The Secret City eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 371 pages of information about The Secret City.

XII

So much for the way that one Russian saw it.  There were others.  For instance Vera....

I suppose that the motive of Vera’s life was her pride.  Quite early, I should imagine, she had adopted that as the sort of talisman that would save her from every kind of ill.  She told me once that when she was a little girl, the story of the witch who lured two children into the wood and then roasted them in her oven had terrified her beyond all control, and she would lie awake and shiver for hours because of it.  It became a symbol of life to her—­the Forest was there and the Oven and the Witch—­and so clever and subtle was the Witch that the only way to outwit her was by pride.  Then there was also her maternal tenderness; it was through that that Markovitch won her.  She had not of course loved him—­she had never pretended to herself that she had—­but she had seen that he wanted caring for, and then, having taken the decisive step, her pride had come to her aid, had shown her a glimpse of the Witch waiting in the Forest darkness, and had proved to her that here was her great opportunity.  She had then, with the easy superiority of a young girl, ignorant of life, dismissed love as of something that others might care for but that would, in no case, concern herself.  Did Love for a moment smile at her or beckon to her Pride came to her and showed her Nina and Nicholas, and that was enough.

But Love knows its power.  He suddenly put forth his strength and Vera was utterly helpless—­far more helpless than a Western girl with her conventional code and traditional training would have been.  Vera had no convention and no tradition.  She had only her pride and her maternal instinct and these, for a time, fought a battle for her... then they suddenly deserted her.

I imagine that they really deserted her on the night of Nina’s birthday-party, but she would not admit defeat so readily, and fought on for a little.  On this eventful week when the world, as we knew it, was tumbling about our ears, she had told herself that the only thing to which she must give a thought was her fixed loyalty to Nina and Nicholas.  She would not think of Lawrence....She would not think of him.  And so resolving, thought of him all the more.

By Wednesday morning her nerves were exhausted.  The excitements of this week came as a climax to many months of strain.  With the exception of her visit to the Astoria she had been out scarcely at all and, although the view from her flat was peaceful enough she could imagine every kind of horror beyond the boundaries of the Prospect—­and in every horror Lawrence figured.

There occurred that morning a strange little conversation between Vera, Semyonov, Nicholas Markovitch, and myself.  I arrived about ten o’clock to see how they were and to hear the news.  I found Vera sitting quietly at the table sewing.  Markovitch stood near to her, his anxious eyes and trembling mouth perched on the top of his sharp peaky collar and his hands rubbing nervously one within another.  He was obviously in a state of very great excitement.  Semyonov sat opposite Vera, leaning his thick body on his arms, his eyes watching his niece and every once and again his firm pale hand stroking his beard.

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The Secret City from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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