“All right! All right!” I said testily. “You may be a kind of Galahad, Lawrence, outside all natural law. I don’t know, but you’ll forgive me if I go for a moment on my own experience—and that experience is, that you can start on as highbrow an elevation as you like, but love doesn’t stand still, and the body’s the body, and to-morrow isn’t yesterday—not by no means. Moreover, Markovitch is a Russian and a peculiar one at that. Finally, remember that I want Vera Michailovna to be happy quite as much as you do!”
He was suddenly grave and almost boyish in his next words.
“I know that—you’re a decent chap, Durward—I know it’s hard to believe me, but I just ask you to wait and test me. No one knows of this—that I’d swear—and no one shall; but what’s the matter with her, Durward, what’s she afraid of? That’s why I spoke to you. You know her, and I’ll throttle you here where we stand if you don’t tell me just what the trouble is. I don’t care for confidences or anything of the sort. You must break them all and tell me—”
His hand was on my arm again, his big ugly face, now grim and obstinate, close against mine.
“I’ll tell you,” I said slowly, “all I know, which is almost nothing. The trouble is Semyonov, the doctor. Why or how I can’t say, although I’ve seen enough of him in the past to know the trouble he can be. She’s afraid of him, and Markovitch is afraid of him. He likes playing on people’s nerves. He’s a bitter, disappointed man, who loved desperately once, as only real sensualists can... and now he’s in love with a ghost. That’s why real life maddens him.”
“Semyonov!” Lawrence whispered the name.
We had come to the end of the quay. My dear church with its round grey wall stood glistening in the moonlight, the shadows from the snow rippling up its sides, as though it lay under water. We stood and looked across the river.
“I’ve always hated that fellow,” Lawrence said. “I’ve only seen him about twice, but I believe I hated him before I saw him.... All right, Durward, that’s what I wanted to know. Thank you. Good-night.”
And before I could speak he had gripped my hand, had turned back, and was walking swiftly away, across the golden-lighted quay.
From the moment that Lawrence left me, vanishing into the heart of the snow and ice, I was obsessed by a conviction of approaching danger and peril. It has been one of the most disastrous weaknesses of my life that I have always shrunk from precipitate action. Before the war it had seemed to many of us that life could be jockeyed into decisions by words and theories and speculations. The swift, and, as it were, revengeful precipitancy of the last three years had driven me into a self-distrust and cowardice which had grown and grown until life had seemed veiled and distant and mysteriously obscure. From my own