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Chapter 3

  • I awoke that night with a sudden panic that I must instantly see Vera. I, eve_n the way that one does when, one is only half awake, struggled out of be_nd felt for my clothes. Then I remembered and climbed back again, but slee_ould not return to me. The self-criticism and self-distrust that were alway_ttacking me and paralysing my action sprang upon me now and gripped me. Wha_as I to do? How was I to act? I saw Vera and Nina and Lawrence and, behin_hem, smiling at me, Semyonov. They were asking for my help, but they were, i_ome strange, intangible way, most desperately remote. When I read now in ou_apers shrill criticisms on our officials, our Cabinet, our generals, ou_ropagandists, our merchants, for their failure to deal adequately wit_ussia, I say: Deal adequately? First you must catch your bird… and no Wester_nare has ever caught the Russian bird of paradise, and I dare prophesy tha_o Western snare ever will. Had I not broken my heart in the pursuit, and wa_ not as far as ever from attainment? The secret of the mystery of life is th_solation that separates every man from his fellow—the secret o_issatisfaction too; and the only purpose in life is to realise tha_solation, and to love one's fellow-man because of it, and to show one's ow_ourage, like a flag to which the other travellers may wave their answer; bu_e Westerners have at least the waiting comfort of our discipline, of ou_aterialism, of our indifference to ideas. The Russian, I believe, lives in _orld of loneliness peopled only by ideas. His impulses towards self-
  • confession, towards brotherhood, towards vice, towards cynicism, towards hi_elief in God and his scorn of Him, come out of this world; and beyond it h_ees his fellow-men as trees walking, and the Mountain of God as a distan_eak, placed there only to emphasise his irony.
  • I had wanted to be friends with Nina and Vera—I had even longed for it—and no_t the crisis when I must rise and act they were so far away from me that _ould only see them, like coloured ghosts, vanishing into mist.
  • I would go at once and see Vera and there do what I could. Lawrence mus_eturn to England—then all would be well. Markovitch must be persuaded…. Nin_ust be told…. I slept and tumbled into a nightmare of a pursuit, down endles_treets, of flying figures.
  • Next day I went to Vera. I found her, to my joy, alone. I realised at onc_hat our talk would be difficult. She was grave and severe, sitting back i_er chair, her head up, not looking at me at all, but beyond through th_indow to the tops of the trees feathery with snow against the sky of egg-
  • shell blue. I am always beaten by a hostile atmosphere. To-day I was at m_orst, and soon we were talking like a couple of the merest strangers.
  • She asked me whether I had heard that there were very serious disturbances o_he other side of the river.
  • "I was on the Nevski early this afternoon," I said, "and I saw about twent_ossacks go galloping down towards the Neva. I asked somebody and was tol_hat some women had broken into the bakers' shops on Vassily Ostrov…."
  • "It will end as they always end," said Vera. "Some arrests and a few peopl_eaten, and a policeman will get a medal."
  • There was a long pause. "I went to 'Masquerade' the other night," I said.
  • "I hear it's very good…."
  • "Pretentious and rather vulgar—but amusing all the same."
  • "Every one's talking about it and trying to get seats…."
  • "Yes. Meyerhold must be pleased."
  • "They discuss it much more than they do the war, or even politics. Every one'_ired of the war."
  • I said nothing. She continued:
  • "So I suppose we shall just go on for years and years…. And then the Empres_erself will be tired one day and it will suddenly stop." She showed a flas_f interest, turning to me and looking at me for the first time since I ha_ome in.
  • "Ivan Andreievitch, what do you stay in Russia for? Why don't you go back t_ngland?"
  • I was taken by surprise. I stammered, "Why do I stay? Why, because—because _ike it."
  • "You can't like it. There's  _nothing_  to like in Russia."
  • "There's  _everything_!" I answered. "And I have friends here," I added. Bu_he didn't answer that, and continued to sit staring out at the trees. W_alked a little more about nothing at all, and then there was another lon_ause. At last I could endure it no longer, I jumped to my feet.
  • "Vera Michailovna," I cried, "what have I done?"
  • "Done?" she asked me with a look of self-conscious surprise. "What do yo_ean?"
  • "You know what I mean well enough," I answered. I tried to speak firmly, bu_y voice trembled a little. "You told me I was your friend. When I was ill th_ther day you came to me and said that you needed help and that you wanted m_o help you. I said that I would—"
  • I paused.
  • "Well?" she said, in a hard, unrelenting voice.
  • "Well—" I hesitated and stammered, cursing myself for my miserable cowardice.
  • "You are in trouble now, Vera—great trouble—I came here because I am ready t_o anything for you—anything—and you treat me like a stranger, almost like a_nemy."
  • I saw her lip tremble—only for an instant. She said nothing.
  • "If you've got anything against me since you saw me last," I went on, "tell m_nd I'll go away. But I had to see you and also Lawrence—"
  • At the mention of his name her whole body quivered, but again only for a_nstant.
  • "Lawrence asked me to come and see you."
  • She looked up at me then gravely and coldly, and without the sign of an_motion either in her face or voice.
  • "Thank you, Ivan Andreievitch, but I want no help—I am in no trouble.
  • It was very kind of Mr. Lawrence, but really—"
  • Then I could endure it no longer. I broke out:
  • "Vera, what's the matter. You know all this isn't true…. I don't know wha_dea you have now in your head, but you must let me speak to you. I've got t_ell you this—that Lawrence must go back to England, and as soon a_ossible—and I will see that he does—"
  • That did its work. In an instant she was upon me like a wild beast, springin_rom her chair, standing close to me, her head flung back, her eyes furious.
  • "You wouldn't dare!" she cried. "It's none of your business, Iva_ndreievitch. You say you're my friend. You're not. You're my enemy—my enemy.
  • I don't care for him, not in the very least—he is nothing to me—nothing to m_t all. But he mustn't go back to England. It will ruin his career. You wil_uin him for life, Ivan Andreievitch. What business is it of yours? Yo_magine—because of what you fancied you saw at Nina's party. There was nothin_t Nina's party—nothing. I love my husband, Ivan Andreievitch, and you are m_nemy if you say anything else. And you pretend to be his friend, but you ar_is enemy if you try to have him sent back to England…. He must not go. Fo_he matter of that, I will never see him again—never—if that is what you want.
  • See, I promise you never—never—" She suddenly broke down—she, Ver_ichailovna, the proudest woman I had ever known, turning from me, her head i_er hands, sobbing, her shoulders bent.
  • I was most deeply moved. I could say nothing at first, then, when the sound o_er sobbing became unbearable to me, I murmured,
  • "Vera, please. I have no power. I can't make him go. I will only do what yo_ish. Vera, please, please—"
  • Then, with her back still turned to me, I heard her say,
  • "Please, go. I didn't mean—I didn't… but go now… and come back—later."
  • I waited a minute, and then, miserable, terrified of the future, I went.