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Chapter 36

  • WHEN Mariana came out of her room that morning she noticed Nejdanov sitting o_he couch fully dressed. His head was resting against one arm, while the othe_ay weak and helpless on his knee. She went up to him.
  • "Goodmorning, Alexai. Why, you haven't undressed? Haven't you slept? How pal_ou are!"
  • His heavy eyelids rose slowly.
  • "No, I haven't."
  • "Aren't you well, or is it the after-effects of yesterday?
  • Nejdanov shook his head.
  • "I couldn't sleep after Solomin went into your room."
  • "When?"
  • Last night."
  • "Alexai! are you jealous? A new idea! What a time to be jealous in! Why, h_as only with me a quarter of an hour. We talked about his cousin, the priest, and discussed arrangements for our marriage."
  • "I know that he was only with you a short time. I saw him come out. And I'_ot jealous, oh no! But still I couldn't fall asleep after that."
  • "But why?"
  • Nejdanov was silent.
  • "I kept thinking … thinking… thinking!"
  • "Of what?
  • "Oh, of you … of him … and of myself."
  • "And what came of all your thinking?"
  • "Shall I tell you?"
  • Yes, tell me."
  • "It seemed to me that I stood in your way—in his … and in my own."
  • "Mine? His? It's easy to see what you mean by that, though you declare you'r_ot jealous, but your own?"
  • "Mariana, there are two men in me and one doesn't let the other live. So _hought it might be better if both ceased to live."
  • "Please don't, Alexai. Why do you want to torment yourself and me? We ought t_e considering ways and means of getting away. They won't leave us in peac_ou know."
  • Nejdanov took her hand caressingly.
  • "Sit down beside me, Mariana, and let us talk things over like comrades whil_here is still time. Give me your hand. It would be a good thing for us t_ave an explanation, though they say that all explanations only lead t_urther muddle. But you are kind and intelligent and are sure to understand, even the things that I am unable to express. Come, sit down."
  • Nejdanov's voice was soft, and a peculiarly affectionate tenderness shone i_is eyes as he looked entreatingly at Mariana.
  • She sat down beside him readily and took his hand.
  • "Thanks, dearest. I won't keep you long. I thought out all the things I wante_o say to you last night. Don't think I was too much upset by yesterday'_ccurrence. I was no doubt extremely ridiculous and rather disgusting, but _now you didn't think anything bad of me—you know me. I am not telling th_ruth exactly when I say that I wasn't upset—I was horribly upset, not becaus_ was brought home drunk, but because I was convinced of my utte_nefficiency. Not because I could not drink like a real Russian— but i_verything! everything! Mariana, I must tell you that I no longer believe i_he cause that united us and on the strength of which we ran away together. T_ell the truth, I had already lost faith when your enthusiasm set me on fir_gain. I don't believe in it! I can't believe in it!"
  • He put his disengaged hand over his eyes and ceased for awhile. Mariana di_ot utter a single word and sat looking downwards. She felt that he had tol_er nothing new.
  • "I always thought," Nejdanov continued, taking his hand away from his eyes, but not looking at Mariana again, "that I believed in the cause itself, bu_ad no faith in myself, in my own strength, my own capacities. I used to thin_hat my abilities did not come up to my convictions … But you can't separat_hese things. And what's the use of deceiving oneself? No— I don't believe i_he cause itself. And you, Mariana, do you believe in it?"
  • Mariana sat up straight and raised her head.
  • "Yes, I do, Alexai. I believe in it with all the strength of my soul, and wil_evote my whole life to it, to the last breath!"
  • Nejdanov turned towards her and looked at her enviously, with a tender ligh_n his eyes.
  • "I knew you would answer like that. So you see there is nothing for us to d_ogether; you have severed our tie with one blow."
  • Mariana was silent.
  • "Take Solomin, for instance," Nejdanov began again, "though he does no_elieve—"
  • "What do you mean?"
  • "It's quite true. He does not believe … but that is not necessary for him; h_s moving steadily onwards. A man walking along a road in a town does no_uestion the existence of the town— he just goes his way. That is Solomin.
  • That is all that's needed. But I … I can't go ahead, don't want to turn back, and am sick of staying where I am. How dare I ask anyone to be my companion?
  • You know the old proverb, 'With two people to carry the pole, the burden wil_e easier.' But if you let go your end- - what becomes of the other?"
  • "Alexai," Mariana began irresolutely, "I think you exaggerate. Do we not lov_ach other?"
  • Nejdanov gave a deep sigh.
  • "Mariana … I bow down before you… you pity me, and each of us has implici_aith in the other's honesty— that is our position. But there is no lov_etween us."
  • "Stop, Alexai! what are you saying? The police may come for us today… we mus_o away together and not part—"
  • "And get Father Zosim to marry us at Solomin's suggestion. I know that yo_erely look upon our marriage as a kind of passport— a means of avoiding an_ifficulties with the police … but still it will bind us to some extent; necessitate our living together and all that. Besides it always presupposes _esire to live together."
  • "What do you mean, Alexai? You don't intend staying here?"
  • Nejdanov said hesitatingly. The word "yes" nearly escaped his lips, but h_ecollected himself in time.
  • "Then you are going to a different place— not where I am going?"
  • Nejdanov pressed her hand which still lay in his own.
  • "It would indeed be vile to leave you without a supporter, without _rotector, but I won't do that, as bad as I may be. You shall have _rotector— rest assured."
  • Mariana bent down towards him and, putting her face close against his, looke_nxiously into his eyes, as though trying to penetrate to his very soul.
  • "What is the matter, Alexai? What have you on your mind? Tell me … yo_righten me. Your words are so strange and enigmatical … And your face! I hav_ever seen your face like that!"
  • Nejdanov put her from him gently and kissed her hand tenderly. This time sh_ade no resistance and did not laugh, but sat still looking at him anxiously.
  • "Don't be alarmed, dear. There is nothing strange in it. They say Markelov wa_eaten by the peasants; he felt their blows— they crushed his ribs. They di_ot beat me, they even drank with me— drank my health— but they crushed m_oul more completely than they did Markelov's ribs. I was born out of joint, wanted to set myself right, and have made matters worse. That is what yo_otice in my face."
  • "Alexai," Mariana said slowly, "it would be very wrong of you not to be fran_ith me."
  • He clenched his hands.
  • "Mariana, my whole being is laid bare before you, and whatever I might do, _ell you beforehand, nothing will really surprise you; nothing whatever!"
  • Mariana wanted to ask him what he meant, but at that moment Solomin entere_he room.
  • His movements were sharper and more rapid than usual. His eyes were hal_losed, his lips compressed, the whole of his face wore a drier, harder, somewhat rougher expression.
  • "My dear friends," he began, "I must ask you not to waste time, but prepar_ourselves as soon as possible. You must be ready in an hour. You have to g_hrough the marriage ceremony. There is no news of Paklin. His horses wer_etained for a time at Arjanov and then sent back. He has been kept there.
  • They've no doubt brought him to town by this time. I don't think he woul_etray us, but he might let things out unwittingly. Besides, they might hav_uessed from the horses. My cousin has been informed of your coming. Pave_ill go with you. He will be a witness."
  • "And you … and you?" Nejdanov asked. "Aren't you going? I see you're dresse_or the road," he added, indicating Solomin's high boots with his eyes.
  • "Oh, I only put them on … because it's rather muddy outside."
  • "But you won't be held responsible for us, will you?"
  • "I hardly think so … in any case … that's my affair. So you'll be ready in a_our. Mariana, I believe Tatiana wants to see you. She has something prepare_or you."
  • "Oh, yes! I wanted to see her too … " Mariana turned to the door.
  • A peculiar expression of fear, despair, spread itself over Nejdanov's face.
  • "Mariana, you're not going?" he asked in a frightened tone of voice.
  • She stood still.
  • "I'll be back in half an hour. It won't take me long to pack."
  • "Come here, close to me, Mariana."
  • "Certainly, but what for? "
  • "I wanted to have one more look at you." He looked at her intently. Goodbye, goodbye, Mariana!"
  • She seemed bewildered.
  • "Why … what nonsense I'm talking! You'll be back in half an hour, won't you, eh?"
  • Of course—"
  • "Never mind; forgive me, dear. My brain is in a whirl from lack of sleep. _ust begin … packing, too."
  • Mariana went out of the room and Solomin was about to follow her when Nejdano_topped him.
  • "Solomin!"
  • "What is it? "
  • "Give me your hand. I must thank you for your kindness and hospitality."
  • Solomin smiled.
  • "What an idea!" He extended his hand.
  • "There's another thing I wished to say," Nejdanov continued. "Supposin_nything were to happen to me, may I hope that you won't abandon Mariana?"
  • "Your future wife?
  • "Yes … Mariana!"
  • "I don't think anything is likely to happen to you, but you may set your min_t rest. Mariana is just as dear to me as she is to you."
  • "Oh, I knew it … knew it, knew it! I'm so glad! thanks. So in an hour?"
  • "In an hour."
  • "I shall be ready. Goodbye, my friend!"
  • Solomin went out and caught Mariana up on the staircase. He had intende_aying something to her about Nejdanov, but refrained from doing so. An_ariana guessed that he wished to say something about him and that he coul_ot. She, too, was silent.