“I’ll go, of course!” I made up my mind as I hurried home, “I’ll go at once. Very likely I shall find her at home alone; whether she is alone or with some one else makes no difference: I can ask her to come out to me. She will receive me; she’ll be surprised, but she will receive me. And if she won’t see me I’ll insist on her seeing me, I’ll send in word that it’s most urgent. She will think it’s something about that letter and will see me. And I’ll find out all about Tatyana there . . . and what then? If I am not right I will be her servant, if I am right and she is to blame it’s the end of everything! In any case it’s the end of everything! What am I going to lose? I can lose nothing. I’ll go! I’ll go!”
I shall never forget and I recall with pride that I did NOT go! It will never be known to anyone, it will die with me, but it’s enough that I know of it and at such a moment I was capable of an honourable impulse.
“This is a temptation, and I will put it behind me,” I made up my mind at last, on second thoughts. They had tried to terrify me with a fact, but I refused to believe it, and had not lost my faith in her purity! And what had I to go for, what was there to find out about? Why was she bound to believe in me as I did in her, to have faith in my “purity,” not to be afraid of my “impulsiveness” and not to provide against all risks with Tatyana? I had not yet, as far as she could see, deserved her confidence. No matter, no matter that she does not know that I am worthy of it, that I am not seduced by “temptations,” that I do not believe in malicious calumnies against her; I know it and I shall respect myself for it. I shall respect my own feeling. Oh, yes, she had allowed me to utter everything before Tatyana, she had allowed Tatyana to be there, she knew that Tatyana was sitting there listening (for she was incapable of not listening); she knew that she was laughing at me out there — that was awful, awful! But . . . but what if it were impossible to avoid it? What could she have done in her position, and how could one blame her for it? Why, I had told her a lie about Kraft, I had deceived her because that, too, could not be helped, and I had lied innocently against my will. “My God!” I cried suddenly, flushing painfully, “what have I just done myself! Haven’t I exposed her, too, before Tatyana, haven’t I repeated it all to Versilov just now? Though, after all, there was a difference. It was only a question of the letter; I had in reality only told Versilov about the letter because there was nothing else to tell, and could be nothing else. Was not I the first to declare that “there could not be”? He was a man of insight. Hm! But what hatred there was in his heart for this woman even to this day! And what sort of drama must have taken place between them in the past, and about what? All due to vanity, of course!” VERSILOV CANNOT BE CAPABLE OF ANY FEELING BUT BOUNDLESS VANITY!”
That last thought rose spontaneously in my mind and I did not even remark it. Such were the thoughts that floated through my mind one after another, and I was straightforward with myself; I did not cheat or deceive myself; and if there was anything I did not understand at that moment, it was not from sophistry with myself but only from lack of brains.
I returned home in great excitement, and — I don’t know why — in a very cheerful, though confused state of mind. But I was afraid of analysing my feelings and did my utmost to distract my mind. I went in at once to see my landlady: it turned out that a terrible quarrel really had taken place between her husband and her. She was in advanced consumption, and though, perhaps, she was a good-natured woman, like all consumptives she was of uncertain temper. I began trying to reconcile them at once; I went to the lodger, who was a very vain little bank clerk, called, Tchervyak, a coarse pock-marked fool. I disliked him very much, but I got on with him quite well, for I often was so mean as to join him in turning Pyotr Ippolitovitch into ridicule. I at once persuaded him to keep on the lodgings, and indeed he would not in any case have really gone so far as to move. It ended in my reassuring the landlady completely, and even succeeding in very deftly putting a pillow under her head: “Pyotr Ippolitovitch would never have known how to do it,” she commented malignantly. Then I busied myself in the kitchen preparing mustard plasters for her and succeeded in making two capital ones with my own hand. Poor Pyotr Ippolitovitch looked on envious, but I did not allow him to touch them, and was rewarded by liberal tears of gratitude from the lady. I remember I suddenly felt sick of it all, and suddenly realized that I was not looking after the invalid from kindness at all, but from something else, some very different motive.
I waited for Matvey with nervous impatience: I had resolved that evening to try my luck at cards for the last time and . . . and, apart from my need to win, I had an intense longing to play; but for that, my excitement would have been unbearable. If I had not gone anywhere I might have been unable to hold out and should have gone to her. It was almost time for Matvey to come, when the door was opened and an unexpected visitor, Darya Onisimovna, walked in. I frowned and was surprised. She knew my lodging, for she had been there once with some message from my mother. I made her sit down and looked at her inquiringly. She said nothing, and only looked straight into my face with a deferential smile.
“You’ve not come from Liza?” it occurred to me to ask.
“No, it’s nothing special.”
I informed her that I was just going out; she replied again that it was “nothing special,” and that she was going herself in a minute. I suddenly for some reason felt sorry for her. I may observe that she had met with a great deal of sympathy from all of us, from my mother, and still more from Tatyana Pavlovna, but after installing her at Mme. Stolbyeev’s all of us had rather begun to forget her, except perhaps Liza, who often visited her. I think she was herself the cause of this neglect, for she had a special faculty for effacing herself and holding herself aloof from people in spite of her obsequiousness and her ingratiating smiles. I personally disliked those smiles of hers, and her affected expression, and I even imagined on one occasion that she had not grieved very long for her Olya. But this time for some reason I felt very sorry for her.
And behold, without uttering a word, she suddenly bent forward with her eyes cast down, and all at once, throwing her arms round my waist, hid her face on my knees. She seized my hand, I thought she meant to kiss it, but she pressed it to her eyes, and hot tears trickled upon it. She was shaking all over with sobs, but she wept silently. It sent a pang to my heart, even though I felt at the same time somehow annoyed. But she was embracing me with perfect confidence and without the least fear that I might be vexed, though only just before she had smiled so timidly and cringingly.
I began begging her to calm herself.
“Kind, good friend, I don’t know what to do with myself. As soon as it gets dark, I can’t bear it; as soon as it gets dark I can’t go on bearing it, and I feel drawn into the street, into the darkness. And I am drawn there by my imaginings. My mind is possessed by the fancy that as soon as ever I go out I shall meet her in the street. I walk and seem to see her. That is other girls are walking along the street and I walk behind them on purpose, and I think: ‘Isn’t it she, there she is,’ I think, ‘it really is my Olya!’ I dream and dream. I turn giddy at last, and feel sick, and stumble and jostle against people; I stumble as though I were drunk and some swear at me; I hide by myself and don’t go to see anyone, and wherever one goes, it makes one’s heart more sick; I passed by your lodging just now, and thought: ‘I’ll go in to him; he is kinder than any of them, and he was there at the time.’ Forgive a poor creature who’s no use to anyone; I’ll go away directly; I’m going . . . .”
She suddenly got up and made haste to depart. Matvey arrived just then; I made her get into the sledge with me, and left her at Mme. Stolbyeev’s on my way.
I had of late begun to frequent Zerstchikov’s gambling saloon. I had so far visited three gambling houses, always in company with Prince Sergay, who had introduced me to these places. At one of these houses the game was faro especially, and the stakes were high. But I did not care for going there: I saw that one could not get on there without a long purse, and also that the place was crowded with insolent fellows and swaggering young snobs. This was what Prince Sergay liked; he liked playing, too, but he particularly liked getting to know these young prodigals. I noticed that though he went in with me he kept away from me during the evening and did not introduce me to any of “his set.” I stared about me like a wild man of the woods, so much so that I sometimes attracted attention. At the gambling table people spoke to one another freely; but once I tried bowing next day to a young fop, with whom I had not only talked but laughed the previous evening, sitting beside him, and had even guessed two cards from him. Yet when I greeted him in the same room next day, he actually did not recognize me. Or what was worse, stared at me with simulated amazement, and passed by with a smile. So I quickly gave up the place and preferred to visit a “sewer”— I don’t know what else to call it — it was a wretched sordid little place for roulette, managed by a kept woman, who, however, never showed herself in the saloon. It was all horribly free and easy there, and though officers and wealthy merchants sometimes frequented it, there was a squalid filthiness about the place, though that was an attraction to many. Moreover, I was often lucky there. But I gave that place up, too, after a disgusting scene, which occurred when the game was at its hottest and ended in a fight between two players. I began going instead to Zerstchikov’s, to which Prince Sergay took me also. The man was a retired captain, and the tone at his rooms was very tolerable, military, curt, and businesslike, and there was a fastidiously scrupulous keeping up of the forms of punctilio. No boisterous practical jokers or very fast men frequented it. Moreover, the stakes played for were often considerable. Both faro and roulette were played. I had only been there twice before that evening, the 15th of November, but I believe Zerstchikov already knew me by sight; I had made no acquaintances there, however. As luck would have it Prince Sergay did not turn up till about midnight, when he dropped in with Darzan after spending the evening at the gambling saloon of the young snobs which I had given up; and so that evening I found myself alone and unknown in a crowd of strangers.
If I had a reader and he had read all I have written so far of my adventures, there would be certainly no need to inform him that I am not created for any sort of society. The trouble is I don’t know how to behave in company. If I go anywhere among a great many people I always have a feeling as though I were being electrified by so many eyes looking at me. It positively makes me shrivel up, physically shrivel up, even in such places as a theatre, to say nothing of private houses. I did not know how to behave with dignity in these gambling saloons and assemblies; I either sat still, inwardly upbraiding myself for my excessive mildness and politeness, or I suddenly got up and did something rude. And meanwhile all sorts of worthless fellows far inferior to me knew how to behave with wonderful aplomb — and that’s what exasperated me above everything, so that I lost my self-possession more and more. I may say frankly, even at that time, if the truth is to be told, the society there, and even winning money at cards, had become revolting and a torture to me. Positively a torture. I did, of course, derive acute enjoyment from it, but this enjoyment was at the cost of torture: the whole thing, the people, the gambling, and, most of all, myself in the midst of them, seemed horribly nasty. “As soon as I win I’ll chuck it all up!” I said to myself every time when I woke up in my lodgings in the morning after gambling over night. Then, again, how account for my desire to win, since I certainly was not fond of money? Not that I am going to repeat the hackneyed phrases usual in such explanations, that I played for the sake of the game, for the pleasure of it, for the risk, the excitement and so on, and not for gain. I was horribly in need of money, and though this was not my chosen path, not my idea, yet somehow or other I had made up my mind to try it by way of experiment. I was continually possessed by one overwhelming thought: “You maintained that one could reckon with certainty on becoming a millionaire if only one had sufficient strength of will; you’ve tested your strength of will already; so show yourself as strong in this case: can more strength of will be needed for roulette than for your idea?” that is what I kept repeating to myself. And as I still retain the conviction, that in games of chance, if one has perfect control of one’s will, so that the subtlety of one’s intelligence and one’s power of calculation are preserved, one cannot fail to overcome the brutality of blind chance and to win, I naturally could not help growing more and more irritated when at every moment I failed to preserve my strength of will and was carried away by excitement, like a regular child. “Though I was able to endure hunger, I am not able to control myself in an absurd thing like this!” that was what provoked me. Moreover, the consciousness that however absurd and abject I might seem, I had within me a rich store of strength which would one day make them all change their opinion of me, that consciousness has been from the days of my oppressed childhood the one spring of life for me, my light, my dignity, my weapon and my consolation, without which I might have committed suicide as a little child. And so how could I help being irritated when I saw what a pitiful creature I became at the gambling table? That is why I could not give up playing! I see it all clearly now. This was the chief reason, but apart from that my petty vanity was wounded. Losing had lowered me in the eyes of Prince Sergay, of Versilov, though he did not deign to speak of it, of every one, even of Tatyana Pavlovna; that is what I thought, I felt. Finally, I will make another confession! By that time I had begun to be corrupted: it had become hard for me to give up a dinner of seven dishes at the restaurant, to give up Matvey, and the English shop, to lose the good opinion of my hairdresser, and all that, in fact. I was conscious of it even at the time, but I refused to admit the thought; now I blush to write it.
Finding myself alone in a crowd of strangers, I established myself at first at a corner of the table and began staking small sums. I remained sitting there without stirring for two hours. For those two hours the play was horribly flat — neither one thing nor another. I let slip some wonderful chances and tried not to lose my temper, but to preserve my coolness and confidence. At the end of the two hours I had neither lost nor won. Out of my three hundred roubles I had lost ten or fifteen roubles. This trivial result exasperated me, and what’s more an exceedingly unpleasant, disgusting incident occurred. I know that such gambling saloons are frequented by thieves, who are not simply pickpockets out of the street but well-known gamblers. I am certain that the well-known gambler Aferdov is a thief; he is still to be seen about the town; I met him not long ago driving a pair of his own ponies, but he is a thief and he stole from me. But this incident I will describe later; what happened this evening was simply a prelude.
I spent there two hours sitting at a corner of the table, and beside me, on the left, there was all the time an abominable little dandy, a Jew I believe; he is on some paper though, and even writes something and gets it published. At the very last moment I suddenly won twenty roubles. Two red notes lay before me, and suddenly I saw this wretched little Jew put out his hand and remove one of my notes. I tried to stop him; but with a most impudent air he immediately informed me, without raising his voice in the least, that it was what he had won, that he had just put down a stake and won it; he declined to continue the conversation and turned away. As ill-luck would have it, I was in a state of extreme stupidity at that moment: I was brooding over a great idea, and with a curse I got up quickly and walked away; I did not want to dispute, so made him a present of the red note. And indeed it would have been difficult to go into the matter with an impudent thief, for I had let slip the right moment, and the game was going on again. And that was my great mistake, the effect of which was apparent later on: three or four players near us saw how the matter ended, and noticing how easily I had given way, took me for another of the same sort.
It was just twelve o’clock; I walked into the other room, and after a little reflection formed a new plan. Going back I changed my notes at the bank for half imperials. I received over forty of them. I divided them into ten lots, and resolved to stake four half imperials ten times running on the zero. “If I win it’s my luck. If I lose, so much the better, I’ll never play again.” I may mention that zero had not turned up once during those two hours, so that at last no one was staking on zero.
I put down my stakes standing, silent, frowning and clenching my teeth. At the third round, Zerstchikov called aloud zero, which had not turned up all day. A hundred and forty half imperials were counted out to me in gold. I had seven chances left and I went on, though everything seemed whirling round, and dancing before my eyes.
“Come here!” I shouted right across the table to a player beside whom I had been sitting before, a grey-headed man with a moustache, and a purple face, wearing evening dress, who had been for some hours staking small sums with ineffable patience and losing stake after stake: “come this end! There’s luck here!”
“Are you speaking to me?” the moustached gentleman shouted from the other end of the table, with a note of menacing surprise in his voice.
“Yes, you! You’ll go on losing for ever there!”
“That’s not your business, please not to interfere!”
But I could not restrain myself. An elderly officer was sitting facing me at the other side of the table. Looking at my stake he muttered to his neighbour:
“That’s queer, zero. No, I won’t venture on zero.”
“Do, colonel!” I shouted laying down another stake.
“Kindly leave me alone, and don’t force your advice upon me,” he rapped out sharply. “You are making too much noise!”
“I am giving you good advice; would you like to bet on zero’s turning up directly: ten gold pieces, I’ll bet that, will you take it?”
And I laid down ten half imperials.
“A bet of ten gold pieces! That I can do,” he brought out drily and severely. “I’ll bet against you that zero won’t turn up.”
“Ten louis d’or, colonel.”
“What do you mean by ten louis d’or?”
“Ten half imperials, colonel, and, in grand language, ten louis d’or.”
“Well, then, say they are half imperials, and please don’t joke with me.”
I did not of course hope to win the bet; there were thirty-six chances against one that zero would not turn up again; but I proposed it out of swagger, and because I wanted to attract every one’s attention. I quite saw that for some reason nobody here liked me, and that they all would have taken particular pleasure in letting me know it. The roulette wheel was sent spinning — and what was the general amazement when it stopped at zero again! There was actually a general shout. The glory of my success dazed me completely. Again a hundred and forty half imperials were counted out to me. Zerstchikov asked me if I would not like to take part of them in notes, but I mumbled something inarticulate in reply, for I was literally incapable of expressing myself in a calm and definite way. My head was going round and my legs felt weak. I suddenly felt that I would take a fearful risk at once; moreover, I had a longing to do something more, to make another bet, to carry off some thousands from some one. Mechanically I scooped up my notes and gold in the hollow of my hand, and could not collect myself to count them. At that moment I noticed Prince Sergay and Darzan behind me: they had only just come from their faro saloon, where as I heard afterwards they had lost their last farthing.
“Ah! Darzan,” I cried “There’s luck here! Stake on zero!”
“I’ve been losing, I’ve no money,” he answered drily; Prince Sergay actually appeared not to notice or recognize me.
“Here’s money,” I cried pointing to my heap of gold. “As much as you like.”
“Hang it all!” cried Darzan, flushing crimson; “I didn’t ask you for money, I believe.”
“You are being called,” said Zerstchikov pulling my arm.
The colonel who had lost ten half imperials to me had called to me several times almost abusingly.
“Kindly take this!” he shouted, purple with rage. “It’s not for me to stand over you, but if I don’t you’ll be saying afterwards you haven’t had the money. Count it.”
“I trust you, I trust you, colonel, without counting; only please don’t shout at me like that and don’t be angry,” and I drew his heap of gold towards me.
“Sir, I beg you to keep your transports for some one else and not to force them on me,” the colonel rasped out. “I’ve never fed pigs with you!”
“It’s queer to admit such people”—“Who is he?”—“Only a lad,” I heard exclamations in undertones.
But I did not listen, I was staking at random, not on zero this time. I staked a whole heap of hundred rouble notes on the first eighteen numbers.
“Let’s go, Darzan,” I heard Prince Sergay’s voice behind me.
“Home?” I asked, turning round to them. “Wait for me: we’ll go together, I’ve had enough.”
My stake won, I had gained a big sum. “Enough!” I cried, and without counting the money I began with trembling hands, gathering up the gold and dropping it into my pockets, and clumsily crumpling the notes in my fingers, and trying to stuff them all at once into my side pocket. Suddenly Aferdov, who was sitting next to me on the right and had been playing for high stakes, laid a fat hand with a ring on the first finger over three of my hundred-rouble notes.
“Excuse me that’s not yours,” he brought out sternly and incisively, though he spoke rather softly.
This was the prelude, which was destined a few days afterwards to have such a serious sequel. Now I swear on my honour those three notes were mine, but to my misfortune, at the time, though I was convinced they were mine I still had the fraction of a doubt, and for an honest man, that is enough; and I am an honest man. What made all the difference was that I did not know at the time that Aferdov was a thief: I did not even know his name then, so that at that moment I might very well imagine I had made a mistake, and that those three notes were really not in the heap that had just been paid me. I had not counted my gains at all, I had simply gathered up the heaps with my hands, and there had been money lying in front of Aferdov too, and quite close to mine, but in neat heaps and counted. Above all Aferdov was known here and looked upon as a wealthy man; he was treated with respect: all this had an influence on me and again I did not protest. A terrible mistake! The whole beastly incident was the result of my enthusiasm.
“I am awfully sorry, I don’t remember for certain; but I really think they are mine,” I brought out with lips trembling with indignation. These words at once aroused a murmur.
“To say things like that, you ought to REMEMBER for certain, but you’ve graciously announced yourself that you DON’T remember for certain,” Aferdov observed with insufferable superciliousness.
“Who is he?”—“It can’t be allowed!” I heard several exclamations.
“That’s not the first time he has done it; there was the same little game over a ten-rouble note with Rechberg just now,” a mean little voice said somewhere near.
“That’s enough! that’s enough!” I exclaimed, “I am not protesting, take it . . . where’s Prince . . . where are Prince Sokolsky and Darzan? Have they gone? Gentlemen, did you see which way Prince Sokolsky and Darzan went?” And gathering up all my money at last, I could not succeed in getting some of the half imperials into my pocket, and holding them in my hands I rushed to overtake Prince Sergay and Darzan. The reader will see, I think, that I don’t spare myself, and am recording at this moment what I was then, and all my nastiness, so as to explain the possibility of what followed.
Prince Sergay and Darzan were going downstairs, without taking the slightest notice of my shouts, and calls to them. I had overtaken them, but I stopped for a moment before the hall-porter, and, goodness knows why, thrust three half imperials into his hand; he gazed at me in amazement and did not even thank me. But that was nothing to me, and if Matvey had been there I should probably have pressed handfuls of gold upon him; and so indeed I believe I meant to do, but as I ran out on the steps, I suddenly remembered that I had let him go home when I arrived. At that moment Prince Sergay’s horse came up, and he got into his sledge.
“I am coming with you, prince, and to your flat!” I cried, clutching the fur cover and throwing it open, to get into the empty seat; but all at once Darzan skipped past me into the sledge, and the coachman snatched the fur cover out of my hands, and tucked it round them.
“Damn it all!” I cried dumbfoundered; it looked as though I had unbuttoned the cover for Darzan’s benefit, like a flunkey.
“Home!” shouted Prince Sergay.
“Stop!” I roared, clutching at the sledge, but the horse started, and I was sent rolling in the snow. I even fancied they were laughing. Jumping up I took the first sledge I came across, and dashed after Prince Sergay, urging on the wretched nag at every second.
As ill-luck would have it, the wretched beast crawled along with unnatural slowness, though I promised the driver a whole rouble. The driver did nothing but lash the beast to earn his rouble. My heart was sinking: I began trying to talk to the driver, but I could not even articulate my words, and I muttered something incoherent. This was my condition when I ran up to Prince Sergay’s! He had only just come back; he had left Darzan on the way, and was alone. Pale and ill-humoured, he was pacing up and down his study. I repeat again he had lost heavily that evening. He looked at me with a sort of preoccupied wonder.
“You again!” he brought out frowning.
“To settle up with you for good, sir!” I said breathlessly. “How dared you treat me like that!”
He looked at me inquiringly.
“If you meant to drive with Darzan you might have answered that you were going with him, but you started your horse, and I . . . .”
“Oh yes, you tumbled into the snow,” he said and laughed into my face.
“An insult like that can be only answered with a challenge, so to begin with we’ll settle accounts . . . .”
And with a trembling hand I began pulling out my money and laying it on the sofa, on the marble table, and even on an open book, in heaps, in handfuls, and in rolls of notes; several coins rolled on the carpet.
“Oh, yes, you’ve won, it seems? . . . One can tell that from your tone.”
He had never spoken to me so insolently before. I was very pale.
“Here . . . I don’t know how much . . . it must be counted. I owe you three thousand . . . or how much? . . . More or less?”
“I am not pressing you to pay, I believe.”
“No, it’s I want to pay, and you ought to know why. I know that in that roll there’s a thousand roubles, here!” And I began with trembling fingers to count the money, but gave it up. “It doesn’t matter, I know it’s a thousand. Well, that thousand I will keep for myself, but all the rest, all these heaps, take for what I owe you, for part of what I owe you: I think there’s as much as two thousand or may be more!”
“But you are keeping a thousand for yourself then?” said Prince Sergay with a grin.
“Do you want it? In that case . . . I was meaning . . . I was thinking you didn’t wish it . . . but if you want it here it is . . . .”
“No, you need not,” he said turning away from me contemptuously, and beginning to pace up and down again.
“And what the devil’s put it into your head to want to pay it back?” he said, turning to me suddenly, with a horrible challenge in his face.
“I’m paying it back to be free to insist on your giving me satisfaction!” I vociferated.
“Go to the devil with your everlasting words and gesticulations!” he stamped at me suddenly, as though in a frenzy. “I have been wanting to get rid of you both for ages; you and your Versilov.”
“You’ve gone out of your mind!” I shouted and indeed it did look like it.
“You’ve worried me to death with your high-sounding phrases, and never anything but phrases, phrases, phrases! Of honour for instance! Tfoo! I’ve been wanting to have done with you for a long time. . . . I am glad, glad, that the minute has come. I considered myself bound, and blushed that I was forced to receive you . . . both! But now I don’t consider myself bound in any way, in any way, let me tell you! Your Versilov induced me to attack Madame Ahmakov and to cast aspersions on her. . . . Don’t dare to talk of honour to me after that. For you are dishonourable people . . . both of you, both of you; I wonder you weren’t ashamed to take my money!”
There was a darkness before my eyes.
“I borrowed from you as a comrade,” I began, speaking with a dreadful quietness. “You offered it me yourself, and I believed in your affection . . . .”
“I am not your comrade! That’s not why I have given you money, you know why it is.”
“I borrowed on account of what you owed Versilov; of course it was stupid, but I . . .”
“You could not borrow on Versilov’s account without his permission . . . and I could not have given you his money without his permission. I gave you my own money, and you knew it; knew it and took it; and I allowed this hateful farce to go on in my house!”
“What did I know? What farce! Why did you give it to me?”
“Pour vos beaux yeux, mon cousin!” he said, laughing straight in my face.
“Go to hell!” I cried. “Take it all, here’s the other thousand too! Now we are quits, and to-morrow . . . .”
And I flung at him the roll of hundred rouble notes I had meant to keep to live upon. The notes hit him in the waistcoat and flopped on the floor.
With three rapid strides he stepped close up to me:
“Do you dare to tell me,” he said savagely articulating his words as it were syllable by syllable; “that all this time you’ve been taking my money you did not know your sister was with child by me?”
“What! what!” I screamed, and suddenly my legs gave way under me and I sank helplessly on the sofa. He told me himself afterwards that I literally turned as white as a handkerchief. I was stunned. I remember we still stared into each other’s faces in silence. A look of dismay passed over his face; he suddenly bent down, took me by the shoulder and began supporting me. I distinctly remember his set smile, in which there was incredulity and wonder. Yes, he had never dreamed of his words having such an effect, for he was absolutely convinced of my knowledge.
It ended in my fainting, but only for a moment: I came to myself; I got on my feet, gazed at him and reflected — and suddenly the whole truth dawned upon my mind which had been so slow to awaken! If some one had told me of it before and asked me what I should have done at such a moment, I should no doubt have answered that I should have torn him in pieces. But what happened was quite different and quite independent of my will: I suddenly covered my face with both hands and began sobbing bitterly. It happened of itself. All at once the child came out again in the young man. It seemed that fully half of my soul was still a child’s. I fell on the sofa and sobbed out, “Liza! Liza! Poor unhappy girl!” Prince Sergay was completely convinced all at once.
“Good God, how unjust I’ve been to you!” he cried in deep distress. “How abominably I’ve misjudged you in my suspiciousness. . . . Forgive me, Arkady Makarovitch!”
I suddenly jumped up, tried to say something to him, stood facing him, but said nothing, and ran out of the room and out of the flat. I dragged myself home on foot, and don’t know how I got there. I threw myself on the bed in the dark, buried my face in the pillow and thought and thought. At such moments orderly and consecutive thought is never possible; my brain and imagination seemed torn to shreds, and I remember I began dreaming about something utterly irrelevant, I don’t know what. My grief and trouble came back to my mind suddenly with an ache of anguish, and I wrung my hands again and exclaimed: “Liza, Liza!” and began crying again. I don’t remember how I fell asleep, but I slept sweetly and soundly.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07