But the adventures of that Easter Monday night were not yet over. I had walke_way with Bohun; he was very silent, depressed, poor boy, and shy with th_eaction of his outburst.
"I made the most awful fool of myself," he said.
"No, you didn't," I answered.
"The trouble of it is," he said slowly, "that neither you nor I see th_umorous side of it all strongly enough. We take it too seriously. It's got _unny side all right."
"Maybe you're right," I said. "But you must remember that the Markovitc_ituation isn't exactly funny just now—and we're both in the middle of it. Oh!
if only I could find Nina back home and Semyonov away, I believe the strai_ould lift. But I'm frightened that something's going to happen. I've grow_ery fond of these people, you know, Bohun—Vera and Nina and Nicholas. Isn'_t odd how one gets to love Russians—more than one's own people? The mor_tupid things they do the more you love them—whereas with one's own peopl_t's quite the other way. Oh, I do _want_ Vera and Nina and Nicholas to b_appy!"
"Isn't the town queer to-night?" said Bohun, suddenly stopping. (We were jus_t the entrance to the Mariensky Square.)
"Yes," I said. "I think these days between the thaw and the white nights ar_n some ways the strangest of all. There seems to be so much going on that on_an't quite see."
"Yes—over there—at the other end of the Square—there's a kind of mist—a sor_f water-mist. It comes from the Canal."
"And do you see a figure like an old bent man with a red lantern? Do you se_hat I mean—that red light?"
"And those shadows on the further wall like riders passing with silver-tippe_pears? Isn't it…? There they go—ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…."
"How still the Square is? Do you see those three windows all alight?
Isn't there a dance going on? Don't you hear the music?"
"No, it's the wind."
"No, surely…. That's a flute—and then violins. Listen! Those are fiddles fo_ertain!"
"How still, how still it is!"
We stood and listened whilst the white mist gathered and grew over th_obbles. Certainly there was a strain of music, very faint and dim, threadin_hrough the air.
"Well, I must go on," said Bohun. "You go up to the left, don't you? Good- night." I watched Bohun's figure cross the Square. The light was wonderful, like fold on fold of gauze, but opaque, so that buildings showed with shar_utline behind it. The moon was full and quite red. I turned to go home an_an straight into Lawrence.
"Good heavens!" I cried. "Are you a ghost too?"
He didn't seem to feel any surprise at meeting me. He was plainly in a stat_f tremendous excitement. He spoke breathlessly.
"You're exactly the man. You must come back with me. My diggings now are onl_ yard away from here."
"It's very late," I began, "and—"
"Things are desperate," he said. "I don't know—" he broke off. "Oh! come an_elp me, Durward, for God's sake!"
I went with him, and we did not exchange another word until we were in hi_ooms.
He began hurriedly taking off his clothes. "There! Sit on the bed. Differen_rom Wilderling's, isn't it? Poor devil…. I'm going to have a bath if yo_on't mind—I've got to clear my head."
He dragged out a tin bath from under his bed, then a big can of water from _orner. Stripped, he looked so thick and so strong, with his short neck an_is bull-dog build, that I couldn't help saying,
"You don't look a day older than the last time you played Rugger for Cambridge."
"I am, though." He sluiced the cold water over his head, grunting. "Not nea_o fit—gettin' fat too…. Rugger days are over. Wish all my other days wer_ver too."
He got out of the bath, wiped himself, put on pyjamas, brushed his teeth, the_is hair, took out a pipe, and then sat beside me on the bed.
"Look here, Durward," he said. "I'm desperate, old man." (He said "desprite.")
"We're all in a hell of a mess."
"I know," I said.
He puffed furiously at his pipe.
"You know, if I'm not careful I shall go a bit queer in the head. Get s_ngry, you know," he added simply.
"Angry with whom?" I asked.
"With myself mostly for bein' such a bloody fool. But not only myself—wit_ivilisation, Durward, old cock!—and also with that swine Semyonov."
"Ah, I thought you'd come to him," I said.
"Now the points are these," he went on, counting on his thick stubbly fingers.
"First, I love Vera—and when I say love I mean love. Never been in lov_efore, you know—honest Injun, never…. Never had affairs with tobacconists'
daughters at Cambridge—never had an affair with a woman in my life—no, never.
Used to wonder what was the matter with me, why I wasn't like other chaps. No_ know. I was waitin' for Vera. Quite simple. I shall never love any on_gain—never. I'm not a kid, you know, like young Bohun—I love Vera once an_or all, and that's that…"
"Yes," I said. "And the next point?"
"The next point is that Vera loves me. No need to go into that—but she does."
"Yes, she does," I said.
"Third point, she's married, and although she don't love her man she's sorr_or him. Fourth point, he loves her. Fifth point, there's a damned swin_angin' round called Alexei Petrovitch Semyonov…. Well, then, there you hav_t."
He considered, scratching his head. I waited. Then he went on:
"Now it would be simpler if she didn't want to be kind to Nicholas, i_icholas didn't love her, if—a thousand things were different. But they mus_e as they are, I suppose. I've just been with her. She's nearly out of he_ind with worry."
He paused, puffing furiously at his pipe. Then he went on:
"She's worrying about me, about Nina, and about Nicholas. And especially abou_icholas. There's something wrong with him. He knows about my kissing her i_he flat. Well, that's all right. I meant him to know. Everything's just go_o be above-board. But Semyonov knows too, and that devil's been raggin' hi_bout it, and Nicholas is just like a bloomin' kid. That's got to stop. I'l_ring that feller's neck. But even that wouldn't help matters much. Vera say_icholas is not to be hurt whatever happens. 'Never mind us,' she says, 'we'r_trong and can stand it.' But he can't. He's weak. And she says he's jus_oin' off his dot. And it's got to be stopped—it's just got to be stopped.
There's only one way to stop it."
He stayed: suddenly he put his heavy hand on my knee.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I've got to clear out. That's what I mean. Right away out. Back to England."
I didn't speak.
"That's it," he went on, but now as though he were talking to himself.
"That's what you've got to do, old son…. She says so, and she's right.
Can't alter our love, you know. Nothing changes that. We've got to hold on… Ought to have cleared out before…."
Suddenly he turned. He almost flung himself upon me. He gripped my arms s_hat I would have cried out if the agony in his eyes hadn't held me.
"Here," he muttered, "let me alone for a moment. I must hold on. I'm prett_ell beat. I'm just about done."
For what seemed hours we sat there. I believe it was, in reality, only a fe_inutes. He sat facing me, his eyes staring at me but not seeing me, his bod_lose against me, and I could see the sweat glistening on his chest throug_he open pyjamas. He was rigid as though he had been struck into stone.
He suddenly relaxed.
"That's right," he said; "thanks, old man. I'm better now. It's a bit late, _xpect, but stay on a while."
He got into bed. I sat beside him, gripped his hand, and ten minutes later h_as asleep.