When next day after dinner I went to the Voltchaninovs, the glass door into the garden was wide open. I sat down on the terrace, expecting Genya every minute, to appear from behind the flower-beds on the lawn, or from one of the avenues, or that I should hear her voice from the house. Then I walked into the drawing-room, the dining-room. There was not a soul to be seen. From the dining-room I walked along the long corridor to the hall and back. In this corridor there were several doors, and through one of them I heard the voice of Lida:
“‘God . . . sent . . . a crow,’” she said in a loud, emphatic voice, probably dictating—“’God sent a crow a piece of cheese . . . . A crow . . . a piece of cheese.’ . . . Who’s there?” she called suddenly, hearing my steps.
“Ah! Excuse me, I cannot come out to you this minute; I’m giving Dasha her lesson.”
“Is Ekaterina Pavlovna in the garden?”
“No, she went away with my sister this morning to our aunt in the province of Penza. And in the winter they will probably go abroad,” she added after a pause. “’God sent . . . the crow . . . a piece . . . of cheese.’ . . . Have you written it?”
I went into the hall, and stared vacantly at the pond and the village, and the sound reached me of “A piece of cheese. . . . God sent the crow a piece of cheese.”
And I went back by the way I had come here for the first time— first from the yard into the garden past the house, then into the avenue of lime-trees. . . . At this point I was overtaken by a small boy who gave me a note:
“I told my sister everything and she insists on my parting from you,” I read. “I could not wound her by disobeying. God will give you happiness. Forgive me. If only you knew how bitterly my mother and I are crying!”
Then there was the dark fir avenue, the broken-down fence. . . . On the field where then the rye was in flower and the corncrakes were calling, now there were cows and hobbled horses. On the slope there were bright green patches of winter corn. A sober workaday feeling came over me and I felt ashamed of all I had said at the Voltchaninovs’, and felt bored with life as I had been before. When I got home, I packed and set off that evening for Petersburg.
I never saw the Voltchaninovs again. Not long ago, on my way to the Crimea, I met Byelokurov in the train. As before, he was wearing a jerkin and an embroidered shirt, and when I asked how he was, he replied that, God be praised, he was well. We began talking. He had sold his old estate and bought another smaller one, in the name of Liubov Ivanovna. He could tell me little about the Voltchaninovs. Lida, he said, was still living in Shelkovka and teaching in the school; she had by degrees succeeded in gathering round her a circle of people sympathetic to her who made a strong party, and at the last election had turned out Balagin, who had till then had the whole district under his thumb. About Genya he only told me that she did not live at home, and that he did not know where she was.