As soon as it was convenient for him to do so, Nejdanov retired to his ow_oom and locked himself in. He did not want to see anyone, anyone excep_ariana. Her room was situated at the very end of a long corridor, intersecting the whole of the upper story. Nejdanov had only once been ther_or a few moments, but it seemed to him that she would not mind if he knocke_t her door, now that she even wished to speak to him herself. It was alread_airly late, about ten o'clock. The host and hostess had not considered i_ecessary to disturb him after what had taken place at the dinner table.
Valentina Mihailovna inquired once or twice about Mariana, as she too ha_isappeared soon after dinner. "Where is Mariana Vikentievna?" she asked firs_n Russian, then in French, addressing herself to no one in particular, bu_ather to the walls, as people often do when greatly astonished, but she soo_ecame absorbed in the game.
Nejdanov paced up and down the room several times, then turned down th_orridor and knocked gently at Mariana's door. There was no response. H_nocked again— then he turned the handle of the door. It was locked. But h_ad hardly got back to his own room and sat down, when the door creaked softl_nd Mariana's voice was heard: "Alexai Dmitritch, was that YOU, that came t_e?
He jumped up instantly and rushed out into the corridor. Mariana was standin_t his door with a candle in her hand, pale and motionless.
"Yes … I—" he murmured.
"Come," she said, turning down the corridor, but before reaching the end sh_topped and pushed open a low door. Nejdanov looked into a small, almost bar_oom.
"We had better go in here, Alexai Dmitritch, no one will disturb us here."
Nejdanov obeyed. Mariana put the candlestick on a window-sill and turned t_im.
"I understand why you wanted to see me," she began. "It is wretched for you t_ive in this house, and for me too."
"Yes, I wanted to see you, Mariana Vikentievna," Nejdanov replied, " but I d_ot feel wretched here since I've come to know you."
Mariana smiled pensively.
"Thank you, Alexai Dmitritch. But tell me, do you really intend stopping her_fter all that has happened?"
"I don't think they will keep me— I shall be dismissed," Nejdanov replied.
"But don't you intend going away of your own accord?"
"Do you want to know the truth? Because you are here." Mariana lowered he_ead and moved a little further down the room.
"Besides," Nejdanov continued, "I MUST stay here. You know nothing— but _ant— I feel that I must tell you everything." He approached Mariana an_eized her hand; she did not take it away, but only looked straight into hi_ace. "Listen!" he exclaimed with sudden force, "Listen!"
And instantly, without stopping to sit down, although there were two or thre_hairs in the room, still standing before her and holding her hand, wit_eated enthusiasm and with an eloquence, surprising even to himself, he bega_elling her all his plans, his intentions, his reason for having accepte_ipiagin's offer, about all his connections, acquaintances, about his past, things that he had always kept hidden from everybody. He told her abou_assily Nikolaevitch's letters, everything— even about Silin! He spok_urriedly, without a single pause or the smallest hesitation, as if he wer_eproaching himself for not having entrusted her with all his secrets before— as if he were begging her pardon. She listened to him attentively, greedily; she was bewildered at first, but this feeling soon wore off. Her heart wa_verflowing with gratitude, pride, devotion, resoluteness. Her face and eye_hone; she laid her other hand on Nejdanov's— her lips parted in ecstasy. Sh_ecame marvellously beautiful!
He ceased at last, and suddenly seemed to see THIS face for the first time, although it was so dear and so familiar to him. He gave a deep sigh.
"Ah! how well I did to tell you everything!" He was scarcely able t_rticulate the words.
"Yes, how well— how well!" she repeated, also in a whisper. She imitated hi_nconsciously— her voice, too, gave way. "And it means," she continued, "tha_ am at your disposal, that I want to be useful to your cause, that I am read_o do anything that may be necessary, go wherever you may want me to, that _ave always longed with my whole soul for all the things that you want—"
She also ceased. Another word— and her emotion would have dissolved int_ears. All the strength and force of her nature suddenly softened as wax. Sh_as consumed with a thirst for activity, for self-sacrifice, for immediat_elf-sacrifice.
A sound of footsteps was heard from the other side of the door— light, rapid, cautious footsteps.
Mariana suddenly drew herself up and disengaged her hands; her mood changed, she became quite cheerful, a certain audacious, scornful expression flitte_cross her face.
"I know who is listening behind the door at this moment," she remarked, s_oudly that every word could be heard distinctly in the corridor; "Madam_ipiagina is listening to us … but it makes no difference to me."
The footsteps ceased.
"Well?" Mariana asked, turning to Nejdanov. "What shall I do? How shall I hel_ou? Tell me… tell me quickly! What shall I do?"
"I don't know yet," Nejdanov replied. "I have received a note from Markelov—"
"When did you receive it? When? "
"This evening. He and I must go and see Solomin at the factory tomorrow."
"Yes … yes… . What a splendid man Markelov is! Now he's a real friend!"
"No—not like you."
She turned away suddenly.
"Oh! Don't you understand what you have become for me, and what I am feelin_t this moment?"
Nejdanov's heart beat violently; he looked down. This girl who loved him—_oor, homeless wretch, who trusted him, who was ready to follow him, pursu_he same cause together with him— this wonderful girl— Mariana— became fo_ejdanov at this moment the incarnation of all earthly truth and goodness— th_ncarnation of the love of mother, sister, wife, all the things he had neve_nown; the incarnation of his country, happiness, struggle, freedom!
He raised his head and encountered her eyes fixed on him again.
Oh, how this sweet, bright glance penetrated to his very soul!
"And so," he began in an unsteady voice, "I am going away tomorrow… And when _ome back, I will tell… you— " (he suddenly felt it awkward to address Marian_s "you") "tell you everything that is decided upon. From now on everythin_hat I do and think, everything, I will tell thee first."
"Oh, my dear!" Mariana exclaimed, seizing his hand again. "I promise thee th_ame!"
The word "thee" escaped her lips just as simply and easily as if they had bee_ld comrades.
"Have you got the letter?"
"Here it is."
Mariana scanned the letter and looked up at him almost reverently.
"Do they entrust you with such important commissions?" He smiled in reply an_ut the letter back in his pocket. "How curious," he said, "we have come t_now of our love, we love one another— and yet we have not said a single wor_bout it."
"There is no need," Mariana whispered, and suddenly threw her arms around hi_eck and pressed her head closely against his breast. They did not kiss— i_ould have seemed to them too commonplace and rather terrible— but instantl_ook leave of one another, tightly clasping each other's hands.
Mariana returned for the candle which she had left on the window- sill of th_mpty room. Only then a sort of bewilderment came over her; she extinguishe_he candle and, gliding quickly along the dark corridor, entered her own room, undressed and went to bed in the soothing darkness.