“I’m sorry, Ivan Andreievitch,” she said. “I was cross the other day. I hurt you. I oughtn’t to have done that.”
“You know,” I said, “that I never thought of it for a minute.”
“No, I was wrong. But I’ve been terribly worried during these last weeks. I’ve thought it all out to-day and I’ve decided—” there was a catch in her breath and she paused; she went on—“decided that there mustn’t be any more weakness. I’m much weaker than I thought. I would be ashamed if I didn’t think that shame was a silly thing to have. But now I am quite clear; I must make Nicholas and Nina happy. Whatever else comes I must do that. It has been terrible, these last weeks. We’ve all been angry and miserable, and now I must put it right. I can if I try. I’ve been forgetting that I chose my own life myself, and now I mustn’t be cowardly because it’s difficult. I will make it right myself....”
She paused again, then she said, looking me straight in the face,
“Ivan Andreievitch, does Nina care for Mr. Lawrence?”
She was looking at me, with large black eyes so simply, with such trust in me, that I could only tell her the truth.
“Yes,” I said, “she does.”
Her eyes fell, then she looked up at me again.
“I thought so,” she said. “And does he care for her?”
“No,” I said, “he does not.”
“He must,” she said. “It would be a very happy thing for them to marry.”
She spoke very low, so that I could scarcely hear her words.
“Wait, Vera,” I said. “Let it alone. Nina’s very young. The mood will pass. Lawrence, perhaps, will go back to England.”
She drew in her breath and I saw her hand tremble, but she still looked at me, only now her eyes were not so clear. Then she laughed. “I’m getting an old woman, Ivan Andreievitch. It’s ridiculous....” She broke off. Then held out her hand.
“But we’ll always be friends now, won’t we? I’ll never be cross with you again.”
I took her hand. “I’m getting old too,” I said. “And I’m useless at everything. I only make a bungle of everything I try. But I’ll be your true friend to the end of my time—”
The bell rang and we went back into the theatre.
And yet, strangely enough, when I lay awake that night in my room on my deserted island, it was of Markovitch that I was thinking. Of all the memories of the preceding evening that of Markovitch huddled over his food, sullen and glowering, with Semyonov watching him, was predominant.
Markovitch was, so to speak, the dark horse of them all, and he was also when one came to look at it all the way round the centre of the story. And yet it was Markovitch with his inconsistencies, his mysteries, his impulses, and purposes, whom I understood least of them all. He makes, indeed, a very good symbol of my present difficulties.