Three days later Yartsev came to spend the evening with him.
“I have news,” he said, laughing. “Polina Nikolaevna has moved into my rooms altogether.” He was a little confused, and went on in a low voice: “Well, we are not in love with each other, of course, but I suppose that . . . that doesn’t matter. I am glad I can give her a refuge and peace and quiet, and make it possible for her not to work if she’s ill. She fancies that her coming to live with me will make things more orderly, and that under her influence I shall become a great scientist. That’s what she fancies. And let her fancy it. In the South they have a saying: ’Fancy makes the fool a rich man.’ Ha, ha, ha!”
Laptev said nothing. Yartsev walked up and down the study, looking at the pictures he had seen so many times before, and said with a sigh:
“Yes, my dear fellow, I am three years older than you are, and it’s too late for me to think of real love, and in reality a woman like Polina Nikolaevna is a godsend to me, and, of course, I shall get on capitally with her till we’re both old people; but, goodness knows why, one still regrets something, one still longs for something, and I still feel as though I am lying in the Vale of Daghestan and dreaming of a ball. In short, man’s never satisfied with what he has.”
He went into the drawing-room and began singing as though nothing had happened, and Laptev sat in his study with his eyes shut, and tried to understand why Polina had gone to live with Yartsev. And then he felt sad that there were no lasting, permanent attachments. And he felt vexed that Polina Nikolaevna had gone to live with Yartsev, and vexed with himself that his feeling for his wife was not what it had been.
Laptev sat reading and swaying to and fro in a rocking-chair; Yulia was in the study, and she, too, was reading. It seemed there was nothing to talk about; they had both been silent all day. From time to time he looked at her from over his book and thought: “Whether one marries from passionate love, or without love at all, doesn’t it come to the same thing?” And the time when he used to be jealous, troubled, distressed, seemed to him far away. He had succeeded in going abroad, and now he was resting after the journey and looking forward to another visit in the spring to England, which he had very much liked.
And Yulia Sergeyevna had grown used to her sorrow, and had left off going to the lodge to cry. That winter she had given up driving out shopping, had given up the theatres and concerts, and had stayed at home. She never cared for big rooms, and always sat in her husband’s study or in her own room, where she had shrines of ikons that had come to her on her marriage, and where there hung on the wall the landscape that had pleased her so much at the exhibition. She spent hardly any money on herself, and was almost as frugal now as she had been in her father’s house.