The next day, Sunday, I have always called in my mind Nina’s day, and so I propose to deal with it here, describing it as far as possible from her point of view and placing her in the centre of the picture.
The great fact about Nina, at the end, when everything has been said, must always be her youth. That Russian youthfulness is something that no Western people can ever know, because no Western people are accustomed, from their very babyhood, to bathe in an atmosphere that deals only with ideas.
In no Russian family is the attempt to prevent children from knowing what life really is maintained for long; the spontaneous impetuosity of the parents breaks it down. Nevertheless the Russian boy and girl, when they come to the awkward age, have not the least idea of what life really is. Dear me, no! They possess simply a bundle of incoherent ideas, untested, ill-digested, but a wonderful basis for incessant conversation. Experience comes, of course, and for the most part it is unhappy experience.
Life is a tragedy to every Russian simply because the daily round is forgotten by him in his pursuit of an ultimate meaning. We in the West have learnt to despise ultimate meanings as unpractical and rather priggish things.
Nina had thought so much and tested so little. She loved so vehemently that her betrayal was the more inevitable. For instance, she did not love Boris Grogoff in the least, but he was in some way connected with the idea of freedom. She was, I am afraid, beginning to love Lawrence desperately—the first love of her life—and he too was connected with the idea of freedom because he was English. We English do not understand sufficiently how the Russians love us for our easy victory over tyranny, and despise us for the small use we have made of our victory—and then, after all, there is something to be said for tyranny too....
But Nina did not see why she should not capture Lawrence. She felt her vitality, her health, her dominant will beat so strongly within her that it seemed to her that nothing could stop her. She loved him for his strength, his silence, his good-nature, yes, and his stupidity. This last gave her a sense of power over him, and of motherly tenderness too. She loved his stiff and halting Russian—it was as though he were but ten years old.
I am convinced, too, that she did not consider that she was doing any wrong to Vera. In the first place she was not as yet really sure that Vera cared for him. Vera, who had been to her always a mother rather than a sister, seemed an infinite age. It was ridiculous that Vera should fall in love—Vera so stately and stern and removed from passion. Those days were over for Vera, and, with her strong sense of duty and the fitness of things, she would realise that. Moreover Nina could not believe that Lawrence cared for Vera. Vera was not the figure to be loved in that way. Vera’s romance had been with Markovitch years and years ago, and now, whenever Nina looked at Markovitch, it made it at once impossible to imagine Vera in any new romantic situation.