Three Meetings by Iván Turgénieff
Translator, Isabel Hapgood
Passa que' colli e vieni allegramente;
Non ti curar di tanta compania—
Vieni pensando a me segretamente—
Ch'io t'accompagna per tutta la via.
During the whole course of the summer, I had gone a-hunting nowhere so
frequently as to the large village of Glínnoe, situated twenty versts
from my hamlet. In the environs of this village there are, in all
probability, the very best haunts of game in all our county. After
having tramped through all the adjacent bush-plots and fields, I
invariably, toward the end of the day, turned aside into the
neighbouring marsh, almost the only one in the countryside, and thence
returned to my cordial host, the Elder of Glínnoe, with whom I always
stopped. It is not more than two versts from the marsh to Glínnoe; the
entire road runs through a valley, and only midway of the distance is
one compelled to cross a small hillock. On the crest of this hillock
lies a homestead, consisting of one uninhabited little manor-house and
a garden. It almost always happened that I passed it at the very acme of
the sunset glow, and I remember, that on every such occasion, this
house, with its hermetically-sealed windows, appeared to me like a blind
old man who had come forth to warm himself in the sunlight. He is
sitting, dear man, close to the highway; the splendour of the sunlight
has long since been superseded for him by eternal gloom; but he feels
it, at least, on his upturned and outstretched face, on his flushed
cheeks. It seemed as though no one had lived in the house itself for a
long time; but in a tiny detached wing, in the courtyard, lodged a
decrepit man who had received his freedom, tall, stooping, and
grey-haired, with expressive and impassive features. He was always
sitting on a bench in front of the wing's solitary little window, gazing
with sad pensiveness into the distance, and when he caught sight of me,
he rose a little way and saluted, with that deliberate gravity which
distinguishes old house-serfs who have belonged not to the generation of
our fathers, but to our grandfathers. I sometimes entered into
conversation with him, but he was not loquacious; all I learned from him
was that the farm on which he dwelt belonged to the granddaughter of his
old master, a widow, who had a younger sister; that both of them lived
in towns, and beyond the sea, and never showed themselves at home; that
he was anxious to finish his life as speedily as possible, because "you
eat and eat bread so that you get melancholy: so long do you eat." This
old man's name was Lukyánitch.
One day, for some reason or other, I tarried long in the fields; a very
fair amount of game had presented itself, and the day had turned out
fine for hunting—from early morning it had been still and grey, as
though thoroughly permeated with evening. I wandered far a-field, and it
was not only already completely dark, but the moon had risen and night
had long been standing in the sky, as the expression runs, when I
reached the familiar farm. I had to pass along the garden... All around
lay such tranquillity...
I crossed the broad road, cautiously made my way through the dusty
nettles, and leaned against the low, wattled hedge. Motionless
before me lay the small garden all illuminated and, as it were, soothed
to stillness by the silvery rays of the moon,—all fragrant and humid;
laid out in ancient fashion, it consisted of a single oblong grass-plot.
Straight paths came together exactly in the centre, in a circular
flower-bed, thickly overgrown with asters; tall lindens surrounded it in
an even border. In one spot only was this border, a couple of fathoms in
length, broken, and through the gap a part of the low-roofed house was
visible, with two windows lighted, to my amazement. Young apple-trees
reared themselves here and there over the meadow; athwart their slender
branches the nocturnal sky gleamed softly blue, and the dreamy light of
the moon streamed down; in front of each apple-tree, on the whitening
grass, lay its faint, mottled shadow. On one side of the garden the
lindens were confusedly green, inundated with motionless,
palely-brilliant light; on the other, they stood all black and opaque; a
strange, repressed rustling arose at times in their dense foliage; they
seemed to be calling to the paths which vanished under them, as though
luring them beneath their dim canopy. The whole sky was studded with
stars; mysteriously did their soft blue scintillations stream down from
on high; they seemed to be gazing with quiet intentness at the distant
earth. Small, thin clouds now and then sailed across the moon,
momentarily converting its tranquil gleam into an obscure but luminous
mist.... Everything was dreaming. The air, all warm, all perfumed, did
not even vibrate; it only shivered now and then, as water shivers when
disturbed by a falling branch.... One was conscious of a certain thirst,
a certain swooning in it... I bent over the fence: a wild scarlet poppy
reared its erect little stalk before me from the matted grass; a large,
round drop of night dew glittered with a dark gleam in the heart of the
open blossom. Everything was dreaming; everything was taking its ease
luxuriously round about; everything seemed to be gazing upward,
stretching itself out, motionless, expectant... What was it that that
warm, not yet sleeping night, was waiting for?
It was waiting for a sound; that sensitive stillness was waiting for a
living voice—but everything maintained silence. The nightingales had
long since ceased their song ... and the sudden booming of a beetle as
it flew past, the light smacking of a tiny fish in the fish-pond behind
the lindens at the end of the garden, the sleepy whistle of a startled
bird, a distant cry in the fields,—so far away that the ear could not
distinguish whether it was a man, or a wild animal, or a bird which had
uttered it,—a short, brisk trampling of hoofs on the road: all these
faint sounds, these rustlings, only rendered the stillness more
profound... My heart yearned within me, with an indefinite feeling, akin
not precisely to expectation, nor yet to a memory of happiness. I dared
not stir; I was standing motionless before this motionless garden
steeped in moonlight and in dew, and, without myself knowing why, was
staring importunately at those two windows, which shone dimly red in the
soft half-darkness, when suddenly a chord rang out of the house,—rang
out and rolled forth in a flood.... The irritatingly-resonant air
thundered back an echo.... I gave an involuntary start.
The chord was followed by the sound of a woman's voice... I began to
listen eagerly—and ... can I express my amazement?... two years
previously, in Italy, at Sorrento, I had heard that selfsame song, that
selfsame voice.... Yes, yes...
"Vieni pensando a me segretamente ..."
It was they; I had recognised them; those were the sounds... This is the
way it had happened. I was returning home from a long stroll on the
seashore. I was walking swiftly along the street; night had long since
descended,—a magnificent night, southern, not calm and sadly-pensive as
with us, no! but all radiant, sumptuous, and very beautiful, like a
happy woman in her bloom; the moon shone with incredible brilliancy;
great, radiant stars fairly throbbed in the dark-blue sky; the black
shadows were sharply defined against the ground illuminated to
yellowness. On both sides of the street stretched the stone walls of
gardens; orange-trees reared above them their crooked branches; the
golden globes of heavy fruit, hidden amidst the interlacing leaves, were
now barely visible, now glowed brightly, as they ostentatiously
displayed themselves in the moonlight. On many trees the blossoms shone
tenderly white; the air was all impregnated with fragrance
languishingly powerful, penetrating, and almost heavy, although
I walked on, and, I must confess,—having already become accustomed to
all these wonders,—I was thinking only of how I might most speedily
reach my inn, when suddenly, from a small pavilion, built upon the very
wall of a garden along which I was passing, a woman's voice rang out. It
was singing some song with which I was unfamiliar, and in its sounds
there was something so winning, it seemed so permeated with the passion
and joyous expectation expressed by the words of the song, that I
instantly and involuntarily halted, and raised my head. There were two
windows in the pavilion; but in both the Venetian blinds were lowered,
and through their narrow chinks a dull light barely made its way.
After having repeated "vieni, vieni!" twice, the voice became silent;
the faint sound of strings was audible, as though of a guitar which had
fallen on the rug; a gown rustled, the floor creaked softly. The streaks
of light in one window disappeared... Some one had approached from
within and leaned against it. I advanced a couple of paces. Suddenly the
blind clattered and flew open; a graceful woman, all in white, swiftly
thrust her lovely head from the window, and stretching out her arms
toward me, said: "Sei tu?"
I was disconcerted, I did not know what to say; but at that same moment
the Unknown threw herself backward with a faint shriek, the blind
slammed to, and the light in the pavilion grew still more dim, as though
it had been carried out into another room. I remained motionless, and
for a long time could not recover myself. The face of the woman who had
so suddenly presented itself before me was strikingly beautiful. It had
flashed too rapidly before my eyes to permit of my immediately recalling
each individual feature; but the general impression was indescribably
powerful and profound.... I felt then and there that I should never
forget that countenance. The moon fell straight on the wall of the
pavilion, on the window whence she had shown herself to me, and, great
heavens! how magnificently had her great, dark eyes shone in its
radiance! In what a heavy flood had her half-loosened black hair fallen
upon her uplifted, rounded shoulders! How much bashful tenderness there
had been in the soft inclination of her form, how much affection in her
voice, when she had called to me—in that hurried, but resonant whisper!
After standing for quite a long time on one spot, I at last stepped a
little aside, into the shadow of the opposite wall, and began to stare
thence at the pavilion with a sort of stupid surprise and anticipation.
I listened .... listened with strained attention... It seemed to me now
that I heard some one's quiet breathing behind the darkened window, now
a rustle and quiet laughter. At last, steps resounded in the distance
... they came nearer; a man of almost identical stature with myself made
his appearance at the end of the street, briskly strode up to a gate
directly beneath the pavilion, which I had not previously noticed,
knocked twice with its iron ring, without looking about him, waited a
little, knocked again, and began to sing in an undertone: "Ecco
ridente."... The gate opened ... he slipped noiselessly through it. I
started, shook my head, threw my hands apart, and pulling my hat
morosely down on my brows, went off home in displeasure. On the
following day I vainly paced up and down that street for two hours in
the very hottest part of the day, past the pavilion, and that same
evening went away from Sorrento without even having visited Tasso's
The reader can now picture to himself the amazement which suddenly took
possession of me, when I heard that same voice, that same song, in the
steppes, in one of the most remote parts of Russia.... Now, as then, it
was night; now, as then, the voice suddenly rang out from a lighted,
unfamiliar room; now, as then, I was alone. My heart began to beat
violently within me. "Is not this a dream?" I thought. And lo! again the
final "vieni!" rang out.... Can it be that the window will open? Can
it be that the woman will show herself in it?—The window opened. In the
window, a woman showed herself. I instantly recognised her, although a
distance of fifty paces lay between us, although a light cloud obscured
the moon. It was she, my Unknown of Sorrento.
But she did not stretch forth her bare arms as before: she folded them
quietly, and leaning them on the window-sill, began to gaze silently and
immovably at some point in the garden. Yes, it was she; those were her
never-to-be-forgotten features, her eyes, the like of which I had never
beheld. Now, also, an ample white gown enfolded her limbs. She seemed
somewhat plumper than in Sorrento. Everything about exhaled an
atmosphere of the confidence and repose of love, the triumph of beauty,
of calm happiness. For a long time she did not stir, then she cast a
glance backward into the room and, suddenly straightening herself up,
exclaimed thrice, in a loud and ringing voice: "Addio!" The beautiful
sounds were wafted far, far away, and for a long time they quivered,
growing fainter and dying out beneath the lindens of the garden and in
the fields behind me, and everywhere. Everything around me was filled
for several minutes with the voice of this woman, everything rang in
response to her,—rang with her. She shut the window, and a few moments
later the light in the house vanished.
As soon as I recovered myself—and this was not very soon, I must
admit—I immediately directed my course along the garden of the manor,
approached the closed gate, and peered through the wattled fence.
Nothing out of the ordinary was visible in the courtyard; in one corner,
under a shed, stood a calash. Its front half, all bespattered with dried
mud, shone out sharply white in the moonlight. The shutters of the house
were closed, as before.
I have forgotten to say, that for about a week previous to that day, I
had not visited Glínnoe. For more than half an hour I paced to and fro
in perplexity in front of the fence, so that, at last, I attracted the
attention of the old watch-dog, which, nevertheless, did not begin to
bark at me, but merely looked at me from under the gate in a remarkably
ironical manner, with his purblind little eyes puckered up. I understood
his hint, and beat a retreat. But before I had managed to traverse half
a verst, I suddenly heard the sound of a horse's hoofs behind me.... In
a few minutes a rider, mounted on a black horse, dashed past me at a
swift trot, and swiftly turning toward me his face, where I could descry
nothing save an aquiline nose and a very handsome moustache under his
military cap, which was pulled well down on his brow, turned into the
right-hand road, and immediately vanished behind the forest.
"So that is he," I thought to myself, and my heart stirred within me in
a strange sort of way. It seemed to me that I recognised him; his figure
really did suggest the figure of the man whom I had seen enter the
garden-gate in Sorrento. Half an hour later I was in Glínnoe at my
host's, had roused him, and had immediately begun to interrogate him as
to the persons who had arrived at the neighbouring farm. He replied with
an effort that the ladies had arrived.
"But what ladies?"
"Why, everybody knows what ladies," he replied very languidly.
"What else should they be?—Russians, of course."
"Have they been here long?"
"Not long, of course."
"And have they come to stay long?"
"That I don't know."
"Are they wealthy?"
"And that, too, we don't know. Perhaps they are wealthy."
"Did not a gentleman come with them?"
"Yes, a gentleman."
The Elder sighed.
"O, okh, O Lord!"—he ejaculated with a yawn.... "N-n-o, there was no
.... gentleman, I think there was no gentleman. I don't know!"—he
"And what sort of other neighbours are living here?"
"What sort? everybody knows what sort,—all sorts."
"All sorts?—And what are their names?"
"Whose—the lady proprietors'? or the neighbours'?"
"The lady proprietors'."
Again the Elder yawned.
"What are their names?"—he muttered.—"Why, God knows what their names
are! The elder, I think, is named Anna Feódorovna, and the other ... No,
I don't know that one's name."
"Well, what 's their surname, at least?"
"Yes, their surname, their family name."
"Their family name.... Yes. Why, as God is my witness, I don't know."
"Are they young?"
"Well, no. They are not."
"How old are they, then?"
"Why, the youngest must be over forty."
"Thou art inventing the whole of this."
The Elder was silent for a while.
"Well, you must know best. But I don't know."
"Well, thou art wound up to say one thing!"—I exclaimed with vexation.
Knowing, by experience, that there is no possibility of extracting
anything lucid from a Russian man when once he undertakes to answer in
that way (and, moreover, my host had only just thrown himself down to
sleep, and swayed forward slightly before every answer, opening his eyes
widely with child-like surprise, and with difficulty ungluing his lips,
smeared with the honey of the first, sweet slumber),—I gave up in
despair, and declining supper, went into the barn.
I could not get to sleep for a long time. "Who is she?"—I kept
incessantly asking myself:—"a Russian? If a Russian, why does she speak
in Italian?.... The Elder declares that she is not young.... But he 's
lying.... And who is that happy man?.. Positively, I can comprehend
nothing... But what a strange adventure! Is it possible that thus, twice
in succession ..... But I will infallibly find out who she is, and why
she has come hither."... Agitated by such disordered, fragmentary
thoughts as these, I fell asleep late, and saw strange visions.... Now
it seems to me that I am wandering in some desert, in the very blaze of
noonday—and suddenly, I behold in front of me, a huge spot of shadow
running over the red-hot yellow sand... I raise my head—'t is she, my
beauty, whisking through the air, all white, with long white wings, and
beckoning me to her. I dart after her; but she floats on lightly and
swiftly, and I cannot rise from the ground, and stretch out eager hands
in vain.... "Addio!" she says to me, as she flies away.—"Why hast
thou not wings?.. Addio!".... And lo, from all sides, "Addio!"
resounds. Every grain of sand shouts and squeaks at me: "Addio!"...
then rings out in an intolerable, piercing trill... I brush it aside, as
I would a gnat, I seek her with my eyes ... and already she has become a
cloud, and is floating upward softly toward the sun; the sun quivers,
rocks, laughs, stretches out to meet her long golden threads, and now
those threads have enmeshed her, and she melts into them, but I shout at
the top of my lungs, like a madman: "That is not the sun, that is not
the sun, that is an Italian spider. Who gave it a passport for Russia? I
'll show him up for what he is: I saw him stealing oranges from other
people's gardens."... Then it seems to me that I am walking along a
narrow mountain path... I hurry onward: I must get somewhere or other as
quickly as possible, some unheard-of happiness is awaiting me. Suddenly
a vast cliff rears itself up in front of me. I seek a passage; I go to
the right, I go to the left—there is no passage! And now behind the
cliff a voice suddenly rings out: "Passa, passa quei colli."... It is
calling me, that voice; it repeats its mournful summons. I fling myself
about in anguish, I seek even the smallest cleft.... Alas! the cliff is
perpendicular, there is granite everywhere.... "Passa quei colli,"
wails the voice again. My heart aches, and I hurl my breast against the
smooth stone; I scratch it with my nails, in my frenzy.... A dark
passage suddenly opens before me... Swooning with joy, I dash forward...
"Nonsense!" some one cries to me:—"thou shalt not pass through.".. I
look: Lukyánitch is standing in front of me and threatening, and
brandishing his arms... I hastily fumble in my pockets: I want to bribe
him; but there is nothing in my pockets....
"Lukyánitch,"—I say to him,—"let me pass; I will reward thee
"You are mistaken, signor," Lukyánitch replies to me, and his face
assumes a strange expression:—"I am not a house-serf; recognise in me
Don Quixote de La Mancha, the famous wandering knight; all my life long
I have been seeking my Dulcinea—and I have not been able to find her,
and I will not tolerate it, that you shall find yours."
"Passa quei colli".... rings out again the almost sobbing voice.
"Stand aside, signor!"—I shout wrathfully, and am on the point of
precipitating myself forward ... but the knight's long spear wounds me
in the very heart... I fall dead,.. I lie on my back... I cannot move
... and lo, I see that she is coming with a lamp in her hand, and
elevating it with a fine gesture above her head, she peers about her in
the gloom, and creeping cautiously up, bends over me...
"So this is he, that jester!" she says with a disdainful laugh.—"This
is he who wanted to know who I am!" and the hot oil from her lamp drips
straight upon my wounded heart...
"Psyche!"—I exclaim with an effort, and awake.
All night long I slept badly and was afoot before daybreak. Hastily
dressing and arming myself, I wended my way straight to the manor. My
impatience was so great that the dawn had only just begun to flush the
sky when I reached the familiar gate. Round me the larks were singing,
the daws were cawing on the birches; but in the house everything was
still buried in death-like matutinal slumber. Even the dog was snoring
behind the fence. With the anguish of expectation, exasperated almost to
the point of wrath, I paced to and fro on the dewy grass, and kept
casting incessant glances at the low-roofed and ill-favoured little
house which contained within its walls that mysterious being....
Suddenly the wicket-gate creaked faintly, opened, and Lukyánitch made
his appearance on the threshold, in some sort of striped kazák coat. His
bristling, long-drawn face seemed to me more surly than ever. Gazing at
me not without surprise, he was on the point of shutting the wicket
"My good fellow, my good fellow!"—I cried hastily.
"What do you want at such an early hour?"—he returned slowly and dully.
"Tell me, please, they say that your mistress has arrived?"
Lukyánitch made no reply for a while.
"She has arrived..."
"With her sister."
"Were there not guests with you last night?"
And he drew the wicket toward him.
"Stay, stay, my dear fellow.... Do me a favour...."
Lukyánitch coughed and shivered with cold.
"But what is it you want?"
"Tell me, please, how old is your mistress?"
Lukyánitch darted a suspicious glance at me.
"How old is the mistress? I don't know. She must be over forty."
"Over forty! And how old is her sister?"
"Why, she 's in the neighbourhood of forty."
"You don't say so! And is she good-looking?"
"Who, the sister?"
"Yes, the sister."
"I don't know; that 's as a person fancies. In my opinion, she is n't
"Because—she 's very ill-favoured. A bit puny."
"You don't say so! And has no one except them come hither?"
"No one. Who should come?"
"But that cannot be!... I ...."
"Eh, master! there 's no end of talking with you, apparently,"—retorted
the old man with vexation.—"Whew, how cold it is! Good-bye."
"Stay, stay .... here 's something for thee...." And I held out to him a
quarter of a ruble which I had prepared beforehand; but my hand came
into contact with the swiftly banged wicket-gate. The silver coin fell
to the ground, rolled away, and lay at my feet.
"Ah, thou old rascal!"—I thought—"Don Quixote de La Mancha! Evidently,
thou hast received orders to hold thy tongue.... But wait, thou shalt
not trick me."...
I promised myself that I would elucidate the matter, at any cost. For
about half an hour I paced to and fro, without knowing what decision to
adopt. At last I made up my mind first to inquire in the village,
precisely who had arrived at the manor, and who she was, then to return,
and, as the saying runs, not desist until the matter was cleared
up.—And if the Unknown should come out of the house, I would, at last,
see her by daylight, near at hand, like a living woman, not like a
It was about a verst to the village, and I immediately betook myself
thither, stepping out lightly and alertly: a strange audacity was
seething and sparkling in my blood; the invigorating freshness of the
morning excited me after the uneasy night.—In the village I learned
from two peasants, who were on their way to their work, everything which
I could learn from them; namely: I learned that the manor, together with
the village which I had entered, was called Mikhaílovskoe, that it
belonged to the widow of a Major, Anna Feódorovna Shlýkoff; that she had
with her her sister, an unmarried woman, Pelagéya Feódorovna Badáeff by
name; that both of them were advanced in years, were wealthy, hardly
ever lived at home, were always travelling about, kept no one in
attendance on them except two female domestic serfs and a male cook;
that Anna Feódorovna had recently returned from Moscow with no one but
her sister.... This last circumstance greatly perturbed me: it was
impossible to assume that the peasants also had been commanded to hold
their peace about my Unknown. But it was utterly impossible to concede
that Anna Feódorovna Shlýkoff, a widow of five-and-forty, and that
young, charming woman, whom I had seen on the previous evening, were one
and the same person. Pelagéya Feódorovna, judging from the description,
was not distinguished for her beauty either, and, in addition to that,
at the mere thought that the woman whom I had seen at Sorrento could
bear the name of Pelagéya, and still more of Badáeff, I shrugged my
shoulders and laughed maliciously. And nevertheless, I had beheld her
the night before in that house.... I had beheld her, beheld her with my
own eyes, I reflected. Irritated, enraged, but still more inclined to
stand by my intention, I would have liked to return at once to the manor
.... but glanced at my watch; it was not yet six o'clock. I decided to
wait a while. Every one was still asleep at the farm, in all probability
... and to prowl about the house at such an hour would only serve to
arouse unnecessary suspicion; and besides, in front of me stretched
bushes, and beyond them an aspen wood was visible...
I must do myself the justice to say, that, notwithstanding the thoughts
which were exciting me, the noble passion for the hunt had not yet grown
wholly mute within me; "perchance," I thought,—"I shall hit upon a
covey,—and that will serve to pass away the time." I entered the
bushes. But, truth to tell, I walked in a very careless way, quite out
of consonance with the rules of the art: I did not follow my dog
constantly with my eyes, I did not snort over a thick bush, in the hope
that a red-browed black snipe would fly thence with a whirr and a
crash, but kept incessantly looking at my watch, which never serves any
purpose whatsoever. And, at last, it was going on nine.—"'T is time!" I
exclaimed aloud, and was on the point of turning back to the manor, when
suddenly a huge black woodcock actually did begin to flutter out of the
thick grass a couple of paces from me. I fired at the magnificent bird,
and wounded it under the wing; it almost fell to the ground, but
recovered itself, started off, fluttering its wings swiftly and, diving
toward the wood, tried to soar above the first aspens on the edge, but
its strength failed, and it rolled headlong into the thicket. It would
have been utterly unpardonable to abandon such a prize. I strode briskly
after it, entered the forest, made a sign to Dianka, and a few moments
later I heard a feeble clucking and flapping; it was the unlucky
woodcock, struggling under the paws of my quick-scented hound. I picked
it up, put it in my game-bag, glanced round, and—remained rooted to the
spot, as it were....
The forest which I had entered was very dense and wild, so that I had
with difficulty made my way to the spot where the bird had fallen; but
at a short distance from me wound a cart-road, and along this road were
riding on horseback my beauty and the man who had overtaken me on the
night before; I recognised him by his moustache. They were riding
softly, in silence, holding each other by the hand; their horses were
barely putting one foot before the other, lazily swaying from side to
side and handsomely stretching out their long necks. When I had
recovered from my first alarm ... precisely that, alarm: I can give no
other appellation to the feeling which suddenly seized upon me.... I
fairly bored into her with my eyes. How beautiful she was! how
enchantingly her graceful form moved toward me amid the emerald green!
Soft shadows, tender reflections glided over her—over her long grey
habit, over her slender, slightly-bent neck, over her faintly-rosy face,
over her glossy black hair, which escaped luxuriantly from under her
low-crowned hat. But how shall I transmit that expression of utter,
passionate bliss of a person passionate to the point of speechlessness,
which breathed forth from her features? Her head seemed to be bending
beneath the burden of it; moist, golden sparks glittered in her dark
eyes, which were half-concealed by her eyelashes; they gazed nowhere,
those happy eyes, and the slender brows drooped over them. An
irresolute, child-like smile—the smile of profound happiness, strayed
over her lips; it seemed as though excess of happiness had wearied and
even broken her a little, as a flower in full bloom sometimes breaks its
own stem. Both her hands lay powerless: one, in the hand of the man who
was riding by her side, the other on her horse's mane.
I succeeded in getting a good look at her—and at him also.... He was a
handsome, stately man, with an un-Russian face. He was gazing at her
boldly and merrily, and, so far as I was able to observe, was admiring
her not without secret pride. He was admiring her, the villain, and was
very well-satisfied with himself, and not sufficiently touched, not
sufficiently moved,—precisely that, moved... And, as a matter of fact,
what man does deserve such devotion, what soul, even the most beautiful,
is worthy of furnishing another soul such happiness? I must say, that I
was envious of him!.... In the meantime, they had both arrived on a
level with me ... my dog suddenly bounded out into the road and began to
bark. My Unknown started, cast a swift glance around and, catching sight
of me, dealt her steed a violent blow on the neck with her whip. The
horse snorted, reared up on his hind legs, threw both his hoofs forward
simultaneously, and dashed off at a gallop.... The man immediately gave
the spur to his black horse, and when I emerged by the road into the
border of the forest a few moments later, both of them were already
galloping off into the golden distance, across the fields, rising
smartly and regularly in their saddles ... and were not galloping in the
direction of the farm....
I gazed.... They speedily disappeared behind a hillock, brilliantly
illuminated for the last time by the sun against the dark line of the
horizon. I stood, and stood, then returned with slow steps to the forest
and sat down on the path, covering my eyes with my hand.—I have
observed that after meeting strangers, all that is necessary is to close
the eyes—and their features immediately start up before you; any one
can verify my observation on the street. The more familiar the faces,
the more difficult is it for them to present themselves, the more
indefinite is their impression; you recall them, but you do not see
them,.... and you can never possibly picture to yourself your own
face.... The very minutest separate feature is known to you, but the
entire image will not constitute itself. So then, I sat down, closed my
eyes—and immediately beheld the Unknown and her companion, and their
horses, and everything.... The man's smiling countenance stood before me
with particular sharpness and distinctness. I began to stare intently at
it ... it became confused, and dissolved into a sort of crimson mist,
and after it, her image also floated away and sank, and would not
"Well, never mind!"—I thought;—"at all events, I have seen them, seen
them both clearly.... It remains for me now to find out their names."
Endeavour to find out their names! What ill-judged, petty curiosity!
But I swear that it was not curiosity which had flamed up in me. In
truth, it simply seemed to me impossible not to discover, eventually,
who they were, after accident had so strangely and so persistently
brought us together. Moreover, my former impatient perplexity no longer
existed; it had been replaced by a certain confused, sorrowful feeling,
of which I was somewhat ashamed.... I was jealous....
I did not hasten back to the farm. I must confess that I had become
ashamed to pry into the secrets of others. Moreover, the appearance of
the fond pair by daylight, in the light of the sun, although it was
unexpected and, I repeat, strange, had not exactly soothed, but chilled
me. I no longer found anything supernatural, miraculous in this
occurrence .... nothing resembling an impossible dream....
I began to hunt again with greater assiduity than before; but still,
there were no genuine raptures. I hit upon a covey, which engaged my
attention for an hour and a half... The young partridges did not respond
to my whistle for a long time,—probably because I did not whistle with
sufficient "objectivity."—The sun had already risen quite high (my
watch indicated twelve o'clock), when I directed my steps toward the
manor. I walked without haste. Yonder, at last, the low-roofed little
house peeped forth from its hill. I approached .... and not without
secret satisfaction beheld Lukyánitch. As of yore, he was sitting
motionless on the bench in front of the wing. The gate was closed—also
"Good morning, uncle!"—I shouted to him from afar.—"Hast thou come out
to warm thyself?"
Lukyánitch turned his gaunt face toward me and silently doffed his cap.
I went up to him.
"Good morning, uncle, good morning,"—I repeated, wishing to encourage
him.—"Why,"—I added, unexpectedly descrying my quarterruble on the
ground,—"didst not thou see it?"
And I pointed out to him the silver circle, half peeping from beneath
the short grass.
"Yes, I saw it."
"Then why didst thou not pick it up?"
"Because it was n't my money, so I did n't pick it up."
"What a fellow thou art, brother!"—I returned, not without
embarrassment, and picking up the coin, I offered it to him
again.—"Take it, take it, for tea."
"Much obliged,"—Lukyánitch answered me, with a composed smile.—"It is
n't necessary; I 'll manage to pull through without it. Much obliged."
"But I am ready to give you still more, with pleasure!"—I replied in
"What for? Please don't disturb yourself—much obliged for your
good-will, but we still have a crust of bread. And perhaps we sha'n't
eat that up—that 's as it may happen."
And he rose, and put out his hand to the wicket-gate.
"Stay, stay, old man,"—I began, almost in desperation;—"how
uncommunicative thou art to-day, really.... Tell me, at least, has your
mistress risen yet?"
"And .... is she at home?"
"No, she 's not at home."
"Has she gone off on a visit, pray?"
"No, sir; she has gone to Moscow."
"To Moscow! How is that? Why, she was here this morning!"
"And she passed the night here?"
"And she came hither recently?"
"What next, my good man?"
"Why, this: it must be about an hour since she deigned to start back to
I stared in petrification at Lukyánitch; I had not expected this, I
Lukyánitch stared at me.... A crafty, senile smile distended his
withered lips and almost beamed in his melancholy eyes.
"And did she go away with her sister?"—I said at last.
"So that now there is no one in the house?"
"This old man is deceiving me,"—flashed through my head.—"'T is not
without cause that he is grinning so craftily.—Listen, Lukyánitch,"—I
said aloud;—"dost wish to do me one favour?"
"What is it you wish?"—he enunciated slowly, evidently beginning to
feel annoyed by my questions.
"Thou sayest that there is no one in the house; canst thou show it to
me? I should be very grateful to thee."
"That is, you want to inspect the rooms?"
"Yes, the rooms."
Lukyánitch remained silent for a space.
"Very well,"—he said at last.—"Pray, enter...."
And bending down, he stepped across the threshold of the wicket-gate. I
followed him. After traversing a tiny courtyard, we ascended the
tottering steps of the porch. The old man gave the door a push; there
was no lock on it: a cord with a knot stuck out through the
key-hole.... We entered the house. It consisted in all of five or six
low-ceiled rooms, and, so far as I could make out in the faint light,
which streamed sparsely through the rifts in the shutters, the furniture
in these rooms was extremely plain and decrepit. In one of them (namely,
in the one which opened on the garden) stood a small, antiquated
piano.... I raised its warped lid and struck the keys: a shrill, hissing
sound rang out and died feebly away, as though complaining of my
audacity. It was impossible to discern from anything that people had
recently left the house; it had a dead and stifling sort of smell—the
odour of an uninhabited dwelling; here and there, indeed, a discarded
paper gave one to understand, by its whiteness, that it had been dropped
there recently. I picked up one such bit of paper; it proved to be a
scrap of a letter; on one side in a dashing feminine handwriting were
scrawled the words "se taire?" on the other I made out the word
"bonheur."... On a small round table near the window stood a nosegay
of half-faded flowers in a glass, and a green, rumpled ribbon was lying
there also .... I took that ribbon as a souvenir.—Lukyánitch opened a
narrow door, pasted over with wall-paper.
"Here,"—said he, extending his hand:—"this here is the bedroom, and
yonder, beyond it, is the room for the maids, and there are no other
We returned by way of the corridor.—"And what room is that yonder?"—I
asked, pointing at a broad, white door with a lock.
"That?"—Lukyánitch answered me, in a dull voice.—"That 's nothing."
"Because.... 'T is a store-room..." And he started to go into the
"A store-room? Cannot I look at it?"...
"What makes you want to do that, master, really?!"—replied Lukyánitch
with displeasure.—"What is there for you to look at? Chests, old
crockery ... 't is a store-room, and nothing more...."
"All the same, show it to me, please, old man,"—I said, although I was
inwardly ashamed of my indecent persistence.—"I should like, you see
.... I should like to have just such a house myself at home, in my
I was ashamed: I could not complete the sentence I had begun.
Lukyánitch stood with his grey head bent on his breast, and stared at me
askance in a strange sort of way.
"Show it,"—I said.
"Well, as you like,"—he replied at last, got the key, and reluctantly
opened the door.
I glanced into the store-room. There really was nothing noteworthy about
it. On the walls hung old portraits with gloomy, almost black
countenances, and vicious eyes. The floor was strewn with all sorts of
"Well, have you seen all you want?"—asked Lukyánitch, gruffly.
"Yes; thanks!"—I hastily replied.
He slammed to the door. I went out into the anteroom, and from the
anteroom into the courtyard.
Lukyánitch escorted me, muttering: "Good-bye, sir!" and went off to his
"But who was the lady visitor at your house last night?"—I called after
him:—"I met her this morning in the grove."
I had hoped to daze him with my sudden question, to evoke a thoughtless
answer. But the old man merely laughed dully, and slammed the door
behind him when he went in.
I retraced my steps to Glínnoe. I felt awkward, like a boy who has been
put to shame.
"No,"—I said to myself:—"evidently, I shall not obtain a solution to
this puzzle. I 'll give it up! I will think no more of all this."
An hour later, I set out on my homeward drive, enraged and irritated.
A week elapsed. Try as I might to banish from me the memory of the
Unknown, of her companion, of my meetings with them,—it kept constantly
returning, and besieged me with all the importunate persistence of an
after-dinner fly.... Lukyánitch, with his mysterious looks and reserved
speeches, with his coldly-mournful smile, also recurred incessantly to
my memory. The house itself, when I thought of it,—that house itself
gazed at me cunningly and stupidly through its half-closed shutters, and
seemed to be jeering at me, as though it were saying to me: "And all the
same thou shalt not find out anything!" At last I could endure it no
longer, and one fine day I drove to Glínnoe, and from Glínnoe set out on
foot .... whither? The reader can easily divine.
I must confess that, as I approached the mysterious manor, I felt a
decidedly violent agitation. The exterior of the house had not undergone
the slightest change: the same closed windows, the same melancholy and
desolate aspect; only, on the bench, in front of the wing, instead of
old Lukyánitch, sat some young house-serf or other, of twenty, in a long
nankeen kaftan and a red shirt. He was sitting with his curly head
resting on his palm, and dozing, swaying to and fro from time to time,
"Good morning, brother!"—I said in a loud voice.
He immediately sprang to his feet and stared at me with widely-opened,
"Good morning, brother!"—I repeated:—"And where is the old man?"
"What old man?"—said the young fellow, slowly.
"Ah, Lukyánitch!"—He darted a glance aside.—"Do you want Lukyánitch?"
"Yes, I do. Is he at home?"
"N-no,"—enunciated the young fellow, brokenly,—"he, you know ... how
shall I ... tell ... you ... about .... that ...."
"Is he ill?"
"Why, he is n't here at all."
"Because. Something .... unpleasant ... happened to him."
"Is he dead?"—I inquired with surprise.
"He strangled himself."
"Strangled himself!"—I exclaimed in affright, and clasped my hands.
We both gazed in each other's eyes in silence.
"How long ago?"—I said at last.
"Why, to-day is the fifth day since. They buried him yesterday."
"But why did he strangle himself?"
"The Lord knows. He was a freeman, on wages; he did not know want, the
masters petted him as though he were a relation. For we have such good
masters—may God give them health! I simply can't understand what came
over him. Evidently, the Evil One entrapped him."
"But how did he do it?"
"Why, so. He took and strangled himself."
"And nothing of the sort had been previously noticed in him?"
"How shall I tell you.... There was nothing .... particular. He was
always a very melancholy man. He used to groan, and groan. 'I 'm so
bored,' he would say. Well, and then there was his age. Of late, he
really did begin to meditate something. He used to come to us in the
village; for I 'm his nephew.—'Well, Vásya, my lad,' he would say,
'prithee, brother, come and spend the night with me!'—'What for,
uncle?'—'Why, because I 'm frightened, somehow; 't is tiresome alone.'
Well, and so I 'd go to him. He would come out into the courtyard and
stare and stare so at the house, and shake and shake his head, and how
he would sigh!... Just before that night, that is to say, the one on
which he put an end to his life, he came to us again, and invited me.
Well, and so I went. When we reached his wing, he sat for a while on the
bench; then he rose, and went out. I wait, and 'he 's rather long in
coming back'—says I, and went out into the courtyard, and shouted,
'Uncle! hey, uncle!' My uncle did not call back. Thinks I: 'Whither can
he have gone? surely, not into the house?' and I went into the house.
Twilight was already drawing on. And as I was passing the store-room, I
heard something scratching there, behind the door; so I took and opened
the door. Behold, there he sat doubled up under the window.
"'What art thou doing there, uncle?' says I. But he turns round, and how
he shouts at me, and his eyes are so keen, so keen, they fairly blaze,
like a cat's.
"'What dost thou want? Dost not see—I am shaving myself.' And his voice
was so hoarse. My hair suddenly rose upright, and I don't know why I got
frightened ... evidently, about that time the devils had already
"'What, in the dark?'—says I, and my knees fairly shook.
"'Come,' says he, 'it 's all right, begone!'
"I went, and he came out of the store-room and locked the door. So we
went back to the wing, and the terror immediately left me.
"'What wast thou doing in the store-room, uncle?' says I.—He was fairly
"'Hold thy tongue!' says he; 'hold thy tongue!' and he crawled up on the
"'Well,' thinks I to myself,—''t will be better for me not to speak to
him; he surely must be feeling ill to-day.' So I went and lay down on
the oven-bench myself, too. And a night-light was burning in a corner.
So, I am lying there, and just dozing, you know ... when suddenly I hear
the door creaking softly ... and it opens—so, a little. And my uncle
was lying with his back to the door, and, as you may remember, he was
always a little hard of hearing. But this time he sprang up suddenly...
"'Who 's calling me, hey? who is it? hast come for me, for me?!' and out
he ran into the yard without his hat....
"I thought: 'What 's the matter with him?' and, sinful man that I am, I
fell asleep immediately. The next morning I woke up .... and Lukyánitch
was not there.
"I went out of doors and began to call him—he was nowhere. I asked the
"'Has n't my uncle come out?' says I.
"'No,' says he, 'I have n't seen him.'...
"'Has n't something happened to him, brother?'.... says I...
"'Oï!'.... We were both fairly frightened.
"'Come, Feodósyeitch,' says I, 'come on,' says I,—'let 's see whether
he is n't in the house.'
"'Come on,'—says he, 'Vasíly Timofyéitch!' but he himself was as white
"We entered the house... I was about to pass the store-room, but I
glanced and the padlock was hanging open on the hasp, and I pushed the
door, but the door was fastened inside.... Feodósyeitch immediately ran
round, and peeped in at the window.
"'Vasíly Timofyéitch!' he cries;—'his legs are hanging, his legs ...'
"I ran to the window. And they were his legs, Lukyánitch's legs. And he
had hanged himself in the middle of the room.—Well, we sent for the
judge.... They took him down from the rope; the rope was tied with
"Well, what did the court say?"
"What did the court say? Nothing. They pondered and pondered what the
cause might be. There was no cause. And so they decided that he must
have been out of his mind. His head had been aching of late, he had been
complaining very frequently of his head...."
I chatted for about half an hour longer with the young fellow, and went
away, at last, completely disconcerted. I must confess that I could not
look at that rickety house without a secret, superstitious terror.... A
month later I quitted my country-seat, and little by little all these
horrors, these mysterious encounters, vanished from my mind.
Three years passed. The greater part of that time I spent in Petersburg
and abroad; and even when I did run down to my place in the country, it
was only for a few days at a time, so that I never chanced to be in
Glínnoe or in Mikhaílovskoe on a single occasion. Nowhere had I seen my
beauty nor the man. One day, toward the end of the third year, in
Moscow, I chanced to meet Madame Shlýkoff and her sister, Pelagéya
Badáeff—that same Pelagéya whom I, sinful man that I am, had hitherto
regarded as a mythical being—at an evening gathering in the house of
one of my acquaintances. Neither of the ladies was any longer young, and
both possessed pleasing exteriors; their conversation was characterised
by wit and mirth: they had travelled a great deal, and travelled with
profit; easy gaiety was observable in their manners. But they and my
acquaintance had positively nothing in common. I was presented to them.
Madame Shlýkoff and I dropped into conversation (her sister was being
entertained by a passing geologist). I informed her that I had the
pleasure of being her neighbour in *** county.
"Ah! I really do possess a small estate there,"—she remarked,—"near
"Exactly, exactly,"—I returned:—"I know your Mikhaílovskoe. Do you
ever go thither?"
"Were you there three years ago?"
"Stay! I think I was. Yes, I was, that is true."
"With your sister, or alone?"
She darted a glance at me.
"With my sister. We spent about a week there. On business, you know.
However, we saw no one."
"H'm.... I think there are very few neighbours there."
"Yes, very few. I 'm not fond of neighbours."
"Tell me,"—I began;—"I believe you had a catastrophe there that same
year. Lukyánitch ...."
Madame Shlýkoff's eyes immediately filled with tears.
"And did you know him?"—she said with vivacity.—"Such a misfortune! He
was a very fine, good old man ... and just fancy, without any cause, you
Madame Shlýkoff's sister approached us. She was, in all probability,
beginning to be bored by the learned disquisitions of the geologist
about the formation of the banks of the Volga.
"Just fancy, Pauline,"—began my companion;—"monsieur knew Lukyánitch."
"Really? Poor old man!"
"I hunted more than once in the environs of Mikhaílovskoe at that
period, when you were there three years ago,"—I remarked.
"I?"—returned Pelagéya, in some astonishment.
"Well, yes, of course!"—hastily interposed her sister; "is it possible
that thou dost not recall it?"
And she looked her intently in the eye.
"Akh, yes, yes ... that is true!"—replied Pelagéya, suddenly.
"Ehe—he!" I thought: "I don't believe you were in Mikhaílovskoe, my
"Will not you sing us something, Pelagéya Feódorovna?"—suddenly began
a tall young man, with a crest of fair hair and turbidly-sweet little
"Really, I don't know,"—said Miss Badáeff.
"And do you sing?"—I exclaimed with vivacity, springing up briskly from
my seat. "For heaven's sake .... akh, for heaven's sake, do sing us
"But what shall I sing to you?"
"Don't you know,"—I began, using my utmost endeavours to impart to my
face an indifferent and easy expression,—"an Italian song ... it begins
this way: 'Passa quei colli'?"
"Yes," replied Pelagéya with perfect innocence. "Do you want me to sing
that? Very well."
And she seated herself at the piano. I, like Hamlet, riveted my eyes on
Madame Shlýkoff. It seemed to me that at the first note she gave a
slight start; but she sat quietly to the end. Miss Badáeff sang quite
well. The song ended, the customary plaudits resounded. They began to
urge her to sing something else; but the two sisters exchanged glances,
and a few minutes later they took their departure. As they left the room
I overheard the word "importun."
"I deserved it!" I thought—and did not meet them again.
Still another year elapsed. I transferred my residence to Petersburg.
Winter arrived; the masquerades began. One day, as I emerged at eleven
o'clock at night from the house of a friend, I felt myself in such a
gloomy frame of mind that I decided to betake myself to the masquerade
in the Assembly of the Nobility. For a long time I roamed about
among the columns and past the mirrors with a discreetly-fatalistic
expression on my countenance—with that expression which, so far as I
have observed, makes its appearance in such cases on the faces of the
most well-bred persons—why, the Lord only knows. For a long time I
roamed about, now and then parrying with a jest the advances of divers
shrill dominoes with suspicious lace and soiled gloves, and still more
rarely addressing them. For a long time I surrendered my ears to the
blare of the trumpets and the whining of the violins; at last, being
pretty well bored, I was on the point of going home .... and .... and
remained. I caught sight of a woman in a black domino, leaning against a
column,—and no sooner had I caught sight of her than I stopped short,
stepped up to her, and ... will the reader believe me?.... immediately
recognised in her my Unknown. How I recognised her: whether by the
glance which she abstractedly cast upon me through the oblong aperture
in her mask, or by the wonderful outlines of her shoulders and arms, or
by the peculiarly feminine stateliness of her whole form, or, in
conclusion, by some secret voice which suddenly spoke in me,—I cannot
say .... only, recognise her I did. With a quiver in my heart, I walked
past her several times. She did not stir; in her attitude there was
something so hopelessly sorrowful that, as I gazed at her, I
involuntarily recalled two lines of a Spanish romance:
Soy un cuadro de tristeza,
Arrimado a la pared.
I stepped behind the column against which she was leaning, and bending
my head down to her very ear, enunciated softly:
"Passa quei colli."...
She began to tremble all over, and turned swiftly round to me. Our eyes
met at very short range, and I was able to observe how fright had
dilated her pupils. Feebly extending one hand in perplexity, she gazed
"On May 6, 184*, in Sorrento, at ten o'clock in the evening, in della
Croce Street,"—I said in a deliberate voice, without taking my eyes
from her; "afterward, in Russia, in the *** Government, in the hamlet of
Mikhaílovskoe, on June 22, 184*."....
I said all this in French. She recoiled a little, scanned me from head
to foot with a look of amazement, and whispering, "Venez," swiftly
left the room. I followed her.
We walked on in silence. It is beyond my power to express what I felt as
I walked side by side with her. It was as though a very beautiful dream
had suddenly become reality ... as though the statue of Galatea had
descended as a living woman from its pedestal in the sight of the
swooning Pygmalion.... I could not believe it, I could hardly breathe.
We traversed several rooms.... At last, in one of them, she paused in
front of a small divan near the window, and seated herself. I sat down
She slowly turned her head toward me, and looked intently at me.
"Do you .... do you come from him?" she said.
Her voice was weak and unsteady...
Her question somewhat disconcerted me.
"No .... not from him,"—I replied haltingly.
"Do you know him?"
"Yes,"—I replied, with mysterious solemnity. I wanted to keep up my
rôle.—"Yes, I know him."
She looked distrustfully at me, started to say something, and dropped
"You were waiting for him in Sorrento,"—I went on;—"you met him at
Mikhaílovskoe, you rode on horseback with him...."
"How could you ...." she began.
"I know ... I know all...."
"Your face seems familiar to me, somehow,"—she continued:—"but no
"No, I am a stranger to you."
"Then what is it that you want?"
"I know that also,"—I persisted.
I understood very well that I must take advantage of the excellent
beginning to go further, that my repetitions of "I know all, I know,"
were becoming ridiculous—but my agitation was so great, that unexpected
meeting had thrown me into such confusion, I had lost my self-control to
such a degree that I positively was unable to say anything else.
Moreover, I really knew nothing more. I felt conscious that I was
talking nonsense, felt conscious that, from the mysterious, omniscient
being which I must at first appear to her to be, I should soon be
converted into a sort of grinning fool .... but there was no help for
"Yes, I know all,"—I muttered once more.
She darted a glance at me, rose quickly to her feet, and was on the
point of departing.
But this was too cruel. I seized her hand.
"For God's sake,"—I began,—"sit down, listen to me...."
She reflected, and seated herself.
"I just told you,"—I went on fervently,—"that I knew everything—that
is nonsense. I know nothing; I do not know either who you are, or who
he is, and if I have been able to surprise you by what I said to you a
while ago by the column, you must ascribe that to chance alone, to a
strange, incomprehensible chance, which, as though in derision, has
brought me in contact with you twice, and almost in identically the same
way on both occasions, and has made me the involuntary witness of that
which, perhaps, you would like to keep secret...."
And thereupon, without the slightest circumlocution, I related to her
everything: my meetings with her in Sorrento, in Russia, my futile
inquiries in Mikhaílovskoe, even my conversation in Moscow with Madame
Shlýkoff and her sister.
"Now you know everything,"—I went on, when I had finished my story.—"I
will not undertake to describe to you what an overwhelming impression
you made on me: to see you and not to be bewitched by you is impossible.
On the other hand, there is no need for me to tell you what the nature
of that impression was. Remember under what conditions I beheld you both
times.... Believe me, I am not fond of indulging in senseless hopes, but
you must understand also that inexpressible agitation which has seized
upon me to-day, and you must pardon the awkward artifice to which I
decided to have recourse in order to attract your attention, if only for
a moment ...."
She listened to my confused explanations without raising her head.
"What do you want of me?"—she said at last.
"I?... I want nothing ... I am happy as I am.... I have too much respect
for such secrets."
"Really? But, up to this point, apparently .... However,"—she went
on,—"I will not reproach you. Any man would have done the same in your
place. Moreover, chance really has brought us together so persistently
... that would seem to give you a certain right to frankness on my part.
Listen: I am not one of those uncomprehended and unhappy women who go to
masquerades for the sake of chattering to the first man they meet about
their sufferings, who require hearts filled with sympathy.... I require
sympathy from no one; my own heart is dead, and I have come hither in
order to bury it definitively."
She raised a handkerchief to her lips.
"I hope"—she went on with a certain amount of effort—"that you do not
take my words for the ordinary effusions of a masquerade. You must
understand that I am in no mood for that...."
And, in truth, there was something terrible in her voice, despite all
the softness of its tones.
"I am a Russian,"—she said in Russian;—up to that point she had
expressed herself in the French language:—"although I have lived
little in Russia.... It is not necessary for me to know your name. Anna
Feódorovna is an old friend of mine; I really did go to Mikhaílovskoe
under the name of her sister... It was impossible at that time for me to
meet him openly... And even without that, rumours had begun to circulate
... at that time, obstacles still existed—he was not free... Those
obstacles have disappeared ... but he whose name should become mine, he
with whom you saw me, has abandoned me."
She made a gesture with her hand, and paused awhile....
"You really do not know him? You have not met him?"
"He has spent almost all this time abroad. But he is here now.... That
is my whole history,"—she added;—"you see, there is nothing mysterious
about it, nothing peculiar."
"And Sorrento?"—I timidly interposed.
"I made his acquaintance in Sorrento,"—she answered slowly, becoming
Both of us held our peace. A strange discomposure took possession of me.
I was sitting beside her, beside that woman whose image had so often
flitted through my dreams, had so torturingly agitated and irritated
me,—I was sitting beside her and felt a cold and a weight at my heart.
I knew that nothing would come of that meeting, that between her and me
there was a gulf, that when we parted we should part forever. With her
head bowed forward and both hands lying in her lap, she sat there
indifferent and careless. I know that carelessness of incurable grief, I
know that indifference of irrecoverable happiness! The masks strolled
past us in couples; the sounds of the "monotonous and senseless" waltz
now reverberated dully in the distance, now were wafted by in sharp
gusts; the merry ball-music agitated me heavily and mournfully. "Can it
be,"—I thought,—"that this woman is the same who appeared to me once
on a time in the window of that little country house far away, in all
the splendour of triumphant beauty?...." And yet, time seemed not to
have touched her. The lower part of her face, unconcealed by the lace of
her mask, was of almost childish delicacy; but a chill emanated from
her, as from a statue.... Galatea had returned to her pedestal, and
would descend from it no more.
Suddenly she drew herself up, darted a glance into the next room, and
"Give me your arm,"—she said to me. "Let us go away quickly, quickly."
We returned to the ball-room. She walked so fast that I could barely
keep up with her. She came to a standstill beside one of the columns.
"Let us wait here,"—she whispered.
"Are you looking for any one?"—I began....
But she paid no heed to me: her eager gaze was fixed upon the crowd.
Languidly and menacingly did her great black eyes look forth from
beneath the black velvet.
I turned in the direction of her gaze and understood everything. Along
the corridor formed by the row of columns and the wall, he was walking,
that man whom I had met with her in the forest. I recognised him
instantly: he had hardly changed at all. His golden-brown moustache
curled as handsomely as ever, his brown eyes beamed with the same calm
and self-confident cheerfulness as of yore. He was walking without
haste, and, lightly bending his slender figure, was narrating something
to a woman in a domino, whose arm was linked in his. As he came on a
level with us, he suddenly raised his head, looked first at me, then at
the woman with whom I was standing, and probably recognised her eyes,
for his eyebrows quivered slightly,—he screwed up his eyes, and a
barely perceptible, but intolerably insolent smile hovered over his
lips. He bent down to his companion, and whispered a couple of words in
her ear; she immediately glanced round, her blue eyes hastily scanned us
both, and with a soft laugh she menaced him with her little hand. He
slightly shrugged one shoulder, she nestled up to him coquettishly....
I turned to my Unknown. She was gazing after the receding pair, and
suddenly, tearing her arm from mine, she rushed toward the door. I was
about to dash after her; but turning round, she gave me such a look that
I made her a profound bow, and remained where I was. I understood that
to pursue her would be both rude and stupid.
"Tell me, please, my dear fellow,"—I said, half an hour later, to one
of my friends—the living directory of Petersburg:—"who is that tall,
handsome gentleman with a moustache?"
"That?... that is some foreigner or other, a rather enigmatic
individual, who very rarely makes his appearance on our horizon. Why do
I returned home. Since that time I have never met my Unknown anywhere.
Had I known the name of the man whom she loved, I might, probably, have
found out, eventually, who she was, but I myself did not desire that. I
have said above that that woman appeared to me like a dream-vision—and
like a dream-vision she went past and vanished forever.