“Who was it?” she asked softly.
“Polya,” I answered.
She passed her hand over her hair and closed her eyes wearily.
“I will go away at once,” she said. “Will you be kind and take me to the Petersburg Side? What time is it now?”
“A quarter to three.”
When, a little afterwards, we went out of the house, it was dark and deserted in the street. Wet snow was falling and a damp wind lashed in one’s face. I remember it was the beginning of March; a thaw had set in, and for some days past the cabmen had been driving on wheels. Under the impression of the back stairs, of the cold, of the midnight darkness, and the porter in his sheepskin who had questioned us before letting us out of the gate, Zinaida Fyodorovna was utterly cast down and dispirited. When we got into the cab and the hood was put up, trembling all over, she began hurriedly saying how grateful she was to me.
“I do not doubt your good-will, but I am ashamed that you should be troubled,” she muttered. “Oh, I understand, I understand. . . . When Gruzin was here to-day, I felt that he was lying and concealing something. Well, so be it. But I am ashamed, anyway, that you should be troubled.”
She still had her doubts. To dispel them finally, I asked the cabman to drive through Sergievsky Street; stopping him at Pekarsky’s door, I got out of the cab and rang. When the porter came to the door, I asked aloud, that Zinaida Fyodorovna might hear, whether Georgy Ivanitch was at home.
“Yes,” was the answer, “he came in half an hour ago. He must be in bed by now. What do you want?”
Zinaida Fyodorovna could not refrain from putting her head out.
“Has Georgy Ivanitch been staying here long?” she asked.
“Going on for three weeks.”
“And he’s not been away?”
“No,” answered the porter, looking at me with surprise.
“Tell him, early to-morrow,” I said, “that his sister has arrived from Warsaw. Good-bye.”
Then we drove on. The cab had no apron, the snow fell on us in big flakes, and the wind, especially on the Neva, pierced us through and through. I began to feel as though we had been driving for a long time, that for ages we had been suffering, and that for ages I had been listening to Zinaida Fyodorovna’s shuddering breath. In semi-delirium, as though half asleep, I looked back upon my strange, incoherent life, and for some reason recalled a melodrama, “The Parisian Beggars,” which I had seen once or twice in my childhood. And when to shake off that semi-delirium I peeped out from the hood and saw the dawn, all the images of the past, all my misty thoughts, for some reason, blended in me into one distinct, overpowering thought: everything was irrevocably over for Zinaida Fyodorovna and for me. This was as certain a conviction as though the cold blue sky contained a prophecy, but a minute later I was already thinking of something else and believed differently.