“And do you like it?” I asked.
“I like Uncle Alexei,” she answered. “We have long talks. He shows me how silly I’ve been.”
“Oh!” I said... “and what about Nicholas’ inventions?”
“He’s given them up for ever.” She looked at me doubtfully, as though she were wondering whether she could trust me. “He’s so funny now—Nicholas, I mean. You know he was so happy when the Revolution came. Now he’s in a different mood every minute. Something’s happened to him that we don’t know about.”
“What kind of thing?” I asked.
“I don’t know. He’s seen something or heard something. It’s some secret he’s got. But Uncle Alexei knows.”
“How can you tell?”
“Because he’s always saying things that make Nicholas angry, and we can’t see anything in them at all.... Uncle Alexei’s very clever.”
“Yes, he is,” I agreed. “But you haven’t told me why you were crying just now.”
She looked at me. She gave a little shiver. “Oh, you do look ill!... Everything’s going wrong together, isn’t it?”
And with that she suddenly left me, hurrying away from me, leaving me miserable and apprehensive of some great trouble in store for all of us.
It is impossible to explain how disturbed I was by Nina’s news. Semyonov living in the flat! He must have some very strong reason for this, to leave his big comfortable flat for the pokiness of the Markovitches’!
And then that the Markovitches should have him! There were already inhabitants enough—Nicholas, Vera, Nina, Uncle Ivan, Bohun. Then the inconvenience and discomfort of Nicholas’s little hole as a bedroom! How Semyonov must loathe it!
From that moment the Markovitches’ flat became for me the centre of my drama. Looking back I could see now how all the growing development of the story had centred round those rooms. I did not of course know at this time of that final drama of the Thursday afternoon, but I knew of the adventure with the policeman, and it seemed to me that the flat was a cup into which the ingredients were being poured one after another until at last the preparation would be complete, and then....
Oh, but I cared for Nina and Vera and Nicholas—yes, and Jerry too! I wanted to see them happy and at peace before I left them—in especial Nicholas.
And Semyonov came closer to them and closer, following some plan of his own and yet, after all, finally like a man driven by a power, constructed it might be, out of his own very irony.
I made a kind of bet with fate that by Easter Day every one should be happy by then.
Next day, the 15th of April, was the great funeral for the victims of the Revolution. I believe, although of course at that time I had heard nothing, that there had been great speculation about the day, many people thinking that it would be an excuse for further trouble, the Monarchists rising, or the “Soviet” attacking the Provisional Government, or Milyukoff and his followers attacking the Soviet. They need not have been alarmed. No one had as yet realised the lengths that Slavonic apathy may permit itself....