And the whole world, the whole of life, seemed to Ryabovitch an unintelligible, aimless jest. . . . And turning his eyes from the water and looking at the sky, he remembered again how fate in the person of an unknown woman had by chance caressed him, he remembered his summer dreams and fancies, and his life struck him as extraordinarily meagre, poverty-stricken, and colourless. . . .
When he went back to his hut he did not find one of his comrades. The orderly informed him that they had all gone to “General von Rabbek’s, who had sent a messenger on horseback to invite them. . . .”
For an instant there was a flash of joy in Ryabovitch’s heart, but he quenched it at once, got into bed, and in his wrath with his fate, as though to spite it, did not go to the General’s.
‘ANNA ON THE NECK’
AFTER the wedding they had not even light refreshments; the happy pair simply drank a glass of champagne, changed into their travelling things, and drove to the station. Instead of a gay wedding ball and supper, instead of music and dancing, they went on a journey to pray at a shrine a hundred and fifty miles away. Many people commended this, saying that Modest Alexeitch was a man high up in the service and no longer young, and that a noisy wedding might not have seemed quite suitable; and music is apt to sound dreary when a government official of fifty-two marries a girl who is only just eighteen. People said, too, that Modest Alexeitch, being a man of principle, had arranged this visit to the monastery expressly in order to make his young bride realize that even in marriage he put religion and morality above everything.
The happy pair were seen off at the station. The crowd of relations and colleagues in the service stood, with glasses in their hands, waiting for the train to start to shout “Hurrah!” and the bride’s father, Pyotr Leontyitch, wearing a top-hat and the uniform of a teacher, already drunk and very pale, kept craning towards the window, glass in hand and saying in an imploring voice:
“Anyuta! Anya, Anya! one word!”
Anna bent out of the window to him, and he whispered something to her, enveloping her in a stale smell of alcohol, blew into her ear —she could make out nothing—and made the sign of the cross over her face, her bosom, and her hands; meanwhile he was breathing in gasps and tears were shining in his eyes. And the schoolboys, Anna’s brothers, Petya and Andrusha, pulled at his coat from behind, whispering in confusion:
“Father, hush! . . . Father, that’s enough. . . .”
When the train started, Anna saw her father run a little way after the train, staggering and spilling his wine, and what a kind, guilty, pitiful face he had:
“Hurra—ah!” he shouted.