She used as before to come into my room in the morning to coffee, but we no longer dined together, as she said she was not hungry; and she lived only on coffee, tea, and various trifles such as oranges and caramels.
And we no longer had conversations in the evening. I don’t know why it was like this. Ever since the day when I had found her in tears she had treated me somehow lightly, at times casually, even ironically, and for some reason called me “My good sir.” What had before seemed to her terrible, heroic, marvellous, and had stirred her envy and enthusiasm, did not touch her now at all, and usually after listening to me, she stretched and said:
“Yes, ‘great things were done in days of yore,’ my good sir.”
It sometimes happened even that I did not see her for days together. I would knock timidly and guiltily at her door and get no answer; I would knock again—still silence. . . . I would stand near the door and listen; then the chambermaid would pass and say coldly, “Madame est partie.” Then I would walk about the passages of the hotel, walk and walk. . . . English people, full-bosomed ladies, waiters in swallow-tails. . . . And as I keep gazing at the long striped rug that stretches the whole length of the corridor, the idea occurs to me that I am playing in the life of this woman a strange, probably false part, and that it is beyond my power to alter that part. I run to my room and fall on my bed, and think and think, and can come to no conclusion; and all that is clear to me is that I want to live, and that the plainer and the colder and the harder her face grows, the nearer she is to me, and the more intensely and painfully I feel our kinship. Never mind “My good sir,” never mind her light careless tone, never mind anything you like, only don’t leave me, my treasure. I am afraid to be alone.
Then I go out into the corridor again, listen in a tremor. . . . I have no dinner; I don’t notice the approach of evening. At last about eleven I hear the familiar footstep, and at the turn near the stairs Zinaida Fyodorovna comes into sight.
“Are you taking a walk?” she would ask as she passes me. “You had better go out into the air. . . . Good-night!”
“But shall we not meet again to-day?”
“I think it’s late. But as you like.”
“Tell me, where have you been?” I would ask, following her into the room.
“Where? To Monte Carlo.” She took ten gold coins out of her pocket and said: “Look, my good sir; I have won. That’s at roulette.”
“Nonsense! As though you would gamble.”
“Why not? I am going again to-morrow.”
I imagined her with a sick and morbid face, in her condition, tightly laced, standing near the gaming-table in a crowd of cocottes, of old women in their dotage who swarm round the gold like flies round the honey. I remembered she had gone off to Monte Carlo for some reason in secret from me.