“Well? She seems a good sort of girl. Only she is very young.”
“Yes, she is young,” sighed Nikitin, and shrugged his shoulders with a careworn air. “Very, very young!”
“She was my pupil at the high school. I know her. She wasn’t bad at geography, but she was no good at history. And she was inattentive in class, too.”
Nikitin for some reason felt suddenly sorry for his companion, and longed to say something kind and comforting to him.
“My dear fellow, why don’t you get married?” he asked. “Why don’t you marry Varya, for instance? She is a splendid, first-rate girl! It’s true she is very fond of arguing, but a heart . . . what a heart! She was just asking about you. Marry her, my dear boy! Eh?”
He knew perfectly well that Varya would not marry this dull, snub-nosed man, but still persuaded him to marry her—why?
“Marriage is a serious step,” said Ippolit Ippolititch after a moment’s thought. “One has to look at it all round and weigh things thoroughly; it’s not to be done rashly. Prudence is always a good thing, and especially in marriage, when a man, ceasing to be a bachelor, begins a new life.”
And he talked of what every one has known for ages. Nikitin did not stay to listen, said goodnight, and went to his own room. He undressed quickly and quickly got into bed, in order to be able to think the sooner of his happiness, of Masha, of the future; he smiled, then suddenly recalled that he had not read Lessing.
“I must read him,” he thought. “Though, after all, why should I? Bother him!”
And exhausted by his happiness, he fell asleep at once and went on smiling till the morning.
He dreamed of the thud of horses’ hoofs on a wooden floor; he dreamed of the black horse Count Nulin, then of the white Giant and its sister Maika, being led out of the stable.
“It was very crowded and noisy in the church, and once some one cried out, and the head priest, who was marrying Masha and me, looked through his spectacles at the crowd, and said severely: ’Don’t move about the church, and don’t make a noise, but stand quietly and pray. You should have the fear of God in your hearts.’
“My best men were two of my colleagues, and Masha’s best men were Captain Polyansky and Lieutenant Gernet. The bishop’s choir sang superbly. The sputtering of the candles, the brilliant light, the gorgeous dresses, the officers, the numbers of gay, happy faces, and a special ethereal look in Masha, everything together—the surroundings and the words of the wedding prayers—moved me to tears and filled me with triumph. I thought how my life had blossomed, how poetically it was shaping itself! Two years ago I was still a student, I was living in cheap furnished rooms, without money, without relations, and, as I fancied then, with nothing to look forward to. Now I am a teacher in the