Tea was brought in.
“Well?” said Zinaida Fyodorovna, giving me a glass. “What do you say to me?”
“There is more light in the world than you see through your window,” I answered. “And there are other people besides me, Zinaida Fyodorovna.”
“Then tell me who they are,” she said eagerly. “That’s all I ask of you.”
“And I want to say, too,” I went on, “one can serve an idea in more than one calling. If one has made a mistake and lost faith in one, one may find another. The world of ideas is large and cannot be exhausted.”
“The world of ideas!” she said, and she looked into my face sarcastically. “Then we had better leave off talking. What’s the use? . . .”
“The world of ideas!” she repeated. She threw her dinner-napkin aside, and an expression of indignation and contempt came into her face. “All your fine ideas, I see, lead up to one inevitable, essential step: I ought to become your mistress. That’s what’s wanted. To be taken up with ideas without being the mistress of an honourable, progressive man, is as good as not understanding the ideas. One has to begin with that . . . that is, with being your mistress, and the rest will come of itself.”
“You are irritated, Zinaida Fyodorovna,” I said.
“No, I am sincere!” she cried, breathing hard. “I am sincere!”
“You are sincere, perhaps, but you are in error, and it hurts me to hear you.”
“I am in error?” she laughed. “Any one else might say that, but not you, my dear sir! I may seem to you indelicate, cruel, but I don’t care: you love me? You love me, don’t you?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Yes, shrug your shoulders!” she went on sarcastically. “When you were ill I heard you in your delirium, and ever since these adoring eyes, these sighs, and edifying conversations about friendship, about spiritual kinship. . . . But the point is, why haven’t you been sincere? Why have you concealed what is and talked about what isn’t? Had you said from the beginning what ideas exactly led you to drag me from Petersburg, I should have known. I should have poisoned myself then as I meant to, and there would have been none of this tedious farce. . . . But what’s the use of talking!”
With a wave of the hand she sat down.
“You speak to me as though you suspected me of dishonourable intentions,” I said, offended.
“Oh, very well. What’s the use of talking! I don’t suspect you of intentions, but of having no intentions. If you had any, I should have known them by now. You had nothing but ideas and love. For the present—ideas and love, and in prospect—me as your mistress. That’s in the order of things both in life and in novels. . . . Here you abused him,” she said, and she slapped the table with her hand, “but one can’t help agreeing with him. He has good reasons for despising these ideas.”