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It was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a
little dog. Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a fortnight at
Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to take an interest in
new arrivals. Sitting in Verney's pavilion, he saw, walking on the
sea-front, a fair-haired young lady of medium height, wearing a beret; a
white Pomeranian dog was running behind her.
And afterwards he met her in the public gardens and in the square several
times a day. She was walking alone, always wearing the same beret, and
always with the same white dog; no one knew who she was, and every one
called her simply "the lady with the dog."
"If she is here alone without a husband or friends, it wouldn't be amiss
to make her acquaintance," Gurov reflected.
He was under forty, but he had a daughter already twelve years old, and
two sons at school. He had been married young, when he was a student in
his second year, and by now his wife seemed half as old again as he. She
was a tall, erect woman with dark eyebrows, staid and dignified, and, as
she said of herself, intellectual. She read a great deal, used phonetic
spelling, called her husband, not Dmitri, but Dimitri, and he secretly
considered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and
did not like to be at home. He had begun being unfaithful to her long ago
-- had been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost
always spoke ill of women, and when they were talked about in his
presence, used to call them "the lower race."
It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience that he
might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days
together without "the lower race." In the society of men he was bored and
not himself, with them he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was in
the company of women he felt free, and knew what to say to them and how to
behave; and he was at ease with them even when he was silent. In his
appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something
attractive and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his
favour; he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them.
Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience, had taught him long
ago that with decent people, especially Moscow people -- always slow to
move and irresolute -- every intimacy, which at first so agreeably
diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure, inevitably
grows into a regular problem of extreme intricacy, and in the long run the
situation becomes unbearable. But at every fresh meeting with an
interesting woman this experience seemed to slip out of his memory, and he
was eager for life, and everything seemed simple and amusing.
One evening he was dining in the gardens, and
the lady in the beret came up slowly to take the next table. Her
expression, her gait, her dress, and the way she did her hair told him
that she was a lady, that she was married, that she was in Yalta for the
first time and alone, and that she was dull there. . . . The stories told
of the immorality in such places as Yalta are to a great extent untrue; he
despised them, and knew that such stories were for the most part made up
by persons who would themselves have been glad to sin if they had been
able; but when the lady sat down at the next table three paces from him,
he remembered these tales of easy conquests, of trips to the mountains,
and the tempting thought of a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with
an unknown woman, whose name he did not know, suddenly took possession of
him. He beckoned coaxingly to the Pomeranian,
and when the dog came up to him he shook his finger at it. The Pomeranian
growled: Gurov shook his finger at it again.
The lady looked at him and at once dropped her eyes.
"He doesn't bite," she said, and blushed.
"May I give him a bone?" he asked; and when
she nodded he asked courteously, "Have you been long in Yalta?"
"And I have already dragged out a fortnight here."
There was a brief silence.
"Time goes fast, and yet it is so dull here!"
she said, not looking at him. "That's only
the fashion to say it is dull here. A provincial will live in Belyov or
Zhidra and not be dull, and when he comes here it's 'Oh, the dulness! Oh,
the dust!' One would think he came from Grenada."
She laughed. Then both continued eating in silence, like strangers, but
after dinner they walked side by side; and there sprang up between them
the light jesting conversation of people who are free and satisfied, to
whom it does not matter where they go or what they talk about. They walked
and talked of the strange light on the sea: the water was of a soft warm
lilac hue, and there was a golden streak from the moon upon it. They
talked of how sultry it was after a hot day. Gurov told her that he came
from Moscow, that he had taken his degree in Arts, but had a post in a
bank; that he had trained as an opera-singer, but had given it up, that he
owned two houses in Moscow. . . . And from her he learnt that she had
grown up in Petersburg, but had lived in S---- since her marriage two
years before, that she was staying another month in Yalta, and that her
husband, who needed a holiday too, might perhaps come and fetch her. She
was not sure whether her husband had a post in a Crown Department or under
the Provincial Council -- and was amused by her own ignorance. And Gurov
learnt, too, that she was called Anna Sergeyevna.
Afterwards he thought about her in his room
at the hotel -- thought she would certainly meet him next day; it would be
sure to happen. As he got into bed he thought how lately she had been a
girl at school, doing lessons like his own daughter; he recalled the
diffidence, the angularity, that was still manifest in her laugh and her
manner of talking with a stranger. This must have been the first time in
her life she had been alone in surroundings in which she was followed,
looked at, and spoken to merely from a secret motive which she could
hardly fail to guess. He recalled her slender, delicate neck, her lovely
grey eyes. "There's something pathetic about
her, anyway," he thought, and fell asleep.
A week had passed since they had made acquaintance.
It was a holiday. It was sultry indoors, while in the street the wind
whirled the dust round and round, and blew people's hats off. It was a
thirsty day, and Gurov often went into the pavilion, and pressed Anna
Sergeyevna to have syrup and water or an ice. One did not know what to do
In the evening when the wind had dropped a little, they went out on the
groyne to see the steamer come in. There were a great many people walking
about the harbour; they had gathered to welcome some one, bringing
bouquets. And two peculiarities of a well-dressed Yalta crowd were very
conspicuous: the elderly ladies were dressed like young ones, and there
were great numbers of generals. Owing to the
roughness of the sea, the steamer arrived late, after the sun had set, and
it was a long time turning about before it reached the groyne. Anna
Sergeyevna looked through her lorgnette at the steamer and the passengers
as though looking for acquaintances, and when she turned to Gurov her eyes
were shining. She talked a great deal and asked disconnected questions,
forgetting next moment what she had asked; then she dropped her lorgnette
in the crush. The festive crowd began to
disperse; it was too dark to see people's faces. The wind had completely
dropped, but Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna still stood as though waiting to
see some one else come from the steamer. Anna Sergeyevna was silent now,
and sniffed the flowers without looking at Gurov.
"The weather is better this evening," he
said. "Where shall we go now? Shall we drive somewhere?"
She made no answer.
Then he looked at her intently, and all at
once put his arm round her and kissed her on the lips, and breathed in the
moisture and the fragrance of the flowers; and he immediately looked round
him, anxiously wondering whether any one had seen them.
"Let us go to your hotel," he said softly.
And both walked quickly. The room was close
and smelt of the scent she had bought at the Japanese shop. Gurov looked
at her and thought: "What different people one meets in the world!" From
the past he preserved memories of careless, good-natured women, who loved
cheerfully and were grateful to him for the happiness he gave them,
however brief it might be; and of women like his wife who loved without
any genuine feeling, with superfluous phrases, affectedly, hysterically,
with an expression that suggested that it was not love nor passion, but
something more significant; and of two or three others, very beautiful,
cold women, on whose faces he had caught a glimpse of a rapacious
expression -- an obstinate desire to snatch from life more than it could
give, and these were capricious, unreflecting, domineering, unintelligent
women not in their first youth, and when Gurov grew cold to them their
beauty excited his hatred, and the lace on their linen seemed to him like
But in this case there was still the diffidence, the angularity of
inexperienced youth, an awkward feeling; and there was a sense of
consternation as though some one had suddenly knocked at the door. The
attitude of Anna Sergeyevna -- "the lady with the dog" -- to what had
happened was somehow peculiar, very grave, as though it were her fall --
so it seemed, and it was strange and inappropriate. Her face dropped and
faded, and on both sides of it her long hair hung down mournfully; she
mused in a dejected attitude like "the woman who was a sinner" in an
old-fashioned picture. "It's wrong," she
said. "You will be the first to despise me now."
There was a water-melon on the table. Gurov
cut himself a slice and began eating it without haste. There followed at
least half an hour of silence. Anna
Sergeyevna was touching; there was about her the purity of a good, simple
woman who had seen little of life. The solitary candle burning on the
table threw a faint light on her face, yet it was clear that she was very
unhappy. "How could I despise you?" asked
Gurov. "You don't know what you are saying."
"God forgive me," she said, and her eyes filled with tears. "It's awful."
"You seem to feel you need to be forgiven."
"Forgiven? No. I am a bad, low woman; I
despise myself and don't attempt to justify myself. It's not my husband
but myself I have deceived. And not only just now; I have been deceiving
myself for a long time. My husband may be a good, honest man, but he is a
flunkey! I don't know what he does there, what his work is, but I know he
is a flunkey! I was twenty when I was married to him. I have been
tormented by curiosity; I wanted something better. 'There must be a
different sort of life,' I said to myself. I wanted to live! To live, to
live! . . . I was fired by curiosity . . . you don't understand it, but, I
swear to God, I could not control myself; something happened to me: I
could not be restrained. I told my husband I was ill, and came here. . . .
And here I have been walking about as though I were dazed, like a mad
creature; . . . and now I have become a vulgar, contemptible woman whom
any one may despise."
Gurov felt bored already, listening to her. He was irritated by the naive
tone, by this remorse, so unexpected and inopportune; but for the tears in
her eyes, he might have thought she was jesting or playing a part.
"I don't understand," he said softly. "What
is it you want?" She hid her face on his
breast and pressed close to him. "Believe me,
believe me, I beseech you . . ." she said. "I love a pure, honest life,
and sin is loathsome to me. I don't know what I am doing. Simple people
say: 'The Evil One has beguiled me.' And I may say of myself now that the
Evil One has beguiled me." "Hush, hush! . .
." he muttered. He looked at her fixed,
scared eyes, kissed her, talked softly and affectionately, and by degrees
she was comforted, and her gaiety returned; they both began laughing.
Afterwards when they went out there was not a
soul on the sea-front. The town with its cypresses had quite a deathlike
air, but the sea still broke noisily on the shore; a single barge was
rocking on the waves, and a lantern was blinking sleepily on it.
They found a cab and drove to Oreanda.
"I found out your surname in the hall just
now: it was written on the board -- Von Diderits," said Gurov. "Is your
husband a German?" "No; I believe his
grandfather was a German, but he is an Orthodox Russian himself."
At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from
the church, looked down at the sea, and were silent. Yalta was hardly
visible through the morning mist; white clouds stood motionless on the
mountain-tops. The leaves did not stir on the trees, grasshoppers
chirruped, and the monotonous hollow sound of the sea rising up from
below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must
have sounded when there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now,
and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all no
more. And in this constancy, in this complete indifference to the life and
death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our eternal
salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing
progress towards perfection. Sitting beside a young woman who in the dawn
seemed so lovely, soothed and spellbound in these magical surroundings --
the sea, mountains, clouds, the open sky -- Gurov thought how in reality
everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except
what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the
higher aims of our existence.
A man walked up to them -- probably a keeper -- looked at them and walked
away. And this detail seemed mysterious and beautiful, too. They saw a
steamer come from Theodosia, with its lights out in the glow of dawn.
"There is dew on the grass," said Anna
Sergeyevna, after a silence. "Yes. It's time
to go home." They went back to the town.
Then they met every day at twelve o'clock on
the sea-front, lunched and dined together, went for walks, admired the
sea. She complained that she slept badly, that her heart throbbed
violently; asked the same questions, troubled now by jealousy and now by
the fear that he did not respect her sufficiently. And often in the square
or gardens, when there was no one near them, he suddenly drew her to him
and kissed her passionately. Complete idleness, these kisses in broad
daylight while he looked round in dread of some one's seeing them, the
heat, the smell of the sea, and the continual passing to and fro before
him of idle, well-dressed, well-fed people, made a new man of him; he told
Anna Sergeyevna how beautiful she was, how fascinating. He was impatiently
passionate, he would not move a step away from her, while she was often
pensive and continually urged him to confess that he did not respect her,
did not love her in the least, and thought of her as nothing but a common
woman. Rather late almost every evening they drove somewhere out of town,
to Oreanda or to the waterfall; and the expedition was always a success,
the scenery invariably impressed them as grand and beautiful.
They were expecting her husband to come, but
a letter came from him, saying that there was something wrong with his
eyes, and he entreated his wife to come home as quickly as possible. Anna
Sergeyevna made haste to go. "It's a good
thing I am going away," she said to Gurov. "It's the finger of destiny!"
She went by coach and he went with her. They
were driving the whole day. When she had got into a compartment of the
express, and when the second bell had rung, she said:
"Let me look at you once more . . . look at
you once again. That's right." She did not
shed tears, but was so sad that she seemed ill, and her face was
"I shall remember you . . . think of you," she said. "God be with you; be
happy. Don't remember evil against me. We are parting forever -- it must
be so, for we ought never to have met. Well, God be with you."
The train moved off rapidly, its lights soon
vanished from sight, and a minute later there was no sound of it, as
though everything had conspired together to end as quickly as possible
that sweet delirium, that madness. Left alone on the platform, and gazing
into the dark distance, Gurov listened to the chirrup of the grasshoppers
and the hum of the telegraph wires, feeling as though he had only just
waked up. And he thought, musing, that there had been another episode or
adventure in his life, and it, too, was at an end, and nothing was left of
it but a memory. . . . He was moved, sad, and conscious of a slight
remorse. This young woman whom he would never meet again had not been
happy with him; he was genuinely warm and affectionate with her, but yet
in his manner, his tone, and his caresses there had been a shade of light
irony, the coarse condescension of a happy man who was, besides, almost
twice her age. All the time she had called him kind, exceptional, lofty;
obviously he had seemed to her different from what he really was, so he
had unintentionally deceived her. . . . Here
at the station was already a scent of autumn; it was a cold evening.
"It's time for me to go north," thought Gurov
as he left the platform. "High time!"
At home in Moscow everything was in its winter
routine; the stoves were heated, and in the morning it was still dark when
the children were having breakfast and getting ready for school, and the
nurse would light the lamp for a short time. The frosts had begun already.
When the first snow has fallen, on the first day of sledge-driving it is
pleasant to see the white earth, the white roofs, to draw soft, delicious
breath, and the season brings back the days of one's youth. The old limes
and birches, white with hoar-frost, have a good-natured expression; they
are nearer to one's heart than cypresses and palms, and near them one
doesn't want to be thinking of the sea and the mountains.
Gurov was Moscow born; he arrived in Moscow on a fine frosty day, and when
he put on his fur coat and warm gloves, and walked along Petrovka, and
when on Saturday evening he heard the ringing of the bells, his recent
trip and the places he had seen lost all charm for him. Little by little
he became absorbed in Moscow life, greedily read three newspapers a day,
and declared he did not read the Moscow papers on principle! He already
felt a longing to go to restaurants, clubs, dinner-parties, anniversary
celebrations, and he felt flattered at entertaining distinguished lawyers
and artists, and at playing cards with a professor at the doctors' club.
He could already eat a whole plateful of salt fish and cabbage.
In another month, he fancied, the image of
Anna Sergeyevna would be shrouded in a mist in his memory, and only from
time to time would visit him in his dreams with a touching smile as others
did. But more than a month passed, real winter had come, and everything
was still clear in his memory as though he had parted with Anna Sergeyevna
only the day before. And his memories glowed more and more vividly. When
in the evening stillness he heard from his study the voices of his
children, preparing their lessons, or when he listened to a song or the
organ at the restaurant, or the storm howled in the chimney, suddenly
everything would rise up in his memory: what had happened on the groyne,
and the early morning with the mist on the mountains, and the steamer
coming from Theodosia, and the kisses. He would pace a long time about his
room, remembering it all and smiling; then his memories passed into
dreams, and in his fancy the past was mingled with what was to come. Anna
Sergeyevna did not visit him in dreams, but followed him about everywhere
like a shadow and haunted him. When he shut his eyes he saw her as though
she were living before him, and she seemed to him lovelier, younger,
tenderer than she was; and he imagined himself finer than he had been in
Yalta. In the evenings she peeped out at him from the bookcase, from the
fireplace, from the corner -- he heard her breathing, the caressing rustle
of her dress. In the street he watched the women, looking for some one
He was tormented by an intense desire to confide his memories to some one.
But in his home it was impossible to talk of his love, and he had no one
outside; he could not talk to his tenants nor to any one at the bank. And
what had he to talk of? Had he been in love, then? Had there been anything
beautiful, poetical, or edifying or simply interesting in his relations
with Anna Sergeyevna? And there was nothing for him but to talk vaguely of
love, of woman, and no one guessed what it meant; only his wife twitched
her black eyebrows, and said: "The part of a
lady-killer does not suit you at all, Dimitri."
One evening, coming out of the doctors' club
with an official with whom he had been playing cards, he could not resist
saying: "If only you knew what a fascinating
woman I made the acquaintance of in Yalta!"
The official got into his sledge and was driving away, but turned suddenly
and shouted: "Dmitri Dmitritch!"
were right this evening: the sturgeon was a bit too strong!"
These words, so ordinary, for some reason
moved Gurov to indignation, and struck him as degrading and unclean. What
savage manners, what people! What senseless nights, what uninteresting,
uneventful days! The rage for card-playing, the gluttony, the drunkenness,
the continual talk always about the same thing. Useless pursuits and
conversations always about the same things absorb the better part of one's
time, the better part of one's strength, and in the end there is left a
life grovelling and curtailed, worthless and trivial, and there is no
escaping or getting away from it -- just as though one were in a madhouse
or a prison. Gurov did not sleep all night,
and was filled with indignation. And he had a headache all next day. And
the next night he slept badly; he sat up in bed, thinking, or paced up and
down his room. He was sick of his children, sick of the bank; he had no
desire to go anywhere or to talk of anything.
In the holidays in December he prepared for a journey, and told his wife
he was going to Petersburg to do something in the interests of a young
friend -- and he set off for S----. What for? He did not very well know
himself. He wanted to see Anna Sergeyevna and to talk with her -- to
arrange a meeting, if possible.
He reached S---- in the morning, and took the best room at the hotel, in
which the floor was covered with grey army cloth, and on the table was an
inkstand, grey with dust and adorned with a figure on horseback, with its
hat in its hand and its head broken off. The hotel porter gave him the
necessary information; Von Diderits lived in a house of his own in Old
Gontcharny Street -- it was not far from the hotel: he was rich and lived
in good style, and had his own horses; every one in the town knew him. The
porter pronounced the name "Dridirits." Gurov
went without haste to Old Gontcharny Street and found the house. Just
opposite the house stretched a long grey fence adorned with nails.
"One would run away from a fence like that,"
thought Gurov, looking from the fence to the windows of the house and back
again. He considered: to-day was a holiday,
and the husband would probably be at home. And in any case it would be
tactless to go into the house and upset her. If he were to send her a note
it might fall into her husband's hands, and then it might ruin everything.
The best thing was to trust to chance. And he kept walking up and down the
street by the fence, waiting for the chance. He saw a beggar go in at the
gate and dogs fly at him; then an hour later he heard a piano, and the
sounds were faint and indistinct. Probably it was Anna Sergeyevna playing.
The front door suddenly opened, and an old woman came out, followed by the
familiar white Pomeranian. Gurov was on the point of calling to the dog,
but his heart began beating violently, and in his excitement he could not
remember the dog's name. He walked up and
down, and loathed the grey fence more and more, and by now he thought
irritably that Anna Sergeyevna had forgotten him, and was perhaps already
amusing herself with some one else, and that that was very natural in a
young woman who had nothing to look at from morning till night but that
confounded fence. He went back to his hotel room and sat for a long while
on the sofa, not knowing what to do, then he had dinner and a long nap.
"How stupid and worrying it is!" he thought when he woke and looked at the
dark windows: it was already evening. "Here I've had a good sleep for some
reason. What shall I do in the night?" He sat
on the bed, which was covered by a cheap grey blanket, such as one sees in
hospitals, and he taunted himself in his vexation:
"So much for the lady with the dog . . . so
much for the adventure. . . . You're in a nice fix. . . ."
That morning at the station a poster in large
letters had caught his eye. "The Geisha" was to be performed for the first
time. He thought of this and went to the theatre.
"It's quite possible she may go to the first
performance," he thought. The theatre was
full. As in all provincial theatres, there was a fog above the chandelier,
the gallery was noisy and restless; in the front row the local dandies
were standing up before the beginning of the performance, with their hands
behind them; in the Governor's box the Governor's daughter, wearing a boa,
was sitting in the front seat, while the Governor himself lurked modestly
behind the curtain with only his hands visible; the orchestra was a long
time tuning up; the stage curtain swayed. All the time the audience were
coming in and taking their seats Gurov looked at them eagerly.
Anna Sergeyevna, too, came in. She sat down
in the third row, and when Gurov looked at her his heart contracted, and
he understood clearly that for him there was in the whole world no
creature so near, so precious, and so important to him; she, this little
woman, in no way remarkable, lost in a provincial crowd, with a vulgar
lorgnette in her hand, filled his whole life now, was his sorrow and his
joy, the one happiness that he now desired for himself, and to the sounds
of the inferior orchestra, of the wretched provincial violins, he thought
how lovely she was. He thought and dreamed. A
young man with small side-whiskers, tall and stooping, came in with Anna
Sergeyevna and sat down beside her; he bent his head at every step and
seemed to be continually bowing. Most likely this was the husband whom at
Yalta, in a rush of bitter feeling, she had called a flunkey. And there
really was in his long figure, his side-whiskers, and the small bald patch
on his head, something of the flunkey's obsequiousness; his smile was
sugary, and in his buttonhole there was some badge of distinction like the
number on a waiter.
During the first interval the husband went away to smoke; she remained
alone in her stall. Gurov, who was sitting in the stalls, too, went up to
her and said in a trembling voice, with a forced smile:
She glanced at him and turned pale, then glanced again with horror, unable
to believe her eyes, and tightly gripped the fan and the lorgnette in her
hands, evidently struggling with herself not to faint. Both were silent.
She was sitting, he was standing, frightened by her confusion and not
venturing to sit down beside her. The violins and the flute began tuning
up. He felt suddenly frightened; it seemed as though all the people in the
boxes were looking at them. She got up and went quickly to the door; he
followed her, and both walked senselessly along passages, and up and down
stairs, and figures in legal, scholastic, and civil service uniforms, all
wearing badges, flitted before their eyes. They caught glimpses of ladies,
of fur coats hanging on pegs; the draughts blew on them, bringing a smell
of stale tobacco. And Gurov, whose heart was beating violently, thought:
"Oh, heavens! Why are these people here and
this orchestra! . . ." And at that instant he
recalled how when he had seen Anna Sergeyevna off at the station he had
thought that everything was over and they would never meet again. But how
far they were still from the end! On the
narrow, gloomy staircase over which was written "To the Amphitheatre," she
stopped. "How you have frightened me!" she
said, breathing hard, still pale and overwhelmed. "Oh, how you have
frightened me! I am half dead. Why have you come? Why?"
"But do understand, Anna, do understand . .
." he said hastily in a low voice. "I entreat you to understand. . . ."
She looked at him with dread, with entreaty,
with love; she looked at him intently, to keep his features more
distinctly in her memory. "I am so unhappy,"
she went on, not heeding him. "I have thought of nothing but you all the
time; I live only in the thought of you. And I wanted to forget, to forget
you; but why, oh, why, have you come?" On the
landing above them two schoolboys were smoking and looking down, but that
was nothing to Gurov; he drew Anna Sergeyevna to him, and began kissing
her face, her cheeks, and her hands.
"What are you doing, what are you doing!" she cried in horror, pushing him
away. "We are mad. Go away to-day; go away at once. . . . I beseech you by
all that is sacred, I implore you. . . . There are people coming this
way!" Some one was coming up the stairs.
"You must go away," Anna Sergeyevna went on
in a whisper. "Do you hear, Dmitri Dmitritch? I will come and see you in
Moscow. I have never been happy; I am miserable now, and I never, never
shall be happy, never! Don't make me suffer still more! I swear I'll come
to Moscow. But now let us part. My precious, good, dear one, we must
part!" She pressed his hand and began rapidly
going downstairs, looking round at him, and from her eyes he could see
that she really was unhappy. Gurov stood for a little while, listened,
then, when all sound had died away, he found his coat and left the
And Anna Sergeyevna began coming to see him in Moscow. Once in two
or three months she left S----, telling her husband that she was going to
consult a doctor about an internal complaint -- and her husband believed
her, and did not believe her. In Moscow she stayed at the Slaviansky
Bazaar hotel, and at once sent a man in a red cap to Gurov. Gurov went to
see her, and no one in Moscow knew of it.
Once he was going to see her in this way on a winter morning (the
messenger had come the evening before when he was out). With him walked
his daughter, whom he wanted to take to school: it was on the way. Snow
was falling in big wet flakes. "It's three
degrees above freezing-point, and yet it is snowing," said Gurov to his
daughter. "The thaw is only on the surface of the earth; there is quite a
different temperature at a greater height in the atmosphere."
"And why are there no thunderstorms in the
winter, father?" He explained that, too. He
talked, thinking all the while that he was going to see her, and no living
soul knew of it, and probably never would know. He had two lives: one,
open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and
of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and
acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through
some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything
that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which
he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the
kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all that was false
in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth -- such,
for instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club, his
"lower race," his presence with his wife at anniversary festivities -- all
that was open. And he judged of others by himself, not believing in what
he saw, and always believing that every man had his real, most interesting
life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal
life rested on secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account that
civilised man was so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be
After leaving his daughter at school, Gurov went on to the Slaviansky
Bazaar. He took off his fur coat below, went upstairs, and softly knocked
at the door. Anna Sergeyevna, wearing his favourite grey dress, exhausted
by the journey and the suspense, had been expecting him since the evening
before. She was pale; she looked at him, and did not smile, and he had
hardly come in when she fell on his breast. Their kiss was slow and
prolonged, as though they had not met for two years.
"Well, how are you getting on there?" he
asked. "What news?" "Wait; I'll tell you
directly. . . . I can't talk." She could not
speak; she was crying. She turned away from him, and pressed her
handkerchief to her eyes. "Let her have her
cry out. I'll sit down and wait," he thought, and he sat down in an
arm-chair. Then he rang and asked for tea to
be brought him, and while he drank his tea she remained standing at the
window with her back to him. She was crying from emotion, from the
miserable consciousness that their life was so hard for them; they could
only meet in secret, hiding themselves from people, like thieves! Was not
their life shattered? "Come, do stop!" he
said. It was evident to him that this love of
theirs would not soon be over, that he could not see the end of it. Anna
Sergeyevna grew more and more attached to him. She adored him, and it was
unthinkable to say to her that it was bound to have an end some day;
besides, she would not have believed it! He
went up to her and took her by the shoulders to say something affectionate
and cheering, and at that moment he saw himself in the looking-glass.
His hair was already beginning to turn grey.
And it seemed strange to him that he had grown so much older, so much
plainer during the last few years. The shoulders on which his hands rested
were warm and quivering. He felt compassion for this life, still so warm
and lovely, but probably already not far from beginning to fade and wither
like his own. Why did she love him so much? He always seemed to women
different from what he was, and they loved in him not himself, but the man
created by their imagination, whom they had been eagerly seeking all their
lives; and afterwards, when they noticed their mistake, they loved him all
the same. And not one of them had been happy with him. Time passed, he had
made their acquaintance, got on with them, parted, but he had never once
loved; it was anything you like, but not love.
And only now when his head was grey he had fallen properly, really in love
-- for the first time in his life. Anna
Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like
husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself
had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a
wife and she a husband; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of
passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each
other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything
in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.
In moments of depression in the past he had
comforted himself with any arguments that came into his mind, but now he
no longer cared for arguments; he felt profound compassion, he wanted to
be sincere and tender. . . . "Don't cry, my
darling," he said. "You've had your cry; that's enough. . . . Let us talk
now, let us think of some plan." Then they
spent a long while taking counsel together, talked of how to avoid the
necessity for secrecy, for deception, for living in different towns and
not seeing each other for long at a time. How could they be free from this
intolerable bondage? "How? How?" he asked,
clutching his head. "How?" And it seemed as
though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and
splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had
still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and
difficult part of it was only just beginning.