He found her in the shop with her mother. Frau Lenore was stooping down, measuring with a big folding foot-rule the space between the windows. On seeing Sanin, she stood up, and greeted him cheerfully, though with a shade of embarrassment.
‘What you said yesterday,’ she began, ‘has set my head in a whirl with ideas as to how we could improve our shop. Here, I fancy we might put a couple of cupboards with shelves of looking-glass. You know, that’s the fashion nowadays. And then . . . ’
‘Excellent, excellent,’ Sanin broke in, ‘we must think it all over. . . . But come here, I want to tell you something.’ He took Frau Lenpre and Gemma by the arm, and led them into the next room. Frau Lenore was alarmed, and the foot-rule slipped out of her hands. Gemma too was almost frightened, but she took an intent look at Sanin, and was reassured. His face, though preoccupied, expressed at the same time keen self-confidence and determination. He asked both the women to sit down, while he remained standing before them, and gesticulating with his hands and ruffling up his hair, he told them all his story; his meeting with Polozov, his proposed expedition to Wiesbaden, the chance of selling the estate. ‘Imagine my happiness,’ he cried in conclusion: ‘things have taken such a turn that I may even, perhaps, not have to go to Russia! And we can have our wedding much sooner than I had anticipated!’
‘When must you go?’ asked Gemma.
‘To-day, in an hour’s time; my friend has ordered a carriage — he will take me.’
‘You will write to us?’
‘At once! directly I have had a talk with this lady, I will write.’
‘This lady, you say, is very rich?’ queried the practical Frau Lenore.
‘Exceedingly rich! her father was a millionaire, and he left everything to her.’
‘Everything — to her alone? Well, that’s so much the better for you. Only mind, don’t let your property go too cheap! Be sensible and firm. Don’t let yourself be carried away! I understand your wishing to be Gemma’s husband as soon as possible . . . but prudence before everything! Don’t forget: the better price you get for your estate, the more there will be for you two, and for your children.’
Gemma turned away, and Sanin gave another wave of his hand. ‘You can rely on my prudence, Frau Lenore! Indeed, I shan’t do any bargaining with her. I shall tell her the fair price; if she’ll give it — good; if not, let her go.’
‘Do you know her — this lady?’ asked Gemma.
‘I have never seen her.’
‘And when will you come back?’
‘If our negotiations come to nothing — the day after tomorrow; if they turn out favourably, perhaps I may have to stay a day or two longer. In any case I shall not linger a minute beyond what’s necessary. I am leaving my heart here, you know! But I have said what I had to say to you, and I must run home before setting off too. . . . Give me your hand for luck, Frau Lenore — that’s what we always do in Russia.’
‘The right or the left?’
‘The left, it’s nearer the heart. I shall reappear the day after tomorrow with my shield or on it! Something tells me I shall come back in triumph! Good-bye, my good dear ones. . . . ’
He embraced and kissed Frau Lenore, but he asked Gemma to follow him into her room — for just a minute — as he must tell her something of great importance. He simply wanted to say good-bye to her alone. Frau Lenore saw that, and felt no curiosity as to the matter of such great importance.
Sanin had never been in Gemma’s room before. All the magic of love, all its fire and rapture and sweet terror, seemed to flame up and burst into his soul, directly he crossed its sacred threshold. . . . He cast a look of tenderness about him, fell at the sweet girl’s feet and pressed his face against her waist. . . .
‘You are mine,’ she whispered: ‘you will be back soon?’
‘I am yours. I will come back,’ he declared, catching his breath.
‘I shall be longing for you back, my dear one!’
A few instants later Sanin was running along the street to his lodging. He did not even notice that Pantaleone, all dishevelled, had darted out of the shop-door after him, and was shouting something to him and was shaking, as though in menace, his lifted hand.
Exactly at a quarter to one Sanin presented himself before Polozov. The carriage with four horses was already standing at the hotel gates. On seeing Sanin, Polozov merely commented, ‘Oh! you’ve made up your mind?’ and putting on his hat, cloak, and over-shoes, and stuffing cotton-wool into his ears, though it was summer-time, went out on to the steps. The waiters, by his directions, disposed all his numerous purchases in the inside of the carriage, lined the place where he was to sit with silk cushions, bags, and bundles, put a hamper of provisions for his feet to rest on, and tied a trunk on to the box. Polozov paid with a liberal hand, and supported by the deferential door-keeper, whose face was still respectful, though he was unseen behind him, he climbed gasping into the carriage, sat down, disarranged everything about him thoroughly, took out and lighted a cigar, and only then extended a finger to Sanin, as though to say, ‘Get in, you too!’ Sanin placed himself beside him. Polozov sent orders by the door-keeper to the postillion to drive carefully — if he wanted drinks; the carriage steps grated, the doors slammed, and the carriage rolled off.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01