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Title: Annouchka - A Tale
Author: Turgenev, Ivan Sergeevich, 1818-1883
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Annouchka - A Tale" ***

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                           ANNOUCHKA

                             A Tale

                 BY IVAN SERGHEÏEVITCH TURGENEF

   _TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF THE AUTHOR'S OWN TRANSLATION_

                       BY FRANKLIN ABBOTT


    BOSTON
    CUPPLES, UPHAM AND COMPANY
    1884

    _Copyright_,
    BY FRANKLIN P. ABBOTT,
    1884.

    _All Rights Reserved._

    C. J. PETERS AND SON,
    ELECTROTYPERS AND STEREOTYPERS,
    145 HIGH STREET.



ANNOUCHKA.



I.


I was then five-and-twenty,--that was a sufficient indication that I had
a past, said he, beginning. My own master for some little time, I
resolved to travel,--not to complete my education, as they said at the
time, but to see the world. I was young, light-hearted, in good health,
free from every care, with a well-filled purse; I gave no thought to the
future; I indulged every whim,--in fact, I lived like a flower that
expands in the sun. The idea that man is but a plant, and that its
flower can only live a short time, had not yet occurred to me. "Youth,"
says a Russian proverb, "lives upon gilded gingerbread, which it
ingenuously takes for bread; then one day even bread fails." But of what
use are these digressions?

I travelled from place to place, with no definite plan, stopping where
it suited me, moving at once when I felt the need of seeing new
faces,--nothing more.

The men alone interested me; I abhorred remarkable monuments, celebrated
collections, and _ciceroni_; the _Galerie Verte_ of Dresden almost drove
me mad. As to nature, it gave me some very keen impressions, but I did
not care the least in the world for what is commonly called its
beauties,--mountains, rocks, waterfalls, which strike me with
astonishment; I did not care to have nature impose itself upon my
admiration or trouble my mind. In return, I could not live without my
fellow-creatures; their talk, their laughter, their movements, were for
me objects of prime necessity. I felt superlatively well in the midst of
a crowd; I followed gayly the surging of men, shouting when they
shouted, and observing them attentively whilst they abandoned themselves
to enthusiasm. Yes, the study of men was, indeed, my delight; and yet is
study the word? I contemplated them, enjoying it with an intense
curiosity.

But again I digress.

So, then, about five-and-twenty years ago I was living in the small town
of Z., upon the banks of the Rhine. I sought isolation: a young widow,
whose acquaintance I made at a watering-place, had just inflicted upon
me a cruel blow. Pretty and intelligent, she coquetted with every one,
and with me in particular; then, after some encouragement, she jilted me
for a Bavarian lieutenant with rosy cheeks.

This blow, to tell the truth, was not very serious, but I found it
advisable to give myself up for a time to regrets and solitude, and I
established myself at Z.

It was not alone the situation of this small town, at the foot of two
lofty mountains, that had impressed me; it had enticed me by its old
walls, flanked with towers, its venerable lindens, the steep bridge,
which crossed its limpid river, and chiefly by its good wine.

After sundown (it was then the month of June), charming little German
girls, with yellow hair, came down for a walk in its narrow streets,
greeting the strangers whom they met with a gracious _guten abend_. Some
of them did not return until the moon had risen from behind the peaked
roofs of the old houses, making the little stones with which the streets
were paved scintillate by the clearness of its motionless rays. I loved
then to wander in the town of Z.; the moon seemed to regard it
steadfastly from the depths of a clear sky, and the town felt this look
and remained quiet and on the alert, inundated by the clearness that
filled the soul with a trouble mingled with sweetness. The cock at the
top of the gothic steeple shone with a pale reflection of gold; a
similar reflection crept in little golden serpents over the dark depths
of the river; at narrow windows, under slated roofs, shone the solitary
lights. The German is economical! The vine reared its festoons
mysteriously over the walls. At times a rustling could be heard in the
obscurity near an old empty well upon the public square of the town; the
watchman replied to it by a prolonged whistle, and a faithful dog
uttered a deep growl. Then a breath of air came so softly caressing the
face, the lindens exhaled a perfume so sweet, that involuntarily the
chest dilated more and more, and the name of Marguerite, half in
exclamation, half in appeal, arose to the lips.

The town of Z. is about a mile from the Rhine. I often went to admire
that magnificent river, and I whiled away entire hours at the foot of a
gigantic ash, dwelling, in my reveries, upon many things, among others,
but not without a certain effort, upon the image of my faithless widow.
A little madonna, with almost infantine features, whose breast showed a
red heart, pierced with swords, looked at me in a melancholy way from
the midst of the branches. Upon the opposite side of the river, rose up
the town of L., a little larger than that in which I was living. I went
one evening as usual to take my seat upon my favorite bench; I looked in
turn at the water, the heavens, and the vines. Opposite me some
tow-headed children clambered over the tarred hull of a boat that had
been left upon the sands of the river, bottom up. Little boats, with
sails puffed out by the breeze, advanced slowly; greenish waves passed
before me, creeping along, swelling out a little, and then going down
with a feeble murmur. Suddenly I thought I distinguished the sound of an
orchestra, which re-echoed in the distance. I listened; they were
playing a waltz in the town of L. The double bass pealed out at
intervals, the violin squeaked confusedly, the whistlings of the flute
were quite distinct. "What is it?" I asked of an old man who was
approaching me. He wore, after the custom of the country, a plush
waistcoat, blue stockings, and buckled shoes.

"They are students, who have come from B. for a _commersch_," he
replied, after shifting his pipe to the other side of his mouth.

"Let us see what is a _commersch_," I said to myself: "besides I have
not seen the town of L." I hailed a boatman, and had him take me across
the river.



II.


Many people, no doubt, are ignorant of what this word _commersch_ means.
Thus they designate a _fête_ to which come all the students of the same
country or of the same society to take part (_Landsmannschaft_). Most of
the young men who resort to these gatherings wear the traditional
costume of the German students, a frogged surtout, large boots, and a
small cap, the lace of which is of the color of the country. The
students assemble for the banquet, over which presides a _Senior_, or
the oldest of the band, and remain at table until morning. They drink;
they sing the _Landesvater_, the _Gaudeamus_; they smoke; they laugh at
the Philistines, and often indulge in the luxury of an orchestra.

It was a gathering of this kind that was taking place in the garden of
the hotel, with the sign of the _Soleil_. The house and garden, which
looked upon the street, were draped with flags; the students were seated
at tables under the lindens; an enormous bull-dog was lying under one
of the tables; in a corner, under a thicket of ivy, were seated the
musicians, who were playing their best, imbibing quantities of beer to
keep themselves in working order. A great number of curious townspeople
were assembled in the street, before the rather high railing of the
garden, the good citizens of the town of L. not wishing to let slip an
occasion to examine closely the guests who had come among them. I joined
the group of spectators. I could observe with pleasure the faces of the
students; their embracings, their exclamations, the innocent presumption
of youth, their enthusiastic glances, their impulsive laughter,--the
best kind of laughter, that joyful ebullition of a life yet full, that
impetuous flight towards no matter what aim, providing it was forward,
that _abandon_ full of thoughtlessness, touched and captivated me. Why
should I not join them? I asked myself.

"Annouchka, have you not had enough of this?" suddenly said in Russian a
man's voice behind me. "Stay a little longer," answered a woman's voice
in the same language. I turned quickly, and my looks fell upon a man
some young man in a riding-coat and cap; he had on his arm a young girl,
very small, whose straw hat almost concealed her features.

"You are a Russian?" I asked of them, with a start which I could not
help.

"Yes, we are Russian," answered the young man, smiling.

"I did not expect," I said to him, "in a foreign country to meet"--

"Nor we either," said he, interrupting me. "Allow me," continued he, "to
make ourselves known to you; my name is Gaguine, and here is"--he
hesitated a moment--"here is my sister. And you, monsieur?"

I in turn told him my name, and we engaged in conversation. I learned
that Gaguine was travelling, like myself, for pleasure, and that, having
arrived about a week ago at L., he had settled himself there for the
time being.

I must confess I do not like to become intimate with Russians in a
foreign country. As far as I can see them, I easily recognize their
walk, the cut of their clothes, principally the expression of their
face. This expression, supercilious and scornful in its nature, at
times imperious, suddenly assumes a cautious and even a timid air. They
appear seized with a kind of restlessness; their eyes disclose a strange
anxiety: "Seigneur! have I not said something foolish; are they laughing
at me by chance?" their look seems to ask. Then one sees them again
assume their majestic calmness, until a a new feeling of uneasiness
comes to trouble them. Yes, I say it again, I avoid all intercourse with
my fellow-countrymen; nevertheless, at first sight, I felt attracted
towards Gaguine. There are in the world such happy faces that one takes
pleasure in looking at them, they reflect a warmth which attracts and
does one good, as if one had received a caress. Such was Gaguine's, with
large eyes as soft as the curls of his hair, and a voice whose sound
made you divine that he had a smile upon his lips.

The young girl whom he called his sister at first sight appeared to me
charming. There was an expression quite peculiar, piquant and pretty at
times, upon her round and slightly brown face; her nose was small and
slender, her cheeks chubby as a child's, her eyes black and clear.
Though well proportioned, her figure had not yet entirely developed.
Withal there was no resemblance to her brother.

"Will you come home with us?" said Gaguine to me. "It seems to me that
we have looked long enough at these Germans. Russians by this time would
have broken up the glasses and chairs; but these young fellows before us
are too reserved. Come, Annouchka, is it not time to return home?"

The young girl assented by a nod of the head.

"We live out of town," added Gaguine, "in a small isolated house upon a
hill, surrounded by vines. You shall see whether it is pretty! Come, our
landlady has promised to make us some cheese-rennet. Besides the day is
on the wane, and you will cross the Rhine more securely by moonlight."

We proceeded. A few moments after we passed through the low gate of the
town, which was surrounded by an old stone wall that still preserved
some battlements. We advanced into the country; after going along by the
side of an old wall a hundred paces, we stopped before a little door;
Gaguine opened it and made us ascend a steep path, upon the sides of
which were rows of vines.

The sun was just setting; a faint purple hue tinged the vines, the props
that sustained them, the parched earth covered with pieces of slate, as
well as the white walls of a little house, all the bright windows of
which were framed in black bars, and towards which the footpath that we
were climbing guided us.

"Here is our stopping-place!" cried Gaguine, when were a little way from
the house, "and there's our landlady, too, bringing us some milk. _Guten
abend_, madam," cried he. "We are going to have our frugal repast at
once; but first," said he, "look about you and tell me what you think of
the view."

The site that he showed me was, indeed, admirable. At our feet the
silvery waters of the Rhine, illumined by the purple of the setting sun,
flowed between the verdant banks. The town, peacefully placed on the
river banks, displayed to our eyes all its houses and all its streets;
the hills and fields stretched out about it.

If that which was at our feet was beautiful, more lovely still was the
sight above our heads. One was struck by the depth and clearness of the
heavens, the transparency and brilliancy of the atmosphere. Clear and
light, the undulations of the breeze moved softly about us; that also
seemed to take delight in the heights.

"You have chosen an admirable place to live in," I said to Gaguine.

"It is Annouchka who found it out," he replied to me. "Come, Annouchka,
give your orders. Have them bring everything here; we will sup in the
open air, that we may hear the music better. Have you noticed," added
he, turning to me, "that such music as a waltz near at hand seems
detestable; heard at a distance, charms and makes all the poetic chords
of your heart vibrate."

Annouchka directed her steps towards the house, and soon returned
accompanied by the landlady. They brought an enormous dish of milk,
spoons, plates, sugar, fruits, and bread. We seated ourselves and began
to eat. Annouchka took off her hat; her black hair, cut short, fell in
large curls over her ears and her neck. My presence appeared to
embarrass her; but Gaguine said to her, "don't be shy; he will not bite
you."

These words made her smile, and a few moments after she spoke to me
without the least embarrassment. She did not remain quiet a moment.
Hardly was she seated than she arose, ran towards the house, and
reappeared again, singing in a low voice; often she laughed, and her
laugh had something strange about it--one would say that it was not
provoked by anything that was said, but by some thoughts that were
passing through her mind. Her large eyes looked one in the face openly,
with boldness, but at times she half closed her eyelids, and her looks
became suddenly deep and caressing.

We chatted for about two hours. It was some time since the sun had gone
down, and the evening light, at first resplendent with fire, then calm
and red, later on confused and dim, mingled little by little with the
shades of night. Yet our conversation still went on. Gaguine had a
bottle of Rhine wine brought; we drank it slowly. The music had not
stopped, but the sounds that the wind brought us seemed sweeter. In the
town and upon the river lights began to spring up. Annouchka suddenly
lowered her head, her curly hair fell over her brow, then she became
silent and sighed. In a few moments she told us that she was sleepy and
went into the house. I followed her with my eyes, and saw her sitting a
long time motionless in the shadow behind the closed window. At last the
moon appeared on the horizon, and its rays made the waters of the Rhine
scintillate softly. Everything before us suddenly changed; brightness,
then darkness, sprang up in every direction, and the wine, even in our
glasses, assumed a mysterious appearance. There was no longer any wind;
it ceased suddenly, like a bird that folds its wings; a delicate and
warm perfume arose from the ground.

"It is time to go!" I exclaimed, "otherwise I shall not find a boatman."

"Yes, it is time," replied Gaguine. We took the path that came down the
mountain. Suddenly we heard some pebbles rolling behind us; it was
Annouchka, who was coming to rejoin us.

"You did not go to bed then?" said her brother.

She did not reply, but ran down before us. Some of the lamps that the
students had to light up the garden still threw a dying glimmer, which
lighted up the foliage of the trees, at the foot of which they burnt,
and gave to them a solemn and fantastic appearance. We found Annouchka
upon the bank; she was talking with the boatman. I jumped into the boat
and took leave of my new friends. Gaguine promised me a visit the next
day. I gave him my hand, which he pressed; I offered the other to
Annouchka, but she contented herself by looking at me and nodding her
head. The boat was set loose from the bank, and the current carried it
along with rapidity. The boatman, a robust old man, plunged his oars
energetically into the dark waters of the river.

"You are going into the reflection of the moon," cried Annouchka; "you
have broken it."

I looked upon the river, its dim shadows crowded about the boat.

"Adieu," she said once more.

"To-morrow, then," added Gaguine.

The boat reached the shore; I jumped out of it and looked behind me, but
I no longer saw any one on the other bank. The reflection of the moon
spread out again, like a bridge of gold, from one bank of the river to
the other.

The last chords of a waltz of Lanner's could be heard, as if bidding me
a farewell. Gaguine was right; these far-away sounds moved me strangely.

I regained the house through the fields, shrouded in a profound
obscurity, inhaling slowly the balmy air; and when I had re-entered my
little room, I felt troubled to the bottom of my soul by the confused
expectation of an undefined happiness. What do I say? I was already
happy; why? I could not have told what I wanted, nor of what I was
thinking, and yet I was happy.

At the time this superabundance of strange and delicious sensations
almost made me laugh; I quickly went to bed, and just as I was closing
my eyes I suddenly remembered that I had not thought the whole evening
of my faithless one.--What does this mean, I asked myself; is it that I
am no longer in love? But that question remained unanswered, and I slept
like a child in its cradle.



III.


The next morning, being awake, but not yet up, I heard the sound of a
walking-stick echoing under my window, and a voice that I recognized as
that of Gaguine, pouring forth the following song:--

    "Si je trouve encor dans les bras du sommeil,
    Je viens te reveiller au bruit de ma guitare."[1]

[Footnote 1: Verse from Romance of Glinker.]

I hastened to open the door to him.

"Good-morning," said he, entering, "I disturb you very early, but the
weather is so fine. See what a delicious freshness, the dew, the singing
of the larks"--

And, indeed, he, with his rosy cheeks, his curly hair, and his half-bare
neck, had all the freshness of morning.

I dressed myself; we went into my little garden and took a seat upon a
bench; they brought our coffee there, and we began to talk.

Gaguine told of some of his future plans; having a fine fortune and
dependent upon no one, he wished to devote himself to painting, and
regretted only that he had taken it up so late, he had lost so much
valuable time. I in turn confided to him the plans that I had formed,
and took advantage of the opportunity to make him the confidant of my
unhappy love affair. He listened patiently, but I could see that the
sufferings of my heart had but little interest for him. After having
listened to my story for politeness' sake, with two or three sighs, he
proposed that we should go and see his sketches. I immediately
consented. We started. Annouchka was not at home. The landlady informed
us that she must be at the ruins. They so called the remains of an old
feudal castle, which was situated a mile or so from the town. Gaguine
opened all his portfolios. I found that his sketches had much life and
truth, something broad and bold; but none were finished, and the drawing
appeared to me incorrect and careless.

I frankly expressed my opinion.

"Yes, yes," he replied, sighing, "you are right; all that is bad, and it
is not matured by reflection. What am I to do? I have not worked
enough; our cursed Slavic indolence always ends in getting the better of
me! Whilst the work is still but an idea, like an eagle soaring in the
air, we believe ourselves able to move the world; then at the moment of
execution come weaknesses, and then--weariness."

I offered him some words of encouragement, but he interrupted me with a
wave of the hand, picked up his sketches, and threw them in a heap upon
the sofa.

"If perseverance does not fail me, I shall succeed," said he, between
his teeth; "otherwise, I shall vegetate as a country squire, never
amounting to anything.

"Let us go and look for Annouchka!"



IV.


The road that led to the ruins ran along the side of a narrow and wooded
dell. At the bottom a rapid stream rushed noisily over the stones, as if
in a hurry to lose itself in the great river, which was seen in the
distance behind the dark rampart of steep mountains. Gaguine called my
attention to several very harmonious effects of color, and his words
revealed to me, if not a painter of talent, at least a true artist. The
ruin was soon before us. It was at the top of a barren rock, a square
tower, entirely blackened, quite intact, but nearly split from top to
bottom by a deep crack. Walls covered with moss were attached to the
tower. Ivy clung here and there; stunted shrubbery sprang out of grayish
embrasures and caved-in vaults; a stony path led to an entrance door
standing upright. We were not far from it when a woman's figure appeared
suddenly before us, leaped lightly upon a heap of rubbish, and stood
erect upon the projection of a wall at the edge of a precipice.

"I am not mistaken!" exclaimed Gaguine; "it is Annouchka. How foolish of
her!"

We passed through the door, and found ourselves in a small court almost
entirely filled with nettles and wild apple trees. It was, indeed,
Annouchka, sitting upon the projection of the wall. She turned her head
towards us and began to laugh, not moving from her place; Gaguine shook
his finger at her, and raising my voice, I reproached her for her
imprudence.

"Be quiet," Gaguine said, in my ear; "let her do it; you have no idea of
what she is capable when provoked; she would climb to the top of the
tower. Admire rather the industrious spirit of the people of the
country."

I turned and saw in a corner a booth of boards, on the floor of which
was squatting an old woman knitting stockings, looking at us from under
her spectacles. She had for sale beer, cakes, and seltzer water, for the
use of tourists.

We seated ourselves upon a bench and began to drink foamy beer from
heavy tin goblets. Annouchka still remained seated in the same place,
her feet curled under her, her head enveloped in her muslin scarf; her
charming profile outlined clearly against the blue sky; but I looked at
her with some irritation. I believed the evening before that her manners
were affected and unnatural. She wishes to astonish us, I thought; but
why? what a childish whim. You would say that she had divined my
thought, for, throwing upon me a quick penetrating glance, she began to
laugh, descended from the wall in two jumps, then, approaching the old
woman, she asked her for a glass of water.

"You think I wish to drink?" she said to her brother; "no, I wish to
water the flowers upon the wall yonder that are dying and dried up by
the sun."

Gaguine did not reply; she left us, her glass in her hand, and climbed
once more upon the ruins. Stopping at intervals she stooped and poured
out with a comic gravity some drops of water that sparkled in the sun.
Her movements were very graceful; but I still watched her with
disapproval, admiring, however, her nimbleness and activity. Coming to
a dangerous place she purposely alarmed us by giving a little cry and
then began to laugh. That was the finishing stroke to my impatience.

"She is a regular goat," muttered the old woman, who had stopped
working.

Having emptied the last drop of water from her glass, Annouchka at
length arose to rejoin us, approaching with a defiant manner. A strange
smile for a moment contracted her lips and her eyebrows and dilated her
nostrils; she half closed her black eyes with a provoking air of
mockery.

"You think my conduct unbecoming," her face seemed to say; "no matter, I
know that you admire me."

"Perfect! charming! Annouchka," said Gaguine.

Suddenly the young girl appeared to feel a sense of shame, and lowering
her eyes, she came and sat by us like a culprit. For the first time I
examined her features closely; and I have rarely seen more mobile ones.
A few moments had scarcely elapsed before her face lost all color and
took an expression approaching almost to sadness; it even seemed to me
that her features assumed grandeur, artlessness. She appeared entirely
absorbed.

We explored the ruins minutely. Annouchka kept behind us, and we began
to admire the view. When the dinner hour arrived, Gaguine paid the old
woman, and asked from her a last jug of beer; then turning to me, he
said with a shy smile:--

"To the lady of your thoughts!"

"He has then--you have then a lady of whom you think?" asked Annouchka.

"And who has not?" replied Gaguine.

Annouchka remained thoughtful for some moments, the expression of her
face changed again, and a smile of defiance, almost impudent, appeared
once more upon her lips.

We again took our way to the house, and Annouchka again began to laugh
and frolic with more affectation than before. Breaking a branch from a
tree, she shouldered it like a gun, and rolled her scarf about her head.
I remember that we then met a large family of English people, with light
hair, looking awkward; all, as if obeying a word of command, threw upon
Annouchka their blue eyes, in which was depicted a cold look of
astonishment; she began to sing in a loud voice, as if to defy them.
When we arrived, she immediately went to her room, and did not reappear
until dinner, decked out in her finest dress, her hair dressed with
care, wearing a tight-fitting bodice, and gloves on her hands. At table
she sat with dignity, scarcely tasted anything, and drank only water. It
was evident she wished to play a new rôle in my presence: that of a
young person, modest and well-bred. Gaguine did not restrain her; you
could see that it was his custom to contradict her in nothing. From time
to time he contented himself with looking at me, faintly shrugging his
shoulders, and his kindly eye seemed to say: "She is but a child; be
indulgent." Immediately after dinner she rose, bowed to us, and, putting
on her hat, asked of Gaguine if she could go and see Dame Louise.

"How long have you been in need of my permission?" he replied, with his
usual smile, which this time, however, was slightly constrained; "you
are tired of us, then?"

"No; but yesterday I promised Dame Louise to go and see her; besides, I
think you would be more at your ease without me. Monsieur," she added,
turning to me, "you will--you will perhaps, have some more confidences."

She left us.

"Dame Louise," said Gaguine, trying to avoid my look, "is the widow of
the old burgomaster of the town. She is rather a plain, but an excellent
old woman. She has a great liking for Annouchka, who, moreover, has a
mania for becoming intimate with people below her; a mania that, as far
as I can observe, almost always springs from pride."

"You see," added he, after a moment's silence, "that I treat Annouchka
like a spoiled child, and it could not be otherwise; I could not be
exacting towards any body, how much less towards her?"

I did not reply. Gaguine began to talk upon another subject. The more I
learned to know him the more he inspired me with affection. I soon
summed up his character; it was a fine, good Russian nature,
straightforward, upright, and unaffected, but unfortunately wanting in
energy and earnestness. His youth did not give forth passion and ardor,
but shone with a sweet and dim light. He had wit and charming manners,
but how difficult to conjecture what would become of him when he became
a man! An artist--no! Every art calls for hard work, unceasing efforts;
and never, I said to myself, in looking at his calm features, listening
to his languid voice, never could he bind himself to constant and
well-directed work. And yet it was impossible not to like him; one
became attached to him involuntarily. We passed nearly four hours
together, sometimes side by side upon the sofa, sometimes walking slowly
before the house, and our talk ended by uniting us. The sun went down,
and I was thinking about going home.

Annouchka had not yet returned.

"Ah, what a wayward child!" exclaimed Gaguine. "Wait, I will see you
home; would you not like to have me? As we go we will stop at Dame
Louise's and see if she is yet there; it will not be much out of the
way."

We descended into the town, and after following for a short time a
narrow and winding street, we stopped before a high, four-storied
house, with but two windows in front; the second story projected over
the street more than the first, and in the same manner the other two.
This strange habitation, with its Gothic arches, placed upon two
enormous posts and topped with a pointed tiled roof, and a dormer
window, surmounted by an iron crane extended in the form of a beak, had
the effect of an enormous bird meditating.

"Annouchka, are you there?" cried Gaguine.

A lighted window opened in the third story, and we perceived the brown
head of the young girl. Behind her appeared the toothless face of an old
German woman, her eyes weak with age.

"Here I am," said Annouchka, leaning coquettishly on the window-sill. "I
like it very well. Wait, take this," added she, throwing to Gaguine a
slip of geranium. "Imagine to yourself that I am the lady of your
thoughts."

Dame Louise began to laugh.

"He is going away," replied Gaguine; "he wishes to bid you farewell."

"Really?" said Annouchka. "Well, then, as he is going, give him the
flower. I will come home very soon."

She quickly closed the window, and I thought I saw her embrace the old
German. Gaguine offered me the flower in silence. Without saying a word
I put it in my pocket, and returning to the place where they cross the
river, I passed over to the other side. I recollect walking towards my
house with a singularly sad heart, though thinking of nothing, when a
perfume well known to me, but rare enough in Germany, attracted my
attention. I stopped, and saw near the road a plot of ground sown with
hemp. The perfume that this plant of the steppes gave out suddenly
transported me to Russia, and brought forth in my soul a passionate
enthusiasm towards my country; I conceived the ardent desire of
breathing my native air, and feeling again under my feet the soil of my
fatherland. "What am I doing here?" I exclaimed; "What interest have I
in wandering in a strange land, among people who are nothing to me?" and
the oppression that filled my heart soon gave way to an emotion violent
and full of bitterness.

I re-entered my house in a state of mind the opposite to that of the
night before; I felt almost vexed, and was long in calming myself. I
felt a deep vexation, for which I could not account. I ended by sitting
down, and recalling my faithless widow (she came to my recollection
officially every evening); I took one of her letters, but did not open
it, for my thoughts took wing to the other side of the river. I began to
dream, and Annouchka was the subject. I recalled that in the course of
our conversation; Gaguine gave me to understand that certain
circumstances prevented him from returning to Russia.--"Who knows,
indeed, if she is his sister," I asked myself aloud.

I laid down and tried to sleep, but an hour after I was still leaning on
my elbow, and thinking again of that capricious little girl with a
forced laugh. She has the figure of _La Galathée_ of Raphael of the
Farnese palace, I murmured.--It is well that--and she is not his sister.
During this time the widow's letter reposed quietly upon the floor,
lighted up by a pale ray of the moon.



V.


The next morning I returned to L. I persuaded myself that I should take
the greatest pleasure in seeing Gaguine, but the fact is that I was
secretly impelled by the desire of knowing how Annouchka would
behave,--if she would act as strangely as the night before. I found them
both in the parlor; and a singular thing,--but perhaps because I had
been dreaming so long of Russia,--Annouchka seemed to me entirely
Russian. I found in her the air of a young girl of the people, almost
that of one of the servants. She wore quite an old dress, her hair was
drawn back behind her ears, and, seated near the window, she was quietly
working at her embroidery, as if she had never done anything else in her
life. Her eyes fixed upon her work, she scarcely spoke, and her features
had an expression so dull, so commonplace, that I was involuntarily
reminded of Macha and Katia[2] at home. To complete the resemblance she
began to hum the air,--

    O, ma mère, ma douce Colombe![3]

[Footnote 2: Diminutives of Mary and Catherine.]

[Footnote 3: National Russian air.]

While observing her face, the dreams of the night before came back to
mind, and without knowing why, I felt an oppression in my heart. The
weather was magnificent.

Gaguine told us he intended to go out to sketch. I asked permission to
accompany him if it would not trouble him.

"On the contrary," he said, "you can give me some good advice."

He put on his blouse, donned his round Van Dyck hat, took his portfolio
under his arm, and started out. I followed him. Annouchka remained at
home. On leaving, Gaguine begged her to see that the soup was not made
too thin. She promised to keep her eye on the kitchen.

Leading me into the valley, with which I was already familiar, Gaguine
seated himself upon a stone, and began to draw an old tufted oak.

I stretched myself upon the grass and took a book, but read two pages of
it at the most. Gaguine, on his side, made but a poor daub. In return
we did not fail to discuss very fully, and, in my opinion, not without
judgment and justness, the best method to follow to work with profit,
the dangers to avoid, the end to be aimed at, and the mission of the
true artist in the age in which we live. Gaguine ended by declaring that
to-day he did not feel sufficiently in spirits, and came and stretched
himself at my side. Then we gave ourselves up to the irresistible
temptation of one of those conversations so dear to youth, conversations
sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes pensive and melancholy, but always
sincere and always vague, in which we Russians love so much to indulge.
After having talked to satiety, we took the road to the town, very well
satisfied with ourselves, as if we had just accomplished a difficult
task, or brought a great enterprise to a good end. We found Annouchka
exactly as we left her. I observed her with the utmost attention; I
could discover in her neither the slightest shade of coquetry, or
indication denoting a studied part; it was impossible this time to find
in her any vestiges of oddity.

"Decidedly," said Gaguine, "she is fasting and doing penance."

Towards evening she yawned two or three times without the least
affectation, and went to bed early. I took leave of Gaguine soon after,
and, going home, I did not allow myself to dream. The day came to an end
without my mind suffering the least trouble, only it seemed to me, as I
lay down, that I said involuntarily aloud,--

"Oh! that little girl--she is, indeed, an enigma. And yet," added I,
after a moment's reflection, "and yet she is not his sister!"



VI.


A fortnight elapsed after these events. I went every day to make Gaguine
a visit. Annouchka seemed to shun me, and no longer indulged in those
head-shakings that had annoyed me so much in the first days of our
acquaintance. She seemed to conceal a grief or a secret trouble; she
laughed more rarely. I continued to observe her with curiosity.

French and German were quite familiar to her, but a number of things
made me divine that she had been without a woman's care in her infancy,
that she had received a strange, desultory education, quite different
from that of Gaguine. In him, in spite of his blouse and Van Dyck hat,
you quickly discovered the Russian gentleman, nonchalant and slightly
effeminate; she in no wise resembled a noble lady. All her movements
implied a kind of restlessness; she was a seedling newly grafted, a wine
that yet fermented. Naturally timid and distrustful of herself, she was
vexed at feeling _gauche_, and sought in spite of it to give herself an
unconstrained and bold manner, but not always with success. Several
times I led the conversation to her past, and her way of living in
Russia; I saw that she replied with a bad grace to my questions. All
that I could learn was that at the time she left Russia she was living
in the country. One day I found her alone and reading; her head leaning
on her hands, her fingers thrust in her hair, she was devouring the book
before her with her eyes.

"Bravo!" I cried, approaching. "What, a love of study?"

She raised her head, and, looking at me with a serious and dignified
air, "You thought, then, I could do nothing but laugh?" she said, and
she rose to leave.

I glanced at the title of the book; it was a bad French novel.

"You might have made a better choice," I said to her.

"What must I read, then?" she cried, and, throwing her book upon the
table, she added: "Then, in that case, I am going to amuse myself." And
she ran towards the garden.

The same day, in the evening, I read to Gaguine _Herrman and Dorothea_.
As I began to read, Annouchka went to and fro incessantly, then suddenly
she stopped, listened, seated herself quietly beside me, and gave me her
attention to the end.

The next day I was again surprised in no longer seeing the old
Annouchka. I began to comprehend that she had suddenly taken into her
head to be a housewife, wrapped up in her duties, like Dorothea. Finally
her character seemed inexplicable to me. In spite of the excessive
_amour propre_ that I found in her, I felt attracted towards her, even
when she made me angry. One thing, at least, appeared certain, and that
was that she was not the sister of Gaguine. I did not find in him
towards her the conduct of a brother; on her side too much respect and
compliance, too little constraint.

A strange circumstance seemed, according to all appearances, to
strengthen my suspicions. One evening, approaching the hedge which
surrounded Gaguine's house, I found the gate closed. Without stopping at
this obstacle I reached a place where, some days before, I had noticed
that a part of the hedge was destroyed, and I jumped into the enclosure;
some distance from there, a few steps from the path, there was a little
arbor of acacias; scarcely had I passed it than I distinguished the
voice of Annouchka, who cried out with fervor, weeping,--

"No, I shall never love any one but you; no, no, it is you alone whom I
wish to love, and forever!"

"Come, calm yourself," replied Gaguine, "you know very well that I
believe you." Their voices left the arbor. I could see them through the
thin foliage; they did not observe me.

"You, you only," she repeated; and, throwing herself on his neck, she
clung to him with convulsive sobs, covering him with kisses.

"Calm yourself, calm yourself," he kept repeating, passing his hand over
the hair of the young girl.

I remained quiet for some moments, then I came to my senses.--Should I
approach them? "No, not for the world," I immediately said.

I quickly regained the hedge, and, passing it at a stride, I again took
the road to my house, running. I smiled, I rubbed my hands, I wondered
at the chance that had unexpectedly confirmed my suppositions; the least
doubt seemed no longer possible, and at the same time I felt in my heart
an intense bitterness.

"I must confess," I said to myself, "that they can dissimulate well! But
what is their object? And I--why should they make me their dupe? I
should not expect such a thing from him. Then, what a melodramatic
scene!"



VII.


I passed a bad night. Rising early in the morning, I threw over my
shoulders my travelling bag, warned my landlady that I would not return
during the day, and walked by the side of the mountains, along the
river, upon the borders of which was situated the little town of L.
These mountains, whose chain bears the name of _Hundsrüch_ (Dog's Back)
are of a very curious formation; especially noticeable were columns of
basalt very regular and of great purity of shape, but at the moment I
hardly thought of making any geological observations. I could not
account for the way I felt, only I was conscious that I no longer wished
to persuade even myself that the only cause of the sudden estrangement
with which they inspired me was my chagrin at being deceived by them.
Nothing obliged them to give themselves out as--brother and sister.
Finally I tried to banish the remembrance of them from my mind.

I wandered at leisure over mountains and valleys; I made some long stops
in the village inns; engaging in a quiet conversation with the landlord
and travellers, or else, lying down upon a flat stone, warmed by the
sun, I looked at the clouds floating by. Happily for me the weather was
beautiful. It was thus I occupied my leisure for three days, and I found
in doing so a certain charm, though at times I felt depressed. The state
of my mind was in perfect accord with the tranquil nature of these
regions.

I abandoned myself entirely to chance, to all the impressions that
happened to strike me. They followed each other slowly and left in the
depths of my soul a general sensation, in which mingled harmoniously all
that I had seen, felt, and heard for the last three days; yes,
everything, without exception, the penetrating odor of rosin in the
woods, the cries and the tappings of the woodpecker, the incessant
rushing of the clear streams, with speckled trout playing on the sandy
bottom, the undulating outlines of the mountains, the towering rocks;
the neat little villages, with their respectable old churches; the
storks in the meadows, the pretty mills with clattering wheels, the
stout figures of the countrymen with their blue waistcoats and gray
stockings, the lumbering carts drawn slowly by heavy horses and
sometimes by cows, young travellers, with long hair, walking in groups
on the smooth streets, bordered with pear and apple trees.

I still find a charm in the remembrance of these impressions.

Hail to you! humble corner of German soil, abode of a modest comfort,
where one meets at every step traces of a diligent hand, of a work slow,
but full of perseverance, to you my vows and my reverence!

I returned home only on the evening of the third day. I have forgotten
to say that, in my chagrin against Annouchka, I attempted to revive in
my thoughts the image of my stony-hearted widow, but had my labor for my
pains. I remember that as soon as I recalled her, I found myself face to
face with a little girl of about five years of age, with a round and
innocent face, with eyes animated with a naïve curiosity. She looked at
me with such a candid expression that I felt quite ashamed before her
glance; it was distasteful for me to lie even to myself in her presence,
and my old idol disappeared from my remembrance forever.

Arriving home, I found a letter from Gaguine; he spoke of the
astonishment that my sudden disappearance had caused him; reproached me
for not having taken him for a companion, and begged me to come and see
him as soon as I returned.

This letter caused me a painful impression; nevertheless, I started for
L. the next day.



VIII.


Gaguine gave me a friendly greeting, and loaded me with affectionate
reproaches. As to Annouchka, as if she did it on purpose, as soon as she
saw me, she burst out laughing without the slightest cause, and
immediately fled, as usual. Gaguine appeared embarrassed, stammered out
that she was foolish, and begged me to excuse her. I confess that, being
already displeased, I was so much the more wounded by this forced
merriment and strange affectation. I feigned, however, to attach no
importance to it, and related to Gaguine the details of my little
excursion. On his side, he informed me of what he had done during my
absence; nevertheless the conversation languished, while Annouchka kept
coming in and out of the room. I brought this to an end by pretending
unavoidable work, and manifested my intention of leaving. Gaguine
attempted at first to detain me; then, bestowing a searching glance at
me, offered to accompany me. In the outer room Annouchka came up
suddenly and offered me her hand. I just touched the ends of her fingers
and scarcely bowed.

I crossed the Rhine with Gaguine, and when we were near the ash of the
little Madonna we seated ourselves upon the bench to admire the view.
Then we entered into a conversation I shall never forget.

We at first exchanged some commonplaces, then there was a silence. We
fixed our eyes upon the transparent waters of the river.

"I should like to know what you think of Annouchka," said Gaguine
suddenly, with his usual smile. "Does she not appear somewhat
fantastic?"

"Yes," I replied, much surprised at the question, as I hardly expected
him to venture upon such ground.

"That comes from not knowing her; thus you cannot judge her well," said
he. "She has an excellent heart, but a very bad head. You must bear a
great deal from her! You would not reproach her if you knew her
history."

"Her history?" I exclaimed; "is she not then your"--

Gaguine stopped me with a look.

"You are not going to imagine that she is not my sister?" he replied,
without paying any attention to my embarrassment. "Yes, she is indeed
the daughter of my father. Give me your attention. I have confidence in
you and am going to tell you everything.

"My father was an excellent man, having intelligence and a cultivated
mind, but whose life was nevertheless very sad. It was not that he was
more ill-used by fortune than any one else, but he had not the strength
to bear a first misfortune. While still young he had made a love
marriage; his wife, who was my mother, did not live long; I was only six
months old when she died. My father then took me into the country, and
for twelve years did not put foot outside of his domain. He himself
began my education, and would never have separated himself from me if
his brother, my paternal uncle, had not come to see him on his estate.
This uncle lived at Petersburg, and he held an important position there.
He succeeded in persuading my father to confide me to his care, so that
he would never need to leave his estate; he represented to him that
isolation was injurious to a boy already grown, and who in the hands of
a preceptor as sad and stern as my father would be far behind children
of my own age, and that even my character would suffer.

"My father resisted his attempts for a long time, but finally yielded. I
cried on being separated from him, for I loved him, though I had never
seen a smile upon his lips. Arrived at Petersburg, I soon forgot the
sad, dark place where my infancy was passed. I entered the military
school, then a regiment of the Guard. I went every year to pass some
weeks in the country. Each time I found my father more morose, more
reserved and pensive, until at times he became fierce. He went every day
to church, and almost entirely lost the habit of talking.

"During one of these visits (I was about twenty years of age) I
perceived for the first time a slight girl with black eyes, about twelve
years old; it was Annouchka. My father told me she was an orphan whom he
took care of, and I paid but little attention to this child, wild,
silent, and active as a young fallow deer. When I entered my father's
favorite room, the vast chamber where my mother died, and so dark that
they kept it lighted in broad day, Annouchka hid herself behind a large
arm-chair or the bookcase. It happened that for three or four days after
this last visit I was prevented by my duties from returning to my
father's, but every month I received a few lines from his hand, in which
he rarely spoke of Annouchka, and always without going into any details
of the subject. He was already over fifty, but appeared still a young
man. You may imagine the shock when I suddenly received a letter from
our steward, in which he announced to me that my father was dangerously
ill, and implored me to come as soon as possible if I wished to see him
before he died.

"I started immediately, and travelled with the greatest speed, and found
my father still living, but just about to breathe his last. He was
delighted to see me again, and clasped me in his emaciated arms,
fastening his glance upon me, which appeared at once to fathom my
thoughts and to address me a mute prayer, and making me promise to
fulfil his last wish, he ordered his old valet to bring Annouchka into
his room.

"The old man led her in; she could hardly stand, trembling all over.

"'Now,' said my father with an effort, 'I confide to your care my
daughter, your sister; Iskof will relate everything to you,' he added,
designating his old servant.

"Annouchka began to sob and fell upon the bed, hiding her face. Half an
hour after, my father expired.

"This is what I learned: Annouchka was the daughter of my father and of
an old waiting maid of my mother, named Tatiana. I recollect Tatiana
very well. She was tall, with large, dark eyes, noble, severe, and
intelligent features, and passed for a proud girl, rather
unapproachable. As far as I could understand by the simple story with
respectful omissions that Iskof related, my father did not notice
Tatiana until several years after the death of my mother. At that time
Tatiana no longer lived in the manor-house, but with one of her married
sisters, charged with looking after the courtyard. My father had taken a
fancy to her, and when I left the country he even thought of marrying
her, but she resisted all his entreaties. 'The dead Tatiana
Vlassievna,' said Iskof, standing reverentially near the door, his hands
behind his back, 'was a person of great good judgment; she did not wish
to bring prejudice against your father,'--'I become your wife, mistress
here, you can't think of it?' she cried, thus addressing your father in
my presence." Inflexible upon this point, Tatiana would not even change
her abode; she continued to live at her sister's with Annouchka. When I
was a child I often remember having seen Tatiana on fête-days at church.
A dark handkerchief on her head, a yellow shawl thrown over her
shoulder, she stood with the other villagers near a window. Her stern
profile stood out clearly against the panes, and she prayed with modest
gravity, bowing profoundly after the custom of the old time, and
touching the earth with the end of her fingers before touching it with
her forehead.

"At the time my uncle took me away, little Annouchka was only two years
old; she was nine when she lost her mother. After the death of Tatiana,
my father took the child to his own house. Already he had several times
expressed a wish to do so, but Tatiana was always opposed to it. You
may imagine what Annouchka must have felt when she found herself
established in the house of him they called "the master." Even to the
present time she preserves the remembrance of the day when for the first
time she put on a silk dress, and they made her kiss his hand. Her
mother had brought her up with severity; my father did not place the
least restraint upon her. He charged himself with her education; she had
no other master. He did not spoil her, or load her with useless tasks.
He loved her ardently; he could refuse her nothing. Annouchka soon
learned that she was the principal personage of the house; she knew that
the master was her father; even then she had a feeling of her false
position, and an _amour propre_ unhealthful and full of mistrust sprang
up in her. Some bad habits took root; her _naïveté_ disappeared; she
wished, she confided to me later, to force the whole world to forget her
origin. At times she blushed at it; then, ashamed at her blushes, she
showed that she was proud of her mother. You see that she knew, and
knows still, a great many things which she should have been ignorant of
at her age; but whose fault was it? The passion of youth burst forth
impetuously, and there was no friendly hand to direct her. It is so
difficult to make good use of such entire independence. So, not wishing
to be behind other nobles' daughters, she devoted herself to reading;
but what profit could she derive from it? Her life, begun in a false
way, remained so, but her heart kept pure.

"At this time I was but twenty years of age, and charged with the care
of a young girl of thirteen. For the first few days after my father's
death the sound of my voice was sufficient to throw her into a fever. My
caresses caused her agony; it was but gradually and almost insensibly
that she became accustomed to me. It is true that later, when she saw
that I was thoughtful of her, and loved her as a sister, she became
ardently attached to me; she could feel nothing half way.

"I took her to Petersburg, and though hard for me to leave her, it not
being in my power to keep her near me, I placed her in one of the best
boarding-schools of the city. Annouchka understood the necessity of this
separation, but she fell ill and nearly died. Later she became
accustomed to this kind of life. She remained at boarding-school four
years, and, contrary to my expectation, she came out nearly the same as
she went in. The mistress of the boarding-school often complained of
her. "Punishments have no effect upon her," she told me, "and marks of
affection find her equally insensible." Annouchka was very intelligent;
she studied hard, and in this respect led all her companions; but
nothing could make her comply with the ordinary rules,--she remained
obstinate, and with an unsociable humor. I do not blame her entirely;
she was in a position where there were but two ways of acting open to
her,--a complacent servility or a proud shyness. Among all her
schoolmates, she was intimate with but one, a young girl, quite plain,
poor, and persecuted. The other scholars of the boarding-school, most of
them of the aristocracy, did not like her, and pursued her with their
sarcasms. Annouchka kept aloof from them in every way. One day the
priest charged with their religious instruction spoke of the faults of
youth; Annouchka said aloud: "There are no greater faults than flattery
and meanness." In a word, her character did not change, only her manners
improved, although there was still much to be desired.

"So she reached her seventeenth year. My position was quite
embarrassing; but a happy thought suddenly occurred to me: it was to
leave the service, pass three or four years in a strange country and
take my sister with me. As soon as I conceived this resolution I put it
in execution, and that is why you find us both upon the banks of the
Rhine, I attempting to paint, and she doing anything she wishes,
according to her fancy. Now I hope that you will not judge her too
severely, for I warn you that Annouchka, though pretending to care
nothing about it, is very sensitive to the opinion that others have of
her, and to yours above all."

As he said these last words, Gaguine smiled with his usual calmness. I
pressed his hand with warmth.

"All this is nothing," he replied, "but I tremble for her in the future.
She has one of the most inflammable natures. Up to the present time no
one has pleased her; but if she ever loves, who can tell what may result
from it? I do not at times know how to behave towards her. Imagine those
days when she wished to prove to me that I was cool towards her, whilst
she loved only me, and would never love another man! and while saying
this she would weep bitterly.

"It is for this reason then?--" I began to say, but I immediately
stopped myself.

"Since we are in the chapter of confidences," I replied, "allow me one
question. Is it true that no one has pleased her up to the present time?
Yet at Petersburg she must have seen a great many young people?"

"They were all to the highest degree displeasing to her. You see,
Annouchka was seeking for a hero, an extraordinary man, or some handsome
shepherd living in a mountain cave. But it is time for me to stop; I
detain you," added he, rising.

"No," I said to him, "let us rather go to your house. I don't wish to go
into the house."

"And your work?" he asked of me.

I did not reply to him. Gaguine kindly smiled, and we returned to L. In
again seeing the vineyard and the white house on the mountain, I felt a
peculiarly sweet emotion that penetrated my soul; it was as if balm had
been poured into my heart.

Gaguine's story relieved me greatly.



IX.


Annouchka came to meet us at the threshold of the door. I was expecting
a fresh burst of laughter, but she approached us pale, silent, her eyes
cast down.

"I have brought him back," said Gaguine, "and it is well to add that he
wished to come himself."

She looked at me with a questioning air. I put my hand out to her this
time, and pressed with fervor her cold and trembling fingers. I felt a
profound pity for her. I understood, indeed, the sides of her character
which had appeared inexplicable to me. That agitation one saw in her,
that desire of putting herself forward, joined with the fear of
appearing ridiculous, was quite clear to me now.

A weighty secret oppressed her constantly, her inexperienced _amour
propre_ came forward and receded incessantly, but her whole being sought
the truth. I understood what attracted me towards this strange young
girl: it was not only the half-savage charm bestowed upon her lovely
and graceful young figure, it was also her soul that captivated me.
Gaguine began to rummage over his portfolios; I proposed to Annouchka to
accompany me into the vineyard. She immediately consented, with a gay
and almost submissive air. We went half way down the mountain, and
seated ourselves upon a stone.

"And you were not dull without us?" she asked me.

"You were then dull without me?" I replied to her.

Annouchka looked at me slyly.

"Yes!" she said, and almost immediately began,--

"The mountains must be very beautiful. They are high, higher than the
clouds. Tell me what you saw. You have already told my brother, but I
have not heard."

"But you did not care to hear, since you went out."

"I went out because,--you see very well that I don't go out now," added
she in a tender tone; "but this morning you were angry."

"I was angry?"

"Yes!"

"Come now, why should I have been?"

"I don't know; but you were angry, and went away in the same mood. I was
very sorry to see you go away so, and I am glad to see you come back."

"And I am very glad to be back," I answered.

Annouchka shrugged her shoulders, as children do when they are pleased.
"Oh! I know it," she replied. "I used to know by the way in which my
father coughed whether he was pleased with me or not."

It was the first time that she had spoken of her father; it surprised
me.

"You loved your father very much?" I asked her; and suddenly, to my
great disgust, I felt that I blushed.

She did not answer, and blushed also.

We kept silent for some time. In the distance the smoke of a steamboat
rose up on the Rhine; we followed it with our eyes.

"And your story," she said to me in a low voice.

"Why did you sometimes begin to laugh when you saw me?" I asked her.

"I don't know. Sometimes I feel like weeping, and I begin to laugh. You
must not judge of me by the way I act. Apropos, what is that legend
about the fairy Lorelei? This is her rock that one sees here. They say
that formerly she drowned everybody, until, falling in love, she threw
herself into the Rhine. I like the story. Dame Louise knows a great many
of them; she tells them all to me. Dame Louise has a black cat with
yellow eyes."

Annouchka raised her head and shook her curls.

"Ah! how happy I am," she said. At that moment low, monotonous sounds
began to be heard at intervals,--hundreds of voices, chanting in chorus,
with cadenced interruptions, a religious song. A long procession
appeared on the road below us, with crosses and banners.

"Suppose we join them," Annouchka said to me, listening to the chants
that came to us growing fainter and fainter by degrees.

"You are then very religious?"

"One should go to some place very far away for devotion, or to
accomplish a perilous work!" she added. "Otherwise the days slip
by--life passes uselessly."

"You are ambitious," I said to her. "You do not wish to end your life
without leaving behind some traces of your existence?"

"Is it then impossible?"

"Impossible!" I was going to answer; but I looked at the eyes that shone
with ardor, and confined myself to saying, "Try!"

"Tell me," after a moment's silence, during which indescribable shades
passed over her countenance, which again had become pale. "Then that
lady pleases you very much? You know, the one whose health my brother
drank at the ruins the day after you met us?"

I began to laugh.

"Your brother but jested; no woman was in my mind, or at least is there
now."

"And what is it that you like about women?" she asked, turning her head
with a childlike curiosity.

"What a singular question!" I cried.

Annouchka was immediately troubled.

"I shouldn't have asked you such a question, should I? Forgive me; I am
accustomed to say whatever comes into my head. That is why I am afraid
to speak."

"Speak, I beg you! Fear nothing, I am so delighted at seeing you less
wild."

Annouchka lowered her eyes, and for the first time I heard a sweet low
laugh come from her lips.

"Come, tell me about your trip," she said, arranging the folds of her
dress over her knees, as if to install herself there for a long time;
"begin or recite something to me, that which you read from Onéguine."[4]

[Footnote 4: Poem of Pouchkina.]

She suddenly became pensive, and murmured in a low voice,--

    "Où sont aujourd'hui la croix et l'ombrage
    Qui marquaient la tombe de ma pauvre mère."

"That's not exactly the way that Pouchkina[5] expressed himself," I
said.

[Footnote 5: Instead of "mère," the Russian text says "nourrice."]

"I should like to be Tatiana,"[6] continued she, still pensive. "Come,
speak," she said with vivacity.

[Footnote 6: Heroine of the poem.]

But that was far from my thoughts. I looked at her; inundated by the
warm light of the sun, she seemed to me so calm, so serene.--About us,
at our feet, above our heads, the country, the river, the heavens,--all
were radiant; the air seemed to me quite saturated with splendor.

"See, how beautiful it is," I said, lowering my voice involuntarily.

"Oh, yes, very beautiful," she replied in the same tone, without looking
at me. "If you and I were birds, how we would dart forth into
space--into all that infinite blue! But we are not birds."

"Yes, but we can bring forth wings."

"How's that?"

"Life will teach you. There are many feelings that will raise you above
this earth; never fear, the wings will come to you."

"Have you had any?"

"What shall I say? I don't think that I have taken wing so far."

Annouchka became thoughtful once more. I was leaning over her.

"Can you waltz?" she said to me suddenly.

"Yes," I replied, a little surprised at the question.

"Then come quickly; come. I am going to beg my brother to play us a
waltz. We will pretend that the wings have appeared, and that we are
flying into space."

She ran towards the house. I quickly followed her, and a few moments had
hardly elapsed before we were whirling about the narrow room, to the
sounds of a waltz of Lanner's. Annouchka danced with much grace and
animation. I do not know what womanly charm suddenly appeared upon her
girlish face. Long afterwards the charm of her slender figure still
lingered about my hand; for a long time I felt her quick breathing near
me, and I dreamed of her dark eyes, motionless and half closed, with her
face animated, though pale, about which waved the curls of her sweet
hair.



X.


Nothing could have been more delightful than that day. We amused
ourselves like children. Annouchka was pleasing and artless. Gaguine
regarded her with pleasure. I left them a little later. When I reached
the middle of the Rhine I begged the boatman to let his boat drift down
the river. The old man rested on his oars, and the majestic river
carried us along. I looked about me, listened, and dreamed. Suddenly I
felt a weight at my heart. Astonished, I raised my eyes to the heavens,
but found no quiet there. Studded with stars, the entire heavens seemed
to be moving, palpitating, trembling; I leaned towards the river, but
down there in those cold and dark depths, there, too, were the stars
trembling and moving. Everything appeared incited by a restless
agitation, and my own trouble only increased it. I leaned upon the edge
of the boat. The sighing of the wind in my ears, the rippling of the
water, which made a wake behind the stern, irritated me, and the cold
air from over the water did not refresh me. A nightingale began to sing
near the river bank, and the sweetness of the melodious voice ran
through me like a delicious and burning poison. But they were not tears
from an excitement without cause; what I felt was not the confused
emotion of vague desires,--it was not that effervescence of the soul
which wished to clasp everything in its embrace, because it could
understand and love everything that exists; no, the thirst for happiness
was kindled in me. I did not yet venture to put it into words--but
happiness, happiness to satiety--that was what I wished, what I longed
for. Meanwhile, the boat kept on down the stream, and the old boatman
dozed on his oars.



XI.


While going the next morning to Gaguine's, I did not ask myself if I was
in love with Annouchka, but did not cease to dream of her, to ponder on
her fate; I rejoiced in our unforeseen reconciliation. I felt that I had
not understood her until the previous evening; up to that time she was
an enigma. Now, at length, she was revealed to me; in what an entrancing
light was her image enshrouded, how new she was to me, and what did she
not promise!

I followed deliberately the road that I had gone over so many times,
glancing at every step at the little white house that was seen in the
distance. I thought not of the far-off future; I did not even give a
thought to the next day; I was happy.

When I entered the room Annouchka blushed. I noticed that she had again
dressed herself with care, but by the expression of her face she was not
entirely at her ease, and I--I was happy. I even thought I noticed a
movement to run away, as usual, but, making an effort, she remained.
Gaguine was in that particular state of excitement which, like a fit of
madness, suddenly takes hold of the _dilettanti_, when they imagine that
they have caught Nature in the act and can hold her.

He was standing, quite dishevelled and covered with paint, before his
canvas, bestowing upon it, right and left, great strokes of his brush.

He greeted me with a nod that had something quite fierce about it, going
back a few steps, half closing his eyes, then again dashing at his
picture. I did not disturb him, but went and sat by Annouchka. Her dark
eyes turned slowly towards me.

"You are not the same to-day as you were yesterday," I said, after
vainly trying to smile.

"It is true, I am not the same," she replied in a slow and dull voice;
"but that's nothing. I have not slept well. I was thinking all night
long."

"Upon what?"

"Ah, mon Dieu, upon a great many things. It is a habit of my childhood,
of the time that I still lived with my mother."

She spoke this last word with an effort, but repeated it again:--

"When I lived with my mother I often asked myself why no one knew what
would happen to them, and why, when foreseeing a misfortune, one cannot
avoid it. And why also can one not tell the whole truth. I was thinking
moreover last night that I ought to study, that I know nothing; I need a
new education. I have been badly brought up. I have neither learned to
draw nor to play upon the piano; I hardly know how to sew. I have no
talent, people must be very much bored with me."

"You are unjust to yourself," I replied to her; "you have read a great
deal, and with your intelligence"--

"And I am intelligent?" she asked, with such a curious naïve air that I
could hardly keep from laughing.

"Am I intelligent, brother?" she asked of Gaguine.

He did not reply, but kept on painting assiduously, changing his brush
over and over again, and raising his hand very high at every stroke.

"Really at times I have no idea what I have in my head," replied
Annouchka, still thoughtful. "Sometimes, I assure you, I am afraid of
myself. Ah! I would like--Is it true that women should not read a great
many things?"

"A great many things are not necessary, but"--

"Tell me what I should read, what I should do. I will follow your advice
in everything," added she, turning towards me with a burst of
confidence.

I could not think immediately of what I ought to tell her.

"Come, would you not be afraid that I should weary you?"

"What a strange idea!"

"Well, thanks for that," said she, "I was afraid that you might be
wearied in my society," and with her small burning hand clasped mine.

"I say! N----," cried Gaguine at this moment, "is not this tone too
dark?"

I approached him, and the young girl rose and left the room.



XII.


She reappeared in about an hour at the door, and beckoned me to her.

"Listen," said she; "if I should die, would you be sorry?"

"What singular ideas you have to-day," I exclaimed.

"I don't think that I shall live long; it often seems to me that
everything about me is bidding me good-by. It is better to die than to
live as--Ah! don't look at me so; I assure you that I'm not pretending;
otherwise, I shall begin again to be afraid of you."

"Were you afraid of me then?"

"If I am queer, you must not reproach me. See, already I can no longer
laugh."

She remained sad and preoccupied until the end of the evening. I could
not understand what had come over her. Her eyes often rested upon me; my
heart was oppressed under her enigmatic look. She appeared calm;
nevertheless, in looking at her, I could not keep from saying something
to lessen her trouble. I contemplated her with emotion; I found a
touching charm in the pallor spread over her features, in the timidity
of her indecisive movements. She all the while imagined that I was in a
bad humor.

"Listen," she said to me before I left, "I fear that you do not take me
seriously. In future believe all that I tell you; but you, in your turn,
be frank with me; be sure that I shall never tell you anything but the
truth,--I give you my word of honor!"

This expression, "word of honor," made me smile once more.

"Ah! don't laugh," said she vivaciously, "or I shall repeat what you
told me yesterday, 'Why do you laugh?' Do you remember," added she,
after a moment's silence, "that yesterday you spoke to me of wings?
These wings have sprung forth. I don't know where to fly."

"Come, then," I replied, "all roads are open to you."

She looked at me earnestly for some moments.

"You have a bad opinion of me to-day," she said, frowning slightly.

"I! a bad opinion of you?"

"Why are you standing there, with those dismal faces?" asked Gaguine at
that moment. "Do you wish me to play a waltz for you, as I did
yesterday?"

"No, no," cried she, clasping her hands; "not for the world to-day!"

"Don't excite yourself; I don't wish to force you."

"Not for the world," repeated she, growing pale.

"Does she love me?" I thought, as I approached the Rhine, whose dark
waters rushed rapidly along.



XIII.


"Does she love me?" I asked myself the next morning on awakening. I
feared to question myself more. I felt that her image--the image of the
young girl with the "_rire forcé_"--was engraved on my mind, and that I
could not easily efface it. I returned to L., and remained there the
entire day, but I only caught a glimpse of Annouchka. She was
indisposed; she had a headache. She only came down for a few moments, a
handkerchief wrapped about her forehead. Pale and unsteady, with her
eyes half closed, she smiled a little, and said,--

"It will pass away; it is nothing. Everything passes away, doesn't it?"
and she went out.

I felt wearied, moved by a sensation of emptiness and sadness, and yet I
could not decide to go away. Later on I went home without having seen
her again.

I passed all the next morning in a kind of moral somnolence. I tried to
lose myself by working; impossible, I could do nothing. I tried to
force myself to think of nothing; that succeeded no better. I wandered
about the town; I re-entered the house, then came out again.

"Are you not Monsieur N----?" said suddenly behind me the voice of a
little boy.

I turned about,--a child had accosted me.

"From Mademoiselle Anna."

And he handed me a letter.

I opened it and recognized her handwriting, hasty and indistinct:--

"I must see you. Meet me to-day at four o'clock in the stone chapel, on
the road that leads to the ruins.--I have been very imprudent. Come, for
heaven's sake! You shall know everything. Say to the bearer, Yes."

"Is there any answer?" asked the little boy.

"Say to the young lady, _Yes_," I replied. And he ran away.



XIV.


I went back to my room, and, sitting down, began to reflect. My heart
beat quickly. I read Annouchka's letter over several times. I looked at
my watch; it was not yet noon.

The door opened and Gaguine entered. He looked gloomy. He took my hand
and pressed it fervently. You could see that he was under the influence
of a deep emotion.

"What has happened?" I asked him. Gaguine took a chair, and seated
himself by my side.

"Three days ago," he said to me, with an uneasy smile and a constrained
voice, "I told you some things that surprised you; to-day I am going to
astonish you still more. To another than you, I would not speak so
frankly; but you are a man of honor, and a friend, I hope; then listen.
My sister Annouchka loves you."

I started, and rose quickly.

"Your sister, you tell me--?"

"Yes," he replied bruskly, "I said so. It is foolish; she will drive me
mad. Fortunately, she cannot lie, and confides everything to me. Ah!
what a heart that child has; but she will surely ruin herself!"

"You are certainly in error," I exclaimed, interrupting him.

"No, I am not mistaken. Yesterday she remained in bed the entire day
without taking anything. It is true she did not complain; but she never
does complain. I felt no uneasiness, but towards evening she had a
little fever. About two in the morning our landlady came and awoke me.

"'Go and see your sister,' she said to me; 'I think she is ill.'

"I ran to Annouchka's room, and found her still dressed, consumed with
fever, in tears; her head was on fire; her teeth chattered.

"'What is the matter with you?' I asked.

"She threw herself upon my neck and begged me to take her away, if I
valued her life. Without being able to understand anything, I tried to
calm her; her sobs redoubled, and, suddenly, in the depth of her grief,
she confessed to me,--in a word, I learned that she loves you.--There!
You and I are grown men, governed by reason. Well! we will never
understand how deep are the sentiments that Annouchka feels, and with
what violence they manifest themselves; it is something at once
unforeseen and irresistible, like the bursting of a storm. You are,
without doubt, a very attractive man," continued Gaguine, "but yet, how
have you inspired such a violent passion? I cannot conceive of it, I
confess it! She pretends that, as soon as she saw you, she was attracted
towards you. That is why she wept so much of late in assuring me that
she would never love any one in the world but me. She thinks that you
look down upon her, knowing probably her origin. She asked me if I had
told you her story. I told her No, as you may imagine, but her
penetration frightens me. She had but one thought, that was to go away,
and quickly. I stayed with her until morning. She made me promise that
we should start to-morrow, and only then was she quieted. After mature
reflection, I decided to come and confer with you upon the subject. In
my opinion, my sister is right; the best thing is to leave, and I should
have taken her away to-day if an idea had not occurred to me, and
stopped me. Who knows? Perhaps my sister pleases you; if so, why then
should we part? So I decided, and putting aside my pride, relying upon
some observations that I had made--yes--I decided to come--to come and
ask you"--

Here Gaguine, disconcerted, stopped short.

"Pray excuse me--pardon--I am not accustomed to interviews of this
kind."

I took his hand.

"You wish to know if your sister pleases me!" I said to him firmly. "She
does please me!"

Gaguine fixed his eyes upon me. "But, in short," replied he,
hesitating,--"would you marry her?"

"How can I answer that question. I make you the judge of it.--Can I do
it now?"

"I know it, I know it," cried Gaguine; "no, I have no right to expect an
answer from you, and the question that I have asked you is
unconventional in every particular, but force of circumstances
compelled me to do so. It is not safe to play with fire! You don't
understand what Annouchka is. She may fall ill, or run away, or even--or
even give you a rendezvous. Another would know how to conceal her
feelings and wait, but she cannot. It is her first experience, that's
the worst of it! If you could have seen to-day the way in which she
sobbed at my feet, you would share my fears."

I began to reflect. The words of Gaguine, "_Give you a rendezvous_,"
oppressed my heart. It seemed shameful to me not to answer his honest
frankness by a loyal confession.

"Yes!" I at length said to him, "you are right. I received, about an
hour ago, a letter from your sister; there it is." He took it, ran
through it rapidly, and again let his hands fall upon his knees. The
astonishment that his features expressed would have been laughable, if I
could have laughed at that moment.

"You are a man of honor," he said. "I am not the less embarrassed to
know what to do. How! She asks me to fly, and in this letter she
reproaches herself for her imprudence! But when, then, did she have the
time to write to you? and what are her intentions in regard to you?"

I reassured him, and we applied ourselves, with as much coolness as was
possible, to discuss what we should do. This is the plan which we
finally determined upon to prevent all unhappiness. It was agreed that I
should go to the rendezvous and speak plainly with Annouchka. Gaguine
promised to remain at home, without showing that he had read the letter;
and it was decided, moreover, that we should meet in the evening.

"I have full confidence in you," he said, pressing my hand; "have
consideration for her and for me; but, nevertheless, we will leave
to-morrow," added he, rising, "since it is settled that you will not
marry her."

"Give me until this evening," I replied.

"So be it! you will not marry her!"

He took his departure; I threw myself upon the divan and closed my eyes.
I was dazed; too many thoughts at once crowded into my brain. I was
angry with Gaguine for his frankness; I was angry with Annouchka: her
love filled me with joy--and yet I was afraid of it.

I could not account for her having made a full confession to her
brother. That which above all caused me great pain was the absolute
necessity of making a sudden and almost instantaneous decision.

"Marry a girl of seventeen, with a disposition like that; it is
impossible!" I cried, rising.



XV.


At the hour agreed upon I crossed the Rhine, and the first person I met
on the bank was the same little boy who had found me in the morning. He
seemed to be waiting for me. "From Mademoiselle Anna," he said to me, in
a low voice, and he gave me another note.

Annouchka announced to me that she had changed the place of the
rendezvous. She told me to meet her in an hour and a half--not at the
chapel, but at Dame Louise's; I was to knock at the door, enter, and go
up three flights.

"Again _Yes_?" asked the little boy.

"Yes," I replied, and walked along the river bank. I had not time enough
to return to my house, and did not wish to wander about the streets.

Behind the walls of the town stretched a little garden, with a
bowling-alley covered with a roof, and some tables for beer-drinkers. I
entered it.

Several middle-aged Germans were bowling; the balls rolled noisily
along; exclamations could be heard from time to time. A pretty little
waiting-maid, her eyes swollen from crying, brought me a jug of beer; I
looked her in the face, she turned away bruskly and withdrew.

"Yes, yes!" muttered a stout German with very red cheeks, who was seated
near me; "our Hannchen is in great distress to-day; her sweetheart is
drawn in the conscription." I looked at her at this moment; retiring
into a corner, she was resting her cheek upon her hand, and great tears
slowly rolled between her fingers. Some one asked for beer; she brought
him a jug, and went back to her place. This grief reacted upon me, and I
began to think of my rendezvous with sadness and uneasiness.

It was not with a light heart that I was going to this interview. I must
not give myself up to the joys of a reciprocal love. Must keep to my
word, fulfil a difficult duty. "_It is not safe to play with fire._"
This expression, which Gaguine had used in speaking of his sister,
pierced me like a sharp arrow to the bottom of my soul. Yet three days
before, in that boat carried along by the stream, was I not tormented by
a thirst for happiness? Now I could satisfy it, and I hesitated. I
thrust back this happiness; it was my duty to do so; the unforeseen
something which it presented frightened me. Annouchka herself, with her
impulsive nature, her education, this girl strange and full of
fascination, I confess it, frightened me.

I struggled a long time with these feelings. The moment fixed upon
approached. "I can not marry her," at last I said to myself; "she will
not know that I have loved her."

I arose, put a thaler into poor Hannchen's hand (she did not even thank
me), and proceeded towards the house of Dame Louise.

The shades of night were already in the air, and above the dark street
stretched a narrow band of sky, reddened by the setting sun. I gently
tapped at the door; it was immediately opened.

I crossed the threshold and found myself in complete darkness.

"This way," said a cracked voice, "you are expected."

I groped along in the dark a few steps; a bony hand seized mine.

"Is it you, Dame Louise?" I asked.

"Yes!" answered the same voice, "it is I, my fine young man."

The old woman took me up a very steep staircase, and stopped upon the
landing of the third story. I recognized then, by the faint glimmer from
a little garret window, the wrinkled face of the burgomaster's widow. A
sly and mawkish smile half opened her toothless mouth, and made her dull
eyes glitter. She pointed out a door. I opened it with a convulsive
movement, and slammed it after me.



XVI.


The little room in which I found myself was quite dark, and it was some
moments before I saw Annouchka. She was seated near the window,
enveloped in a large shawl, her head turned away and almost concealed,
like a startled bird. I felt a deep pity for her. I approached; she
turned away her head still more.

"Anna Nicolaëvna!" I said to her. She turned quickly and tried to fasten
her look upon mine, but had not the strength. I took her hand; it was
like a dead person's, motionless and cold in mine.

"I would like," said she, attempting to smile, but her pale lips would
not allow of it; "I would like--no, impossible," she murmured. She was
silent; indeed, her voice grew fainter at every word.

I sat down by her.

"Anna Nicolaëvna!" I said again, and, in my turn, I could say nothing
more. There was a long silence. Retaining her hand in mine, I gazed at
her. Sinking down, she breathed quickly, biting her lower lip, in order
to keep back the tears which were ready to flow. I continued to gaze at
her; there was in her motionless and timorous attitude an expression of
weakness deeply touching. It was as if she had fallen crushed upon the
chair and could not stir. My heart was filled with pity.

"Annouchka!" I said in a low voice. She slowly raised her eyes to mine.
O the look of a woman whose heart has just opened to love! how find
words to describe it?--They beseech, those eyes! they question, they
give themselves up.--I could not resist them--a subtle fire ran through
my veins. I bent over her head and covered it with kisses.--Suddenly my
ear was struck by a trembling sound like a stifled sob. I felt a hand
which trembled like a leaf pass over my hair. I raised my head and saw
her face.--What a sudden transfiguration had come over it!--Fright had
disappeared; her eyes had a far-away look that seemed to ask mine to
join with them; her lips were slightly apart; her forehead was as pale
as marble, whilst her curls floated behind her head, as if a breath of
air had blown them back!

I forgot everything. I drew her towards me. She offered no resistance.
Her shawl slipped from her shoulders, her head fell and rested gently
upon my breast, under the kisses of my burning lips.

"I am yours!" she murmured feebly.

Suddenly the thought of Gaguine flashed across me.

"What are we doing?" I cried, pushing her from me convulsively. "Your
brother knows everything; he knows that we are here together!"

Annouchka fell back upon the chair.

"Yes," I said, rising and going away from her, "your brother knows
everything! I was forced to tell him all."

"Forced?" she stammered. She seemed hardly to understand me.

"Yes, yes," I repeated harshly, "and it is your fault,--yours, yours
alone! What reason had you to give up your secret? Were you forced to
tell your brother everything? He came to me this morning and repeated
all you had told him."

I tried not to look any more at her, and paced the room.

"Now," I replied, "all is lost,--all, absolutely all."

Annouchka attempted to rise.

"Stay!" I cried. "Stay, I beseech you; fear nothing, you have to do with
a man of honor! But, for heaven's sake, speak! What has frightened you?
Have I changed towards you? As to myself, when your brother came to me
yesterday, I could not do otherwise than tell him what our relations
were."

"Why tell her all that?" I thought to myself, and the idea that I was a
cowardly deceiver, that Gaguine was aware of our rendezvous, that all
was disclosed--lost beyond redemption--immediately crossed my mind.

"I did not send for my brother last night," she said, with a choking
voice, "he came of himself."

"But do you see what this has led to? Now you wish to go away."

"Yes, I must go," she said, in a very low voice. "I besought you to come
here to say farewell."

"And you think, perhaps, that to part from you costs me nothing?"

"But why was it necessary to confide in my brother?" replied Annouchka
in a stupefied tone.

"I repeat to you, I could not do otherwise. If you had not betrayed
yourself"--

"I was shut up in my room," she replied naïvely. "I did not know that
the landlady had another key."

This innocent excuse at the moment put me in a rage; and now I cannot
think of it without deep emotion. Poor child, what an upright and frank
soul!

"So all is at an end," I replied once more; "at an end--; and we must
part."

I looked at her furtively. The color mounted to her face; shame and
terror--I felt it only too keenly--seized her. On my side, I walked to
and fro, speaking as if in delirium.

"There was in my heart," I continued, "a feeling just springing up,
which, if you had left it to time, would have developed! You have
yourself broken the bond that united us; you have failed to put
confidence in me."

While I spoke, Annouchka leaned forward more and more.--Suddenly she
fell upon her knees, hid her face in her hands, and began to sob. I ran
to her, I attempted to raise her, but she resisted obstinately.

Woman's tears thoroughly upset me. I cried out to her:--

"Anna Nicolaëvna! Annouchka,--pray, for heaven's sake,--calm
yourself,--I beseech you."

And I took her hand in mine.

But at the moment when I least expected it, she suddenly arose, then,
like a flash, ran towards the door and disappeared.

Dame Louise, who entered the room a few moments later, found me in the
same place, as if struck by a thunderbolt.

I could not understand how this interview could have ended so abruptly,
and in such a ridiculous manner, before I had expressed a hundredth part
of what I had to say; before I even could foresee what the consequences
of it were.

"Mademoiselle has gone?" Dame Louise asked me, raising her yellow
eyebrows.

I looked at her with a stupefied air, and left.



XVII.


I passed through the town and walked straight ahead to the fields. A
feeling of vexed disappointment filled my heart. I loaded myself with
reproaches. Why did I not appreciate the motive that had induced this
young girl to change the place of our meeting? Why did I not appreciate
how hard it would be for her to go to this old woman's house? Why,
finally, did I not stay away?

Alone with her in that dark, isolated room, I had had the courage to
thrust her away, and to remonstrate with her; and, now her image pursued
me, I asked her pardon--her pale face, her eyes timid and full of tears;
her hair in disorder, flowing over her bended neck; the touch of her
forehead as it rested upon my breast; all these remembrances made me
beside myself, and I thought I still heard her murmuring, "I am yours!"

I reflected: I have obeyed the voice of my conscience.--But no? it was
false! for, most certainly, I should never have wished in my heart for
such a _dénouement_.--And, then, to be separated from her, to live
without her, shall I have the strength?--"Fool! miserable fool that I
am!" I cried angrily.

In the meantime night was approaching. I directed my hurried steps
towards the dwelling of Annouchka.



XVIII.


Gaguine came out to meet me.

"Have you seen my sister?" he cried, from a distance.

"She is not at home then?" I asked him.

"No."

"Not returned?"

"No."

"No,--but I have something to confess," continued he: "in spite of the
promise I made you, I couldn't help going to the chapel. I didn't find
her there. Did she not go there, then?"

"No, not to the chapel."

"And you have not seen her?"

I was obliged to admit that I had seen her.

"Where then?"

"At Dame Louise's.--I left her about an hour ago; I thought she was
about to return."

"We will wait for her," Gaguine said to me.

We entered the house, and I sat down beside him. We were silent; a
painful constraint was on us both. On the alert for the least sound,
sometimes we looked at each other stealthily, sometimes we cast our eyes
upon the door.

"I can stay here no longer!" said he, rising; "she will kill me with
anxiety. Come, let us look for her."

"Yes, let us do so!"

We went out; it was already night.

"Come, tell me what happened," demanded Gaguine, drawing his hat over
his eyes.

"Our interview lasted but five minutes at the utmost, and I spoke to her
as we agreed upon."

"Do you know," said he, "I think we had better separate. Let us look for
her each on his own responsibility; that is the quicker way to find her;
but in any case return to the house in an hour."



XIX.


I hastened down the path that passed through the vineyards and entered
the town; after hurrying through all the streets and looking in every
direction, even at Dame Louise's windows, I came back to the Rhine, and
ran along the river bank. Here and there was a figure of a woman, but
none of them Annouchka's. It was no longer vexation that consumed me,
but a secret terror; still more it was repentance that I felt, boundless
pity, finally love--yes, the deepest love. I threw my arms about; I
called Annouchka; at first, as the shades of night were deepening, in a
low voice, then louder and louder; I repeated a hundred times that I
loved her, swearing never to leave her; I would have given all that I
possessed to press once more her cold hand, to hear once more her timid
voice, to see her once more before me. She had been so near me; she had
come to me with such resolution, in all the frankness of her heart; she
had brought me her young life, her purity,--and I did not take her in
my arms; I had foregone the happiness of seeing her sweet face
brighten.--The thought drove me mad!

"Where can she have gone? what could she have done?" I cried, in the
impotent rage of despair.

Something whitish suddenly appeared at the edge of the water. I
recognized the place. There, above the grave of a man who drowned
himself seventy years before, arose a stone cross, half sunken in the
ground, covered with characters almost illegible. My heart was beating
as though it would break. The white figure had disappeared.

"Annouchka," I cried, in such a fierce voice, that I even frightened
myself.

But no one answered; I finally decided to go and find out whether
Gaguine had not found her.



XX.


Quickly going up the vineyard road, I perceived a light in Annouchka's
room. This sight calmed me a little. I approached the house; the
entrance door was closed. I knocked. A window that had no light opened
softly in the lower story, and Gaguine thrust out his head.

"You have found her?" I asked him.

"She has returned," he answered in a low voice. "She is in her room and
is going to bed. All is for the best."

"God be praised!" I cried, in a paroxysm of indescribable joy. "God be
praised! Then everything is all right; but you know we have not had our
talk together."

"Not now," he answered, half closing the window; "another time. In the
meanwhile, farewell!"

"To-morrow," I said, "to-morrow will decide everything."

"Farewell," repeated Gaguine.

The window closed.

I was upon the point of knocking at it,--I wished to speak to Gaguine
one instant longer, to ask his sister's hand,--but a proposal of
marriage at such an hour! "To-morrow," I thought, "to-morrow I shall be
happy."

Happiness has no to-morrow; it has no yesterday; it remembers not the
past; it has no thought of the future; it knows only the present, and
yet this present is not a day, but an instant.

I know not how I returned to Z.--It was not my legs that carried me, it
was not a boat that took me to the other side; I was wafted along, so to
speak, by strong, large wings.

I passed a thicket where a nightingale was singing. I stopped, listened
a long time; it seemed to be singing of my love and my happiness.



XXI.


The next morning, on approaching the white house, I was astonished to
see the windows open, also the entrance door. Some pieces of paper were
scattered about the threshold; a servant, her broom in her hand,
appeared at the door. I approached her.

"They have gone!" she exclaimed, before I could ask whether Gaguine were
at home.

"Gone!" I repeated; "how is that? Where have they gone?"

"They went this morning at six o'clock, and did not say where they were
going. But are you not Monsieur N----?"

"Yes."

"Very well! my mistress has a letter for you."

She went upstairs, and came back with a letter in her hand.

"Here it is," said she.

"You must be mistaken, it's impossible!" I stammered.

The servant looked at me vacantly, and began to sweep.

I opened the letter; it was from Gaguine. Not a line from Annouchka!

In beginning, he begged me to forgive him for this hasty departure. He
added that when I was calmer I would approve, no doubt, of his
determination. It was the only means of getting out of an embarrassing
position, and one that might become dangerous.

"Yesterday evening," he said to me, "while we were waiting for Annouchka
in silence, I was convinced of the necessity of a separation. There are
prejudices that I respect; I can understand that you could not marry
her. She has told me all, and for her sake I must yield to her urgent
entreaties."

At the end of his letter he expressed regret at the breaking off of our
friendly intercourse so soon; hoped that I would always be happy;
pressed my hand, and begged me not to try and meet them again.

"A question of prejudices indeed!" I exclaimed, as if he could hear me.
"Folly all that! What right has he to take her away from me?" I clutched
my head wildly.

The servant began to scream for her mistress, and her fright brought me
to my senses. I felt that I had but one object: to find them again; to
find them again at any cost. To bear such a blow; to resign myself; to
see things end in this way was truly beyond my strength! I learned from
the landlady that they went at six o'clock to take the steamboat down
the Rhine. I went to the office; they told me that they had taken places
for Cologne. I returned to my house to pack up and immediately follow
them.

As I passed Dame Louise's house I heard some one call me. I raised my
head and perceived the burgomaster's widow at the window of the room
where the previous evening I had seen Annouchka. Upon her lips hovered
that disagreeable smile that I had noticed before. She beckoned to me. I
turned away, and was about to go on, but she called out that she had
something to give me. These words stopped me, and I entered the house.
How can I express to you my emotion, when I found myself again in that
little room.

"To tell the truth," began the old woman, showing me a note, "I should
only have given you this if you had come to my house of your own accord;
but you are such a fine young man--there!"

I took the note; I read upon a little piece of paper the following
lines, traced in haste with a pencil:--

"Farewell! we shall see each other no more. It is not through pride that
I go away; I cannot do otherwise. Yesterday, when I wept before you, if
you had said to me but one _word_, a _single word_, I would have
remained. You did not say it.--Who knows? Perhaps it is for the best
that it is so. Farewell forever!"

She had expected but "_one word_!" Fool that I was! That _word_ I said
the previous evening again and again with many tears; I threw it to the
wind; I cried it out in the midst of lonely fields: but I did not say it
to her; I did not tell her that I loved her! Yes, it was then impossible
for me to pronounce that word. In this fatal room, where I found myself
face to face with her, I was not yet fully conscious of my love; it did
not awaken even then, when in a dull and gloomy silence I stood near
her brother,--it only burst forth, sudden and irresistible, a few
moments after, when, terrified by the thought of a misfortune, I began
to seek her, calling aloud; but then already it was too late!--It is
impossible, they will tell me;--I know not if it is impossible, but I
know that it was so. Annouchka would not have gone if she had had the
least coquetry, if she had not found herself in an essentially false
position. An uncertain position that any other woman would have accepted
she found intolerable. This did not occur to me. My evil genius, then,
at my last interview with Gaguine, under his dark window, had checked
that confession which was upon my lips, and thus the last thread that I
could have seized had broken in my hands.

I returned the same day to L. with my traps, and started for Cologne. I
often remember that at the moment when the steamboat left the shore, and
when I said farewell to all those streets, to all those places that I
should never forget, I perceived Hannchen, the little servant-maid.

She was seated upon a bench near the river bank: though yet pale, her
face was no longer sorrowful. A handsome young fellow was by her side
and laughing with her, whilst at the other side of the Rhine my little
Madonna, concealed in the dark foliage of the old ash, followed me sadly
with her glance.



XXII.


At Cologne I again came upon the track of Gaguine and his sister. I
learned that they had gone to London. I immediately went to that city;
all researches that I made there were in vain. For a long time I did not
allow myself to be discouraged; for a long time I showed obstinate
persistence, but finally was obliged to give up all hope of meeting them
again.

I never saw them again! I never again saw Annouchka!--Later I heard some
quite vague rumors of her brother; but as to her I have never heard her
spoken of; I do not even know if she still lives.

Some years ago, while travelling, I caught sight for an instant, at the
door of a railway-carriage, of a woman whose face had a little
resemblance to those features that I shall never forget; but this
resemblance was doubtless the result of chance. Annouchka lived in my
memory as the young girl whom I saw at our last interview, pale and
trembling, leaning upon the back of a wooden chair in the dark corner
of a lonely room.

Besides, I must confess that the course of my grief was not of long
duration. Soon I persuaded myself that fate had been favorable to me in
preventing my marriage with her, and that a woman with such a
disposition would certainly not make me happy. I was still young at this
period, and that time so short and limited that they call the future
appeared to me infinite. "That which has happened once to me upon my
travels," I said to myself, "can I not meet it again, more charming and
more delightful?" Since then I have known other women; but that feeling
so tender that Annouchka had once awakened was never again aroused.
No--no glance has ever replaced the glance of those eyes fastened upon
mine; I have never again clasped to my breast a heart to whose throbbing
mine has responded with an ecstacy so joyful. Condemned to the solitary
existence of a wandering man, without a home, I regard those days the
saddest of my life; but I still preserve as a relic two little notes and
a withered sprig of geranium that she once threw me from the window; it
breathes even now a slight fragrance, whilst the hand that gave it to
me, that hand that I pressed upon my lips only once, has, perhaps, long
since returned to dust. And I, what have I become? What is there left in
me of the man of former days, of the restlessness of youth, of my plans,
of my ambitious hopes?--Thus the slight perfume of a blade of grass
outlives all joys, all human griefs,--outlives even man himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

BY THE AUTHOR OF "THE GREEN HAND"

[Illustration]

The Deserted Ship.

A STORY OF THE ATLANTIC.

BY GEORGE CUPPLES.

Author of "The Green Hand," "The Sunken Rock," etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE WORKS OF MRS. H. B. GOODWIN.


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A spirited and fascinating New Work by this gifted and popular author.


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       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

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By E. S. M.


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       *       *       *       *       *

_WHENCE, WHAT, WHERE?_

_A VIEW OF THE ORIGIN, NATURE, AND DESTINY OF MAN._

BY JAMES R. NICHOLS, M.D., A.M.


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