The Devil, by Leo Tolstoy

xix

All that Eugene had wished had been realized. He had obtained the property, the factory was working successfully, the beet-crops were excellent, and he expected a large income; his wife had borne a child satisfactorily, his mother-in-law had left, and he had been unanimously elected to the Zemstvo.

He was returning home from town after the election. He had been congratulated and had had to return thanks. He had had dinner and had drunk some five glasses of champagne. Quite new plans of life now presented themselves to him, and he was thinking about these as he drove home. It was the Indian summer: an excellent road and a hot sun. As he approached his home Eugene was thinking of how, as a result of this election, he would occupy among the people the position he had always dreamed of; that is to say, one in which he would be able to serve them not only by production, which gave employment, but also by direct influence. He imagined what his own and the other peasants would think of him in three years’ time. “For instance this one,” he thought, drifting just then through the village and glancing at a peasant who with a peasant woman was crossing the street in front of him carrying a full water-tub. They stopped to let his carriage pass. The peasant was old Pechnikov, and the woman was Stepanida. Eugene looked at her, recognized her, and was glad to feel that he remained quite tranquil. She was still as good looking as ever, but this did not touch him at all. He drove home.

“Well, may we congratulate you?” said his uncle.

“Yes, I was elected.”

“Capital! We must drink to it!”

Next day Eugene drove about to see to the farming which he had been neglecting. At the outlying farmstead a new thrashing machine was at work. While watching it Eugene stepped among the women, trying not to take notice of them; but try as he would he once or twice noticed the black eyes and red kerchief of Stepanida, who was carrying away the straw. Once or twice he glanced sideways at her and felt that something was happening, but could not account for it to himself. Only next day, when he again drove to the thrashing floor and spent two hours there quite unnecessarily, without ceasing to caress with his eyes the familiar, handsome figure of the young woman, did he feel that he was lost, irremediably lost. Again those torments! Again all that horror and fear, and there was no saving himself. What he expected happened to him. The evening of the next day, without knowing how, he found himself at her back yard, by her hay shed, where in autumn they had once had a meeting. As though having a stroll, he stopped there lighting a cigarette. A neighbouring peasant-woman saw him, and as he turned back he heard her say to someone: “Go, he is waiting for you — on my dying word he is standing there. Go, you fool!”

He saw how a woman — she — ran to the hay shed; but as a peasant had met him it was no longer possible for him to turn back, and so he went home.

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