Smoke, by Ivan Turgenev

Chapter 24

LITVINOV walked up and down his room in the hotel, his head bowed in thought. He had now to pass from theory to practice, to devise ways and means for flight, for moving to unknown countries. . . . But, strange to say, he was not pondering so much upon ways and means as upon whether actually, beyond doubt, the decision had been reached on which he had so obstinately insisted? Had the ultimate, irrevocable word been uttered? But Irina to be sure had said to him at parting, “Act, act, and when every thing is ready, only let me know.” That was final! Away with all doubts. . . . He must proceed to action. And Litvinov proceeded — in the meantime — to calculation. Money first of all. Litvinov had, he found, in ready money one thousand three hundred and twenty-eight guldens, in French money, two thousand eight hundred and fifty-five francs; the sum was trifling, but it was enough for the first necessities, and then he must at once write to his father to send him all he could; he would have to sell the forest part of the land. But on what pretext? . . . Well, a pretext would be found. Irina had spoken, it’s true, of her bijoux, but that must not be taken into his reckoning; that, who knows, might come in for a rainy day. He had besides a good Geneva watch, for which he might get . . . well, say, four hundred francs. Litvinov went to a banker’s, and with much circumlocution introduced the question whether it was possible, in case of need, to borrow money; but bankers at Baden are wary old foxes, and in response to such circumlocutions they promptly assume a drooping and blighted air, for all the world like a wild flower whose stalk has been severed by the scythe; some, indeed, laugh outright in your face, as though appreciating an innocent joke on your part. Litvinov, to his shame, even tried his luck at roulette, even, oh ignominy! put a thaler on the number thirty, corresponding with his own age. He did this with a view to augmenting and rounding off his capital; and if he did not augment it, he certainly did round off his capital by losing the odd twenty-eight guldens. There was a second question, also not an unimportant one; that was the passport. But for a woman a passport is not quite so obligatory, and there are countries where it is not required at all, Belgium, for instance, and England; besides, one might even get some other passport, not Russian. Litvinov pondered very seriously on all this; his decision was firm, absolutely unwavering, and yet all the time against his will, overriding his will, something not serious, almost humorous came in, filtered through his musings, as though the very enterprise were a comic business, and no one ever did elope with any one in reality, but only in plays and novels, and perhaps somewhere in the provinces, in some of those remote districts, where, according to the statements of travelers, people are literally sick continually from ennui. At that point Litvinov recalled how an acquaintance of his, a retired cornet, Batsov, had eloped with a merchant’s daughter in a staging sledge with bells and three horses, having as a preliminary measure made the parents drunk, and adopted the same precaution as well with the bride, and how, as it afterwards turned out, he was outwitted and within an ace of a thrashing into the bargain. Litvinov felt exceedingly irritated with himself for such inappropriate reminiscences, and then with the recollection of Tatyana, her sudden departure, all that grief and suffering and shame, he felt only too acutely that the affair he was arranging was deadly earnest, and how right he had been when he had told Irina that his honor, even, left no other course open. . . . And again at the mere name something of flame turned with sweet ache about his heart and died away again.

The tramp of horses’ hoofs sounded behind him. He moved aside. . . . Irina overtook him on horseback; beside her rode the stout general. She recognized Litvinov, nodded to him, and lashing her horse with a sidestroke of her whip, she put him into a gallop, and suddenly dashed away at headlong speed. Her dark veil fluttered in the wind . . . .

Pas si vite! Nom de Dieu! pas si vite!“ cried the general, and he, too, galloped after her.

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