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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 235 pages of information about A Reckless Character.

In his entreaty, in the distorted features of his face there was something so despairing that it even resembled wrath, suffering....  And in reality he was suffering.  It seemed as though he had not been able to foresee that such a calamity would descend upon him, and was excitedly begging to be spared, to be saved....

“Give it to me,” he repeated.

“But ... you ... you were not in love with my sister?” said Anna at last.

Aratoff continued to kneel.

“I saw her twice in all ... believe me!... and if I had not been impelled by causes which I myself cannot clearly either understand or explain ... if some power that is stronger than I were not upon me....  I would not have asked you....  I would not have come hither....  I must ...  I ought ... why, you said yourself that I was bound to restore her image!”

“And you were not in love with my sister?” asked Anna for the second time.

Aratoff did not reply at once, and turned away slightly, as though with pain.

“Well, yes!  I was!  I was!—­And I am in love with her now....” he exclaimed with the same desperation as before.

Footsteps became audible in the adjoining room.

“Rise ... rise ...” said Anna hastily.  “My mother is coming.”

Aratoff rose.

“And take the diary and the picture.  God be with you!—­Poor, poor Katya!...  But you must return the diary to me,” she added with animation.—­“And if you write anything, you must be sure to send it to me....  Do you hear?”

The appearance of Madame Milovidoff released Aratoff from the necessity of replying.—­He succeeded, nevertheless, in whispering:—­“You are an angel!  Thanks!  I will send all that I write....”

Madame Milovidoff was too drowsy to divine anything.  And so Aratoff left Kazan with the photographic portrait in the side-pocket of his coat.  He had returned the copy-book to Anna, but without her having detected it, he had cut out the page on which stood the underlined words.

On his way back to Moscow he was again seized with a sort of stupor.  Although he secretly rejoiced that he had got what he went for, yet he repelled all thoughts of Clara until he should reach home again.  He meditated a great deal more about her sister Anna.—­“Here now,” he said to himself, “is a wonderful, sympathetic being!  What a delicate comprehension of everything, what a loving heart, what absence of egoism!  And how comes it that such girls bloom with us, and in the provinces,—­and in such surroundings into the bargain!  She is both sickly, and ill-favoured, and not young,—­but what a capital wife she would make for an honest, well-educated man!  That is the person with whom one ought to fall in love!...”  Aratoff meditated thus ... but on his arrival in Moscow the matter took quite another turn.

XIV

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