It was fiercely cold and I hurried home, pulling my Shuba more closely about me.
Of some of the events that I am now about to relate it is obvious that I could not have been an eye-witness—and yet, looking back from the strange isolation that is now my world I find it incredibly difficult to realise what I saw and what I did not. Was I with Nina and Vera on that Tuesday night when they stood face to face with one another for the first time? Was I with Markovitch during his walk through that marvellous new world that he seemed himself to have created? I know that I shared none of these things..., and yet it seems to me that I was at the heart of them all. I may have been told many things by the actors in those events—I may not. I cannot now in retrospect see any of it save as my own personal experience, and as my own personal experience I must relate it; but, as I have already said at the beginning of this book, no one is compelled to believe either my tale or my interpretation. Every man would, I suppose, like to tell his story in the manner of some other man. I can conceive the events of this part of my narration being interpreted in the spirit of the wildest farce, of the genteelest comedy, of the most humorous satire—“Other men, Other gifts.” I am a dull and pompous fellow, as Semyonov often tells me; and I hope that I never allowed him to see how deeply I felt the truth of his words.
Meanwhile I will begin with a small adventure of Henry Bohun’s. Apparently, one evening soon after Nina’s party, he found himself about half-past ten in the evening, lonely and unhappy, walking down the Nevski. Gay and happy crowds wandered by him, brushing him aside, refusing to look at him, showing in fact no kind of interest in his existence. He was suddenly frightened, the distances seemed terrific and the Nevski was so hard and bright and shining—that it had no use at all for any lonely young man. He decided suddenly that he would go and see me. He found an Isvostchick, but when they reached the Ekaterinsgofsky Canal the surly coachman refused to drive further, saying that his horse had gone lame, and that this was as far as he had bargained to go.
Henry was forced to leave the cab, and then found himself outside the little people’s cinema, where he had once been with Vera and myself.
He knew that my rooms were not far away, and he started off beside the white and silent canal, wondering why he had come, and wishing he were back in bed.