When Tatiana Markovna returned from the ferry she sat down to work at he_ccounts, but soon laid them aside, and dismissed the servants. She asked fo_aisky, who had gone over to see Koslov because he did not want to be lef_lone with his aunt. She sent across to ask Vera whether she was coming t_inner. Vera said that she would rather stay in her room and go to bed early.
In the courtyard a scene by no means unusual was being enacted. Savili ha_early broken Marina's back with a severe beating because he had seen he_lipping out at dawn from the room in which Vikentev's servant was quartered.
She hid herself in the fields and the vegetable garden, but at last sh_merged, thinking that he would have forgotten. He struck her with the whi_hile she sought refuge in one corner after another, swearing by all that wa_acred that the devil had taken on her figure and had made a fool of him. Bu_hen he exchanged the whip for the stick she cried out aloud at the first blo_nd fell at his feet. "I am guilty," she cried, begging for mercy. Sh_romised not to transgress again, calling God to witness of her sincerity.
Thereupon Savili threw away the stick and wiped his face with his sleeve.
"You may go this time," he said, "since you have confessed, and since you cal_od to witness."
Tatiana Markovna was informed of this proceeding, but she only wrinkled he_orehead, and made a sign to Vassilissa not to be too severe with Marina.
There were visitors to dinner who had heard of Vera's indisposition and ha_ome to inquire. Tatiana Markovna spoke of a chill, suffering all the tim_rom her insincerity, since she did not know what was the truth that la_ehind this feigned illness. She had not dared to send for the doctor, wh_ould have immediately seen that it was a moral, not a physical malady.
She ate no supper; Tiet Nikonich politely said that he had no appetite either.
Then came Raisky, who also wanted no supper, but sat silently at tabl_retending not to notice the glances which Tatiana Markovna directed toward_im from time to time.
When Tiet Nikonich had made his bow and departed, Tatiana Markovna prepared t_etire. She hardly looked at Raisky when she bade him good-night, because he_ffections and her self-esteem were both too deeply wounded. A secret an_erious misfortune had befallen the family, but she was left on one side lik_ stranger, as if she were a useless, incapable woman. Raisky said in a lo_oice that he must speak with her.
"Bad news?" she whispered, shivering and looking fixedly at him before sh_assed with him into her own room. She dropped into her old chair and pushe_he lamp farther away, first covering it with a shade, so that the room wa_imly lighted. Raisky began his tale as cautiously as possible, but his lip_rembled and now and again his tongue refused its office, but he collected al_is strength and went on, although towards the end of his story his voice wa_ardly audible.
Dawn had come, but throughout the long hours Tatiana Markovna had sa_otionless and speechless with bowed head, giving vent now and then to a lo_oan. Raisky fell on his knees before her and implored her, "Go to Vera'_elp."
"She has sent too late for Grandmother. God will go to her help. Spare her an_onsole her as you know how to do. She no longer has a Grandmother," she said, going towards the door.
"Grandmother, what is the matter with you?" cried Raisky barring her way.
"You have no longer a Grandmother," she said absently. "Go, go." As he did no_bey, she cried angrily, "Don't come here. I will see no one. You must all o_ou leave me in peace." He would have replied, but she made an impatien_esture with her hand. "Go to her," she continued. "Help her as far as yo_an. Grandmother can do nothing: you have no longer a Grandmother."
She made another gesture with her hand, so imperious this time that he wen_ithout further parley, but he concealed himself in the yard and watched he_indow. Tatiana Markovna sank back in her chair and closed her eyes, and for _ong time she remained there, cold and stiff as if she were a dead woman.
Raisky, who had not gone to bed, and Vassilissa and Yakob as well, saw Tatian_arkovna with her head uncovered and her Turkish shawl thrown round he_houlders leave the house in the early morning and go out into the garden. I_as as if a bronze figure had descended from its pedestal and had begun t_alk.
She passed through the flower garden and then through the avenue to th_recipice; then, striding slowly along, with her head held high and withou_ooking round, she went down the face of the cliff, and disappeared.
Concealing his presence in the trees, Raisky hurried after her, following he_s she passed deeper and deeper down the precipice and until she reached th_rbour, where she paused. Raisky came closer, and held his breath as h_istened to Tatiana Markovna's heavy sighs, and then heard her whisper, "M_in." With her hands above her head she walked hastily on, until she came t_he bank of the river and stood still. The wind wound her dress round he_nkles, disordered her hair, and tugged at her shawl, but she noticed nothing.
A terrible idea dawned on Raisky that she intended to drown herself. But hi_unt turned back as she had come, with slow strides which left deep prints i_he damp sand. Raisky breathed more freely; but when, following her track in _arallel direction, he caught sight of her face, he held his breath in horro_t the agony he saw written there. She had spoken truly, their grandmothe_xisted no longer. This was not grandmother, not Tatiana Markovna, the warm- hearted mistress of Malinovka, where the life and prosperity of the whol_lace depended on her, the wise and happy ruler of her little kingdom. It wa_s if she were not walking of her own accord but was driven on by an impuls_xterior to herself, as unconscious of her movements she climbed the stee_ill through the brushwood, with her shawl hanging down from her shoulder_ragging its corners in the dust; her eyes, from which stony horror looke_orth, were unwinking; her manner was that of a moonstruck woman. Raisky foun_t difficult to follow her. She paused once, leaning both hands on a tree. "M_in," she exclaimed again. "How heavy is the burden! If it is not lightened, _an bear it no longer." She began again to climb quickly up the hill, surmounting the difficulties of the steep path with unnatural strength an_eaving tags of her dress and her shawl behind her in the bushes.
Overcome with amazement and horror, Raisky watched this new strange woman. H_new that only great souls conquer heavy trouble with strength like hers. The_ave wings like eagles to soar into the clouds and eagle eyes to gaze into th_byss. This was not his grandmother; she seemed to him to be one of thos_eminine figures which emerge from the family circle in the supreme moments o_ife under the heavy blows of fate, who bear great misfortunes majesticall_nd are not overwhelmed. He saw in her a Jewess of the olden days, a nobl_oman of Jerusalem, who scorns the prophecy that her people will lose thei_ame and their honour to the Romans, but when the hour of fate has arrived, when the men of Jerusalem are watering its walls with their tears and beatin_heir heads against the stones, then she takes the ornaments from her hair, puts on mourning garments, and goes on her pilgrimage wherever the hand o_ehovah leads. His mind went back to another queen of misfortune, to th_ussian Marfa, the enemy of the city of Moscow, who maintained her defianc_ven in her chains, and, dying, directed the destiny of free Novgorod. Befor_is imagination there passed a procession of other suffering women, Russia_saritsas, who, at the wish of their husbands, had adopted the dress of th_un and had maintained their intellect and their strength of character in th_loister… .
Raisky diverted his attention from these unsummoned apparitions, and looke_ttentively at the suffering woman before him. Tatiana Markovna's kingdom wa_erishing. Her house was left desolate; her dearest treasure, her pride, he_earl, had been taken from her, and she wandered lonely among the ruins. Whe_he paused in her walk in order to collect her strength, she tottered an_ould have fallen but for an inner whisper which assured her she would ye_each her goal. She pulled herself together, and wandered on until evening.
Half asleep, terrified by her crowding fancies, she spent the night on th_ofa. At dawn she rose, and went once more to the precipice. With her hea_esting on the bare boards she sat for a long time on the crumbling threshol_f the arbour, then she went through the fields, and was lost in the thicke_n the bank of the river. By chance her steps led her to the chapel, where ne_error seized her at the sight of the picture of the Christ. She fell on he_nees like a wounded animal, covered her face with her shawl, and moaned, "M_in! my sin!"
Tatiana Markovna's servants had lost their heads in terror. Vassilissa an_akob hardly stirred from the church. She intended, if her mistress recovered, to make her pilgrimage on foot to Kiev in order to venerate the miracl_orker; he promised to the patron saint of the village a thick wax candl_rnamented with gold. The rest of the servants hid themselves, and only looke_hyly out after their mistress as she wandered distraught through the field_nd the woods.
For two days already Tatiana Markovna had eaten nothing. Raisky indeed trie_o restrain her from leaving the house again, but she waved him imperiousl_way. Then with decision he took a jug of water, came up to her, and took he_and. She looked at him as if she did not know who he was, then mechanicall_eized the jug in her trembling hand, and drank greedily in big mouthfuls.
"Grandmother, come home again, and do not make both yourself and us wretched,"
he begged. "You will kill yourself."
"It is God's will; I shall not lose my reason, for I am upheld by Hi_trength. I must endure to the end. Do you raise me if I fall. My sin!" sh_urmured and went on her way. After she had gone a few steps, she turned roun_nd he ran to her.
"If I do not survive," she began, signing to him to bow his head. Raisky knel_own, and she pressed his head to her breast, laid her hands on it and kisse_im. "Accept my blessing, deliver it to Marfinka, and to her, to my poor Vera.
Do you understand, to her also."
"Grandmother!" he cried, kissing her hand.
She tore her hand away, and set out to wander once more through the thicket, by the river bank, and in the fields. A devout soul obeys its own laws, thought Raisky, as he dried his tears; only a saint could suffer like this fo_he object of her love.
Things were not going any better with Vera. Raisky made haste to tell her o_is conversation with their aunt; when she sent for him early next morning, i_er anxiety to have news of Tatiana Markovna, he pointed out of the window, and Vera saw how Tatiana Markovna was drifting, urged on by the heavy hand o_isfortune. For a moment she caught sight of her expression, and san_orrified on the floor, but she pulled herself up again, ran from one windo_o the other, and stretched her hands out towards her grandmother. Then sh_ushed through the wide empty hall of the old house in a wild desire to follo_atiana Markovna, but she realised in time that it would have killed her aun_f she approached her just now. Vera was conscious now how deeply she ha_ounded another life so close to her own, as she saw the tragic figure of he_unt, so happy until recently and now bearing the punishment of another's sin.
Raisky brought her Tatiana Markovna's blessing, and Vera fell on his neck an_ept for a long time.
On the evening of the second day, Vera was found sitting in a corner of th_reat hall, half dressed. Raisky and the priest's wife, who had just arrived, led her almost by force into her room and laid her down on the bed. Raisk_ent for the doctor, to whom he tried to explain her indisposition. The docto_rescribed a sedative, which Vera drank without being any calmer for it; sh_ften waked in her sleep to ask after her grandmother.
"Give me something to drink … don't say a word. Do not let anyone come to se_e. Find out what Grandmother is doing." It was just the same in the night.
When she awoke, she would whisper, "Grandmother doesn't come, Grandmothe_oesn't love me any more. She has not forgiven me."
On the third day Tatiana Markovna left the house without being observed. Afte_wo sleepless nights, Raisky had lain down and had given instructions to wak_im if she left the house, but Yakob and Vassilissa had gone to early Mass, and the other servants had paid no attention. Later on Savili saw that hi_istress, catching hold of the trees as she went, was making her way from th_recipice to the fields. Raisky hurried after her and watched her slow retur_o the house; she stood still, looked round as if she were saying goodbye t_he group of houses, groped with her hands, and swayed violently. Then h_ushed up to her, brought her back to the house with Vassilissa's help, pu_er in her armchair and sent for the doctor. Vassilissa fell on her knee_efore her mistress.
"Little mother! Tatiana Markovna," she begged, "come back to us. Make the sig_f the Cross."
Tatiana Markovna crossed herself, sighed, and signed that she could not spea_nd wanted something to drink. Vassilissa undressed her, wrapped her in war_heets, rubbed her hands and feet with spirit, and then gave her some war_ine to drink. The doctor prescribed for her, but said that it was mos_mportant of all that she should not be disturbed, but should be allowed t_leep.
An incautious word that Tatiana Markovna was ill reached Vera's ears. Sh_ushed past Natalie Ivanovna, and wanted to go over to the new house; Raisk_ad great difficulty in persuading her to abandon her intention as Tatian_arkovna lay in a deep sleep. In the evening Vera was worse, she had fever an_as delirious, and during the night she flung herself from one side t_nother, calling on her grandmother in her sleep, and weeping. Raisky wante_o call the old doctor; he waited impatiently till the morning and spent hi_ime in going from Vera to Tatiana Markovna, and from Tatiana Markovna back t_era.
As Vera's condition had not improved next morning, Raisky went with Vassiliss_nto Tatiana Markovna's bedroom, where they found the old lady in the sam_tate as she had been in the whole of the day before.
"I am afraid of going near her in case I alarm her," he whispered.
"Should I awaken the mistress?"
"She must be awakened. Vera Vassilievna is ill, and I don't know whether _ught to send for the old doctor."
The words were hardly out of his mouth when Tatiana Markovna sat up. "Is Ver_ll?" she said in a low voice.
Raisky breathed more freely, for his aunt, in her present anxiety, had los_he stony expression of yesterday. She signed to him to leave the room. Hal_n hour later she was walking across the courtyard to the old house wit_rouble plainly depicted on her face, but apparently without a trace o_eariness. She entered Vera's room cautiously, and when she saw the pal_leeping face, whispered to Raisky, "Send for the old doctor." She now notice_or the first time the priest's wife and her weary eyes; she embraced Natali_vanovna, and advised her kindly to go and get a whole day's rest.
When the doctor arrived, Tatiana Markovna gave him an ingenious explanation o_era's indisposition. He discovered symptoms of a nervous fever and prescribe_edicine; but on the whole he did not think that serious consequences need b_xpected if the patient could be kept quiet. Vera was half asleep when sh_ook the medicine and towards evening fell fast asleep. Tatiana Markovna sa_own at the head of the bed, watching her movements and listening to he_reathing. Presently Vera woke up and asked, "Are you asleep, Natasha?"
As she received no answer she closed her eyes, but she could not go to slee_gain, and the darkness seemed to her to be a dark and terrible prison. Afte_ time she asked for something to drink. Someone handed her a cup.
"How is Grandmother?" asked Vera, opening her eyes only to close them agai_mmediately. "Natasha, where are you? Come here. Why are you hiding?" sh_ighed and fell asleep again. Presently she woke again and whispere_itifully, "Grandmother doesn't come. Grandmother loves me no longer, and ha_ot forgiven me."
"Grandmother is here. She loves you and has forgiven you."
Vera sprang from the bed and rushed up to Tatiana Markovna. "Grandmother," sh_ried, half fainting and hiding her head on her breast.
Tatiana Markovna put her to bed again, leaned her grey head by Vera's whit_uffering face, while the girl in a low voice, with sighs and tears, made he_onfession on her breast. Her aunt listened without speaking, and presentl_iped away Vera's tears with her handkerchief, and kissed her warmly an_ffectionately.
"Do not waste your caresses on me, Grandmother; only do not leave me. I do no_eserve your caresses. Keep your kisses for my sister."
"Your sister is no longer in need of my caresses. But I need your love. If yo_orsake me, Vera, I shall be a desolate old woman." Tatiana Markovna wept.
"Mother, forgive me," whispered Vera, embracing her with her whole strength.
"I have not been obedient to you, and God has punished me," she went on, bu_atiana Markovna shut her mouth with a kiss.
"Do not talk like that, Vera," interrupted her grandmother, who had turne_ale with horror and once more wore the aspect of the old woman who had bee_andering about in the thicket by the precipice.
"Yes, I thought that my own brain and will were self-sufficing, that I wa_iser than you all."
"You are wiser than I and have more learning," said Tatiana Markovna, breathing more freely. "God has given you a clear understanding, but you hav_ot my experience."
Vera thought that she had more experience also, but she merely said, "Take m_way from here. There is no Vera any longer. I want to be your Marfinka. Tak_e away from this old house over there to you."
The two heads rested side by side on the pillow. They lay in a close embrac_nd fell asleep.