A Hero of Our Time Part 26

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Whoever has seen you once will bear your divine image with him for ever."

"Stop"...

"But why will you not let me say to-night what you have so often listened to with condescension--and just recently, too?"...

"Because I do not like repet.i.tions," she answered, laughing.

"Oh! I have been bitterly mistaken!... I thought, fool that I was, that these epaulettes, at least, would give me the right to hope... No, it would have been better for me to have remained for ever in that contemptible soldier's cloak, to which, probably, I was indebted for your attention"...

"As a matter of fact, the cloak is much more becoming to you"...

At that moment I went up and bowed to Princess Mary. She blushed a little, and went on rapidly:

"Is it not true, Monsieur Pechorin, that the grey cloak suits Monsieur Grushnitski much better?"...

"I do not agree with you," I answered: "he is more youthful-looking still in his uniform."

That was a blow which Grushnitski could not bear: like all boys, he has pretensions to being an old man; he thinks that the deep traces of pa.s.sions upon his countenance take the place of the lines scored by Time. He cast a furious glance at me, stamped his foot, and took himself off.

"Confess now," I said to Princess Mary: "that although he has always been most ridiculous, yet not so long ago he seemed to you to be interesting... in the grey cloak?"...

She cast her eyes down and made no reply.

Grushnitski followed the Princess about during the whole evening and danced either with her or vis-a-vis. He devoured her with his eyes, sighed, and wearied her with prayers and reproaches. After the third quadrille she had begun to hate him.

"I did not expect this from you," he said, coming up to me and taking my arm.

"What?"

"You are going to dance the mazurka with her?" he asked in a solemn tone. "She admitted it"...

"Well, what then? It is not a secret, is it"?

"Of course not... I ought to have expected such a thing from that chit--that flirt... I will have my revenge, though!"

"You should lay the blame on your cloak, or your epaulettes, but why accuse her? What fault is it of hers that she does not like you any longer?"...

"But why give me hopes?"

"Why did you hope? To desire and to strive after something--that I can understand! But who ever hopes?"

"You have won the wager, but not quite," he said, with a malignant smile.

The mazurka began. Grushnitski chose no one but the Princess, other cavaliers chose her every minute: obviously a conspiracy against me--all the better! She wants to talk to me, they are preventing her--she will want to twice as much.

I squeezed her hand once or twice; the second time she drew it away without saying a word.

"I shall sleep badly to-night," she said to me when the mazurka was over.

"Grushnitski is to blame for that."

"Oh, no!"

And her face became so pensive, so sad, that I promised myself that I would not fail to kiss her hand that evening.

The guests began to disperse. As I was handing Princess Mary into her carriage, I rapidly pressed her little hand to my lips. The night was dark and n.o.body could see.

I returned to the saloon very well satisfied with myself.

The young men, Grushnitski amongst them, were having supper at the large table. As I came in, they all fell silent: evidently they had been talking about me. Since the last ball many of them have been sulky with me, especially the captain of dragoons; and now, it seems, a hostile gang is actually being formed against me, under the command of Grushnitski. He wears such a proud and courageous air...

I am very glad; I love enemies, though not in the Christian sense. They amuse me, stir my blood. To be always on one's guard, to catch every glance, the meaning of every word, to guess intentions, to crush conspiracies, to pretend to be deceived and suddenly with one blow to overthrow the whole immense and laboriously constructed edifice of cunning and design--that is what I call life.

During supper Grushnitski kept whispering and exchanging winks with the captain of dragoons.

CHAPTER XI. 14th June.

VERA and her husband left this morning for Kislovodsk. I met their carriage as I was walking to Princess Ligovski's. Vera nodded to me: reproach was in her glance.

Who is to blame, then? Why will she not give me an opportunity of seeing her alone? Love is like fire--if not fed it dies out. Perchance, jealousy will accomplish what my entreaties have failed to do.

I stayed a whole hour at Princess Ligovski's. Mary has not been out, she is ill. In the evening she was not on the boulevard. The newly formed gang, armed with lorgnettes, has in very fact a.s.sumed a menacing aspect.

I am glad that Princess Mary is ill; they might be guilty of some impertinence towards her. Grushnitski goes about with dishevelled locks, and wears an appearance of despair: he is evidently afflicted, as a matter of fact; his vanity especially has been injured. But, you see, there are some people in whom even despair is diverting!...

On my way home I noticed that something was lacking. I have not seen her! She is ill! Surely I have not fallen in love with her in real earnest?... What nonsense!

CHAPTER XII. 15th June.

AT eleven o'clock in the morning--the hour at which Princess Ligovski is usually perspiring in the Ermolov baths--I walked past her house.

Princess Mary was sitting pensively at the window; on seeing me she sprang up.

I entered the ante-room, there was n.o.body there, and, availing myself of the freedom afforded by the local customs, I made my way, unannounced, into the drawing-room.

Princess Mary's charming countenance was shrouded with a dull pallor.

She was standing by the pianoforte, leaning one hand on the back of an arm-chair; her hand was very faintly trembling. I went up to her softly and said:

"You are angry with me?"...

She lifted a deep, languid glance upon me and shook her head. Her lips were about to utter something, but failed; her eyes filled with tears; she sank into the arm-chair and buried her face in her hands.

"What is the matter with you?" I said, taking her hand.

"You do not respect me!... Oh, leave me!"...

A Hero of Our Time Part 26

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A Hero of Our Time Part 26 summary

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