The Devil, by Leo Tolstoy

xiii

After talking to Samokhin, Eugene returned to the house as depressed as if he had committed a crime. In the first place she had understood him, believed that he wanted to see her, and desired it herself. Secondly that other woman, Anna Prokhorova, evidently knew of it.

Above all he felt that he was conquered, that he was not master of his own will but that there was another power moving him, that he had been saved only by good fortune, and that if not today then tomorrow or a day later, he would perish all the same.

“Yes, perish,” he did not understand it otherwise: to be unfaithful to his young and loving wife with a peasant woman in the village, in the sight of everyone — what was it but to perish, perish utterly, so that it would be impossible to live? No, something must be done.

“My God, my God! What am I to do? Can it be that I shall perish like this?” said he to himself. Is it not possible to do anything? Yet something must be done. Do not think about her” - he ordered himself. “Do not think!” and immediately he began thinking and seeing her before him, and seeing also the shade of the plane-tree.

He remembered having read of a hermit who, to avoid the temptation he felt for a woman on whom he had to lay his hand to heal her, thrust his other hand into a brazier and burnt his fingers. he called that to mind. “Yes, I am ready to burn my fingers rather than to perish.” He looked round to make sure that there was no one in the room, lit a candle, and put a finger into the flame. “There, now think about her,” he said to himself ironically. It hurt him and he withdrew his smoke-stained finger, threw away the match, and laughed at himself. What nonsense! That was not what had to be done. But it was necessary to do something, to avoid seeing her — either to go away himself or to send her away. yes — send her away. Offer her husband money to remove to town or to another village. People would hear of it and would talk about it. Well, what of that? At any rate it was better than this danger. “Yes, that must be done,” he said to himself, and at that very moment he was looking at her without moving his eyes. “Where is she going?” he suddenly asked himself. She, it seemed to him, had seen him at the window and now, having glanced at him and taken another woman by the hand, was going towards the garden swinging her arm briskly. Without knowing why or wherefore, merely in accord with what he had been thinking, he went to the office.

Vasili Nikolaich in holiday costume and with oiled hair was sitting at tea with his wife and a guest who was wearing an oriental kerchief.

“I want a word with you, Vasili Nikolaich!”

“Please say what you want to. We have finished tea.”

“No. I’d rather you came out with me.”

“Directly; only let me get my cap. Tanya, put out the samovar,” said Vasili Nikolaich, stepping outside cheerfully. It seemed to Eugene that Vasili had been drinking, but what was to be done? It might be all the better — he would sympathize with him in his difficulties the more readily.

“I have come again to speak about that same matter, Vasili Nikolaich,” said Eugene — “about that woman.”

“Well, what of her? I told them not to take her again on any account.”

“No, I have been thinking in general, and this is what I wanted to take your advice about. Isn’t it possible to get them away, to send the whole family away?”

“Where can they be sent?” said Vasili, disapprovingly and ironically as it seem to Eugene.

“Well, I thought of giving them money, or even some land in Koltovski, — so that she should not be here.”

“But how can they be sent away? Where is he to go — torn up from his roots? And why should you do it? What harm can she do you?”

“Ah, Vasili Nikolaich, you must understand that it would be dreadful for my wife to hear of it.”

 “But who will tell her?”

“How can I live with this dread? The whole thing is vary painful for me.”

“But really, why should you distress yourself? Whoever stirs up the past — out with his eye! Who is not a sinner before God and to blame before the Tsar, as the saying is?”

“All the same it would be better to get rid of them. Can’t you speak to the husband?”

“But it is no use speaking! Eh, Eugene Ivanich, what is the matter with you? It is all past and forgotten. All sorts of things happen. Who is there that would now say anything bad of you? Everybody sees you.”

“But all the same go and have a talk with him.”

“All right, I will speak to him.”

 Though he knew that nothing would come of it, this talk somewhat calmed Eugene. Above all, it made him feel that through excitement he had been exaggerating the danger.

Had he gone to meet her by appointment? It was impossible He had simply gone to stroll in the garden and she had happened to run out at the same time.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04