The Devil, by Leo Tolstoy

xvii

Before dinner Liza came to him and, still wondering what could be the cause of his discontent, began to say that she was afraid he did not like the idea of her going to Moscow for her confinement, and that she had decided that she would remain at home and on no account go to Moscow. He knew how she feared both her confinement itself and the risk of not having a healthy child, and therefore he could not help being touched at seeing how ready she was to sacrifice everything for his sake. All was so nice, so pleasant, so clean, in the house; and in his soul it was so dirty, despicable, and foul. the whole evening Eugene was tormented by knowing that notwithstanding his sincere repulsion at his own weakness, notwithstanding his firm intention to break off, — the same thing would happen again tomorrow.

“No, this is impossible,” he said to himself, walking up and down in his room. “There must be some remedy for it. My God! What am I to do?”

Someone knocked at the door as foreigners do. he knew this must be his uncle. “Come in,” he said.

The uncle had come as a self-appointed ambassador from Liza. “Do you know, I really do notice that there is a change in you,” he said, — “and Liza — I understand how it troubles her. I understand that it must be hard for you to leave all the business you have so excellently started, but *que veux-tu*? I should advise you to go away. it will be more satisfactory both for you and for her. And do you know, I should advise you to go to the Crimea. The climate is beautiful and there is an excellent *accoucheur* there, and you would be just in time for the best of the grape season.”

“Uncle,” Eugene suddenly exclaimed. “Can you keep a secret? A secret that is terrible tome, a shameful secret.”

“Oh, come — do you really feel any doubt of me?”

“Uncle, you can help me. Not only help, but save me!” said Eugene. And the thought of disclosing his secret to his uncle whom he did not respect, the thought that he should show himself in the worst light and humiliate himself before him, was pleasant. He felt himself to be despicable and guilty, and wished to punish himself.

“Speak, my dear fellow, you know how fond I am of you,” said the uncle, evidently well content that there was a secret and that it was a shameful one, and that it would be communicated to him, and that he could be of use.

“First of all I must tell you that I am a wretch, a good-for- nothing, a scoundrel — a real scoundrel.”

“Now what are you saying . . . ” began his uncle, as if he were offended.

“What! Not a wretch when I— Liza’s husband, Liza’s! One has only to know her purity, her love — and that I, her husband, want to be untrue to her with a peasant-woman!”

“What is this? Why do you want to — you have not bee unfaithful to her?”

“Yes, at least just the same as being untrue, for it did not depend on me. I was ready to do so. I was hindered, or else I should . . . now. I do not know what I should have done . . . ”

“But please, explain to me . . . ”

“Well, it is like this. When I was a bachelor I was stupid enough to have relations with a woman here in our village. That is to say, I used to have meetings with her in the forest, in the field . . . ”

“Was she pretty?” asked his uncle.

Eugene frowned at this question, but he was in such need of external help that he made as if he did not hear it, and continued:

“Well, I thought this was just casual and that I should break it off and have done with it. And I did break it off before my marriage. For nearly a year I did not see her or think about her.” It seemed strange to Eugene himself to hear the description of his own condition. “Then suddenly, I don’t myself know why — really one sometimes believes in witchcraft — I saw her, and a worm crept into my heart; and it gnaws. I reproach myself, I understand the full horror of my action, that is to say, of the act I may commit any moment, and yet I myself turn to it, and if I have not

committed it, it is only because God preserved me. Yesterday I was on my way to see her when Liza sent for me.”

“What, in the rain?”

“Yes. I am worn out, Uncle, and have decided to confess to you and to ask your help.” “Yes, of course, it’s a bad thing on your own estate. People will get to know. I understand that Liza is weak and that it is necessary to spare her, but why on your own estate?”

Again Eugene tried not to hear what his uncle was saying, and hurried on to the core of the matter.

“Yes, save me from myself. That is what I ask of you. Today I was hindered by chance. But tomorrow or next time no one will hinder me. And she knows now. Don’t leave me alone.”

“Yes, all right,” said his uncle, — “but are you really so much in love?”

“Oh, it is not that at all. It is not that, it is some kind of power that has seized me and holds me. I do not know what to do. Perhaps I shall gain strength, and then . . . ”

“Well, it turns out as I suggested,” said his uncle. “Let us be off to the Crimea.”

“Yes, yes, let us go, and meanwhile you will be with me and will talk to me.”

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