“But speak more simply, dear little father,” broke in Platonida Ivanovna; “don’t scare me with Latin; thou art not in an apothecary’s shop!”
“His heart is out of order,” explained the doctor;—“well, and he has fever also,” ... and he repeated his advice with regard to repose and moderation.
“But surely there is no danger?” sternly inquired Platonida Ivanovna, as much as to say: “Look out and don’t try your Latin on me again!”
“Not at present!”
The doctor went away, and Platonida Ivanovna took to grieving.... Nevertheless she sent to the apothecary for the medicine, which Aratoff would not take, despite her entreaties. He even refused herb-tea.
“What makes you worry so, dear?” he said to her. “I assure you I am now the most perfectly healthy and happy man in the whole world!”
Platonida Ivanovna merely shook her head. Toward evening he became slightly feverish; yet he still insisted upon it that she should not remain in his room, and should go away to her own to sleep. Platonida Ivanovna obeyed, but did not undress, and did not go to bed; she sat up in an arm-chair and kept listening and whispering her prayer.
She was beginning to fall into a doze, when suddenly a dreadful, piercing shriek awakened her. She sprang to her feet, rushed into Aratoff’s study, and found him lying on the floor, as upon the night before.
But he did not come to himself as he had done the night before, work over him as they would. That night he was seized with a high fever, complicated by inflammation of the heart.
A few days later he died.
A strange circumstance accompanied his second swoon. When they lifted him up and put him to bed, there proved to be a small lock of woman’s black hair clutched in his right hand. Where had that hair come from? Anna Semyonovna had such a lock, which she had kept after Clara’s death; but why should she have given to Aratoff an object which was so precious to her? Could she have laid it into the diary, and not noticed the fact when she gave him the book?
In the delirium which preceded his death Aratoff called himself Romeo ... after the poison; he talked about a marriage contracted, consummated;—said that now he knew the meaning of delight. Especially dreadful for Platonida Ivanovna was the moment when Aratoff, recovering consciousness, and seeing her by his bedside, said to her:
“Aunty, why art thou weeping? Is it because I must die? But dost thou not know that love is stronger than death?... Death! O Death, where is thy sting? Thou must not weep, but rejoice, even as I rejoice....”
And again the face of the dying man beamed with that same blissful smile which had made the poor old woman shudder so.
From the Editor of the “European Messenger”