“There was a report, and it was as though a piece of the wall slowly unsettled itself and fell forward. No sound except the report. Oh, he was a fine old boy!
“The officer came up to me and said very politely:
“‘You are free now, sir,’ and something about regretting incivility, and something, I think, about them perhaps wanting me again to give some sort of evidence. Very polite he was.
“I was mad, I suppose, I don’t know. I believe I said something to him about Vera, which of course he didn’t understand.
“I know I wanted to run like hell to Vera to see that she was safe.
“But I didn’t. I walked off as slowly as anything. It was awful. They’d been so good to me, and yet I wasn’t thinking of Wilderling at all....”
Markovitch on that same afternoon came back to the flat early. He also, like Lawrence, felt the strange peace and tranquillity of the town, and it seemed inevitably like the confirmation of all his dearest hopes. The Czar was gone, the Old Regime was gone, the people, smiling and friendly, were maintaining their own discipline—above all, Vera had kissed him.
He did not go deeper into his heart and see how strained all their recent relations must have been for this now to give him such joy. He left that—it simply was that at last he and Vera understood one another, she had found that she cared for him after all, and that he was necessary to her happiness. What that must mean for their future life together he simply dared not think.... It would change the world for him. He felt like the man in the story from whom the curse is suddenly lifted....
He walked home through the quiet town, humming to himself. He fancied that there was a warmth in the air, a strange kindly omen of spring, although the snow was still thick on the ground, and the Neva a grey carpet of ice.
He came into the flat and found it empty. He went into his little room and started on his inventions. He was so happy that he hummed to himself as he worked and cut slices off his pieces of wood, and soaked flannel in bottles, and wrote funny little sentences in his abominable handwriting in a red notebook.
One need not grudge it him, poor Markovitch. It was the last happy half-hour of his life.
He did not turn on his green-shaded lamp, but sat there in the gathering dusk, chipping up the wood and sometimes stopping, idly lost in happy thoughts.
Some one came in. He peered through his little glass window and saw that it was Nina. She passed quickly through the dining-room, beyond, towards her bedroom, without stopping to switch on the light.
Nina had broken the spell. He went back to his table, but he couldn’t work now, and he felt vaguely uneasy and cold. He was just going to leave his work and find the Retch and settle down to a comfortable read, when he heard the hall door close. He stood behind his little glass window and watched; it was Vera, perhaps... it must be... his heart began eagerly to beat.