As the men came, talking, smiling, wiping their eyes, they were caught by Grogoff’s voice. They stood there and listened. Soon they began to nod their heads. I heard them muttering that good old word “Verrno! Verrno!” again. The crowd grew. The men began to shout their approval. “Aye! it’s true,” I heard a solder near me mutter. “The English are thieves”; and another “Belgium?... After all I could not understand a word of what that little fat man said.”
I heard no more, but I did not wonder now at the floods that were rising and rising, soon to engulf the whole of this great country. The end of this stage of our story was approaching for all of us.
We three had stood back, a little in the shadow, gazing about to see whether we could hail a cab.
As we waited I took my last look at Grogoff, his stout figure against the purple sky, the masts of the ships, the pale tumbling river, the black line of the farther shore. He stood, his arms waving, his mouth open, the personification of the disease from which Russia was suffering.
A cab arrived. I turned, said as it were, my farewell to Grogoff and everything for which he stood, and went.
We drove home almost in silence. Vera, staring in front of her, her face proud and reserved, building up a wall of her own thoughts.
“Come in for a moment, won’t you?” she asked me, rather reluctantly I thought. But I accepted, climbed the stairs and followed Uncle Ivan’s stubby and self-satisfied progress into the flat.
I heard Vera cry. I hurried after her and found, standing close together, in the middle of the room Henry Bohun and Nina!
With a little sob of joy and shame too, Nina was locked in Vera’s arms.
This is obviously the place for the story, based, of course, on the very modest and slender account given me by the hero of it, of young Bohun’s knightly adventure. In its inception the whole affair is still mysterious to me. Looking back from this distance of time I see that he was engaged on one knightly adventure after another—first Vera, then Markovitch, lastly Nina. The first I caught at the very beginning, the second I may be said to have inspired, but to the third I was completely blind. I was blind, I suppose, because, in the first place, Nina had, from the beginning, laughed at Bohun, and in the second, she had been entirely occupied with Lawrence.
Bohun’s knight-errantry came upon her with, I am sure, as great a shock of surprise as it did upon me. And yet, when you come to think of it, it was the most natural thing. They were the only two of our party who had any claim to real youth, and they were still so young that they could believe in one ideal after another as quick as you can catch goldfish in a bowl of water. Bohun would, of course, have indignantly denied that he was out to help anybody, but that, nevertheless, was the direction in which his character led him; and once Russia had stripped from him that thin coat of self-satisfaction, he had nothing to do but mount his white charger and enter the tournament.