That relieved her mind—she fell asleep; but in the morning, she was wavering again between yes and no, and she was dwelling on the thought that she could, if she chose, change her life. The thought harassed her, she felt exhausted and unwell; but yet, soon after eleven, she dressed and went to see Nina Fyodorovna. She wanted to see Laptev: perhaps now he would seem more attractive to her; perhaps she had been wrong about him hitherto. . . .
She found it hard to walk against the wind. She struggled along, holding her hat on with both hands, and could see nothing for the dust.
Going into his sister’s room, and seeing to his surprise Yulia Sergeyevna, Laptev had again the humiliating sensation of a man who feels himself an object of repulsion. He concluded that if after what had happened yesterday she could bring herself so easily to visit his sister and meet him, it must be because she was not concerned about him, and regarded him as a complete nonentity. But when he greeted her, and with a pale face and dust under her eyes she looked at him mournfully and remorsefully, he saw that she, too, was miserable.
She did not feel well. She only stayed ten minutes, and began saying good-bye. And as she went out she said to Laptev:
“Will you see me home, Alexey Fyodorovitch?”
They walked along the street in silence, holding their hats, and he, walking a little behind, tried to screen her from the wind. In the lane it was more sheltered, and they walked side by side.
“Forgive me if I was not nice yesterday;” and her voice quavered as though she were going to cry. “I was so wretched! I did not sleep all night.”
“I slept well all night,” said Laptev, without looking at her; “but that doesn’t mean that I was happy. My life is broken. I’m deeply unhappy, and after your refusal yesterday I go about like a man poisoned. The most difficult thing was said yesterday. To-day I feel no embarrassment and can talk to you frankly. I love you more than my sister, more than my dead mother. . . . I can live without my sister, and without my mother, and I have lived without them, but life without you—is meaningless to me; I can’t face it. . . .”
And now too, as usual, he guessed her intention.
He realised that she wanted to go back to what had happened the day before, and with that object had asked him to accompany her, and now was taking him home with her. But what could she add to her refusal? What new idea had she in her head? From everything, from her glances, from her smile, and even from her tone, from the way she held her head and shoulders as she walked beside him, he saw that, as before, she did not love him, that he was a stranger to her. What more did she want to say?
Doctor Sergey Borisovitch was at home.
“You are very welcome. I’m always glad to see you, Fyodor Alexeyitch,” he said, mixing up his Christian name and his father’s. “Delighted, delighted!”