After supper Panaurov did not stay in the house, but went off to his other lodgings. Laptev went out to see him on his way. Panaurov was the only man in the town who wore a top-hat, and his elegant, dandified figure, his top-hat and tan gloves, beside the grey fences, the pitiful little houses, with their three windows and the thickets of nettles, always made a strange and mournful impression.
After saying good-bye to him Laptev returned home without hurrying. The moon was shining brightly; one could distinguish every straw on the ground, and Laptev felt as though the moonlight were caressing his bare head, as though some one were passing a feather over his hair.
“I love!” he pronounced aloud, and he had a sudden longing to run to overtake Panaurov, to embrace him, to forgive him, to make him a present of a lot of money, and then to run off into the open country, into a wood, to run on and on without looking back.
At home he saw lying on the chair the parasol Yulia Sergeyevna had forgotten; he snatched it up and kissed it greedily. The parasol was a silk one, no longer new, tied round with old elastic. The handle was a cheap one, of white bone. Laptev opened it over him, and he felt as though there were the fragrance of happiness about him.
He settled himself more comfortably in his chair, and still keeping hold of the parasol, began writing to Moscow to one of his friends:
“DEAR PRECIOUS KOSTYA,
“Here is news for you: I’m in love again! I say again, because six years ago I fell in love with a Moscow actress, though I didn’t even succeed in making her acquaintance, and for the last year and a half I have been living with a certain person you know—a woman neither young nor good-looking. Ah, my dear boy, how unlucky I am in love. I’ve never had any success with women, and if I say again it’s simply because it’s rather sad and mortifying to acknowledge even to myself that my youth has passed entirely without love, and that I’m in love in a real sense now for the first time in my life, at thirty-four. Let it stand that I love again.
“If only you knew what a girl she was! She couldn’t be called a beauty—she has a broad face, she is very thin, but what a wonderful expression of goodness she has when she smiles! When she speaks, her voice is as clear as a bell. She never carries on a conversation with me—I don’t know her; but when I’m beside her I feel she’s a striking, exceptional creature, full of intelligence and lofty aspirations. She is religious, and you cannot imagine how deeply this touches me and exalts her in my eyes. On that point I am ready to argue with you endlessly. You may be right, to your thinking; but, still, I love to see her praying in church. She is a provincial, but she was educated in Moscow. She loves our Moscow; she dresses in the Moscow style, and I love her for that—love her, love her . . . . I see you frowning and getting up to read me a long lecture on what love is, and what sort of woman one can love, and what sort one cannot, and so on, and so on. But, dear Kostya, before I was in love I, too, knew quite well what love was.