First Love

CHAPTER XIII

I was so proud and light-hearted all that day, I so vividly retained on my face the feeling of Zinaïda’s kisses, with such a shudder of delight I recalled every word she had uttered, I so hugged my unexpected happiness that I felt positively afraid, positively unwilling to see her, who had given rise to these new sensations. It seemed to me that now I could ask nothing more of fate, that now I ought to ‘go, and draw a deep last sigh and die.’ But, next day, when I went into the lodge, I felt great embarrassment, which I tried to conceal under a show of modest confidence, befitting a man who wishes to make it apparent that he knows how to keep a secret. Zinaïda received me very simply, without any emotion, she simply shook her finger at me and asked me, whether I wasn’t black and blue? All my modest confidence and air of mystery vanished instantaneously and with them my embarrassment. Of course, I had not expected anything particular, but Zinaïda’s composure was like a bucket of cold water thrown over me. I realised that in her eyes I was a child, and was extremely miserable! Zinaïda walked up and down the room, giving me a quick smile, whenever she caught my eye, but her thoughts were far away, I saw that clearly.... ‘Shall I begin about what happened yesterday myself,’ I pondered; ‘ask her, where she was hurrying off so fast, so as to find out once for all’ ... but with a gesture of despair, I merely went and sat down in a corner.

Byelovzorov came in; I felt relieved to see him.

‘I’ve not been able to find you a quiet horse,’ he said in a sulky voice; ‘Freitag warrants one, but I don’t feel any confidence in it, I am afraid.’

‘What are you afraid of?’ said Zinaïda; ‘allow me to inquire?’

‘What am I afraid of? Why, you don’t know how to ride. Lord save us, what might happen! What whim is this has come over you all of a sudden?’

‘Come, that’s my business, Sir Wild Beast. In that case I will ask Piotr Vassilievitch.’ ... (My father’s name was Piotr Vassilievitch. I was surprised at her mentioning his name so lightly and freely, as though she were confident of his readiness to do her a service.)

‘Oh, indeed,’ retorted Byelovzorov, ‘you mean to go out riding with him then?’

‘With him or with some one else is nothing to do with you. Only not with you, anyway.’

‘Not with me,’ repeated Byelovzorov. ‘As you wish. Well, I shall find you a horse.’

‘Yes, only mind now, don’t send some old cow. I warn you I want to gallop.’

‘Gallop away by all means ... with whom is it, with Malevsky, you are going to ride?’

‘And why not with him, Mr. Pugnacity? Come, be quiet,’ she added, ‘and don’t glare. I’ll take you too. You know that to my mind now Malevsky’s—ugh!’ She shook her head.

‘You say that to console me,’ growled Byelovzorov.

Zinaïda half closed her eyes. ‘Does that console you? O ... O ... O ... Mr. Pugnacity!’ she said at last, as though she could find no other word. ‘And you, M’sieu’ Voldemar, would you come with us?’

‘I don’t care to ... in a large party,’ I muttered, not raising my eyes.

‘You prefer a tête-à-tête?... Well, freedom to the free, and heaven to the saints,’ she commented with a sigh. ‘Go along, Byelovzorov, and bestir yourself. I must have a horse for tomorrow.’

‘Oh, and where’s the money to come from?’ put in the old princess.

Zinaïda scowled.

‘I won’t ask you for it; Byelovzorov will trust me.’

‘He’ll trust you, will he?’ ... grumbled the old princess, and all of a sudden she screeched at the top of her voice, ‘Duniashka!’

‘Maman, I have given you a bell to ring,’ observed Zinaïda.

‘Duniashka!’ repeated the old lady.

Byelovzorov took leave; I went away with him. Zinaïda did not try to detain me.



Back | Next | Contents