C’est féerique!

“Why ‘of course’?”

“Because otherwise she would not be worth talking about. Well, this
daughter loved a youth, also young and beautiful. The young people
loved each other as it is only possible to love under such a sun
and amidst such scenery. (Probably you won’t understand this, mais
passons.) Well, the young people loved each other, but, as is generally
the case, fate and circumstances were against them. The father of the
girl rejected the suit of the enamoured youth, who was poor, and found
another bridegroom for his daughter, a rich merchant like himself. The
young people tried to overcome his objections, but he was inexorable;
so they decided to die. One beautiful morning they came to these
rocks–you will see them directly-stood at the edge of the abyss, so
as to throw themselves down and be dashed to pieces on the stones,
and said good-bye to each other–good-bye to life, to light, and to
nature. ‘Throw yourself down!’ said the girl, ‘and I will after you.’
He smiled at her, threw himself into the gulf below, and was killed.
And she …”

“And she?”

“She went back home and married the rich merchant!”

“Oh, what an …”

“Artful one, wasn’t she? She married the merchant and the rocks kept
the secret of his love and her treachery. Look–they are already
visible, do you see? More to the left…. But we can go down there
below.” …

“Then you have been here before?” …

“Oh, more than once! But never in such charming company.” …

“What’s that? un compliment?”

“No, I am not joking. Do you know, I love these rocks, this wild,
picturesque spot, where every pathway, every stone awakens in me so
many feelings and thoughts that have nothing in common with my dull,
grey, everyday life…. And whenever I was here before, I always
thought how beautiful it would be to come with some charming, poetical
creature–in fact, to come as I have come to-day. And when I go home I
shall say, ‘Now let thy servant depart in peace!'” …

The idea passed through Mimotchka’s head: “Is he going to allow himself
to?” … But no, he had already begun talking again about the horses.
Then they were both silent. They had to get down below by a steep,
narrow path. Osman rode on in front, to show the way.

It had got dark. The moon had not yet made her appearance.

“This doesn’t look much like a moonlight night. You said there would be
a moon.”

“Wait a little, only wait. There will be a moon.”

“But we shan’t see anything down there.”

Mimotchka began to get alarmed at the darkness.

“Why shan’t we see anything? Don’t you see the rocks? How beautiful
that pass is! And the moon will come out directly.”

“Yes, but while we are waiting for the moon it will get late, and when
shall we get back?”

“Late? What does it matter if it is late? It will be as light as day
for us to ride back when the moon is up. You are not going anywhere
this evening, are you?”

“No, I am not going anywhere, but mamma will be uneasy.”

“She won’t be uneasy, because she knows you are with me. And why
think of going back when it is so beautiful here? But women never do
understand how to enjoy the present moment. I pity them! Then you don’t
care for it here? I thought you were more sensitive to the beauties of
nature…. Look at these rocks, at that sky, at those stars…. Do you
remember those lines of Musset–

‘J’aime! voilà le mot que la nature entière
Crie au vent qui l’emporte, à l’oiseau qui le suit!
Sombre et dernier soupir que poussera la terre
Quand elle tombera dans l’éternelle nuit;
Oh! vous le murmurez dans vos sphères sacrées,
Etoiles du matin, ce mot triste et charmant!
La plus faible de vous, quand Dieu vous a crées,
A voulu traverser les plaines éthérées,
Pour chercher le soleil, son immortel amant.
Elle s’est élancée au sein des nuits profondes.
Mais une autre l’aimait elle-meme; et les mondes
Se sont mis en voyage autour du firmament.’

How beautiful they are, aren’t they? I am sorry I can’t see your face.
I should like to know if you look as you always do.”

“And how do I always look?”

“Cold, severe…. Like a general’s wife.”

“A general’s wife? Naturally, I look what I am.”

“Don’t calumniate yourself. You are a woman. You should look like a
woman, such a woman as stood there on the top of those rocks, wavering
between sacrifice and treachery.”

“But I don’t in the least wish to resemble her.”

“Why?”

“Because she behaved odiously.”

“Perfidiously, yes, but she acted like a woman, a weak, false woman.
And that is what pleases me. I like weakness in women. I don’t care
about strong-minded women-heroines. Let those who will sing their
praises, I shall never be among their admirers. Strength of mind is
as little suited to a woman as physical strength. A woman should be
all weakness, all love, all tenderness. Let her weakness make her
false. What does it matter as long as she is charming!… But you,
how would you have acted in her place? Imagine that you are in love
with someone–well, say, for instance, with me. I hope that such a
supposition made in joke won’t offend you. Imagine, then, that you are
in love with me, here, now, as you are, in your present position.”

“In my present position?… I think that if I were in love with you, I
should endeavour that you should never find it out.”

“And why so?”

“Because I am married, I am not free.”

“La belle raison!”

“Comment, ce n’est pas une raison?… What would you say if your wife..”

At the mention of Spiridon Ivanovitch, Valerian Nicolaevitch had
frowned; at the mention of his wife a bored, weary expression
overspread his countenance. Mimotchka knew the expression well, and
she always rejoiced at it. Although she had heard from the baroness
that his wife was a charming woman, still it was more agreeable to
her to think that she was dull, unsuited to him, and as little wanted
as Spiridon Ivanovitch himself. If he were happy with her, he would
not come away from her, and would not have such a pale, weary looking
face and sunken cheeks, would he?… No; he was probably unhappy and
suffering, and only did not complain because he was too proud. Poor
dear!…

Meanwhile they had got down to the pass, and Valerian Nicolaevitch
proposed to Mimotchka to dismount and walk to a place from where he
considered the view of the rocks to be even finer. Osman led away
the horses, and they made their way over the stones by the side of a
murmuring mountain stream. A high, perpendicular rock rose behind them
like a menacing wall. It seemed to Mimotchka as if she were descending
into the bowels of the earth, or as if she were at the bottom of a
deep well. The steppe across which they had galloped was so high above
her head, and the sky, on which the long-expected moon had at last
appeared, illuminating the rocks and their picturesque verdure, seemed
so far off.

“Well, how do you like it?” …

“C’est féerique,” murmured Mimotchka “c’est féerique!” And what
stillness, what utter stillness! No; decidedly she is somewhere not
on the earth. And for an instant, for the last time, the disquieting
thought came into Mimotchka’s head. Had she done right to come here?
He had asked her to come, but perhaps he would have had a better
opinion of her if she had not come. But, no; what nonsense! What harm
is there? Everybody comes here to admire nature, and she has also come
to admire nature. It’s no use to come to the Caucasus and not visit its
picturesque parts. Otherwise afterwards, when she looks at photographs,
she will find that she has not seen anything. Why doesn’t Vava ride on
horseback? She might have come with them. And what harm is there in
her having come here alone with him? If she were to have gone with him
to some restaurant now, that would have been dreadful! (But of course
she would never have gone with him.) And they have only come here to
admire nature. Yes, and besides, after all, they have the Tartar groom
with them. Somewhere in the distance she can hear a horse neighing;
those are their horses and Osman.

And, having quieted her conscience by such reflections, Mimotchka
repeated, “C’est féerique!” … And she sincerely admired the
picturesque rocks, and Valerian Nicolaevitch sincerely admired her.

“You are not tired?” asked he, spreading out his cloak upon the ground.
“Sit down; I am sorry that I have already told you the legend about the
poor youth who was killed here. I ought to have told you it now, here,
in view of the rocks…. Well, I must tell you something else.”

Decidedly Mimotchka was no longer on earth. It was impossible that that
could be the same moon that shone on Spiridon Ivanovitch and baby.
That was somewhere far away, but this was quite a different moon so
benignly protecting them. And what a soft, languorous, magic light she
sheds over that little corner where they are alone together and so far
from the crowds of people, from the noise and the world….

How quiet it is, how quiet!… What moments of full, perfect, unalloyed
happiness! If one could only fall asleep here, die, and never awake
again, never come back to life. And he was with her, near her, and
gazing at her as her humble, faithful slave, as her devoted friend.

And for the first time in her life Mimotchka no longer thought if she
was looking pretty or not, nor how she was dressed, nor what her aunts
would say of her. She felt somehow strange, as if she were neither
asleep nor awake. She had never experienced anything like it before.
And her breathing was oppressed. For some moments she was afraid she
was going to faint.

A stone fell and they both started. He drew still nearer to her. Were
you frightened? Is that really him? Yes; those are his eyes shining.
How pale he is! And how pale the moon is! What is it all–a dream
or a reality? And Mimotchka, wishing to break through this fearful,
oppressive silence and to get the better of the numbness overpowering
her, repeated again, “C’est féerique, c’est féerique!”

And really there was something fairy-like, something extraordinary
about the evening. And the most extraordinary thing of all was
that Valerian Nicolaevitch took Mimotchka into his arms and kissed
her–kissed her eyes, her lips, and her hair. How did it happen? How
could he allow himself to, and how could she permit it?… Oh, “Castle
of Love and Treachery!” Then he told her, in a caressing whisper,
that it must have happened. Well, of course, once it had happened,
probably it must have happened. But anyhow they must go home now quick,
quick!… And when he put her into the saddle, he said to her, “My
darling! My beautiful darling!” … And she, helplessly putting her
hair straight, said, “Il fait tard, il fait tard!” But she looked more
radiantly beautiful than Spiridon Ivanovitch had ever seen her look,
in spite of the fact of his commanding a division and having a whole
division under his supervision.

They must ride back fast, very fast; but Mimotchka had somehow lost her
riding-whip on the mountain. Osman and Valerian Nicolaevitch ran back
to find it. They found the whip, and all three set off furiously across
the steppe, now flooded by the moonlight.

The lights of Kislovodsk were shining when they rode up the long alley
of poplars. From the chief hotel came the sounds of a waltz. Mamma was
looking out for her daughter, sitting at the open window and getting
uneasy.

“Here you are at last!” said she. “I was getting afraid that something
had happened to you, that you had been attacked…. Well, what? Are
you tired?” …

“Yes; we hurried back so.”

“Come in, Valerian Nicolaevitch, come in and have some tea.”

Valerian Nicolaevitch thanked her, but refused. He had promised to go
to a party somewhere. And when he had helped Mimotchka down from the
saddle, he came to the gate with her, and whispered to her, “À demain!”
and, with a look and a pressure of the hand, thanked her for going with
him.

When she came in, Mimotchka refused tea and all refreshment, but went
straight into her own room and hurriedly began undressing. She did
not want to see anyone; and having put out the candle, she laid her
radiant face on the pillow. How had it happened? She had no feeling
either of repentance or of shame. She only felt happy and peaceful.
This–fall, this–terrible step; it was a stain that could not be
effaced; it was–a sin, she thought to herself; but how easy it had
been to commit it! Maintenant c’est fini, elle est une femme perdue!
And her husband?… But she mustn’t think about it–no, she must not;
better think about _him:_ Val! Val!… And Mimotchka went off to
sleep soundly and tranquilly, as only happy people with a pure and easy
conscience sleep.

In the morning they met under the verandah of the Kursaal. There was
only a month left before they returned to Petersburg, and how much
there was to talk over, how much for them to say to each other. They
had to tell each other how they had fallen in love at sight, at their
very first meeting, even then, at Rostoff…. Un coup de foudre!…
How afterwards they had remembered each other, looked out for each
other, and been jealous of each other, until they met again and became
acquainted…. And how everything had happened as it must have done.
They had to tell each other that they had always waited for each other,
that they had foreseen this, and now were bound to each other for all
eternity. Oui, c’est pour la vie, c’est pour la vie!… And principally
they had to arrange about the time and place of their meetings.

He lived alone, and by taking proper precautions Mimotchka might come
to his rooms. This would be the most convenient way. He would not have
proposed it to her if there had been any risk, for Mimotchka’s honour
and good name were above all things dear to him. And Mimotchka, having
reconnoitred and assured herself that “Maman ne se doute de rien,” and
that she and Princess X—- and all their circle were completely taken
with the hussar Anutin and his intended bride, was tranquillised, and,
taking all due precautions, came to his rooms.

How she enjoyed being there! Everything that surrounded him and that
he used bore the stamp of his exquisite taste. Mimotchka turned over
his letter-case, his albums, and looked at the portraits of his wife
and children…. His wife was a great deal too handsome, and excited
her jealousy, but Valerian Nicolaevitch pacified her: “Handsome?…
Yes; she is handsome, but that is not sufficient. Une femme doit
plaire. That is the chief thing.” His wife was not suited to him. A
cold, lifeless beauty; a soulless creature, a blue-stocking, a second
Lady Byron…. She was a mother, only a mother, not a woman to love.
She lived for the children, and expected him to do the same. It was
absurd. The children would live and enjoy life themselves some day. And
meanwhile he wishes to enjoy his life. Another life will not be granted
to him. He must live, live….

And he kissed Mimotchka, kissed her eyes, and said, “Let me drink of
this sea!”

Mimotchka was not aware before that there was a sea in her eyes.

Having got over her jealousy, Mimotchka hid the photograph of his wife
further on in the book, so that it should not meet her eyes, and went
on turning over his things.

Valerian Nicolaevitch had forty neckties and forty pairs of socks,
and for each necktie there were socks to match. And what a lot of
_breloques,_ pins, and rings besides, which he varied, also selecting
them to match the neckties. In general, he was rather a dandy, but
Mimotchka liked it. She looked over and arranged the forty neckties in
a rosewood box, separating one necktie from the other with a sachet
of his favourite perfume, “Cherry-blossom.” And she told him which
neckties she liked, and which she didn’t like, and which he was to
wear the next day. And one necktie she called the necktie of “Love and
Treachery.” That was her favourite. Occasionally, chiefly on the days
she received letters from Spiridon Ivanovitch, Mimotchka had a fit of
the “blue devils,” as she called it, and she reproached herself for
her guilt towards her husband. “Je suis une femme perdue,” she said.
“Anyhow, I have wronged him, injured him…. And he has in nowise
deserved it. And what will happen if he gets to know? He will kill me
or turn me out of the house … Enfin je suis une femme perdue. And you
yourself must despise me. Yes, you despise me, Val; I see you do.” …

“What a child you are!” And he tried to convince her that there was
nothing to despise her for. “On vit comme on peut. Look at the people
we know; look at Marie Petrovna; look at Marie Lvovna!” …

Mimotchka reflected and remembered. Certainly, there was both Marie
Petrovna and Marie Lvovna. And Nettie, above all! But then, on the
other hand, there was Anna Vassilievna, and Aunt Julia, and mamma. No,
there were still some honest, good women, not like her. Otherwise, why
such harsh, pitiless judgments, why so much hypocrisy in the world?…
Valerian Nicolaevitch explained it all to her.

“Don’t you see, people suffer and bear too much because they don’t
seize the moments of happiness that fall to their share.”

“Oh yes, people do suffer.”

And she told him all about Spiridon Ivanovitch, and how dull it was
for her with him. She was rather afraid that Val would despise her
for having an old husband–he had so thundered against mercenary love.
But no, it did not disturb him at all. In general, since the ride to
the “Castle of Love and Treachery,” his feelings towards Spiridon
Ivanovitch had quite changed. He did not even frown when Mimotchka
mentioned his name, but, on the contrary, he endeavoured to instil into
her that with such a husband she could lead a very pleasant, easy life.
Only she must be wise. And he proceeded to give her some advice.

In the winter he would come to Petersburg. His wife would remain at
Kieff with the children, and they would spend a beautiful winter
together. Only there must be no imprudences. He praised Mimotchka
because while she was here she had behaved so rightly, so quietly, and
so naturally. Neither her mamma, who loved her so tenderly, nor that
sharp girl, Vava, had noticed anything whatever. That was as it should
be: yes, just as it should be. They loved one another, and they must
set up a wall between themselves and the world. Their secret was the
wall behind which they could love each other boldly and fully. They
must hide their happiness like a treasure, like something precious.

“L’amourette que l’on ébruite
Est un rosier déraciné.”

Let people try and guess if they chose to, let them suspect what they
liked, but don’t let them know anything.

Mimotchka told him how she came to marry, how everybody had persuaded
her to, and how she could never have made up her mind to it by herself.
Valerian Nicolaevitch did not understand why. It was wise, and she had
acted very rightly. Money was not the last thing in life; if it was
not happiness, at any rate it was the key to happiness. Only, these
last four years she had not understood how to arrange her life. She
herself had made it dull. Everything depends on ourselves.

But up till now she had not cared for anyone. She had never loved
before, and if she had not met him, Val, here, she would never have
known the happiness of love. But now, c’est pour la vie, n’est-ce-pas?

“Oui, c’est pour la vie!”

He himself seemed to be deeply unhappy in his family life. His wife was
a cold, hard pedant, who was incapable of responding to the transports
of his ardent soul. She was _une femelle;_ yes, that was the word. Why
had he married her?… It was a long story. Some day he would tell
it to Mimotchka, afterwards, but meanwhile … “Let me drink of this
sea!” … And he kissed her eyes.

For the first two weeks he told Mimotchka that he should certainly come
to Petersburg, and they talked about the delightful evenings they would
spend together at theatres and concerts. They would meet every day. But
as the time of separation drew near these plans somewhat changed.

He received a business letter from Kieff. It appeared he would hardly
be able to get away to Petersburg. An affair was impending, an
important, complicated lawsuit, with the particulars of which he made
Mimotchka acquainted. He was to defend a celebrated thief, a regular
scoundrel.

“But why defend a scoundrel?” asked Mimotchka; “then you don’t think
him guilty?”

“I am convinced of his guilt!”

“And you would defend him _quand meme?_”

“Every man has a right to a defence. It’s easy enough to acquit an
innocent man. His innocence itself speaks for him. But to pardon a
guilty man, to turn to him indulgently and mercifully, as a Christian
should turn to his brother, whoever he is, much intelligence and much
knowledge of the human heart is required. Christ did not judge, Christ
justified all, and for this very reason, and to awaken in the juries’
hearts that divine spark which exists in everyone of us …”

“But surely they won’t acquit him?”

“Perhaps they will.”

“What, a good-for-nothing fellow like that! I would transport him with
hard labour. And because of him we shan’t see each other any more. How
I hate him! And yet you are going to defend him.” … And Mimotchka
began to cry.

“What a child you are!” said Valerian Nicolaevitch, and kissed her eyes.

“Then we shan’t see each other any more?”

“What can we do?… Fate is jealous.” …

And when, three days before their departure, Mimotchka cried bitterly
on his shoulder, he stroked her hair and said rather absently:

“What can we do? We must submit. We were happy…. Fate is jealous….
Voyons, du courage…. We must look the inevitable in the face…. Let
us be thankful to Providence for these bright moments. You are still so
young….

“You will know new feelings And choose new friends.'”

“Jamais, jamais…. How can you talk like that! Don’t you care if I
get to love someone else? Tu ne m’as jamais aimée!… Oh, Val, Val!”

“Enfant! voyons, ne pleurez donc pas…. What does it matter? I have
had the spring flowers, someone else will have the fruits…. Don’t
look so terrified!… Je connais la vie, voilà tout!… You’re not
angry with me?… No!… Let me kiss your eyes! How I love kissing
them I … Fate willed it otherwise…. We have gathered the flowers.”

And then came a verse from Heine and a verse from Fett.

“I shall not forget you; no, never, and do you remember too,

‘Rappelle-toi, lorsque l’aurore craintive.'” …

But Mimotchka only went on crying quietly and silently, shaking her
head and kissing his hands, while her copious tears dropped like hail
on the necktie of “Love and Treachery.”

Then they exchanged turquoise rings. Mimotchka had her photograph done
for him in her riding-habit, on the same horse on which she had ridden
to the “Castle of Love and Treachery,” and he had his done for her in
his Tcherkesk costume. They had very much wished to visit the “Castle”
again, but somehow something always hindered their doing so….

Meanwhile mamma was already packing up and scolding Katia, who seemed
bereft of her senses, forgetting orders, letting things drop out of her
hands, and packing heavy garments on the top of light ones.

Vava tied up the copybooks containing her impressions of her travels
and her projects of a home for destitute children, and wrote down the
addresses of her Caucasian friends.

And Katia, on her knees before the open trunk, spread tissue paper
over Mimotchka’s plush jacket, and from time to time big tears dropped
on the jacket and on the linen laid over it. Oh, those Caucasian
turquoises!…

Early in the morning a travelling carriage stood at the door of
Baranoffsky’s apartments. Vava shook hands warmly with her friends,
who had come to say good-bye to her. She had very much improved during
the summer, had got sunburnt, stouter, and stronger. She had spent
a lovely summer here, and how sorry she was to part from those blue
mountains, from those walks and little paths in the wood, and from
her good friends! Ah, how sorry, how sorry! And Vava, forgetting all
about her mother’s strictness and home regulations, and her previous
unsuccessful attempts to introduce her friends, invited them all–yes,
all–to come and see her–please–be sure to–as soon as any one of
them came to Petersburg! She would be so happy!… “Don’t forget, No. 5
Millionnaia, apartment 2…. Please do be sure to come!”

Mimotchka came out in a travelling hat, in a waterproof, with a
travelling bag on her arm, and muffled up in a thick gauze veil. She
was calm and composed. She had cried away all her tears the day before.

Valerian Nicolaevitch was kind enough to offer to accompany them on
horseback as far as Essentouki. He was in his Tcherkesk costume,
leaning picturesquely on his saddle, and humming a song of Kapri’s, “I
remember the blissful meetings.” …

Katia ran out with bandboxes in her hands, weeping and panting….
Mamma stared at her in amazement. Everything was put in, everything was
in its place. The ladies took their seats and the carriage drove off
from Kislovodsk.

They said good-bye at Essentouki. Valerian Nicolaevitch kissed mamma’s
hand, and she expressed the hope that he would come and see them in
Petersburg. Vava also invited him to come and see her. She was so sorry
that everything Caucasian was leaving her. Mimotchka was silent, but
gazed at him mournfully.

And the carriage drove on further in the direction of the station.

It was a grey, dull-looking morning, and a thick, fine rain beat
against the windows when the ladies woke up as they neared Petersburg.

Rain, rain, rain…. A melancholy grey sky…. The villas round
Petersburg with their fir-tree plantations; the muddy, swampy roads
with the ditches at the edge and the thickly-grown bracken pass before
them …, Moss, bilberry bushes, marsh and fog….

Here are the well-known market-gardens with the cabbages, and the
barracks, and the platform of the Petersburg railway station; the rain
has stopped and the sun is shining on the wet platform.

There is Spiridon Ivanovitch’s orderly and there is Aunt Julia’s
footman.

And here stands Spiridon Ivanovitch himself, resplendent, like a
peony, in his crimson-lined overcoat…. Mamma joyfully taps on the
window-pane to him. He has seen them, seen them and recognised them!

Mimotchka’s heart sinks. How old he looks, and what a stranger he
seems to her, what a stranger!… She wishes the train would not stop,
but would go on further and further and carry her away past…. But the
train slackens speed, it stops. They must get out.

Here’s Mdme. Lambert with Zina, and, oh my goodness, here’s baby with
his nurse! He has come to meet his mamma! How he has grown, how he has
improved, and how sunburnt he has got, dear little mite! And just
look, he isn’t a bit shy; he smiles, he says, “how-do-you-do” to them
all, stretches out his lips to be kissed by his mother and grandmother
and Vava…. And he salutes, yes, he has learnt how to make a military
salute, putting up his little hand to his head and saying, “I wish you
good health!” Oh, what a darling!

And grandmamma smothers baby with kisses, and tears of pride and
tenderness rise to her eyes, when baby, drawing himself up straight in
front of her, says to her, “I wish you good health, your excellency!”
And Spiridon Ivanovitch enfolds Mimotchka in his ample embrace.

A week after their arrival they were all assembled at Aunt Julia’s. She
was in a state of great jubiliation. Her son Vova was engaged, and his
_fiancée_ was in every way most suitable. She was both wealthy and well
connected…. The engagement was not yet formally announced, but the
affair was quite settled. The _fiancée_ was not pretty and she was no
longer very young, but she was over head and ears in love with Vova.
Aunt Julia liked her very much, and in speaking to her sisters of the
young lady she said: “Elle n’est pas futile.”

Aunt Julia thanked mamma very warmly for her care of Vava. Not to
speak of Vava’s having much improved physically, she had also morally
changed, for the better; she was more self-controlled, gentler, and
more obedient. And so she was given a separate room all to herself,
where she could sleep, write, and study without Mdme. Lambert.

“Well, so altogether you had a pleasant trip?” says Aunt Julia in
conclusion.

“Delightful, delightful. I am so glad Variashski sent us there.”

“But how much prettier Mimotchka has grown! Why, she is simply
unrecognisable.”

“It’s striking!” says Aunt Mary. “Next summer I shall go to Kislovodsk
to get young and beautiful again.”

Mimotchka smiles modestly and composedly.

“And that Netty!” says Aunt Sophy. “Haven’t you heard what a scandal
there was?”

“No, what is it? Zina wrote something or other about it, but we could
not make out what she meant.”

“She is separated from her husband, and has now disappeared from
Petersburg and gone off to Paris, where she changes her lovers as
often as her gloves. It’s awful! She always did behave like a fool.
Just before her husband had to go to sea her conscience began to get
uneasy. If it had only kept quiet until he came back! No, she goes to
confession and tells everything to the priest, this and that, and says
she has committed a sin against her husband. The priest directly says:
‘And does your husband know of it? ‘No,’ she says. ‘Well then, don’t
tell him of it.’ And he explained to her why she was to keep silence,
that as she had sinned, she must suffer, but that he must not suffer
for it.”

“They always say that,” puts in Aunt Mary thoughtlessly, and meeting
Aunt Julia’s inquiring gaze, she adds, “I have heard of many such cases
where the priests said that.”

“Well she comes straight home from confession and says to her husband,
‘I went to the priest and told him all about my sin.’ ‘What sin?’ And
there it was. What!… Scenes and explanations. He wants to shoot
himself and she wants to shoot herself. He wants to kill her, to kill
the other man, to kill himself. _… A la fin des fins_ he goes to
sea, and she, after throwing all the children on the old Poltavsteffs’
hands, goes off to her beloved and sets about getting a divorce. After
two months the other man cannot stand her any longer and runs away
from her. She takes poison, the doctors save her life, and then she
goes off to Paris. She has been there now already three weeks, and
there are very very ugly rumours about her.” …

“Oh, how sorry I am far the old Poltavsteffs!” says mamma: “how
dreadful it is for them!”

“I said a long time ago that she was in a dangerous way,” says Aunt
Julia.

Mimotchka nods her head affirmatively.

“Well, _à propos_ of love affairs,” says Aunt Sophy, “is it true that
in the Caucasus, at the springs, there is so much flirting going on?”

“Ah, don’t mention it!” answers mamma, smiling. “What things we saw and
what things we heard! And Variashski, too, just imagine!” …

“And wasn’t there anyone after Mimi? Est-ce qu’il y a eu quelqu’un
pour te faire la cour?… Et personne ne t’a donné dans l’œil?” …

“Quelle idée, ma tante!… Why, there was no one there. At least, there
were many sympathetic, agreeable people, but nobody of that sort.” …

And Mimotchka, smiling her old Petersburg smile, shakes her head in
denial.

“And is nature really so beautiful there?” asks Aunt Julia; “Vava goes
into ecstasies about the mountains.”

“But they didn’t see anything,” said Spiridon Ivanovitch regretfully.
“How was it you never went to Bermamout? Why, I wrote and told you to
go. To be at Kislovodsk and not go to Bermamout! Oh, you!… you were
among the real mountains and never went to see them.”

“But there was no one to go with,” said Mimotchka, defending herself.
“The X—- ‘s had left before our arrival, and somehow we three never
managed it alone. I really did so try to go and see everything.”

“Yes, it must be very lovely there,” says Aunt Mary, looking through
the stereoscope at some views of the Caucasus that Vava had brought
back. “How beautiful this is! What is it?”

“This?” says Mimotchka, bending over Aunt Mary to look through the
stereoscope. “This is the ‘Castle of Love and Treachery.’ They are
rocks that look like a castle, and that is what they are called.”

“And is it really as beautiful? Did you go there?”

“Yes, I went there on horseback…. It’s very beautiful, especially by
moon-light–c’est féerique.”