silence of the dead; then, suddenly, the awful moan of
It must be observed that Grushnitski is one of those men who, in speaking of a woman with whom they are barely acquainted, call her my Mary, my Sophie, if she has had the good fortune to please them.
I assumed a serious air and answered:
"Yes, she is good-looking. . . Only be care- ful, Grushnitski! Russian ladies, for the most part, cherish only Platonic love, without mingling any thought of matrimony with it; and Platonic love is exceedingly embarrassing. Princess Mary seems to be one of those women who want to be amused. If she is bored in your company for two minutes on end -- you are lost irrevocably. Your silence ought to excite her curiosity, your con- versation ought never to satisfy it completely; you should alarm her every minute; ten times, in public, she will slight people's opinion for you and will call that a sacrifice, and, in order to requite herself for it, she will torment you. Afterwards she will simply say that she cannot endure you. If you do not acquire authority over her, even her first kiss will not give you the right to a second. She will flirt with you to her heart's content, and, in two years' time, she will marry a monster, in obedience to her mother, and will assure herself that she is unhappy, that she has loved only one man -- that is to say, you -- but that Heaven was not willing to unite her to him because he wore a soldier's cloak, although beneath that thick, grey cloak beat a heart, passionate and noble" . . .
Grushnitski smote the table with his fist and fell to walking to and fro across the room.
I laughed inwardly and even smiled once or twice, but fortunately he did not notice. It is evident that he is in love, because he has grown even more confiding than heretofore. Moreover, a ring has made its appearance on his finger, a silver ring with black enamel of local workman- ship. It struck me as suspicious. . . I began to examine it, and what do you think I saw? The name Mary was engraved on the inside in small letters, and in a line with the name was the date on which she had picked up the famous tumbler. I kept my discovery a secret. I do not want to force confessions from him, I want him, of his own accord, to choose me as his confidant -- and then I will enjoy myself! . . .
To-day I rose late. I went to the well. I found nobody there. The day grew hot. White, shaggy cloudlets were flitting rapidly from the snow-clad mountains, giving promise of a thunder- storm; the summit of Mount Mashuk was smoking like a just extinguished torch; grey wisps of cloud were coiling and creeping like snakes around it, arrested in their rapid sweep and, as it were, hooked to its prickly brushwood. The atmosphere was charged with electricity. I plunged into the avenue of the vines leading to the grotto.
I felt low-spirited. I was thinking of the lady with the little mole on her cheek, of whom the doctor had spoken to me. . . "Why is she here?" I thought. "And is it she? And what reason have I for thinking it is? And why am I so certain of it? Is there not many a woman with a mole on her cheek?" Reflecting in such wise I came right up to the grotto. I looked in and I saw that a woman, wearing a straw hat and wrapped in a black shawl, was sitting on a stone seat in the cold shade of the arch. Her head was sunk upon her breast, and the hat covered her face. I was just about to turn back, in order not to disturb her meditations, when she glanced at me.
"Vera!" I exclaimed involuntarily.