Two days had passed, and Raisky had had small opportunity of seeing Ver_lone, though she came to dinner and to tea, and spoke of ordinary things.
Raisky turned once more to his novel, or rather to the plan of it. He visite_eonti, and did not neglect the Governor and other friends. But in order t_eep watch on Vera he wandered about the park and the garden. Two days wer_ow gone, he thought, since he sat on the bench by the precipice, but ther_ere still five days of danger. Marfinka's birthday lay two days' ahead, an_n that day Vera would hardly leave the family circle. On the next Marfink_as to go with her fiancé and his mother to Kolchino, and Vera would not b_ikely to leave Tatiana Markovna alone. By that time the week would be ove_nd the threatening clouds dispersed.
After dinner Vera asked him to come over to her in the evening, as she wishe_im to undertake a commission for her. When he arrived she suggested a walk,
and, as she chose the direction of the fields he realised that she wished t_o to the chapel, and took the field path accordingly.
As she crossed the threshold, she looked up at the thoughtful face of th_hrist.
"You have sought more powerful aid than mine," said Raisky. "Moreover, yo_ill not now go there without me."
She nodded in assent. She seemed to be seeking strength, sympathy and suppor_rom the glance of the Crucified, but His eyes kept their expression of quie_hought and detachment.
When she turned her eyes from the picture she reiterated, "I will not go."
Raisky read on her face neither prayer nor desire; it wore an expression o_eariness, indifference and submission.
He suggested that they should return, and reminded her that she had _ommission for him.
"Will you take the bouquet-holder that I chose the other week for Marfinka'_irthday to the goldsmith?" she said, handing him her purse. "I gave him som_earls to set in it, and her name should be engraved. And could you be up a_arly as eight o'clock on her birthday?"
"Of course. If necessary, I can stay up all night!"
"I have already spoken to the gardener, who owns the big orangery. Would yo_hoose me a nice bouquet and send it to me. I have confidence in your taste."
"Your confidence in me makes progress, Vera," he laughed. "You already trus_y taste and my honour."
"I would have seen to all this myself," she went on, "but I have not th_trength."
Next day Raisky took the bouquet holder, and discussed the arrangement of th_lowers with the gardener. He himself bought for Marfinka an elegant watch an_hain, with two hundred roubles which he borrowed from Tiet Nikonich, fo_atiana Markovna would not have given him so much money for the purpose, an_ould have betrayed the secret. In Tiet Nikonich's room he found a dressin_able decked with muslin and lace, with a mirror encased in a china frame o_lowers and Cupids, a beautiful specimen of Sèvres work.
"Where did you get this treasure?" cried Raisky, who could not take his eye_rom the thing. "What a lovely piece!"
"It is my gift for Marfa Vassilievna," said Tiet Nikonich with his kind smile.
"I am glad it pleases you, for you are a connoisseur. Your liking for i_ssures me that the dear birthday child will appreciate it as a wedding gift.
She is a lovely girl, just like these roses. The Cupids will smile when the_ee her charming face in the mirror. Please don't tell Tatiana Markovna of m_ecret."
"This beautiful piece must have cost over two thousand roubles, and you canno_ossibly have bought it here."
"My Grandfather gave five thousand roubles for it, and it was part of m_other's house-furnishing and until now it stood in her bedroom, lef_ntouched in my birth-place. I had it brought here last month, and to mak_ure it should not be broken, six men carried it in alternate shifts for th_hole hundred and fifty versts. I had a new muslin cover made, but the lace i_ld; you will notice how yellow it is. Ladies like these things, although the_on't matter to us."
"What will Grandmother say?"
"There will be a storm. I do feel rather uneasy about it, but perhaps she wil_orgive me. I may tell you, Boris Pavlovich, that I love both the girls, as i_hey were my own daughters. I held them on my knee as babies, and with Tatian_arkovna gave them their first lessons. I tell you in confidence that I hav_lso arranged a wedding present for Vera Vassilievna which I hope she wil_ike when the time comes." He showed Raisky a magnificent antique silve_inner service of fine workmanship for twelve persons. "I may confess to you,
as you are her cousin, that in agreement with Tatiana Markovna I have _plendid and a rich marriage in view for her, for whom nothing can be to_ood. The finest partie in this neighbourhood," he said in a confidentia_one, "is Ivan Ivanovich Tushin, who is absolutely devoted to her, as he wel_ay be."
Raisky repressed a sigh and went home where he found Vikentev and his mother,
who had arrived for Marfinka's birthday, with Paulina Karpovna and othe_uests from the town, who stayed until nearly seven o'clock. Tatiana Markovn_nd Marfa Egorovna carried on an interminable conversation about Marfinka'_rousseau and house furnishing. The lovers went into the garden, and fro_here to the village. Vikentev carrying a parcel which he threw in the air an_aught again as he walked. Marfinka entered every house, said good-bye to th_omen, and caressed the children. In two cases she washed the children'_aces, she distributed calico for shirts and dresses, and told two elde_hildren to whom she presented shoes that it was time they gave up paddling i_he puddles.
"God reward you, our lovely mistress, Angel of God!" cried the women in ever_ard as she bade them farewell for a fortnight.