The Devil, by Leo Tolstoy

xiv

After dinner that very Trinity Sunday Liza while walking from the garden to the meadow, where her husband wanted to show her the clover, took a false step and fell when crossing a little ditch. She fell gently, on her side; but she gave an exclamation, and her husband saw an expression in her face not only of fear but of pain. He was about to help her up, but she motioned him away with her hand.

“No, wait a bit, Eugene,” she said, with a weak smile, and looked up guiltily as it seemed to him. “My foot only gave way under me.”

“There, I always say,” remarked Varvara Alexeevna, “can anyone in her condition possibly jump over ditches?”

“But it is all right, mamma. I shall get up directly.” With her husband’s help she did get up, but she immediately turned pale, and looked frightened.

“Yes, I am not well!” and she whispered something to her mother.

“Oh, my God, what have you done! I said you ought not to go there,” cried Varvara Alexeevna. “Wait — I will call the

servants. She must not walk. She must be carried!”

“Don’t be afraid, Liza, I will carry you,” said Eugene, putting his left arm round her. “Hold me by the neck. Like that.” And stopping down he put his right arm under her knees and lifted her. He could never afterwards forget the suffering and yet beatific expression of her face.

“I am too heavy for you, dear,” she said with a smile. “Mamma is running, tell her!” And she bent towards him and kissed him. She evidently wanted her mother to see how he was carrying her.

Eugene shouted to Varvara Alexeevna not to hurry, and that he would carry Liza home. Varvara Alexeevna stopped and began to shout still louder.

“You will drop her, you’ll be sure to drop her. You want to destroy her. You have no conscience!”

“But I am carrying her excellently.”

“I do not want to watch you killing my daughter, and I can’t.” And she ran round the bend in the alley.

“Never mind, it will pass,” said Liza, smiling.

“Yes, If only it does not have consequences like last time.” “No. I am not speaking of that. That is all right. I mean mamma. You are tired. Rest a bit.”

But though he found it heavy, Eugene carried his burden

proudly and gladly to the house and did not hand her over to the housemaid and the man-cook whom Varvara Alexeevna had found and sent to meet them. He carried her to the bedroom and put her on the bed.

“Now go away,” she said, and drawing his hand to her she kissed it. “Annushka and I will manage all right.”

Mary Pavlovna also ran in from her rooms in the wing. They undressed Liza and laid her on the bed. Eugene sat in the drawing room with a book in his hand, waiting. Varvara Alexeevna went past him with such a reproachfully gloomy air that he felt alarmed.

“Well, how is it?” he asked.

“How is it? What’s the good of asking? It is probably what you wanted when you made your wife jump over the ditch.”

“Varvara Alexeevna!” he cried. “This is impossible. If you want to torment people and to poison their life” (he wanted to say, “then go elsewhere to do it,” but restrained himself). “How is it that it does not hurt you?”

“It is too late now.” And shaking her cap in a triumphant manner she passed out by the door.

The fall had really been a bad one; Liza’s foot had twisted awkwardly and there was danger of her having another miscarriage. Everyone knew that there was nothing to be done but that she must just lie quietly, yet all the same they decided to send for a doctor.

“Dear Nikolay Semenich,” wrote Eugene to the doctor, “you have always been so kind to us that I hope you will not refuse to come to my wife’s assistance. She . . . ” and so on. Having written the letter he went to the stables to arrange about the horses and the carriage. Horses had to be got ready to bring the doctor and others to take him back. When an estate is not run on a large scale, such things cannot be quickly decided but have to be considered. Having arranged it all and dispatched the coachman, it was past nine before he got back to the house. His wife was lying down, and said that she felt perfectly well and had no pain. But Varvara Alexeevna was sitting with a lamp screened from Liza by some sheets of music and knitting a large red coverlet, with a mien that said that after what had happened peace was impossible, but that she at any rate would do her duty no matter what anyone else did.

Eugene noticed this, but, to appear as if he had not done so, tried to assume a cheerful and tranquil air and told how he had chosen the horses and how capitally the mare, Kabushka, had galloped as left trace-horse in the troyka.

“Yes, of course, it is just the time to exercise the horses when help is needed. Probably the doctor will also be thrown into the ditch,” remarked Varvara Alexeevna, examining her knitting from under her pince-nez and moving it close up to the lamp.

“But you know we had to send one way or another, and I made the best arrangement I could.”

“Yes, I remember very well how your horses galloped with me under the arch of the gateway.” This was a long-standing fancy of hers, and Eugene now was injudicious enough to remark that that was not quite what had happened.

“It is not for nothing that I have always said, and have often remarked to the prince, that it is hardest of all to live with people who are untruthful and insincere. I can endure anything except that.”

“Well, if anyone has to suffer more than another, it is certainly I,” said Eugene. “But you . . . ”

“Yes, it is evident.”

“What?”

“Nothing, I am only counting my stitches.”

Eugene was standing at the time by the bed and Liza was looking at him, and one of her moist hands outside the coverlet caught his hand and pressed it. “Bear with her for my sake. You know she cannot prevent our loving one another,” was what her look said.

“I won’t do so again. It’s nothing,” he whispered, and he kissed her damp, long hand and then her affectionate eyes, which closed while he kissed them.

“Can it be the same thing over again?” he asked. “How are you feeling?”

“I am afraid to say for fear of being mistaken, but I feel that he is alive and will live,” said she, glancing at her stomach.

“Ah, it is dreadful, dreadful to think of.”

Notwithstanding Liza’s insistence that he should go away, Eugene spent the night with her, hardly closing an eye and ready to attend on her.

But she passed the night well, and had they not sent for the doctor she would perhaps have got up.

By dinner-time the doctor arrived and of course said that though if the symptoms recurred there might be cause for apprehension, yet actually there were no positive symptoms, but as there were also no contrary indications one might suppose on the one hand that — and on the other hand that . . . And therefore she must lie still, and that “though I do not like prescribing, yet all the same she should take this mixture and should lie quiet.” Besides this, the doctor gave Varvara Alexeevna a lecture on woman’s anatomy, during which Varvara Alexeevna nodded her head significantly. Having received his fee, as usual into the backmost part of his palm, the doctor drove away and the patient was left to lie in bed for a week.

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