“That’s all very well,” I said, thinking a little. “I believe it will be easier and clearer for the generations to come; our experience will be at their service. But one wants to live apart from future generations and not only for their sake. Life is only given us once, and one wants to live it boldly, with full consciousness and beauty. One wants to play a striking, independent, noble part; one wants to make history so that those generations may not have the right to say of each of us that we were nonentities or worse. . . . I believe what is going on about us is inevitable and not without a purpose, but what have I to do with that inevitability? Why should my ego be lost?”
“Well, there’s no help for it,” sighed Orlov, getting up and, as it were, giving me to understand that our conversation was over.
I took my hat.
“We’ve only been sitting here half an hour, and how many questions we have settled, when you come to think of it!” said Orlov, seeing me into the hall. “So I will see to that matter. . . . I will see Pekarsky to-day. . . . Don’t be uneasy.”
He stood waiting while I put on my coat, and was obviously relieved at the feeling that I was going away.
“Georgy Ivanitch, give me back my letter,” I said.
He went to his study, and a minute later returned with the letter. I thanked him and went away.
The next day I got a letter from him. He congratulated me on the satisfactory settlement of the question. Pekarsky knew a lady, he wrote, who kept a school, something like a kindergarten, where she took quite little children. The lady could be entirely depended upon, but before concluding anything with her it would be as well to discuss the matter with Krasnovsky—it was a matter of form. He advised me to see Pekarsky at once and to take the birth certificate with me, if I had it. “Rest assured of the sincere respect and devotion of your humble servant. . . .”
I read this letter, and Sonya sat on the table and gazed at me attentively without blinking, as though she knew her fate was being decided.
IN the course of the maneuvres the N—— cavalry regiment halted for a night at the district town of K——. Such an event as the visit of officers always has the most exciting and inspiring effect on the inhabitants of provincial towns. The shopkeepers dream of getting rid of the rusty sausages and “best brand” sardines that have been lying for ten years on their shelves; the inns and restaurants keep open all night; the Military Commandant, his secretary, and the local garrison put on their best uniforms; the police flit to and fro like mad, while the effect on the ladies is beyond all description.