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Chapter 10

  • 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.