The expression of her face was grave, intent; so grave that Razumov, after approaching her close, felt obliged to smile. She greeted him with a manly hand-grasp.
“What! Are you going away?” she exclaimed. “How is that, Razumov?”
“I am going away because I haven’t been asked to stay,” Razumov answered, returning the pressure of her hand with much less force than she had put into it.
She jerked her head sideways like one who understands. Meantime Razumov’s eyes had strayed after the two men. They were crossing the grass-plot obliquely, without haste. The shorter of the two was buttoned up in a narrow overcoat of some thin grey material, which came nearly to his heels. His companion, much taller and broader, wore a short, close-fitting jacket and tight trousers tucked into shabby top-boots.
The woman, who had sent them out of Razumov’s way apparently, spoke in a businesslike voice.
“I had to come rushing from Zurich on purpose to meet the train and take these two along here to see Peter Ivanovitch. I’ve just managed it.”
“Ah! indeed,” Razumov said perfunctorily, and very vexed at her staying behind to talk to him “From Zurich—yes, of course. And these two, they come from....”
She interrupted, without emphasis—
“From quite another direction. From a distance, too. A considerable distance.”
Razumov shrugged his shoulders. The two men from a distance, after having reached the wall of the terrace, disappeared suddenly at its foot as if the earth had opened to swallow them up.
“Oh, well, they have just come from America.” The woman in the crimson blouse shrugged her shoulders too a little before making that statement. “The time is drawing near,” she interjected, as if speaking to herself. “I did not tell them who you were. Yakovlitch would have wanted to embrace you.”
“Is that he with the wisp of hair hanging from his chin, in the long coat?”
“You’ve guessed aright. That’s Yakovlitch.”
“And they could not find their way here from the station without you coming on purpose from Zurich to show it to them? Verily, without women we can do nothing. So it stands written, and apparently so it is.”
He was conscious of an immense lassitude under his effort to be sarcastic. And he could see that she had detected it with those steady, brilliant black eyes.
“What is the matter with you?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. I’ve had a devil of a day.”
She waited, with her black eyes fixed on his face. Then—
“What of that? You men are so impressionable and self-conscious. One day is like another, hard, hard—and there’s an end of it, till the great day comes. I came over for a very good reason. They wrote to warn Peter Ivanovitch of their arrival. But where from? Only from Cherbourg on a bit of ship’s notepaper. Anybody could have done that. Yakovlitch has lived for years and years in America. I am the only one at hand who had known him well in the old days. I knew him very well indeed. So Peter Ivanovitch telegraphed, asking me to come. It’s natural enough, is it not?”