go quickly; some one is coming."
  • The window was closed quietly, and Raisky cursed the approaching footstep_hat had interrupted the conversation. It was then true, and the lette_ritten on blue paper not a dream. Was there a rendezvous? He went in th_irection of the steps.
  • "Who is there?" cried a voice, and Raisky was seized from behind.
  • "The devil," cried Raisky, pushing Savili away, "since when have you take_pon yourself to guard the house?"
  • "I have the Mistress's orders. There are so many thieves and vagabonds in th_eighbourhood, and the sailors from the Volga do a lot of mischief."
  • "That is a lie. You are out after Marina, and you ought to be ashamed o_ourself."
  • He would have gone, but Savili detained him.
  • "Allow me, Sir, to say a word or two about Marina. Exercise your mercifu_owers, and send the woman to Siberia."
  • "Are you out of your senses?"
  • "Or into a house of detention for the rest of her life."
  • "I'm much more likely to send you, so that you cease to beat her. What are yo_oing, spying here in this abominable way?" said Raisky between his teeth, a_e cast a glance at Vera's window. In another moment he was gone.
  • Raisky hardly slept at all that night, and he appeared next morning in hi_unt's sitting-room with dry, weary eyes. The whole family had assembled fo_ea on this particular bright morning. Vera greeted him gaily, as he presse_er hand feverishly and looked straight into her eyes. She returned his gaz_almly and quietly.
  • "How elegant you are this morning," he said.
  • "Do you call a simple straw-coloured blouse elegant?" she asked.
  • "But the scarlet band on your hair, with the coils of hair drawn across it, the belt with the beautiful clasp, and the scarlet-embroidered shoes… . Yo_ave excellent taste, and I congratulate you."
  • "I am glad that I meet with your approval, but your enthusiasm is rathe_trange. Tell me the reason of this extraordinary tone."
  • "Good, I will tell you. Let us go for a stroll."
  • He saw that she gave him a quick glance of suspicion as he proposed a_ppointment with her for ten o'clock. After a moment's thought she agreed, sa_own in a corner, and was silent. About ten o'clock she picked up her work an_er parasol, and signed to him to follow her as she left the house. She walke_n silence through the garden, and they sat down on a bench at the top of th_liff.
  • "It was by chance," said Raisky, who was hardly able to restrain his emotion,
  • "that I have learnt a part of your secret."
  • "So it seems," she answered coldly. "You were listening yesterday."
  • "Accidentally, I swear."
  • "I believe you."
  • "Vera, there is no longer any doubt that you have a lover. Who is he?"
  • "Don't ask."
  • "Who is there in the world who could desire your happiness more ardently tha_ do? Why have you confidence in him and not in me?"
  • "Because I love him."
  • "The man you love is to be envied, but how is he going to repay you for th_upreme happiness that you bring him? Be careful, my friend. To whom do yo_ive your confidence?"
  • "To myself."
  • "Who is the man?"
  • Instead of answering him she looked full in his face, and he thought that he_yes were as colourless as those of a watersprite, and there lay hidden i_hem a maddening riddle. From below in the bushes there came the sound of _hot. Vera rose immediately from the bench, and Raisky also rose.
  • "HE?" he asked in a dull voice. "It is ten o'clock."
  • She approached the precipice, Raisky following close at her heels. Sh_otioned him to come no farther.
  • "What is the meaning of the shot?"
  • "He calls."
  • "Who?"
  • "The writer of the blue letter. Not a step further unless you wish that _eave here for ever."
  • She rapidly descended the precipice, and in a few moments had vanished behin_he brushwood and the trees. He called after her to take care, but in repl_eard only the crackling of the dry twigs beneath her feet. Then all wa_till. He was left to torment himself with wondering who the object of he_assion could be.
  • It was none other than Mark Volokov, pariah, cynic, gipsy, who would ask th_irst likely man he met for money, who levelled his gun on his fellow-men, and, like Karl Moor, had declared war on mankind—Mark Volokov, the man unde_olice supervision.
  • It was to meet this dangerous and suspicious character that Vera stole to th_endezvous—Vera, the pearl of beauty in the whole neighbourhood, whose beaut_ade strong men weak; Vera, who had mastered even the tyrannical Tatian_arkovna; Vera, the pure maiden sheltered from all the winds of heaven. I_ould have seemed impossible for her to meet a man against whom all house_ere barred. It had happened so simply, so easily, towards the end of the las_ummer, at the time that the apples were ripe. She was sitting one evening i_he little acacia arbour by the fence near the old house, looking absently ou_nto the field, and away to the Volga and the hills beyond, when she becam_ware that a few paces away the branches of the apple tree were swayin_nnaturally over the fence. When she looked more closely she saw that a ma_as sitting comfortably on the top rail. He appeared by his face and dress t_elong to the lower class; he was not a schoolboy, but he held in his hand_everal apples.
  • "What are you doing here?" she asked, just as he was about to spring down fro_he fence.
  • "I am eating," he said, after taking a look at her. "Will you try one?" h_dded, hitching himself along the fence towards her.
  • She looked at him curiously, but without fear, as she drew back a little.
  • "Who are you?" she said severely. "And why do you climb on to other people'_ences."
  • "What can it matter to you who I am. I can easily tell you why I climb o_ther people's fences. It is to eat apples."
  • "Aren't you ashamed to take other people's apples?" she asked.
  • "They are my apples, not theirs; they have been stolen from me. You certainl_ave not read Proudhon. But how beautiful you are!" he added in amazement. "D_ou know what Proudhon says?" he concluded.
  • "_La propriété c'est le vol_."
  • "Ah, you have read Proudhon." He stared at her, and as she shook her head, h_ontinued, "Anyway, you have heard it. Indeed, this divine truth has gone al_ound the world nowadays. I have a copy of Proudhon, and will bring it t_ou."
  • "You are not a boy, and yet you steal apples. You think it is not theft to d_o because of that saying of Proudhon's."
  • "You believe, then, everything that was told you at school? But please tell m_ho you are. This is the Berezhkovs' garden. They tell me the old lady has tw_eautiful nieces."
  • "I too say what can it matter to you who I am?"
  • "Then you believe what your Grandmother tells you?"
  • "I believe in what convinces me."
  • "Exactly like me," he said, taking off his cap. "Is it criminal in your eye_o take apples?"
  • "Not criminal, perhaps, but not good manners."
  • "I make you a present of them," he said, handing her the remaining four apple_nd taking another bite out of his own.
  • He raised his cap once more and bid her an ironic good-day.
  • "You have a double beauty, you are beautiful to look at and sensible into th_argain. It is a pity that you are destined to adorn the life of an idiot. Yo_ill be given away, poor girl."
  • "No pity, if you please. I shall not be given away like an apple."
  • "You remember the apples; many thanks for the gift. I will bring you books i_xchange, as you like books."
  • "Proudhon?"
  • "Yes, Proudhon and others. I have all the new ones. Only you must not tel_our Grandmother and her stupid visitors, for although I do not know who the_re, I don't think they would have anything to do with me."
  • "How do you know? You have only seen me for five minutes."
  • "The stag's breed is never hidden, one sees at once that you belong to th_iving, not to the dead-alive, and that is the main point. The rest comes wit_pportunity… ."
  • "I have a free mind, as you yourself say, and you immediately want t_verpower it. Who are you that you should take upon yourself to instruct me?"
  • He looked at her in amazement.
  • "You are neither to bring me books, nor to come here again yourself," sh_aid, rising to go. "There is a watchman here, and he will seize you."
  • "That is like the Grandmother again. It smells of the town and the Lenten oil, and I thought that you loved the wide world and freedom. Are you afraid of me, and who do you think I am?"
  • "A seminarist, perhaps," she said laconically.
  • "What makes you think that?"
  • "Well, seminarists are unconventional, badly dressed, and always hungry. G_nto the kitchen, and I will tell them to give you something to eat."
  • "That's very kind. Did anything else about the seminarists strike you?"
  • "I am not acquainted with any of them, and have seen very little of them a_ll; they are so unpolished, and talk so queerly… ."
  • "They are our real missionaries, and what does it matter if they talk queerly?
  • While we laugh at them they attack the enemy, blindly perhaps, but at any rat_ith enthusiasm."
  • "What enemy?"
  • "The world; they fight for the new knowledge, the new life. Healthy, viril_outh needs air and food, and we need such men."
  • "We? Who?"
  • "The new-born strength of the world."
  • "Do you then represent the 'new-born strength of the world,'" she said, looking at him with observant, curious eyes, but without irony, "or is you_ame a secret?"
  • "Would it frighten you if I named it?"
  • "What could it mean to me if you did disclose it? What is it?"
  • "Mark Volokov. In this silly place my name is heard with nearly as much terro_s if it were Pugachev or Stenka Razin."
  • "You are that man?" she said, looking at him with rising curiosity. "You boas_f your name, which I have heard before. You shot at Niel Andreevich, and le_ couple of dogs loose on an old lady. There are the manifestations of your
  • 'new strength.' Go, and don't be seen here again."
  • "Otherwise you will complain to Grandmama?"
  • "I certainly shall. Good-bye."
  • She left the arbour and walked away without listening to his rejoinder. H_ollowed her covetously with his eyes, murmuring as he sprang to the ground _ish that those apples also could be stolen. Vera, for her part, said not _ord to her aunt of this meeting, but she confided nevertheless in her frien_atalie Ivanovna after exacting a promise of secrecy.