A Hero of Our Time Part 21

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"What is Russia to me?" answered her cavalier. "A country in which thousands of people, because they are richer than I, will look upon me with contempt, whilst here--here this thick cloak has not prevented my acquaintance with you"...

"On the contrary"... said Princess Mary, blus.h.i.+ng.

Grushnitski's face was a picture of delight. He continued:

"Here, my life will flow along noisily, un.o.bserved, and rapidly, under the bullets of the savages, and if Heaven were every year to send me a single bright glance from a woman's eyes--like that which--"

At that moment they came up to where I was. I struck my horse with the whip and rode out from behind the bush...

"Mon Dieu, un circa.s.sien!"... exclaimed Princess Mary in terror.

In order completely to undeceive her, I replied in French, with a slight bow:

"Ne craignez rien, madame, je ne suis pas plus dangereux que votre cavalier"...

She grew embarra.s.sed--but at what? At her own mistake, or because my answer struck her as insolent? I should like the latter hypothesis to be correct. Grushnitski cast a discontented glance at me.

Late in the evening, that is to say, about eleven o'clock, I went for a walk in the lilac avenue of the boulevard. The town was sleeping; lights were gleaming in only a few windows. On three sides loomed the black ridges of the cliffs, the spurs of Mount Mashuk, upon the summit of which an ominous cloud was lying. The moon was rising in the east; in the distance, the snow-clad mountains glistened like a fringe of silver.

The calls of the sentries mingled at intervals with the roar of the hot springs let flow for the night. At times the loud clattering of a horse rang out along the street, accompanied by the creaking of a Nagai wagon and the plaintive burden of a Tartar song.

I sat down upon a bench and fell into a reverie... I felt the necessity of pouring forth my thoughts in friendly conversation... But with whom?...

"What is Vera doing now?" I wondered.

I would have given much to press her hand at that moment.

All at once I heard rapid and irregular steps... Grushnitski, no doubt!... So it was!

"Where have you come from?"

"From Princess Ligovski's," he said very importantly. "How well Mary does sing!"...

"Do you know?" I said to him. "I wager that she does not know that you are a cadet. She thinks you are an officer reduced to the ranks"...

"Maybe so. What is that to me!"... he said absently.

"No, I am only saying so"...

"But, do you know that you have made her terribly angry to-day? She considered it an unheard-of piece of insolence. It was only with difficulty that I was able to convince her that you are so well bred and know society so well that you could not have had any intention of insulting her. She says that you have an impudent glance, and that you have certainly a very high opinion of yourself."

"She is not mistaken... But do you not want to defend her?"

"I am sorry I have not yet the right to do so"...

"Oho!" I said to myself, "evidently he has hopes already."

"However, it is the worse for you," continued Grushnitski; "it will be difficult for you to make their acquaintance now, and what a pity! It is one of the most agreeable houses I know"...

I smiled inwardly.

"The most agreeable house to me now is my own," I said, with a yawn, and I got up to go.

"Confess, though, you repent?"...

"What nonsense! If I like I will be at Princess Ligovski's to-morrow evening!"...

"We shall see"...

"I will even begin to pay my addresses to Princess Mary, if you would like me to"...

"Yes, if she is willing to speak to you"...

"I am only awaiting the moment when she will be bored by your conversation... Goodbye"...

"Well, I am going for a stroll; I could not go to sleep now for anything... Look here, let us go to the restaurant instead, there is cardplaying going on there... What I need now is violent sensations"...

"I hope you will lose"...

I went home.

CHAPTER IV. 21st May.

NEARLY a week has pa.s.sed, and I have not yet made the Ligovskis'

acquaintance. I am awaiting a convenient opportunity. Grushnitski follows Princess Mary everywhere like a shadow. Their conversations are interminable; but, when will she be tired of him?... Her mother pays no attention, because he is not a man who is in a position to marry. Behold the logic of mothers! I have caught two or three tender glances--this must be put a stop to.

Yesterday, for the first time, Vera made her appearance at the well...

She has never gone out of doors since we met in the grotto. We let down our tumblers at the same time, and as she bent forward she whispered to me:

"You are not going to make the Ligovskis' acquaintance?... It is only there that we can meet"...

A reproach!... How tiresome! But I have deserved it...

By the way, there is a subscription ball tomorrow in the saloon of the restaurant, and I will dance the mazurka with Princess Mary.

CHAPTER V. 29th May.

THE saloon of the restaurant was converted into the a.s.sembly room of a n.o.bles' Club. The company met at nine o'clock. Princess Ligovski and her daughter were amongst the latest to make their appearance. Several of the ladies looked at Princess Mary with envy and malevolence, because she dresses with taste. Those who look upon themselves as the aristocracy of the place concealed their envy and attached themselves to her train. What else could be expected? Wherever there is a gathering of women, the company is immediately divided into a higher and a lower circle.

Beneath the window, amongst a crowd of people, stood Grushnitski, pressing his face to the pane and never taking his eyes off his divinity. As she pa.s.sed by, she gave him a hardly perceptible nod. He beamed like the sun... The first dance was a polonaise, after which the musicians struck up a waltz. Spurs began to jingle, and skirts to rise and whirl.

I was standing behind a certain stout lady who was overshadowed by rose-coloured feathers. The magnificence of her dress reminded me of the times of the farthingale, and the motley hue of her by no means smooth skin, of the happy epoch of the black taffeta patch. An immense wart on her neck was covered by a clasp. She was saying to her cavalier, a captain of dragoons:

"That young Princess Ligovski is a most intolerable creature! Just fancy, she jostled against me and did not apologise, but even turned round and stared at me through her lorgnette!... C'est impayable!... And what has she to be proud of? It is time somebody gave her a lesson"...

A Hero of Our Time Part 21

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A Hero of Our Time Part 21 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 21. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 221 views.

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