“Why delay any longer?” said Chvabrine. “They are not watching us any more. Let us go to the river-bank; there nobody will interrupt us.”
We started in silence, and after having gone down a rugged path we halted at the water’s edge and crossed swords.
Chvabrine was a better swordsman than I was, but I was stronger and bolder, and M. Beaupre, who had, among other things, been a soldier, had given me some lessons in fencing, by which I had profited.
Chvabrine did not in the least expect to find in me such a dangerous foeman. For a long while we could neither of us do the other any harm, but at last, noticing that Chvabrine was getting tired, I vigorously attacked him, and almost forced him backwards into the river.
Suddenly I heard my own name called in a loud voice. I quickly turned my head, and saw Saveliitch running towards me down the path. At this moment I felt a sharp prick in the chest, under the right shoulder, and I fell senseless.
When I came to myself I remained some time without understanding what had befallen me, nor where I chanced to be. I was in bed in an unfamiliar room, and I felt very weak indeed. Saveliitch was standing by me, a light in his hand. Someone was unrolling with care the bandages round my shoulder and chest. Little by little my ideas grew clearer. I recollected my duel and guessed without any difficulty that I had been wounded. At this moment the door creaked slightly on its hinges.
“Well, how is he getting on?” whispered a voice which thrilled through me.
“Always the same still,” replied Saveliitch, sighing; “always unconscious, as he has now been these four days.”
I wished to turn, but I had not strength to do so.
“Where am I? Who is there?” I said, with difficulty. Marya Ivanofna came near to my bed and leaned gently over me.
“How do you feel?” she said to me.
“All right, thank God!” I replied in a weak voice. “It is you, Marya Ivanofna; tell me—”
I could not finish. Saveliitch exclaimed, joy painted on his face—
“He is coming to himself!—he is coming to himself! Oh! thanks be to heaven! My father Petr’ Andrejitch, have you frightened me enough? Four days! That seems little enough to say, but—”
Marya Ivanofna interrupted him.
“Do not talk to him too much, Saveliitch; he is still very weak.”
She went away, shutting the door carefully.
I felt myself disturbed with confused thoughts. I was evidently in the house of the Commandant, as Marya Ivanofna could thus come and see me! I wished to question Saveliitch; but the old man shook his head and turned a deaf ear. I shut my eyes in displeasure, and soon fell asleep. Upon waking I called Saveliitch, but in his stead I saw before me Marya Ivanofna, who greeted me in her soft voice. I cannot describe the delicious feeling which thrilled through me at this moment, I seized her hand and pressed it in a transport of delight, while bedewing it with my tears. Marya did not withdraw it, and all of a sudden I felt upon my cheek the moist and burning imprint of her lips. A wild flame of love thrilled through my whole being.