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Chapter 35

  • Raisky had written to Paulina Karpovna asking her if he might call the nex_ay about one o'clock. Her answer ran: "_Charmée, j'attends… ._" and so on.
  • He found her in her boudoir in a stifling atmosphere of burning incense, wit_urtains drawn to produce a mysterious twilight. She wore a white muslin froc_ith wide lace sleeves, with a yellow dahlia at her breast. Near the divan wa_laced a sumptuously spread table with covers for two.
  • Raisky explained that he had come to make a farewell call.
  • "A farewell call! I won't hear of such a thing. You are joking, it is a ba_oke! No, no! Smile and take back the hated word," she protested, slipping he_rm in his and leading him to the table. "Don't think of going away. _Viv_'amour et la joie_."
  • She invited him with a coquettish gesture to be seated, and hung a tabl_apkin over his coat, as she might to a child. He devoted an excellent mornin_ppetite to the food before him. She poured out champagne for him and watche_im with tender admiration.
  • After a longish pause when she had filled his glass for the third or fourt_ime she said: "Well, what have you to say about it?" Then as Raisky looked a_er in amazement she continued: "I see, I see! Take off the mask, and hav_one with concealment."
  • "Ah!" sighed Raisky, putting his lips to his glass. They drank to on_nother's health.
  • "Do you remember that night," she murmured, "the night of love as you calle_t."
  • "How should it fade from my memory," he whispered darkly. "That night was th_ecisive hour."
  • "I knew it. A mere girl could not hold you … _une nullité, cette pauvre petit_ille, qui n'a que sa figure_ … shy, inexperienced, devoid of elegance."
  • "She could not. I have torn myself free."
  • "And have found what you have long been seeking, have you not? What happene_n the park to excite you so?"
  • After a little fencing, Raisky proceeded with his story. "When I thought m_appiness was within my grasp, I heard… ."
  • "Tushin was there?" whispered Paulina Karpovna, holding her breath.
  • He nodded silently, and raised his glass once more.
  • "Dites tout," she said with a malicious smile.
  • "She was walking alone, lost in thought," he said in a confidential tone, while Paulina Karpovna played with her watch chain, and listened with straine_ttention. "I was at her heels, determined to have an answer from her. Sh_ook one or two steps down the face of the precipice, when someone suddenl_ame towards her."
  • "He?"
  • "He."
  • "What did he do?"
  • "'Good evening, Vera Vassilievna,' he said. 'How do you do?' She shuddered."
  • "Hypocrisy!"
  • "Not at all. I hid myself and listened. 'What are you doing here?' she said.
  • 'I am spending two days in town,' he said, 'to be present at your sister'_ête, and I have chosen that day… . Decide, Vera Vassilievna, whether I am t_ove or not."
  • "_Où le sentiment va-t-il se nicher?_" exclaimed Paulina Karpovna. "Even i_hat clod."
  • "'Ivan Ivanovich!' pleaded Vera," continued Raisky. "He interrupted her with
  • 'Vera Vassilievna, decide whether to-morrow I should ask Tatiana Markovna fo_our hand, or throw myself into the Volga!'"
  • "Those were his words?"
  • "His very words."
  • "_Mais, il est ridicule_. What did she do? She moaned, cried yes and no?"
  • "She answered, 'No, Ivan Ivanovich, give me time to consider whether I ca_espond with the same deep affection that you feel for me. Give me six months, a year, and then I will answer "yes" or "no."' Your room is so hot, Paulin_arpovna, could we have a little air?"
  • Raisky thought he had invented enough, and glanced up at his hostess, who wor_n expression of disappointment.
  • "_C'est tout?_" she asked.
  • "Oui," he said. "In any case Tushin did not abandon hope. On the next day, Marfinka's birthday, he appeared again to hear her last word. From th_recipice he went through the park, and she accompanied him. It seems tha_ext day his hopes revived. Mine are for ever gone."
  • "And that is all? People have been spreading God knows what tales about you_ousin—and you. They have not even spared that saint Tatiana Markovna wit_heir poisonous tongues. That unendurable Tychkov!"
  • Raisky pricked up his ears. "They talk about Grandmother?" he aske_averingly.
  • He remembered the hint Vera had given him of Tatiana Markovna's love story, and he had heard something from Vassilissa, but what woman has not he_omance? They must have dug up some lie or some gossip out of the dust o_orty years. He must know what it was in order to stop Tychkov's mouth.
  • "What do they say about Grandmother?" he asked in a low, intimate voice. "_Ah, c'est degôutant_. No one believes it, and everybody is jeering at Tychkov fo_aving debased himself to interrogate a drink-maddened old beggar-woman. _ill not repeat it."
  • "If you please," he whispered tenderly.
  • "You wish to know?" she whispered, bending towards him. "Then you shall hea_verything. This woman, who stands regularly in the porch of the Church of th_scension, has been saying that Tiet Nikonich loved Tatiana Markovna, and sh_im."
  • "I know that," he interrupted impatiently. "That is no crime."
  • "And she was sought in marriage by the late Count Sergei Ivanovich—"
  • "I have heard that, too. She did not agree, and the Count married somebod_lse, but she was forbidden to marry Tiet Nikonich. I have been told all tha_y Vassilissa. What did the drunken woman say?"
  • "The Count is said to have surprised a rendezvous between Tatiana Markovna an_iet Nikonich, and such a rendezvous.
  • "No, no!" she cried, shaking with laughter. "Tatiana Markovna! Who woul_elieve such a thing?"
  • Raisky listened seriously, and surmises flitted across his mind.
  • "The Count gave Tiet Nikonich a box on the ears."
  • "That is a lie," cried Raisky, jumping up. "Tiet Nikonich would not hav_ndured it."
  • "A lie naturally—he did not endure it. He seized a garden knife that he foun_mong the flowers, struck the Count to the ground, seized him by the throat, and would have killed him."
  • Raisky's face changed. "Well?" he urged.
  • "Tatiana Markovna restrained his hand. 'You are' she said, 'a nobleman, not _andit, your weapon is a sword.' She succeeded in separating them, and a due_as not possible, for it would have compromised her. The opponents gave thei_ord; the Count to keep silence over what had happened, and Tiet Nikonich no_o marry Tatiana Markovna. That is why she remains unmarried. Is it not _hame to spread such calumnies?"
  • Raisky could no longer contain his agitation, but he said, "You see it is _ie. Who could possibly have seen and heard what passed."
  • "The gardener, who was asleep in a corner, is said to have witnessed the whol_cene. He was a serf, and fear ensured his silence, but he told his wife, th_runken widow who is now chattering about it. Of course it is nonsense, incredible nonsense. I am the first to cry that it is a lie, a lie. Ou_espected and saintly Tatiana Markovna!" Paulina Karpovna burst out laughing, but checked herself when she looked at Raisky.
  • "What is the matter? _Allons donc, oubliez tout. Vive la joie!_ Do not frown.
  • We will send for more wine," she said, looking at him with her ridiculous, languishing air.
  • "No, no, I am afraid—" He broke off, fearing to betray himself, and conclude_amely, "It would not agree with me—I am not accustomed to wine."
  • He rose from his seat, and his hostess followed his example.
  • "Good-bye, for ever," he said.
  • "No, no," she cried.
  • "I must escape from these dangerous places, from your precipices and abysses.
  • Farewell, farewell!"
  • He picked up his hat, and hurried away. Paulina Karpovna stood as if turned t_tone, then rang the bell, and called for her carriage and for her maid t_ress her, saying she had calls to pay.
  • Raisky perceived that there was truth in the drunken woman's story, and tha_e held in his hand the key to his aunt's past. He realised now how she ha_rown to be the woman she was, and where she had won her strength, he_ractical wisdom, her knowledge of life and of men's hearts; he understood wh_he had won Vera's confidence, and had been able to calm her niece in spite o_er own distress. Perhaps Vera, too, knew the story. While he had bee_anoeuvring to give another turn to the gossip about Vera's relations t_imself and Tushin, he had lighted by chance on a forgotten but vivid page o_is family history, on another drama no less dangerous to those who took par_n it, and found that his whole soul was moved by this record of what ha_appened forty years ago.
  • "Borushka!" cried Tatiana Markovna in horror, when he entered her room. "Wha_as come to you, my friend? You have been drinking!" She looked keenly at hi_or a long minute, then turned away when she read in his tell-tale face tha_e, too, had heard the talk about her past self.