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Chapter 27

  • Raisky found himself between two fires. On the one hand, Tatiana Markovn_ooked at him as much as to say that he probably knew what was the matter wit_era, while Vera's despairing glance betrayed her anxiety for the moment o_er confession. He himself would have liked to have sunk into the earth.
  • Tushin looked in an extraordinary manner at Vera, as both Tatiana Markovna an_aisky, but most of all Vera herself, noticed. She was terrified, and aske_erself whether he had heard any rumour. He esteemed her so highly, though_er the noblest woman in the world, and, if she were silent, she would b_ccepting his esteem on false premisses. He, too, would have to be told, sh_hought. She exchanged greetings with him without meeting his eyes; and h_ooked strangely at her, timidly and sympathetically. Vera told herself tha_he must know what was in his mind, that if he looked at her again like tha_he would collapse. He did look at her again, and she could endure no more an_eft the company. Before she went she signed secretly to Tushin to follow her.
  • "I cannot receive you in the old house," she said, "Come into the avenue."
  • "Is it not too damp, as you are not well?"
  • "That does not matter," she said.
  • He looked at his watch and said that he would be going in an hour. Afte_iving orders to have his horses taken out of the stable and brought into th_ard, he picked up his silver-handled whip and with his cloak on his ar_ollowed Vera into the avenue. "I will not beat about the bush," he said.
  • "What is the matter with you to-day? You have something on your mind."
  • She wrapped her face in her mantilla as she spoke, and her shoulders shivere_s if with cold. She dare not raise her eyes to him as he strode silentl_eside her.
  • "But you are ill, Vera Vassilievna. I had better talk to you another time. Yo_ere not wrong in thinking I had something to say to you."
  • "No, Ivan Ivanovich, let it be to-day. I want to know what you have to say t_e. I myself wanted to talk to you, but perhaps it is too late for what I hav_o say. Do you speak," she said, wondering painfully how and where he coul_ave learnt her secret.
  • "I came here to-day… ." he said as they sat down on the bench.
  • "What have you to say to me? Speak!" she interrupted.
  • "How can I say it to you now, Vera Vassilievna?" said Tushin springing to hi_eet.
  • "Do not make me suffer," she murmured.
  • "I love you… ."
  • "Yes, I know it," she interrupted. "But what have you heard?"
  • "I have heard nothing," he said, looking round in amazement. He was now fo_he first time aware of her agitation, and his heart stood still with delight.
  • She has guessed my secret and shares my feelings, he thought, and what she i_sking, is for a frank, brief avowal. "You are so noble, so beautiful, Ver_assilievna, so pure… ." An exclamation was wrung from her, and she would hav_isen, but could not.
  • "You mock me, you mock me," she said, raising her hands beseechingly.
  • "You are ill, Vera Vassilievna," he said, looking at her in terror. "Forgiv_e for having spoken to you at such a time."
  • "A day earlier or later makes no difference. Say what you have to say, for _lso desire to tell you why I have brought you here."
  • "Is it really true?" he cried, hardly knowing how to contain his delight.
  • "What is true? You want to say something else, not what I expected," she said.
  • "Speak, and do not prolong my sufferings."
  • "I love you," he repeated. "If you can grant what I have confessed to you (an_ am not worthy of it), if your love is not given elsewhere, then be my fores_ueen, my wife, and there will be no happier man on earth than I. That is wha_ have long wished to say to you and have not dared. I should have done it o_our nameday but I could no longer endure the suspense, and have come to-day, on the family festival, on your sister's birthday."
  • "Ivan Ivanovich," she moaned. The thought flashed through his head lik_ightning that this was no expression of joy, and he felt his hair wa_eginning to stand on end. He sat down beside her and said, "What is wron_ith you, Vera Vassilievna? You are either ill, or are bearing a grea_orrow."
  • "Yes, Ivan Ivanovich! I feel that I shall die."
  • "What is your trouble? For God's sake, tell me. You said that you ha_omething to confide in me, which means that I must be necessary to you; ther_s nothing I would not do for you. You have only to command me. Forgive me m_oo hasty speech."
  • "You, too, my poor Ivan Ivanovich! I can find neither prayers nor tears, no_s there any guidance or help for me anywhere."
  • "What words of despair are these, Vera Vassilievna?"
  • "Do you know whom you love?"
  • He threw his cloak on the bench, and wiped the sweat from his brow. Her word_old him that his hopes were ruined, that her love was given elsewhere. H_rew a deep breath, and sat motionless, awaiting her further explanations.
  • "My poor friend," she said, taking his hand. The simple words filled him wit_ew sorrow; he knew that he was in fact to be pitied.
  • "Thank you," he whispered. "Forgive me … I did not know, Vera Vassilievna … _m a fool… . Please forget my declaration. But I should like to help you, since you say yourself you rely on me for a service. I thank you for holdin_e worthy of that. You stand so high above me; I always feel that you stand s_igh, Vera Vassilievna."
  • "My poor Ivan Ivanovich, I have fallen from those heights, and no human powe_an reinstate me," she said, as she led him to the edge of the precipice.
  • "Do you know this place?" she asked.
  • "Yes, a suicide is buried there."
  • "There, in the depths below the precipice, your 'pure' Vera also lies buried,"
  • she said with the decision of despair.
  • "What are you saying? I don't understand. Enlighten me, Vera Vassilievna."
  • Summoning all her strength she bent her head and whispered a few words to him, then returned, and sank down on the bench. Tushin turned pale, swayed, los_is balance, and sat down beside her. Even in the dim light Vera noticed hi_allor.
  • "And I thought," he said, with a strange smile, as if he were ashamed of hi_eakness, rising to his feet with difficulty, "that only a bear was stron_nough to knock me over." Then he stooped to her and whispered, "Who?"
  • The question sent a shudder through her, but she answered quickly:
  • "Mark Volokov."
  • His face twitched ominously. Then he pressed his whip over his knee so that i_plit in pieces, which he hurled away from him.
  • "So it will end with him too," he shouted. As he stood trembling before her, stooping forward, with wild eyes, he was like an animal ready to spring on th_nemy. "Is he there now?" he cried, pointing with a violent gesture in th_irection of the precipice.
  • She looked at him as if he were a dangerous animal, as he stood there, breathing heavily; then she rose and took refuge behind the bench.
  • "I am afraid, Ivan Ivanovich! Spare me! Go!" she exclaimed, warding him of_ith her arms.
  • "First I will kill him, and then I will go."
  • "Are you going to do this for my sake, for my peace of mind or for your ow_ake?"
  • He kept silence, his eyes fixed on the ground, and then began to walk about i_reat strides. "What should I do?" he said, still trembling with agitation.
  • "Tell me, Vera Vassilievna."
  • "First of all, calm yourself, and explain to me why you wish to kill him an_hether I desire it."
  • "He is your enemy, consequently also mine."
  • "Does one kill one's enemies?"
  • He bent his head and seeing the pieces of the whip lying on the ground h_icked them up as if he were ashamed, and put them in his pocket.
  • "I do not accuse him. I alone bear the blame, and he has justification," sh_aid with such bitter misery that Tushin took her hand.
  • "Vera Vassilievna," he said, "you are suffering horribly. I do no_nderstand," he went on, looking at her with sympathy and admiration, "wha_ou mean by saying that he has justification, and that you bring no accusatio_gainst him. If that's the case, why did you wish to speak to me and call m_ere into the avenue?"
  • "Because I wanted you to know the whole truth."
  • "Don't leave me in the dark, Vera Vassilievna. You must have had some reaso_or confiding your secret to me."
  • "You looked at me so strangely to-day that I could not understand you_eaning, and thought you must already be informed of all that had happened an_ould not rest until I knew what was in your mind. I was too hasty, but i_omes to the same thing, for sooner or later I should have told you. Sit down, and hear what I have to say, and then have done with me." She explained th_ituation to him in a few words.
  • "So you forgive him," he asked, after a moment's thought.
  • "Forgive him, of course. I tell you that I alone am guilty."
  • "Have you separated from him, or do you hope for his return?"
  • "There is nothing whatever in common between us, and we shall never see on_nother again."
  • "Now, I understand a little, for the first time, but still not everything,"
  • said Tushin, sighing bitterly. "I thought you had been vulgarly betrayed, and, since you called me to your help, I imagined that the time had come for th_ear to do his duty. I was on the point of rendering you the service of _ear, and it was for that reason that I permitted myself to ask boldly for th_an's name. Forgive me, and now tell me why you have revealed the story t_e."
  • "Because I was not willing that you should think better of me than I deserve, and esteem me… ."
  • "But how would you accomplish that? I shall not cease to think of you as _ave always thought of you, and I cannot do otherwise than respect you."
  • A gleam of pleasure lighted her eyes, only to be immediately extinguished.
  • "You want to restore my self-esteem," she said, "because you are good an_enerous. You are sorry for a poor unfortunate girl and want to raise her u_gain. I understand your generosity, Ivan Ivanovich, but I will have none o_t."
  • "Vera Vassilievna," he said, kissing her hand. "I could not esteem anybod_nder compulsion. If I give anyone a greeting in the street, he has my esteem; if he has not my esteem, I pass him by. I greet you as before, and because yo_re unhappy my love for you is greater than before. You are enduring a grea_orrow, as I am. You have lost your hopes of happiness," he added in a low, melancholy tone. "If you had kept your secret from me and I had heard it b_hance, even so my esteem for you could not have been diminished. For there i_o duty laid on you to reveal a secret which belongs to you alone. No one ha_he right to judge you." The last words were spoken in a trembling voice whic_ade it clear that he also was oppressed by the secret, the weight of which h_esired to lighten for Vera.
  • "I had to tell you to-day when you made your declaration to me. I felt it wa_mpossible to leave you in ignorance."
  • "You might very well have answered me with a categorical 'No.' But since yo_o me the honour, Vera Vassilievna, of bestowing your particular friendship o_e, you might have gilded your 'No' by saying that you loved another. Tha_ould have been sufficient for me, for I should never have asked you who, an_our secret would, without doubt, have remained your own." He pointed to th_recipice, and collecting his whole strength whispered, "A misfortune… ."
  • Although he tried with all his might not to let her see how disturbed he was, he was hardly able to speak clearly. "A misfortune," he repeated. "You sa_hat he has justification, that the guilt is yours; if that is so, where doe_ustice lie?"
  • "I told you, Ivan Ivanovich, that my confession was not necessary for you_ake, but for mine. You know how I esteem your friendship, and it would hav_aused me unspeakable pain to deceive you. Even now, when I have hidde_othing from you, I cannot look you in the eyes." Tears stifled her voice, an_t was with difficulty that Tushin held back his own tears; he stooped an_issed her hand once more.
  • "Thanks, a thousand thanks, Vera Vassilievna. I see that an affection fo_nother has no power to lessen your friendship for me, and that is a wonderfu_onsolation."
  • "Ivan Ivanovich, if I could only cut this year out of my life."
  • "A speedy forgetfulness," he said, "comes to the same thing."
  • "How can I forget, and where can I find the strength to endure its memory?"
  • "You will find strength in friendship, and I am one of your friends."
  • She breathed another air for the moment, conscious that there was beside her _ower of strength, under whose shadow her passion and her pain wer_lleviated. "I believe in your friendship, Ivan Ivanovich, and thank you fo_t," she said, drying her tears. "I already feel calmer, and should feel stil_almer if Grandmother… ."
  • "She does not yet know anything of this?" he asked, but broke off immediatel_n the consciousness that his question involved a reproach.
  • "She has guests to-day and could not possibly be told, but to-morrow she shal_earn all. Farewell, Ivan Ivanovich, my head aches, and I am going back to th_ouse to lie down." Tushin looked at Vera, asking himself how any man could b_uch a blind fool as Volokov. Or is he merely a beast, he thought to himsel_n impotent rage. He pulled himself together, however, and asked her if sh_ad any instructions for him.
  • "Please ask Natasha," she said, "to come over to me to-morrow or the nex_ay."
  • "And may I come one day next week to inquire whether you are better?"
  • "Do not be anxious, Ivan Ivanovich. And now good-bye, for I can hardly stand."
  • When he left her, he drove his horses so wildly down the steep hill that h_imself was in danger of being hurled to the bottom of the precipice. When h_ut his hand out as usual for his whip, it was not there, and he remembere_hat he had broken it, and threw away the useless pieces on the road. In spit_f his mad haste he reached the Volga too late for the ferry. He had to sta_n the town with a friend, and drove next morning to his home in the forest.