He heard the sound of a carriage. It was getting light. The carriage passed by, turned, and crunching on the wet sand, stopped near the house. There were two men in the carriage.
“Wait a minute; I’m coming directly,” Laevsky said to them out of the window. “I’m not asleep. Surely it’s not time yet?”
“Yes, it’s four o’clock. By the time we get there . . . .”
Laevsky put on his overcoat and cap, put some cigarettes in his pocket, and stood still hesitating. He felt as though there was something else he must do. In the street the seconds talked in low voices and the horses snorted, and this sound in the damp, early morning, when everybody was asleep and light was hardly dawning in the sky, filled Laevsky’s soul with a disconsolate feeling which was like a presentiment of evil. He stood for a little, hesitating, and went into the bedroom.
Nadyezhda Fyodorovna was lying stretched out on the bed, wrapped from head to foot in a rug. She did not stir, and her whole appearance, especially her head, suggested an Egyptian mummy. Looking at her in silence, Laevsky mentally asked her forgiveness, and thought that if the heavens were not empty and there really were a God, then He would save her; if there were no God, then she had better perish—there was nothing for her to live for.
All at once she jumped up, and sat up in bed. Lifting her pale face and looking with horror at Laevsky, she asked:
“Is it you? Is the storm over?”
She remembered; put both hands to her head and shuddered all over.
“How miserable I am!” she said. “If only you knew how miserable I am! I expected,” she went on, half closing her eyes, “that you would kill me or turn me out of the house into the rain and storm, but you delay . . . delay . . .”
Warmly and impulsively he put his arms round her and covered her knees and hands with kisses. Then when she muttered something and shuddered with the thought of the past, he stroked her hair, and looking into her face, realised that this unhappy, sinful woman was the one creature near and dear to him, whom no one could replace.
When he went out of the house and got into the carriage he wanted to return home alive.
The deacon got up, dressed, took his thick, gnarled stick and slipped quietly out of the house. It was dark, and for the first minute when he went into the street, he could not even see his white stick. There was not a single star in the sky, and it looked as though there would be rain again. There was a smell of wet sand and sea.
“It’s to be hoped that the mountaineers won’t attack us,” thought the deacon, hearing the tap of the stick on the pavement, and noticing how loud and lonely the taps sounded in the stillness of the night.