“And even if I have struggled,” she thought, “what sort of struggle was it? Even the woman who sells herself struggles before she brings herself to it, and yet she sells herself. A fine struggle! Like milk, I’ve turned in a day! In one day!”
She convicted herself of being tempted, not by feeling, not by Ilyin personally, but by sensations which awaited her . . . an idle lady, having her fling in the summer holidays, like so many!
“‘Like an unfledged bird when the mother has been slain,’” sang a husky tenor outside the window.
“If I am to go, it’s time,” thought Sofya Petrovna. Her heart suddenly began beating violently.
“Andrey!” she almost shrieked. “Listen! we . . . we are going? Yes?”
“Yes, I’ve told you already: you go alone.”
“But listen,” she began. “If you don’t go with me, you are in danger of losing me. I believe I am . . . in love already.”
“With whom?” asked Andrey Ilyitch.
“It can’t make any difference to you who it is!” cried Sofya Petrovna.
Andrey Ilyitch sat up with his feet out of bed and looked wonderingly at his wife’s dark figure.
“It’s a fancy!” he yawned.
He did not believe her, but yet he was frightened. After thinking a little and asking his wife several unimportant questions, he delivered himself of his opinions on the family, on infidelity . . . spoke listlessly for about ten minutes and got into bed again. His moralizing produced no effect. There are a great many opinions in the world, and a good half of them are held by people who have never been in trouble!
In spite of the late hour, summer visitors were still walking outside. Sofya Petrovna put on a light cape, stood a little, thought a little. . . . She still had resolution enough to say to her sleeping husband:
“Are you asleep? I am going for a walk. . . . Will you come with me?”
That was her last hope. Receiving no answer, she went out. . . . It was fresh and windy. She was conscious neither of the wind nor the darkness, but went on and on. . . . An overmastering force drove her on, and it seemed as though, if she had stopped, it would have pushed her in the back.
“Immoral creature!” she muttered mechanically. “Low wretch!”
She was breathless, hot with shame, did not feel her legs under her, but what drove her on was stronger than shame, reason, or fear.
A TRIFLE FROM LIFE
A WELL-FED, red-cheeked young man called Nikolay Ilyitch Belyaev, of thirty-two, who was an owner of house property in Petersburg, and a devotee of the race-course, went one evening to see Olga Ivanovna Irnin, with whom he was living, or, to use his own expression, was dragging out a long, wearisome romance. And, indeed, the first interesting and enthusiastic pages of this romance had long been perused; now the pages dragged on, and still dragged on, without presenting anything new or of interest.