The Bracelet of Garnets

A score for the first four bars of Beethoven’s second Sonata (Op. 2, No. 2). The work is scored for piano, and increases gradually in pitch and volume over the bars.
L. van Beethoven, 2 Son. (Op. 2, No. 2)
Largo Appassionato


In the middle of August, just before the birth of the new moon, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse and assumed that disagreeable character which is sometimes characteristic of the northern coast of the Black Sea. Sometimes a heavy fog would hang drearily over land and sea, and then the immense siren of the lighthouse would howl day and night like a mad bull. Sometimes it would rain from morning to morning, and the thickly falling raindrops, as fine as dust, would transform the clayey roads and paths into one continuous sheet of mud, in which the passing wagons and carriages stuck for a long time. Sometimes a hurricane-like wind would begin to blow from the steppes lying toward the northwest, and then the tops of the trees would bend down to the ground, and again sweep up, like waves during a storm; the iron roofs of the country houses would rattle at night, as though someone were walking over them in iron-shod boots, the windowpanes would jingle, the doors snap, and the flues howl dismally. Several fishing barks lost their way in the sea, and two of them never returned to shore; it was only a week later that the bodies of the fishermen were washed ashore in different places.

The inhabitants of the shore resort⁠—which lay on the outskirts of a large city⁠—mostly Greeks and Jews, who, like all people of the south, are fond of comforts, hastened to move to the city. And endless lines of wagons, loaded with mattresses, furniture, trunks, washstands, samovars, and all kinds of household goods, stretched down the muddy road. Sad and pitiable, and even disgusting, was the sight of this procession, as one caught glimpses of it through the thick net of rain, for everything seemed so old and worn out and sordid. Maids and cooks were sitting on top of the tarpaulins that covered the vans, holding flatirons, tin boxes, or baskets in their hands; the sweating, almost exhausted horses stopped every little while, their knees shaking, and a cloud of steam rising from their heaving flanks, while the drivers, all covered with rags for protection against the rain, cursed them hoarsely. But even sadder was the sight of the deserted houses, with their suddenly acquired bareness and emptiness, with their mutilated flowerbeds, broken windowpanes, straying dogs, and piles of refuse consisting of cigarette stumps, pieces of paper, boxes, and medicine-bottles.

But toward the middle of September the weather again changed unexpectedly. The days suddenly became calm and cloudless, bright, warm, and sunny, as they had not been even in July. The fields became dry, and on their yellow bristle glistened the autumn spiderweb, like netted mica. The trees were now dropping their yellow leaves, obediently and silently.

Princess Vera Nikolayevna Sheyin, the wife of the president of the local Assembly of the Nobles, could not leave her country house, because the alterations in their city home had not as yet been completed. And now she was happy over the splendid weather that had set in, over the quiet, the fresh air, the chirping of the swallows that were gathering on the telegraph-wires and forming into flocks for their far journey⁠—happy over the gentle, salty breeze slowly coming from the sea.


Moreover, that day, September 17, happened to be her birthday. She was always fond of that day, as it was connected with happy childhood recollections, and she always expected something miraculous and fortunate to happen on her birthday. This time, before leaving for the city, where he had an urgent engagement, her husband had put on her night table a little case, containing beautiful earrings with shapely pearl pendants, and this present made her still happier.

She was all alone in the house. Her bachelor brother Nikolay, who was living with them, had also gone to the city, as he had to appear in court that morning in his capacity of assistant district attorney. Her husband had promised to bring a few intimate friends for dinner. She thought it was well that her birthday came at the time when they were still in their country home. If it had happened in the city, it would have been necessary to provide a formal banquet, while here, on the seashore, a simple dinner would do just as well. Prince Sheyin, despite his prominence in society, or perhaps because of it, had always found it rather difficult to make his financial ends meet. His immense hereditary estate had been reduced almost to the point of bankruptcy by his predecessors, and he was compelled to live beyond his means: to provide entertainments, give to charity, dress well, keep up a good stable. Princess Vera, whose formerly passionate love for her husband had already become transformed into a feeling of lasting, true, sincere friendship, did everything in her power to help her husband ward off financial disaster. Without letting him know, she refused herself many luxuries and economized in her household management as much as she could.

Just now she was in the garden carefully cutting flowers for the dinner-table. The flowerbeds were almost empty and presented a disordered appearance. The many-colored double carnations were in their last bloom; the gillyflowers already had half of their blossoms transformed into thin, green pods, that smelled like cabbage; the rosebushes were blooming for the third time that summer, and their blossoms and buds were small and far between, as though they were degenerating. Only dahlias, peonies, and asters were coldly and haughtily beautiful in their luxuriant bloom, spreading a sad, grassy, autumnal odor in the air. The other flowers, after their sumptuous love and abundant summer motherhood, were now quietly shedding on the ground the numberless seeds of future life.

The sound of an automobile-horn came from the road. It was Princess Vera’s sister, Anna Nikolayevna Friesse, coming to help her with her preparations, as she had promised over the telephone that morning.

Vera’s accurate ear did not deceive her. A few moments later, a beautiful car stopped at the gates, and the chauffeur, jumping down from his seat, quickly opened the door.

The sisters greeted each other joyfully. From early childhood they had been warmly and closely attached to each other. They were strangely unlike in appearance. Vera was the older of the two, and she was like her mother, a beautiful Englishwoman; she was tall and slender, with a cold and proud face, beautiful, somewhat large hands, and that charming slope of the shoulders which one sometimes meets in old miniatures. Anna, on the other hand, inherited the Mongolian blood of her father, a Tartar prince, whose forebears had embraced Christianity only at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and whose ancestry could be traced back to Tamerlane himself, or Lang-Temir, as the father was fond of calling in the Tartar dialect that great bloody tyrant. She was considerably shorter than her sister, rather broad-shouldered, with a lively and light-minded disposition. Her face was of a pronounced Mongolian type, with rather prominent cheekbones, narrow eyes, which she always screwed up a little because of nearsightedness, with a haughty expression of her small, sensuous mouth, that had a slightly protruding, full lower lip. And yet her face was fascinating with some incomprehensible and elusive charm, which lay perhaps in her smile, perhaps in the deep feminacy of all her features, perhaps in her piquant and coquettish mimicry. Her graceful lack of beauty excited and attracted the attention of men much oftener than her sister’s aristocratic beauty.

She had married a very wealthy and very stupid man, who had absolutely nothing to do, but was nominally connected with some charitable institution and had the title of a gentleman of the Emperor’s bedchamber. She did not like her husband, and had only two children; after the birth of her second child, she decided to have no more. Vera, on the other hand, was very anxious to have children, and the more the better, as it seemed to her, but she had none, and was extremely fond of her sister’s pretty and anaemic children, always polite and obedient, with pale faces and curly, light hair, like that of a doll.

Anna was perfectly happy in her haphazard way of doing things, and she was full of contradictions. She was perfectly willing to engage in most risky flirtations in all the capitals and fashionable resorts of Europe, but she was never unfaithful to her husband, whom she, nevertheless, jeered contemptuously both in his presence and absence; she was extravagant, inordinately fond of gambling and dancing, of exciting experiences, of visits to suspicious cafés, and yet she was remarkable for her generosity and kindness, and for her deep, sincere piety, which had even led her to embrace secretly the Catholic faith. She had a wonderfully beautiful bosom, neck, and shoulders. When dressing for balls, she bared her neck and shoulders beyond the limits set by both propriety and fashion, but it was whispered that despite her low décolleté, she always wore a hair shirt.

Vera was characterized by stern simplicity, cold and somewhat condescending politeness, independence, and majestic calmness.


“Goodness, how beautiful it is here! How beautiful!” Anna was saying this, as she walked rapidly with her sister down the path. “Let us sit on this bench by the precipice for a while, if we may. I haven’t seen the sea for such a long time. The air is so exhilarating it makes my heart glad to breathe it. You know, last summer in Crimea, when we were in Miskhora, I made a marvellous discovery. Do you know what is the odor of the water at high tide? Just imagine, it smells like mignonettes!”

Vera smiled affectionately.

“You are a regular dreamer.”

“Why, no, no, not at all. I remember once, when I said that there is a pinkish tint in moonlight, everybody laughed at me. And only a few days ago, Boritsky, the artist who is painting my portrait, told me that I was right and that artists have known about it for a long time.”

“An artist? Is that your new fad?”

“You always imagine things!” said Anna laughingly, as she rapidly walked up to the brink of the precipice, which was sloping down almost perpendicularly into the sea, glanced over it, and suddenly cried out in horror, jumping away, her face turning pale.

“Goodness, how high it is!” she said in a weak and shaking voice. “When I look down from such a stupendous height, I have such a sweetish and disgusting sensation in my chest.⁠ ⁠… And my toes feel as though they were being pinched.⁠ ⁠… And yet I am drawn, drawn toward it.⁠ ⁠…”

She made a motion as though she were again going to look over the brink of the precipice, but her sister stopped her.

“Anna, dear, please don’t do it. I become dizzy myself, when I see you doing it. Won’t you, please, sit down?”

“All right, all right, here I am.⁠ ⁠… But just look how beautiful it all is; I can’t feast my eyes enough on it. If you only knew how thankful I am to God for having created all these marvels for us!”

The sisters remained thoughtful for a moment. Far, far below, under their feet, spread the calm sea. The shore was not visible from the spot where they were sitting, and this merely emphasized the feeling of illimitable grandeur, produced by the vast sheet of water before them. And the water was gently quiet, joyfully blue, shining with occasional, oblique bands of smoothness, that marked the currents, and changing its color into a deeper blue near the horizon line.

Fishermen’s boats, appearing so small that they were scarcely discernible to the naked eye, seemed plunged in slumber upon the motionless surface of the sea, not far from the shore. And a little farther off, a large, three-mast schooner, covered from top to bottom with white sails monotonously expanded by the wind, seemed to be standing in the air, also motionless.

“I think I understand you,” said Vera thoughtfully. “But I feel differently about it. When I see the sea for the first time, after being away for a considerable period, it agitates me and gladdens me and amazes me. It seems to me as though I were beholding for the first time an enormous, majestic miracle.⁠ ⁠… But after a while, when I become used to it, it begins to oppress me with its flat emptiness.⁠ ⁠… I have no more interest in gazing at it, and even try not to look. I simply become tired of it.”

Anna smiled.

“Why do you smile?”

“You know, last summer,” Anna said mischievously, “a large group of us went on horseback from Yalta to the top of Uch-Kosh, over to the spot above the waterfalls. At first we struck a cloud; it was awfully damp and we could hardly see ahead, but we were still going up and up a steep path, winding among pine-trees. And then suddenly, the pine forest came to an end and we came out of the fog. Just imagine: a narrow platform on the rock, and under our feet a deep abyss. The villages down there seemed like matchboxes, and woods and gardens like thin blades of grass. Everything before us sloped down to the sea, like a geographic map. And beyond it was the sea, stretching out fifty or a hundred miles before us. It seemed to me as though I were hanging in the air, ready to fly. You get a feeling of such beauty, such lightness! I turned back to our guide and said to him in rapture, ‘Isn’t it wonderful, Seid-Ogly?’ and he just smacked his tongue and said: ‘If you only knew, lady, how tired I am of all this. I see it every day.’ ”

“Thanks for the comparison,” said Vera, laughing. “No, but I guess that we northerners can never appreciate the beauties of the sea. I like the woods. Remember the woods in our Yegorovsk? You can never get tired of them. The pines! And the mosses! And the fly-agarics! They look as though they were made of crimson satin and embroidered with tiny white beads. And it is so quiet and cool.”

“I don’t care; I like everything,” answered Anna. “But most of all, I like my dear little sister, my sensible little Vera. We two are alone in the world, aren’t we?”

She embraced her sister and pressed her cheek against Vera’s. Suddenly she jumped up.

“My, how stupid I am! Here we are, sitting together, as they do in stories, talking about nature, while I’ve forgotten all about the present I brought you. Here it is⁠—look! I wonder if you’ll like it?”

She took out of her bag a little notebook with a wonderful cover. On old blue velvet, already worn off and grown gray with age, was embroidered in dull gold a filigreed design of rare complexity, delicacy, and beauty⁠—evidently a work of love, executed by the skilful hands of a patient artist. The notebook was attached to a gold chain, as thin as a thread, and thin ivory tablets were substituted for the leaves inside.

“Isn’t it charming!” exclaimed Vera, kissing her sister. “Thank you ever so much. Where did you get such a treasure?”

“Oh, in an antique shop. You know my weakness for rummaging among all kinds of antiques. And once I came across this prayerbook. See, here is where the design is made in the shape of a cross. Of course, I found only the cover, all the rest, the leaves, the clasps, the pencil, I had to think out myself. But Molliner simply refused to understand what I was trying to tell him. The clasps had to be made the same way as the whole design, of dull, old gold, delicately engraved, and he made this thing of it. But the chain is very ancient, really Venetian.”

Vera stroked the beautiful cover affectionately.

“What deep antiquity! How old do you think this book is?” asked she.

“It would be pretty hard to say. Perhaps the end of the seventeenth century, or the middle of the eighteenth.”

“How strange it is,” said Vera with a thoughtful smile, “that I am holding in my hands an object which may have been touched by the hands of the Marquise de Pompadour, or even Queen Antoinette herself.⁠ ⁠… Do you know, Anna, you must be the only person in the world who could conceive of the mad idea of making a lady’s notebook out of a prayerbook. However, let’s go in and see how things are getting on.”

They went into the house through the large brick piazza, covered on all sides by thickly interlaced vines of grapes. The abundant bunches of black grapes, that had a faint odor of strawberries, hung down heavily amidst dark-green leaves, goldened in spots by the sun. The whole piazza was filled with greenish twilight, which made the faces of the two women appear pale.

“Will you have the dinner served here?” asked Anna.

“I thought of doing that at first. But it is rather cool in the evening now. I guess we shall use the dining-room, and the men can come out here to smoke.”

“Will there be any interesting people?”

“I don’t know yet. But I do know that grandpa is coming.”

“Grandpa! Isn’t that fine!” exclaimed Anna. “It seems to me that I haven’t seen him in ages.”

“Vasily’s sister is coming, and I think Professor Speshnikov. Why, I simply lost my head yesterday, Anna. You know that they both like a good dinner, grandpa and the professor, and you cannot get anything, either here or in the city. Luka has gotten some quails and is trying to do something with them now. The roast beef we got isn’t bad. Alas! the inevitable roast beef. The lobsters, too, are pretty good.”

“Well, that isn’t bad at all. Don’t trouble yourself about that. Still, between us two, you must admit that you like a good dinner yourself.”

“And then we’ll have something rare. The fisherman brought us a sea-cock this morning. It’s a monster.”

Anna, interested in everything that concerned her and did not concern her, immediately expressed a desire to see the sea-cock.

The tall, yellow-faced cook, Luka, brought in a large, oval basin of water, holding it carefully so as not to spill the water on the parquet floor.

“Twelve and a half pounds, your Highness,” said he with that pride which is so characteristic of cooks. “We weighed him a few minutes ago.”

The fish was too large for the basin, and was lying on the bottom, with its tail curled up. Its scales had a golden tint, the fins were of bright-scarlet color, while on either side of the ravenous head was a long, fan-shaped wing of light-blue color. The fish was still alive and was breathing heavily.

Anna touched the head of the fish with her little finger. The animal swept up its tail, and Anna drew her hand away in fright.

“Don’t trouble yourself, your Highness,” said Luka, evidently understanding Vera’s worry. “Everything will be first class. The Bulgarian has just brought two fine cantaloupes. And then, may I ask of your Highness, what kind of sauce to serve with the fish, Tartar or Polish, or just toast in butter?”

“Do as you like,” said the princess.


The guests began to arrive after five o’clock. Prince Vasily Lvovich brought his sister, Ludmila Lvovna Durasova, a stout, kindly, and unusually taciturn woman; a very rich young man, familiarly known in society as Vasuchok, who was famous for his ability to sing, recite poetry, organize charity balls and entertainments; the famous pianist, Jennie Reiter, Princess Vera’s school friend; and Vera’s brother, Nikolay Nikolayevich. Then came Anna’s husband in his automobile, bringing with him the clean-shaven, fat Professor Speshnikov, and the Vice-Governor Von Zeck. The last one to arrive was General Anosov, in a fine hired landau, accompanied by two army officers, Ponomarev, a colonel of the staff, and Lieutenant Bakhtinsky, who was famous in Petersburg as a splendid dancer and cotillon leader.

General Anosov was a stout, tall old man with silver hair. He alighted heavily from his carriage, holding on to it with both hands. Usually he had an ear-tube in his left hand and a walking-stick with a rubber head in the right. He had a large, coarse, red face, with a prominent nose and that kindly, majestic, just a little contemptuous expression in his slightly screwed-up eyes, which is characteristic of brave and simple men, who had often seen mortal danger immediately before their eyes. The two sisters, recognizing him at a distance, ran to the carriage just in time to support him by both arms half in jest and half seriously.

“Just like an⁠ ⁠… archbishop,” said the general in a kindly, hoarse bass.

“Grandpa, grandpa,” said Vera in a tone of light reproach, “we wait for you every day almost, and you never show yourself.”

“Grandpa must have lost all conscience down here in the south,” continued Anna. “Might at least have remembered his goddaughter. Shame on you! You behave like a regular Don Juan, and have forgotten entirely about our existence.”

The general, baring his majestic head, kissed their hands, then kissed their cheeks, and then their hands again.

“Wait, wait⁠ ⁠… girls⁠ ⁠… don’t scold me,” he said, alternating his words with deep sighs, resulting from habitual short breathing. “My word of honor⁠ ⁠… those good-for-nothing doctors⁠ ⁠… bathed my rheumatisms⁠ ⁠… all summer⁠ ⁠… in some kind of⁠ ⁠… jelly.⁠ ⁠… Smells awfully.⁠ ⁠… And wouldn’t let me go.⁠ ⁠… You are the first.⁠ ⁠… Ever so glad⁠ ⁠… to see you.⁠ ⁠… How are you?⁠ ⁠… You’ve become⁠ ⁠… an English lady⁠ ⁠… Vera⁠ ⁠… you look so much⁠ ⁠… like your mother.⁠ ⁠… When are we going to have⁠ ⁠… the christening?”

“Never, I am afraid, grandpa.”

“Don’t despair.⁠ ⁠… Pray to God.⁠ ⁠… And you haven’t changed a bit, Anna.⁠ ⁠… I guess when you are sixty⁠ ⁠… you’ll still be the same prattler. Wait a moment. Let me introduce the officers to you.”

“I had the honor long ago,” said Colonel Ponomarev, bowing.

“I was introduced to the princess in Petersburg,” said the hussar.

“Well, then let me introduce to you, Anna, Lieutenant Bakhtinsky, a fine dancer, a good scrapper, and a first-class cavalryman. Will you get that parcel out of the carriage, Bakhtinsky, please? Well, let’s go now.⁠ ⁠… What’ll you give us tonight, Vera? I tell you, after that treatment⁠ ⁠… I have an appetite⁠ ⁠… like a graduating ensign.”

General Anosov was a war comrade and loyal friend of the late Prince Mirza-Bulat-Tuganovsky. After the prince’s death he transferred all his friendship and affection to the two daughters. He had known them since their early childhood, and was Anna’s godfather. At that time, just as at the time of the story, he was the commandant of the large though almost useless Fortress K., and visited the Tuganovsky house almost every day. The children simply adored him for his presents, for the theatre and circus tickets that he used to get for them, and for the fact that nobody could play with them as the old general did. But his greatest fascination lay in the stories that he told them. For hours at a time, he would tell them of marches and battles, victories and defeats, and death and wounds, and bitter cold; they were slow, simple stories, epic-like in their calm, told between the evening tea and the dreary time when the children would be taken to bed.

According to modern ideas, this fragment of the old days was really a gigantic and picturesque figure. In him were brought together those touching and deep characteristics which are more commonly met with among plain soldiers, and not officers⁠—those unadulterated characteristics of a Russian peasant, which, in proper combination, produce that lofty type which often makes our soldier not only unconquerable, but a martyr, almost a saint⁠—those characteristics of unsophisticated, naive faith, a clear, joyful view of life, cool courage, meekness before the face of death, pity for the conquered, boundless patience, and remarkable physical and moral endurance.

Starting with the Polish campaign, Anosov took part in every war except the one against the Japanese. He would have gone to that war, too, but he was not summoned, and he had a rule, really great in its modesty, which was as follows: “Do not tempt death until you are called upon to do so.” During his whole military career, he not only never had a soldier flogged, but never even struck one. During the Polish uprising he refused to shoot some prisoners, although he was ordered to do so by the commander of the regiment. “When it comes to a spy,” he said, “I would not only have him shot, but, if you will order me, I shall kill him myself. But these are prisoners of war; I can’t do it.” And he said this with such simplicity, so respectfully, without a trace of a challenge, looking his superior straight in the face with his clear eyes, that he was let alone, instead of being himself ordered shot for insubordination.

During the war of 1877⁠–⁠9, he quickly reached the colonel’s rank, although he had received no education, having been graduated, in his own words, from the “bears’ academy.” He took part in the crossing of the Danube, went through the Balkans, took part in the defense of Shipka, and the last attack on Plevna. During this campaign he received one serious wound and four slighter ones, besides receiving serious head lacerations through being struck by the fragment of a grenade. Generals Radetzky and Skobelev knew him personally and treated him with singular respect. It was about him that Skobelev said: “I know an officer who is much braver than I am; it is Major Anosov.”

He returned from the war almost deaf, thanks to the head lacerations, with an injured foot⁠—three of the toes were frozen during the crossing of the Balkans and had to be amputated⁠—with severe rheumatism⁠—the results of his service at Shipka. After two years had passed, it was decided that he should leave active service, but Anosov did not wish to leave. The commander of the district, who still remembered his remarkable bravery displayed during the crossing of the Danube, helped him, and the authorities in Petersburg changed their minds, fearing to hurt the old colonel’s feelings. He was given for life the position of commandant of the Fortress K., which was, as a matter of fact, merely an honorary post.

Everybody in the city knew him and made fun, in a kindly way, of his weaknesses, his habits, and his manner of dressing. He always went about unarmed, in an old-fashioned coat, a cap with large rims and huge straight visor, a walking-stick in his right hand, and an ear-horn in the left; he was always accompanied by two fat, lazy dogs, the tips of whose tongues were forever between their teeth. If, during his morning walks he happened to meet his acquaintances, the passersby would hear blocks away the general’s loud voice and the barking of his dogs.

Like many deaf people, he was very fond of the opera, and sometimes, in the course of a love duet, the whole theatre would hear his loud bass, saying: “Didn’t he take that do clear, the devil take him? Just like cracking a nut.” And the whole theatre would restrain its laughter, while the general himself would be entirely unconscious of the whole thing; he would be sure that he had whispered his opinion to his neighbor.

As the commandant of the fortress, he often visited the guardhouse, accompanied by his loudly breathing dogs. There, spending their time rather pleasantly in playing cards, sipping tea, and telling anecdotes, the imprisoned officers rested from the strenuous duties of army life. He would ask each one attentively for his name, the cause of his arrest, by whom ordered, and the period of time to be spent in confinement. Sometimes he would suddenly praise an officer for a brave, though illegal, act; at other times he would suddenly fall to scolding an officer and his voice would be heard far into the street. But the scolding over, he would always make it a point to inquire where the officer gets his meals and how much he pays for them. And if some poor sublieutenant, sent over from some out-of-the-way place for a long period of imprisonment, would admit to him that because of lack of means he was compelled to eat the soldiers’ fare, Anosov would immediately order meals brought to him from the commandant’s house, which was not more than two hundred steps away from the guardhouse.

It was at K. that he had met the family of Prince Tuganovsky and become so attached to the children that it became a matter of necessity with him to visit them every evening. If it happened sometimes that the young ladies would go somewhere in the evening, or that official duties would keep him in the fortress, he would feel actual distress and find no place for himself in the spacious rooms of his large house. Every summer, he would take a leave of absence and spend a whole month in Yegorovsk, the Tuganovsky estate, which was a distance of fifty versts from K.

All the hidden kindness of his soul and his necessity for heartfelt affection he transferred to these children, especially the girls. He himself had married once, but it was so very long ago that he had forgotten about it. Even before the war, his wife had eloped with a travelling actor, charmed by his velvet cloak and his lace cuffs. The general supported her until her death, but never permitted her to enter his house, despite her numerous attempts at reconciliation and her tearful letters to him. They never had any children.


The evening turned out to be quite warm and calm, so that the candles both in the dining-room and on the piazza were giving steady light. At dinner, it was Prince Vasily Lvovich that provided the entertainment. He had a remarkable way of relating stories, really a method all peculiar to himself. The basis of his story would be an actual occurrence, the hero of which would be someone present or well known to those present, but he would change things around in such a way and tell about them with such a serious face and in such a businesslike tone, that the listeners would be kept in constant laughter. That night he was telling the story of Nikolay Nikolayevich’s unsuccessful courtship for a very beautiful and very rich lady. The truth of the story was that the husband of the lady had refused to divorce her. But in the prince’s narrative, the truth was marvellously blended with the fantastic. In the story, the serious and somewhat haughty Nikolay was made to run through the streets at night in his stockinged feet and his shoes under his arm. A policeman stopped the young man somewhere on the corner and it was only after a long and stormy explanation that Nikolay finally succeeded in proving to the officer of the law that he was the assistant district attorney and not a burglar. The marriage, according to the story, came very near being successfully consummated, but in the very critical moment, a band of perjurers, who were taking part in the case, went on strike, demanding an increase in wages. Both because he was miserly (Nikolay was in reality a little closefisted) and because, as a matter of principle, he was opposed to all kinds of strikes, he refused to grant the increase, citing a definite statute confirmed by the verdict of the appellate division. Then the infuriated perjurers, in reply to the customary question, as to whether anyone knows any reasons why the marriage should not take place, answered in chorus: “We know. Everything that we have deposed under oath is false, and we were forced by the district attorney to tell these lies. As for the husband of this lady, we, as persons well informed about these matters, can say that he is the most respectable man in the world, as chaste as Joseph, and of most angelic kindness.”

Continuing on the road of bridal stories, Prince Vasily did not spare Gustav Ivanovich Friesse, either. He told the story of how Anna’s husband, on the day following the marriage ceremony, demanded police aid in forcing his bride to leave her parents’ home, as she did not have a passport of her own, and compelling her to move to the domicile of her legal husband. The only thing that was true in this anecdote was that, during the first few days of her married life, Anna was compelled to stay with her mother, who was suddenly taken ill, while Vera had to leave for her own home in the south, and during this whole time, Gustav Ivanovich was full of distress and despair.

Everybody laughed. Anna, too, smiled. Gustav Ivanovich laughed louder than anybody else, and his thin face, tightly covered with glistening skin, with his carefully brushed, thin, light hair, and deeply sunk eye-sockets, reminded one of a bare skull, displaying two rows of decayed teeth. He was still enchanted by Anna, just as on the first day of their married life, always tried to sit next to her, to touch her, and looked after her with such an amorous and self-satisfied expression, that one often felt sorry and ill at ease to look at him.

Just before rising from the table, Vera Nikolayevna counted the guests, without really meaning to do it. There were thirteen. She was superstitious, and thought to herself: “Now, that’s bad. How is it that I never thought of it before? And it’s all Vasya’s fault; he didn’t tell me anything over the telephone.”

Whenever friends met either at the Sheyins’ or at the Friesses’, it was customary to play poker, as both sisters were very fond of games of chance. Special rules were even worked out in both homes. Each player was given a certain number of bone counters, and the game continued until all the counters fell into one person’s hands. After that the game automatically came to a close, despite all the protestations of the players. It was forbidden to take additional counters. These stern rules were the result of actual practice, as neither of the sisters knew any bounds in games of chance. In this way, the total loss never aggregated to more than one or two hundred roubles.

A game of poker was organized for that evening, too. Vera, who took no part in it, started to go out to the piazza, where the tea-table was being set, when she was stopped by her maid, who asked her with a somewhat mysterious expression to go with her to the little room adjoining the parlor.

“What is it, Dasha?” asked Princess Vera with displeasure. “Why do you look so stupid? And what is it that you have in your hands?”

Dasha placed a small square parcel on the table. It was carefully wrapped up in white paper and bound with pink ribbon.

“It isn’t my fault, your Highness,” said she, blushing at the scolding. “He came and said⁠ ⁠…”

“Who came?”

“The fellow in the red cap, your Highness. The messenger.”


“He came to the kitchen and put this on the table. ‘Give this to your lady,’ says he, ‘and to nobody but herself.’ And when I asked him whom it is from, he says, ‘Everything is marked there.’ And with that he ran away.”

“Send somebody after him.”

“We can’t do it now, your Highness; he was here a half-hour ago, during the dinner, only I didn’t dare to trouble your Highness.”

“All right. You may go.”

She cut the ribbon with a pair of scissors and threw it into the basket together with the wrapper, upon which her address was written. The parcel proved to be a small case of red velvet, coming evidently from a jewelry store. Vera raised the top lined with light-blue silk and found inside an oval gold bracelet, under which was lying a note prettily folded into an eight-cornered figure. She quickly unfolded the paper. The handwriting seemed familiar to her, but, like a real woman, she pushed the note aside and began to examine the bracelet.

It was made of rather base gold and, while very thick, was evidently empty inside. The whole outer rim was studded with small, old garnets, rather poorly polished. But in the centre of the rim there was a small, peculiar-looking, green stone, surrounded by five beautiful, large garnets, each as large as a pea. When Vera accidentally turned the bracelet so that the five large garnets came under the light of the electric lamp, five crimson lights suddenly flared up before her eyes.

“Like blood!” thought she involuntarily, with a sudden, unexpected alarm.

Then she thought of the letter and opened it again. She read the following lines, written in a beautiful, small hand:

“Your Highness, Princess Vera Nikolayevna:

“I take the courage to send you my modest gift, together with my most respectful congratulations upon this joyous and bright occasion of your birthday.”

“Oh, it’s the same man again,” thought the princess with displeasure. Still, she finished the letter:

“I should never had dared to send you as a gift anything chosen by myself, as I have neither the right nor the taste, nor⁠—I admit⁠—the money for this. Moreover, I am sure that there is not a treasure in the world which would be worthy of adorning you.

“But this bracelet was the property of my great-grandmother and was worn last by my late mother. In the middle, among the large stones, you will see a green one. This is a very rare kind of garnet, a green garnet. According to an old tradition, still believed in by our family, it has the property of rendering prophetic the women who carry it and driving away all their painful thoughts, while with men it is a talisman that protects them from violent death.

“All the stones have been carefully transferred from the old silver bracelet, and you may be certain that no one before you had ever worn this bracelet.

“You may immediately throw away this ludicrous toy, or give it to somebody, but I will still be happy when thinking of the fact that your hands touched it.

“I beg you not to be angry with me. I blush at the recollection of the insolence which led me, seven years ago, to write you foolish and wild letters and even to expect you to reply to them. Now nothing remains in me but reverence, eternal devotion, and slavish loyalty. Now I can only wish for your happiness every minute of my life, and to be joyful in the knowledge of your happiness. In my thoughts I bow to the ground before the chairs on which you sit, the floor on which you walk, the trees which you touch, the maid with whom you speak. I do not even envy either human beings or inanimate things.

“Once more I beg your forgiveness for having troubled you with this long and unnecessary letter.

“Your obedient servant, unto death and beyond the grave, G. S. Z.

“I wonder if I ought to show this to Vasya? And if I ought to, would it be better to do it now, or after everybody is gone? No, I guess I’ll wait until everybody is gone; if I do it now, not only this unfortunate fellow will appear ridiculous, but I also.”

So thought Princess Vera as she gazed upon the five crimson lights trembling beneath the surface of the five garnets, unable to turn her gaze away.


It took some time to convince Colonel Ponomarev that he ought to play poker. He said that he did not know the game, that he did not believe in playing games of chance even for fun, that the only games he played with any degree of success were of the milder varieties. Still, he gave in in the end and agreed to learn.

At first he had to be shown every little thing, but it did not take him long to master the rules of poker, and at the end of less than half an hour, all the counters were already in his hands.

“You can’t do that!” said Anna with comical displeasure. “Why didn’t you give us a chance to have a little fun at least?”

Three of the guests, Speshnikov, the colonel, and the vice-governor, a rather stupid and uninteresting German, really couldn’t find anything to do, and Vera was at a loss to provide some kind of entertainment for them. At last she succeeded in getting them to play cards, inviting Gustav Ivanovich to be the fourth partner. Anna looked at her sister and, as if in sign of her gratitude, she lowered her long lashes, and the sister immediately understood her. Everybody knew that if Gustav Ivanovich were not made to play cards, he would keep close to his wife’s side all the time, really spoiling the evening for her.

Now everything ran smoothly and interestingly. Vasuchok was singing popular Italian songs and Rubinstein’s “Eastern Melodies,” accompanied by Jennie Reiter. His voice was not very strong, but it was pleasant and well trained. Jennie Reiter, who was a fine musician herself, was always glad to accompany him. Moreover, it was whispered that Vasuchok was in love with her.

In the corner Anna was flirting with the hussar. Vera walked over to them and began to listen to their conversation with a smile.

“Now, now, please don’t make fun of me,” Anna was saying, smiling with her pretty, Tartar eyes. “Of course, you consider it hard work to gallop in front of your squadron as though you were mad, or to take part in horse-races. But just look at what we have to do. It was only a few days ago that we finally got through with the lottery. You think that was easy, don’t you? My goodness, there was such a crowd there and everybody was smoking and annoying me with all sorts of complaints.⁠ ⁠… And I had to be on my feet the whole day long. And then there is going to be a charity concert for the relief of poor working women, and then a ball.⁠ ⁠…”

“At which, I hope, you will not refuse to dance the mazurka with me?” said Bakhtinsky, jingling his spurs under the chair.

“Thanks.⁠ ⁠… But my main trouble is our asylum, the asylum for depraved children, you know.”

“Oh, yes, I know. It must be awfully funny?”

“Stop it, aren’t you ashamed of yourself, to make fun of such things? But do you know what our main trouble is? We want to take care of these unfortunate children, whose souls are full of hereditary vices and evil examples, we want to take care of them.⁠ ⁠…”


“… to raise their morality, to awaken in their souls the realization of their duties. Do you understand that? Well, every day hundreds and thousands of children are brought to us, and there is not a single depraved child among them! And if we ask the parents whether their child is depraved or not, why, they even get insulted. And there you are, the asylum is all equipped, everything is ready, and not a single inmate. Why, it looks as though we would have to offer a premium for every depraved child brought to us.”

“Anna Nikolayevna,” said the hussar in a serious, though almost insinuating, tone, “why offer the prize? Take me. Upon my word you won’t be able to find a more depraved child than myself.”

“Oh, stop that! You can’t speak seriously about anything,” laughed she, throwing herself back in the chair.

Prince Vasily Lvovich, sitting at a large, round table, was showing his sister, Anosov, and his brother-in-law an album of comical pictures drawn by himself. The four were laughing heartily over the album and this gradually attracted the other guests who were not busy with card-playing.

The album served as a sort of supplement to the satirical stories told by Prince Vasily. With his usual calmness, he was showing for example, “The History of the Love Affairs of the Great General Anosov, Perpetrated in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Other Countries”; or else, “The Adventures of Prince Nikolay-Bulat-Tuganovsky in Monte Carlo,” etc.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, you will see the brief life story of our beloved sister, Ludmila Lvovna,” said he, glancing quickly at his sister. “Part One. Childhood. ‘The child grew, and it was called Lima.’ ”

On the sheet of the album was drawn the figure of a small girl with her face in profile, yet showing two eyes, with broken lines for her legs and long, extended fingers on her hands.

“Nobody ever called me Lima,” laughed Ludmila Lvovna.

“Part Two. Her First Love. A cadet presents the maiden with poetry of his own creation. He is seen kneeling before her. The poetry contains real gems. Here is an example:

“ ‘Your foot, so beautiful and dainty⁠—
A sign of passion sent from Heaven!’

“And here is an actual representation of the foot.

“And in this picture the cadet induces the innocent Lima to elope with him. This is the elopement. And this is the critical situation; the enraged father catches up with the elopers. The cadet, through cowardice, blames everything on poor Lima, in the following lines:

“ ‘You spent an extra hour with rouge and powder,
And now the pursuers are upon us.
Do anything you like, get yourself out of the scrape,
I run away into the nearest bushes.’ ”

The life story of Lima was followed by a new story, entitled, “Princess Vera and the Enamoured Telegraphist.”

“This touching poem has only been illustrated with pen and ink, and in colors,” explained Vasily Lvovich seriously. “The text has not been prepared as yet.”

“That’s something new,” remarked Anosov. “I’ve never seen this before.”

“The latest news. Just out on the market.”

Vera touched his arm.

“Do not show it,” said she.

But Vasily Lvovich either did not hear her, or did not pay attention to her words.

“The beginning of this story runs back into times prehistoric. One beautiful day in May, a maiden by the name of Vera received a letter with two kissing pigeons at the top of the sheet. This is the letter and these are the pigeons.

“The letter contained a declaration of love, written with absolute defiance of all rules of spelling. It begins like this, ‘Oh, beautiful blonde lady, you, who⁠ ⁠… raging sea of flame seething within my bosom.⁠ ⁠… Your glance, like a poisonous snake, has pierced my suffering soul.⁠ ⁠…’ At the end of the letter, there was the following modest signature: ‘According to my branch of service, I am only a poor telegraphist, but my feelings are worthy of the great Lord George. I dare not disclose my full name, as it is not fit to be pronounced. Therefore I sign this with my initials only, viz. P. P. Z. Please address your reply to General Delivery.’ And here, ladies and gentlemen, you can behold the picture of the telegraphist himself, very skilfully done in colors.

“Vera’s heart is pierced. Here is the heart and here, the arrow. But, being a well-behaved and well-brought-up girl, she showed the letter to her parents and also to her friend to whom she was already engaged, a very handsome young man by the name of Vasya Sheyin. This is the illustration. At some future time it will be accompanied by explanation in verse.

“Vasya Sheyin weeps with grief and returns Vera her ring. ‘I dare not stand in the way of your happiness,’ says he, ‘but I implore you not to do anything hastily. Think well before you act. My child, you know not life, and like a butterfly you are flying into the flames. While I, alas! I know well the cold and hypocritical world! Let me warn you that telegraphists are fascinating but crafty. They find inexpressible joy in deceiving their inexperienced victim with their proud beauty and false feelings, and then mocking her most cruelly.’

“Six months go by. In the midst of life’s tempestuous dance, Vera forgets her admirer and is married to handsome young Vasya, but the telegraphist does not forget her. He disguises himself as a flue cleaner and makes his way to Princess Vera’s room. You can still see the traces of his five fingers and two lips on the carpets, the cushions, the wallpaper, and even the parquet floor.

“Then he disguises himself as a peasant woman and is hired as a dishwasher. But the excessive attentions of our cook make him flee.

“Now he is in the lunatic asylum. And now he enters the monastery. But every day, without fail, he sends passionate letters to Vera. And you can still see the blots on the parts of the sheets where his tears fell.

“Finally he dies and before his death wills to Vera two brass buttons torn off his coat and a perfume bottle filled with his tears.⁠ ⁠…”

“Who wants tea?” asked Vera Nikolayevna.


The autumn sun had already set. The last red, thin band of light that was still burning on the horizon line between the dark cloud and the earth disappeared at last. Neither the earth, nor the trees, nor the sky were visible any more. Only the large stars overhead twinkled, and a bluish beam of light rose upward from the lighthouse and spread out into a circle of dull light, as though breaking against the dome of the sky. The night butterflies were flying around the glass covers of the candles. The star-shaped white flowers in the garden had a stronger odor in the midst of the darkness and coolness.

Speshnikov, the vice-governor, and Colonel Ponamarev had left some time ago and promised to send the carriage back from the station to take the commandant over. The remaining guests sat on the piazza. Despite his protests, the general was compelled to put on an overcoat and to agree to have his feet covered with a rug. A bottle of his favorite red Pommard wine was standing before him, while the two sisters were sitting by his side, filling his glass with the old wine, slicing the cheese for him, and striking matches to light his cigar. The old commandant was completely happy.

“Y‑yes.⁠ ⁠… Autumn is here, all right,” he was saying, gazing at the candle flame and thoughtfully shaking his head. “It’s time for me to get back. And I must say, I don’t feel like going. Now is the best time to live at the seashore, in quiet and calm.⁠ ⁠…”

“Why don’t you stay with us, grandpa?” said Vera.

“Can’t do it, my dear, can’t do it. Service won’t let me. My furlough is over.⁠ ⁠… How I should like to stay here, though! The roses have such a fine odor now. In summer only the acacia has any odor, and it smells more like candy.”

Vera took two small roses out of a vase and inserted them into the buttonhole of the general’s coat.

“Thank you, Vera.” Anosov bent his head, smelled the flowers, and then smiled with that fine smile of his.

“This reminds me of how we came to Bukharest. Once I was walking in the street, when a very strong odor of roses stopped me. In front of me were two soldiers holding a beautiful cut-glass bottle of rose oil. They had already rubbed their boots with it and oiled their rifle locks. ‘What have you got there?’ I asked them. ‘Some kind of oil, your Honor. We tried to use it in cooking, but it doesn’t work. And it smells fine!’ I gave them a rouble, and they were very glad to part with the bottle. Although the bottle was no more than half full, the way prices stood then, the oil was worth at least sixty roubles. The soldiers, greatly pleased with the bargain, added: ‘And here is some kind of Turkish peas, your Honor. We tried to cook them but they are as hard as before.’ It was coffee. I said to them: ‘This is good only for the Turks, it will never do for our soldiers!’ It was luck that they didn’t eat any opium. I saw opium tablets in several places.”

“Grandpa, tell me frankly,” said Anna, “were you ever afraid during battles?”

“That’s a funny question to ask, Anna. Of course I was afraid. Don’t you believe the people who tell you that they are not afraid and that the whistle of bullets is the sweetest music in the world to them. A man like that is either crazy or else he is boasting. Everybody is afraid. Only one fellow will lose all self-control, and another holds himself well in hand. You see, the fear always remains the same, but the ability to hold yourself in hand develops with practice; that’s why we have heroes and great men. And yet, there was one occasion when I was almost frightened to death.”

“Won’t you tell us about it, grandpa?” asked both sisters together. They were still fond of listening to Anosov’s stories, just as they had been in early childhood. Anna even placed her elbows on the table and rested her chin on the palms of her hands, just as she had done when she was a child. There was a peculiar charm in his slow and artless manner of narrating. Even the phraseology with which he narrated his reminiscences often assumed a peculiarly awkward, somewhat bookish character. Sometimes it seemed that he had learned a story in some dear old volume.

“It isn’t a long story,” said Anosov. “It was in winter, at Shipka, after I was wounded in the head. There were four of us living in a dugout, and it was there that a peculiar thing happened to me. One morning, as I was getting up, it suddenly appeared to me that my name was not Yakov but Nikolay, and I could not possibly convince myself of the fact that it was Yakov. I realized that I was losing my senses and cried for some water, with which I moistened my head, and that brought me back to myself.”

“I can just imagine how many conquests you made among the women there, Yakov Mikhailovich,” said Jennie Reiter. “You must have been very handsome in your youth.”

“Oh, our grandpa is still handsome!” exclaimed Anna.

“No, I guess I never was very handsome,” said Anosov, with a quiet smile. “But I was never disliked, overmuch, either. A rather touching incident occurred in Bukharest. When we entered the city, the inhabitants met us with salutes of cannon from the public square, which damaged many windowpanes. But the windows, on whose sills stood glasses of water, were not damaged. And this is how I found it out. When I came to the house to which I was billeted, I saw a small cage over which stood a large cut-glass bottle, filled with water. There were fishes swimming in the water, and among them sat a canary. That astonished me. But when I looked closely, I saw that the bottom of the bottle was so blown that it formed an arched space over the open top of the cage, and the canary could fly in and sit on a perch. Afterward I admitted to myself that I was rather slow in grasping things.

“I went into the house and saw a beautiful little Bulgarian girl. I showed her my card, and asked her, by the way, why their windowpanes were not broken. She said that it was on account of the water, and explained to me about the canary, too. That’s how slow I was! Well, during our conversation, our eyes met, and a spark passed between us, just like electricity, and I felt I had fallen in love with her, ardently and irrecoverably.”

The old man became silent for a moment, and slowly sipped the dark wine.

“But you told her of your love, didn’t you?” asked the pianist.

“Hm.⁠ ⁠… Of course.⁠ ⁠… But without⁠ ⁠… words.⁠ ⁠… This is how it happened.⁠ ⁠…”

“Grandpa, I hope you won’t make us blush?” said Anna with a mischievous smile.

“No, no. It is a very decent story. You see, wherever we came the inhabitants of the cities were not equally cordial and responsive. But in Bukharest, they treated us so well that when I started playing the violin once, the girls began to dance, and we repeated this every day.

“One evening, when we were dancing in the moonlight, I went into the hall, and my Bulgarian girl was there. When she saw me, she pretended that she was sorting dry rose-leaves, whole sacks of which were gathered there. But I embraced her and kissed her several times.

“Well, every time the moon and stars appeared in the sky, I hastened to my beloved and with her forgot all my troubles. And when I had to leave, we swore eternal love, and parted forever.”

“Is that all?” asked Ludmila Lvovna, plainly disappointed.

“What more would you want?” replied the commandant.

“You will excuse me, Yakov Mikhailovich, but that was not love; only an ordinary military adventure.”

“Don’t know, my dear, don’t know whether that was love, or some other feeling.⁠ ⁠…”

“But now, tell me, didn’t you ever love with real, true love? You know, love which is⁠ ⁠… well, holy, pure, eternal, heavenly.⁠ ⁠… Didn’t you ever love that way?”

“I really don’t know what to say,” answered the old man hesitatingly, rising from his chair. “I guess I never did love that way. At first, I had no time: youth, cards, wine, the war.⁠ ⁠… It seemed that there would never be an end to life, youth, and health. But before I had time to turn around, I was already a wreck.⁠ ⁠… And now, Vera, don’t keep me any longer. Hussar,” said he, turning to Bakhtinsky, “the night is warm. Let’s walk a little way; we’ll meet the carriage.”

“I’ll go with you, grandpa,” said Vera.

“And I, too,” added Anna.

Before they went away, Vera said to her husband, in a low voice:

“Go up to my room. There is a red case in the drawer of the table, and a note inside. Read it.”


Anna and Bakhtinsky walked ahead, while the commandant and Vera followed, arm in arm, about twenty paces behind. The night was so black that during the first few minutes, before the eyes became accustomed to the darkness after the light of the rooms, it was necessary to feel for the road with the foot. Anosov, who, despite his age, still had very sharp eyes, had to help his companion every little while. From time to time, with his large, cold hand, he stroked affectionately Vera’s hand, that lay lightly on the bend of his overcoat sleeve.

“Isn’t Ludmila Lvovna queer?” suddenly said the general, as if continuing his thought aloud. “I have often noticed that when a woman is fifty, and especially if she is a widow or an old maid, she always likes to make fun of other people’s love. Either she is spying, or gossiping, or rejoicing at other people’s misfortunes, or trying to make others happy, or spreading verbal glue about the higher love. And I say that in our times people don’t know how to love. I don’t see any real love. Didn’t see any in my time, either.”

“Now, now, grandpa,” Vera retorted softly, pressing his hand a little, “why slander yourself? You were married, too. That means that you were in love, doesn’t it?”

“Doesn’t mean anything of the sort, Vera. Do you know how I got married? I saw her, such a fresh, naive girl, you know. And when she breathed, her bosom rose and fell under her waist. She would lower her long, long eyelashes, and suddenly blush. And her skin was so delicate and white, and her hands so warm and soft. Oh, the devil! And papa and mamma walk around, looking at you with such doglike eyes. And when you’d go away, she’d kiss you just once or twice behind the door. And at tea, her foot would touch yours, as though by accident.⁠ ⁠… Well, the thing was done.⁠ ⁠… ‘My dear Nikita Antonych, I came to ask you for your daughter’s hand. Believe me, she is a saint and⁠ ⁠…’ And papa’s eyes are already wet, and he is ready to kiss me. ‘My dear boy, we have been expecting it for a long time.⁠ ⁠… God bless you.⁠ ⁠… Take good care of your treasure.⁠ ⁠…’ Well, three months after the wedding, the ‘sainted treasure’ was already running about the house in a dirty kimono, with slippers on her bare feet, with her thin, uncombed hair all in curl-paper, flirting with servants like a cook, making faces at young officers, talking to them in a strange way, rolling her eyes. In the presence of others, she would insist on calling me ‘Jacque,’ and pronouncing the word with a funny nasal sound. And she was so extravagant, and greedy, and dirty, and false. And I knew that she was always lying with her eyes.⁠ ⁠… Now it is all over, and I can talk about it calmly. In my heart, I am even thankful to that actor.⁠ ⁠… Thank God, there were no children.⁠ ⁠…”

“But you forgave them, grandpa, didn’t you?”

“Forgave? No, that’s not the word, Vera. At first I was like mad. If I had met them then, I would have killed them both, of course. And then, by and by, I calmed down, and nothing remained but contempt. And it was well. God spared me unnecessary bloodshed. And besides, I escaped the usual lot of husbands. What would I have been if it were not for this disgusting business? A beast of burden, a shameful conniver, a cow to be milked, a screen, a convenient piece of household goods.⁠ ⁠… No! It was better that way, Vera.”

“No, no, grandpa. You will forgive me, but I think that it is your outraged feelings that still speak in you.⁠ ⁠… You transfer your unfortunate experience to the rest of mankind. Take Vasya and me, for instance. You would not call our married life unfortunate, would you?”

Anosov was silent for a long time. Then he said slowly, almost unwillingly:

“Well⁠ ⁠… let us say⁠ ⁠… that you are an exception.⁠ ⁠… But look, why do most people marry? Take a woman. She is ashamed of remaining an old maid when all her friends are married. She does not want to remain a burden on her family, wants to be independent, to live for herself.⁠ ⁠… And then, of course, there is the purely physiological necessity of motherhood. Men have other motives. In the first place, he is tired of single life, of lack of order in his room, of restaurants, dirt, cigarette-stumps, torn clothes, debts, unceremonious friends, and so on. In the second place, it is better, healthier, and more economical to live a family life. In the third place, he thinks of the possible children, and says to himself: ‘I shall die, but a part of me will still remain behind.⁠ ⁠…’ Something like the illusion of immortality. Then, again, there is the temptation of innocence, as with me, for instance. Sometimes men think of the dowry. But where is love, disinterested, self-sacrificing, expecting no reward⁠—the love about which it has been said that it is ‘more powerful than death’? Where is the love, for which it is joy, and not labor, to make a sacrifice, give up life, suffer pains? Wait, wait, Vera, I know that you are going to tell me about your Vasya. Yes, I like him. He is a good fellow. And, perhaps, in the future, his love will appear in the light of great beauty. But, think of the kind of love I mean. Love must be a tragedy, the greatest mystery in the world! No life comforts, calculations, or compromises must ever affect it.”

“Did you ever see such love, grandpa?” asked Vera quietly.

“No,” said the old man decisively. “I do know of two cases somewhat like it, though. Still, one of them was the result of foolishness, and the other⁠ ⁠… of weakness. I’ll tell you about them, if you like. It won’t take long.”

“Please, grandpa.”

“Well, the colonel of one of the regiments of our division (not of mine, though) had a wife. The ugliest-looking thing imaginable. Red-haired, and bony, and long, and with a big, big mouth.⁠ ⁠… Plastering used to come from her face, as though it were the wall of an old Moscow residence. You know the kind: temperamental, imperious, full of contempt for everybody, and a passion for variety. A morphine fiend into the bargain.

“Well, once, in the fall, a newly baked ensign was sent to the regiment, a regular yellow-mouthed sparrow just out of a military school. In a month’s time, the old mare had him under her thumb. He was her page, and her servant, and her slave; always danced with her, carried her fan and handkerchief, rushed out into the cold to call her carriage. It is an awful thing when a clean-minded and innocent boy lays his first love at the feet of an old, experienced, and imperious libertine. Even if he comes out unhurt, you can still count him as lost. It’s a stamp for life.

“Toward Christmas, she was already tired of him. She went back to one of her former passions. But he couldn’t give her up. He would trail her, like a ghost. He grew thin and dark. Using exalted language, ‘death already lay upon his lofty brow.’ He was terribly jealous of everybody. It was said that he used to stand for whole nights under her window.

“Once, in the spring, their regiment had an outing or a picnic. I knew both her and him personally, although I was not present when it happened. As usual everybody drank a good deal. They were coming back on foot, along the railroad-tracks. Suddenly a freight-train appeared, coming toward them. It was going up a steep slope, very slowly, signalling all the time. And when the headlights were already very near, she whispered in the ensign’s ears: ‘You always say that you love me. And if I were to order you to throw yourself under the train, I am sure you wouldn’t do it.’ He never said a word, but rushed right under the train. They say that he had calculated correctly to land between the front and the rear wheels of a car, so as to be cut in half, but some idiot started holding him back. Only he wasn’t strong enough to pull the ensign off the rail, which he clutched with his hands. So both of his hands were lopped off.”

“How horrible!” exclaimed Vera.

“The ensign had to leave service. His friends got a little money together and helped him go away. He couldn’t stay in the city and be a constant living reproach to her and the whole regiment. And the man was lost in the most scoundrelly manner; he became a beggar and froze to death somewhere near the Petersburg piers.⁠ ⁠…

“The other case was really pitiful. The woman was of the same sort as the other, only young and pretty. And she behaved very, very badly. It disgusted even us, although we were used to regarding these home romances rather lightly. The husband knew everything and saw everything, but never said a word. His friends hinted about it, but he just said: ‘Oh, let it alone. It is none of my business. As long as Lenochka is happy.⁠ ⁠…’ Such a jackass!

“Finally she tied up with Lieutenant Vishniakov, a subaltern in their company. And so they lived, two husbands and one wife⁠—as though that were the accepted form of wedlock. Then our regiment was sent to war. Our ladies came to see us off, and it was really a shame to look at her. Out of plain decency, she might have looked at her husband at least once. But no, she hung around her lieutenant’s neck, like the devil on a dead willow. When we were in the train, she had the insolence to say to her husband: ‘Remember that you must take care of Volodya. If anything should happen to him, I’ll go away from home and never come back. And I’ll take the children with me.’

“And you might think that this captain was some weakling? A rag? A coward? Not at all. As brave a soldier as ever there was. At Green Mountain he led his men six times to attack the Turkish redoubt. Out of his two hundred men only fourteen remained. He himself was wounded twice, and still refused to go to the hospital. That’s the kind of a fellow he was. His men simply adored him.

“But she told him.⁠ ⁠… His Lenochka told him!

“And he looked after this coward and drone, Vishniakov, like a nurse, like a mother. At night, when they had to sleep in the mud, he covered him with his own coat. He used to take his place when it came to sapper work, while the lieutenant stayed in bed or played cards. At night he took his place at inspecting the outposts. And at that time, Vera, the bashi-bazouks cut down our pickets, as a peasant woman cuts cabbage-heads. I tell you, we all heaved a sigh of relief when we learned that Vishniakov died of typhoid fever.⁠ ⁠…”

“Grandpa, and have you met any women who really loved?”

“Oh, yes, surely, Vera. And I’ll say even more. I am sure that every woman is capable of the loftiest heroism in her love. When she kisses a man, embraces him, becomes his wife, she is already a mother. If she loves, love for her is the whole purpose of life, the whole universe. It is not her fault that love has assumed such disgusting forms and has become degraded simply to a small amusement, a sort of convenience. It is men’s fault, for they become satiated at twenty, and live on, with bodies like those of chickens, and souls like those of hares, incapable of powerful desires, of heroic deeds, of adoration before love. People say that it was different before. And if it wasn’t, did not the best human minds and souls dream of it⁠—the poets, the novelists, the artists, the musicians? A few days ago, I read the story of Manon Lescaut and Cavalier de Grieux.⁠ ⁠… Would you believe me that I wept over it? Now tell me truly, doesn’t every woman, in her inmost soul, dream of such a love, which is all-forgiving, modest, self-sacrificing, self-denying?”

“Oh, surely, surely, grandpa.⁠ ⁠…”

“And if they do not have love like that, women take vengeance. Another thirty years will go by.⁠ ⁠… I shall not see it, but you, Vera, may. In some thirty years from now, women will have an unheard-of power. They will be dressed like Hindu idols. They will trample us men under foot, like contemptible, cringing slaves. Their mad fancies and whims will become painful laws for us. And all this will come about because, in the course of whole generations, we had not learned to adore love. That will be the revenge. You know the law of action and reaction, don’t you?”

After a moment’s silence, he suddenly asked:

“Tell me, Vera, if it isn’t too hard, what kind of a story is that one about the telegraphist, the one that Prince Vasily told tonight? How much of it is truth, and how much is just imagination, as in all his stories?”

“Does it interest you, grandpa?”

“Just as you like, Vera. If you wouldn’t like.⁠ ⁠…”

“Why, no, not at all. I should be very glad to tell you.”

And she told the commandant how some madman began to annoy her with his love two years before her marriage. She had never seen him and did not know his name. He only wrote to her, and signed his letters “G. S. Z.” In one of the letters he mentioned the fact that he was a petty official in some government institution⁠—he had never said anything about being a telegraphist. He was evidently watching all her movements, as in his letters he mentioned accurately the places that she had visited, as well as the dresses she had worn. At first the letters were rather vulgar and curiously passionate. But once Vera sent him a note (this fact should not be mentioned at home, as no one there knows about it), asking him to stop annoying her with his declarations of love. From that time on he never mentioned his love, and wrote but seldom, on New Year’s Day, Easter, and her birthday. Princess Vera told Anosov also about that morning’s present and repeated, almost word for word, the strange letter of her mysterious admirer.⁠ ⁠…

“Ye‑es,” said the general slowly, when she had finished. “Perhaps this fellow is mad, a plain maniac. But then, who knows? Perhaps your life path has been crossed by the kind of love of which all women dream, and of which men are incapable nowadays? Don’t you see any lights over there? That must be my carriage.”

At the same time, the loud snorting of an automobile was heard from behind, and the rough road shone with white acetylene light. It was Gustav Ivanovich’s car.

“I took your things along, Anna. Get in,” said he. “Won’t you allow me to take you over, your Excellency?”

“No, thanks,” said the general. “I don’t like that machine. It only shakes you up and has all sorts of smells, but you can’t enjoy it. Well, good night, Vera. I am going to come often now,” added he, kissing Vera’s hand and forehead.

They parted. Mr. Friesse brought Vera Nikolayevna to the gates of her home, then swung his car around and disappeared in the darkness, together with his snorting and howling automobile.


It was with an unpleasant feeling that Princess Vera came up the steps of the piazza and entered the house. Even at a distance she heard the loud voice of her brother Nikolay, and when she came nearer to the house she saw him walking rapidly from one end of the room to the other. Vasily Lvovich was sitting at the card-table and, his large, light-haired head bent over the table, was drawing figures on the green cloth.

“Haven’t I been insisting on it for a long time?” Nikolay was saying angrily, making a gesture with his right hand as though he was trying to throw a heavy object on the floor. “Haven’t I been insisting for a long time that this whole history of foolish letters must come to an end? Even before you and Vera were married, when I was assuring you that you were both merely amusing yourselves like children, and saw nothing but fun and amusement in them.⁠ ⁠… Oh, here is Vera herself.⁠ ⁠… Why, we were just talking with Vasily Lvovich, about that crazy fellow of yours, that P. P. Z. I consider this correspondence both insolent and disgusting.”

“There was no correspondence at all,” interrupted Prince Sheyin coldly. “He was the only one that wrote.”

Vera blushed at this and sat down on the couch in the shadow of the large house plant.

“I apologize for using that expression,” said Nikolay Nikolayevich and again threw to the ground some invisible, heavy object which he seemed to have torn away from his chest.

“And I do not understand at all why you insist on calling him mine,” added Vera, glad of her husband’s support. “He is just as much yours as mine.”

“All right, I apologize again. But at any rate what I want to say is that it is time to put an end to all this nonsense. It seems to me that things have gone beyond the limit within which one can laugh and draw funny pictures. And believe me, if there is anything that I am worrying about just now, it is the good name of Vera, and yours, too, Vasily Lvovich.”

“Oh, I am afraid that is putting the thing a little bit too strong, Kolya,” replied Sheyin.

“That’s possible, but both of you run a risk of finding yourselves in a very funny situation.”

“I do not see how,” said the prince.

“Just imagine that this idiotic bracelet,” Nikolay picked up the red case from the table and immediately replaced it with a gesture of aversion, “that this monstrous trinket will remain in your hands, or we shall throw it away, or give it to the maid. Then, in the first place, P. P. Z. can boast to his friends of the fact that Princess Vera Nikolayevna Sheyin accepts his presents, and in the second place, he might be encouraged to repeat the same feat. Tomorrow he might send you a diamond ring, the day after tomorrow, a pearl necklace, and then, all of a sudden, he will find himself on trial for embezzlement or forgery, and Prince Sheyin together with his wife will have to appear as witnesses at the trial. That would be a fine situation, indeed.”

“Oh, no, the bracelet must be sent back at once!” exclaimed Vasily Lvovich.

“I think so, too,” said Vera, “and the sooner the better. But how are you going to do it? We know neither his name nor his address.”

“That’s a very small matter,” replied Nikolay Nikolayevich contemptuously. “We know his initials, P. P. Z. Is not that right, Vera?”

G. S. Z.

“That’s fine. Moreover, we know that he’s some kind of an official. That’s quite sufficient. Tomorrow I will get a copy of the city directory and will find there an official with these initials. And if for some reason or other, I do not find him that way, I shall simply call in a detective and order him to find the man for me. In case of difficulty, I shall make use of this note which gives us an idea of his handwriting. At any rate, by two o’clock tomorrow afternoon, I shall know exactly the name and address of this young fellow and even the time when he can be found at home. And once I know this, we can see him tomorrow, return him his treasure, and take proper measures to make sure that he will never again remind us of his existence.”

“What do you propose to do?” asked Prince Vasily Lvovich.

“I will go to the governor and ask him.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, no, not to the governor. You know the relations that exist between us two.⁠ ⁠… If you do that, then we shall be sure to find ourselves in a funny situation.”

“All right, then, I will go to the colonel of the gendarmes. We belong to the same club. I will ask him to get this Romeo down to his office and tell him a few things. You know how he does it? He just brings a finger right close to the man’s nose and shakes it there, as though to say: ‘I won’t stand for anything like that, sir.’ ”

“No, no, not through the gendarmes,” said Vera.

“That’s right, Vera,” added the prince. “It would be better not to mix in any outsiders. There would be all sorts of rumors and gossip if we do. We know our town well enough; everybody lives here as though in a glass jar.⁠ ⁠… I guess I myself will go to see this young fellow.⁠ ⁠… Though, the Lord knows, he may be sixty.⁠ ⁠… I will return him the bracelet, and have it out with him.”

“Then I will go with you,” interrupted Nikolay Nikolayevich. “You are not stern enough. Let me do the talking.⁠ ⁠… And now, my friends,” he took out his watch and consulted it, “you will have to excuse me. I shall go up to my room now. I have two cases to look over before tomorrow morning.”

“I begin to feel sorry for this unfortunate fellow, somehow or other,” said Vera indecisively.

“There is nothing to feel sorry for,” said Nikolay sharply turning around, already in the doorway. “If a man of our circle had permitted himself to send this bracelet and the letter, Prince Vasily would have had to challenge him to a duel. And if he would not have done it, I certainly would. And if this had happened a good many years ago, the chances are I would have ordered him taken to my stable and flogged there. Wait for me tomorrow at your office, Vasily⁠—I shall let you know by telephone.”


The filthy staircase smelled of mice, cats, kerosene, and washings. On the sixth floor, Prince Vasily Lvovich stopped for a moment.

“Wait a few seconds,” said he to his brother-in-law. “Let me rest awhile. I am afraid we should not have done this, Kolya.”

They went up another two flights. It was so dark in the hall that Nikolay Nikolayevich had to light two matches before he finally found the number of the apartment he was looking for.

When he rang the bell the door was opened by a stout, gray-haired woman, with her body bent forward a little, as though by some disease.

“Is Mr. Zheltkov in?” asked Nikolay Nikolayevich.

The woman looked hastily and in confusion from one to the other, and back again. The respectable appearance of both of them evidently reassured her.

“Yes, he is in. Step in, please,” said she, opening the door. “First door to the left.”

Bulat-Tuganovsky knocked three times. A rustle was heard inside the room. He knocked again.

“Come in,” was heard weakly from the room.

The room was very low but very large, and almost square in shape. Two round windows, that reminded one of steamer windows, lighted it dimly. The whole room looked more like the cabin of a freight-steamer. A narrow bed stood against one of its walls, a very large and broad divan covered with a worn, though still beautiful carpet, rested against another, and a table with a colored Little-Russian cloth stood in the middle.

The face of the occupant of this room was not visible at first, as he was standing with his back to the light, rubbing his hands in confusion. He was tall and thin, with long, soft hair.

Mr. Zheltkov, if I am not mistaken?” asked Nikolay Nikolayevich haughtily.

“Yes. I am very glad to see you.” He made two steps in the direction toward Tuganovsky with his hand outstretched, but at that moment, as though not noting his greeting, Nikolay Nikolayevich turned around to where Sheyin was standing.

“I told you that we did not make any mistake.”

Zheltkov’s thin, nervous ringers moved rapidly up and down the front of his brown coat, unbuttoning it and buttoning it again. Finally he said, bowing awkwardly and pointing to the divan:

“Won’t you be seated, please?”

Now his face was visible. It was very pale, almost effeminate, with blue eyes and a dimpled chin that indicated stubbornness. He looked about thirty or thirty-five.

“Thank you,” said Prince Sheyin, looking at him attentively.

Merci,” replied Nikolay Nikolayevich. Both remained standing. “We came here only for a few minutes. This is Prince Vasily Lvovich Sheyin, president of the local Assembly of Nobles. My name is Mirza-Bulat-Tuganovsky. I am assistant district attorney. The matter about which I shall have the honor of speaking to you concerns equally both the prince and myself, or, rather, the prince’s wife, and my sister.”

Zheltkov became even more confused, sat down silently on the divan and whispered, “Won’t you be seated?” but, evidently recalling that he had already invited them to be seated, he jumped up to his feet, ran over to the window, and then returned to his old place. And again his trembling fingers moved up and down the front of his coat, tugging at the buttons, then moving up to his face and touching his light mustache.

“I am at your service, your Highness,” said he in a dull voice, looking at Vasily Lvovich with entreaty in his eyes.

But Sheyin remained silent, while Nikolay Nikolayevich began to talk.

“In the first place, allow us to return you this thing,” said he taking the red case out of his pocket and placing it on the table. “No doubt it does honor to your taste, but we would ask you to see that such surprises are not repeated any more.”

“I beg your pardon.⁠ ⁠… I realize myself that I was a fool,” whispered Zheltkov, blushing and looking down on the floor. “May I offer you some tea?”

“Now you see, Mr. Zheltkov,” continued Nikolay Nikolayevich, as though he did not hear Zheltkov’s last words, “I am very glad to find you a gentleman, and one who understands things perfectly. It seems to me that we will be able to come to an understanding very soon. Unless I am mistaken, you have been writing letters to Vera Nikolayevna for seven or eight years?”

“Yes,” answered Zheltkov quietly, lowering his eyelashes reverently.

“Until the present time we did not undertake anything against you, although, as you will yourself agree, we not only could have, but should have done it.”


“Yes. But your last action in sending this bracelet of garnets carried you beyond the limit of our patience. Do you understand? Our patience is at an end. I shall be frank with you. Our first thought was to seek the aid of the authorities. But we did not do that, and I am very glad that we didn’t, because, I repeat, I realized immediately that you are a man of nobleness of mind.”

“I beg your pardon. What did you say just then?” suddenly asked Zheltkov and laughed. “You wanted to seek the aid of the authorities? Isn’t that what you said?” He put his hands in his pockets, sat down comfortably on the divan, then took out a cigarette-case and matches, and lighted a cigarette.

“And so you said that you were going to seek the aid of the authorities? You will excuse me for sitting down, won’t you?” said he, turning to Sheyin. “Yes, I am listening.”

The prince moved the chair over to the table and sat down. He could not take his gaze from the face of this peculiar man and was gazing at him with perplexity and curiosity.

“But you see, my dear fellow, that we can always fall back on this measure,” continued Nikolay Nikolayevich, a little insolently. “To break into another man’s family.⁠ ⁠…”

“I beg your pardon, but I shall have to interrupt you.⁠ ⁠…”

“I beg your pardon, but I shall have to interrupt you, now⁠ ⁠…” almost shouted Tuganovsky.

“Just as you like. Proceed. I am listening to you. But I have a few words to say to Prince Vasily Lvovich.⁠ ⁠…”

And without paying any more attention to Tuganovsky, he said:

“This is the most difficult moment of my life. And I must speak to you, prince, outside of all conventionalities. Will you listen to me?”

“I am listening,” said Sheyin. “Now, won’t you keep quiet for a few minutes, Kolya,” said he impatiently, noting Tuganovsky’s angry gesture. “I am listening.”

For a few seconds it seemed as though Zheltkov was suffocating. Then he suddenly began to talk, though his white lips seemed to be perfectly motionless.

“It is hard to say⁠ ⁠… to say that I love your wife. But seven years of hopeless and perfectly polite love give me a right to say this. I agree with you that I was at fault when I wrote foolish letters to Vera Nikolayevna before she was married, and even expected to receive a reply. I agree also that my last act, in sending this bracelet, was even more foolish. But⁠ ⁠… I am looking you straight in the eyes now, and I feel that you will understand me. I know it is outside of my power to stop loving her.⁠ ⁠… Tell me, prince⁠ ⁠… suppose that this is unpleasant to you⁠ ⁠… tell me, what you would have done in order to make me stop it? Would you have sent me to another city, as Nikolay Nikolayevich has just said? What difference would that make? I would still continue to love Vera Nikolayevna just as before. Would you send me to prison? But even there I will find some way of letting her know of my existence. There is only one thing that remains, and that is death.⁠ ⁠… If you wish it, I shall take death in any form you prescribe.”

“Now, look here, this sounds more like reciting dramatic poetry than doing business,” said Nikolay Nikolayevich, putting on his hat. “The matter is quite simple. You will choose one of the two: either you will stop pestering Vera Nikolayevna with your letters, or else, if you do not stop, we shall have to take measures which our position enables us to take.”

But Zheltkov did not even look at him, although he heard his words. He turned to Prince Vasily Lvovich and said:

“Will you allow me to leave you for ten minutes? I will not conceal from you that I am going to speak to Princess Vera Nikolayevna on the telephone. I assure you that I shall repeat to you everything that I will find it possible to repeat.”

“Go,” said Sheyin.

When Vasily Lvovich and Tuganovsky remained alone, Nikolay Nikolayevich immediately began to scold his brother-in-law.

“Now, this is impossible,” he was shouting and making gestures as though he were throwing an object to the ground. “Did I not warn you that I was going to do all of the talking? And there you went, and weakened down, and let him tell all about his feelings. I would have done the thing in two words.”

“Wait a few minutes,” said Prince Vasily Lvovich. “Things will become clear in a few minutes. The main thing is that when I see his face I feel that this man is unable to deceive and to lie. And just think, Kolya, it is not his fault that he cannot control his love. Nobody can do it. You know perfectly well it is a feeling that has not even now been explained.” After a moment’s reflection, the prince continued: “I am sorry for this man. And not only sorry for him, but I feel that we stand in the presence of a great tragedy, and I cannot play the part of the clown.”

“This is decadence and nothing else,” said Nikolay Nikolayevich.

Ten minutes later Zheltkov returned. His eyes were glistening and had an expression of profundity as though filled with unshed tears. It was evident that he had forgotten who was expected to sit and where. And again Sheyin understood.

“I am ready,” said Zheltkov. “Tomorrow you will see nothing more of me. You may consider me dead. But there is one condition⁠—I am saying this to you, Prince Vasily Lvovich⁠—you see, I have spent money that did not belong to me, and I have to leave the city immediately. Will you allow me to write my last letter to Princess Vera Nikolayevna?”

“No. Everything is over now. No more letters,” shouted Nikolay Nikolayevich.

“All right, write it,” said Sheyin.

“That’s all,” said Zheltkov, with a haughty smile. “You will never again hear from me, nor, of course, see me. Princess Vera Nikolayevna did not wish to speak with me. But when I asked her whether I may remain in the city, in order to see her from time to time, without, of course, her seeing me, she replied: ‘Oh, if you only knew how tired I am of all this! Won’t you please put an end to it?’ And now I am putting an end to it. I think I have done all that I can.”

When he returned home that night Vasily Lvovich repeated to his wife all the details of his interview with Zheltkov. He felt himself obliged to do this.

Although she was troubled, Vera did not seem astonished and did not become confused. Only, that night, when her husband came over to her, she suddenly turned her face to the wall and said: “Let me alone. I know that this man is going to kill himself.”


Princess Vera Nikolayevna never read the newspapers; in the first place because they soiled her hands and, in the second, because she could not make anything out of the way the news is reported nowadays.

But fate made her open the newspaper sheet almost at the spot where she read the following:

“A mysterious death. Last night at about seven o’clock, an official of the Department of Control, G. S. Zheltkov, committed suicide. According to the information obtained by the coroner, the suicide came as a result of the late Zheltkov’s embezzlement. This fact was mentioned in a letter left by the suicide. In view of the fact that the testimony of the witnesses made it apparent that the act was committed of his own free will, it was decided not to perform an autopsy.”

Reading this, Vera thought to herself:

“Why is it that I felt this was coming, this very, tragic end? And what was it, love or insanity?”

She walked up and down the garden and the orchard paths all day long. Her restlessness would not let her sit down for a moment. All her thoughts were concentrated on this unknown man, whom she had never seen, and whom, perhaps, she would never see.

“Who knows? Perhaps your life path was crossed by a real, self-sacrificing, true love,” she recalled Anosov’s words.

At six o’clock the mail came. Vera readily recognized Zheltkov’s handwriting, and with a tenderness, which she did not herself expect, she opened the letter. It ran as follows:

“It is not my fault, Vera Nikolayevna, that God has willed to send me such great happiness as my love for you. It so happened that nothing in life interests me, neither politics, nor science, nor care for the future happiness of mankind⁠—my whole life was concentrated in my feeling toward you. And now I feel that I cut into your life like an unwelcome wedge. If you can, forgive me for this. I am leaving today never to return, and there will be nothing that will remind you of me.

“I am only infinitely thankful to you because you are in existence. I have subjected myself to all sorts of tests; this is not a disease, a maniacal delusion, but love which God has granted me to reward me for something or other.

“Even if I should appear ludicrous in your eyes and in those of your brother, Nikolay Nikolayevich⁠—going away forever I still repeat in adoration: ‘May your name be holy forevermore.’ ”

“I saw you for the first time eight years ago in the box of a theatre, and I said to myself in the very first second: ‘I love her because there is nothing in the world that is like her, there is nothing better, there is not an animal, not a plant, not a star, not a human being more beautiful and more delicate than she is.’ The whole beauty of the earth seemed to me to have become embodied in you.

“Just think of what I should have done under the circumstances. To run away to another city? My heart would have still been near you and every moment of my life would have been filled with you, with thoughts of you, with dreams about you⁠—with a sweet delirium. I am very much ashamed because of that foolish bracelet, but that was just a mistake of mine. I can imagine what an impression the whole thing made on your guests!

“In ten minutes I shall be gone. I shall only have time to put a stamp on this letter and drop it in the mailbox, for I would not have anyone else do it. Will you please burn this letter? I have just lit a fire in my stove and am burning up everything that was dearest to me in life: your handkerchief which I stole⁠—you left it on your chair at a ball; your note⁠—oh, how I kissed it!⁠—in which you forbade me to write to you; the programme of an art exhibition which you once held in your hands and left on your chair on going out.⁠ ⁠… Everything is finished. I have put an end to everything, but I still think, and I am even sure of it, that you will remember me sometimes. And if you should happen to remember, then.⁠ ⁠… I know that you are musical, for oftenest of all I saw you at the Beethoven concerts⁠—if you should remember, will you please play or have somebody else play for you the Sonata in D-dur, No. 2, Op. 2.

“I do not know how to finish this letter. From the bottom of my heart I thank you because you were the only joy of my life, my only solace, my only thought. May God grant you happiness, may nothing transient and vain trouble your beautiful soul. I kiss your hand. G. S. Z.

She came to her husband with her eyes red from tears and, showing him the letter, said:

“I do not want to conceal anything from you, but I feel that something terrible has forced itself into our life. You and Nikolay must have done something that should not have been done.”

Prince Sheyin read the letter attentively, folded it carefully, and said, after a long silence:

“I have no doubt that this man was sincere, and what is more, I do not dare to analyze his feelings toward you.”

“Is he dead?” asked Vera.

“Yes, he is dead. I will only say that he did love you and was not mad. I did not take my eyes away from him, and I saw every movement of his face. Life was impossible for him without you. And it seemed to me that I was in the presence of a suffering so colossal, that men die when once stricken by it, and I almost realized that there was a dead man before me. I hardly knew what to do in his presence, how to conduct myself.⁠ ⁠…”

“Would it pain you, Vasya,” interrupted Vera Nikolayevna, “if I should go to the city and see his corpse?”

“No, no, Vera, on the contrary. I would have gone myself, but Nikolay spoiled everything for me. I am afraid I would feel constrained.”


Vera Nikolayevna stepped from her carriage when it came within two blocks of Luther Street. She did not encounter any difficulty in finding the house where Zheltkov lived. She was met by the same gray-eyed old woman, who, again, as on the preceding day, asked:

“Whom did you wish to see?”

Mr. Zheltkov,” said the princess. Her costume, her hat, her gloves, and her somewhat commanding tone must have produced an effect on the lady. She became talkative.

“Step in, step in, please, the first door to the left.⁠ ⁠… He left us in such an awful hurry. Suppose it was an embezzlement⁠—why not tell me about it? Of course you know how rich we are when we have to rent out rooms. But I could have gotten six or seven hundred roubles together and paid for him. If you only knew what a fine man he was, madam! He lived here for over eight years, and always seemed more like a son than a roomer.”

There was a chair in the hall and Vera sat down upon it.

“I was a friend of your late roomer,” said she, choosing each word carefully. “Tell me something about the last minutes of his life, of what he did and said.”

“Two gentlemen came to see him and spoke to him for a long time. Then he told me that they had offered him the position of a superintendent on their estate. Then he ran over to the telephone and came back looking very happy. Then the two gentlemen went away, and he sat down to write a letter. Then he went out and mailed the letter, and when he came back we heard a shot as though somebody was shooting out of a toy pistol. We paid no attention to it. At seven o’clock he always had his tea. Lukerya, our servant, went and knocked at the door, but nobody answered, and so she knocked again and again. Then we had to break down the door, and we found him already dead.”

“Tell me something about the bracelet,” ordered Vera Nikolayevna.

“Oh, yes, about the bracelet, I had forgotten. How do you know about it? Just before he wrote the letter, he came to me and said, ‘Are you a Catholic?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am a Catholic.’ Then he said, ‘You have a beautiful custom,’ that’s just what he said, ‘a beautiful custom to hang rings, necklaces, and other gifts before the image of the Holy Virgin. Will you please take this bracelet and hang it before the image?’ I promised him that I would do it.”

“Will you show me his body?” asked Vera.

“Certainly, certainly, lady. They wanted to take him to the anatomical theatre. But he has a brother who begged them to let him be buried like a Christian. Step in, please.”

Vera opened the door. There were three wax candles burning in the room, which was filled with the odor of some incense. Zheltkov’s body was lying on the table. His head was bent far back, as though somebody had put but a very small pillow under it. There was a profound dignity in his closed eyes, and his lips were smiling with such happiness and calm as though just before leaving life he had learned a deep and sweet secret which solved the whole problem of his life. She recalled that she had seen the same pacified expression on the masks of the great sufferers, Pushkin and Napoleon.

“If you wish it, lady, I can go out of the room,” said the old woman, and there was something extremely intimate in her tone.

“Yes, I will call you later,” said Vera, and immediately took out of the side pocket of her coat a large, red rose. Then, with her left hand, she raised Zheltkov’s head a little and placed the flower under it. At that moment she realized that the love of the kind that is the dream of every woman had gone by her. She recalled the words of General Anosov about love that is exceptional and eternal⁠—words that proved to be almost prophetic. She pushed away the hair on the forehead of the dead man, pressed his temples with her hand, and kissed the cold, moist forehead with a long, friendly kiss.

When she was leaving, the proprietress said to her in that characteristically soft, Polish tone: “Lady, I see that you are not like all the others who come out of curiosity. Mr. Zheltkov told me before his death that if he should happen to die and a lady came to see his corpse, I should tell her that Beethoven’s best work is⁠ ⁠… he wrote it down on a piece of paper. Here it is.⁠ ⁠…”

“Let me see it,” said Vera Nikolayevna, and suddenly burst into tears.

“Excuse me, but his death affected me so much that I cannot help this.”

Then she read the following words, written in the well-known handwriting:

L. Van Beethoven, Sonata No. 2, Op. 2, Largo Appassionato.


It was late in the evening when Vera Nikolayevna returned home, and she was very glad to find that neither her husband nor her brother had arrived.

But she was met by Jennie Reiter, the pianist, and, still under the impression of what she had seen and heard, Vera ran to her and exclaimed, kissing her beautiful hands:

“Jennie, dear, won’t you play something for me now?” And she immediately left the room, went out into the garden and sat on a bench.

She did not doubt for a moment that Jennie would play the very part of the second sonata about which that dead man with such a funny name had told her in his last note.

So it was. She recognized the very first chords as belonging to that remarkable creation of musical genius, unique for its profoundness. And her soul seemed to have split in twain. She was thinking of the great love, which is repeated but once in a thousand years, and which had gone past her. She recalled the words of General Anosov, and asked herself why it was that this man had compelled her to listen to this particular work of Beethoven, even against her wishes? In her mind she began to improvise words. Her thoughts seemed to have so blended with the music, that they really fell into cantos, each of which ended with the words: May your name be holy forevermore.

“Now I will show you in gentle sounds, a love that joyfully and obediently gave itself to pains, sufferings, and death. Not a complaint, not a reproach, not a pain of self-love, did I ever know. Before you, I am this one prayer: May your name be holy forevermore.

“I foresee suffering, blood, and death. I think that it is hard for the body to part with the soul, but my praise for you, my passionate praise, and my silent love are eternal: May your name be holy forevermore.

“I recall your every step, smile, look, the sound of your footsteps. My last recollections are intertwined with a sweet sadness, a beautiful, quiet sadness. But I will cause you no grief. I am parting alone and in silence, for God and Fate have willed this. May your name be holy forevermore.

“In the sad hour of death, I pray but to you. Life might have been beautiful for me, too. Do not complain, my poor heart, do not complain. In my soul I call for death, but my heart is full of prayers for you: May your name be holy forevermore.

“Neither you yourself nor those around you know how beautiful you are. The hour strikes. The time has come. And on the brink of death, in this sorrowful hour of parting from life, I still sing, Glory be to you.

“Here it comes, the all-pacifying death, and I still say, Glory be to you!”

Princess Vera stood under an acacia tree, leaning against it, weeping softly. And the tree was swaying gently under the light wind, which made the leaves rustle, as though to sympathize with her. The star-shaped flowers in the garden exhaled their fragrance. And the wonderful music, as if obeying her grief, rang on:

“Be calm, my dear, be calm. Do you remember me? Do you remember? You were my only and my last love. Be calm, for I am with you. Think about me, and I shall be with you, because we loved each other but for a short instant, yet forever. Do you remember me? Do you remember? Do you remember? Now I feel your tears. Be calm. My sleep is so sweet, sweet, sweet.”

When she had finished playing, Jennie Reiter came out into the garden and saw Princess Vera sitting on the bench in tears.

“What is it?” asked the pianist.

And with her eyes still glistening with tears, Vera began to kiss her face, her lips, her eyes, saying:

“No, no, he has forgiven me now. Everything is well.”