At last I found Tatyana Pavlovna at home! I at once explained everything to her — all about the “document,” and every detail of what was going on at my lodgings. Though she quite understood the position, and might have fully grasped what was happening in two words, yet the explanation took us, I believe, some ten minutes. I did the talking, I put aside all shame and told her the whole truth. She sat in her chair silent and immovable, drawing herself up straight as a knitting needle, with her lips compressed, and her eyes fixed upon me, listening greedily. But when I finished she promptly jumped up from her chair, and with such impetuosity that I jumped up too.
“Ach, you puppy! So you really had that letter sewn up in your pocket and it was sewn up there by that fool Marya Ivanovna! Oh, you shameless villains! So you came here to conquer hearts and take the fashionable world by storm. You wanted to revenge yourself on the devil knows who, because you’re an illegitimate son, eh?”
“Tatyana Pavlovna, don’t dare to abuse me!” I cried. “Perhaps you in your abuse have been the cause from the very beginning of my vindictiveness here. Yes, I am an illegitimate son, and perhaps I worked to revenge myself for being an illegitimate son, and perhaps I did want to revenge myself on the devil knows who, the devil himself could scarcely find who is guilty; but remember, I’ve cut off all connection with these villains, and have conquered my passions. I will lay the document before her in silence and will go away without even waiting for a word from her; you’ll be the witness of it!”
“Give me the letter, give me the letter, lay it on the table at once; but you are lying, perhaps.”
“It’s sewn up in my pocket. Marya Ivanovna sewed it up herself; and when I had a new coat made here I took it out of the old one and sewed it up in the new coat; here it is, feel it, I’m not lying!”
“Give it me, take it out,” Tatyana Pavlovna stormed.
“Not on any account, I tell you again; I will lay it before her in your presence and will go away without waiting for a single word; but she must know and see with her eyes that it is my doing, that I’m giving it up to her of my own accord, without compulsion and without recompense.”
“Showing off again? You’re in love, puppy, eh?”
“You may say horrid things to me as much as you like. I’ve deserved them, but I’m not offended. Oh, I may seem to her a paltry boy who has been keeping watch on her and plotting against her; but let her recognise that I have conquered myself and put her happiness above everything on earth! Never mind, Tatyana Pavlovna, never mind! I keep crying to myself: courage and hope! What if this is my first step in life, anyway it is ending well, it is ending honourably! And what if I do love her,” I went on fervently with flashing eyes; “I am not ashamed of it: mother is a heavenly angel, but she is an earthly queen! Versilov will go back to mother, and I’ve no cause to be ashamed to face her; you know I once heard what Versilov and she were saying, I stood behind the curtain. . . . Oh, we are all three possessed by the same madness. Oh, do you know whose phrase that is ‘possessed by the same madness’? They are his words, Andrey Petrovitch’s! But do you know, perhaps there are more than three of us possessed by the same madness? Yes, I don’t mind betting, you’re a fourth — possessed by the same madness! Shall I say it — I will bet that you’ve been in love with Andrey Petrovitch all your life and perhaps you are so still . . .”
I repeat I was carried away by excitement and a sort of happiness, but I could not finish; she suddenly, with superhuman quickness, seized me by the hair and twice shook me backwards and forwards with all her might. . . . Then she suddenly abandoned me and retreated into the corner, and hid her face in her handkerchief.
“You young puppy! Never dare say that to me again!” she brought out, crying.
All this was so unexpected, that I was naturally thunderstruck. I stood gazing at her, not knowing what to do.
“Foo, you stupid! Come here and give me a kiss, though I am an old fool!” she said suddenly, laughing and crying: “and don’t you dare, don’t you ever dare to say that to me again . . . but I love you and have always loved you . . . you stupid.”
I kissed her. I may mention in parenthesis that Tatyana Pavlovna and I were friends from that time forward.
“But oh! what am I doing?” she said suddenly, slapping herself on the forehead; “but what were you saying: the old prince is at your lodging? But is it true?”
“I assure you he is.”
“Oh, my goodness! Ach, it makes me sick!” she hurried to and fro about the room. “And they are doing what they like with him there! Ech, is there nothing will frighten the fools! And ever since the morning! Oh, oh, Anna Andreyevna. Oh, oh, the nun! And she of course, Militrissa, knows nothing about it.”
“Why, your earthly queen, your ideal! Ach, but what’s to be done now?”
“Tatyana Pavlovna,” I cried, coming to myself, “we’ve been talking nonsense and have forgotten what matters; I ran out to fetch Katerina Nikolaevna, and they’re all waiting for me there.”
And I explained that I should give up the letter only on condition that she promised to be reconciled to Anna Andreyevna at once, and even agree to the marriage . . . .
“Quite right, too,” Tatyana Pavlovna interposed, “and I’ve said the same thing to her a hundred times. Why, he’ll die before the wedding — he won’t be married anyhow, and if he leaves money to Anna in his will, why their names are in it as it is, and will remain there.”
“Surely it’s not only the money that Katerina Nikolaevna cares about?”
“No, she has been afraid all along that the letter was in Anna’s hands, and I was afraid of it, too! We were keeping watch on her. The daughter did not want to give the old father a shock, and the German, Büring, certainly did feel anxious about the money.”
“And after that she can marry Büring?”
“Why, what’s one to do with a little fool? It’s a true saying, a fool’s a fool and will be a fool for ever. He gives her a certain calm you see; ‘Since I must marry some one,’ she said, ‘I’ll marry him, he will suit me better than anyone’; she says; but we shall see afterwards how he suits her. One may tear one’s hair afterwards, but then it’s too late.”
“Then why do you allow it? You are fond of her, aren’t you? Why, you told her to her face you were in love with her!”
“Yes, I am in love with her, and I love her more than all the rest of you put together, but she’s a senseless little fool all the same.”
“Well, run and fetch her now, and we will settle it all, and take her to her father ourselves.”
“But we can’t, we can’t, you little stupid! That’s just it! Ach, what are we to do! Ach, it makes me sick!” She fell to rushing to and fro again, though she snatched up her shawl. “Ech, if only you had come to me four hours earlier, but now it’s eight o’clock, and she went off just now to the Pelistchevs’ to dinner, and afterwards she was going with them to the opera.”
“Good heavens! can’t we run to the opera then . . . oh, no, we can’t. What will become of the old man now? He may die in the night!”
“Listen, don’t go there, but go to your mother’s for the night, and early to-morrow . . .”
“No, I won’t desert the old man, whatever happens.”
“Well, don’t desert him; you are right there. But do you know I’ll run round to her and leave a note . . . I write in our own words (she’ll understand), that the document’s here and that she must be here at ten o’clock to-morrow morning — punctually! Don’t worry yourself, she’ll come, she’ll obey me; and then we’ll put everything right. And you run home, and use all your little arts to please the old prince, put him to bed, and perhaps he’ll hold out till the morning! Don’t frighten Anna either, I am fond of her too; you are unjust to her, because you can’t understand: she feels injured, she has been injured from a child; ach, you’ve all been a burden on me! Oh, don’t forget, tell her from me, that I’ll see to this business myself, and with a good will, and tell her not to worry, and her pride shall not suffer. . . . You see of late we’ve done nothing but quarrel — we’ve been spitting and scolding at one another! Come, run along. . . . But stay, show me your pocket again . . . is it true, is it true? Oh, is it true? Give me that letter if only for the night, what is it to you? Leave it, I won’t eat it. You may let it slip out of your hands in the night you know. . . . You’ll change your mind?”
“Not for anything!” I shouted. “Here, feel it, look at it, but I won’t leave it for anything!”
“I see it’s paper,” she said, feeling it with her fingers. “Oh, very well, go along, and I’ll go round to her, maybe I’ll look in at the theatre, too, that was a good idea of yours! But run along, run along!”
“Tatyana Pavlovna, wait a minute. How is mother?”
“And Andrey Petrovitch?”
She waved her hand.
“He will come to himself!”
I ran off, feeling cheered, and more hopeful, although I had not been successful, as I had reckoned to be, but alas! destiny had decided otherwise, and there were other things in store for me — there certainly is a fate in things.
From the stairs I heard a noise in my lodging, and the door of the flat turned out to be open. At the door stood a servant in livery whom I did not know. Pyotr Ippolitovitch and his wife were both in the passage, too, looking scared and expectant. The door into the prince’s room was open, and I could hear within a voice of thunder, which I could recognise at once — the voice of Büring. I had hardly taken two steps forward when I saw the old prince trembling and in tears, led out into the passage by Büring and Baron R., the gentleman who had called on Versilov about the duel. The prince was sobbing loudly, embracing and kissing Büring. Büring was shouting at Anna Andreyevna, who had followed the old prince into the passage. Büring was threatening her, and I believe stamped at her — in fact the coarse German soldier came to the surface in spite of his aristocratic breeding. It afterwards came out that he had somehow got hold of the notion that Anna Andreyevna was guilty of something positively criminal, and certainly would have to answer for her conduct before a court of law. In his ignorance he exaggerated it as the ignorant commonly do, and so considered he had the right to be unceremonious in the extreme. He had not yet got to the bottom of the business: he had been informed of it by an anonymous letter (which I shall have to refer to later) and he had rushed round in that state of fury in which even the most sharp-witted people of his nationality are sometimes prepared to fight like brigands. Anna Andreyevna had met all this outburst with the utmost dignity, but I missed that. All I saw was that, after bringing the old man into the passage, Büring left him in the hands of Baron R., and rushing impetuously back to her, shouted, probably in reply to some remark of hers:
“You’re an intriguing adventuress, you’re after his money! You’ve disgraced yourself in society and will answer for it in a court of law! . . .”
“You’re taking advantage of an unfortunate invalid and driving him to madness . . . and you’re shouting at me because I’m a woman, and there’s no one to defend me . . .”
“Oh, yes, you are his betrothed, a fine betrothed,” Büring chuckled, with spiteful violence.
“Baron, Baron . . . chère enfant, je nous aime,” wailed the prince, stretching out his hands towards Anna Andreyevna.
“Go along, prince, go along, there’s been a plot against you, and maybe your life was threatened,” shouted Büring.
“Qui, oui, je comprends, j’ai compris au commencement . . .”
“Prince,” Anna Andreyevna raised her voice. “You are insulting me, and letting me be insulted!”
“Get along with you,” Büring shouted at her suddenly.
That I could not endure.
“Blackguard!” I yelled at him: “Anna Andreyevna, I’m here to defend you!”
What happened then I cannot describe exactly, and will not attempt to. The scene that followed was horrible and degrading. I seemed suddenly to lose my reason. I believe I dashed up and struck him, or at least gave him a violent push. He struck me with all his might on my head so that I fell on the floor. When I came to, I rushed after them down stairs. I remember that my nose was bleeding. At the entrance a carriage was waiting for them, and while they were getting the prince in, I ran up, and in spite of the lackey, who pushed me back I rushed at Büring again. At this point the police turned up, I don’t know how. Büring seized me by the collar and in a threatening voice ordered the police to take me into custody. I shouted that he ought to come with me, that we might make our affirmation together, and that they dare not take me almost from my own lodging. But as it had all happened in the street and not in the flat, and as I shouted and fought like a drunken man, and as Büring was wearing his uniform, the policeman took me. But flying into a perfect frenzy, I believe at that point I struck the policeman too. Then I remember two of them suddenly appeared and carried me off. I faintly remember they took me to a room full of tobacco smoke, with all sorts of people standing and sitting about in it waiting and writing; here too I went on shouting, and insisting on making a statement. But things had gone beyond that, and were complicated by violence and resisting the police, besides I looked absolutely disreputable. Some one shouted at me angrily. Meanwhile the policeman charging me with fighting was describing the colonel . . .
“What’s your name?” some one shouted to me.
“Dolgoruky,” I yelled.
Beside myself, I answered by a very coarse word of abuse, and then . . . then I remember they dragged me to a very dark little room, set apart for drunkards. Oh, I’m not complaining. Readers will have seen of late in the newspapers a complaint made by a gentleman who was kept all night under arrest, tied up, and in a room set apart for drunkards, but I believe he was quite innocent while I had done something. I threw myself on the common bed which I shared with two unconscious sleepers. My head ached, my temples throbbed, and so did my heart. I must have been unconscious, and I believe I was delirious. I only remember waking up in the middle of the night, and sitting on the bed. I remembered everything at once and understood it in all its bearings, and, with my elbow propped on my knees and my head in my hands, I sank into profound meditation.
Oh, I am not going to describe my feelings, and there is no time to do it, but I will note one thing only: perhaps I never spent moments more consolatory to my soul than those moments of reflection in the middle of the night on that prison bed. This will perhaps strike the reader as strange, and he may be inclined to set it down to brag and the desire to be original — and yet it was just as I have said. It was one of those minutes which come perhaps to every one, but only come once in a lifetime. At such moments men decide their fate, define their point of view, and say to themselves once and for all: “That’s where the truth lies, and that is the path to take to attain it.” Yes, those moments were the light of my soul. Insulted by haughty Büring and expecting to be insulted next day by that aristocratic lady, I knew that I could revenge myself on them, but I decided not to revenge myself. I decided, in spite of every temptation, that I would not produce the letter, and publish it to the whole world (the idea had been floating in my mind); I repeated to myself that next day I would put that letter before her, and, if need be, instead of gratitude, would bear her ironical smile, but in any case I would not say a word but would go away from her for ever. . . . There is no need to enlarge on this, however. What would happen next day here, how I should be brought before the authorities, and what they would do with me — I almost forgot to think about. I crossed myself with love in my heart, lay down on the bed, and fell into a sound childlike sleep.
I waked up late, when it was daylight. I found myself alone in the room. I sat down to wait in silence and waited about an hour; it must have been about nine o’clock when I was suddenly summoned. I might go into greater detail but it is not worth while, for all this is now irrelevant; I need only record what matters. I must note, however, that to my great astonishment I was treated with unexpected courtesy; I was questioned, I answered, and I was at once allowed to depart. I went out in silence, and to my satisfaction saw in their faces some surprise at a man who was able to keep up his dignity even in such circumstances. If I had not noticed that, I should not have recorded it. Tatyana Pavlovna was waiting for me at the entrance. I will explain in a couple of words why I was let off so easily.
Early in the morning, by eight o’clock perhaps, Tatyana Pavlovna had flown round to my lodging, that is to Pyotr Ippolitovitch’s, expecting to find the old prince still there, and she heard at once of all the horrors of the previous day, above all that I had been arrested. She instantly rushed off to Katerina Nikolaevna (who on returning from the theatre the evening before had had an interview with the father who had been restored to her). Tatyana Pavlovna waked her up, alarmed her and insisted that I should be at once released. With a note from her she flew at once to Büring’s and demanded from him forthwith another note, to the proper authorities, with an urgent request from Büring himself that I should be released, as I had been arrested through a misunderstanding. With this note she presented herself to the prison and her request was respectfully granted.
Now I will go on with my story.
Tatyana Pavlovna pounced on me, put me in a sledge, and took me home with her, she immediately ordered the samovar, and washed and brushed me herself in the kitchen. In the kitchen she told me in a loud voice that at half-past eleven Katerina Nikolaevna would come herself — as they had agreed that morning — to meet me. Marya overheard this. A few minutes later she brought in the samovar, and two minutes later, when Tatyana Pavlovna called her, she did not answer; it appeared that she had gone out for something. I beg the reader to make special note of this; it was about a quarter to ten I believe. Though Tatyana Pavlovna was angry at her disappearance without asking leave, she only thought she had gone out to the shop, and immediately forgot about it. And, indeed, we had no thoughts to spare for it, we talked away without ceasing, for we had plenty to talk about, so that I, at least, scarcely noticed Marya’s disappearance; I beg the reader to make a note of that.
As for me, I was in a sort of delirium, I poured out my feelings, and above all we were expecting Katerina Nikolaevna, and the thought that in an hour I should meet her at last, and at such a turning-point in my life, made me tremble and quiver. At last, when I had drunk two cups of tea, Tatyana Pavlovna suddenly stood up, took a pair of scissors from the table, and said:
“Let me have your pocket, I must take out the letter, we can’t unpick it when she’s here.”
“Yes,” I exclaimed and unbuttoned my coat.
“What a muddle it’s in! who sewed it up?”
“I did, I did, Tatyana Pavlovna.”
“Well, I can see you did. Come, here it is . . . .”
We took it out . . . the old envelope was the same, but inside was a blank sheet of paper.
“What’s this?” cried Tatyana Pavlovna, turning it round and round . . . “what’s the matter with you?”
But I was standing pale and speechless . . . and I suddenly sank helplessly into a chair. I really almost fainted.
“What does it mean?” wailed Tatyana Pavlovna. “Where is your letter?”
“Lambert!” I jumped up suddenly, slapping myself on the forehead as I guessed.
With breathless haste I explained to her — the night at Lambert’s and our plot; I had, however, confessed that to her the night before.
“They’ve stolen it, they’ve stolen it!” I cried, stamping on the floor and clutching at my hair.
“That’s terrible!” cried Tatyana Pavlovna, grasping what had happened.
“What time is it?”
It was about eleven.
“Ech, there’s no Marya! . . . Marya, Marya!”
“What is it, mistress?” Marya responded from the kitchen.
“Are you here? What are we to do now! I will fly to her. . . . Ah, slow coach, slow coach!”
“And I to Lambert,” I yelled, “and I will strangle him if need be.”
“Mistress,” Marya piped suddenly from the kitchen, “here’s a person asking for you very particularly.”
But before she had time to finish, the person burst in from the kitchen, making a great outcry and lamentation. It was Alphonsine. I will not describe the scene in detail; the scene was a fraud and a deception, but I must say Alphonsine acted it splendidly. With tears of repentance and with violent gesticulations she babbled (in French, of course), that she had unpicked the letter herself, that it was now in Lambert’s hands, and that Lambert, together with that “brigand,” cet homme noir, meant to entice Mme. la générale to shoot her, immediately within an hour . . . that she knew all this from them, and that she had suddenly taken fright because she saw they had a pistol, le pistolet, and now she had rushed off to us, that we might go, might save, might warn. . . . That cet homme noir . . . .”
In fact, it all sounded very probable, the very stupidity of some of Alphonsine’s expressions only increased its apparent truthfulness.
“What homme noir?” cried Tatyana Pavlovna.
“Tien, j’ai oublié son nom . . . Un homme affreux . . . Tiens, Versilov.”
“Versilov, it cannot be,” I cried!
“Oh, yes, it can!” wailed Tatyana Pavlovna: “come, tell us my good woman without dancing about, don’t wave your arms about; what do they want? Explain, my good woman; I don’t believe they mean to shoot her.”
“My good woman” did explain as follows (N.B. — it was all a lie, I must remind the reader again): Versilov was to sit at the door and when she went in Lambert was to show her cette lettre, then Versilov was to rush in and they would. . . . . Oh! ils feront leur vengeance! that she, Alphonsine, was afraid there would be trouble, because she had had a share in the business herself, cette dame, la générale would certainly come at once, at once, because they had sent her a copy of the letter, and she would see at once that they really had the letter, and would go to interview them, but only Lambert had written the letter, so she knew nothing about Versilov; and Lambert had introduced himself as a stranger who had come from a lady in Moscow, une dame de Moscou (N.B. — Marie Ivanovna!)
“Ach, I feel sick! Ach, I feel sick!” exclaimed Tatyana Pavlovna.
“Sauvez la, sauvez la!” cried Alphonsine.
Oh, of course there was something inconsistent, even at first sight, in this mad story, but there was no time to think it over, for in essentials it sounded very probable. Of course, one might still suppose, and with the greatest likelihood, that Katerina Nikolaevna, on receiving Lambert’s summons, would come first to Tatyana Pavlovna’s to discuss the matter with us; and on the other hand, this might not happen, and she might go straight to him, and then — she was lost! It was difficult to believe that she would rush off to a stranger like Lambert at the first summons; yet, again, this might somehow happen, after seeing the copy and satisfying herself that they really had her letter, and then there would be disaster anyway! Above all, we had no time even to reflect.
“Versilov will murder her! if he has stooped to make use of Lambert he’ll murder her! It’s the second self,” I cried.
“Ah that ‘second self’!” cried Tatyana Pavlovna, wringing her hands. “Well, this is no use,” she said decidedly, “take your cap and coat and quick march together. Lead us straight to them, my good woman. Ach, it’s a long way. Marya, Marya, if Katerina Nikolaevna comes, tell her I shall be back directly and make her sit and wait for me, and if she does not want to wait, lock the door and keep her by force. Tell her I told her to. A hundred roubles for you, Marya, if you deserve it.”
We ran down stairs. No doubt nothing better could have been suggested, for, in any case, the chief scene of danger was in Lambert’s lodging, and if Katerina Nikolaevna did really come first to Tatyana Pavlovna’s lodgings, Marya could always detain her. Yet after she had called a sledge, Tatyana Pavlovna changed her mind.
“You go with her,” she bade me, leaving me with Alphonsine “and if need be, die there, do you understand? I’ll follow you directly, but first I’ll whisk round to her, maybe I shall find her, for say what you like, I feel suspicious!”
And she flew off to Katerina Nikolaevna.
Alphonsine and I went our way towards Lambert’s. I urged on the driver and continued to question Alphonsine, but she confined herself to exclamations, and finally took refuge in tears. But God saved and preserved us all when everything was hanging on a thread. We had not driven a quarter of the way when I suddenly heard a shout behind me; some one was calling me by my name. I looked round — Trishatov was driving after us in another sledge.
“Where are you going,” he shouted in alarm, “and with her, with Alphonsine?”
“Trishatov,” I cried, “you told the truth, there is trouble! I am going to that scoundrel, Lambert’s! Let’s go together, the more the better!”
“Turn back, turn back at once,” shouted Trishatov, “Lambert’s deceiving you, and Alphonsine’s deceiving you. The pock-marked fellow sent me; they are not at home, I met Versilov and Lambert just now; they were driving to Tatyana Pavlovna’s . . . they’re there now . . . .”
I stopped the driver and jumped out to join Trishatov. To this day I don’t know how I could make up my mind so quickly, but I believed him at once, and made up my mind. Alphonsine raised a terrible outcry, but we did not trouble ourselves about her, and I don’t know whether she followed us or went home, anyway, I did not see her again.
In the sledge, Trishatov told me breathlessly that there was some sort of plot on foot, that Lambert had been plotting with the pock-marked man, but that the latter had betrayed him at the last moment, and had sent Trishatov to Tatyana Pavlovna’s to warn her not to believe Lambert and Alphonsine. Trishatov added that he knew nothing more, and that the pock-marked gentleman had told him nothing more, for he had been in a hurry himself, and it had all been settled in haste. “I saw you driving,” Trishatov went on, “and drove after you.”
It was clear, of course, that this pock-marked individual also knew the whole story, since he had sent Trishatov straight to Tatyana Pavlovna’s, but that was another mystery. But to avoid a muddle I will, before describing the catastrophe, explain the actual fact, and for the last time anticipate the order of events.
After stealing the letter Lambert at once got into communication with Versilov. How Versilov could have brought himself to join Lambert — I won’t discuss for the time; that will come later; what was chiefly responsible was the “second self!” After joining Versilov, Lambert still had to entice Katerina Nikolaevna as cunningly as he could. Versilov assured him at once that she would not come. But ever since the day before yesterday, when I met him in the street in the evening, broke off all relations with him, and told him that I should give back the letter at Tatyana Pavlovna’s lodgings and in her presence — Lambert had arranged to keep a watch on Tatyana Pavlovna’s lodgings; Marya was bought over as a spy. Marya was given twenty roubles, and after the theft of the letter, Lambert visited Marya a second time, settling with her finally, and promising to pay her two hundred roubles for her services.
That was why Marya had rushed from the flat and galloped off in a sledge to Lambert’s, with the news, as soon as she heard that Katerina Nikolaevna was to be at Tatyana Pavlovna’s at half-past eleven, and that I, too, should be present. This was just the information she was to bring Lambert; that was precisely the duty assigned her. Versilov happened to be with Lambert at that very moment. In one moment Versilov had devised the diabolical plan. They say that madmen are at times extraordinarily cunning.
The plot was to lure both of us, Tatyana and me, out of the flat at all costs, if only for a quarter of an hour, but before Katerina Nikolaevna arrived. Then they meant to wait in the street, and as soon as Tatyana Pavlovna and I had come out, to run into the flat, which Marya was to open to them, and there to await Katerina Nikolaevna. Alphonsine, meantime, was to do her utmost to detain us where and how she pleased. Katerina Nikolaevna would be sure to come, as she promised, at half-past eleven, so that she would certainly be there long before we could be back. (Of course, Katerina Nikolaevna had received no summons from Lambert. Alphonsine had told us a lie and Versilov had invented the story in all its details, and Alphonsine had simply played the part of the frightened traitor.) Of course, it was a risk, but they probably reasoned that if it answered all would be well, if it failed nothing would have been lost, for the document would still be in their possession. But it did answer and could not possibly have failed to do so, for we could not but follow Alphonsine on the barest supposition that what she said might be true. I repeat again: there was no time to reflect.
We ran with Trishatov into the kitchen and found Marya in a fright. She was horrified to notice that when she let Versilov and Lambert in, that the latter had a revolver in his hand. Though she had taken money, the revolver had not entered into her calculations. She was bewildered and rushed at me as soon as she saw me.
“The lady has come and they’ve got a pistol!”
“Trishatov, stay here in the kitchen,” I said, “and as soon as I shout, run as quickly as you can to help me.”
Marya opened the door in the passage and I slipped into Tatyana Pavlovna’s bedroom — into the tiny cupboard of a room in which there was only space for Tatyana Pavlovna’s bed, and in which once I had already accidentally played the eavesdropper. I sat down on the bed and at once found a peephole for myself in the curtain.
There was already a noise in the room and they were talking loudly; I may mention that Katerina Nikolaevna arrived at the flat just a minute after them. I heard the noise and talk from the kitchen: Lambert was shouting. She was sitting on the sofa, and he was standing before her shouting like a fool. Now I know why he lost his head so stupidly: he was in a hurry and afraid they would be discovered. I will explain later who it was he feared. The letter was in his hand. But Versilov was not in the room. I was ready to rush in at the first sign of danger. I record only the gist of the conversation, perhaps a good deal I don’t remember correctly, but I was too much excited to remember with perfect accuracy.
“This letter’s worth thirty thousand roubles, and you are surprised! It’s worth a hundred thousand, and I only ask thirty!” Lambert said in a loud voice, terribly excited.
Though Katerina Nikolaevna was evidently frightened, she looked at him with a sort of contemptuous wonder.
“I see that a trap has been laid for me, and I don’t understand it,” she said: “but if only that letter is really in your hands.” . . . .
“But here it is, see for yourself! Isn’t that it? An IOU for thirty thousand and not a farthing less!” Lambert interrupted her.
“I’ve no money.”
“Write an IOU— here’s paper. Then go and get the money, and I will wait a week — no more. . . . Give me the money and then I will give you back the IOU and give you the letter.”
“You take such a strange tone. You are making a mistake. That letter will be taken from you, if I go to-day and lodge a complaint.”
“To whom? Ha-ha-ha? What of the scandal, and we shall show the letter to the prince! Where are they going to find it? I don’t keep the document at my lodging. I shall show it to your father through a third person. Don’t be obstinate, madam, be thankful that I’m not asking much, any other man would ask for something else besides . . . you know what . . . which many a pretty woman would not refuse in such trying circumstances, that’s what I mean . . . ha-ha-ha! Vous êtes belle, vous!”
Katerina Nikolaevna rose impetuously, turned crimson — and spat in his face. Then she turned quickly towards the door. It was at this point that the fool, Lambert, pulled out the revolver.
Like an unimaginative fool he had put blind faith in the effect of the document; his chief error lay in not distinguishing what sort of woman he had to deal with, because, as I have said already, he thought every one was as mean in their feelings as he was. He angered her from the first word by his rudeness, though perhaps otherwise she might not have declined to consider the question of payment.
“Don’t stir!” he yelled, furious at her spitting at him, clutching her by the shoulder, and showing her the revolver — simply, of course, to frighten her. She uttered a shriek and sank on the sofa. I burst into the room; but, at the same instant, Versilov ran in at the other door. (He had been standing outside the door waiting.) In a flash he had snatched the revolver from Lambert, and with all his might hit him on the head with it. Lambert staggered and fell senseless; the blood streamed from his head upon the carpet.
She saw Versilov, turned suddenly as white as a sheet, gazed at him for some moments immovable with indescribable horror, and fell into a swoon. He rushed to her. It all flashes before my eyes as I write. I remember with what terror I saw his flushed almost purple face and his bloodshot eyes. I believe that though he saw me in the room he did not recognise me. He caught her as she fell unconscious, and with amazing ease lifted her up in his arms, as though she were a feather, and began aimlessly carrying her about the room like a baby. It was a tiny room, but he paced to and fro from corner to corner, evidently with no idea why he was doing so. In one instant he had lost his reason. He kept gazing at her, at her face. I ran after him; what I was most afraid of was the revolver, which he seemed to have forgotten in his right hand, and was holding close to her head. But he pushed me away, once with his elbow, and the second time with his foot. I wanted to shout to Trishatov, but I was afraid of irritating the madman. At last I drew back the curtain and began entreating him to put her on the bed. He went up and laid her down on it, stood over her, and gazed at her face; and, suddenly bending down, kissed her twice on her pale lips. Oh, I realised at last that this was a man utterly beside himself. He suddenly waved the revolver over her, but, as though realising, turned the revolver and aimed it at her face. I instantly seized his arm and shouted to Trishatov. I remember we both struggled with him, but he succeeded in pulling away his arm and firing at himself. He would have shot her and then himself, but since we would not let him get at her, he pressed the revolver against his heart; I succeeded, however, in pushing his arm upwards, and the bullet struck him in the shoulder. At that instant Tatyana Pavlovna burst into the room shrieking; but he was already lying senseless on the carpet beside Lambert.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07