the liquid was apparently milk from some animal. It was
I opened the first; its contents were as follows:
"Everything has been arranged as well as could be; the mutilated body has been brought in; and the bullet extracted from the breast. Every- body is convinced that the cause of death was an unfortunate accident; only the Commandant, who was doubtless aware of your quarrel, shook his head, but he said nothing. There are no proofs at all against you, and you may sleep in peace . . . if you can. . . . Farewell!" . . .
For a long time I could not make up my mind to open the second note. . . What could it be that she was writing to me? . . . My soul was agitated by a painful foreboding.
Here it is, that letter, each word of which is indelibly engraved upon my memory:
"I am writing to you in the full assurance that we shall never see each other again. A few years ago on parting with you I thought the same. However, it has been Heaven's will to try me a second time: I have not been able to endure the trial, my frail heart has again submitted to the well-known voice. . . You will not despise me for that -- will you? This letter will be at once a farewell and a confession: I am obliged to tell you everything that has been treasured up in my heart since it began to love you. I will not accuse you -- you have acted towards me as any other man would have acted; you have loved me as a chattel, as a source of joys, disquietudes and griefs, interchanging one with the other, without which life would be dull and monotonous. I have understood all that from the first. . . But you were unhappy, and I have sacrificed myself, hoping that, some time, you would appreciate my sacrifice, that some time you would understand my deep tenderness, unfettered by any condi- tions. A long time has elapsed since then: I have fathomed all the secrets of your soul. . . and I have convinced myself that my hope was vain. It has been a bitter blow to me! But my love has been grafted with my soul; it has grown dark, but has not been extinguished.
"We are parting for ever; yet you may be sure that I shall never love another. Upon you my soul has exhausted all its treasures, its tears, its hopes. She who has once loved you cannot look without a certain disdain upon other men, not because you have been better than they, oh, no! but in your nature there is something pecu- liar -- belonging to you alone, something proud and mysterious; in your voice, whatever the words spoken, there is an invincible power. No one can so constantly wish to be loved, in no one is wickedness ever so attractive, no one's glance promises so much bliss, no one can better make use of his advantages, and no one can be so truly unhappy as you, because no one endeavours so earnestly to convince himself of the contrary.
"Now I must explain the cause of my hurried departure; it will seem of little importance to you, because it concerns me alone.
"This morning my husband came in and told me about your quarrel with Grushnitski. Evi- dently I changed countenance greatly, because he looked me in the face long and intently. I almost fainted at the thought that you had to fight a duel to-day, and that I was the cause of it; it seemed to me that I should go mad. . . But now, when I am able to reason, I am sure that you remain alive: it is impossible that you should die, and I not with you -- impossible! My hus- band walked about the room for a long time. I do not know what he said to me, I do not remem- ber what I answered. . . Most likely I told him that I loved you. . . I only remember that, at the end of our conversation, he insulted me with a dreadful word and left the room. I heard him ordering the carriage. . . I have been sitting at the window three hours now, awaiting your re- turn. . . But you are alive, you cannot have died! . . . The carriage is almost ready. . . Good-bye, good-bye! . . . I have perished -- but what matter? If I could be sure that you will always remember me -- I no longer say love -- no, only remember . . . Good-bye, they are com- ing! . . . I must hide this letter.