“Thank you, Ivan Andreievitch, but I want no help—I am in no trouble. It was very kind of Mr. Lawrence, but really—”
Then I could endure it no longer. I broke out:
“Vera, what’s the matter. You know all this isn’t true.... I don’t know what idea you have now in your head, but you must let me speak to you. I’ve got to tell you this—that Lawrence must go back to England, and as soon as possible—and I will see that he does—”
That did its work. In an instant she was upon me like a wild beast, springing from her chair, standing close to me, her head flung back, her eyes furious.
“You wouldn’t dare!” she cried. “It’s none of your business, Ivan Andreievitch. You say you’re my friend. You’re not. You’re my enemy—my enemy. I don’t care for him, not in the very least—he is nothing to me—nothing to me at all. But he mustn’t go back to England. It will ruin his career. You will ruin him for life, Ivan Andreievitch. What business is it of yours? You imagine—because of what you fancied you saw at Nina’s party. There was nothing at Nina’s party—nothing. I love my husband, Ivan Andreievitch, and you are my enemy if you say anything else. And you pretend to be his friend, but you are his enemy if you try to have him sent back to England.... He must not go. For the matter of that, I will never see him again—never—if that is what you want. See, I promise you never—never—” She suddenly broke down—she, Vera Michailovna, the proudest woman I had ever known, turning from me, her head in her hands, sobbing, her shoulders bent.
I was most deeply moved. I could say nothing at first, then, when the sound of her sobbing became unbearable to me, I murmured,
“Vera, please. I have no power. I can’t make him go. I will only do what you wish. Vera, please, please—”
Then, with her back still turned to me, I heard her say,
“Please, go. I didn’t mean—I didn’t... but go now... and come back—later.”
I waited a minute, and then, miserable, terrified of the future, I went.
Next night (it was Friday evening) Semyonov paid me a visit. I was just dropping to sleep in my chair. I had been reading that story of De la Mare’s The Return—one of the most beautiful books in our language, whether for its spirit, its prose, or its poetry—and something of the moon-lit colour of its pages had crept into my soul, so that the material world was spun into threads of the finest silk behind which other worlds were more and more plainly visible. I had not drawn my blind, and a wonderful moon shone clear on to the bare boards of my room, bringing with its rays the mother-of-pearl reflections of the limitless ice, and these floated on my wall in trembling waves of opaque light. In the middle of this splendour I dropped slowly into slumber, the book falling from my hands, and I, on my part, seeming to float lazily backwards and forwards, as though, truly, one were at the bottom of some crystal sea, idly and happily drowned.