The Devil, by Leo Tolstoy

iv

Eugene himself dreamt of marriage, but no in the same way as his mother. the idea of using marriage as a means of putting his affairs in order was repulsive to him. He wished to marry honourably, for love. He observed the girls whom he met and those he knew, and compared himself with them, but no decision had yet been taken. meanwhile, contrary to his expectations, his relations with Stepanida continued, and even acquired the character of a settled affair. Eugene was so far from debauchery, it was so hard for him secretly to do this thing which he felt to be bad, that he could not arrange these meetings himself and even after the first one hoped not to see Stepanida again; but it turned out that after some time the same restlessness (due he believed to that cause) again overcame him. And his restlessness this time was no longer impersonal, but suggested just those same bright, black eyes, and that deep voice, saying, “ever so long,” that same scent of something fresh and strong, and that same full breast lifting the bib of her apron, and all this in that hazel and maple thicket, bathed in bright sunlight.

Though he felt ashamed he again approached Daniel. And again a rendezvous was fixed for midday in the wood. This time Eugene looked her over more carefully and everything about her seemed attractive. He tried talking to her and asked about her husband. He really was Michael’s son and lived as a coachman in Moscow.

“Well, then, how is it you . . . ” Eugene wanted to ask how it was she was untrue to him.

“What about ‘how is it’?” asked she. Evidently she was clever and quick-witted.

“Well, how is it you come to me?”

“There now,” said she merrily. “I bet he goes on the spree there. Why shouldn’t I?”

Evidently she was putting on an air of sauciness and assurance, and this seemed charming to Eugene. but all the same he did not himself fix a rendezvous with her. Even when she proposed that they should meet without the aid of Daniel, to whom she seemed not very well disposed, he did not consent. He hoped that this meeting would be the last. He like her. He thought such intercourse was necessary for him and that there was nothing bad about it, but in the depth of his soul there was a stricter judge who did not approve of it and hoped that this would be the last time, or if he did not hope that, at any rate did not wish to participate in arrangements to repeat it another time.

So the whole summer passed, during which they met a dozen times and always by Daniel’s help. It happened once that she could not be there because her husband had come home, and Daniel proposed another woman, but Eugene refused with disgust. then the husband went away and the meetings continued as before, at first through Daniel, but afterwards he simply fixed the time and she came with another woman, Prokhovova — as it would not do for a peasant-woman to go about alone.

Once at the very time fixed for the rendezvous a family came to call on Mary Pavlovna, with the very girl she wished Eugene to marry, and it was impossible for Eugene to get away. as soon as he could do so, he went out as though to the thrashing floor, and round by the path to their meeting place in the wood. She was not there, but at the accustomed spot everything within reach had been broken — the black alder, the hazel-twigs, and even a young maple the thickness of a stake. She had waited, had become excited and angry, and had skittishly left him a remembrance. He waited and waited, and then went to Daniel to ask him to call her for tomorrow. She came and was just as usual.

So the summer passed. The meetings ere always arranged in the wood, and only once, when it grew towards autumn, in the shed that stood in her backyard.

It did not enter Eugene’s head that these relations of his had any importance for him. About her he did not even think. He gave her money and nothing more. At first he did not know and did not think that the affair was known and that she was envied throughout the village, or that her relations took money from her and encouraged her, and that her conception of any sin in the matter had been quite obliterated by the influence of the money and her family’s approval. It seemed to her that if people envied her, then what she was doing was good.

“It is simply necessary for my health,” thought Eugene. “I grant it is not right, and though no one says anything, everybody, or many people, know of it. The woman who comes with her knows. And once she knows she is sure to have told others. But what’s to be done? I am acting badly,” thought Eugene, “but what’s one to do? Anyhow it is not for long.

What chiefly disturbed Eugene was the thought of the husband. At first for some reason it seemed to him that the husband must be a poor sort, and this as it were partly justified his conduct. But he saw the husband and was struck by his appearance: he was a fine fellow and smartly dressed, in no way a worse man than himself, but surely better. At their next meeting he told her he had seen her husband and had been surprised to see that he was such a fine fellow.

“There’s not another man like him in the village,” said she proudly.

This surprised Eugene, and the thought of the husband tormented him still more after that. He happened to be at Daniel’s one day and Daniel, having begun chatting said to him quite openly:

“And Michael asked me the other day: ‘Is it true that the master is living with my wife?’ I said I did not know. ‘Anyway,’ I said, ‘better with the master than with a peasant.’”

“Well, and what did he say?”

“He said: ‘Wait a bit. I’ll get to know and I’ll give it her all the same.’”

“Yes, if the husband returned to live here I would give her up,” thought Eugene.

But the husband lived in town and for the present their intercourse continued.

“When necessary I will break it off, and there will be nothing left of it,” thought he.

And this seemed to him certain, especially as during the whole summer many different things occupied him very fully: the erection of the new farm-house, and the harvest and building, and above all meeting the debts and selling the wasteland. All these were affairs that completely absorbed him and on which he spent his thoughts when he lay down and when he got up. All that was real life. His intercourse — he did not even call it connection -with Stepanida he paid no attention to. It is true that when the wish to see her arose it came with such strength that he could think of nothing else. But this did not last long. A meeting was arranged, and he again forgot her for a week or even for a month.

In autumn Eugene often rode to town, and there became friendly with the Annenskis. They had a daughter who had just finished the Institute. And then, to Mary Pavlovna’s great grief, it happened that Eugene “cheapened himself,” as she expressed it, by falling in love with Liza Annenskaya and proposing to her.

From that time his relations with Stepanida ceased.

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