He suddenly broke off, flinging himself down on the dirty sofa. “Pheugh. Talking makes one hot!... Have a drink, Ivan Andreievitch.... Nina, fetch a drink.”
Through all this my eyes had never left her for a moment. I had hoped that this empty tub-thumping to which we had been listening would have affected her. But she had not moved nor stirred.
“Nina!” I said softly. “Nina. Come with me!”
But she only shook her head. Grogoff, quite silent now, lolled on the sofa, watching us. I went up to her and put my hand on her sleeve.
“Dear Nina,” I said, “come back to us.”
I saw her lip tremble. There was unshed tears in her eyes. But again she shook her head.
“What have they done,” I asked, “to make you take this step?”
“Something has happened....” she said slowly. “I can’t tell you.”
“Just come and talk to Vera.”
“No, it’s hopeless... I can’t see her again. But, Durdles... tell her it’s not her fault.”
At the sound of my pet name I took courage again.
“But tell me, Nina.... Do you love this man?”
She turned round and looked at Grogoff as though she were seeing him for the first time.
“Love?... Oh no, not love! But he will be kind to me, I think. And I must be myself, be a woman, not a child any longer.”
Then, suddenly clearing her voice, speaking very firmly, looking me full in the face, she said:
“Tell Vera... that I saw... what happened that Thursday afternoon—the Thursday of the Revolution week. Tell her that—when you’re alone with her. Tell her that—then she’ll understand.”
She turned and almost ran out of the room.
“Well, you see,” said Grogoff smiling lazily from the sofa.
“That settles it.”
“It doesn’t settle it,” I answered. “We shall never rest until we have got her back.”
But, I had to go. There was nothing more just then to be done.
On my return I found Vera alone waiting for me with restless impatience.
“Well?” she said eagerly. Then when she saw that I was alone her face clouded.
“I trusted you—” she began.
“It’s no good,” I said at once. “Not for the moment. She’s made up her mind. It’s not because she loved him nor, I think, for anything very much that her uncle said. She’s got some idea in her head. Perhaps you can explain it.”
“I?” said Vera, looking at me.
“Yes. She gave me a message for you.”
“What was it?” But even as she asked the question she seemed to fear the answer, because she turned away from me.
“She told me to tell you that she saw what happened on the afternoon of the Thursday in Revolution week. She said that then you would understand.”
Vera looked at me with the strangest expression of defiance, fear, triumph.