The Forest Manor by Boris Pilniak

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY

F. O'DEMPSEY

I

Dark, yellow snow still lay in the ravines from under which flowed icy streamlets; on the surface it was thawing, and last year's grass pointed up like stiff golden arrows to the cold Heavens. Here and there, in bright sunny patches, appeared the first yellow flowers. The sky was dull and overcast, laden with massy, leaden-coloured clouds.

A carrion-crow flew low over the trees and the twittering birds fell silent. When the menace had passed they broke forth anew in triumphant song, once more absorbed by the joy of living,

The swelling earth gurgled happily beneath the soft kiss of the warm humid wind, and from somewhere afar came reverberating sounds of spring; perchance from the people in the village across the water, or perchance from the warbling birds over the streams.

Ivanov the forester came out on to the door-step which had already dried, and lighted a cigarette; it burned but slowly in the moist atmosphere of the deepening twilight.

"It will be hot, Mitrich, thank God!" remarked the watchman, Ignat, as he passed by with some buckets…. "Snipe will be about to-morrow, and we will have to hunt right into Easter."

He went into the cow-house, then returned, sat down on a step, and rolled a cigarette.

The pungent odour of his bad tobacco mingled with the sweet aroma of dying foliage and melting snow. Beyond the river a church bell was ringing for the Lenten festival, and there was a melancholy thrill in its notes as they crossed the water.

"That must be the seventh Gospel," said Ignat. "They will be coming out with the candles soon." Then he added abruptly: "The river won't reach to a man's waist in the summer and now it is like a torrent; they have been hardly able to cross it in the long boat … Spring, ah!… Well, I shall certainly have to clean out my double-barrelled gun to-day." With a business-like air he spat into a puddle and vigorously inhaled his cigarette smoke.

"The cranes will come down by the garden for the night, at dusk, judging by all portents, and to-morrow we will go after the grouse," replied Ivanov, and listened intently to the myriad sounds of evening.

Ignat also listened, bending his shaggy head sideways to the earth and the sky. He caught some desired note and agreed:

"Yes, it must be so. I can hear the beat of their wings. I am truly thankful. At dawn to-morrow we must get out the drosky. We will go to the Ratchinsky wood and have a look. We can get through all right by the upper road."

From the right of the steps, his daughter Aganka skipped gaily on to the terrace and began beating the dust out of a sheep-skin coat with thin brown sticks. It was cold and she commenced to dance for warmth, singing in a shrill voice:

  "The nightingale sings
   In the branches above—
  The nightingale brings
   No rest to his love!"

Ignat gave her an indulgent look; nevertheless he said sternly:
"Come, come! That is sin … it is Lent and you singing!"

Aganka merely laughed.

"There is no sin now!" she retorted, turning her back to the steps and propping up her right leg as she vigorously beat the sheepskin coat.

Ignat playfully threatened her—then smiled and said to Ivanov: "A fine girl, isn't she?… She is not yet sixteen and is already a flirt! Its no use talking to her. She won't remain in the house at night, but must go slipping off somewhere."

Aganka turned round sharply, tossing her head. "Well, I am not a dead creature!"

"You are not, my girl; indeed you are not—only hold your tongue!"

Ivanov glanced at her. She was like a little wild fawn with her fresh young body and sparkling eyes, always so ready to bewitch. His own weary eyes involuntarily saddened for a moment; then he said cheerily, in a louder tone than necessary:

"Well, isn't that the right attitude? Isn't it the best way? Love while you can, Aganka, have a happy time."

"Oh, yes, let her have a happy time by all means … it is young blood's privilege." replied Ignat.

The bells again rang out for the Gospel. The sky grew darker and darker. Ravens croaked hoarsely amidst the verdant foliage of the trees. Ignat put his ear to the ground, listening. From the distance, from the garden, the ravines, and the pasturage came the low cries of cranes, barely audible amid the subdued rustling of the spring. Ignat thrust forward his bearded face, it looked at first serious and attentive, then it grew cunning and became animated with joy.

"The cranes have come down!" he cried in an excited whisper, as though afraid of frightening them. Then he began to bustle about, muttering:

"I must grease the double-barrel…."

Ivanov also bestirred himself. Because while tracking the cranes he would be seeing her, Arina's image now came vividly before him— broad, strong, ardent, with soft sensual lips, and wearing a red handkerchief.

"Get the drosky out at dawn to-morrow," he ordered Ignat. "We will go to the Ratchinsky wood. I will go there now and have a look round."

II

The panelled walls and the stove with its cracked tiles were only faintly visible in the soft twilight which filled Ivanov's study. By the walls stood a sofa, and a desk whose green cloth was untidily bestrewn with the accumulated litter of years and copiously spotted with candle grease, reminiscent of the long, dreary nights Ivanov had spent—a prey to loneliness.

A heap of horse trappings—collars, straps, saddles, bridles—lay by the large, square, bare windows. During the winter nights wolves watched the gleam of yellow candlelight within them. Now outside was the tranquil, genial atmosphere of Spring with all its multi-coloured splendour. Against a deep-blue sky with an orange streak like a pencil line drawn across the horizon, showed the sharp, knotted twigs of the crotegus and the lilac beneath the windows.

Ivanov lighted a candle and commenced manufacturing cartridges to pass away the time. Lydia Constantinovna entered the room.

"Will you have tea here or in the dining-room?" she inquired.

Ivanov declined tea with a wave of his hand.

All through the years of the Revolution Lydia Constantinovna had lived in the Crimea, coming to Marin-Brod for a fortnight the previous summer, afterwards leaving for Moscow. Now she had returned for the Easter holidays, but not alone—the artist Mintz accompanied her. Ivanov had never heard of him before.

Mintz was clean-shaven and had long fair hair; he wore steel-rimmed pince-nez over his cold grey eyes which he often took off and put on again; when he did so his eyes changed, looking helpless and malicious without the glasses, like those of little owlets in daylight; his thin, shaven lips were closely compressed, and there was often an expression of mistrust and decrepitude in his face; his conversation and movements were noisy.

Lydia Constantinovna had arrived with Mintz the day before at dusk; Ivanov was not at home. They had gone for a walk in the evening, returning only at two o'clock when dawn was just about to break, and a cold mist hung over the earth like a soft grey veil. They were met by barking dogs which were quickly silenced by the lash of Ignat's whip.

Ivanov had come home earlier, at eleven o'clock, and sat by his study window alone, listening to the gentle sounds of night and the ceaseless hootings of the owls in the park. Lydia Constantinovna did not come to him, nor did he go in to her.

It was in the daytime that Ivanov first saw the artist. Mintz was sitting in the park on a dried turf-bench, and gazing intently at the river. Ivanov passed him. The artist's shrunken ruffled figure had an air of desolation and abandonment.

The drawing-room was next to Ivanov's study. There still remained out of the ruin a carpet and some armchairs near the large, dirty windows, an old piano stood unmoved, and some portraits still hung on the walls.

Lydia Constantinovna and Mintz came in from the back-room. Lydia walked with her usual brisk, even tread, carrying herself with the smooth, elastic bearing and graceful swing of her beautiful body that Ivanov remembered so well.

She raised the piano-cover and began playing a dashing bravura that was strikingly out of place in the dismantled room, then she closed the piano-lid with a slam.

Aganka entered with the tea on a tray.

Mintz walked about the dim room, tapping his heels on the parquet floor, and though he spoke loudly, his voice held a note of yearning pain.

"I was in the park just now. That pond, those maple avenues— disintegrating, dying, disappearing—drive me melancholy mad. The ice has already melted in the pond by the dam. Why can we not bring back the romantic eighteenth century, and sit in dressing-gowns, musing with delicious sadness over our pipes? Why are we not illustrious lords?"

Lydia Constantinovna smiled as she answered: "Why not indeed! That is a poetic fancy. But the reality is very much worse. Marin-Brod has never been a country house, it is a forest manor, a forestry-office and nothing more … nothing more…. I always feel an interloper here. This is only my second day and I am already depressed." Her tone was sad, yet it held just a perceptible note of anger.

"Reality and Fancy? Certainly I am an artist, for I always see the latter, the beautiful and spiritual side," Mintz declared; and added in an undertone: "Do you remember yesterday … the park?"

"Oh, yes, the park," Lydia replied in a tired, subdued tone. "They hold the Twelfth Gospel Service to-day; when I was a young girl, how I used to love standing in church with a candle—I felt so good. And now I love nothing!"

It was already quite dark in the drawing room. A wavering, greenish- golden light streamed in through the windows and played on the dim walls. Ivanov came out of his study. He was wearing high boots and a leather jacket, and carried a rifle under his arm. He went silently to the door. Lydia Constantinovna stopped him.

"Are you going out again, Sergius? Is it to hunt?"

"Yes."

Ivanov stood still and Lydia went up to him. She had dark shadows under her eyes, and the hand of time—already bearing away her youth and beauty—lay upon her marvellously white skin, at her lips and on her cheeks, in faint, scarcely visible wrinkles. Ivanov noticed it distinctly.

"Does one hunt at night—in the dark? I did not know that," Lydia said, repeating "I did not know…."

"I am going to the wood."

"I have come back here after not having seen you for months, and we have not yet spoken a word…."

Ivanov did not reply, but went out. His footsteps echoed through the great house, finally dying away in the distance. The front-door slammed, shaking the whole mansion, which was old and falling to pieces.

Lydia Constantinovna remained in the middle of the room, her face turned to the door. Mintz approached, took her hand, and raised it to his lips.

"You must not take it to heart, Lit," he said softly and kindly.

She freed her hand and laid it on Mintz's shoulder.

"No, one should not take it to heart," she assented in a low voice, "One should not…. But listen, Mintz…. How strange it all is! Once he loved me very much, though I never loved him…. But my youth was spent here, and now I feel unhappy…. I remember all that happened in this drawing-room, it was the first time. If only I could have all over again! Perhaps I should act differently then. I feel sorry now for my youth and inexperience, though formerly I cursed them, and I am far from regretting all that followed afterwards. But I need a refuge now…. If you only knew how much he loved me in those days!…"

Lydia Constantinovna was silent a moment, her head bent, then flinging it back she gave a hollow sardonic laugh.

"Oh, what nonsense I talk! Well, we will be cheerful yet. I am tired, that is all. How stuffy it is in here!… Open the windows, Mintz … Now let down the blinds … They live on milk and black bread here and are happy—but I have a bottle of brandy in my trunk. Get it out! Light the chandelier."

Mintz opened the windows. From outside came a cool, refreshing breeze laden with the moist and fragrant perfumes of spring. Dusk had crept over the sky, which was flecked with warm vernal clouds.

III

The heavens were a glorious, triumphant, impenetrable blue; there was a faint glimmer of greenish light on the Western horizon over which brooded damp low clouds. The air was humid, soft, and redolent with the aroma of earth and melting snow. From all around came a faint medley of echoing sounds…. The wind fell completely, not a tree stirred; the ferns stood motionless with all the magic of the springtime among their roots. So calm and still was the night, the earth herself, it seemed, stopped turning in that wonderful stillness.

Ivanov lighted a cigarette, and as the match flared between his fingers, illuminating his black beard, his trembling hands were distinctly visible. His pointer Gek came out of the darkness and fawned round his legs.

Through the darkness of the windless night rang the church bell tolling for the last Gospel Service; it seemed to peal just outside the manor. The yard was silent, but once or twice Aganka's voice could be heard from the cattle-shed calling to the cows, and the sound of milk falling into her pail was faintly audible.

Ivanov listened to the church chimes and the subdued sounds of night round the manor, then noiselessly, well accustomed to the obscurity, he descended the steps; only Gek was at his side, the other dogs did not hear him.

Cold raindrops fell from the trees in tiny shining globules of iridescent light, close by him an owl fluttered in a tangle of branches, uttering its dreadful cry of joy as it flashed past.

Ivanov walked through the fields, descended by a chalky ribbon of a footpath to the ravine, crossed over it by a narrow shadow-dappled pathway hidden among a maze of trees, and made his way along its further ridge to a forest watch-house. It stood in a bare open space, exposed to the swift rushing Dance of the Winds, and close to the naked trunks of three ancient pines that still reared their grim, shaggy heads to the sky and spilled their pungent balsam perfumes into the air. Behind it loomed the faint grey shadow of an embankment.

A dog at the watch-house began to bark. Gek growled in return and suddenly disappeared. The dogs became silent. A man appeared on the step with a lantern.

"Who is there?" he asked quietly.

"It is I," said Ivanov.

"You, Sergius Mitrich?… Aha! But Arina is still at church … went off there … busy with her nonsense." The watchman paused. "Shall I go in and turn off the light? The express will soon be passing. Will you come in? Arina will be back before long. The wife's at home."

"No, I'm going into the forest."

"As you wish." The watchman passed along the embankment with his lantern and approached the bridge.

Ivanov left the watch-house, and went into the forest, walking along the edge of the ravine towards the river slope. A train rushed out from the forest on the further side of the river, its flaming eyes reflected in the dark shiny water; it moved forward, rolling loudly and harshly over the bridge.

It was that hour of spring-time when, despite the many noises, there was still an atmosphere of peace, and the burgeoning, luxuriantly- clad earth could almost be heard breathing as it absorbed the vernal moisture; the clash of the stream as it struck the rocks in the ravine was hushed for the night. Nevertheless it seemed as though the bold-browed, rugged wood-demon—awakened by spring—was shaking his wings in the water.

Beyond the ravine and wood, beyond the river to the right, left, behind, and before, the birds still chirruped over the currents. Below, not many steps away, the stream flowed almost noiselessly; only, as though immeasurably remote the confused gurgle of its waters broke the profound quiet. Far away rose a soft murmur. The air hummed and shook with the roar of distant rapids.

Ivanov leaned against a birch tree, laid his rifle beside him, struck a match and began to smoke. The flickering light illuminated the white trunks of the trees, the withered herbage of last year's growth and a path leading down the embankment. Arina had descended it many times.

The church bells in the village were ringing for evensong. From the church precincts twinkled the yellow lights of candles and lanterns, then there was the hum of people's voices. Many of the lights dispersed to the right and left, others moved down to the river side. There was the sound of foot-falls on the bottom of a boat and the splashing of oars. Someone called out:

"Wai … ait … Mitri … ich!"

There was a clanking of iron—a boat-chain; then stillness. Only the lights showed that the boat had been launched into the middle of the river and was floating down stream. Soon the murmur of voices again, and the plash of oars, and now these sounds were quite close to Ivanov. One of the men was teasing the girls, the latter laughed at first, then all at once they were silent.

The boat was made fast to the bridge, the passengers bustling about for a long time on landing. The ferryman collected his paper roubles, the men continued merry-making with the girls. Their rugged forms— their chest, knees and chins were clearly discernible in the lights they carried. They all strolled up a narrow pathway, but one light withdrew from the rest and moved along a short cut that led to the watch-house—it was Arina's. Ivanov held Gek in tightly, the dog was straining to rush down the embankment.

Arina slowly ascended the steep incline, planting her broad, short heavily-shod feet firmly in the sticky mud; her breath came pantingly. She wore a red jacket, unbuttoned in the front through which her large bosom was visible in the lantern-light. The reflection shone upon her bent face, illuminating her lips, her bluish cheek-bones and dark arched brows; only her eyes were invisible in the darkness, and their cavities seemed enormous. The night's density gave way before the light of her lantern and the silvery trunks of birch trees glimmered ahead.

Ivanov crossed the road in front of her. Arina stopped with a sudden gasp, and he felt the touch of her warm breath.

"How you scared me!" she exclaimed quickly, stretching out her hand.
"How are you? I have been at the church service. How you scared me!"

Ivanov was about to draw her hand towards him, but she withdrew it, saying sternly: "No, you musn't, I'm in a hurry to get home, I have no time. Let me go."

Ivanov smiled faintly, and dropped her hands.

"All right, it does not matter, I will come to-morrow at dusk." Then in a low voice he added: "Will you come?"

Arina moved closer to him, and she too spoke under her breath: "Yes, come this way. And we will have a walk … Bother my father! But go now, I am in a hurry … there is the house to put straight…. I feel the baby under my heart. Go!"

The first warm rain drops fell from the invisible sky as Ivanov walked across the meadows; at first they were sparse, pattering noisily on his leather jacket; then they began to fall more heavily and he was soon enveloped in the sonorous downpour of a vernal shower. Close to the manor Gek darted aside and disappeared down the ravine, from whence arose the rustling of wings, and the perturbed cries of cranes. Gek barked, some dogs on a neighbouring farm answered him; to these, others responded from a distant village, and then again, from far away there was borne over the earth the clear springtime baying of other dogs.

On entering the main avenue of the park, Ivanov noticed the glow of a cigarette suddenly disappearing down a side-walk; afterwards he encountered Aganka at a gate.

"You!" he exclaimed. "On the run as usual? So you have made friends with a smoker this time?"

The girl giggled loudly and ran off, splashing through the mud towards the cow-shed; then she called out innocently:

"I have put the milk by the window in your study."

Ivanov lingered a while on the doorstep scraping the mud off his boots, then stretched himself vigorously, working the muscles of his arms and reflecting that it was high time for him to be in bed, in a sound healthy sleep, so as to be up at dawn on the morrow.

IV

In the drawing-room a chandelier hung above the sofa and round table near the piano; it had not been lighted for many years, indeed not since the last Christmas before the Revolution. Now once again it was illumined, and the dull yellow flare of its candles—dimly shining out of their dust-laden pendants—lit up the near side of the room and its contents; at the further side, however, where doors led into the hall and a sittingroom, there was a complete wreckage. The chairs, armchairs, and couches had vanished through the agency of unknown hands, leaving only fragments of broken furniture, and odds and ends of utensils heaped together in casual profusion in a dark corner, only penetrated by grey, ghostlike shadows. The curtains were closely drawn; outside the rain pattered drearily on the windows.

Lydia Constantinovna played a long while on the piano, at first a bravura from the operas, then some classical pieces, Liszt's "Twelfth Rhapsody," and finally ended with the artless music of Oppel's "A Summer's Night in Berezovka"—a piece she used to play to Ivanov when she was his fiancée.

She played it through twice; then broke off abruptly, rising from her seat and shaking with gusts of malicious laughter. Still laughing loudly and evilly, she began to sip brandy out of a high narrow glass.

Her eyes were still beautiful, with the beauty of lakes in autumn when the trees are shedding their leaves. She seated herself on the sofa, and lay back among its cushions, her hands clasped behind her head, in an attitude of utter abandonment. Her legs in their open- work stockings were plainly visible under her black silk skirt, and she crossed them, leisurely placing her feet, encased in their patent leather shoes, upon a low footstool.

She drank a great deal of brandy in slow sips, and as she pressed her beautiful lips to the glass she vilified everybody and everything— Ivanov, the Revolution, Moscow, the Crimea, Marin-Brod, Mintz, and herself.

Then she became silent, her eyes grew dull, she began to speak quietly and sadly, with a foolish helpless smile.

Mintz was drinking and pacing up and down the room, speaking volubly with noisy derision. The brandy flowed through his veins, warming his sluggish blood; his thoughts grew vivid and spiteful, engendering sarcastic, malicious remarks. Whenever he took a drink, he removed his pince-nez for a moment, and his eyes became evil, vacant and bemused.

Lydia Constantinovna sat in the corner of the sofa, covered her shoulders with a plaid shawl, and crossed her legs in the Turkish fashion.

"What a smell of chipre there is, Mintz," she murmured in a low voice. "I think I must be tipsy. Yes, I must be. When I drink a great deal I always begin to think there are too many perfumes about. They suffocate me, I get their taste in my mouth, they sing in my ears and I feel ill…. What a smell of chipre … it is my favourite perfume: do you smell it?"

She looked at Mintz with a half dazed stare, then continued:

"In an hour's time I shall be having hysterics. It is always the way when I drink too much. I don't feel cheerful any longer, I feel melancholy now, Mintz. I feel now as though … as though I have wept on this sofa all through the night … Oh, how happy we used to be once upon a time," she sighed tearfully, then added with a giggle. "Why I hardly know what I am saying!"

Mintz was walking up and down the room, measuring his steps extremely carefully. He halted in front of Lydia Constantinovna, removed his glasses and scowled:

"But I, when I drink, I begin to see things with extraordinary clearness: I see that we are melancholy because the devil only knows why or for what we are living; I see that life is impossible without faith; that our hearts and minds are exhausted with the endless discussions in cafes, attics and promenades. I realise that no matter what happens, villainy will always exist. I see, too, that we have been drinking because we feel lonely and dull—yes, even though we have been joking and laughing boisterously; I see that there is now the great joy and beauty of spring outside—so different from the distorted images visible to warped minds and clouded eyes; I see, moreover, that the Revolution has passed us by after throwing us aside, even though the New Economic Policy may put on us our feet again for a while, and that … that …" Mintz did not finish, but turned round abruptly and strode away with an air of self-assertion, into the remote end of the room, where the debris was littered.

"Yes, that is true … you are right," answered Lydia Constantinovna.
"But then I do not love Sergius, I never have done."

"Of course I am right," Mintz retorted severely from his dim corner.
"People never love others. They love themselves—through others."

Ivanov came in from the hall in his cap and muddy boots, carrying his rifle. Without a single word he passed through the room and went into his study. Mintz watched him in severe silence, then followed him. Inside he leaned against the door-post with a wry smile:

"You are shunning me all this time. Why?"

"You imagine it," returned Ivanov.

He lighted a candle on his desk, took off his coat, changed his boots and clothes, hung up his rifle.

"That is ridiculous!" Mintz replied coldly. "I very seldom imagine things. I want to say how very comfortable you seem here, because this is the very essence of comfort…. Look at me! I have painted pictures, sold them, painted more in order to sell those also—though I ceased painting long ago—and I lived in garrets because I must have light, and by myself because my wife will not come to such a place…. True, she is no longer with me, she deserted me long ago! Now I have only mistresses…. And I envy you because … because it is very cold in garrets…. You understand me?"

Mintz took off his pince-nez and his eyes looked bewildered and malignant: "In the name of all who had been tortured, all who have exchanged the springtime beauty of the parks for the erotic atmosphere of boudoirs; all who in the soft luxury of their homes forgot, and have now lost their claim on Russia—I say you are supremely comfortable, and we envy you! One may work here, one may even … marry … You have never painted, have you?"

"No."

Mintz was silent, then suddenly said in a low tone: "Look here! We have some brandy. Shall we have a drink?"

"No, thank you. I want to sleep. Good night."

"I want to talk!"

Ivanov extinguished the candle, through custom finding his bread and milk in the dark, and hastily consumed it without sitting down. Mintz stood a moment by the door; then went out, slamming it behind him.

Lydia Constantinovna now had her feet on the carpet and her head was bowed. Her eyes under their long lashes were blank and limpid, like lakes amid reeds. Her hands were clasped round her knees.

"How was Sergius?" she enquired, without raising her head.

"Boorish, he has gone to bed," answered Mintz.

He was about to sit beside her, but she rose, arranged her hair mechanically, and smiled faintly and tenderly—not at Mintz, but into the empty space.

"To bed? Well, it is time. Good rest!" she said softly. "Ah, how the perfume torments me. I feel giddy."

She went to the other end of the room, Mintz following her, and halted on the threshold. In the stillness of the night the pattering rain could be heard distinctly. Lydia Constantinovna leaned against the white door, throwing back her head, and began to speak; avoiding Mintz's eyes, she endeavoured to express herself simply and clearly, but the words seemed dry as they fell from her lips:

"I am very tired, Mintz, I am going to bed at once. You go too. Goodbye until tomorrow. We shall not meet again to-night. Do you understand, Mintz? It is my wish."

Mintz stood still, his legs wide apart, his arms akimbo, his head hanging. Then with a sad, submissive smile he answered in an unexpectedly mild tone: "Very well, then, All right, I understand you. It is quite all right."

Lydia Constantinovna stretched out her hand, speaking in the unaffected, friendly way she had desired earlier: "I know you are a malicious, bored, lonely cynic, like … like an old homeless dog … But you are kind and intelligent…. You know I will never leave you— we are so…. But now I am going in to him … just for the last time."

Mintz kissed her hand without speaking, then his tall, bony, somewhat stooping figure disappeared down the corridor.

V

Lydia Constantinovna's bedroom was cold and gloomy. As formerly, it contained a huge four-poster, a chest of drawers, a dressing table and a wardrobe. The rain beat fiercely against the window panes running down in tiny glass globules.

Lydia lighted two candles, and placed them beside the tarnished mirror. Some toilette belongings, relics of her childhood, lay on the chest-of-drawers, and the contents of the baggage she had brought with her the previous day were scattered about the room. The candles burnt dimly, their yellow tongues flickering unsteadily over the tarnished mirror.

She changed her garments and put on a loose green neglige, then re- arranged her hair into plaits, forming them into a coronet which made her head appear very small and graceful.

From force of habit she opened a bottle of perfume, moistened the palms of her hands and rubbed them over her neck and bosom. At once she felt giddy, even the cold, dampish sheets on her bed seemed to smell of chipre.

Lydia sat down on the edge of her bed in her green negligé, listening to the sounds around her. Outside, there was a continuous howling and barking of dogs, now and then she could distinguish the croaking of half-awakened crows in the park.

The clock struck eleven, then half-past, someone passed along the corridor, Aganka cleared up in the dining-room, Mintz walked to and fro in the drawing-room, then all became quiet.

Lydia Constantinovna went to the window and gazed out for a long time. Then, quietly, she left her bedroom and crept down to Ivanov's study. All around her it was dark, cold and silent as she passed through the empty, spacious rooms. A forgotten candle still burnt wanly in the drawing-room, and a rat ran out from under the table.

She was again plunged in darkness when she entered Ivanov's study, and she was greeted by a smell of horse trappings and joiners' glue.

Ivanov was asleep on the sofa. He lay on his back, his arms extended; the outlines of his body could just be discerned. Lydia sat down quietly beside him and laid her hand on his breast. Ivanov sighed, drew in his arms and raised his head quickly from the pillow:

"Who is there?"

"It is I, Sergius—me—Lida," answered Lydia Constantinovna in a rapid whisper. "I know you do not wish to speak to me. I am bored … I returned here in a happy mood, not even thinking of you, and now all at once I feel wretched…. Oh, those perfumes! How they torment me…." She passed her hand over her face, then was silent. Ivanov sat up.

"What is the matter Lida? What do you want?" he asked drowsily, and he lighted a cigarette. The light shone on them as they sat half- dressed on the sofa. Ivanov had a rugged, lumbering look.

"What do I want?" Lydia Constantinovna murmured. "Age creeps on me, Sergius, and a lonely old age is terrible … I feel so weary…. I came here happy enough, now I am miserable. I can think of nothing but the time you and I spent here together … I am always playing" A Summer's Night in Berezovka "—do you remember? I used to play it to you in those days…. Well, so there you see…. Age creeps on and I am longing for a home…. To-day they had the Twelfth Gospel Service…. Surely we still have a word for each other?" Her face clouded in sudden doubt. "You have been with Arina then?" she questioned sharply.

Ivanov did not answer immediately.

"I have grieved and worried greatly, Lida," he said at last, "but that does not matter. These four years I have lived alone, and have placed the past behind me. It is gone for ever. These four years I have struggled against death, and struggled for my daily bread. You know nothing of all this, we are as strangers…. Yes, I have been with Arina. Soon I shall have a son. I do not know if I am broken or merely tired, but for the moment I feel all right. I am going to bring Arina here, she will be my wife and keep house for me. And I shall live…. I am keeping step with some elemental Force . . . I shall have a son…. It will be a totally different life for me, Lida."

"And for me Moscow—as ever—wine, theatres, cafes, Mintz, an eternal hurly-burly … I am sick of it!"

"I cannot help you, Lida. I too am sick of all that, but now I am at peace. We must all work out our own salvation."

Ivanov spoke very quietly and simply. Lydia Constantinovna sat bowed and motionless, as if fearing to move, clasping her knees with both hands. When Ivanov ceased speaking she rose noiselessly and went towards the door. She stood on the threshold a brief moment then, went out. The candle still burnt fitfully in the drawing-room. The house was wrapt in silence.