I stared at him. I could not take my eyes away. I instantly forgot every one else, the room, the tree, the lights.... With a force, with a poignancy and pathos and brutality that were more cruel than I could have believed possible that other world came back to me. Ah! I could see now that all these months I had been running away from this very thing, seeking to pretend that it did not exist, that it had never existed. All in vain—utterly in vain. I saw Semyonov as I had just seen him, sitting on his horse outside the shining white house at O——. Then Semyonov operating in a stinking room, under a red light, his arms bathed in blood; then Semyonov and Trenchard; then Semyonov speaking to Marie Ivanovna, her eyes searching his face; then that day when I woke from my dream in the orchard to find his eyes staring at me through the bright green trees, and afterwards when we went in to look at her dead; then worst of all that ride back to the “Stab” with my hand on his thick, throbbing arm.... Semyonov in the Forest, working, sneering, hating us, despising us, carrying his tragedy in his eyes and defying us to care; Semyonov that last time of all, vanishing into the darkness with his “Nothing!” that lingering echo of a defiant desperate soul that had stayed with me, against my bidding, ever since I had heard it.
What a fool had I been to know these people! I had felt from the first to what it must lead, and I might have avoided it and I would not. I looked at him, I faced him, I smiled. He was the same as he had been. A little stouter, perhaps, his pale hair and square-cut beard looking as though it had been carved from some pale honey-coloured wood, the thick stolidity of his long body and short legs, the squareness of his head, the coldness of his eyes and the violent red of his lips, all were just as they had been—the same man, save that now he was in civilian clothes, in a black suit with a black bow tie. There was a smile on his lips, that same smile half sneer half friendliness that I knew so well. His eyes were veiled....
He was, I believe, as violently surprised to see me as I had been to see him, but he held himself in complete control!
He said, “Why, Durward!... Ivan Andreievitch!” Then he greeted the others.
I was able, now, to notice the general effect of his arrival. It was as though a cold wind had suddenly burst through the windows, blown out all the candles upon the tree and plunged the place into darkness. Those who did not know him felt that, with his entrance, the gaiety was gone. Markovitch’s face was pale, he was looking at Vera who, for an instant, had stood, quite silently, staring at her uncle, then, recovering herself, moved forward.
“Why, Uncle Alexei!” she cried, holding out her hand. “You’re too late for the tree! Why didn’t you tell us? Then you could have come to dinner... and now it is all over. Why didn’t you tell us?”