Here Aratoff again became thoughtful.—No, the word “dilettante” did not consort with that face, with the expression of that face, of those eyes....
And again there rose up before him the image of Clara with her tear-filled eyes riveted upon him, and her clenched hands raised to her lips....
“Akh, I won’t think of it, I won’t think of it ...” he whispered.... “What is the use?”
In this manner the whole day passed. During dinner Aratoff chatted a great deal with Platosha, questioned her about old times, which, by the way, she recalled and transmitted badly, as she was not possessed of a very glib tongue, and had noticed hardly anything in the course of her life save her Yashka. She merely rejoiced that he was so good-natured and affectionate that day!—Toward evening Aratoff quieted down to such a degree that he played several games of trumps with his aunt.
Thus passed the day ... but the night was quite another matter!
It began well; he promptly fell asleep, and when his aunt entered his room on tiptoe for the purpose of making the sign of the cross over him thrice as he slept—she did this every night—he was lying and breathing as quietly as a child.—But before daybreak he had a vision.
He dreamed that he was walking over the bare steppes, sown with stones, beneath a low-hanging sky. Between the stones wound a path; he was advancing along it.
Suddenly there rose up in front of him something in the nature of a delicate cloud. He looked intently at it; the little cloud turned into a woman in a white gown, with a bright girdle about her waist. She was hurrying away from him. He did not see either her face or her hair ... a long piece of tissue concealed them. But he felt bound to overtake her and look into her eyes. Only, no matter how much haste he made, she still walked more quickly than he.
On the path lay a broad, flat stone, resembling a tomb-stone. It barred her way. The woman came to a halt. Aratoff ran up to her. She turned toward him—but still he could not see her eyes ... they were closed. Her face was white,—white as snow; her arms hung motionless. She resembled a statue.
Slowly, without bending a single limb, she leaned backward and sank down on that stone.... And now Aratoff was lying beside her, outstretched like a mortuary statue,—and his hands were folded like those of a corpse.
But at this point the woman suddenly rose to her feet and went away. Aratoff tried to rise also ... but he could not stir, he could not unclasp his hands, and could only gaze after her in despair.
Then the woman suddenly turned round, and he beheld bright, vivacious eyes in a living face, which was strange to him, however. She was laughing, beckoning to him with her hand ... and still he was unable to move.
She laughed yet once again, and swiftly retreated, merrily nodding her head, on which a garland of tiny roses gleamed crimson.