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Title: Children of the Soil
Author: Sienkiewicz, Henryk, 1846-1916
Language: English
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Transcriber's Note

Certain typographical features such as italics and small capital letters
cannot be reproduced in this version. Italics are denoted using the
underscore character as a delimiter (e.g., _italic_). Any words printed
in small capitals have been simply shifted to all upper case. The 'oe'
ligature is rendered here as separate characters.

Quoted text was printed in a smaller font. These passages are indented
here to indicate this.

The few footnotes, which appeared at the bottom of the page containing
their references, have been moved to the end of each chapter.

Please consult the notes at the end of this text for more detail about
the text and the resolution on any printing anomalies.



                          CHILDREN OF THE SOIL



                                WORKS OF

                           Henryk Sienkiewicz


                        IN DESERT AND WILDERNESS
                        WITH FIRE AND SWORD
                        THE DELUGE. _2 Vols._
                        PAN MICHAEL
                        CHILDREN OF THE SOIL
                        "QUO VADIS"
                        SIELANKA, A FOREST PICTURE
                        THE KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS
                        WITHOUT DOGMA
                        WHIRLPOOLS
                        ON THE FIELD OF GLORY
                        LET US FOLLOW HIM



                         CHILDREN OF THE SOIL.

                                   BY

                          HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ,

                               AUTHOR OF

          "WITH FIRE AND SWORD," "THE DELUGE," "PAN MICHAEL,"
                 "WITHOUT DOGMA," "YANKO THE MUSICIAN,"
                         "LILLIAN MORRIS," ETC.

             _AUTHORIZED AND UNABRIDGED TRANSLATION FROM
                           THE POLISH BY_

                            JEREMIAH CURTIN.

                                 BOSTON
                       LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
                                  1917



                        _Copyright, 1895_,

                      BY JEREMIAH CURTIN.

                      _All rights reserved._

                                Printers
             S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, U.S.A.



                           TO HIS EXCELLENCY,

                      HON. FREDERIC T. GREENHALGE,

                       Governor of Massachusetts.


SIR,--You are at the head of a Commonwealth renowned for
mental culture; you esteem the Slav Race and delight in good
literature;--to you I beg to dedicate this volume, in the hope
that it will give pleasure to you and to others in that State which
you govern so acceptably.

                                                    JEREMIAH CURTIN

  WARREN, VERMONT,
  April 19, 1895.



INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT.


The title of this book in the original is Rodzina Polanieckich
(The Family of the Polanyetskis); "Children of the Soil" has been
substituted, because of the difficulty of the Polish title for American
and English readers, because the Polanyetskis are called children
of the soil in the text of the volume, and because all the other
characters are children of the soil in the same sense.

For most readers this book will have a double interest,--the interest
attaching to a picture of Polish life, and the general human interest
inseparable from characters like those presented in the narrative of
Pan Stanislav's fortunes.

The Poles form a part of the great Slav race, which has played so
important a rôle in the world's history already, and which is destined
to play a far more important one yet in the future.

The argument involved in the career and meditations of Pan Stanislav
is of interest to every person in civilized society; it is an argument
presented so clearly, and reinforced with such pointed examples, that
neither comment nor explanation is needed.

Were it not for the change of title, I might escape even this brief
statement; but now I may add that the following translation was made
in many places, in different countries, at various intervals, and at
moments snatched from other work. I began "Children of the Soil" in
Cahirciveen, Ireland, and continued it in London, Edinburgh, Fort
William near the foot of Ben Nevis, Rome, Naples, and Florence,
Tsarskoe Selo, Russia, and South Uist, an island of the Outer Hebrides.
From the Outer Hebrides I was called home before I wished to come, and
left that little granite kingdom in the Atlantic with sincere regret.

The translation was finished in Warren, Vermont, and revised carefully.
To new readers of Sienkiewicz I may state that Pan, Pani, and Panna,
when prefixed to names, mean Mr., Mrs., and Miss respectively.

                                          JEREMIAH CURTIN.



                         CHILDREN OF THE SOIL.



CHAPTER I.


It was the first hour after midnight when Pan Stanislav Polanyetski
was approaching the residence in Kremen. During years of childhood he
had been twice in that village, when his mother, a distant relative
of the present owner of Kremen, was taking him home for vacation. Pan
Stanislav tried to remember the place, but to do so was difficult. At
night, by the light of the moon, everything took on an uncertain form.
Over the bushes, fields, and meadows, a white mist was lying low,
changing the whole region about into a shoreless lake, as it were,--an
illusion increased by choruses of frogs in the mist.

It was a July night, very calm and perfectly bright. At moments, when
the frogs became silent, landrails were heard playing in the dew; and
at times, from afar, from muddy ponds, hidden behind reeds, the call of
the bittern sounded as if coming from under the earth.

Pan Stanislav could not resist the charm of that night. It seemed to
him familiar in some way; and that familiarity he felt all the more,
since he had returned only the previous year from abroad, where he had
spent his first youth and had become engaged afterward in mercantile
matters. Now, while entering that sleeping village, he recalled his
childhood, memorable through his mother, now five years dead, and
because the bitterness and cares of that childhood, compared with the
present, seemed perfect bliss to him.

At last the brichka rolled up toward the village, which began with a
cross standing on a sand mound. The cross, inclining greatly, seemed
ready to fall. Pan Stanislav remembered it because in his time under
that mound had been buried a man found hanging from a limb in the
neighboring forest, and afterward people were afraid to pass by that
spot in the night-time.

Beyond the cross were the first cottages, but the people were sleeping;
there was no light in any window. As far as the eye could reach, only
roofs of cottages were gleaming on the night background of the sky,
lighted up by the moon, and the roofs appeared silvery and blue. Some
cottages were washed with lime and seemed bright green; others, hidden
in plum orchards, in thickets of sunflowers or pole beans, barely came
out of the shadow. In the yards, dogs barked, but in their sleep, as it
were, accompanying the croaking of frogs, the calling of landrails and
bitterns, and all those sounds with which a summer night speaks, and
which strengthen the impression of silence still more.

The brichka, moving slowly along the soft sandy road, entered at last a
dark alley, spotted only here and there by the moonlight, which pushed
in between the leaves. Beyond the alley, night watches whistled; and in
the open was seen a white dwelling, in which some windows were lighted.
When the brichka rattled up to the entrance, a serving-man hurried
out of the house and began to assist Pan Stanislav to alight; but in
addition the night watch appeared and two white dogs, evidently very
young and friendly, for, instead of barking, they began to fawn and to
spring on the guest, showing such delight at his coming that the watch
had to moderate their effusiveness with a stick.

The man took Pan Stanislav's things from the brichka, and after a
moment the guest found himself in a dining-room where tea was waiting.
Nothing had changed from the time of his childhood. At one wall was
a sideboard in walnut; at one end of this a clock with heavy weights
and a cuckoo; at the other were two badly painted portraits of women
in robes of the eighteenth century; in the centre of the room stood a
table with a white cloth, and surrounded by chairs with high arms. That
room, lighted brightly, full of steam rising from a samovar, seemed
rather hospitable and gladsome.

Pan Stanislav began to walk along the side of the table; but the
squeaking of his boots struck him in that silence, therefore he went
to the window and looked through the panes at the yard filled with
moonlight. Over this yard the two white dogs, which had greeted him so
effusively, were chasing each other.

After a time the door of the next room opened, and a young lady entered
in whom Pan Stanislav divined the daughter of the master of Kremen by
his second wife; at sight of her he stepped from the window curtains,
and, approaching the table in his squeaking boots, bowed, and announced
his name. The young lady extended her hand, and said,--

"We learned of your arrival from the despatch. Father is a trifle ill,
and was obliged to lie down; but he will be glad to see you in the
morning."

"I am not to blame for coming so late," answered Pan Stanislav; "the
train reaches Chernyov only at eleven."

"And from Chernyov it is ten miles to Kremen. Father tells me that this
is not your first visit."

"I came here with my mother when you were not in the world yet."

"I know. You are a relative of my father."

"I am a relative of Pan Plavitski's first wife."

"Father esteems family connections very highly, even the most distant,"
said the young lady; and she began to pour out tea, pushing aside from
time to time the steam, which, rising from the samovar, veiled her
eyes. When conversation halted, only the tick of the clock was heard.
Pan Stanislav, who was interested by young ladies, looked at Panna
Plavitski carefully. She was a person of medium height, rather slender;
she had dark hair, a face calm, but subdued, as it were, a complexion
sunburnt somewhat, blue eyes, and a most shapely mouth. Altogether it
was the face of a self-possessed and delicate woman. Pan Stanislav,
to whom she seemed not ill-looking, but also not beautiful, thought
that she was rather attractive; that she might be good; and that under
that exterior, not too brilliant, she might have many of those various
qualities which young ladies in the country have usually. Though he
was young, life had taught him one truth,--that in general women gain
on near acquaintance, while in general men lose. He had heard also
touching Panna Plavitski, that the whole management in Kremen--a place,
by the way, almost ruined--lay on her mind, and that she was one of the
most overworked persons on earth. With reference to those cares, which
must weigh on her, she seemed calm and unmoved; still he thought that
surely she must wish to sleep. This was evident, indeed, by her eyes,
which blinked in spite of her, under the light of the hanging lamp.

The examination would have come out on the whole in her favor, were
it not that conversation dragged somewhat. This was explained by the
fact that they saw each other for the first time in life; besides, she
received him alone, which might be awkward for a young lady. Finally,
she knew that Pan Stanislav had not come to make a visit, but to ask
for money. Such was the case in reality. His mother had given, a very
long time before, twelve thousand and some rubles for a mortgage on
Kremen, which Pan Stanislav wished to have redeemed,--first, because
there were enormous arrears of interest, and second, since he was a
partner in a mercantile house in Warsaw, he had entered into various
transactions and needed capital. He had promised himself beforehand to
make no compromise, and to exact his own absolutely. In affairs of that
sort, it was a point with him always to appear unyielding. He was not
such by nature, perhaps; but he had made inflexibility a principle, and
therewith a question of self-love. In consequence of this, he overshot
the mark frequently, as people do who argue something into themselves.
Hence, while looking at that agreeable, but evidently drowsy young
lady, he repeated to himself, in spite of the sympathy which was roused
in him,--

"That is all well, but you must pay."

After a while he said, "I have heard that you busy yourself with
everything; do you like land management?"

"I love Kremen greatly," answered she.

"I too loved Kremen when I was a boy; but I should not like to manage
the place,--the conditions are so difficult."

"Difficult, difficult. We do what we can."

"That is it,--you do what you can."

"I assist father, who is often in poor health."

"I am not skilled in those matters, but, from what I see and hear,
I infer that the greater number of agriculturists cannot count on a
future."

"We count on Providence."

"Of course, but people cannot send creditors to Providence."

Panna Plavitski's face was covered with a blush; a moment of awkward
silence followed; and Pan Stanislav said to himself,--

"Since thou hast begun, proceed farther;" and he said,--

"You will permit me to explain the object of my coming."

The young lady looked at him with a glance in which he might read,
"Thou hast come just now; the hour is late. I am barely alive from
fatigue: even the slightest delicacy might have restrained thee from
beginning such a conversation." She answered aloud,--

"I know why you have come; but it may be better if you will speak about
that with my father."

"I beg your pardon."

"But I beg pardon of you. People have a right to mention what belongs
to them, and I am accustomed to that; but to-day is Saturday, and on
Saturday there is so much work. Moreover, in affairs of this sort, you
will understand--sometimes, when Jews come, I bargain with them; but
this time I should prefer if you would speak with my father. It would
be easier for both."

"Then till to-morrow," said Pan Stanislav, who lacked the boldness to
say that in questions of money he preferred to be treated like a Jew.

"Perhaps you would permit me to pour you more tea?"

"No, I thank you. Good-night." And, rising, he extended his hand; but
the young lady gave hers far less cordially than at the greeting, so
that he touched barely the ends of her fingers. In going, she said,--

"The servant will show you the chamber."

And Pan Stanislav was left alone. He felt a certain discontent, and
was dissatisfied with himself, though he did not wish to acknowledge
that fact in his heart. He began even to persuade himself that he had
done well, since he had come hither, not to talk politely, but to get
money. What was Panna Plavitski to him? She neither warmed nor chilled
him. If she considered him a churl, so much the better; for it happens
generally that the more disagreeable a creditor, the more people hasten
to pay him.

But his discontent was increased by that reasoning; for a certain
voice whispered to him that this time it was not merely a question of
good-breeding, but also in some degree of compassion for a wearied
woman. He felt, besides, that by acting so urgently he was satisfying
his pose, not his heart, all the more because she pleased him. As
in that sleeping village and in that moonlight night he had found
something special, so in that young lady he found something which
he had looked for in vain in foreign women, and which moved him more
than he expected. But people are often ashamed of feelings which are
very good. Pan Stanislav was ashamed of emotions, especially; hence he
determined to be inexorable, and on the morrow to squeeze old Plavitski
without mercy.

Meanwhile the servant conducted him to the bed-chamber. Pan Stanislav
dismissed him at once, and was alone. That was the same chamber which
they gave him, when, during the life of Plavitski's first wife, he
came to Kremen with his mother; and remembrances beset him again. The
windows looked out on a garden, beyond which lay a pond; the moon was
looking into the water, and the pond could be seen more easily than
in former times, for it was hidden then by a great aged ash-tree,
which must have been broken down by a storm, since on that spot there
was sticking up merely a stump with a freshly broken piece at the
top. The light of the moon seemed to centre on that fragment, which
was gleaming very brightly. All this produced an impression of great
calm. Pan Stanislav, who lived in the city amid mercantile labors,
therefore in continual tension of his physical and mental powers, and
at the same time in continual unquiet, felt that condition of the
country around him as he would a warm bath after great toil. He was
penetrated by relief. He tried to reflect on business transactions, how
were they turning, would they give loss or profit, finally on Bigiel,
his partner, and how Bigiel would manage various interests in his
absence,--but he could not continue.

Then he began to think of Panna Plavitski. Her person, though it
had made a good impression, was indifferent to him, even for this
reason, that he saw her for the first time; but she interested him as
a type. He was thirty years old and something more, therefore of the
age in which instinct, with a force almost invincible, urges a man
to establish a domestic hearth, take a wife, and have a family. The
greatest pessimism is powerless against this instinct; neither art nor
any calling in life protects a man against it. In consequence of this,
misanthropes marry in spite of their philosophy, artists in spite of
their art, as do all those men who declare that they give to their
objects not a half, but a whole soul. Exceptions confirm the principle
that, in general, men cannot live a conventional lie and swim against
the currents of nature. For the great part, only those do not marry
for whom the same power that creates marriage stands in the way of it;
that is, those whom love has deceived. Hence, celibacy in advanced
life, if not always, is most frequently a hidden tragedy.

Stanislav Polanyetski was neither a misanthrope nor an artist; neither
was he a man proclaiming theories against marriage. On the contrary,
he wanted to marry, and he was convinced that he ought to marry. He
felt that for him the time had arrived; hence he looked around for the
woman. From that came the immense interest which women roused in him,
especially unmarried ones. Though he had spent some years in France
and Belgium, he had not sought love among married women, even among
those who were over giddy. He was an active and occupied person, who
contended that only idle men can romance with married women, and in
general that besieging other men's wives is possible only where men
have very much money, little honor, and nothing to do, consequently
in a society where there is a whole class long since enriched, sunk
in elegant idleness, and of dishonest life. He was himself, in truth,
greatly occupied, hence he wished to love in order to marry; therefore
only unmarried women roused in him curiosity of soul and body. When he
met a young lady, the first question he asked himself was, "Is she not
the woman?" or at least, "Is she not the kind of woman?" At present
his thoughts were circling around Panna Plavitski in this manner.
To begin with, he had heard much of her from her relative living in
Warsaw; and he had heard things that were good and even touching. Her
calm, mild face was before his eyes now. He recalled her hands, very
shapely, with long fingers, though somewhat sunburnt, her dark blue
eyes, then the slight shadow over her mouth. Her voice too pleased him.
Notwithstanding all this, he repeated his promise that he would make
no compromise and must have his own; still he was angry at the fate
which had brought him to Kremen as a creditor. Speaking to himself in
mercantile language, he repeated in spirit, "The quality is good, but I
will not 'reflect,' as I did not come for it."

Still he "reflected," and that to such a degree that after he had
undressed and lain down, he could not sleep for a long time. The cocks
began to crow, the window panes were growing pale and green; but under
his closed eyelids he saw yet the calm forehead of Panna Plavitski,
the shadow over her mouth, and her hands pouring out the tea. Then,
when sleep became overpowering, it seemed to him as though he were
holding those hands in his own and drawing her toward him, and she was
pulling back and turning her head aside, as if to escape a kiss. In the
morning he woke late, and remembering Panna Plavitski, thought, "Ah,
she will look like that!"



CHAPTER II.


He was roused by the servant, who brought coffee and took his clothes
to be brushed. When the servant brought them back, Pan Stanislav asked
if it were not the custom of the house to meet in the dining-room for
coffee.

"No," answered the servant; "because the young lady rises early, and
the old gentleman sleeps late."

"And has the young lady risen?"

"The young lady is at church."

"True, to-day is Sunday. But does not the young lady go to church with
the old gentleman?"

"No; the old gentleman goes to high Mass, and then goes to visit the
canon, so the young lady prefers early Mass."

"What do they do here on Sunday?"

"They sit at home; Pan Gantovski comes to dinner."

Pan Stanislav knew this Gantovski as a small boy. In those times they
nicknamed him "Little Bear," for he was a thick little fellow, awkward
and surly. The servant explained that Pan Gantovski's father had died
about five years before, and that the young man was managing his estate
in the neighboring Yalbrykov.

"And does he come here every Sunday?"

"Sometimes he comes on a week day in the evening."

"A rival!" thought Pan Stanislav. After a while he inquired,--

"Has the old gentleman risen?"

"It must be that he has rung the bell, for Yozef has gone to him."

"Who is Yozef?"

"The valet."

"And who art thou?"

"I am his assistant."

"Go and inquire when it will be possible to see the old gentleman."

The servant went out and returned soon.

"The old gentleman sends to say that when he dresses he will beg you to
come."

"Very well."

The servant went out; Pan Stanislav remained alone and waited, or
rather was bored, a good while. Patience began to fail him at last;
and he was about to stroll to the garden, when Yozef came with the
announcement that the old gentleman begged him to come.

Yozef conducted him then to a chamber at the other end of the house.
Pan Stanislav entered, and at the first moment did not recognize Pan
Plavitski. He remembered him as a person in the bloom of life and very
good-looking; now an old man stood before him, with a face as wrinkled
as a baked apple,--a face to which small blackened mustaches strove in
vain to lend the appearance of youth. Hair as black as the mustaches,
and parted low at the side of the head, indicated also pretensions as
yet unextinguished.

But Plavitski opened his arms: "Stas! how art thou, dear boy? Come
hither!" And, pointing to his white shirt, he embraced the head of
Pan Stanislav, and pressed it to his bosom, which moved with quick
breathing.

The embrace continued a long time, and for Pan Stanislav, much too
long. Plavitski said at last,--

"Let me look at thee, Anna, drop for drop! My poor beloved Anna!" and
Plavitski sobbed; then he wiped with his heart finger[1] his right
eyelid, on which, however, there was not a tear, and repeated,--

"As like Anna as one drop is like another! Thy mother was always for me
the best and the most loving relative."

Pan Stanislav stood before him confused, also somewhat stunned by a
reception such as he had not expected, and by the odor of wax, powder,
and various perfumes, which came from the face, mustaches, and shirt of
the old man.

"How is my dear uncle?" asked he at last, judging that this title,
which moreover he had given in years of childhood to Plavitski, would
answer best to the solemn manner of his reception.

"How am I?" repeated Plavitski. "Not long for me now, not long!
But just for this reason I greet thee in my house with the greater
affection,--I greet thee as a father. And if the blessing of a man
standing over the grave, and who at the same time is the eldest member
of the family, has in thy eyes any value, I give it thee."

And seizing Pan Stanislav's head a second time, he kissed it and
blessed him. The young man changed still more, and constraint was
expressed on his face. His mother was a relative and friend of
Plavitski's first wife: to Plavitski himself no affectionate feelings
had ever attracted her, so far as he could remember; hence the
solemnity of the reception, to which he was forced to yield, was
immensely disagreeable to him. Pan Stanislav had not the least family
feeling for Plavitski. "This monkey," thought he, "is blessing me
instead of talking money;" and he was seized by a certain indignation,
which might help him to explain matters clearly.

"Now sit down, dear boy," said Plavitski, "and be as if in thy own
house."

Pan Stanislav took a seat, and began, "Dear uncle, for me it is very
pleasant to visit uncle. I should have done so surely, even without
business; but uncle knows that I have come also on that affair which my
mother--"

Here the old man laid his hand on Pan Stanislav's knee suddenly. "But
hast thou drunk coffee?" asked he.

"I have," answered Pan Stanislav, driven from his track.

"Marynia goes to church early. I beg pardon, too, that I have not given
thee my room; but I am old, I am accustomed to sleep here. This is my
nest." Then, with a circular sweep of the hand, he directed attention to
the chamber.

Unconsciously Pan Stanislav let his eyes follow the motion of the hand.
On a time this chamber had been to him a ceaseless temptation, for
in it had hung the arms of Plavitski. The only change in it was the
wall, which in the old time was rose-colored, and represented, on an
endless number of squares, young shepherdesses, dressed _à la Watteau_,
and catching fish with hooks. At the window stood a toilet-table with
a white cover, and a mirror in a silver frame. On the table was a
multitude of little pots, vials, boxes, brushes, combs, nail files,
etc. At one side, in the corner, was a table with pipes and pipe-stems
with amber mouth-pieces; on the wall, above the sofa, was the head of
a wild boar, and under it two double-barrelled guns, a hunting-bag,
horns, and, in general, the weapons of hunting; in the depth was
a table with papers, open shelves with a certain number of books.
Everywhere the place was full of old furniture more or less needed and
ornamental, but indicating that the occupant of the chamber was the
centre around which everything turned in that house, and that he cared
greatly for himself. In one word, it was the chamber of an old single
man,--an egotist full of petty anxiety for his personal comfort, and
full of pretensions. Pan Stanislav did not need long reflection to
divine that Plavitski would not give up his chamber for anything, nor
to any man.

But the hospitable host inquired further, "Was it comfortable enough
for thee? How didst thou spend the night?"

"Perfectly; I rose late."

"But thou wilt stay a week or so with me?"

Pan Stanislav, who was very impulsive, sprang up from his chair.

"Doesn't uncle know that I have business in Warsaw, and a partner, who
at present is doing all our work alone? I must go at the earliest; and
to-day I should like to finish the business on which I have come."

To this Plavitski answered with a certain cordial dignity, "No, my
boy. To-day is Sunday; and besides, family feeling should go before
business. To-day I greet thee, and receive thee as a blood relative;
to-morrow, if thou wish, appear as a creditor. That is it. To-day
my Stas has come to me, the son of my Anna. Thus will it be till
to-morrow; thus should it be, Stas. This is said to thee by thy eldest
relative, who loves thee, and for whom thou shouldst do this."

Pan Stanislav frowned a little, but after a while he answered, "Let it
be so till to-morrow."

"Anna spoke through thee then. Dost smoke a pipe?"

"No, only cigarettes."

"Believe me, thou doest ill. But I have cigarettes for guests."

Further conversation was interrupted by the rattle of an equipage at
the entrance.

"That is Marynia, who has come from early Mass," said Plavitski.

Pan Stanislav looked out through the window, and saw a young lady in a
straw hat stepping out of the equipage.

"Hast made the acquaintance of Marynia?" asked Plavitski.

"I had the pleasure yesterday."

"She is a dear child. I need not tell thee that I live only for her--"

At that moment the door opened, and a youthful voice asked, "May I come
in?"

"Come in, come in; Stas is here!" answered Plavitski.

Marynia entered the chamber quickly, with her hat hanging by ribbons
over her shoulder; and when she had embraced her father, she gave
her hand to Pan Stanislav. In her rose-colored muslin, she looked
exceedingly graceful and pretty. There was about her something of the
character of Sunday, and with it the freshness of that morning, which
was bright and calm. Her hair had been ruffled a little by her hat; her
cheeks were blooming; and youth was breathing from her person. To Pan
Stanislav, she seemed more joyous and more shapely than the previous
evening.

"High Mass will be a little later to-day," said she to her father;
"for immediately after Mass the canon went to the mill to prepare Pani
Siatkovski; she is very ill. Papa will have half an hour yet."

"That is well," said Plavitski; "during that time thou wilt become more
nearly acquainted with Stas. I tell thee, drop for drop like Anna! But
thou hast never seen her. Remember, too, Marynia, that he will be our
creditor to-morrow, if he wishes; but to-day he is only our relative
and guest."

"Very well," answered the young lady; "we shall have a pleasant Sunday."

"You went to sleep so late yesterday," said Pan Stanislav, "and to-day
you were at early Mass."

She answered merrily, "The cook and I go to early Mass that we may have
time afterward to think of dinner."

"I forgot to mention," said Pan Stanislav, "that I bring you
salutations from Pani Emilia Hvastovski."

"I have not seen Emilia for a year and a half, but we write to each
other often. She is about to visit Reichenhall, for the sake of her
little daughter."

"She was ready to start when I saw her."

"But how is the little girl?"

"She is in her twelfth year; she has grown beyond measure, and is pale.
It does not seem that she is very healthy."

"Do you visit Emilia often?"

"Rather often. She is almost my only acquaintance in Warsaw. Besides, I
like Pani Emilia very much."

"Tell me, my boy," inquired Plavitski, taking a pair of fresh gloves
from the table, and putting them into a breast-pocket, "what is thy
particular occupation in Warsaw?"

"I am what is called an 'affairist;' I have a commission house
in company with a certain Bigiel. I speculate in wheat and sugar,
sometimes in timber; in anything that gives profit."

"I have heard that thou art an engineer?"

"I have my specialty. But on my return I could not find occupation
at any factory, and I began at mercantile transactions, all the more
readily that I had some idea of them. But my specialty is dyeing."

"How dost thou say?" inquired Plavitski.

"Dyeing."

"The times are such now that one must take up anything," said
Plavitski, with dignity. "I am not the man to take that ill of thee. If
thou wilt only retain the honorable old traditions of the family, no
occupation brings shame to a man."

Pan Stanislav, to whom the appearance of the young lady had brought
back his good nature, and who was amused by the sudden "grandezza" of
the old man, showed his sound teeth in a smile, and answered,--

"Praise God for that!"

Panna Plavitski smiled in like manner, and said, "Emilia, who likes you
very much, wrote to me once that you conduct your business perfectly."

"The only difficulty in this country is with Jews; still competition
is easy. And with Jews it is possible to get on by abstaining from
anti-Semitic manifestoes. As to Pani Emilia, however, she knows as much
about business as does her little Litka."

"Yes; she has never been practical. Had it not been for her husband's
brother, Pan Teofil Hvastovski, she would have lost all she has. But
Pan Teofil loves Litka greatly."

"Who doesn't love Litka? I, to begin with, am dying about her. She is
such a marvellous child, and such a favorite; I tell you that I have a
real weakness for her."

Panna Marynia looked attentively at his honest, vivacious face, and
thought, "He must be a little whimsical, but he has a good heart."

Plavitski remarked, meanwhile, that it was time for Mass, and he began
to take farewell of Marynia in such fashion as if he were going on
a journey of some months; then he made the sign of the cross on her
head, and took his hat. The young lady pressed Pan Stanislav's hand
with more life than at the morning greeting; he, when sitting in the
little equipage, repeated in his mind, "Oh, she is very nice, very
sympathetic."

Beyond the alley, by which Pan Stanislav had come the night before, the
equipage rolled over a road which was beset here and there with old and
decayed birches standing at unequal distances from one another. On one
side stretched a potato-field, on the other an enormous plain of wheat,
with heavy bent heads, which seemed to sleep in the still air and in
the full light of the sun. Before the carriage, magpies and hoopoes
flew among the birches. Moving along paths through the yellow sea of
wheat, and hidden in it to their shoulders, went village maidens with
red kerchiefs on their heads, which resembled blooming poppies.

"Good wheat," said Pan Stanislav.

"Not bad. What is in man's power is done, and what God gives He gives.
Thou art young, my dear, so I give thee a precept, which in future will
be of service to thee more than once, 'Do always that which pertains to
thee, and leave the rest to the Lord God.' He knows best what we need.
The harvest will be good this year; I know that beforehand, for when
God is going to touch me with anything, He sends a sign."

"What is it?" asked Pan Stanislav, with astonishment.

"Behind my pipe-table--I do not know whether thou hast noted where it
stands--a mouse shows himself to me a number of days in succession when
any evil is coming."

"There must be a hole in the floor."

"There is no hole," said Plavitski, closing his eyes, and shaking his
head mysteriously.

"One might bring in a cat."

"I will not bring in a cat, for if it is the will of God that that
mouse should be a sign to me, or forewarning, I shall not go against
that will. Nothing has appeared to me this year. I mentioned this to
Marynia; maybe God desires in some way to show that He is watching
over our family. Listen, my dear; people will say, I know, that we are
ruined, or at least in a very bad state. Here it is; judge for thyself:
Kremen and Skoki, Magyerovka and Suhotsin, contain about two hundred
and fifty vlokas of land; on that there is a debt of thirty thousand
rubles to the society, not more, and about a hundred thousand mortgage,
including thy sum. Therefore we have about a hundred and thirty
thousand. Let us estimate only three thousand rubles a vloka; that
will make seven hundred and fifty thousand,--altogether eight hundred
and eighty thousand--"

"How is that?" asked Pan Stanislav, with astonishment; "uncle is
including the debt with the property."

"If the property were worth nothing, no one would give me a copper for
it, so I add the debt to the value of the property."

Pan Stanislav thought, "He is a lunatic, with whom it is useless to
talk;" and he listened further in silence.

"I intend to parcel out Magyerovka. The mill I will sell; but in Skoki
and Suhotsin I have marl, and knowest thou at how much I have estimated
it? At two million rubles."

"Has uncle a purchaser?"

"Two years ago a certain Shaum came and looked at the fields. He went
away, it is true, without speaking of the business; but I am sure that
he will come again, otherwise the mouse would have appeared behind the
pipe-table."

"Ha! let him come again."

"Knowest thou another thing that comes to my head? Since thou art an
'affairist,' take up this business. Find thyself partners, that is all."

"The business is too large for me."

"Then find me a purchaser; I will give ten per cent of the proceeds."

"What does Panna Marynia think of this marl?"

"Marynia, how Marynia? She is a golden child, but still a child! She
believes that Providence watches over our family."

"I heard that from her yesterday."

Meanwhile they had drawn near Vantory and the church, on a hill among
linden-trees. Under the hill stood at number of peasant-wagons with
ladder-like boxes, some brichkas and carriages. Pan Plavitski made the
sign of the cross, and said, "This is our little church, which thou
must remember. All the Plavitskis lie here, and I, too, shall be lying
here soon. I never pray better than in this place."

"There will be many people, I see," said Pan Stanislav.

"Gantovski's brichka, Zazimski's coach, Yamish's carriage, and a
number of others are there. Thou must remember the Yamishes. She is
an uncommon woman; he pretends to be a great agriculturist and a
councillor, but he is an old dotard, who never did understand her."

At that moment the bell began to sound in the church tower.

"They have seen us, and are ringing the bell," said Plavitski; "Mass
will begin this moment. I will take thee, after Mass, to the grave of
my first wife; pray for her, since she was thy aunt. She was an honest
woman; the Lord light her."

Here Plavitski raised his finger again to rub his right eye. Pan
Stanislav therefore asked, wishing to change the conversation,--

"But was not Pani Yamish once very beautiful? or is this the same one?"

Plavitski's face gleamed suddenly. He thrust out for one moment the
end of his tongue from his blackened little mustaches, and patting Pan
Stanislav on the thigh, said,--

"She is worth a sin yet,--she is, she is."

Meanwhile they drove in, and after walking around the church, entered
the sacristy at the side; not wishing to push through the crowd, they
sat on side seats near the altar. Plavitski occupied the collator's
place, in which were also the Yamishes. Yamish was a man very old in
appearance, with an intelligent face, but weighed down; she was a woman
well toward sixty, dressed almost like Panna Marynia,--that is, in a
muslin robe and a straw hat. The bows, full of politeness, which Pan
Plavitski made to her, and the kind smiles with which she returned
them, showed that between those two reigned intimate relations founded
on mutual adoration. After a while the lady, raising her glasses to
her eyes, began to observe Pan Stanislav, not understanding apparently
who could have come with Pan Plavitski. In the seat behind them one of
the neighbors, taking advantage of the fact that Mass had not begun
yet, was finishing some narrative about hunting, and repeated a number
of times to another neighbor, "My dogs, well--" then both stopped
their conversation, and began to speak to Plavitski and Pani Yamish so
audibly that every word reached the ears of Pan Stanislav. The priest
came out to the altar then.

At sight of the Mass and that little church, Pan Stanislav's memory
went back to the years of his childhood, when he was there with his
mother. Wonder rose in him involuntarily when he thought how little
anything changes in the country, except people. Some are placed away in
consecrated earth; others are born. But the new life puts itself into
the old forms; and to him who comes from afar, after a long absence,
all that he saw long ago seems of yesterday. The church was the same;
the nave was filled, as of old, with flaxen-colored heads of peasants,
gray coats, red and yellow kerchiefs with flowers on the heads of the
maidens; it had precisely the same kind of odor of incense, of sweet
flag, and the exhalations of people. Outside one of the windows grew
the same birch-tree, whose slender branches, thrown against the panes
by the wind as it rose, cast shade which gave a green tinge to light in
the church. But the people were not the same: some of the former ones
were crumbling quietly into dust, or had made their way from beneath
the earth in the form of grass; those who were left yet were somehow
bent, as if going under ground gradually. Pan Stanislav, who plumed
himself on avoiding all generalizing theories, but who in reality had
a Slav head, which, as it were, had not emerged yet from universal
existence, occupied himself with them involuntarily; and all the time
he was thinking that there is still a terrible precipice between that
passion for life innate in people and the absoluteness of death. He
thought, also, that perhaps for this reason all systems of philosophy
vanish, like shadows; but Mass is celebrated, as of old, because it
alone promises further and unbroken continuity.

Reared abroad, he did not believe in it greatly; at least, he was not
certain of it. He felt in himself, as do all people of to-day, the
very newest people, an irrestrainable repugnance to materialism; but
from it he had not found an escape yet, and, what is more, it seemed
to him that he was not seeking it. He was an unconscious pessimist,
like those who are looking for something which they cannot find. He
stunned himself with occupations to which he was habituated; and only
in moments of great excess in that pessimism did he ask himself, What
is this all for? Of what use is it to gain property, labor, marry,
beget children, if everything ends in an abyss? But that was at times,
and did not become a fixed principle. Youth saved him from this, not
the first youth, but also not a youth nearing its end, a certain mental
and physical strength, the instinct of self-preservation, the habit of
work, vivacity of character, and finally that elemental force, which
pushes a man into the arms of a woman. And now from the recollections
of childhood, from thoughts of death, from doubts as to the fitness of
marriage, he came to this special thought, that he had no one to whom
he could give what was best in him; and then he came to Panna Marynia
Plavitski, whose muslin robe, covering a young and shapely body, did
not leave his eyes. He remembered that when he was leaving Warsaw,
Pani Emilia, a great friend of his and of Panna Marynia's, had said
laughingly,--

"If you, after being in Kremen, do not fall in love with Marynia, I
shall close my doors against you." He answered her with great courage
that he was going only to squeeze out money, not to fall in love, but
that was not true. If Panna Plavitski had not been in Kremen, he would
surely have throttled Plavitski by letter, or by legal methods. On the
way he had been thinking of Panna Marynia and of how she would look,
and he was angry because he was going for money, too. Having talked
into himself great decision in such matters, he determined above all
to obtain what belonged to him, and was ready rather to go beyond the
mark than not to reach it. He promised this to himself, especially the
first evening, when Marynia, though she had pleased him well enough,
had not produced such a great impression as he had expected, or rather
had produced a different one; but that morning she had taken his eye
greatly. "She is like the morning herself," thought he; "she is nice
and knows that she is nice,--women always know that."

This last discovery made him somewhat impatient, for he wished to
return as soon as possible to Kremen, to observe the young woman
further. In fact, Mass was over soon. Plavitski went out immediately
after the blessing, for he had two duties before him,--the first, to
pray on the graves of his two wives who were lying under the church;
the second, to conduct Pani Yamish to her carriage. Since he wished
to neglect neither of these, he had to count with time. Pan Stanislav
went with him; and soon they found themselves before the stone slabs,
erected side by side in the church wall. Plavitski kneeled and prayed
awhile with attention; then he rose, and wiping away a tear, which was
hanging really on his lids, took Pan Stanislav by the arm, and said,
"Yes, I lost both; still I must live."

Meanwhile Pani Yamish appeared before the church door in the company
of her husband, of those two neighbors who had spoken to her before
Mass, and of young Gantovski. At sight of her Pan Plavitski bent to Pan
Stanislav's ear and said,--

"When she enters the carriage, take notice what a foot she has yet."

After a while both joined the company; bows and greetings began. Pan
Plavitski presented Pan Polanyetski; then, turning to Pani Yamish, he
added, with the smile of a man convinced that he says something which
no common person could have hit upon,--

"My relative, who has come to embrace his uncle, and squeeze him."

"We will permit only the first; otherwise he will have an affair with
us," said the lady.

"But Kremen[2] is hard," continued Plavitski; "he will break his teeth
on it, though he is young."

Pani Yamish half closed her eyes. "That ease," said she, "with which
you scatter sparks, _c'est inoui!_ How is your health to-day?"

"At this moment I feel healthy and young."

"And Marynia?"

"She was at early Mass. We wait for you both at five. My little
housekeeper is breaking her head over supper. A beautiful day."

"We shall come if neuralgia lets me, and my lord husband is willing."

"How is it, neighbor?" asked Plavitski.

"I am always glad to go," answered the neighbor, with the voice of a
crushed man.

"Then, _au revoir_."

"_Au revoir_," answered the lady; and turning to Pan Stanislav, she
reached her hand to him. "It was a pleasure for me to make your
acquaintance."

Plavitski gave his arm to the lady, and conducted her to the carriage.
The two neighbors went away also. Pan Stanislav remained a while with
Gantovski, who looked at him without much good-will. Pan Stanislav
remembered him as an awkward boy; from the "Little Bear," he had grown
to be a stalwart man, somewhat heavy perhaps in his movements, but
rather presentable, with a very shapely, light-colored mustache. Pan
Stanislav did not begin conversation, waiting till the other should
speak first; but he thrust his hands into his pockets, and maintained a
stubborn silence.

"His former manners have remained with him," thought Pan Stanislav, who
felt now an aversion to that surly fellow.

Meanwhile Plavitski returned from Yamish's carriage.

"Hast taken notice?" asked he of Pan Stanislav, first of all. "Well,
Gantos," said he then, "thou wilt go in thy brichka, for in the
carriage there are only two places."

"I will go in the brichka, for I am taking a dog to Panna Marynia,"
answered the young man, who bowed and walked off.

After a while Pan Plavitski and Pan Stanislav found themselves on the
road to Kremen.

"This Gantovski is uncle's relative, I suppose?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"The tenth water after a jelly. They are very much fallen. This Adolph
has one little farm and emptiness in his pocket."

"But in his heart there is surely no emptiness?"

Pan Plavitski pouted. "So much the worse for him, if he imagines
anything. He may be good, but he is simple. No breeding, no education,
no property. Marynia likes him, or rather she endures him."

"Ah, does she endure him?"

"See thou how it is: I sacrifice myself for her and stay in the
country; she sacrifices herself for me and stays in the country. There
is no one here; Pani Yamish is considerably older than Marynia; in
general, there are no young people; life here is tedious: but what's to
be done? Remember, my boy, that life is a series of sacrifices. There
is need for thee to carry that principle in thy heart and thy head.
Those especially who belong to honorable and more prominent families
should not forget this. But Gantovski is with us always on Sunday for
dinner; and to-day, as thou hast heard, he is bringing a dog."

They dropped into silence, and drove along the sand slowly. The magpies
flew before them from birch to birch, this time in the direction of
Kremen. Behind Plavitski's little carriage rode in his brichka Pan
Gantovski, who, thinking of Pan Stanislav, said to himself,--

"If he comes as a creditor to squeeze them, I'll break his neck; if he
comes as a rival, I'll break it too."

From childhood, he had cherished hostile feelings toward Polanyetski.
In those days they met once in a while. Polanyetski used to laugh at
him; and, being a couple of years older, he even beat him.

Plavitski and his guest arrived at last, and, half an hour later, all
found themselves at table in the dining-room, with Panna Marynia. The
young dog, brought by Gantovski, taking advantage of his privilege of
guest, moved about under the table, and sometimes got on the knees of
those present with great confidence and with delight, expressed by
wagging his tail.

"That is a Gordon setter," said Gantovski. "He is simple yet; but those
dogs are clever, and become wonderfully attached."

"He is beautiful, and I am very grateful to you," answered Marynia,
looking at the shining black hair and the yellow spots over the eyes of
the dog.

"Too friendly," added Plavitski, covering his knees with a napkin.

"In the field, too, they are better than common setters."

"Do you hunt?" asked Pan Stanislav of the young lady.

"No; I have never had any desire to do so. And you?"

"Sometimes. But I live in the city."

"Art thou much in society?" inquired Plavitski.

"Almost never. My visits are to Pani Emilia, my partner Bigiel, and
Vaskovski, my former professor, an oddity now,--those are all. Of
course I go sometimes to people with whom I have business."

"That is not well, my boy. A young man should have and preserve good
social relations, especially when he has a right to them. If a man
has to force his way, the question is different; but as Polanyetski,
thou hast the right to go anywhere. I have the same story, too, with
Marynia. The winter before last, when she had finished her eighteenth
year, I took her to Warsaw. Thou'lt understand that the trip was not
without cost, and that for me it required certain sacrifices. Well, and
what came of it? She sat for whole days with Pani Emilia, and they read
books. She is born a recluse, and will remain one. Thou and she might
join hands."

"Let us join hands!" cried Pan Stanislav, joyously.

"I cannot, with a clear conscience," answered Marynia; "for it was not
altogether as papa describes. I read books with Emilia, it is true; but
I was much in society with papa, and I danced enough for a lifetime."

"You have no fault to find?"

"No; but I am not yearning."

"Then you did not bring away memories, it seems?"

"Evidently there remained with me only recollections, which are
something different."

"I do not understand the difference."

"Memory is a magazine, in which the past lies stored away, and
recollection appears when we go to the magazine to take something."

Here Panna Marynia was alarmed somewhat at that special daring with
which she had allowed herself this philosophical deduction as to the
difference between memory and recollection; therefore she blushed
rather deeply.

"Not stupid, and pretty," thought Pan Stanislav; aloud he said, "That
would not have come to my head, and it is so appropriate."

He surveyed her with eyes full of sympathy. She was in fact very
pretty; for she was laughing, somewhat confused by the praise, and also
delighted sincerely with it. She blushed still more when the daring
young man said,--

"To-morrow, before parting, I shall beg for a place,--even in the
magazine."

But he said this with such joyousness that it was impossible to be
angry with him; and Marynia answered, not without a certain coquetry,--

"Very well; and I ask reciprocity."

"In such case, I should have to go so often to the magazine that I
might prefer straightway to live in it."

This seemed to Marynia somewhat too bold on such short acquaintance;
but Plavitski broke in now and said,--

"This Stanislav pleases me. I prefer him to Gantos, who sits like a
misanthrope."

"Because I can talk only of what may be taken in hand," answered the
young man, with a certain sadness.

"Then take your fork, and eat."

Pan Stanislav laughed. Marynia did not laugh: she was sorry for
Gantovski; therefore she turned the conversation to things which were
tangible.

"She is either a coquette, or has a good heart," thought Pan Stanislav
again.

But Pan Plavitski, who recalled evidently his last winter visit in
Warsaw, continued, "Tell me, Stas, dost thou know Bukatski?"

"Of course. By the way, he is a nearer relative to me than to uncle."

"We are related to the whole world,--to the whole world literally.
Bukatski was Marynia's most devoted dancer. He danced with her at all
the parties."

Pan Stanislav began to laugh again; "And for all his reward he went
to the magazine, to the dust-bin. But at least it is not necessary to
dust him, for he is as careful of his person as uncle, for instance.
He is the greatest dandy in Warsaw. What does he do? He is manager of
fresh air, which means that when there is fair weather he walks out or
rides. Besides, he is an original, who has peculiar little closets in
his brain. He observes various things of such kind as no other would
notice. Once, after his return from Venice, I met him and asked what
he had seen there. 'I saw,' said he, 'while on the Riva dei Schiavoni,
half an egg-shell and half a lemon-rind floating: they met, they
struck, they were driven apart, they came together; at last, paf! the
half lemon fell into the half egg-shell, and away they went sailing
together. In this see the meaning of harmony.' Such is Bukatski's
occupation, though he knows much, and in art, for instance, he is an
authority."

"But they say that he is very capable."

"Perhaps he is, but capable of nothing. He eats bread, and that is
the end of his service. If at least he were joyous, but at bottom he
is melancholy. I forgot to say that besides he is in love with Pani
Emilia."

"Does Emilia receive many people?" inquired Marynia.

"No. Vaskovski, Bukatski, and Mashko, an advocate, the man who buys and
sells estates, are her only visitors.

"Of course she cannot receive many people; she has to give much time to
Litka."

"Dear little girl," said Pan Stanislav, "may God grant at least that
Reichenhall may help her."

And his joyous countenance was covered in one moment with genuine
sadness. Marynia looked at him with eyes full of sympathy, and in her
turn thought a second time, "Still he must be kind really."

But Plavitski began to talk as if to himself. "Mashko, Mashko--he too
was circling about Marynia. But she did not like him. As to estates,
the price now is such that God pity us."

"Mashko is the man who declares that under such conditions it is well
to buy them."

Dinner came to an end, and they passed into the drawing-room for
coffee; while at coffee Pan Plavitski, as his wont was in moments of
good-humor, began to make a butt of Gantovski. The young man endured
patiently, out of regard for Marynia, but with a mien that seemed to
say, "Ei! but for her, I would shake all the bones out of thee." After
coffee Marynia sat down at the piano, while her father was occupied
with patience. She played not particularly well, but her clear and
calm face was outlined pleasantly over the music-board. About five Pan
Plavitski looked at the clock and said,--

"The Yamishes are not coming."

"They will come yet," answered Marynia.

But from that moment on he looked continually at the clock, and
announced every moment that the Yamishes would not come. At last, about
six, he said with a sepulchral voice,--

"Some misfortune must have happened."

Pan Stanislav at that moment was near Marynia, who in an undertone
said,--

"Here is a trouble! Nothing has happened, of course; but papa will be
in bad humor till supper."

At first Pan Stanislav wished to answer that to make up he would be in
good-humor to-morrow after sleeping; but, seeing genuine anxiety on the
young lady's face, he answered,--

"As I remember, it is not very far; send some one to inquire what has
happened."

"Why not send some one over there, papa?"

But he answered with vexation, "Too much kindness; I will go myself;"
and ringing for a servant, he ordered the horses, then stopping for a
moment he said,--

"_Enfin_, anything may happen in the country; some person might come
and find my daughter alone. This is not a city. Besides, you are
relatives. Thou, Gantovski, may be necessary for me, so have the
kindness to come with me."

An expression of the greatest unwillingness and dissatisfaction was
evident on the young man's face. He stretched his hand to his yellow
hair and said,--

"Drawn up at the pond is a boat, which the gardener could not launch. I
promised Panna Marynia to launch it; but last Sunday she would not let
me, for rain was pouring, as if from a bucket."

"Then run and try. It is thirty yards to the pond; thou wilt be back in
two minutes."

Gantovski went to the garden in spite of himself. Plavitski, without
noticing his daughter or Pan Stanislav, repeated as he walked through
the room,--

"Neuralgia in the head; I would bet that it is neuralgia in the head;
Gantovski in case of need could gallop for the doctor. That old mope,
that councillor without a council, would not send for him surely." And
needing evidently to pour out his ill humor on some one, he added,
turning to Pan Stanislav, "Thou'lt not believe what a booby that man
is."

"Who?"

"Yamish."

"But, papa!" interrupted Marynia.

Plavitski did not let her finish, however, and said with increasing ill
humor, "It does not please thee, I know, that she shows me a little
friendship and attention. Read Pan Yamish's articles on agriculture, do
him homage, raise statues to him; but let me have my sympathies."

Here Pan Stanislav might admire the real sweetness of Marynia, who,
instead of being impatient, ran to her father, and putting her forehead
under his blackened mustaches, said,--

"They will bring the horses right away, right away, right away! Maybe
I ought to go; but let ugly father not be angry, for he will hurt
himself."

Plavitski, who was really much attached to his daughter, kissed her
on the forehead and said, "I know thou hast a good heart. But what is
Gantovski doing?"

And he called through the open gate of the garden to the young man, who
returned soon, wearied out, and said,--

"There is water in the boat, and it is drawn up too far; I have tried,
and I cannot--"

"Then take thy cap and let's be off, for I hear the horses have come."

A moment later the young people were alone.

"Papa is accustomed to society a little more elegant than that in the
country," said Marynia; "therefore he likes Pani Yamish, but Pan
Yamish is a very honorable and sensible man."

"I saw him in the church; to me he seemed as if crushed."

"Yes; for he is sickly, and besides has much care."

"Like you."

"No, Pan Yamish manages his work perfectly; besides, he writes much on
agriculture. He is really the light of these parts. Such a worthy man!
She too is a good woman, only to me she seems rather pretentious."

"An ex-beauty."

"Yes. And this unbroken country life, through which she has become
rather rusty, increases her oddness. I think that in cities oddities
of character and their ridiculous sides efface one another; but in the
country, people turn into originals more easily, they grow disused
to society gradually, a certain old-fashioned way is preserved in
intercourse, and it goes to excess. We must all seem rusty to people
from great cities, and somewhat ridiculous."

"Not all," answered Pan Stanislav; "you, for example."

"It will come to me in time," answered Marynia, with a smile.

"Time may bring changes too."

"With us there is so little change, and that most frequently for the
worse."

"But in the lives of young ladies in general changes are expected."

"I should wish first that papa and I might come to an agreement about
Kremen."

"Then your father and Kremen are the main, the only objects in life for
you?"

"True. But I can help little, since I know little of anything."

"Your father, Kremen, and nothing more," repeated Pan Stanislav.

A moment of silence came, after which Marynia asked Pan Stanislav if
he would go to the garden. They went, and soon found themselves at the
edge of the pond. Pan Stanislav, who, while abroad, had been a member
of various sporting clubs, pushed to the water's edge the boat, which
Gantovski could not manage; but it turned out that the boat was leaky,
and that they could not row in it.

"This is a case of my management," said Marynia, laughing; "there is a
leak everywhere. And I know not how to find an excuse, since the pond
and the garden belong to me only. But before it is launched I will have
the boat mended."

"As I live, it is the same boat in which I was forbidden to sail when a
boy."

"Quite possibly. Have you not noticed that things change less by far,
and last longer than people? At times it is sad to think of this."

"Let us hope to last longer than this moss-covered boat, which is as
water-soaked as a sponge. If this is the boat of my childhood, I have
no luck with it. In old times I was not permitted to sail in it, and
now I have hurt my hand with some rusty nail."

Saying this, he drew out his handkerchief and began to wind it around
a finger of his right hand, with his left hand, but so awkwardly that
Marynia said,--

"You cannot manage it; you need help;" and she began to bind up his
hand, which he twisted a little so as to increase the difficulty of
her task, since it was pleasant for him to feel her delicate fingers
touching his. She saw that he was hindering her, and glanced at
him; but the moment their eyes met, she understood the reason, and,
blushing, bent down as if tying more carefully. Pan Stanislav felt her
near him, he felt the warmth coming from her, and his heart beat more
quickly.

"I have wonderfully pleasant memories," said he, "of my former
vacations here; but this time I shall take away still pleasanter ones.
You are very kind, and besides exactly like some flower in this Kremen.
On my word, I do not exaggerate."

Marynia understood that the young man said that sincerely, a little
too daringly perhaps, but more through innate vivacity than because
they were alone; she was not offended, therefore, but she began to make
playful threats with her pleasant low voice,--

"I beg you not to say pretty things to me; if you do, I shall bind your
hand badly, and then run away."

"You may bind the hand badly, but stay. The evening is so beautiful."

Marynia finished her work with the handkerchief, and they walked
farther. The evening was really beautiful. The sun was setting; the
pond, not wrinkled with a breath of wind, shone like fire and gold. In
the distance, beyond the water, the alders were dozing quietly; the
nearer trees were outlined with wonderful distinctness in the ruddy
air. In the yard beyond the house, storks were chattering.

"Kremen is charming, very charming!" said Pan Stanislav.

"Very," answered Marynia.

"I understand your attachment to this place. Besides, when one puts
labor into anything, one is attached to it still more. I understand too
that in the country it is possible to have pleasant moments like this;
but, besides, it is agreeable here. In the city weariness seizes men
sometimes, especially those who, like me, are plunged to their ears in
accounts, and who, besides, are alone. Pan Bigiel, my partner, has a
wife, he has children,--that is pleasant. But how is it with me? I say
to myself often: I am at work, but what do I get for it? Grant that
I shall have a little money, but what then?--nothing. To-morrow ever
the same as to-day: Work and work. You know, Panna Plavitski, when a
man devotes himself to something, when he moves with the impetus of
making money, for example, money seems to him an object. But moments
come in which I think that Vaskovski, my original, is right, and that
no one whose name ends in _ski_ or _vich_ can ever put his whole soul
into such an object and rest in it exclusively. He declares that there
is in us yet the fresh memory of a previous existence, and that in
general the Slavs have a separate mission. He is a great original, a
philosopher, and a mystic. I argue with him, and make money as I can;
but now, for example, when I am walking with you in this garden, it
seems to me in truth that he is right."

For a time they walked on without speaking. The light became ruddier
every instant, and their faces were sunk, as it were, in that gleam.
Friendly, reciprocal feelings rose in them each moment. They felt
pleasant and calm in each other's society. Of this Pan Stanislav was
sensible seemingly, for, after a while, he remarked,--

"That is true, too, which Pani Emilia told me. She said that one has
more confidence, and feels nearer to you in an hour than to another in
a month. I have verified this. It seems to me that I have known you for
a long time. I think that only persons unusually kind can produce this
impression."

"Emilia loves me much," answered Marynia, with simplicity; "that is why
she praises me. Even if what she says were true, I will add that I
have not the power to be such with all persons."

"You made on me, yesterday, another impression, indeed; but you were
tired then and drowsy."

"I was, in some degree."

"And why did you not go to bed? The servants might have made tea for
me, or I might have done without it."

"No; we are not so inhospitable as that. Papa said that one of us
should receive you. I was afraid that he would wait himself for you,
and that would have injured him; so I preferred to take his place."

"In that regard thou mightst have been at ease," thought Pan Stanislav;
"but thou art an honest maiden to defend the old egotist." Then he
said, "I beg your pardon for having begun to speak of business at once.
That is a mercantile habit. But I reproached myself afterward. 'Thou
art this and that kind of man,' thought I; and with shame do I beg your
pardon."

"There is no cause for pardon, since there is no fault. They told you
that I occupy myself with everything; hence you turned to me."

Twilight spread more deeply by degrees. After a certain time they
returned to the house, and, as the evening was beautiful, they sat down
on the garden veranda. Pan Stanislav entered the drawing-room for a
moment, returned with a footstool, and, bending down, pushed it under
Marynia's feet.

"I thank you, I thank you much," said she, inclining, and taking her
skirt with her hand; "how kind of you! I thank you much."

"I am inattentive by nature," said he; "but do you know who taught me
a little carefulness? Litka. There is need of care with her; and Pani
Emilia has to remember this."

"She remembers it," answered Marynia, "and we will all help her. If she
had not gone to Reichenhall, I should have invited her here."

"And I should have followed Litka without invitation."

"Then I beg you in papa's name, once and for all."

"Do not say that lightly, for I am ready to abuse your kindness. For
me it is very pleasant here; and as often as I feel out of sorts in
Warsaw, I'll take refuge in Kremen."

Pan Stanislav knew this time that his words were intended to bring
them nearer, to establish sympathy between them; and he spoke with
design, and sincerely. While speaking, he looked on that mild young
face, which, in the light of the setting sun, seemed calmer than usual.
Marynia raised to him her blue eyes, in which was the question, "Art
speaking by chance, or of purpose?" and she answered in a somewhat
lower voice,--

"Do so."

And both were silent, feeling that really a connection between them was
beginning.

"I am astonished that papa is not returning," said she, at last.

The sun had gone down; in the ruddy gloaming, an owl had begun to
circle about in slow flight, and frogs were croaking in the pond.

Pan Stanislav made no answer to the young lady's remark, but said, as
if sunk in his own thoughts: "I do not analyze life; I have no time.
When I enjoy myself,--as at this moment, for instance,--I feel that
I enjoy myself; when I suffer, I suffer,--that is all. But five or
six years ago it was different. A whole party of us used to meet for
discussions on the meaning of life,--a number of scholars, and one
writer, rather well known in Belgium at present. We put to ourselves
these questions: Whither are we going? What sense has everything,
what value, what end? We read the pessimists, and lost ourselves in
various baseless inquiries, like one of my acquaintances, an assistant
in the chair of astronomy, who, when he began to lose himself in
interplanetary spaces, lost his reason; and, after that, it seemed to
him that his head was moving in a parabola through infinity. Afterward
he recovered, and became a priest. We, in like manner, could come to
nothing, rest on nothing,--just like birds flying over the sea without
a place to light on. But at last I saw two things: first, that my
Belgians were taking all this to heart less than I,--we are more naïve;
second, that my desire for labor would be injured, and that I should
become an incompetent. I seized myself, then, by the ears, and began to
color cottons with all my might. After that, I said in my mind: Life
is among the rights of nature; whether wise or foolish, never mind, it
is a right. We must live, then; hence it is necessary to get from life
what is possible. And I wish to get something. Vaskovski says, it is
true, that we Slavs are not able to stop there; but that is mere talk.
That we cannot be satisfied with money alone, we will admit. But I
said to myself, besides money there are two things: peace and--do you
know what, Panna Plavitski?--woman. For a man should have some one with
whom to share what he has. Later, there must be death. Granted. But
where death begins, man's wit ends. 'That is not my business,' as the
English say. Meanwhile, it is needful to have some one to whom a man
can give that which he has or acquires, whether money or service or
fame. If they are diamonds on the moon, it is all the same, for there
is no one to learn what their value is. So a man must have some one to
know him. And I think to myself, who will know me, if not a woman, if
she is only wonderfully good and wonderfully reliable, greatly mine and
greatly beloved? This is all that it is possible to desire; for from
this comes repose, and repose is the one thing that has sense. I say
this, not as a poet, but as a practical man and a merchant. To have
near me a dear one, that is an object. And let come then what may. Here
you have my philosophy."

Pan Stanislav insisted that he was speaking like a merchant; but he
spoke like a dreamer, for that summer evening had acted on him, as
had also the presence of that youthful woman, who in so many regards
answered to the views announced a moment earlier. This must have come
to Pan Stanislav's head, for, turning directly to her, he said,--

"This is my thought, but I do not talk of it before people usually.
I was brought to this somehow to-day; for I repeat that Pani Emilia
is right. She says that one becomes more intimate with you in a day
than with others in a year. You must be fabulously kind. I should have
committed a folly if I had not come to Kremen; and I shall come as
often as you permit me."

"Come,--often."

"I thank you." He extended his hand, and Marynia gave him hers, as if
in sign of agreement.

Oh, how he pleased her with his sincere, manly face, with his dark
hair, and a certain vigor in his whole bearing and in his animated
eyes! He brought, besides, so many of those inspirations which were
lacking in Kremen,--certain new horizons, running out far beyond the
pond and the alders which hemmed in the horizon at Kremen. They had
opened in one day as many roads as it was possible to open. They sat
again a certain time in silence, and their minds wandered on farther in
silence as hastily as they had during speech. Marynia pointed at last
to the light, which was increasing behind the alders, and said, "The
moon."

"Aha! the moon," repeated Pan Stanislav.

The moon was, in fact, rising slowly from behind the alders, ruddy, and
as large as a wheel. Now the dogs began to bark; a carriage rattled on
the other side of the house; and, after a while, Plavitski appeared in
the drawing-room, into which lamps had been brought. Marynia went in,
Pan Stanislav following.

"Nothing was the matter," said Plavitski. "Pani Hrometski called.
Thinking that she would go soon, they did not let us know. Yamish is a
trifle ill, but is going to Warsaw in the morning. She promised to come
to-morrow."

"Then is all well?" asked Marynia.

"Well; but what have you been doing here?"

"Listening to the frogs," answered Pan Stanislav; "and it was pleasant."

"The Lord God knows why He made frogs. Though they don't let me sleep
at night, I make no complaint. But, Marynia, let the tea be brought."

Tea was waiting already in another room. While they were drinking it,
Plavitski described his visit at the Yamishes. The young people were
silent; but from time to time they looked at each other with eyes full
of light, and at parting they pressed each other's hands very warmly.
Marynia felt a certain heaviness seizing her, as if that day had
wearied her; but it was a wonderful and pleasant kind of weariness.
Afterward, when her head was resting on the pillow, she did not think
that the day following would be Monday, that a new week of common toil
would begin; she thought only of Pan Stanislav, and his words were
sounding in her ears: "Who will know me, if not a woman, if she is only
wonderfully good and wonderfully reliable, greatly mine and greatly
beloved?"

Pan Stanislav, on his part, was saying to himself, while lighting a
cigarette in bed, "She is kind and shapely, charming; where is there
such another?"


FOOTNOTES:

  [1] Third, or ring finger.

  [2] Kremen means flint in Polish.



CHAPTER III.


But the following day was a gray one, and Panna Plavitski woke with
reproaches. It seemed to her that, the day before, she had let herself
be borne away on some current farther than was proper, and that she
had been simply coquetting with Pan Stanislav. She was penetrated
with special dissatisfaction, for this reason principally: that
Pan Stanislav had only come as a creditor. She had forgotten that
yesterday; but to-day she said to herself, "Undoubtedly it will come
to his head that I wanted to win him, or to soften him;" and at this
thought the blood flowed to her cheeks and her forehead. She had an
honest nature and much ambition, which revolted at every idea that she
might be suspected of calculation. Believing now in the possibility of
such a suspicion, she felt in advance as if offended by Pan Stanislav.
Withal, there was one thought which was bitter beyond every expression:
she knew that, as a rule, a copper could not overtake a copper in the
treasury of Kremen; that there was no money; and that if, in view of
the proposed parcelling of Magyerovka, there were hopes of having
some in future, her father would make evasions, for he considered
other debts more urgent than Pan Stanislav's. She promised herself,
it is true, to do all in her power to see him paid absolutely, and
before others; but she knew that she was not able to effect much. Her
father assisted her willingly in management; but in money matters
he had his own way; and it was rarely that he regarded her opinion.
His rôle consisted really in evading everything by all means,--by
promises never kept, by delays, by presenting imaginary calculations
and hopes, instead of reality. As the collection of debts secured by
mortgage on land is difficult and tedious, and defence may be kept up
almost as long as one wishes, Plavitski held on to Kremen, thanks to
his system. In the end, all this threatened ruin inexorable, as well
as complete; but, meanwhile, the old man considered himself "the head
of affairs," and listened the more unwillingly to the opinions and
counsels of his daughter, since he suspected at once that she doubted
his "head." This offended his self-esteem to the utmost. Marynia had
passed, because of this "head" and its methods, through more than one
humiliation. Her country life was only an apparent ideal of work and
household occupations. There was wanting to it neither bitterness nor
pain; and her calm countenance indicated, not only the sweetness of
her character, but its strength, and a great education of spirit. The
humiliation which threatened her this time, however, seemed harder to
bear than the others.

"At least, let him not suspect me," said she to herself. But how could
she prevent his suspicion? Her first thought was to see Pan Stanislav
before he met her father, and describe the whole state of affairs to
him; treat him as a man in whom she had confidence. It occurred to her
then that such a description would be merely a prayer for forbearance,
for compassion; and hence a humiliation. Were it not for this thought,
Marynia would have sent for him. She, as a woman noting keenly
every quiver of her own heart and the hearts of others, felt half
consciously, half instinctively, that between her and that young man
something was foreshadowed; that something had begun, as it were; and,
above all, that something might and must be inevitable in the future,
if she chose that it should be; but, as affairs stood, it did not seem
to her that she could choose. Only one thing remained,--to see Pan
Stanislav, and efface by her demeanor yesterday's impressions; to break
the threads which had been fastened between them, and to give him full
freedom of action. Such a method seemed best to her.

Learning from the servants that Pan Stanislav not only had risen, but
had drunk tea and gone out to the road, she decided to find him. This
was not difficult, since he had returned from his morning walk, and,
standing at the side wall of the entrance, which was grown over with
wild grape-vines, was talking with those two dogs which had fawned
on him so effusively at his arrival. He did not see her at once; and
Marynia, standing on the steps, heard him saying to the dogs,--

"These big dogs take pay for watching the house? They eat? They don't
bark at strangers, but fawn on them. Ei! stupid dogs, lazy fellows!"

And he patted their white heads. Then, seeing her through the openings
of the grape-vines, he sprang up as quickly as if thrown from a sling,
and stood before her, glad and bright-faced.

"Good-morning. I have been talking with the dogs. How did you rest?"

"Thank you." And she extended her hand to him coldly; but he was
looking at her with eyes in which was to be seen most clearly how
great and deep a pleasure the sight of her caused him. And he pleased
poor Marynia not less; he simply pleased her whole soul. Her heart was
oppressed with regret that she had to answer his cordial good-morning
so ceremoniously and coldly.

"Perhaps you were going out to look after affairs? In that case, if you
permit, I will go with you. I must return to the city to-day; hence one
moment more in your company will be agreeable. God knows if I could I
would remain longer. But now I know the road to Kremen."

"We beg you to come, whenever time may permit."

Pan Stanislav noticed now the coolness of her words, of her face; and
began to look at her with astonishment. But if Marynia thought that he
would do as people do usually,--accommodate himself to her tone readily
and in silence,--she was mistaken. Pan Stanislav was too vivacious and
daring not to seek at once for the cause; so, looking her steadfastly
in the eye, he said,--

"Something is troubling you."

Marynia was confused.

"You are mistaken," replied she.

"I see well; and you know that I am not mistaken. You act toward me as
you did the first evening. But then I made a blunder: I began to speak
of money at a wrong time. Yesterday I begged your pardon, and it was
pleasant,--how pleasant! To-day, again, it is different. Tell me why!"

Not the most adroit diplomacy could have beaten Marynia from her path.
It seemed to her that she could chill him and keep him at a distance
by this demeanor; but he, by inquiring so directly, rather brought
himself nearer, and he continued to speak in the tone of a man on whom
an injustice had been wrought:--

"Tell me what is the matter; tell me! Your father said I was to be
a guest yesterday, and a creditor to-day. But that is fol--that is
nothing! I do not understand such distinctions; and I shall never be
your creditor, rather your debtor. For I am already indebted to you,
and grateful for yesterday's kindness; and God knows how much I wish
to be indebted to you always."

He looked into her eyes again, observing carefully whether there would
not appear in them yesterday's smile; but Marynia, whose heart was
oppressed more and more, went on by the way which she had chosen:
first, because she had chosen it; and second, lest by acknowledging
that to-day she was different, she might be forced to explain why she
was so.

"I assure you," said she, at last, with a certain effort, "that either
you were mistaken yesterday, or you are mistaken to-day. I am always
the same, and it will always be agreeable to me if you bear away
pleasant memories."

The words were polite, but uttered by a young woman so unlike her of
yesterday that on Pan Stanislav's face impatience and anger began to
appear.

"If it is important for you that I should feign to believe this, let it
be as you wish. I shall go away, however, with the conviction that in
the country Monday is very different from Sunday."

These words touched Marynia; for from them it seemed as if Pan
Stanislav had assumed certain rights by reason of her conduct with him
yesterday. But she answered rather with sadness than with anger,--

"How can I help that?"

And after a while she went away, saying that she had to go and wish
good-day to her father. Pan Stanislav remained alone. He drove away the
dogs, which had tried to fawn on him anew, and began to be angry.

"What does this mean?" asked he in his mind. "Yesterday, kind; to-day,
surly,--altogether a different woman. How stupid all this is, and
useless! Yesterday, a relative; to-day, a creditor! What is that to
her? Why does she treat me like a dog? Have I robbed any one? She knew
yesterday, too, why I came. Very well! If you want to have me as a
creditor--not Polanyetski--all right. May thunderbolts crush the whole
business!"

Meanwhile Marynia ran into her father's chamber. Plavitski had risen,
and was sitting, attired in his dressing-gown, before a desk covered
with papers. For a while he turned to answer the good-day of his
daughter, then occupied himself again with reading the papers.

"Papa," said Marynia, "I have come to speak of Pan Stanislav. Does
papa--"

But he interrupted her without ceasing to look at the papers,--

"I will bend thy Pan Stanislav in my hand like wax."

"I doubt if that will be easy. Finally, I should wish that he were paid
before others, even with the greatest loss to us."

Plavitski, turning from the desk, gazed at her, and asked coolly,--

"Is this, I pray, a guardianship over him, or over me?"

"It is a question of our honor."

"In which, as thou thinkest, I need thy assistance?"

"No, papa; but--"

"What pathetic day has come on us? What is the matter with thee?"

"I merely beg, papa, by all--"

"And I beg thee also to leave me. Thou hast set me aside from the land
management. I yielded; for, during the couple of years that remain
to me in life, I have no wish to be quarrelling with my own child.
But leave me even this corner in the house,--even this one room,--and
permit me to transact such affairs as it is possible to transact here."

"Dear papa, I only beg--"

"That I should move out into a cottage, which, for the fourth time,
thou art choosing for me?"

Evidently the old man, in speaking of the "pathetic day," wished merely
that no one should divide this monopoly with him. He rose now, in his
Persian dressing-gown, like King Lear, and grasped at the arm of his
chair; thus giving his heartless daughter to understand that, if he had
not done this, he should have fallen his whole length on the floor,
stricken down by her cruelty. But tears came to her eyes, and a bitter
feeling of her own helplessness flowed to her heart. For a while she
stood in silence, struggling with sorrow and a wish to cry; then she
said quietly, "I beg pardon of papa," and went out of the room.

A quarter of an hour later, Pan Stanislav entered, at the request
of Plavitski, but ill-humored, irritated through striving to master
himself.

Plavitski, after he had greeted his visitor, seated him at his side in
an armchair prepared previously, and, putting his palm on the young
man's knee, said,--

"Stas, but thou wilt not burn this house? Thou wilt not kill me, who
opened my arms to thee as a relative; thou wilt not make my child an
orphan?"

"No," answered Pan Stanislav; "I will not burn the house, I will not
cut uncle's throat, and I will not make any child an orphan. I beg
uncle not to talk in this manner, for it leads to nothing, and to me it
is unendurable."

"Very well," said Plavitski, somewhat offended, however, that his
style and manner of expression had found such slight recognition; "but
remember that thou didst come to me and to this house when thou wert
still a child."

"I came because my mother came; and my mother, after the death of Aunt
Helen, came because uncle did not pay interest. All this is neither
here nor there. The money rests on a mortgage of twenty-one years. With
the unpaid interest, it amounts to about twenty-four thousand rubles.
For the sake of round numbers, let it be twenty thousand; but I must
have those twenty, since I came for them."

Plavitski inclined his head with resignation. "Thou didst come for
that. True. But why wert thou so different yesterday, Stas?"

Pan Stanislav, who half an hour earlier had put that same question to
Marynia, just sprang up in his chair, but restrained himself and said,--

"I beg you to come to business."

"I do not draw back before business; only permit me to say a couple
of words first, and do not interrupt me. Thou hast said that I have
not paid the interest. True. But knowest thou why? Thy mother did not
give me all her property, and could not without permission of a family
council. Perhaps it was worse for you that the permission was not
given, but never mind. When I took those few thousand rubles, I said to
myself: The woman is alone in the world with one child; it is unknown
how she will manage, unknown what may happen. Let the money which she
has with me be her iron foundation; let it increase, so that at a given
moment she may have something for her hands to seize hold on. And
since then I have been in some fashion thy savings bank. Thy mother
gave me twelve thousand rubles; to-day thou hast in my hands almost
twenty-four thousand. That is the result. And wilt thou repay me now
with ingratitude?"

"Beloved uncle," answered Pan Stanislav, "do not take me, I pray, for
a greater dunce than I am, nor for a madman. I say simply that I am
not caught with such chaff; it is too coarse. Uncle says that I have
twenty-four thousand rubles; where are they? I am asking for them,
without talk, and moreover such talk."

"But be patient, I pray thee, and restrain thyself, even for this
reason, that I am older," answered Plavitski, offended and with dignity.

"I have a partner, who in a month will contribute twelve thousand
rubles to a certain business. I must pay the same amount. I say clearly
and declare that, after two years of annoyance with letters, I cannot
and will not endure any longer."

Plavitski rested his arm on the desk, his forehead on his palm, and
was silent. Pan Stanislav looked at him, waiting for an answer; he
gazed with increasing displeasure, and in his mind gave himself this
question: "Is he a trickster or a lunatic; is he an egotist, so blinded
to himself that he measures good and evil by his own comfort merely; or
is he all these together?"

Meanwhile Plavitski held his face hidden on his palm, and was silent.

"I should like to say something," began Pan Stanislav, at last.

But the old man waved his hand, indicating that he wished to be alone
with his thoughts for a time yet. On a sudden he raised his face, which
had grown radiant,--

"Stas," said he, "why are we disputing, when there is such a simple way
out of it?"

"How?"

"Take the marl."

"What?"

"Bring thy partner, bring some specialist; we will set a price on my
marl, and form a company of three. Thy--what's his name? Bigiel, isn't
it? will pay me so much, whatever falls to him; thou wilt either add
something or not; and we'll all go on together. The profits may be
colossal."

Pan Stanislav rose. "I assure you," said he, "that there is one thing
to which I am not accustomed, that is to be made sport of. I do not
want your marl; I want only my money; and what you tell me I regard
simply as an unworthy or stupid evasion."

A moment of oppressive silence followed. Jove's anger began to gather
on the brows and forehead of Plavitski. For a while he threatened
boldly with his eyes, then, moving quickly to the hooks on which his
weapons were hanging, he took down a hunter's knife, and, offering it
to Pan Stanislav, said,--

"But there is another way, strike!" and he opened his dressing-gown
widely; but Pan Stanislav, mastering himself no longer, pushed away the
hand with the knife, and began to speak in a loud voice,--

"This is a paltry comedy, nothing more! It is a pity to lose words and
time with you. I am going away, for I have had enough of you and your
Kremen; but I say that I will sell my debt, even for half its value, to
the first Jew I meet. He will be able to settle with you."

Then the right hand of Plavitski was stretched forth in solemnity.

"Go," said he, "sell. Let the Jew into the family nest; but know this,
that the curse, both of me and of those who have lived here, will find
thee wherever thou art."

Pan Stanislav rushed out of the room, white with rage. In the
drawing-room he cursed as much as he could, looking for his hat;
finding it at last, he was going out to see if the brichka had come,
when Marynia appeared. At sight of her he restrained himself somewhat;
but, remembering that she it was, precisely, who was occupied with
everything in Kremen, he said,--

"I bid farewell to you. I have finished with your father. I came for
what belonged to me; but he gave me first a blessing, then marl, and
finally a curse. A nice way to pay debts!"

There was a moment in which Marynia wished to extend her hand to him
and say,--

"I understand your anger. A while ago I was with father also, and
begged him to pay you before all others. Deal with us and with Kremen
as may please you; but do not accuse me, do not think that I belong to
a conspiracy against you, and retain even a little esteem for me."

Her hand was already extending, the words were on her lips, when Pan
Stanislav, rousing himself internally, and losing his balance still
more, added,--

"I say this because, when I spoke to you the first evening, you were
offended, and sent me to your father. I give thanks for the effective
advice; but, as it was better for you than for me, I will follow my own
judgment hereafter."

Marynia's lips grew pale; in her eyes were tears of indignation, and,
at the same time, of deep offence. She raised her head, and said,--

"You may utter what injuries you like, since there is no one to take my
part;" then she turned to the door, with her soul full of humiliation
and almost despair, because those were the only returns she had
received for that labor in which she had put her whole strength and all
the zeal of her honest young soul. Pan Stanislav saw, too, that he had
exceeded the measure. Having very lively feelings, he passed in one
instant to compassion, and wished to hurry after her to beg her pardon;
but it was late: she had vanished.

This roused a new attack of rage. This time, however, the rage included
himself. Without taking farewell of any one, he sat in the brichka,
which came up just then, and drove out of Kremen. In his soul such
anger was seething that for a time he could think of nothing but
vengeance. "I will sell it, even for a third of the value," said he to
himself, "and let others distrain you. I give my word of an honest man
that I will sell. Even without need, I will sell out of spite!"

In this way his intention was changed into a stubborn and sworn
resolve. Pan Stanislav was not of those who break promises given to
others or themselves. It was now a mere question of finding a man to
buy a claim so difficult of collection; for to receive the amount of it
was, without exaggeration, to crack a flint with one's teeth.

Meanwhile the brichka rolled out of the alley to the road in the open
field. Pan Stanislav, recovering somewhat, began to think of Marynia
in a form of mind which was a mosaic composed of the impressions which
her face and form had made on him,--of recollections of the Sunday
conversation; of repulsion, of pity, of offence, animosity; and,
finally, dissatisfaction with himself, which strengthened his animosity
against her. Each of these feelings in turn conquered the others,
and cast on them its color. At times he recalled the stately figure
of Marynia, her eyes, her dark hair, her mouth, pleasing, though too
large, perhaps; finally, her expression; and an outburst of sympathy
for her mastered him. He thought that she was very girlish; but in
her mouth, in her arms, in the lines of her whole figure, there was
something womanly, something that attracted with irresistible force.
He recalled her mild voice, her calm expression, and her very evident
goodness. Then, at thought of how harsh he had been to her before
going,--at thought of the tone with which he had spoken to her,--he
began to curse himself. "If the father is an old comedian, a trickster,
and a fool," said he to himself; "and if she feels all this, she is
the unhappier. But what then? Every man with a bit of heart would have
understood the position, taken compassion on her, instead of attacking
the poor overworked child. I attacked her. I!" Then he wanted to slap
his own face; for at once he imagined what might have been, what an
immeasurable approach, what an exceptional tenderness would have
arisen, if, after all the quarrels with her father, he had treated her
as was proper,--that is, with the utmost delicacy. She would have given
him both hands when he was leaving; he would have kissed them; and he
and she would have parted like two persons near to each other. "May
the devils take the money!" repeated he to himself; "and may they take
me!" And he felt that he had done things which could not be corrected.
This feeling took away the remnant of his equilibrium, and pushed him
all the more along that road, the error of which he recognized. And he
began a monologue again, more or less like the following,--

"Since all is lost, let all burn. I will sell the claim to any Jew;
let him collect. Let them fly out on to the pavement; let the old man
find some office; let her go as a governess, or marry Gantovski." Then
he felt that he would agree to anything rather than the last thought.
He would twist Gantovski's neck. Let any one take her, only not such a
wooden head, such a bear, such a dolt. Beautiful epithets began to fall
on the hapless Gantovski; and all the venom passed over on to him, as
if he had been really the cause of whatever had happened.

Arriving in such a man-eating temper at Chernyov, Pan Stanislav might,
perhaps, like another Ugolino, have gnawed at once into Gantovski
with his teeth, "where the skull meets the neck," if he had seen him
at the station. Fortunately, instead of Gantovski's "skull," he saw
only some officials, some peasants, a number of Jews, and the sad, but
intelligent face of Councillor Yamish, who recognized him, and who,
when the train arrived soon, invited him--thanks to good relations with
the station-master--to a separate compartment.

"I knew your father," said he; "and I knew him in his brilliant days.
I found a wife in that neighborhood. I remember he had then Zvihov,
Brenchantsa, Motsare, Rozvady in Lubelsk,--a fine fortune. Your
grandfather was one of the largest landowners in that region; but now
the estate must have passed into other hands."

"Not now, but long since. My father lost all his property during his
life. He was sickly; he lived at Nice, did not take care of what he
had, and it went. Had it not been for the inheritance which, after his
death, fell to my mother, it would have been difficult."

"But you are well able to help yourself. I know your house; I have had
business in hops with you through Abdulski."

"Then Abdulski did business with you?"

"Yes; and I must confess that I was perfectly satisfied with our
relations. You have treated me well, and I see that you manage affairs
properly."

"No man can succeed otherwise. My partner, Bigiel, is an honest man,
and I am not Plavitski."

"How is that?" asked Yamish, with roused curiosity.

Pan Stanislav, with the remnant of his anger unquenched, told the whole
story.

"H'm!" said Yamish; "since you speak of him without circumlocution,
permit me to speak in like manner, though he is your relative."

"He is no relative of mine: his first wife was a relative and friend of
my mother,--that is all; he himself is no relative."

"I know him from childhood. He is rather a spoiled than a bad man. He
was an only son, hence, to begin with, his parents petted him; later on
his two wives did the same. Both were quiet, mild women; for both he
was an idol. During whole years matters so arranged themselves that he
was the sun around which other planets circled; and at last he came to
the conviction that everything from others was due to him, and nothing
to others from him. When conditions are such that evil and good are
measured by one's own comfort solely, nothing is easier than to lose
moral sense. Plavitski is a mixture of pompousness and indulgence: of
pompousness, for he himself is ever celebrating his own glory; and
indulgence, for he permits himself everything. This has become almost
his nature. Difficult circumstances came on him. These only a man of
character can meet; character he never had. He began to evade, and
in the end grew accustomed to evasion. Land ennobles, but land also
spoils us. An acquaintance of mine, a bankrupt, said once to me, 'It is
not I who evade, but my property, and I am only talking for it.' And
this is somewhat true,--truer in our position than in any other."

"Imagine to yourself," answered Pan Stanislav, "that I, who am a
descendant of the country, have no inclination for agriculture. I know
that agriculture will exist always, for it must; but in the form in
which it exists to-day I see no future for it. You must perish, all of
you."

"I do not look at it in rose-colors either. I do not mention that the
general condition of agriculture throughout Europe is bad, for that is
known. Just consider. A noble has four sons; hence each of these will
inherit only one-fourth of his father's land. Meanwhile, what happens?
Each, accustomed to his father's mode of living, wishes to live like
the father; the end is foreseen easily. Another case: A noble has four
sons; the more capable choose various careers; you may wager that the
least capable remains on the land. A third case: what a whole series
of generations have acquired, have toiled for, one light head ruins.
Fourth, we are not bad agriculturists, but bad administrators. Good
administration means more than good cultivation of land; what is the
inference, then? The land will remain; but we, who represent it at
present under the form of large ownership, must leave it most likely.
Then, do you see, when we have gone, we may return in time."

"How is that?"

"To begin with, you say that nothing attracts you to land; that is a
deception. Land attracts, and attracts with such force that each man,
after he has come to certain years, to a certain well-being, is unable
to resist the desire of possessing even a small piece of land. That
will come to you too, and it is natural. Finally, every kind of wealth
may be considered as fictitious, except land. Everything comes out of
land; everything exists for it. As a banknote is a receipt for metallic
money in the State Bank, so industry and commerce and whatever else you
please is land turned into another form; and as to you personally, who
have come from it, you must return to it."

"I at least do not think so."

"How do you know? To-day you are making property; but how will you
succeed? And that, too, is a question of the future. The Polanyetskis
were agriculturists; now one of them has chosen another career. The
majority of sons of agriculturists must choose other careers also,
even because they cannot do otherwise. Some of them will fail; some
will succeed and return--but return, not only with capital, but with
new energy, and with that knowledge of exact administration which
is developed by special careers. They will return because of the
attraction which land exercises, and finally through a feeling of duty,
which I need not explain to you."

"What you say has this good side, that then my
such-an-uncle-not-an-uncle Plavitski will belong to a type that has
perished."

Pan Yamish thought a while and said,--

"A thread stretches and stretches till it breaks, but at last it must
break. To my thinking, they cannot hold out in Kremen, even though
they parcel Magyerovka. But do you see whom I pity?--Marynia. She is
an uncommonly honest girl. For you do not know that the old man wanted
to sell Kremen two years ago; and that that did not take place partly
through the prayers of Marynia. Whether this was done out of regard
to the memory of her mother, who lies buried there, or because so
much is said and written about the duty of holding to the soil, it is
sufficient that the girl did what she could to prevent the sale. She
imagined, poor thing, that if she would betake herself with all power
to work, she could do everything. She abandoned the whole world for
Kremen. For her it will be a blow when the thread breaks at last, and
break it must. A pity for the years of the girl!"

"You are a kind person, councillor!" cried Pan Stanislav, with his
accustomed vivacity.

The old man smiled. "I love that girl: besides, she is my pupil in
agriculture; of a truth it will be sad when she is gone from us."

Pan Stanislav fell to biting his mustaches, and said at last, "Let her
marry some man in the neighborhood, and remain."

"Marry, marry! As if that were easy for a girl without property. Who is
there among us? Gantovski. He would take her. He is a good man, and not
at all so limited as they say. But she has no feeling for him, and she
will not marry without feeling. Yalbrykov is a small estate. Besides,
it seems to the old man that the Gantovskis are something inferior to
the Plavitskis, and Gantovski too believes this. With us, as you know,
that man passes for a person of great family who is pleased to boast
himself such. Though people laugh at Plavitski, they have grown used
to his claim. Moreover, one man raises his nose because he is making
property, another because he is losing it, and nothing else remains to
him. But let that pass. I know one thing, whoever gets Marynia will get
a pearl."

Pan Stanislav had in his mind at that moment the same conviction and
feeling. Sinking, therefore, into meditation, he began again to muse
about Marynia, or, rather, to call her to mind and depict her to
himself. All at once it even seemed to him that he would be sad without
her; but he remembered that similar things had seemed so to him more
than once, and that time had swept away the illusion. Still he thought
of her, even when they were approaching the city; and when he got out
at Warsaw, he muttered through his teeth,--

"How stupidly it happened! how stupidly!"



CHAPTER IV.


On his return to Warsaw, Pan Stanislav passed the first evening at the
house of his partner, Bigiel, with whom, as a former schoolmate, he was
connected by personal intimacy.

Bigiel, a Cheh by descent, but of a family settled in the country for a
number of generations, had managed a small commercial bank before his
partnership with Pan Stanislav, and had won the reputation of a man not
over-enterprising, it is true, but honorable and uncommonly reliable
in business. When Pan Stanislav entered into company with him, the
house extended its activity, and became an important firm. The partners
complemented each other perfectly. Pan Stanislav was incomparably more
clever and enterprising; he had more ideas and took in a whole affair
with greater ease; but Bigiel watched its execution more carefully.
When there was need of energy, or of pushing any one to the wall, Pan
Stanislav was the man; but when it was a question of careful thought,
of examining interests from ten sides, and of patience, Bigiel's rôle
began. Their temperaments were directly opposite; and for that reason,
perhaps, they had sincere friendship for each other. Preponderance
was relatively on the side of Pan Stanislav. Bigiel believed in his
partner's uncommon capacity; and a number of ideas really happy for
the house, which Pan Stanislav had given, confirmed this belief. The
dream of both was to acquire in time capital sufficient to build
cotton-mills, which Bigiel would manage, and Pan Stanislav direct.
But, though both might count themselves among men almost wealthy, the
mills were in a remote future. Less patient, and having many relatives,
Pan Stanislav tried, it is true, immediately after his return from
abroad, to direct to this object local, so-called "our own," capital;
he was met, however, with a general want of confidence. He noticed at
the same time a wonderful thing: his name opened all doors to him, but
rather injured than helped him in business. It might be that those
people who invited him to their houses could not get it into their
heads that one of themselves, hence a man of good family and with a
name ending in _ski_, could conduct any business successfully. This
angered Polanyetski to such a degree that the clever Bigiel had to
quench his outburst by stating that such want of confidence was in fact
caused by years of experience. Knowing well the history of different
industrial undertakings, he cited to Pan Stanislav a whole series of
cases, beginning with Tyzenhaus, the treasurer, and ending with various
provincial and land banks, which had nothing of the country about them
except their names,--in other words, they were devoid of every home
basis.

"The time has not come yet," said Bigiel; "but it will come, or,
rather, it is in sight. Hitherto there have been only amateurs and
dilettanti; now for the first time are appearing here and there trained
specialists."

Pan Stanislav who, in spite of his temperament, had powers of
observation rather well developed, began to make strange discoveries
in those spheres to which his relatives gave him access. He was met
by a general recognition for having done something. This recognition
was offered with emphasis even; but in it there was something like
condescension. Each man let it be known too readily that he approved
Polanyetski's activity, that he considered it necessary; but no one
bore himself as if he considered the fact that Polanyetski was working
at some occupation as a thing perfectly common and natural. "They
all _protect_ me," said he; and that was true. He came also to the
conclusion that if, for example, he aspired to the hand of any of the
young ladies of so-called "society," his commercial house and his title
of "affairist" would, notwithstanding the above recognition, have
injured more than helped him. They would rather give him any of those
maidens if, instead of a lucrative business, he had some encumbered
estate, or if, while living as a great lord, he was merely spending the
interest of his capital, or even the capital itself.

When he had made dozens of observations of this kind, Pan Stanislav
began to neglect his relatives, and at last abandoned them altogether.
He restricted himself to the houses of Bigiel and Pani Emilia
Hvastovski, and to those male acquaintances who were a necessity of
his single life. He took his meals at Francois's with Bukatski, old
Vaskovski, and the advocate Mashko, with whom he discussed and argued
various questions; he was often at the theatre and at public amusements
of all kinds. For the rest, he led rather a secluded life; hence he
was unmarried yet, though he had great and fixed willingness to marry,
and, besides, sufficient property.

Having gone after his return from Kremen almost directly to Bigiel's,
he poured out all his gall on "uncle" Plavitski, thinking that he would
find a ready and sympathetic listener; but Bigiel was moved little by
his narrative, and said,--

"I know such types. But, in truth, where is Plavitski to find money,
since he has none? If a man holds mortgages, he should have a saint's
patience. Landed property swallows money easily, but returns it with
the greatest difficulty."

"Listen, to me, Bigiel," said Pan Stanislav; "since thou hast begun to
grow fat and sleep after dinner, one must have a saint's patience with
thee."

"But is it true," asked the unmoved Bigiel, "that thou art in absolute
need of this money? Hast thou not at thy disposal the money that each
of us is bound to furnish?"

"I am curious to know what that is to thee, or Plavitski. I have money
with him; I must get it, and that is the end of the matter."

The entrance of Pani Bigiel, with a whole flock of children, put a
curb on the quarrel. She was young yet, dark-haired, blue-eyed, very
kind, and greatly taken up with her children, six in number,--children
liked by Pan Stanislav uncommonly; she was for this reason his
sincere friend, and also Pani Emilia's. Both these ladies, knowing
and loving Marynia Plavitski, had made up their minds to marry her to
Pan Stanislav; both had urged him very earnestly to go to Kremen for
the money. Hence Pani Bigiel was burning with curiosity to know what
impression the visit had made on him. But as the children were present,
it was impossible to speak. Yas, the youngest, who was walking on his
own feet already, embraced Pan Stanislav's leg and began to pull it,
calling "Pan, Pan!" which in his speech sounded, "Pam, Pam!" two little
girls, Evka and Yoasia, climbed up without ceremony on the knees of
the young man; but Edzio and Yozio explained to him their business.
They were reading the "Conquest of Mexico," and were playing at this
"Conquest." Edzio, raising his brows and stretching his hands upwards,
spoke excitedly,--

"I will be Cortez, and Yozio a knight on horseback; but as neither Evka
nor Yoasia wants to be Montezuma, what can we do? We can't play that
way, can we? Somebody must be Montezuma; if not, who will lead the
Mexicans?"

"But where are the Mexicans?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"Oh," said Yozio, "the chairs are the Mexicans, and the Spaniards too."

"Then wait, I'll be Montezuma; now take Mexico!"

An indescribable uproar began. Pan Stanislav's vivacity permitted him
to become a child sometimes. He offered such a stubborn resistance to
Cortez that Cortez fell to denying him the right to such resistance,
exclaiming, not without historic justice, that since Montezuma was
beaten, he must let himself be beaten. To which Montezuma answered that
he cared little for that; and he fought on. In this way the amusement
continued a good while. And Pani Bigiel, unable to wait for the end,
asked her husband at last,--

"How was the visit to Kremen?"

"He did what he is doing now," answered Bigiel, phlegmatically: "he
overturned all the chairs, and went away."

"Did he tell thee that?"

"I had no time to ask him about the young lady; but he parted with
Plavitski in a way that could not be worse. He wants to sell his claim;
this will cause evidently a complete severance of relations."

"That is a pity," answered Pani Bigiel.

At tea, when the children had gone to bed, she questioned Pan Stanislav
plainly concerning Marynia.

"I do not know," said he; "perhaps she is pretty, perhaps she is not. I
did not linger long over the question."

"That is not true," said Pani Bigiel.

"Then it is not true; and she is lovable and pretty, and whatever you
like. It is possible to fall in love with her, and to marry her; but a
foot of mine will never be in their house again. I know perfectly why
you sent me there; but it would have been better to tell me what sort
of a man her father is, for she must be like him in character, and if
that be true, then thanks for the humiliation."

"But think over what you say: 'She is pretty, she is lovable, it is
possible to marry her,' and then again: 'She must be like her father.'
These statements do not hold together."

"Maybe not; it is all one to me! I have no luck, and that is enough."

"But I will tell you two things: first, you have come back deeply
impressed by Marynia; second, that she is one of the best young ladies
whom I have seen in life, and he will be happy who gets her."

"Why has not some one taken her before now?"

"She is twenty-one years old, and entered society not long since.
Besides, don't think that she has no suitors."

"Let some other man take her."

But Pan Stanislav said this insincerely, for the thought that some
other man might take her was tremendously bitter for him. In his soul,
too, he felt grateful to Pani Bigiel for her praises of Marynia.

"Let that rest," said he; "but you are a good friend."

"Not only to Marynia, but to you. I only ask for a sincere, a really
sincere, answer. Are you impressed or not?"

"I impressed? to tell the truth,--immensely."

"Well, do you see?" said Pani Bigiel, whose face was radiant with
pleasure.

"See what? I see nothing. She pleased me immensely,--true! You have no
idea what a sympathetic and attractive person she is; and she must be
good. But what of that? I cannot go a second time to Kremen, I came
away in such anger. I said such bitter things, not only to Plavitski,
but to her, that it is impossible."

"Have you complicated matters much?"

"Rather too much than too little."

"Then a letter might soften them."

"I write a letter to Plavitski, and beg his pardon! For nothing on
earth! Moreover, he has cursed me."

"How, cursed?"

"As patriarch of the family; in his own name and the names of all
ancestors. I feel toward him such a repulsion that I could not write
down two words. He is an old pathetic comedian. I would sooner beg her
pardon; but what would that effect? She must take her father's part;
even I understand that. In the most favorable event, she would answer
that my letter is very agreeable to her; and with that relations would
cease."

"When Emilia returns from Reichenhall we will bring Marynia here under
the first plausible pretext, and then it will be your work to let
misunderstandings vanish."

"Too late, too late!" repeated Pan Stanislav; "I have promised myself
to sell the claim, and I will sell it."

"That is just what may be for the best."

"No, that would be for the worst," put in Bigiel; "but I will persuade
him not to sell. I hope, too, that a purchaser will not be found."

"Meanwhile Emilia will finish Litka's cure." Here Pani Bigiel turned to
Pan Stanislav: "You will learn now how other young ladies will seem to
you after Marynia. I am not so intimate with her as Emilia is, but I
will try to find the first convenient pretext to write to her and find
out what she thinks of you."

The conversation ended here. On the way home, Pan Stanislav saw that
Marynia had taken by no means the last place in his soul. To tell the
truth, he could hardly think of aught else. But he had at the same
time the feeling that this acquaintance had begun under unfavorable
conditions, and that it would be better to drive the maiden from
his mind while there was time yet. As a man rather strong than weak
mentally, and not accustomed to yield himself to dreams simply because
they were pleasant, he resolved to estimate the position soberly, and
weigh it on all sides. The young lady possessed, it is true, almost
every quality which he demanded in his future wife, and also she was
near his heart personally. But at the same time she had a father whom
he could not endure; and, besides the father, a real burden in the form
of Kremen and its connections.

"With that pompous old monkey I should never live in peace; I could
not," thought Pan Stanislav. "For relations with him are possible only
in two ways: it is necessary either to yield to him (to do this I am
absolutely unable), or to shake him up every day, as I did in Kremen.
In the first case, I, an independent man, would enter into unendurable
slavery to an old egotist; in the second, the position of my wife would
be difficult, and our peace might be ruined."

"I hope that this is sober, logical reasoning. It would be faulty only
if I were in love with the maiden already. But I judge that this is not
the case. I am occupied with her, not in love with her. These two are
different. _Ergo_, it is necessary to stop thinking of Marynia, and let
some other man take her."

At this last idea, a feeling of bitterness burned him vividly, but he
thought, "I am so occupied with her that this is natural. Finally, I
have chewed more than one bitter thing in life; I will chew this one as
well. I suppose also that it will be less bitter each day."

But soon he discovered that besides bitterness there remained in him
also a feeling of sorrow because the prospects had vanished which had
been opening before him. It seemed to him that a curtain of the future
had been raised, and something had shown him what might be; then the
curtain had fallen on a sudden, and his life had returned to its former
career, which led finally to nothing, or rather led to a desert. Pan
Stanislav felt in every ease that the old philosopher Vaskovski was
right, and that the making of money is only a means. Beyond that, we
must solve life's riddle in some fashion. There must be an object,
an important task, which, accomplished in a manner straightforward
and honorable, leads to mental peace. That peace is the soul of life;
without it life has, speaking briefly, no meaning.

Pan Stanislav was in some sense a child of the age; that is, he bore in
himself a part of that immense unrest which in the present declining
epoch is the nightmare of mankind. In him, too, the bases on which life
had rested hitherto were crumbling. He too doubted whether rationalism,
stumbling against every stone at the wayside, could take the place
of faith; and faith he had not found yet. He differed, however, from
contemporary "decadents" in this,--that he had not become disenchanted
with himself, his nerves, his doubts, his mental drama, and had not
given himself a dispensation to be an imbecile and an idler. On the
contrary, he had the feeling, more or less conscious, that life as it
is, mysterious or not mysterious, must be accomplished through a series
of toils and exploits. He judged that if it is impossible to answer the
various "whys," still it behooves a man to do something because action
itself may, to a certain degree, be an answer. It may be inconclusive,
it is true; but the man who answers in that way casts from himself
at least responsibility. What remains then? The founding of a family
and social ties. These must, to a certain degree, be a right of human
nature and its predestination, for otherwise people would neither marry
nor associate in societies. A philosophy of this kind, resting on Pan
Stanislav's logical male instinct, indicated marriage to him as one
of the main objects of life. His will had for along time been turned
and directed to this object. A while before, Panna Marynia seemed to
him the pier "for which his ship was making in that gloomy night." But
when he understood that the lamp on that pier had not been lighted for
him, that he must sail farther, begin a new voyage over unknown seas,
a feeling of weariness and regret seized him. But his reasoning seemed
to him logical, and he went home with an almost settled conviction that
"it was not yet that one," and "not yet this time."

Next day, when he went to dine, he found Vaskovski and Bukatski at
the restaurant. After a while Mashko also came in, with his arrogant,
freckled face and long side whiskers, a monocle on his eye, and wearing
a white waistcoat. After the greeting, all began to inquire of Pan
Stanislav touching his journey, for they knew partly why the ladies had
insisted on his personal visit, and, besides, they knew Marynia through
Pani Emilia.

After they had heard the narrative, Bukatski, transparent as Sevres
porcelain, said with that phlegm special to him,--

"It is war, then? That is a young lady who acts on the nerves, and now
would be the time to strike for her. A woman will accept more readily
the arm offered on a stony path than on a smooth road."

"Then offer an arm to her," said Pan Stanislav, with a certain
impatience.

"See thou, my beloved, there are three hindrances. First, Pani Emilia
acts on my nerves still more; second, I have a pain in my neck every
morning, and in the back of my head, which indicates brain disease;
third, I am naked."

"Thou naked?"

"At least now. I have bought a number of Falks, all _avant la lettre_.
I have plucked myself for a month, and if I receive from Italy a
certain Massaccio, for which I have been bargaining, I shall ruin
myself for a year."

Vaskovski, who from his features, or rather from the freckles on his
face, was somewhat like Mashko, though much older, and with a face full
of sweetness, fixed his blue eyes on Bukatski, and said,--

"And that too is a disease of the age,--collecting and collecting on
all sides!"

"Oh, ho! there will be a dispute," remarked Mashko.

"We have nothing better to do," said Pan Stanislav.

And Bukatski took up the gauntlet.

"What have you against collecting?"

"Nothing," answered Vaskovski. "It is a kind of old-womanish method of
loving art, worthy of our age. Do you not think there is something
decrepit about it? To my thinking, it is very characteristic. Once
people bore within them enthusiasm for high art: they loved it where it
was, in museums, in churches; to-day they take it to their own private
cabinets. Long ago people ended with collecting; to-day they begin with
it, and begin at oddities: I am not talking at Bukatski; but to-day
the youngest boy, if he has a little money, will begin to collect--and
what? Not objects of art, but its oddities, or in every case its
trifles. You see, my dear friend, it has seemed to me always that love
and amateurism are two different things; and I insist that a great
amateur of women, for example, is not a man capable of lofty feeling."

"Perhaps so. There is something in that," said Pan Stanislav.

"How can this concern me?" inquired Mashko, passing his fingers through
his English side whiskers. "It contains, to begin with, the decree of
an ancient pedagogue about modern times."

"Of a pedagogue?" repeated Vaskovski. "Why, since a morsel of bread
fell to me, as from heaven,[3] I renounced the slaughter of innocents
and the rôle of Herod; secondly, you are mistaken in saying that I
utter a decree. Almost with joy I see and note new proofs every hour
that we are at the end of an epoch, and that a new one will begin
shortly."

"We are in the open sea, and will not turn to shore soon," muttered
Mashko.

"Give us peace," said Pan Stanislav.

But the unconquered Vaskovski continued,--

"Amateurism leads to refinement; in refinement great ideals perish, and
yield to desire for enjoyment. All this is nothing but paganism. No one
can realize to what a degree we are paganized. But is there something?
There is the Aryan spirit, which does not ossify, which never grows
cold,--a spirit which has within it the divine afflatus, hence creative
power; and this spirit feels hampered in pagan fetters. The reaction
has set in already, and a rebirth in Christ will begin in this field,
as in others. That is undoubted."

Vaskovski, who had eyes like a child,--that is, reflecting only
external objects and ever fixed, as it were, on infinity,--fixed them
on the window, through which were visible gray clouds pierced here and
there by sun-rays.

"It is a pity that my head aches, for that will be a curious epoch,"
said Bukatski.

But Mashko, who called Vaskovski "a saw," and was annoyed by his
discussions, begun from any cause or without cause, took from the
side-pocket of his coat a cigar, bit off the end, and, turning to Pan
Stanislav, said,--

"Here, Stas, wouldst thou really sell that claim on Kremen?"

"Decidedly. Why dost thou ask?"

"Because I might consider it."

"Thou?"

"Yes. Thou knowest that I consider this kind of business frequently. We
can talk about it. I cannot say anything certain to-day; but to-morrow
I will ask thee to send me the mortgage on Kremen, and I will tell thee
whether the thing is possible. Perhaps after dinner to-morrow thou wilt
come to me to drink coffee; we may settle something then."

"Well. If anything is to be done, I should prefer it done quickly; for
the moment I finish with Bigiel, I wish to go abroad."

"Whither art thou going?" asked Bukatski.

"I do not know. It is too hot in the city. Somewhere to trees and
water."

"Another old prejudice," said Bukatski. "In the city there is always
shade on one side of the street, which there is not in the country. I
walk on the shady side quietly and feel well; therefore I never go out
of the city in summer."

"But Professor, art thou not going somewhere?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"Of course. Pani Emilia has been urging me to go to Reichenhall.
Perhaps I shall go."

"Then let us go together. It is all one to me where I go. I like
Salzburg, and, besides, it will be pleasant to see Pani Emilia and
Litka."

Bukatski stretched forth his transparent hand, took a tooth-pick from a
glass, and, picking his teeth, began to speak in his cool and careless
voice,--

"There is such a mad storm of jealousy raging within me that I am
ready to go with you. Have a care, Polanyetski, lest I explode, like
dynamite."

There was something so amusingly contradictory between the words and
the tone of Bukatski that Pan Stanislav laughed, but after a while he
answered,--

"It had not occurred to me that it is possible to fall in love with
Pani Emilia. Thank thee for the idea."

"Woe to you both!" said Bukatski.


FOOTNOTES:

  [3] He had received an inheritance some time before.



CHAPTER V.


Next day, after an early dinner at Bigiel's, Pan Stanislav betook
himself to Mashko's at the appointed hour. The host was waiting for
him evidently; for in the study he found an exquisite coffee service
ready, and glasses for liqueurs. Mashko himself did not appear at once,
however; for, as the servant said, he was receiving some lady. In fact,
his voice and the words of a woman came through the door from the
drawing-room.

Meanwhile, Pan Stanislav fell to examining Mashko's ancestors, a number
of whose portraits were hanging on the walls. The authenticity of these
the friends of the young advocate doubted. A certain cross-eyed prelate
afforded Bukatski a special subject for witticisms; but Mashko was not
offended. He had determined, cost what it might, to force on the world
himself, his ancestors, his genius for business, knowing that, in the
society in which he moved, people would ridicule him, but no one would
have energy to attack his pretensions. Possessing energy, limitless
insolence, and a real turn for business besides, he determined to
force himself upward by those qualities. People who did not like him
called him shameless; and he was, but with calculation. Coming from
a family uncertain even as to its nobility, he treated people of
undoubted ancient families as if he were of incomparably better birth
than they, people who were of undoubted wealth, as if he were wealthier
than they. And this succeeded: those tactics of his were effective.
He was careful not to fall into complete ridicule; but he had marked
out for himself in this procedure uncommonly wide margins. At last he
reached the point which he sought: he was received everywhere, and had
established his credit firmly. Certain transactions brought him really
generous profits; but he did not hoard money. He judged that the time
for that had not come yet, and that he must invest more in the future,
with the intent that it would repay him in the way which he wanted.
He did not squander money, and was not over liberal, for he looked
on those as marks of a parvenu; but, when the need came, he showed
himself, to use his own phrase, "solidly munificent." He passed for
a very smooth man in business, and, above all, a man of his word. His
word rested on credit, it is true; but it kept him in a high position,
which in turn permitted him to make really important transactions. He
did not draw back before trifles. He possessed daring, and a certain
energy which excluded long hesitation; he had faith, too, in his own
fortune. Success strengthened that faith. He did not know, in fact, how
much property he had; but he handled large sums of money, and people
considered him wealthy.

Finally, Mashko's life motive was vanity, rather than greed. He wanted
to be rich, it is true; but, beyond all, he wanted to pass for a great
lord in English fashion. He went so far as to adapt his exterior
thereto, and was almost proud of his personal ugliness: it seemed to
him even aristocratic. There was, indeed, a certain something, which,
if not uncommon, was at least peculiar, in his pouting mouth, in his
broad nostrils, and the red freckles on his face. There was a certain
power and brutality, such as the English have sometimes, and that
expression was increased by his monocle. To wear this, he had to rear
his head somewhat; and when he passed his fingers through his light
side whiskers, he reared it still more.

Pan Stanislav could not endure the man at first, and concealed his
dislike even too slightly. Later on he became accustomed to him,
especially since Mashko treated him differently from others,--perhaps
through secret regard; perhaps because, wishing to gain in advance
a man so demanding, to act otherwise would be to expose himself to
an immediate account, disagreeable in the best case. At last, the
young men, by meeting often, grew used to each other's weaknesses,
and endured each other perfectly. On this occasion, for example,
when Mashko had conducted the lady to the door, he showed himself in
the study, set aside for the moment his greatness, and, greeting Pan
Stanislav, began to speak like an ordinary mortal, not like a great
lord or an Englishman.

"With women! with women! _c'est toujours une mer à boire_ (there is
always a sea to drink). I have invested their little capital, and I pay
them the interest most regularly. Not enough! They come at least once a
week to inquire if there has not been some earthquake."

"What wilt thou say to me?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"First of all, drink some coffee."

And, igniting the alcohol under the lamp, he added,--

"With thee there will be no delay. I have seen the mortgage. The money
is not easy of recovery; but we need not look on it as lost. Evidently
the collection will involve costs, journeys, etc. Hence I cannot
give thee what the face of the mortgage indicates; but I will give
two-thirds, and pay in three instalments in the course of a year."

"Since I have said to myself that I would sell the claim, even for less
than the face of it, I agree. When will the first instalment be paid?"

"In three months."

"Then I will leave my power of attorney with Bigiel in case I must go
on a journey."

"But art thou going to Reichenhall?"

"Possibly."

"Ai! Who knows but Bukatski has given thee an idea?"

"Every one has his own thoughts. Thou, for example. Why art thou buying
this claim on Kremen? The business is too small for thee, is it not?"

"Among great affairs small ones too are transacted. But I will be
outspoken. Thou knowest that neither my position nor my credit belongs
to the lowest; both one and the other will increase when I have behind
me a piece of land, and that such a large one. I have heard myself
from Plavitski that he would sell Kremen. I will suppose that he is
still more inclined now, and that it will be possible to acquire all
that property cheaply, even very cheaply, for some payments, for some
unimportant ready money, with a life annuity in addition; I shall
see! Afterward, when it is put in order a little, like a horse for
the market, it may be sold; meanwhile I shall have the position of a
landholder, which, _entre nous_, concerns me very greatly."

Pan Stanislav listened to Mashko's words with a certain constraint, and
said,--

"I must tell thee plainly that the purchase will not be easy. Panna
Plavitski is very much opposed to selling. She, in woman fashion, is in
love with her Kremen, and will do all she can to retain it in the hands
of herself and her father."

"Then in the worst case I shall be Plavitski's creditor, and I do
not think that the money will be lost to me. First, I may sell it,
as thou hast; second, as an advocate, I can dispose of it with far
greater ease. I may myself find means of paying, and indicate them to
Plavitski."

"Thou canst foreclose too, and buy it at auction."

"I might if I were some one else, but to foreclose would be devilishly
unbecoming in Mashko. No; other means will be found, to which ready
consent may be given by Panna Plavitski herself, for whom, by the way,
I have great esteem and regard."

Pan Stanislav, who at that moment was finishing his coffee, put his cup
suddenly on the table. "Ah," said he, "and it is possible in that way
to get at the property." Again a feeling of great anger and bitterness
seized him. At the first moment he wished to rise, say to Mashko, "I
will not sell the claim!" and go out. He restrained himself, however,
and Mashko, passing his fingers through his side whiskers, answered,--

"But if?--I can assure thee, on my word, that at this moment I have
no such plan; at least I have not placed it before myself definitely.
But if?--I made the acquaintance of Panna Plavitski once in Warsaw, in
the winter, and she pleased me much. The family is good, the property
ruined, but large, and can be saved. Who knows? Well, that is an idea
like any other. I am perfectly loyal with thee, as, for that matter, I
have been always. Thou didst go there as if for money, but I knew why
those ladies sent thee. Thou hast returned, however, as angry as the
devil; therefore I take it that thou hast no intentions. Say that I
am mistaken, and I will withdraw at once, not from the plan, for, as
I have assured thee, I have no plan yet, but even from thinking over
it as something possible. I give thee my word on that. In the opposite
case, however, do not hold to the position, 'Not for me, not for any
one,' and do not bar the lady's way. But now I listen to thee."

Pan Stanislav, recalling his reasonings of yesterday, thought also that
Mashko was right when he said that in such a case he ought not to bar
any one's road to the lady, and after a certain time he said,--

"No, Mashko, I have no intentions touching Panna Plavitski. Thou art
free to marry her or not. I will say, nevertheless, openly, there is
one thing which does not please me, though for me it is profitable;
namely that thou art buying this claim. I believe that thou hast no
plan yet; but in case thou shouldst have one, it will seem somewhat
strange--But any pressure, any trap--this, however, is thy affair."

"It is so much my affair that if some one else, and not thou, had said
this, I should have been quick to remind him. I may tell thee, however,
that should I form such a plan, which I doubt, I shall not ask the hand
of Panna Plavitski as interest for my money. Since I can say to myself
conscientiously that I would buy the debt in any case, I have the right
to buy it. Above all, as matters stand to-day, I wish to buy Kremen,
for I need it; hence I am free to use all honorable means which may
lead to that end."

"Very well; I will sell. Give directions to write the contract, and
send it, or bring it thyself to me."

"I have directed my assistant. It is ready, and needs only the
signatures."

In fact, the contract was signed a quarter of an hour later. Pan
Stanislav, who spent the evening of that day at Bigiel's, was in such
anger as he had never been before; Pani Bigiel could not hide her
vexation; and Bigiel, thinking the whole over carefully said, toward
the end of the evening, with his usual balance and deliberation,--

"That Mashko has a plan is beyond doubt. The question is merely whether
he is deceiving thee by saying that he has no plan, or is deceiving
himself!"

"God preserve her from Mashko!" answered Pani Bigiel. "We all saw that
she pleased him greatly."

"I supposed," said Bigiel, "that a man like Mashko would look for
property, but I may be mistaken. It may be also that he wants to find
a wife of good stock, strengthen thereby his social position, become
related to numerous families, and at last take into his hands the
business of a certain whole sphere of society. That also is not badly
calculated, especially since, if he uses his credit, which will be
increased by Kremen, it may with his cleverness clear him in time."

"And as you say," remarked Pan Stanislav, "Panna Plavitski pleases
him really. I remember now that Plavitski said something too on this
subject."

"What then?" asked Pani Bigiel; "what will happen then?"

"Panna Plavitski will marry Pan Mashko if she wishes," said Pan
Stanislav.

"But you?"

"Oh I am going to Reichenhall straightway."



CHAPTER VI.


In fact, Pan Stanislav went a week later to Reichenhall; but before
that he received a letter from Pani Emilia inquiring about his journey
to Kremen. He did not write in return, for he intended to answer the
letter orally. He heard too, but only on the eve of his departure,
that Mashko had gone to Kremen the day before; and that news touched
him more than he thought it would. He said to himself, it is true,
that he would forget the affair when no farther away than Vienna; but
he could not forget it, and he had his head so occupied with thinking
whether Panna Plavitski would marry Mashko or not, that he wrote to
Bigiel from Salzburg, as it were on business, but really asking him to
send news of Mashko. He listened without attention to the discussions
of his travelling companion, Vaskovski, about the mutual relations of
nationalities in Austria, and the mission of modern nations in general.
More than once he was so occupied with thinking about Marynia that he
simply did not answer questions. It astonished him, too, that at times
he saw her as clearly as if she had been standing before him, not
only as an exact image, but as a living person. He saw her pleasant,
mild face, with shapely mouth, and the little ensign on the upper
lip; the calm gaze of her eyes, in which were visible the attention
and concentration with which she listened to his words; he saw her
whole posture, lithe, supple, from which came the warmth of great and
genuine maiden youthfulness. He remembered her bright robe, the tips of
her feet, peeping from under it, her hands, delicate, though slightly
sunburnt, and her dark hair, moved by the breeze in the garden. He
had never thought that there could be a memory almost palpable, and
that the memory of a person seen during such a brief time. But he
understood this to be a proof of how deep an impression she had, in
truth, made on him; and when at moments it passed through his head
that all this, which had fixed itself thus in his memory, might be
possessed by Mashko, he could hardly believe it. In those moments his
first feeling, which was, moreover, in accord with his active nature,
was an irresistible impulse to hinder it. He had to remember then that
the affair was decided already, and that he had resolved to drop Panna
Plavitski.

He and Vaskovski reached Reichenhall early in the morning; and that
very day, before they had learned the address of Pani Emilia, they
met her and Litka in the park. She had not expected to see either,
especially Pan Stanislav, and was sincerely delighted when she met
them; her delight was darkened only by this, that Litka, a child
exceptionally sensitive, and ailing with asthma and heart-disease, was
still more delighted, so much delighted, indeed, that she had a violent
palpitation of the heart, with stifling and almost a swoon.

Such attacks were frequent with her; and, when this one passed,
calmness came back to all faces. On the way to the house, the child
held "Pan Stas" by the hand, and in her eyes, usually pensive, there
shone deep delight. From time to time she pressed his hand, as if to
convince herself that he had come really to Reichenhall and was near
her. Pan Stanislav had simply no time to speak to Pani Emilia, or to
make an inquiry, for Litka was showing him Reichenhall, and chattering
unceasingly; she wanted to show him all the nice places at once. Every
moment she said,--

"This is nothing yet. Thumsee is prettier; but we will go there
to-morrow."

Then turning to her mother, "Mamma will let me go, isn't it true? I can
walk much now. It is not far. Mamma will let me go, will she not?"

At moments again she pushed away from Pan Stanislav, and, without
dropping his hand, looked at him with her great eyes, repeating,--

"Pan Stas, Pan Stas!"

Pan Stanislav showed her the greatest tenderness, or tenderness as
great as an elder brother might show; time after time he chided her
good-naturedly,--

"Let the kitten not run so; she will choke."

And she nestled up to him, pouted, and answered, as if in anger,--

"Hush, Pan Stas!"

Pan Stanislav glanced, however, frequently at the serene face of Pani
Emilia, as if desiring to let her know that he wished to converse with
her. But there was no opportunity, since she did not like to destroy
Litka's joyousness, and preferred to leave their mutual friend in her
possession exclusively. Only after dinner, which they ate in the garden
together, amid foliage and the twittering of sparrows, when Vaskovski
had begun to tell Litka about birds, and the love which Saint Francis
Assisi had felt for them, and the child, with her head on her hand, was
lost completely in listening, did Pan Stanislav turn to Pani Emilia and
ask,--

"Do you not wish to walk to the end of the garden?"

"I do," answered she. "Litka, stay here a minute with Pan Vaskovski; we
will come back in that time."

They walked along, and Pani Emilia asked immediately,--

"Well, what?"

Pan Stanislav began to tell; but whether it was that he wished to
appear better before Pani Emilia, or that he determined to reckon with
that delicate nature, or, finally, that the last thoughts concerning
Marynia had attuned him to a note more sensitive than usual, it is
sufficient that he changed the affair altogether. He confessed, it is
true, to a quarrel with Plavitski, but he was silent touching this,
that before his departure from Kremen he had answered Marynia almost
with harshness; besides, he did not spare praises on her in his story,
and finally he finished,--

"Since that debt became a cause of misunderstanding at once between me
and Plavitski,--a thing which must be reflected on Panna Marynia,--I
chose to sell it; and just before I left Warsaw, I sold it to Mashko."

Pani Emilia, who had not the slightest conception of business, and,
besides, was of a simplicity truly angelic, remarked,--

"You did well. There should be no such thing as money between you."

Ashamed to deceive such a simple soul, he answered,--

"True! Or rather the contrary, I think I did badly. Bigiel, too, is of
the opinion that it was not well. Mashko may press them; he may put
various demands before them; he may offer Kremen for sale. No, that was
not a delicate act, nor one to bring us nearer; and I should not have
committed it, were it not that I came to the conviction that it was
necessary to drive all that out of my head."

"But no; do not say so. I believe that there is predestination in
everything; and I believe, too, that Providence designed you for each
other."

"I do not understand that. If that be true, then I need not do
anything, for in every case I must marry Panna Plavitski."

"I have a woman's head, and say stupid things, perhaps; but it seems
to me that Providence wills and arranges everything for the best, but
leaves people freedom. Frequently they do not wish to follow that which
is predestined, and this is why so many are unhappy."

"Maybe. It is difficult, however, to follow anything but one's own
convictions. Reason is like a lantern, which God puts in our hands. Who
will assure me meanwhile that Panna Marynia will marry me?"

"I ought to have news from her of your visit to Kremen, and I wonder
that so far I have none. I think that a letter will come to-morrow at
latest, for we write every week to each other. Does she know of your
departure for Reichenhall?"

"She does not. I did not know myself when in Kremen where I should go."

"That is well; for she will be outspoken, though she would be so in any
case."

The first day's conversation ended here. In the evening it was decided
at Litka's request to walk to Thumsee, and go in the morning so as
to dine at the lake, return in a carriage, or on foot, if Litka was
not tired and they could return before sunset. The two men presented
themselves at the lady's villa before nine in the morning. Pani Emilia
and Litka were dressed and waiting on the veranda; both were so like
visions that Vaskovski, the old pedagogue, was astonished at sight of
them.

"The Lord God makes perfect flowers of people sometimes," said he,
pointing at mother and daughter from a distance.

Indeed, Pani Emilia and Litka were admired by all Reichenhall. The
first, with her spiritualized, angelic face, appeared the incarnation
of love, motherly tenderness, and exaltation; the other, with her
great pensive eyes, yellow hair, and features that were almost too
delicate, seemed rather the idea of an artist than a living little
girl. Bukatski, the decadent, said that she was formed of mist made
just a trifle rosy by light. Indeed, there was something in the little
maiden, as it were, not of earth, which impression was heightened by
her illness and exceeding sensitiveness. Her mother loved her blindly;
those who surrounded her loved her also; but attention did not spoil
this child, exceptionally sweet by nature.

Pan Stanislav, who visited Pani Emilia in Warsaw a number of times
every week, was sincerely attached to both mother and daughter. In a
city where woman's reputation is less respected than anywhere else in
the world, scandal was created by this, without the least cause, of
course; for Pani Emilia was as pure as an infant, and simply carried
her exalted head in the sky as if she knew not that evil existed. She
was even so pure that she did not understand the necessity of paying
attention to appearances. She received gladly those whom Litka loved;
but she refused a number of good offers of marriage, declaring that
she needed nothing on earth except Litka. Bukatski alone insisted that
Pani Emilia acted on his nerves. Pan Stanislav adapted himself to
those azure heights surrounding that crystal woman, so that he never
approached her with a thought dimmed by temptation.

Now he answered with simplicity Vaskovski's remark,--

"In truth, they both seem marvellous."

And, greeting them, he repeated more or less the same thing to
Pani Emilia, as something that in the given case had attracted his
attention. She smiled with pleasure,--likely because the praise
included Litka,--and, gathering up her skirt for the road, she said,--

"I received a letter to-day, and have brought it to you."

"May I read it right away?"

"You may; I beg you to do so."

They set out by the forest road for Thumsee--Pani Emilia, Vaskovski,
and Litka in advance, Pan Stanislav a little behind them, his head bent
over the letter, which was as follows:--

     MY DEAR EMILKA,--To-day I have received thy litany of
     questions, and will answer at once, for I am in haste to share my
     thoughts with thee. Pan Stanislav Polanyetski went from here on
     Monday; hence, two days ago. The first evening I received him as I
     receive every one, and nothing whatever came to my head; but the
     next day was Sunday. I had time to spare; and almost the entire
     afternoon we were not only together, but alone, for papa went
     to the Yamishes. What shall I say? Such a sympathetic, sincere,
     and, at the same time, honest man! From what he said of Litka
     and of thee, I saw at once that he has a good heart. We walked
     a long time by the pond in the garden. I bound up his hand, for
     he cut himself with the boat. He spoke so wisely that I forgot
     myself in listening to his words. Ah, my Emilka, I am ashamed to
     confess it, but my poor head was turned a little by that evening.
     Thou knowest, moreover, how alone I am and overworked, and how
     rarely I see men like him. It seemed to me that a guest had come
     from another world, and a better one. He not only pleased, but
     captivated me with his heartiness, so that I could not sleep, and
     was thinking all the time of him. It is true that in the morning
     he quarrelled with papa, and even I received a little; though God
     sees how much I would give that there might be no question of
     that kind between us. At the first moment it touched me greatly;
     and if that ugly man had known how much I cried in my chamber, he
     would have pitied me. But, afterward, I thought that he must be
     very sensitive; that papa was not right; and I am not angry now.
     I will say, also, in thy ear, that a certain voice whispers to
     me continually that he will not sell to any one the claim which
     he has on Kremen, if only to be able to come here again. That he
     parted in such anger with papa is nothing. Papa himself does not
     take it to heart; for those are his ways, not his convictions
     or feelings. Pan Stanislav has in me a true friend, who, after
     the sale of Magyerovka, will do everything to end all causes of
     misunderstanding, and in general all those nasty money questions.
     He will have to come then, even to take what belongs to him,--is
     it not true? It may be also that I please him a little. That a man
     as quick as he is should say something bitter gives no cause for
     wonder. Speak not of this when thou seest him, and do not scold
     him; God keep thee from that. I know not why I feel a certain
     confidence that he will do no injustice to me, or papa, or my
     beloved Kremen; and I think it would be well in the world if all
     were like him.

     My dear, I embrace thee and Litka most heartily. Write to me of
     her health minutely, and love me as I do thee.

When he had finished reading, Pan Stanislav put the letter in the
side-pocket of his coat, which he buttoned. Then he pushed his hat down
to the back of his head, and felt a certain intense desire to break his
cane into small bits and throw them into the river: he did not do this,
however; he only began to mutter, while gritting his teeth,--

"Yes; very well. Thou knowest Polanyetski! Be confident that he will
not injure thee! Thou wilt come out in safety."

Then he addressed himself as follows,--

"Thou hast thy deserts; for she is an angel, and thou art not worthy of
her." And again a desire seized him to break his cane into bits. Now he
saw clearly that the soul of that maiden had been ready to give itself
with all faith and trust to him; and he prepared for her one of those
painful and wounding disillusions, the memory of which, fixed once and
forever, pains eternally. To sell the claim was nothing; but to sell
it to a man wishing to buy it with the intention which Mashko had,
was to say to the woman, "I do not want thee; marry him, if it please
thee." What a bitter disillusion for her, after all that he had said to
her on that Sunday,--after those words friendly, open, and at the same
time intended to enter her heart! They were chosen for that purpose,
and he felt that she had taken them in that sense. He might repeat as
often as he pleased that they bound him to nothing; that in the first
meeting and in the first conversation which a man has with a woman, he
merely pushes out horns, like a snail, and tries the ground to which he
has come. That would be no consolation to him now. Besides, he was not
merely not in humor for self-justification, but wished rather to give
himself a slap on the face. He saw for the first time so definitely
that he might have received Marynia's heart and hand; and the more real
that possibility was to him, the more the loss seemed irreparable.
Moreover, from the moment of reading that letter, a new change appeared
in him. His own reasoning that now he ought to let Marynia go, seemed
pitiful and paltry. With all his faults, Pan Stanislav had a grateful
heart; and that letter moved him to a high degree, by the kindness and
understanding, by the readiness to love, which were revealed in it.
Hence the remembrance of Marynia became rosy in his heart and mind all
at once,--became rosy even with such power that he thought,--

"As God is in heaven, I shall fall in love with her now!" And such a
tenderness seized him that in presence of it even anger at himself had
to yield. He joined the company after a while, and, pushing forward a
little with Pani Emilia, said,--

"Give me this letter."

"With the greatest pleasure. Such an honest letter, is it not? And you
did not confess to me that she suffered somewhat at parting; but I will
not reprove, since she herself takes you under her protection."

"If it would help, I would beg you to beat me; but there is nothing to
be said, for those are things incurable."

Pani Emilia did not share this opinion; on the contrary, seeing Pan
Stanislav's emotion, she felt sure that an affair in which both
sides had such vivid feelings was in the best state and must end
satisfactorily. At that very thought her sweet face became radiant.

"We shall see after some months," said she.

"You do not even divine what we may see," said Pan Stanislav, thinking
of Mashko.

"Remember," continued Pani Emilia, "that he who once wins Marynia's
heart will never be disappointed."

"I am certain of that," answered he, gloomily; "but also such hearts,
when once wounded, do not return again."

They could not speak further, for Litka and Pan Vaskovski caught up
with them. After a while the little girl took Pan Stanislav, as usual,
for her own exclusive property. The forest, sunk in the mild morning
light of a fair day, occupied her uncommonly; she began to inquire
about various trees; every little while she cried out with pleasure,--

"Mushrooms!"

But he answered mechanically, thinking of something else,--

"Mushrooms, kitten, mushrooms."

At last the road descended, and they beheld Thumsee under their
feet. In the course of half an hour they came down to a beaten path,
stretching along the shore, on which were visible here and there wooden
foot-piers, extending a few yards into the lake. Litka wished to look
from near by at big fish which were visible in the clear water. Pan
Stanislav, taking her by the hand, led her out on to one of the piers.

The fish, accustomed to crumbs thrown by visitors, instead of fleeing,
approached still nearer, and soon a whole circle surrounded Litka's
feet. In the blue water were visible the golden-brown backs of the
carp, and the gray spotted scales of the salmon trout, while the round
eyes of these creatures were fixed on the little girl as if with an
expression of entreaty.

"Coming back, we will bring lots of bread," said Litka. "How strangely
they look at us! What are they thinking of?"

"They are thinking very slowly," said Pan Stanislav; "and only after an
hour or two will they say: 'Ah! here is some little girl with yellow
hair and rosy dress and black stockings.'"

"And what will they think of Pan Stas?"

"They will think that I am some gypsy, for I have not yellow hair."

"No. Gypsies have no houses."

"And I have no house, Litka. I had the chance of one, but I sold it."

He uttered this last phrase in a certain unusual manner, and in
general there was sadness in his voice. The little girl looked at him
carefully; and all at once her sensitive face reflected his sadness,
just as that water reflected her form. When they joined the rest of the
company, from time to time she raised her sad eyes with an inquiring
and disturbed expression. At last, pressing more firmly his hand, which
she held, she asked,--

"What troubles Pan Stas?"

"Nothing, little child; I am looking around at the lake, and that is
why I do not talk."

"I was pleasing myself yesterday, thinking to show Pan Stas Thumsee."

"Though there are no rocks here, it is very beautiful But what house is
that on the other side?"

"We will take dinner there."

Pani Emilia was talking merrily with Vaskovski, who, carrying his hat
in his hand, and seeking in his pockets for a handkerchief to wipe his
bald head, gave his opinions about Bukatski,--

"He is an Aryan," concluded he; "and therefore in continual unrest,
he is seeking peace. He is buying pictures and engravings at present,
thinking that thus he will fill a void. But what do I see? This, those
children of the century bear in their souls an abyss like this lake,
for example; besides, the abyss in them is bottomless, and they think
to fill it with pictures, strong waters, amateurship, dilettantism,
Baudelaire, Ibsen, Maeterlinck, finally dilettante science. Poor birds,
they are beating their heads against the sides of their cages! It is
just I tried to fill this lake by throwing in a pebble."

"And what can fill life?"

"Every sincere idea, all great feelings, but only on condition that
they begin in Christ. Had Bukatski loved art in the Christian way, it
would have given him the peace which he is forced to seek."

"Have you told him that?"

"Yes, that and many other things. I urge him and Pan Stanislav always
to read the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. They are not willing to do
so, and laugh at me. Yet he was the greatest man and the greatest saint
of the Middle Ages,--a saint who renewed the world. If such a man were
to come now, a renewal in Christ would follow, still more sincerely and
with greater completeness."

Midday approached, and with it heat. The forest began to have the odor
of resin; the lake became perfectly smooth in the calm air full of
glitter, and, while reflecting the spotless blue of the sky, seemed to
slumber.

At last they reached the house and the garden, in which them was a
restaurant, and sat under a beech-tree at a table already laid. Pan
Stanislav called a waiter in a soiled coat, ordered dinner, then
looked about silently at the lake and the mountains around it. A
couple of yards from the table grew a whole bunch of iris, moistened
by a fountain fixed among stones. Pani Emilia, looking at the flowers,
said,--

"When I am at a lake and see irises, I think that I am in Italy."

"For nowhere else are there so many lakes or so many irises," answered
Pan Stanislav.

"Or so much delight for every man," added Vaskovski. "For many years I
go there in the autumn to find a refuge for the last days. I hesitated
long between Perugia and Assisi, but last year Rome gained the day.
Rome seems the anteroom to another life, in which anteroom light from
the next world is visible already. I will go there in October."

"I envy you sincerely," said Pani Emilia.

"Litka is twelve years old," began Vaskovski.

"And three months," interrupted Litka.

"And three months: therefore for her age she is very small and a great
little giddy-head; it is time to show her various things in Rome,"
continued Vaskovski. "Nothing is so remembered as that which is seen in
childhood. And though childhood does not feel many things completely,
nor understand them, that comes later, and comes very agreeably, for it
is as if some one were to illuminate on a sudden impressions sunk in
shadow. Come with me to Italy in October."

"In October I cannot; I have my woman's reasons, which detain me in
Warsaw."

"What are they?"

Pani Emilia began to laugh.

"The first and most important, but purely womanly, reason, is to marry
that gentleman sitting there so gloomy," said she, pointing to Pan
Stanislav, "but really so much in love."

He woke from thoughtfulness, and waved his hand. But Vaskovski inquired
with his usual naïveté of a child,--

"Always with Marynia Plavitski?"

"Yes," replied Pani Emilia. "He has been in Kremen, and it would be
vain for him to deny that she took his heart greatly."

"I cannot deny," answered Pan Stanislav.

But further conversation was interrupted in an unpleasant manner, for
Litka grew weak on a sudden. In a moment she was choking, and had one
of her attacks of palpitation of the heart, which alarmed even doctors.
The mother seized her at once in her arms; Pan Stanislav ran to the
restaurant for ice; Vaskovski began to draw the garden bench with
effort toward the table, so that she might stretch on it and breathe
with more freedom.

"Thou art wearied, my child, art thou not?" asked Pani Emilia, with
pale lips. "See, my love, it was too far--Still the doctor permitted.
So anxious! But this is nothing; it will pass, it will pass! My
treasure, my love!" And she began to kiss the damp face of the little
girl.

Meanwhile Pan Stanislav came with ice, and after him the mistress of
the place hurried out with a pillow in her hand. They laid the little
girl on the bench, and while Pani Emilia was wrapping the ice in a
napkin, Pan Stanislav bent over the child and asked,--

"How art thou, kitten?"

"I was only choking a little; but I am better," answered she, opening
her mouth, like a fish to catch breath.

She was not much better, however, for even through her dress one could
see how violently the little sick heart was beating in her breast. But
under the influence of ice, the attack decreased gradually, and at last
ceased altogether, leaving behind only weariness. Litka began again
to smile at her mother, who also recovered from her alarm somewhat.
It was needful to strengthen the child before they returned home. Pan
Stanislav ordered dinner, which was scarcely touched by any one except
Litka, for all looked at her from moment to moment with secret fear
lest the choking might seize her a second time. An hour passed in this
way. Guests began now to enter the restaurant. Pani Emilia wished to
go home, but she had to wait for the carriage, which Pan Stanislav had
sent for to Reichenhall.

The carriage came at last, but new alarm was in wait for them. On
the road, though they moved at a walk and the road was very smooth,
even light jolting troubled Litka, so that when they were just near
Reichenhall, a choking attacked her again. She begged permission to
get out of the carriage; but it appeared that walking wearied her. Then
Pani Emilia decided to carry the child. But Pan Stanislav, anticipating
that motherly devotion, which moreover was not at all in proportion to
the woman's strength, said,--

"Come, Litus, I will carry thee. If not, mamma will weary herself and
be sick."

And without asking further, he lifted her lightly from the ground,
and carried her with perfect ease on one arm only; to assure both her
and Pani Emilia that it did not trouble him in the least, he said
playfully,--

"When such a kitten is walking on the ground, she seems not at all
heavy; but now, see where those great feet are hanging. Hold on by my
neck; thou wilt be steadier."

And he went on, as firmly as he could, and quickly, for he wished the
doctor to attend her as soon as possible; as he went, he felt her heart
beating against his shoulder, and she, while grasping him with her
thin, meagre arms, repeated,--

"Let me down; I cannot--Let me down!"

But he said,--

"I will not. Thou seest how bad it is to be tired out from walking. In
future we will take a big easy armchair on wheels; and when the child
is wearied, we will seat her in it, and I will push her."

"No, no!" said Litka, with tears in her voice.

He carried her with the tenderness of an elder brother or a father; and
his heart was overflowing: first, because really he loved that little
maid; and second, because this came to his head of which he had never
thought before,--or, at least, had never felt clearly,--that marriage
opens the way to fatherhood and to all its treasures of happiness.
While carrying that little girl, who was dear to him, though a
stranger, he understood that God had created him for a family; not only
to be a husband, but a father; also that the main object and meaning of
life were found specially in the family. And all his thoughts flew to
Marynia. He felt now with redoubled force that of women whom he had met
so far he would have chosen her for a wife before all, and would wish
her to be the mother of his children.



CHAPTER VII.


During some days that succeeded the choking, Litka was not ill, but
she felt weak; she went out, however, to walk, because the doctor not
only ordered her to go, but recommended very urgently moderate exercise
up hill. Vaskovski went to the doctor to learn the condition of her
health. Pan Stanislav awaited the old man's return in the reading-room,
and knew at once from his face that he was not a bearer of good tidings.

"The doctor sees no immediate danger," said Vaskovski; "but he condemns
the child to an early death, and in general gives directions to watch
over her, for it is impossible, he says, to foresee the day or the
hour."

"What a misfortune, what a blow!" said Pan Stanislav, covering his eyes
with his hand. "Her mother will not be able to survive her. One is
unwilling to believe in the death of such a child."

Vaskovski had tears in his eyes. "I asked whether she must suffer
greatly. 'Not necessarily,' said the doctor; 'she may die as easily as
if falling asleep.'"

"Did he tell the mother anything about her condition?"

"He did not. He said, it is true, that there was a defect of the heart;
but he added that with children such things often disappear without a
trace. He has no hope himself."

Pan Stanislav did not yield to misfortune easily.

"What is one doctor!" said he. "We must struggle to save the child
while there is a spark of hope. The doctor may be mistaken. We must
take her to a specialist at Monachium, or bring him here. That will
alarm Pani Emilia, but it is difficult to avoid it. Wait; we can avoid
it. I will bring him, and that immediately. We will tell Pani Emilia
that such and such a celebrated doctor has come here to see some one,
and that there is a chance of taking counsel concerning Litka. We must
not leave the child without aid. We need merely to write to him, so
that he may know how to talk to the mother."

"But to whom will you write?"

"To whom? Do I know? The local doctor here will indicate a specialist.
Let us go to him at once, and lose no time."

The matter was arranged that very day. In the evening the two men went
to Pani Emilia. Litka was well, but silent and gloomy. She smiled,
it is true, at her mother and her friend; she showed gratitude for
the tenderness with which they surrounded her; but Pan Stanislav had
not power to amuse her. Having his head filled with thoughts of the
danger which threatened the child, he considered her gloom a sign of
increasing sickness and an early premonition of near death, and with
terror he said in his soul that she was not such as she had been; it
seemed as if certain threads binding her to life had been broken. His
fear increased still more when Pani Emilia said,--

"Litka feels well, but do you know what she begged of me to-day? To go
back to Warsaw."

Pan Stanislav with an effort of will put down his alarm, and, turning
to the little one, said while feigning joyfulness,--

"Ah, thou good-for-nothing! Art thou not sorry for Thumsee?"

The little maid shook her yellow hair.

"No!" answered she, after a time, and in her eyes tears appeared; but
she covered these quickly with her lids, lest some one might see them.

"What is the matter with her?" thought Pan Stanislav.

A very simple thing was the matter. In Thumsee she had learned that her
friend, her "Pan Stas," her dearest comrade, was to be taken from her.
She had heard that he loved Marynia Plavitski; until then she had felt
sure that he loved only her and mamma. She had heard that mamma wanted
him to marry Marynia; but up to that time she, Litka, had looked on him
as her own exclusive property. Without knowing clearly what threatened
her, she felt that this "Pan Stas" would go, and that a wrong would
be done her, the first which she had experienced in life. She would
have suffered less if some one else had inflicted the wrong; but,
just think, her mamma and "Pan Stas" were wronging her! That seemed a
vicious circle out of which the child knew not how to escape and could
not. How could she complain to them of what they were doing! Evidently
they wanted this, wished it; it was necessary for them, and they
would be happy if it happened. Mamma said that "Pan Stas" loved Panna
Marynia, and he did not deny; therefore Litka must yield, must swallow
her tears, and be silent in presence of her mamma even.

And she hid in herself her first disappointment in life. Yes, she had
to yield; but because grief is a bad medicine for a heart sick already,
this yielding might be more thoroughly and terribly tragic than any one
around her could imagine.

The specialist came two days later from Monachium, and remaining two
days, confirmed fully the opinion of the doctor in Thumsee. He set Pani
Emilia at rest, though he told Pan Stanislav that the life of the child
might continue months and years, but would be always as if hanging on
a thread which might break from any cause. He gave directions to spare
the little girl every emotion, as well joyous as sad, and to watch over
her with the greatest alertness.

They surrounded her therefore with care and attention. They spared her
even the slightest emotion, but they did not spare her the greatest,
which was caused by Marynia's letters. The echo of the one which came a
week later struck her ears, which were listening then diligently. True,
it might dispel her fears touching "Pan Stas," but it was a great shock
to her. Pani Emilia had hesitated all day about showing Pan Stanislav
that letter. He had been asking daily for news from Kremen; she had
to lie simply to conceal the arrival of the letter. Finally, she felt
bound to tell the truth, so that he might know the difficulties which
he had to encounter.

The next evening after receiving the letter, when she had put Litka to
sleep, she began conversation herself on this subject.

"Marynia has taken it greatly to heart that you sold the claim on
Kremen."

"Then you have received a letter?"

"I have."

"Can you show it to me?"

"No; I can only read you extracts from it. Marynia is crushed."

"Does she know that I am here?"

"It must be that she has not received my letter yet; but it astonishes
me that Pan Mashko, who is in Kremen, has not mentioned it to her."

"Mashko went to Kremen before I left Warsaw; and he was not sure that
I would come here, especially as I told him that doubtless I should
change my plan."

Pani Emilia went to her bureau for the package of letters. Returning to
the table, she trimmed the lamp, and, sitting opposite Pan Stanislav,
took the letter from the envelope.

"You see," said she, "that for Marynia it is not a question of the sale
alone. You know that her head was a little imaginative, therefore this
sale had for her another meaning. A great disenchantment has met her
indeed!"

"I should not confess to any other person," said Pan Stanislav, "but I
will to you. I have committed one of the greatest follies of my life,
but I have never been so punished."

Pani Emilia raised her pale blue eyes to him with sympathy.

"Poor man, are you so captivated, then, by Marynia? I do not ask
through curiosity, but friendship, for I should like to mend
everything, but wish to be certain."

"Do you know what conquered me?" broke in Pan Stanislav,
excitedly,--"that first letter. In Kremen she pleased me; I began to
think about her. I said to myself that she would be more agreeable and
better than others. She is such precisely as I have been seeking. But
what next? Long before, I had said to myself that I would not be a
soft man, and yield what belongs to me. You understand that when a man
makes a principle of anything, he holds to it even for pride's sake.
Besides, in each one of us there are, as it were, two distinct persons;
the second of these criticises whatever is done by the first one. This
second man began to say to me: 'Drop this affair; you cannot live
with the father.' In truth, he is unendurable. I resolved to drop the
affair. I got rid of the claim. That is how it happened. Only later did
I find that I could not dismiss the thought of Panna Plavitski; I had
always this same impression: 'She is such as thou art seeking.' I saw
that I had committed a folly, and was sorry. When that letter came, and
I convinced myself that on her side there was a feeling that she could
love me and be mine, I loved her. And I give you my word that either
I am losing my head, or this is true. It is nothing while a man is
fancying something; but when he sees that there were open arms before
him, what a difference! That letter conquered me; I cannot help myself."

"I prefer not to read you all this letter," said Pani Emilia, after a
while. "Naturally she writes that the brief dream ended by an awakening
more sudden than she had looked for. She writes that Pan Mashko is very
considerate in money questions, though he wishes them to turn to his
profit."

"She will marry him, as God is in heaven!"

"You do not know her. But of Kremen she writes: 'Papa has a wish to
dispose of his property, and settle in Warsaw. Thou knowest how I love
Kremen, how I grew up with it; but in view of what has happened, I
doubt whether my work can be of service. I shall make one more struggle
to defend the dear bit of land. Still papa says that his conscience
will not let him imprison me in the country, and this is all the more
bitter, since it is as if I were the question. Indeed, life seems at
times to be touching on irony. Pan Mashko offers papa three thousand
life annuity, and the whole amount for the parcelling of Magyerovka. I
do not wonder that he seeks his own profit, but through such a bargain
he would get the property for almost nothing. Papa himself said to
him, "In this way, if I live one year I shall get from Kremen three
thousand, for Magyerovka is mine anyhow." Pan Mashko answered that
in the present state of affairs the creditors would take the money
for Magyerovka; but if papa agrees to the conditions proposed he will
receive ready money and may live thirty years, perhaps longer. Which is
true also. I know that this project pleases papa in principle; the only
question with him is to get as much as he can. In all this there is one
consolation,--that if we live in Warsaw, I shall see thee, dear Emilia,
and Litka oftener. Sincerely and from my whole soul do I love you both,
and know that on your hearts at least I can count always.'"

"So then I deprived her of Kremen, but sent her a suitor," said Pan
Stanislav, after a moment of silence.

While saying this, he did not know that Marynia had put almost the same
words into the letter. Pani Emilia had omitted them purposely, not
wishing to wound him.

During the last visit of the Plavitskis in Warsaw, Mashko had made
some advances for the hand of Marynia; she had no need, therefore, of
great keenness to divine his reason for buying the claim and coming to
Kremen. Just in this was the bitterness that filled her heart, and the
deep offence which she felt that Polanyetski had inflicted on her.

"It is absolutely needful to explain all this," said Pani Emilia.

"I have sent her a suitor!" repeated Pan Stanislav. "I cannot even make
the excuse that I did not know of Mashko's designs."

Pani Emilia turned Marynia's letter in her delicate fingers some time,
and then said suddenly,--

"It cannot rest this way. I wanted to unite you with her because of my
friendship for both of you, but now there is a motive the more; to wit,
your suffering. It would be a reproach for me to leave you as you are,
and I cannot. Do not lose hope. There is a pretty French proverb, and a
very ugly Polish one, about woman's strength and will. In truth, I wish
greatly to help you."

Pan Stanislav seized her hand and raised it to his lips.

"You are the best and most honorable person that I have met in the
world."

"I have been very happy," answered Pani Emilia; "and since I think that
there is only one road to happiness, I wish those who are near me to go
by it."

"You are right. That road, or none! Since I have life, I wish that life
to be of use to some one else and to me."

"As to me," said Pani Emilia, laughing, "since I have undertaken the
rôle of matchmaker for the first time in life, I wish to be of service.
But it is necessary to think what must be done now."

Saying this, she raised her eyes. The light of the lamp fell directly
on her delicate face, which was still very youthful; on her light hair,
which was somewhat disarranged above her forehead. There was something
in her so bewitching and at the same time so virginal that Pan
Stanislav, though he had a head occupied with other things, recalled
the name, "maiden widow," which Bukatski had given her.

"Marynia is very candid," said she, after a moment's thought, "and will
understand better if I write the pure truth to her. I will tell her
what you told me: that you went away much pleased with her; that what
you have done was done without reckoning with yourself, purely under
the influence of the thought that you could not come to an agreement
with her father; but at present you regret this most sincerely, you beg
her not to take it ill, and not to take away the hope that she will
yield to entreaty."

"And I will write to Mashko that I will purchase the debt of him at
whatever profit he likes."

"See," said Pani Emilia, smiling, "that sober, calculating Pan
Stanislav, who boasts that he has freed himself from the Polish
character and from Polish fickleness."

"Yes, yes!" cried Pan Stanislav, with a more joyous tone. "Calculation
consists in this, to spare nothing on an object that is worth it." At
that moment, however, he grew gloomy and said, "But if she answers that
she is Mashko's betrothed?"

"I will not admit that. Pan Mashko may be the most honorable of men,
but he is not for her. She will not marry without affection. I know
that Mashko did not please her at all. That will never take place; you
do not know Marynia. Only do, on your part, what you can, and be at
rest as to Mashko."

"Then, instead of writing, I will telegraph to him to-day. He cannot
stop in Kremen long at one time, and must receive my despatch in
Warsaw."



CHAPTER VIII.


Mashko's answer, which Pan Stanislav received two days later, was, "I
bought Kremen yesterday."

Though it might have been foreseen from Marynia's letter that affairs
would take this and no other turn, and the young man was bound to be
prepared for it, the news produced the impression of a thunder-clap.
It seemed to him that a misfortune had happened, as sudden as it was
incurable,--a misfortune for which the whole responsibility fell on
him. Pani Emilia, knowing better than any one else Marynia's attachment
to Kremen, had also a presentiment which she could not conceal, that by
this sale the difficulty of bringing these two young people nearer each
other would be increased greatly.

"If Mashko does not marry Marynia," said Pan Stanislav, "he will strip
old Plavitski in such fashion as to save himself and leave the old man
without a copper. If I had sold my claim to the first usurer I met,
Plavitski would have wriggled out, paid something, promised more; and
the ruin of Kremen would have been deferred for whole years, in the
course of which something favorable might have happened; in every case
there would have been time to sell Kremen on satisfactory conditions.
Now, if they are left without a copper, the fault will be mine."

But Pani Emilia looked on the affair from another side: "The evil is
not in this alone," said she, "that Kremen is sold. You have caused
this sale, and that immediately after seeing Marynia. If some one else
had done so, the affair would not have such a significance; but the
worst is just this, that Marynia was greatly confident that you would
not act thus."

Pan Stanislav felt this as vividly as she; and since he was accustomed
to give himself a clear account of every position, he understood
also that Marynia was the same as lost to him. In view of this, one
thing remained,--to acknowledge the fact and seek another wife. But
Pan Stanislav's whole soul revolted against this. First, his feeling
for Marynia, though sudden, strengthened neither by time nor nearer
acquaintance, though resting mainly on the charm, almost exclusively
physical, which her form had wrought on him, had grown considerably
in recent days. Her letter effected this, and the conviction that
he had inflicted a wrong on her. Compassion for her seized him now,
and he could not think of her without emotion; in consequence of
this, the feeling itself increased through two causes, which play a
very important rôle in each masculine heart. First, that energetic,
muscular man could never yield passively to the course of events. His
nature simply could not endure this. The sight of difficulty roused
him to action particularly. Finally, his self-love also was opposed to
letting Marynia go. The thought which he must acknowledge to himself
sometimes,--that he was only a springe in the hand of that Mashko and
one of the means to his objects; that he had let himself be abused, or
at least used by the advocate,--filled him with rage. Though Mashko
should not receive Marynia's hand, though the affair should end with
Kremen, even that was more than Pan Stanislav could suffer. Now an
irrestrainable desire seized him to go and take the field against
Mashko, to throw a stone under his feet, to cross his further plans,
at least, and show him that his keenness of an advocate was not enough
in a meeting with real manly energy. All these, as well as the more
noble motives, urged Pan Stanislav with irresistible force to undertake
something, to do something. Meanwhile the position was such that there
remained well-nigh nothing to do. Precisely in this contradiction was
hidden the tragedy. To remain in Reichenhall, let Mashko carry out his
plans, extend his nets, work for the hand of Panna Plavitski--no! not
for anything! But what was he to do? To this last question there was
no answer. For the first time in life Pan Stanislav felt as if he were
chained; and the less he was accustomed to such a position, the more
did he bear it with difficulty. He learned too, for the first time,
what sleeplessness means, what excited nerves are. Since Litka, during
the days just preceding, felt worse again, there hung over the whole
society a leaden atmosphere in which life was becoming unendurable.

After a week another letter came from Marynia. This time there was no
mention either of Pan Stanislav or Mashko. Marynia wrote only about the
sale of Kremen, without complaint, and without explanation of how the
affair had taken place. But from this alone he might infer how deeply
the sale had wounded her.

It would have pleased Pan Stanislav more had she complained. He
understood clearly, too, that silence in the letter touching him
showed how far he had been excluded from the heart of that lady, while
silence touching Mashko might show directly the opposite. Finally, if
she valued that Kremen so much, she might return to it by giving her
hand to its present owner; perhaps she had become reconciled by that
thought. Old Plavitski had his prejudices of a noble, it is true, and
Pan Stanislav counted on them; but, considering the man as an egotist
above all, he admitted that in the present case he would sacrifice his
daughter and his prejudices.

In the end of ends, to remain with folded arms at Reichenhall, and wait
for news as to whether Pan Mashko would be pleased to offer his hand
to Panna Plavitski, became for Pan Stanislav simply impossible. Litka,
too, from time to time begged her mother to return to Warsaw. Pan
Stanislav determined, therefore, to return, all the more as the time
was approaching when he and Bigiel had to begin a new affair.

This decision brought him great solace at once. He would return;
he would examine the position with his own eyes, and perhaps
undertake something. In every case it would be better than sitting at
Reichenhall. Both Pani Emilia and Litka heard the news of his departure
without surprise. They knew that he had come only for a few weeks,
and they hoped to see him soon in Warsaw. Pani Emilia was to go in
the middle of August. For the rest of the month she decided to remain
with Vaskovski in Salzburg, and return then to Warsaw. Meanwhile she
promised to inform Pan Stanislav of Litka's health frequently, and
besides correspond with Marynia and learn what her thoughts really were
touching Mashko.

On the day of his departure, Pani Emilia and Litka, with Vaskovski,
took farewell of him at the station. When in the compartment, he was
rather sorry to go. Happen what might, he knew not how things would
turn out at Warsaw; here he was surrounded by persons who were the
sincerest well-wishers that he had in the world. Looking out through
the window, he beheld the sad eyes of Litka raised toward him, and the
friendly face of Pani Emilia, with the same feeling as if they had
been his own family. And again that uncommon beauty of the young widow
struck him,--her features, delicate to the verge of excess, her angelic
expression of face, and her form perfectly maidenlike, dressed in
black.

"Farewell," said Pani Emilia, "and write to us from Warsaw; we shall
see each other in three weeks or sooner."

"In three weeks," repeated Pan Stanislav. "I will write certainly. Till
we meet again, Litus!"

"Till we meet again! Bow from me to Evka and Yoasia."

"I will do so."

And he stretched out his hand through the window again:

"Till our next meeting! Remember your friend."

"We will not forget; we will not forget. Do you wish me to repeat a
novena for your intention?" asked Pani Emilia, smiling.

"Thank you for that too. Do so. Till we meet again, Professor."

The train moved that moment. Pani Emilia and Litka waved their parasols
till the more frequent puffing of the engine hid, with rolls of steam
and smoke, the window through which Pan Stanislav was looking.

"Mamma," asked Litka, "is it really necessary to say a novena for Pan
Stas?"

"Yes, Litus. He is so kind to us, we must pray to God to make him
happy."

"But is he unhappy?"

"No--that is--seest thou, every one has trouble, and he has his."

"I know; I heard in Thumsee," said the little girl. And after a while
she added in a low voice,--

"I will say a novena."

But Professor Vaskovski, who was so honest that he could not hold his
tongue, said after a time to Pani Emilia, when Litka had gone forward,--

"That is a golden heart, and he loves you both as a brother. Now that
the specialist has assured us that there is not the least fear, I can
tell everything. Pan Stanislav brought him here purposely, for he was
alarmed about the little girl in Thumsee."

"Did he bring him?" asked Pani Emilia. "What a man!" And tears of
gratitude came to her eyes. After a while she said, "But I will reward
him, for I will give him Marynia."

Pan Stanislav went away with a heart full of good wishes and gratitude
to Pani Emilia, for the man who has failed and for that reason falls
into trouble, feels the friendship of people more keenly than others.
Sitting in the corner of the compartment, with the image of Pani Emilia
fresh in his mind, he said to himself,--

"If I had fallen in love with her! What rest, what certainty of
happiness! An object in life would have been found; I should know
for whom I am working, I should know whose I am, I should know that
my existence has some meaning. She says, it is true, that she will
not marry, but me!--she might, who knows? That other is perfection,
perhaps, but she may have a very dry heart."

Here he feels suddenly: "Still I can think calmly about Pani Emilia;
while at every recollection of that other a certain unquiet seizes me,
which is at once both bitter and agreeable. I am drawn by something
toward that other. I have just pressed Pani Emilia's hand, and that
pressure has left no sensation; while even now I remember the warm palm
of Marynia, and feel a certain species of quiver at the very thought of
it."

As far as Salzburg, Pan Stanislav thought only of "that other." This
time his thoughts began to take the form, if not of resolves, at least
of questions,--how is he to act toward her, and what in this state of
affairs is his duty?

"It is not to be denied that I caused the sale of Kremen," said he to
himself. "Kremen had for her not only the money value, which might
perhaps have been drawn from it had the sale not been hastened, but
also the value with which her heart was bound to the place. I have
deprived her of both. Briefly speaking, I have wronged her. I have
acted legally; but for a conscience made up of something more than
paragraphs, that is not sufficient. I have offended her, I confess, and
I must correct my fault in some way. But how? Buy Kremen from Mashko?
I am not rich enough. I might perhaps do so by dissolving partnership
with Bigiel and withdrawing all my capital; but that is materially
impossible. Bigiel might fail, should I do that; hence I will not
do it. There is one other way,--to keep up relations as best I can
with Plavitski, and propose later on for the hand of his daughter. If
rejected, I shall have done at least what behooves me."

But here that second internal man, of whom Pan Stanislav made mention,
raised his voice and began,--

"Do not shield thyself with a question of conscience. If Panna
Plavitski were ten years older and ugly, thou mightst have caused in
the same way the sale of Kremen, and taken from her everything which
thou hast taken, and still it would not have come to thy head to ask
for her hand. Tell thyself straightway that Panna Plavitski draws thee,
as with nippers, by her face, her eyes, her lips, her arms, her whole
person, and do not tempt thyself."

But, in general, Pan Stanislav held that second internal man firmly,
and treated him sometimes with very slight ceremony. Following this
method, he said to him,--

"First, thou knowest not, fool, that even in that case I should not
try to make good the injury. That at present I wish to make it good
by proposing for the lady is natural. Men always ask to marry women
who please them, not those for whom they feel repulsion. If thou hast
nothing better to say, then be silent."

The internal man ventured a few more timid remarks, as, for instance,
that Plavitski might give command to throw Pan Stanislav downstairs;
that in the best case he might not permit him to cross the threshold.
But somehow Pan Stanislav was not afraid of this. "People," thought he,
"do not use such means now; and if the Plavitskis do not receive me, so
much the worse for them."

He admitted, however, that if they had even a little tact they would
receive him. He knew that he would see Marynia at Pani Emilia's.

Meditating in this way, he arrived at Salzburg. There was one hour
till the arrival of the train from Monachium, by which he was to go to
Vienna; hence he decided to walk about the town. That moment he saw in
the restaurant the bright-colored pea-jacket of Bukatski, his monocle,
and his small head, covered with a still smaller soft cap.

"Bukatski or his spirit!" cried he.

"Calm thyself, Pan Stanislav," answered Bukatski, phlegmatically,
greeting him as if they had parted an hour before. "How art thou?"

"What art thou doing here?"

"Eating a cutlet."

"To Reichenhall?"

"Yes. But thou art homeward?"

"Yes."

"Thou hast proposed to Pani Emilia?"

"No."

"Then I forgive thee. Thou mayst go."

"Keep thy conceits for a fitter season. Litka is in very great danger."

Bukatski grew serious, and said, raising his brows,--"Ai, ai! Is that
perfectly certain?"

Pan Stanislav told briefly the opinion of the doctor. Bukatski listened
for a while; then he said,--

"And is a man not to be a pessimist in this case? Poor child and poor
mother! In the event of misfortune, I cannot imagine in any way how she
will endure it."

"She is very religious; but it is terrible to think of this."

"Let us walk through the town a little," said Bukatski; "one might
stifle here."

They went out.

"And a man in such straits is not to be a pessimist!" exclaimed
Bukatski. "What is Litka? Simply a dove! Every one would spare her; but
death will not spare her."

Pan Stanislav was silent.

"I know not myself now," continued Bukatski, "whether to go to
Reichenhall or not. In Warsaw, when Pani Emilia is there, even I can
hold out. Once a month I propose to her, once a month I receive a
refusal; and thus I live from the first of one month to the first of
the next. The first of the month has just passed, and I am anxious for
my pension. Is the mother aware of the little girl's condition?"

"No. The child is in danger; but perhaps a couple of years remain yet
to her."

"Ah! perhaps no more remain to any of us. Tell me, dost thou think of
death often?"

"No. How would that help me? I know that I must lose the case;
therefore I do not break my head over it, especially before the time."

"In this is the point,--we must lose, but still we keep up the trial
to the end. This is the whole sense of life, which otherwise would be
simply a dreary farce, but now it is a dull tragedy as well. As to me,
I have three things at present to choose from: to hang myself, go to
Reichenhall, or go to Monachium to see Boecklin's pictures once more.
If I were logical, I should choose the first; since I am not, I'll
choose Reichenhall. Pani Emilia is worth the Boecklins, both as to
outline and color."

"What is to be heard in Warsaw?" asked on a sudden Pan Stanislav, who
had had that question on his lips from the first of the conversation.
"Hast thou seen Mashko?"

"I have. He has bought Kremen, he is a great landholder, and, since
he has wit, he is using all his power not to seem too great. He is
polite, sensible, flattering, accessible; he is changed, not to my
advantage, it is true, for what do I care? but surely to his own."

"Isn't he going to marry Panna Plavitski?"

"I hear that he wants to. Thy partner, Bigiel, said something of this,
also that Mashko bought Kremen on conditions more than favorable. Thou
wilt find clearer news in the city."

"Where are the Plavitskis at present?"

"In Warsaw. They are living in the Hotel Rome. The young woman is not
at all ugly. I called on them as a cousin, and talked about thee."

"Thou mightst have chosen a more agreeable subject for them."

"Plavitski, who is glad of what has happened, told me that thou hadst
done them a service, without wishing it certainly, but thou hadst done
it. I asked the young lady how it was that she saw thee in Kremen for
the first time. She answered that during her visit in Warsaw thou must
have been in foreign countries."

"In fact, I was gone then on business of the firm to Berlin, and I
remained there some time."

"Indeed, I did not observe that they were offended at thee. I heard so
much, however, of the young lady's love of country life, that she must,
I admit, be a little angry at thee for having taken Kremen from her. In
every case, she does not show any anger."

"Perhaps she will show it only to me; and the opportunity will not be
lacking, for I shall visit them immediately after my return."

"In that case do me one little service: marry the lady, for of two
evils I prefer to be thy cousin rather than Mashko's."

"Very well," replied Pan Stanislav, curtly.



CHAPTER IX.


After his return to Warsaw, Pan Stanislav went first of all to Bigiel,
who told him minutely the conditions on which Kremen was sold. Those
conditions were very profitable for Mashko. He bound himself to pay at
the end of a year thirty-five thousand rubles, which were to come from
the parcelling of Magyerovka, and besides to pay three thousand yearly
till the death of Pan Plavitski. To Pan Stanislav the bargain did not
seem at first too unfavorable for Plavitski; but Bigiel was of another
opinion.

"I do not judge people too hastily," said he; "but Plavitski is an
incurable old egotist who has sacrificed the future of his child to his
own comfort, and, besides, he is frivolous. In this case the annuity is
placed as it were on Kremen; but Kremen, as a ruined estate, on which
there is need to spend money, has a fictitious value. If Mashko puts it
in order, very well; if not, in the most favorable event he will fall
behind in payment, and Plavitski may not see a copper for years. What
will he do then? He will take Kremen back. But before that time Mashko
will contract new debts, even to pay the old ones; and, in case of his
bankruptcy, God knows how many creditors will stretch their hands after
Kremen. Finally, all depends on the honesty of Mashko, who may be a
correct man, but he is carrying on business riskily; if he takes one
false step, it may ruin him. Who knows if this very purchase of Kremen
be not such a step?--for, wishing to bring the estate into order, he
must draw on his credit to the utmost. I have seen men who succeeded a
long time until they turned to buying great estates."

"The ready money for Magyerovka will remain with the Plavitskis
always," said Pan Stanislav, as if wishing to quiet his own fears for
their future.

"If old Plavitski does not eat it up, or play it away, or waste it."

"I must think of something. I caused the sale; I must help."

"Thou?" asked Bigiel, with astonishment. "I thought that thy relations
were broken forever."

"I shall try to renew them. I will visit the Plavitskis to-morrow."

"I do not know that they will be glad to see thee."

"And I myself do not know."

"Dost wish I will go with thee? For it is a question of breaking the
ice. They may not receive thee alone. It is a pity that my wife is
not here. I sit by myself whole evenings and play on the violoncello.
During the day I have time enough too; I can go with thee."

Pan Stanislav, however, refused, and next day he dressed himself with
great care and went alone. He knew that he was a presentable man; and
though usually he did not think much of this, he resolved now to omit
nothing which might speak in his favor. On the way he had his head full
of thoughts as to what he should say, what he should do in this case or
that one, and he tried to foresee how they would receive him.

"I will be as simple and outspoken as possible," said he to himself;
"that is the best method absolutely."

And, before he noted it, he found himself at the Hotel Rome. His heart
began to beat then more quickly.

"It would not be bad," thought he, "if I should not find them at home.
I could leave a card and see later on if Plavitski would acknowledge my
visit."

But straightway he said to himself, "Don't be a coward," and went
forward. Learning from the servant that Plavitski was at home, he sent
in his card, and after a while was invited to enter.

Plavitski was sitting at a table writing letters, drawing at intervals
smoke from a pipe with a great amber mouthpiece. At sight of Pan
Stanislav he raised his head, and, looking at him through gold-rimmed
glasses, said,--

"I beg, I beg!"

"I learned from Bigiel that you and Panna Plavitski were in Warsaw,"
said Pan Stanislav, "and I came to pay my respects."

"That was very pretty on thy part," answered Plavitski, "and, to tell
the truth, I did not expect it. We parted in a bitter manner and
through thy fault. But since thou hast felt it thy duty to visit me, I,
as the older, open my arms to thee a second time."

The opening of the arms, however, was confined to reaching across the
table a hand, which Pan Stanislav pressed, saying in his own mind,--

"May the Evil One take me, if I come here to thee, and if I feel toward
thee any obligation!" After a while he asked, "You and your daughter
are coming to live in Warsaw?"

"Yes. I am an old man of the country, accustomed to rise with the sun
and to work in the fields; it will be grievous for me in your Warsaw.
But it was not right to imprison my child; hence I made one sacrifice
more for her."

Pan Stanislav, who had spent two nights in Kremen, remembered that
Plavitski rose about eleven in the forenoon, and that he labored
specially about the business of Kremen, not its fields; he passed this,
however, in silence, for he had a head occupied with something else at
that moment. From the chamber which Plavitski occupied, an open door
led to another, which must be Marynia's. It occurred to Pan Stanislav,
who was looking in the direction of that door from the time of his
entrance, that perhaps she did not wish to come out; therefore he
inquired,--

"But shall I not have the pleasure of seeing Panna Marynia?"

"Marynia has gone to look at lodgings which I found this morning.
She will come directly, for they are only a couple of steps distant.
Imagine to thyself a plaything, not lodgings. I shall have a cabinet
and a sleeping-room; Marynia also a very nice little chamber,--the
dining-room is a trifle dark, it is true; but the drawing-room is a
candy-box."

Here Plavitski passed into a narrative concerning his lodgings, with
the volubility of a child amused by something, or of an old lover of
comfort, who smiles at every improvement. At last he said,--

"I had barely looked around when I found myself at home. Dear Warsaw is
my old friend; I know her well."

But at that moment some one entered the adjoining room.

"That is Marynia, surely," said Plavitski. "Marynia, art thou there?"
called he.

"I am," answered a youthful voice.

"Come here; we have a guest."

Marynia appeared in the door. At sight of Pan Stanislav, astonishment
shone on her face. He, rising, bowed; and when she approached the
table, he stretched out his hand in greeting. She gave him her own with
as much coldness as politeness. Then she turned to her father, as if no
one else were present in the room,--

"I have seen the lodgings; they are neat and comfortable, but I am not
sure that the street is not too noisy."

"All streets are noisy," answered Plavitski. "Warsaw is not a village."

"Pardon me; I will go to remove my hat," said Marynia. And, returning
to her room, she did not appear for some time.

"She will not show herself again," thought Pan Stanislav.

But evidently she was only arranging her hair before the mirror, after
removing her hat; she entered a second time, and asked,--

"Am I interrupting?"

"No," said Plavitski, "we have no business now, for which, speaking
in parenthesis, I am very glad. Pan Polanyetski has come only through
politeness."

Pan Stanislav blushed a little, and, wishing to change the subject,
said,--

"I am returning from Reichenhall; I bring you greetings from Pani
Emilia and Litka, and that is one reason why I made bold to come."

For a moment the cool self-possession on Marynia's face vanished.

"Emilia wrote to me of Litka's heart attack," said she. "How is she
now?"

"There has not been a second attack."

"I expect another letter, and it may have come; but I have not received
it, for Emilia addressed it very likely to Kremen."

"They will send it," said Plavitski; "I gave directions to send all the
mail here."

"You will not go back to the country, then?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"No; we will not," answered Marynia, whose eyes recovered their
expression of cool self-possession.

A moment of silence followed. Pan Stanislav looked at the young lady,
and seemed to be struggling with himself. Her face attracted him with
new power. He felt now more clearly that in such a person precisely
he would find most to please him, that he could love such a one, that
she is the type of his chosen woman, and all the more her coldness
became unendurable. He would give now, God knows what, to find again
in those features the expression which he saw in Kremen, the interest
in his words, and the attention, the transparency in those eyes full
of smiles and roused curiosity. He would give, God knows what, to have
all this return, and he knew not by what method to make it return, by a
slow or a quick one; for this cause he hesitated. He chose at last that
which agreed best with his nature.

"I knew," said he, suddenly, "how you loved Kremen, and in spite of
that, perhaps, it is I who caused its sale. If that be the case, I tell
you openly that I regret the act acutely, and shall never cease to
regret it. In my defence I cannot even say that I did it while excited,
and without intent. Nay, I had an intent; only it was malicious and
irrational. All the greater is my fault, and all the more do I entreat
your forgiveness."

When he had said this, he rose. His cheeks were flushed, and from
his eyes shone truth and sincerity; but his words remained without
effect. Pan Stanislav went by a false road. He knew women in general
too slightly to render account to himself of how far their judgments,
especially their judgments touching men, are dependent on their
feelings, both transient and permanent. In virtue of these feelings,
anything may be taken as good or bad money; anything interpreted for
evil or good, recognized as true or false; stupidity may be counted
reason, reason stupidity, egotism devotion, devotion egotism, rudeness
sincerity, sincerity lack of delicacy. The man who in a given moment
rouses dislike, cannot be right with a woman, cannot be sincere,
cannot be just, cannot be well-bred. So Marynia, feeling deep aversion
and resentment toward Pan Stanislav from the time of Mashko's coming
to Kremen, took sincerity simply ill of him. Her first thought was:
"What kind of man is this who recognizes as unreasonable and bad that
which a few days ago he did with calculation?" Then Kremen, the sale
of the place, Mashko's visit and the meaning of that visit, which she
divined, were for her like a wound festering more and more. And now it
seemed to her that Pan Stanislav was opening that wound with all the
unsparingness of a man of rough nature and rude nerves.

He rose, and with eyes fixed on her face, waited to see if a friendly
and forgiving hand would not be extended to him, with a clear feeling
that one such stretching forth of a hand might decide his fate; but her
eyes grew dark for a moment, as if from pain and anger, and her face
became still colder.

"Let not that annoy you," said she, with icy politeness. "On the
contrary, papa is very much satisfied with the bargain and with the
whole arrangement with Pan Mashko."

She rose then, as if understanding that Pan Stanislav wished to take
leave. He stood a moment stricken, disappointed, full of resentment and
suppressed anger, full of that feeling of mortification which a man has
when he is rejected.

"If that is true, I desire nothing more."

"It is, it is! I did a good business," concluded Plavitski.

Pan Stanislav went out, and, descending a number of steps at a time
with hat pressed down on his head, he repeated mentally,--

"A foot of mine will not be in your house again."

He felt, however, that, if he were to go home, anger would stifle him;
he walked on, therefore, not thinking whither his feet were bearing
him. It seemed to him at that moment that he did not love Marynia,
that he even hated her; but still he thought about her, and if he had
thought more calmly he would have told himself that the mere sight
of her had affected him deeply. He had seen her now a second time,
had looked on her, had compared that image of her which he had borne
in his memory with the reality; the image became thereby still more
definite, more really attractive, and acted the more powerfully on him.
And, in spite of the anger, in the depth of his soul an immense liking
for her raised its head, and a delight in the woman. There existed,
as it were, for him two Marynias,--one the mild, friendly Marynia of
Kremen, listening and ready to love; the other that icy young lady of
Warsaw, who had rejected him. A woman often becomes dual in this way
in the heart of a man, which is then most frequently ready to forgive
this unfriendly one for the sake of that loved one. Pan Stanislav did
not even admit that Marynia could be such as she had shown herself
that day; hence there was in his anger a certain surprise. Knowing his
own undeniable worth, and being conceited enough, he carried within
him a conviction, which he would not acknowledge to himself, that it
was enough for him to extend his hand to have it seized. This time it
turned out differently. That mild Marynia appeared suddenly, not only
in the rôle of a judge, who utters sentences and condemns, but also in
the rôle, as it were, of a queen, with whom it is possible to be in
favor or disfavor. Pan Stanislav could not accustom himself to this
thought, and he struggled with it; but such is human nature that, when
he learned that for that lady he was not so much desired as he had
thought, that she not only did not over-value him, but esteemed him
lower than herself, in spite of his displeasure, offence, and anger,
her value increased in his eyes. His self-love was wounded; but, on
the other hand, his will, in reality strong, was ready to rush to the
struggle with difficulties, and crush them. All these thoughts were
circling chaotically in his head, or, instead of thoughts, they were
rather feelings torn and tearing themselves. He repeated a hundred
times to himself that he would drop the whole matter, that he must
and wished to do so; and at the same time he was so weak and small
that somewhere in the most secret corner of his soul he was counting
that very moment on the arrival of Pani Emilia, and on the aid which
her arrival would bring him. Sunk in this mental struggle, he did not
recollect himself till he was halfway on the Zyazd, when he asked, "Why
the misery have I gone to Praga?" He halted. The day was fine and was
inclining toward evening. Lower down, the Vistula was flowing in the
gleam of the sun; and beyond it and beyond the nearer clumps of green,
a broad country was visible, covered on the horizon with a rosy and
blue haze. Far away, beyond that haze, was Kremen, which Marynia had
loved and which she had lost. Pan Stanislav, fixing his eyes on the
haze, said to himself,--

"I am curious to know what she would have done had I given Kremen to
her."

He could not imagine that to himself definitely; but he thought
that the loss of that land was for her a great bitterness really,
and he regretted it. In this sorrow his anger began to scatter and
vanish as mist. His conscience whispered that he had received what he
earned. Returning, he said to himself, "But I am thinking of all this
continually."

And really he was. Never had he experienced, in the most important
money questions, even half the disquiet, never had he been absorbed so
deeply. And again he remembered what Vaskovski had said of himself,
that his nature, like Pan Stanislav's, could not fix its whole power
on the acquisition of money. Never had he felt with such clearness
that there might be questions more important than those of wealth, and
simply more positive. For the second time a certain astonishment seized
him.

It was nearly nine when he went to Bigiel's. Bigiel was sitting in a
spacious, empty house with doors opening on the garden veranda; he was
playing on a violoncello in such fashion that everything through the
house was quivering. When he saw Pan Stanislav he broke off a certain
tremolo and inquired,--

"Hast thou been at the Plavitskis' to-day?"

"Yes."

"How was the young lady?"

"Like a decanter of chilled water. On such a hot day that is agreeable.
They are polite people, however."

"I foresaw this."

"Play on."

Bigiel began to play "Träumerei," and while playing closed his eyes,
or turned them to the moon. In the stillness the music seemed to fill
with sweetness the house, the garden, and the night itself. When he had
finished, he was silent for a time, and then said,--

"Knowest what? When Pani Emilia comes, my wife will ask her to the
country, and with her Marynia. Maybe those ices will thaw then between
you."

"Play the 'Träumerei' once more."

The sounds were given out a second time, with calmness and imagination.
Pan Stanislav was too young not to be somewhat of a dreamer; hence he
imagined that Marynia was listening with him to the "Träumerei," with
her hand in his hands, with her head on his bosom, loving much, and
beloved above all in the world.



CHAPTER X.


Pan Plavitski was what is called a well-bred man, for he returned
Pan Stanislav's visit on the third day. He did not return it on the
second, for such haste would have indicated a wish to maintain intimate
relations; and not on the fourth nor the fifth, for that would have
shown a want of acquaintance with the habits of society,--but only
within the period most specially and exclusively indicated by command
of _savoir vivre_. Plavitski prided himself all his life on a knowledge
of those commands, and esteemed them as his own; the observances of
them he considered as the highest human wisdom. It is true that, as
a man of sense, he permitted other branches of knowledge to exist,
on condition, however, that they should not be overestimated; and
especially, that they should not have the claim to force themselves on
to people who were truly well-bred.

Pan Stanislav--for whom everything was desirable that would strengthen
in any way the thread of further relations with Marynia--was hardly
able to conceal his delight at the arrival of Plavitski. That delight
was evident in his agreeable reception, full of good-humor. He must
have been astonished, besides, at Plavitski, and the influence which
the city had exercised on him. His hair shone like the wing of a raven;
his little mustaches were sticking up, vying with the color of his
hair; his white shirt covered a slender form; his scarf-pin and black
vest gave a certain holiday brilliancy to his whole figure.

"On my word, I did not recognize my uncle at the first moment!" cried
Pan Stanislav. "I thought that some youngster was coming."

"_Bon jour, bon jour!_" answered Plavitski. "The day is cloudy; a
little dark here. It must be for that reason that thou didst mistake me
for a stripling."

"Cloudy or clear, what a figure!" answered Pan Stanislav.

And seizing Plavitski by the side, without ceremony, he began to turn
him around and say--

"A waist just like a young lady's! Would that I might have such a one!"

Plavitski, offended greatly by such an unceremonious greeting, but
still more delighted at the admiration roused by his person, said,
defending himself,--

"_Voyons!_ Thou art a lunatic. I might be angry. Thou art a lunatic!"

"But uncle will turn as many heads as he pleases."

"What dost thou say?" asked Plavitski, sitting down in an armchair.

"I say that uncle has come here for conquest."

"I have no thought whatever of that. Thou art a lunatic!"

"But Pani Yamish? or haven't I seen with my own eyes--"

"What?"

Here Plavitski shut one eye and thrust out the point of his tongue; but
that lasted only an instant, then he raised his brows, and said,--

"Well, as to Pani Yamish? She is well enough in Kremen. Between thee
and me, I cannot endure affectation,--it savors of the country. May the
Lord God not remember, for Pani Yamish, how much she has tortured me
with her affectation: a woman should have courage to grow old, then a
relation would end in friendship; otherwise it becomes slavery."

"And my dear uncle felt like a butterfly in bonds?"

"But don't talk in that way," answered Plavitski, with dignity, "and
do not imagine that there was anything between us. Even if there had
been, thou wouldst not have heard a word about it from me. Believe me,
there is a great difference between you of this and us of the preceding
generation. We were not saints, perhaps; but we knew how to be silent,
and that is a great virtue, without which what is called true nobility
cannot exist."

"From this I infer that uncle will not confess to me where he is going,
with this carnation in his buttonhole?"

"Oh, yes, yes! Mashko invited me to-day to dine with a number of other
persons. At first I refused, not wishing to leave Marynia alone. But
I have sat so many years in the country for her sake that in truth a
little recreation is due to me. But art thou not invited?"

"No."

"That astonishes me: thou art, as thou sayest, an 'affairist'; but thou
bearest a good family name. For that matter, Mashko is an advocate
himself. But, in general, I confess that I did not suspect in Mashko
the power to place himself as he has."

"Mashko could place himself even on his head--"

"He goes everywhere; all receive him. Once I had a prejudice against
him."

"And has uncle none now?"

"I must acknowledge that he has acted with me in all that business of
Kremen like a gentleman."

"Is Panna Marynia of the same opinion?"

"Certainly; though I think that Kremen lies on her heart. I got rid of
it for her sake, but youth cannot understand everything. I knew about
her views, however, and am ready to endure every bitterness with calm.
As to Mashko, in truth, she cannot cast reproach at him for anything.
He bought Kremen, it is true, but--"

"But he is ready to give it back?"

"Thou art of the family, so, speaking between us, I think that that is
true. Marynia occupied him greatly, even during our former visit to
Warsaw; but somehow the affair did not move. The maiden was too young;
he did not please her sufficiently; I was a little opposed myself, for
I was prejudiced as to his family. Bukatski sharpened his teeth at him,
so it ended in nothing."

"It did not end, since it is beginning again."

"It is, for I am convinced that he comes of a very good family, once
Italian and formerly called Masco. They came here with Queen Bona, and
settled in White Russia at that time. He, if thou hast noticed it, has
a face somewhat Italian."

"No; he has a Portuguese face."

"That is all one, however. But the plan to sell Kremen and still to
keep it--no common head could have worked that out. As to Mashko--yes I
think that such is his plan. Marynia is a strange girl, though. It is
bitter to say this, that a man understands a stranger sooner than his
own child. But if she will only say as Talleyrand did, '_Paris vaut la
messe_.'"

"Ah, I thought that it was Henry IV. who said that."

"Thou didst, for thou art an 'affairist,' a man of recent times.
History and ancient deeds are not to the taste of you young men, ye
prefer to make money. Everything depends, then, on Marynia; but I will
not hurry her. I will not, for, finally, with our connections, a better
match may be found. It is necessary to go out a little among people
and find old acquaintances. That is only toil and torment; but what is
necessary, is necessary. Thou thinkest that I go to this dinner with
pleasure. No! but I must receive young people sometimes. I hope too
that thou wilt not forget us."

"No, no; I will not."

"Dost know what they say of thee?--that thou art making money
infernally. Well, well, I don't know whom thou art like--not like thy
father! In every case, I am not the man to blame thee, no, no! Thou
didst throttle me without mercy, didst treat me as the wolf did the
lamb; but there is in thee something which pleases me,--I have for thee
a kind of weakness."

"The feeling is mutual." said Pan Stanislav.

In fact, Plavitski did not lie. He had an instinctive respect for
property, and that young man, who was gaining it, roused in him a
certain admiration, bordering on sympathy. He was not some poor
relative who might ask for assistance; and therefore Plavitski, though
for the moment he had no calculations in regard to Pan Stanislav,
resolved to keep up relations with him. At the end of the visit he
began to look around on the apartments.

"Thou hast fine lodgings!" said he.

That, too, was true. Pan Stanislav had a dwelling furnished as if he
were about to marry. The furnishing itself caused him pleasure, for it
gave a certain show of reality to his wishes.

Plavitski, looking around at the drawing-room, beyond which was another
smaller apartment furnished very elegantly, inquired,--

"Why not marry?"

"I will when I can."

Plavitski smiled cunningly, and, patting Pan Stanislav on the knee,
began to repeat,--

"I know whom; I know whom."

"Wit is needed in this case!" cried Pan Stanislav; "try to keep a
secret from such a diplomat."

"Ah ha! whom? The widow, the widow--whom?"

"Dear uncle!"

"Well? May God bless thee, as I bless thee! But now I am going, for it
is time to dine, and in the evening there will be a concert in Dolina."

"In company with Mashko?"

"No, with Marynia; but Mashko too will be there."

"I will go also, with Bigiel."

"Then we shall see each other. A mountain cannot meet a mountain, but a
man may meet a man any time."

"As Talleyrand said."

"Till our next meeting, then!"

Pan Stanislav liked music at times; he had had no thought, though, of
going to this concert; but when Plavitski mentioned it, a desire of
seeing Mashko seized him. After Plavitski had gone, he thought some
time yet whether to go or not; but it might be said that he did this
for form's sake, since he knew in advance that he would not hold out
and would go. Bigiel, who came to him for a business consultation in
the afternoon, let himself be persuaded easily, and about four o'clock
they were in Dolina.

The day, though in September, was so warm and pleasant that people had
assembled numerously; the whole audience had a summer look. On all
sides were bright-colored dresses, parasols, and youthful women, who
had swarmed forth like many-colored butterflies, warmed by the sun. In
this swarm, predestined for love, or already the object of that feeling
and entertaining it, and assembled there for the pursuit of love
and for music, Marynia also was to appear. Pan Stanislav remembered
his student years, when he was enamoured of unknown maidens whom he
sought in throngs of people, and made mistakes every moment, through
similarity of hat, hair, and general appearance. And it happened now to
him, to mistake at a distance a number of persons for Marynia,--persons
more or less like her; and now, as before, whenever he said to himself,
"This is she!" he felt those quivers at the heart, that disquiet which
he had felt formerly. To-day, however, anger came on him, for this
seemed to him ridiculous; and, besides, he felt that such eagerness for
meetings and interviews, by occupying a man, and fixing his attention
on one woman, increases the interest which she excites, and binds him
all the more to her.

Meanwhile the orchestra began to play before he could find her for whom
he was looking. It was necessary to sit down and listen, which he did
unwillingly, secretly impatient with Bigiel, who listened with closed
eyes. After the piece was ended, he saw at last Plavitski's shining
cylinder, and his black mustaches; beyond him the profile of Marynia.
Mashko sat third, calm, full of distinction, with the mien of an
English lord. At times he talked to Marynia, and she turned to him,
nodding slightly.

"The Plavitskis are there," said Pan Stanislav. "We must greet them."

"Where dost thou see them?"

"Over there, with Mashko."

"True. Let us go."

And they went.

Marynia, who liked Pani Bigiel, greeted Bigiel very cordially. She
bowed to Pan Stanislav not with such coolness as to arrest attention;
but she talked with Bigiel, inquiring for the health of his wife and
children. In answer, he invited her and her father very earnestly to
visit them on the following week, at his place in the country.

"My wife will be happy, very happy!" repeated he. "Pani Emilia too will
come."

Marynia tried to refuse; but Plavitski, who sought entertainment,
and who knew from his former stay in Warsaw that Bigiel lived well,
accepted. It was settled that they would dine, and return in the
evening. The trip was an easy one, for Bigiel's villa was only one
station distant from Warsaw.

"Meanwhile sit near us," said Plavitski; "right here a number of seats
are unoccupied."

Pan Stanislav had turned already to Marynia,--

"Have you news from Pani Emilia?"

"I wished to ask if you had," answered she.

"I have not; but to-morrow I shall inquire about Litka by telegram."

Here the conversation stopped. Bigiel took the seat next to Plavitski,
Pan Stanislav on the outside. Marynia turned to Mashko again, so that
Pan Stanislav could see only her profile, and that not completely.
It seemed to him that she had grown somewhat thin, or at least her
complexion had become paler and more delicate during her stay of a few
weeks in Warsaw; hence her long eyelashes were more sharply defined and
seemed to cast more shade. Her whole form had become more exquisite,
as it were. The effect was heightened by a careful toilet and equally
careful arrangement of hair, the style of which was different from what
it had been. Formerly she wore her hair bound lower down, now it was
dressed more in fashion; that is, high under her hat. Pan Stanislav
noted her elegant form at a glance, and admired with his whole soul the
charm of it, which was evident in everything, even in the way in which
she held her hands on her knees. She seemed very beautiful to him. He
felt again with great force that if every man bears within him his own
type of female charm, which is the measure of the impression that a
given woman makes on him, Marynia is for him so near his type that she
and it are almost identical, and, looking at her, he said to himself,--

"Oh to have such a wife, to have such a wife!"

But she turned to Mashko. Perhaps she turned even too often; and if
Pan Stanislav had preserved all his coolness of blood, he might have
thought that she did so to annoy him, and that was the case, perhaps.
Their conversation must have been animated, however, for, from time to
time, a bright blush flashed over her face.

"But she is simply playing the coquette with him," thought Pan
Stanislav, gritting his teeth. And he wanted absolutely to hear what
they were saying; that was difficult, however. The audience, during
the long intervals, was noisy enough. Separated by two persons from
Marynia, Pan Stanislav could not hear what she said; but after a new
piece of music had been finished, he heard single words and opinions
from Mashko, who had the habit of speaking with emphasis, so as to give
greater weight to each word.

"I like him," said Mashko. "Every man has a weakness; his weakness is
money--I am grateful to him, for he persuaded me--to Kremen--I think,
besides, that he is a sincere well-wisher of yours, for he has not
spared--I confess, too, that he roused my curiosity."

Marynia answered something with great vivacity; then Pan Stanislav
heard again the end of Mashko's answer,--

"A character not formed yet, and intelligence perhaps less than energy,
but a nature rather good."

Pan Stanislav understood perfectly that they were talking of him, and
recognized Mashko's tactics equally well. To judge, as it were, with
reason and impartially, rather, to praise, or at least to recognize
various qualities, and at the same time to strip them of every charm,
was a method well known to the young advocate. Through this he raised
himself to the exceptional, and, as it were, higher position of a
judge. Pan Stanislav knew, too, that Mashko spoke not so much with
intent to lower him, as to exalt himself, and that likely he would have
said the same thing of every other young man in whom he might suspect
a possible rival.

They were finally the tactics which Pan Stanislav himself might
have used in a similar case; this did not hinder him, however, from
considering them in Mashko as the acme of perversity, and he determined
to pay him if the opportunity offered.

Toward the end of the concert he was able to see how far Mashko was
assuming the rôle of suitor. When Marynia, wishing to tie her veil, had
removed her gloves and they had fallen from her knees, Mashko raised
them and held them, together with her parasol; at the same time he took
her wrap from the side of the chair and placed it across his arm, so
as to give it to her when they were leaving the garden,--in a word, he
was entirely occupied with the lady, though he preserved the coolness
and tact of a genuine man of society. He seemed also sure of himself
and happy. In fact, Marynia, beyond the brief conversation with Bigiel,
talked only with Mashko during the time when she was not listening
to the music. When they moved toward the gate, she went with him and
before her father. Again Pan Stanislav saw her smiling profile turning
to Mashko. While talking, they looked into each other's eyes. Her face
was vivacious, and her attention directed exclusively to what he was
saying. She was, in fact, coquetting with Mashko, who saw it himself,
without admitting, however, for a moment, in spite of his cleverness,
that she could do so merely to worry Pan Stanislav.

Before the gate a carriage was waiting in which Mashko seated her and
her father. He began then to take leave of them; but Marynia, inclining
toward him, said,--

"How is this? Papa has invited you; is it not true, papa?"

"He was to come with us," said Plavitski.

Mashko took his seat in the carriage, and they drove away, exchanging
bows with Bigiel and Pan Stanislav. The two friends walked on a good
while in silence; at last Pan Stanislav said, feigning calmness in his
voice,--

"I am curious to know if they are betrothed."

"I do not think they are," said Bigiel; "but it is tending that way."

"I too see that."

"I thought that Mashko would seek property. But he is in love, and that
may happen even to a man who is thinking only of a career. Mashko is
in love. Besides, by taking her he will free himself from paying for
Kremen. No, the business is not so bad as it seems, and the lady is
very pretty; what is true, is true."

And they were silent again. But Pan Stanislav felt so oppressed that he
could not control himself.

"This thought that she will marry him is simply a torment to me. And
this helplessness! I should prefer anything to such helplessness. I
speak to thee openly. What a stupid and ridiculous rôle I have played
in the whole affair!"

"Thou hast gone too far,--that may happen to any one; that thou wert
her father's creditor is the fault of remarkable circumstances. Thy
understanding of such matters differs utterly from his: thou and he are
men from two different planets, hence the misunderstanding. Perhaps the
affair was too sharply put by thee; but when I think it all over, too
great mildness was not proper, even out of regard to Panna Marynia. By
making too great abatements thou wouldst have made them for her,--is it
not true? What would have resulted? This, that she helped her father in
exploiting thee. No; it was for thee to finish the matter."

Here the prudent Bigiel checked himself, thought a moment, and said,--

"And as to thy rôle, there is one escape: to withdraw completely, leave
events to their course, and tell thyself that all is going according to
thy idea."

"How will it help me," cried Pan Stanislav, violently, "to say that,
when all is going against my idea?--and since I feel foolish, there
is no help for it. How could there be? To begin with, I did all this
myself, and now I want to undo it. All my life I have known what I
wanted, but this time I have acted as if I didn't know."

"There are passages in life to be forgotten."

"That may be, my dear man, but meanwhile interest in life falls away.
Is the question whether I am well or ill, rich or naked, the same to
me now as it once was? I feel sick at the very thought of the future.
Thou art established and connected with life; but what am I? There was
a prospect; now there is none. That gives a great distaste for things."

"But surely Panna Marynia is not the only woman on earth."

"Why say that? She is the only one now; were there another, I should
think of that other. What is the use of such talk? In this lies the
question, in this the whole evil,--that she is the only one. A year
from now a tile may fall on my head, or I may find another woman: what
will happen to-morrow I know not; but that the deuce is taking me
to-day, I do know. This is connected in me with other things too, of
which to-day I do not care to speak. In external life it is necessary
to eat bread in peace,--is not that true? In internal life it is the
same. And this is an urgent affair; but I defer internal life till
after marriage, for I understand that new conditions work out a new way
of thinking, and moreover, I wish to finish one thing before beginning
another. But everything grows involved,--not only involved, but
vanishes. Barely has something appeared when it is gone. This is the
case now. I live in uncertainty. I would prefer if they were already
betrothed, for then all would end of itself."

"I tell thee only this," said Bigiel: "when I was a boy, I got a thorn
in me sometimes; it pained much less to draw the thorn out myself than
to let some one else draw it."

"In that thou art right," said Pan Stanislav, who added after a while,
"The thorn may be drawn if it has not gone in too deeply, and one can
seize it. But what are comparisons! When a thorn is drawn out, nothing
is lost; but my hope of the future is ruined."

"That may be true; but if there is no help for it?"

"To accept that view is just what grieves the man who is not an
imbecile."

The conversation stopped here. At the moment of parting Pan Stanislav
said,--

"By the way, I should prefer not to be with you on Sunday."

"Maybe thou wilt do well to stay away."



CHAPTER XI.


A surprise was waiting at home for Pan Stanislav; he found the
following despatch from Pani Emilia, "I leave here for home to-morrow
evening; Litka is well." This return was unexpected, or at least
uncommonly hurried; but since the despatch contained an assurance
as to Litka's health, Pan Stanislav understood that Pani Emilia was
returning for the sole purpose of occupying herself with his affair,
and his heart rose in gratitude. "There is an honest nature," said he
to himself; "that is a friend." And with thankfulness there rose in
his heart such hope, as if Pani Emilia had the ring of an enchantress,
or a magic rod, with which she could change the heart of Panna Marynia
in an instant. Pan Stanislav did not know clearly how this could be
done; but he knew that one person at least wished him well with deep
sincerity, would speak for him, would justify him, would exalt his
heart and character and diminish prejudices, which the course of events
had accumulated against him. He calculated that Pani Emilia would be
very persevering, and that for her this would be a question of duty. A
man who is troubled by something is glad to find a person on whom to
put responsibility. So in moments of rising bitterness, especially,
it seemed to Pan Stanislav that Pani Emilia was responsible for his
relations with Marynia; for if she had not shown that letter from which
Marynia's readiness to love him was evident, he would have been able
to take his mind and heart from her. Perhaps this was true, since in
the history of his feelings this letter did in fact play a leading
part. It showed him how near happiness had been, almost secured; to
what extent in her own mind Marynia had given him heart and soul. It
is more difficult to throw away happiness which is not only desired,
but begun; and, had it not been for that letter, Pan Stanislav might
have regretted the past less, forgotten it more easily, and reconciled
himself to the position more readily. At present he thought it even
her duty to help him with all her power. Finally, he understood that
the affair would move, as it were, of itself; he hoped to see Marynia
often, and in conditions most favorable, since he would see her in a
house where he was loved and esteemed, and where like feelings must
be communicated to each guest. All this strengthened Pan Stanislav's
hope; but it added new links to those which bound his thoughts to
Marynia. Previously he had promised himself not to go to Bigiel's (on
Sunday); now he changed his decision, thinking that, if only health
permitted, Pani Emilia too would take part in the trip. Aside from
reasons connected with Marynia, he rejoiced from his whole soul to
see the beloved faces of Pani Emilia and Litka, who were his greatest
attachments in life so far.

That same evening he wrote a few words to Plavitski touching the
arrival, supposing that Marynia would be thankful for that information;
he gave notice at Pani Emilia's, so that servants would be waiting in
the morning with tea; and he hired a commodious carriage to take her
and Litka to their home.

Next morning at five he was at the station; while waiting for the
train, he began to run briskly along the platform to warm himself
somewhat, since the morning was cool. Remote objects, the station
buildings, and the cars standing on the near rails, were sunk in fog,
which, very dense near the ground, became rose-colored and shining
higher up, announcing that the day would be pleasant. Except officials
and servants, there was no one on the platform yet, because of the
early hour; gradually, however, people began to arrive. All at once
two forms came out of the fog; in one of these Pan Stanislav, with
beating heart, recognized Marynia, who was hastening, with her maid, to
greet Pani Emilia. As he had not expected the meeting, he was greatly
confused at the first moment. She stopped short, as if astonished or
troubled. After a while, however, he approached and extended his hand
to her,--

"Good-day!" said he. "And truly it will be a good day for us both if
our travellers arrive."

"Then is it not certain?" asked Marynia.

"Of course it is certain, unless something unlooked for prevents. I
received a despatch yesterday, and sent the news to Pan Plavitski,
thinking that you would be glad to hear it."

"Thank you. The surprise was so pleasant!"

"The best proof of that is that you have risen so early."

"I have not lost the habit of early rising yet."

"We came too soon. The train will arrive only in half an hour.
Meanwhile I advise you to walk, for the morning is cool, though the day
promises to be fine."

"The fog is clearing," said Marynia, raising her blue eyes, which to
Pan Stanislav seemed violet in the light of the morning.

"Do you wish to walk along the platform?"

"Thank you; I prefer to sit in the waiting-room."

And, nodding, she went away. Pan Stanislav began to fly with hurried
steps along the platform. It was somewhat bitter to think that she
would not remain; but he explained to himself that perhaps this was
not proper, and, besides, the bitterness was overcome by the pleasant
thought of how the coming of Pani Emilia would bring them nearer,
and how many meetings it would cause. A certain wonderful solace and
good-humor continued to rise in him. He thought of the violet eyes of
Marynia, and her face made rosy by the coolness of the morning; he
rushed past the windows of the hall in which she was sitting, and said
to himself almost joyfully,--

"Ah, ha! sit there, hide thyself! I will find thee." And he felt with
greater force than ever how dear she might become to him, if she
would be kind even in a small degree. Meanwhile bells sounded; and a
few minutes later, in the fog, still dense at the earth, though the
sky above was blue, appeared the dim outlines of the train, which,
as it approached, became more clearly defined. The engine, puffing
interrupted clumps of smoke, rolled in with decreasing movement, and,
stopping, began with noise and hissing to belch forth under its front
wheels the useless remnant of steam.

Pan Stanislav sprang to the sleeping-car; the first face at the window
was Litka's, which at sight of him grew as radiant as if a sudden
sunbeam had fallen on it. The little girl's hands began to move
joyously, beckoning to Pan Stanislav, who was in the car in one moment.

"My dearest little kitten!" cried he, seizing Litka's hand, "and hast
thou slept; art thou well?"

"I am well; and we have come home. And we'll be together--and good-day,
Pan Stas!"

Right behind the little girl stood Pani Emilia, whose hand "Pan Stas"
kissed very cordially; and he began to speak quickly, as people do at
time of greeting,--

"Good day to the dear lady. I have a carriage. You can go at once.
My servant will take your baggage; I ask only for the check. They are
waiting for you at home with tea. Pray give the check. Panna Plavitski
is here too."

Panna Plavitski was waiting, in fact, outside the car; and she and
Pani Emilia shook hands, with faces full of smiles. Litka looked for a
moment at Marynia, as if hesitating; after a while, however, she threw
herself on her neck with her usual cordiality.

"Marynia, thou wilt go with us to tea," said Pani Emilia. "It is ready,
and thou art fasting, of course."

"Thou art tired, travelling all night."

"From the boundary we slept as if killed; and when we woke, we had time
to wash and dress. In every case we must drink tea. Thou wilt go with
us?"

"I will, with the greatest pleasure."

But Litka began to pull at her mother's dress.

"Mamma, and Pan Stas."

"But, naturally, Pan Stas too,--he thought of everything. Thanks to
him, everything is ready. He must go with us, of course."

"He must; he must!" cried Litka, turning to Pan Stanislav, who
answered, smiling,--

"Not he must; but he wants to."

And after a moment all four took their places in the carriage. Pan
Stanislav was in excellent humor. Marynia was before him, and at
his side little Litka. It seemed to him that the morning brightness
was entering him, and that better days were beginning. He felt that
henceforth he would belong to an intimate circle of beings bound
together by comradeship and friendship, and in that circle would be
Marynia. Now she was sitting there before him, near his eye, and near
the friendship which both felt for Pani Emilia and Litka. Meanwhile all
four were talking joyously.

"What has happened, Emilka," asked Marynia, "that thou hast come so
soon?"

"Litka begged so every day to come home."

"Dost not like to live abroad?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"No."

"Homesick for Warsaw?"

"Yes."

"And for me? Now tell quickly, or it will be bad."

Litka looked at her mother, at Marynia, and then at Pan Stanislav; and
at last she said,--

"And for Pan Stas too."

"Take this for that!" said Pan Stanislav, and he seized her little hand
to kiss it; but she defended herself as she could. At last she hid her
hand. He, turning to Marynia, and showing his sound white teeth, said,--

"As you see, we are always quarrelling; but we love each other."

"That is the way generally," answered Marynia.

And he, looking her straight and honestly in the eyes, said,--

"Oh that it were the way generally!"

Marynia blushed slightly and grew more serious, but said nothing, and
began to converse with Pani Emilia.

Pan Stanislav turned to Litka.

"But where is Professor Vaskovski? Has he gone to Italy?"

"No. He stopped at Chenstohova, and will come the day after to-morrow."

"Is he well?"

"He is."

Here the little girl looked at her friend, and said,--

"But Pan Stas has grown thin; hasn't he, mamma?"

"Indeed he has," answered Pani Emilia.

Pan Stanislav was changed somewhat, for he had been sleeping badly, and
the cause of that sleeplessness was sitting before him in the carriage.
But he laid the blame on cares and labor in his business. Meanwhile
they arrived at Pani Emilia's.

When the lady went to greet her servants, Litka ran after her. Pan
Stanislav and Marynia remained alone in the dining-room.

"You have no nearer acquaintance here, I suppose, than Pani Emilia?"
said Pan Stanislav.

"None nearer; none so beloved."

"In life kindness is needed, and she is very kind and well-wishing.
I, for example, who have no family, can look on this as the house of
a relative. Warsaw seems different to me when they are here." Then he
added, with a voice less firm, "This time I comfort myself also with
their arrival, because there will be at last something mutual and
harmonious between us."

Here he looked at her, with a prayer in his eyes, as if he wished to
say, "Give me a hand in conciliation; be kind to me, too, since a
pleasant day has come to us."

But she, just because she could not be for him altogether indifferent,
went always farther in the direction of dislike. The more he showed
cordial kindness, the more sympathetic he was, the more his action
seemed to her unheard of, and the more offended she felt at heart.

Having a delicate nature, and being, besides, rather timid, and feeling
really that a reply, if too ill-natured, might spoil the day's harmony,
she preferred to be silent; but he did not need an answer in words,
for he read in her eyes as follows: The less you try to improve our
relations, the better they will be; and they will be best if most
distant. His joy was quenched in one moment; anger took its place, and
regret, still stronger than anger,--for it rose from that charm which
nothing could conquer, and to which Pan Stanislav yielded himself with
the conviction, too, that the gulf between him and Marynia was in
reality growing deeper each day. And now, looking on her sweet and kind
face, he felt that she was as dear as she was lost irrecoverably.

The arrival of Litka put an end to that interval, grievous to him
beyond description. The little girl ran in with great delight, her
hair in disorder, a smile on her lips; but seeing them, she stopped
suddenly, and looked now at one, now at the other, with her dark eyes.
At last she sat down quietly at a table with tea. Her joyousness had
vanished too, though Pan Stanislav, confining the pain in his heart,
strove to talk and be gladsome.

But he turned scarcely any attention to Marynia; he occupied himself
only with Pani Emilia and Litka; and, wonderful thing! Marynia felt
that as an additional bitterness. To the series of offences still
another was added.

On the following day Pani Emilia and Litka were invited to tea in the
evening at the Plavitskis'. Plavitski invited Pan Stanislav too, but he
did not go. And such is human nature that this again touched Marynia.
Dislike, as well as love, demands an object. Involuntarily Marynia
looked toward the door all the evening, till the hour struck in which
it was certain that Pan Stanislav would not come; then she began to
coquet so with Mashko that she transfixed Pani Emilia with amazement.



CHAPTER XII.


Mashko was a very clever man, but full of self-love; he had no reason,
however, not to take the kindness which Marynia showed him in good
earnest. The unequal degree of it he attributed a little to coquetting,
a little to the changing disposition of the young lady; and though the
latter filled him with a certain alarm, this alarm was not great enough
to restrain him from taking a decisive step.

Bigiel divined the true state of affairs when he declared that Mashko
was in love. Such was the case really. At first Panna Plavitski pleased
him in a high degree; afterward, when he had thought the pros and cons
over, he came to the conviction that the pros had prevailed. The young
advocate valued property, it is true; but, gifted with great sobriety
of mind, and understanding perfectly the conditions in which he found
himself, he concluded that a very wealthy lady he could not find and
would not get. Richly dowered young ladies were found either among
the aristocracy of descent,--and for him their thresholds were too
lofty,--or among the world of financiers, who sought connections with
families bearing names more or less famous. Mashko knew perfectly that
his painted bishops and armored men, whom Bukatski ridiculed, would not
open bankers' safes to him. He understood that even if they had been
less fantastic, his profession of advocate would itself be a certain
_diminutio capitis_ in the eyes of great financial whales. On the other
hand, he had, in truth, a certain racial repugnance to that kind of
connection; while maidens of good descent had the uncommon attraction
which they have for parvenus generally.

Panna Plavitski had no dower, or at least a very insignificant one.
In taking her, however, he would free himself from all obligations
to the Plavitskis created by the purchase of Kremen. Secondly, by
connecting himself with a good family, he would endeavor to bring in
a whole group of noble clients, and this might be a very real profit;
finally, through the family relations of Marynia, he might in time
manage the business of a number, or a number of tens, of really wealthy
families,--a thing which had long been the object of his efforts.

The Plavitskis, like all who are a little above middling country
families, had indeed relatives whom they did not greatly recognize;
they had also others who did not greatly recognize them. This, however,
was done not so much from reasons of pride as involuntarily, by virtue
of a certain social selection, through which people seek in society
persons who are more or less in the same conditions of life as they
themselves are. Great family festivals united such separated relatives
temporarily; and Mashko not only found it agreeable to think that
at his wedding there would be perfectly well-sounding names, but he
foresaw various possible profits. The question would be merely one of
cleverness to give people of this kind an idea that it would be well
on their part, good and safe, to intrust their business to a man noted
for energy, and, more than all, one of their own class, since he is a
relative. That would be something like a dower given to a poor cousin.
Mashko, taking note of his own qualities, hoped to force himself on
them, and in time tower above them. He knew that this man or that would
come at first to him for such counsel as he might find in conversation
with an acquaintance, or a distant relative, who happened to understand
various questions; later on, as the counsels proved good, he would come
oftener, and at last put everything into the hands of the counsellor.
Helping others in this fashion, he could himself sail out into broad
waters, clear Kremen in time, advance to considerable property, throw
aside at last legal pursuits, which he did not like, and which he
considered only as a means of reaching his object, and fix himself
finally in lofty spheres of society as an independent man, and at the
same time a representative of superior landed property resting on a
firm basis. He had foreseen all this, calculated and counted, before he
determined to try for the hand of Panna Plavitski.

He had not foreseen, however, one thing; to wit, that he would fall
in love to such a degree as he had. For the time this made him angry,
for he judged that too strong a feeling was something opposed to the
balance which a man of high society should preserve at all times. That
balance was one of his illusions. If he had had no need of forcing
himself into that society, or had been born in it, he might have
permitted himself to love to his heart's satisfaction.

In spite of all his keenness, he had not understood that one of the
chief privileges of this society, which considers itself privileged,
is freedom. For this reason he was not altogether content when his
heart melted too much in presence of Marynia. But, on the other hand,
the object toward which he strove grew identified the more in him with
that personal happiness which was verging almost on intoxication.

These were new things for him, so new that the brightness of those
unknown horizons blinded him. Mashko had arrived at thirty and some
years of his life without knowing what rapture is. Now he understood
what happiness and charms were described by that word, for he was
enraptured with Marynia to the depth of his soul. Whenever Plavitski
received him in his room, and she was in the adjoining one, Mashko was
with her in thought to such a degree that hardly could he understand
what the old man was saying.

When she entered, there rose in his heart feelings utterly unknown to
him hitherto,--feelings tender and delicate, which made him a better
man than he was usually. His blue eyes changed their ordinary steel
and cold gleam to an expression of sweetness and delight; the freckles
on his face, by which he called to mind Professor Vaskovski, became
still more distinct; his whole form lost its marks of formality, and
he passed his fingers through his light side whiskers, not like an
English lord, but an ordinary love-stricken mortal. He rose at last so
high that he wished not only his own good, but her good, evidently not
understanding it otherwise than through him and in him.

He was so much in love that, if rejected, he might become dangerous,
especially in view of his want of moral development, his great real
energy, and lack of scruples. Till then he had not loved, and Marynia
roused first in him all that was capable of loving. She was not a
brilliant beauty; but she possessed in the highest degree the charm of
womanliness, and that womanliness was the reason that she attracted
energetic natures specially. In her delicate form there was something
in common with a climbing plant; she had a calm face, clear eyes, and a
mouth somewhat thoughtful,--all this, taken together, did not produce a
mighty impression at the first glance, but after a time every man, even
the most indifferent, saw that there was in her something peculiar,
which made him remember that he had in his presence a woman who might
be loved.

In so far as Mashko felt himself better than usual, and in reality
was so during that epoch of his life, in that far had the spiritual
level of Marynia sunk since the Plavitskis came to Warsaw. The sale of
Kremen had deprived her of occupation and a moral basis of life. She
lacked a lofty object. Besides, the course of events had accumulated in
her bitterness and dissatisfaction, which turn always to the injury of
the heart. Marynia felt this herself distinctly; and a few days after
that evening when Pan Stanislav did not come to them, she began first
to speak of this to Pani Emilia, when at twilight they were left by
themselves in the drawing-room adjoining Litka's chamber.

"I see," said she, "that we are not so outspoken with each other as we
used to be. I have wished to speak with thee openly, and I cannot bring
myself to do so, for it has seemed to me that I am not worthy of thy
friendship."

Pani Emilia brought her sweet face up to Marynia's head, and began to
kiss her on the temples.

"Ai, thou Marynia, Marynia! What art thou saying, thou, always calm and
thoughtful?"

"I say so, for in Kremen I was more worthy than I am now. Thou wilt not
believe how attached I was to that corner. I had all my days occupied,
and had some sort of wonderful hope that in time something very happy
would come to me. To-day all that has passed; and I cannot find myself
in this Warsaw, and, what is worse, I cannot find my former honesty. I
saw how astonished thou wert because I was coquetting with Pan Mashko.
Do not tell me that thou didst not see it. And dost thou think that I
myself know why I acted so? It must be because I am worse, or from some
anger at myself, at Pan Stanislav, at the whole world. I do not love
Mashko; I will not marry him. Therefore I act dishonestly, and with
shame I confess it; but moments come in which I should like to do an
intended injustice to some one. Thou shouldst break thy old friendship
with me, for in truth I am other than I have been."

Here tears began to roll down Marynia's face, and Pani Emilia fell to
quieting her and fondling her all the more; at last she said,--

"Pan Mashko is striving for thee most evidently; and I thought, I
confess, that thou hadst the intention of accepting him. I tell thee
now sincerely that that pained me, for he is not the man for thee; but,
knowing thy love for Kremen, I admitted thy wish to return to it in
this way."

"At first I had such thoughts, it is true. I wished to persuade myself
that Pan Mashko pleased me; I did not like to repulse him. It was a
question with me of something else too, but it was a question also of
Kremen. But I could not convince myself. I do not want even Kremen at
such a price; but precisely in this lies the evil. For, in such a case,
why am I leading Pan Mashko into error, why am I deluding him? Through
simple dishonesty."

"It is not well that thou art deluding him; but it seems to me that
I understand whence that flows. From repugnance to some one else,
and from the offence given by him. Is it not true? Console thyself,
however, with this, that the evil is not beyond remedy; for thou
mayst change thy action with Pan Mashko to-morrow. And, Marynia, it
is needful to change it while there is time yet, while nothing is
promised."

"I know, Emilia; I understand that. But see, when I am with thee I feel
as formerly, like an upright and honest woman; I understand, that not
only a word binds, but conduct. And he may say that to me."

"Then tell him that thou hast tried to convince thyself that thou wert
in love with him, but could not. In every case, that is the only way."

Silence followed; but both Marynia and Pani Emilia felt that they
had not begun yet to talk of that which, if it did not concern both,
concerned Pani Emilia most seriously. So, taking Marynia's hands, she
said,--

"Now confess, Marynia, thou art coquetting with Mashko because thou art
offended by Pan Stanislav?"

"That is true," answered Marynia, in a low voice.

"But does not this mean that the impression of his visit to Kremen, and
of thy first conversations with him, are not effaced yet?"

"Better if it were."

Pani Emilia began to stroke her dark hair. "Thou wilt not believe how
good, clever, and noble a man he is. For us he has some friendship. He
has liked Litka always; this makes me grateful from my whole soul to
him. But thou knowest what an unardent and lukewarm feeling friendship
is usually. He in this regard even is exceptional. When Litka was sick
in Reichenhall, wilt thou believe it, he brought a celebrated doctor
from Monachium; but, not wishing to alarm us, he said that the doctor
had come to another patient, and that we should take advantage of his
presence. Think what care and kindness! He is extremely reliable, a man
to be trusted; and he is energetic and just. There are intelligent men,
but without energy; others have energy, but lack delicacy of heart.
He unites one to the other. I forgot to tell thee that when Litka's
property was in danger, and when my husband's brother set about saving
it, he found the greatest aid in Pan Stanislav. If Litka were grown up,
I would give her to no one in the world with such confidence as to him.
I could not even recount to you how much kindness we have experienced
from him."

"If as much as I have of evil, then very much."

"Marynia, he did not intend that. If thou couldst but know how he
suffers for his rashness, and how sincerely he acknowledges his fault
touching thee."

"He told me that himself," answered Marynia. "I, my Emilka, have
pondered much over this,--to tell the truth, I have not thought of
another thing; and I cannot find that he is to blame. In Kremen he was
so pleasant that it seemed to me--to thee alone will I say this; for
to thee I have written it already--that on the Sunday evening which he
passed in our house I went to sleep with my head and heart so filled
with him that I am ashamed to speak of it now. And I felt that one
day longer, one friendly word more on his part, and I should love him
for my lifetime. It seemed to me that he also-- The next day he went
away in anger. The fault was my father's; it was mine also. I was
able to understand that; and dost remember the letter I wrote thee at
Reichenhall? Precisely the same trust which thou hast in him, I too
had. He went away; I myself do not know why I thought, that he would
return, or would write to me. He did not return; he did not write.
Something told me that he would not take away Kremen; he took it. And
afterward--I know that Pan Mashko talked with him openly, and he urged
Pan Mashko, and assured him that he was thinking of nothing himself.
Oh, my Emilia! If it please thee, he is not to blame; but how much harm
has he done to me! Through him I have lost not only a beloved corner in
which I was working; but more, I have lost faith in life, in people,
in this,--that better and nobler things in this world conquer the low
and the evil. I have become worse. I tell thee sincerely that I cannot
find myself. He had the right to act as he has acted, I admit that;
I say so, and do not say that he is guilty. But he has broken some
vital spring in me. There is no cure for that; it cannot be mended. How
can it? What is it to me that a change rose in him afterward; that he
regrets what he did; that he would be ready even to marry me? What is
that to me, if I, who almost loved him, not only do not love him now,
but must guard against repugnance? That is worse than if I did not
care for him. I know what thy wish is; but life must be built on love,
not on repugnance. How can I give my hand to him with that feeling of
offence in my soul and with that regret, that through him, guilty or
not guilty, so much has been lost to me? Thou thinkest that I do not
see his charm; but what can I do, when the more I see him, the more I
am repulsed, and if I had to choose I should choose Pan Mashko, though
he is less worthy? To everything good which thou canst say of him I
agree; but to everything I answer: I do not love him; I never will love
him."

Pani Emilia's eyes were filled with tears. "Poor Pan Stas," said she,
as if to herself. And after a moment of silence she asked, "And art
thou not sorry for him?"

"I am sorry for him when I think of him as he was in Kremen; I am sorry
for him when I do not see him. But from the moment that I see him, I
feel nothing but--repulsion."

"Yes; because thou knowest not how unhappy he was in Reichenhall, and
now he is still more unhappy. He has no one in the world."

"He has thy friendship, and he loves Litka."

"My Marynia, that is something different. I am thankful to him from my
whole soul for his attachment to Litka; but that is something different
altogether, and thou knowest thyself that he loves thee a hundred times
more than Litka."

In the chamber it had grown dark already; but soon the servant brought
in a lamp, and, placing it on the table, went out. By the lamplight
Pani Emilia beheld a whitish form crouched on the sofa near the door
which led to Litka's room.

"Who is there? Is that Litka?"

"I, mamma."

In her voice there was something; Pani Emilia rose and went hurriedly
toward her.

"When didst thou come out? What is the matter?"

"I feel so ill in some way."

Pani Emilia sat down on the sofa, and, drawing the little girl up to
her, saw tears in her eyes.

"Art thou crying, Litus? What is the matter?"

"Oh, so sad, so sad!"

And, inclining her head to her mother's shoulder, she began to cry.
She was in reality sad, for she had learned that "Pan Stas" was more
unhappy than in Reichenhall, and that he loves Marynia a hundred times
more than her. That evening, when going to sleep and in her nightdress,
she nestled up to her mother's ear and whispered,--

"Mamma, mamma, I have one very great sin on my conscience."

"My poor little girl, what is troubling thee?"

She whispered in a still lower voice, "I do not like Panna Marynia."



CHAPTER XIII.


Pani Emilia, with Litka and Marynia, and with them Plavitski, were
going to the Bigiels to dine at their country house, which stood in a
forest at the distance of one hour and a half from the city. It was a
fine day in September; there were myriads of glittering spider-webs
in the air and on the stubbles. Leaves still fresh and green adhered
to the trees yet; here and there, through leafy openings, were
visible as it were fountains and bouquets of red and yellow. That
pale and faded autumn brought to Marynia's mind her occupations in
the country, the odor of grain in the barns, the fields with stacks,
and the clear extent of the meadows, bounded way off somewhere on the
horizon by stretches of alder. She felt a yearning for that life and
that composure, in comparison with which the city, notwithstanding
the labor which seethed in its every-day existence, but which Marynia
was unable to appreciate, seemed to her idle and empty. She felt now
that that life in which she had found her own worth and merit was lost
beyond return to her, and on the other hand there was not outlined
before her anything that could take its place and redeem it. She
might, it is true, return by becoming Pani Mashko; but her heart was
filled with bitterness at that thought alone, and Mashko, with his
Warsaw self-confidence, with his freckles and his side whiskers, with
his aping an English lord, seemed to her simply repulsive. Never had
she felt withal a deeper feeling against Pan Stanislav, who had taken
Kremen from her, and put Mashko in place of it. She was disgusted
with Mashko at that moment, and it seemed to her that she hated Pan
Stanislav. She saw before her life with her father on the pavement of
Warsaw, without an object, without occupation, without an ideal, with
regret for the past and in view of the past, and with emptiness in
the future. For this reason that calm autumn day, instead of quieting
her, filled her with bitterness and sorrow. On the whole, the journey
was not joyous. Litka sat in gloom because "Pan Stas" was not with
them. Pani Emilia gave all attention to her, fearing lest that gloomy
feeling might be connected with her health. Plavitski alone was in
genuine good-humor, especially at the beginning of the journey. In
his buttoned frock-coat, with a red flower in the buttonhole, with
a light-colored overcoat, and with mustaches as pointed as needles,
he thought himself beautiful, and was sprightly, since rheumatism,
which he felt at times, was not troubling him, by reason of the good
weather; secondly, before him sat one of the most presentable women in
Warsaw, who, as he supposed, would not remain indifferent to so many
charms, or in any case would esteem them in so far as she would be able
to note them. Let her say at least to herself, "Oh, what a charming
man that must have been!" In the worst event, Plavitski would have
been satisfied with such a retrospective recognition. In this hope he
was really enchanting; for at one time he was lofty and fatherly, at
another sportive, setting out with the theory that young men of the
present do not know how to act politely with ladies. In politeness, as
he told Pani Emilia, he went as far as mythology, which was true under
a certain aspect, for he looked at her as would a satyr.

But all this was received with a faint smile and with too little
attention, hence he grew offended at last and began to speak of
something else; namely, that, thanks to the relations of his daughter,
he would become acquainted with the bourgeoisie, of which he was glad,
however, for hitherto he had seen that society only on the stage, but
it is necessary in life to meet the most varied kinds of people, for
it is possible to learn something from each of them. He added finally,
that it is the duty of certain circles not to estrange the commonalty,
but on the contrary to gather them in, and thus plant in them sound
principles; therefore he who had striven always to fulfil his social
duties did not halt before that mission. Here the noble expression of
his face took on a certain style of pensiveness, and in that state of
feeling they drove up to the villa of the Bigiels.

It stood in a forest of unmixed pines, in the neighborhood of other
villas, among old trees, which in places were felled, in places
standing in groups of a few, or of a few tens. They seemed to wonder
a little what such a new house was doing among them in the old forest
stillness; but they hospitably shielded it from the wind; on fine days
they surrounded it with balsamic air, permeated with the odor of gum
and resin.

The Bigiels, with a row of children, came out to meet the guests. Pani
Bigiel, who liked Marynia much, greeted her very cordially, desiring,
besides, to prepossess her thereby for Pan Stanislav; she considered
that the better Marynia understood how pleasant it might be for her
among them, the less difficulty would she make.

Plavitski, who, during his previous stay with Marynia in Warsaw,
had made the acquaintance of the Bigiels at Pani Emilia's, but had
limited himself to leaving cards with them simply, showed himself now
such a gracious prince as was possible only to the most refined man,
who at the same time was fulfilling his mission of gathering in the
"bourgeoisie."

"At the present day it is agreeable for any man to find himself under
the roof of a person like you; but all the more for me, since my
cousin, Polanyetski, has entered the career of commerce and is your
partner."

"Polanyetski is a strong man," answered Bigiel, with directness,
pressing the gloved hand of Plavitski.

The ladies retired for a moment to remove their hats; then, the air
being quite warm, they returned to the veranda.

"Is Pan Stanislav not here yet?" inquired Pani Emilia.

"He has been here since morning," answered Bigiel; "but now he is
visiting Pani Kraslavski. The place is near by," added he, turning to
Marynia; "not even half a verst distant. There are summer residences
everywhere about, and those ladies are our nearest neighbors."

"I remember Panna Terka Kraslavski since the time of the carnival,"
said Marynia. "She was always very pale."

"Oh, she is very pale yet. The past winter she spent in Pau."

Meanwhile the little Bigiels, who loved Litka wonderfully, drew her
out to play in front of the house. The little girls showed her their
gardens, made in the sand among the pines, in which gardens, to tell
the truth, nothing would grow. These surveys were interrupted every
little while by the girls, who stood on their toes and kissed Litka's
cheeks; she, bending her beautiful flaxen head, returned these kisses
with tenderness.

But the boys wanted their share as well. First, they stripped to the
stalk the georgina at the house, gathering for Litka the most beautiful
blossoms; then they disputed about this,--what play does Litka like;
and they went to Pani Emilia for information. Edzio, who had the habit
of speaking in a very loud voice, and closing his eyes at the same
time, called out,--

"Please, Pani, I say that she likes ball better, only I don't know that
you will let her play ball."

"Yes; if she will not run, for that hurts her."

"Oh, she will not, Pani; we will throw the ball so that it will go
straight to her every time, then she will not run any. And if Yozio
doesn't know how to throw that way, let her throw the ball."

"I want to play with her," said Yozio, pitifully. And at the very
thought that he might be deprived of that pleasure, his mouth took the
form of a horseshoe and began to quiver; but Litka anticipated his
outburst of sorrow, saying,--

"I will throw to thee, Yozio; I'll throw to thee very often."

Yozio's eyes, already moist, began to smile at once.

"They will not hurt her," said Bigiel to Pani Emilia. "This is
remarkable: the boys are what is called regular tearers; but with her
they are wonderfully careful. It is Pan Stanislav who has trained them
in this devotion to her."

"Such lovely children! there are few in the world like them," remarked
Pani Emilia.

In a moment the children gathered in a group to arrange the play. In
the middle of the group stood Litka, the oldest and the tallest; and
though the little Bigiels were well-behaved children, she, with her
sweet, poetic face and features, almost over-refined, seemed, among
those ruddy, round faces, like a being from another planet. Pani Bigiel
turned attention to that first of all.

"Is she not a real queen?" asked she. "I say truly that never can I
look at her sufficiently."

"She is so noble in appearance," added Bigiel.

And Pani Emilia looked at her only one with a glance in which there was
a sea of love. The children ran apart now, and stood in a great circle
forming, on the gray background of fallen pine needles, parti-colored
spots, which seemed as small under the immense pines as colored
mushrooms.

Marynia went from the veranda and stood near Litka, to assist her in
catching the ball, for which it was necessary to run, and in that way
save her from exertion.

On the broad forest road leading to the villa, Pan Stanislav appeared
at that moment. The children did not notice him at once; but he took
in with a glance the veranda, as well as the space in front; and,
seeing the bright robe of Marynia under a pine, he hastened his steps.
Litka, knowing her mamma's alarm at every more animated movement which
she made, and, not wishing to disquiet her for anything, stood almost
without stirring from her place, and caught on her club only those
balls which came directly toward her. Marynia ran after all that went
farther. By reason of that running, her hair was loosened so that she
had to arrange it; and, at the moment when Pan Stanislav was coming in
at the gate, she stood bent backward somewhat and with arms raised to
her head.

He did not take his eyes from her, and saw no one save her. She
seemed to him on that broad space younger and smaller than usual, and
therewith so maidenlike, so unapproachably attractive, so created
for this, that a man should put his arms around her and press her
to his boson; she was so feminine, so much the dearest creature on
earth,--that never till that moment had he felt with such force how he
loved her.

At sight of him, the children threw down their balls and clubs, and
ran with a cry to meet him. The amusement was stopped. Litka at the
first instant sprang also toward Pan Stas, but restrained herself on
a sudden, and looked with her great eyes, now toward him, now toward
Marynia.

"But thou art not rushing to meet Pan Polanyetski," said Marynia.

"No."

"Why, Litus?"

"Because--"

And her cheeks flushed somewhat, though the child did not know and did
not dare to express her thought, which might be expressed in the words:
"Because he does not love me any more; he loves only thee, and looks
only at thee."

But he approached, freeing himself from the children, and repeating,--

"Do not hang on, little rogues, or I'll throw you."

And he extended his hand to Marynia, looking at her in the eyes, with
an entreaty for a pleasant smile and a greeting even a whit less
indifferent than usual; then he turned to Litka,--

"But is the dearest kitten well?"

At sight of him, and under the influence of his voice, she, forgetting
all the suffering of her little heart, gave him both hands, saying,--

"Oh, yes, well; but yesterday Pan Stas did not come to us, and it was
sad. To-day I'll take Pan Stas to mamma to give account."

After a while all were on the veranda.

"How are Pani Kraslavski and her daughter?" asked Pani Emilia.

"They are well, and are coming here after dinner," answered Pan
Stanislav.

Just before dinner Professor Vaskovski came, bringing Bukatski, who had
returned to Warsaw the evening before. His intimacy with the Bigiels
permitted him to come without being invited; and the presence of Pani
Emilia was too great a temptation to be resisted. He met her, however,
without a trace of sentiment, in his usual jesting fashion; she was
glad to see him, for he amused her with his strange and original way of
uttering ideas.

"Were you not going to Monachium and Italy?" asked she, when they had
sat down to dinner.

"Yes; but I forgot a card-knife in Warsaw, and came back to get it."

"Oh, that was a weighty reason."

"It always makes me impatient that people do everything from weighty
reasons. What privilege have weighty reasons, that every man must
accommodate himself to them? Besides, I gave, without wishing it,
the last services to a friend, for yesterday I was at the funeral of
Lisovich."

"What! that thin little sportsman?" inquired Bigiel.

"The same. And imagine that to this moment I cannot escape astonishment
that a man who played the jester all his life could bring himself to
such a serious thing as death. Simply I cannot recognize my Lisovich.
At every step a man meets disappointment."

"But," said Pan Stanislav, "Pani Kraslavski told me that Ploshovski, he
with whom all the women of Warsaw were in love, shot himself in Rome."

"He was a relative of mine," said Plavitski.

This news affected Pani Emilia mainly. She scarcely knew Ploshovski
himself, but she had often seen his aunt, for whom her husband's elder
brother was agent. She knew also how blindly this aunt loved her
sister's son.

"My God, what a misfortune!" said she. "But is it true? A young man so
capable, so wealthy--poor Panna Ploshovski!"

"And such a great estate will be without an heir," added Bigiel. "I
know their property, for it is near Warsaw. Old Panna Ploshovski
had two relatives: Pani Krovitski, though she was distant, and Leo
Ploshovski, who was nearer. Neither are living now."

These words moved Plavitski again. He was indeed some sort of a distant
relative of Panna Ploshovski, and even had seen her two or three times
in his life; but there remained to him merely the remembrance of fear,
for she had told him the bitter truth each time without circumlocution,
or rather, speaking simply, had scolded him as much as he could hold.
For this reason, in the further course of his life he avoided her most
carefully, and all communication between them was stopped, though on
occasions he liked to say a word in society of his relationship with
a family so well known and important. He belonged to that category
of people, numerous in our country, who are convinced that the Lord
God created for their special use an easy road to fortune through
inheritance, and who consider every hope of that kind as certain. He
cast a solemn glance, therefore, on the assembly, and said,--

"Perhaps, too, Providence decided that those properties should pass to
other hands, which are able to make better use of them."

"I met Ploshovski abroad once," said Pan Stanislav; "and on me he made
the impression of a man altogether uncommon. I remember him perfectly."

"He was so brilliant and sympathetic," added Pani Bigiel.

"May God show him mercy!" said Professor Vaskovski. "I too knew him; he
was a genuine Aryan."

"Azoryan," said Plavitski.

"Aryan," repeated the professor.

"Azoryan," corrected Plavitski, with emphasis and dignity.

And the two old men looked at each other with astonishment, neither
knowing what the other wanted, and this to the great delight of
Bukatski, who, raising his monocle, said,--

"How is that, Aryan or Azoryan?"

Pan Stanislav put an end to the misunderstanding by explaining that
Azorya was the name of the family escutcheon of the Ploshovskis, that
therefore it was possible to be at once an Aryan and an Azoryan; to
which Plavitski agreed unwillingly, making the parenthetical remark
that whoso bears a decent name, need not be ashamed of it, nor modify
it.

Bukatski, turning to Pani Emilia, began to converse in his usual frigid
tone,--

"One kind of suicide alone do I consider justifiable, suicide for love;
therefore I am persuading myself for a number of years to it, but
always in vain."

"They say that suicide is cowardice," put in Marynia.

"This is a reason too why I do not take my life: I am excessively
brave."

"Let us not speak of death, but of life," said Bigiel, "and of that
which is best in it, health. To the health of Pani Emilia!"

"And Litka," added Pan Stanislav.

Then he turned to Marynia and said, "To the health of our mutual
friends!"

"Most willingly," answered Marynia.

Then he lowered his voice and continued, "For see, I consider them
not only as friends of mine, but also--how is it to be expressed?--as
advocates. Litka is a child yet, but Pani Emilia knows to whom
friendship may be offered. Therefore if a certain person had a
prejudice against me, even justly; if I had acted with that person not
precisely as I should, or simply ill, and if that person knew me to be
suffering from my act,--that person ought to think that I am not the
worst of men, since Pani Emilia has sincere good-will for me."

Marynia was confused at once; she was sorry for him. He finished in a
still lower voice,--

"But in truth I am suffering. This is a great question for me."

Before she had answered, Plavitski raised a health to Pani Bigiel,
and made a whole speech, the substance of which was that the Queen of
Creation is no other than woman; therefore all heads should incline
before woman, as the queen, and, for this reason, he had bowed down all
his life before woman in general, and at present he bowed before Pani
Bigiel in particular.

Pan Stanislav from his soul wished him to choke, for he felt that he
might have received some kind word from Marynia, and he felt that the
moment had passed. In fact, Marynia went to embrace Pani Bigiel; on her
return she did not resume the interrupted conversation, and he dared
not ask her directly for an answer.

Immediately after dinner came Pani and Panna Kraslavski: the mother,
a woman about fifty years old, animated, self-confident, talkative;
the daughter, the complete opposite of her mother, formal, dry, cold,
pronouncing "tek," instead of "tak," but for the rest with a full,
though pale face, reminding one somewhat of the faces of Holbein's
Madonnas.

Pan Stanislav began out of malice to entertain her; but, looking from
time to time at the fresh face and blue eyes of Marynia, he said
to himself, "If thou hadst given even one kind word! thou,--thou,
the pitiless." And he grew more and more angry, so that when Panna
Kraslavski said "memme" instead of "mamma," he inquired harshly,--

"Who is that?"

"Memme," however, displayed her whole supply of facts, or rather
suppositions, concerning the suicide of Ploshovski.

"Imagine," said she, with warmth, "it came to my head at once that he
shot himself because of the death of Pani Krovitski. Lord light her
soul! she was a coquette, and I never liked her. She coquetted with
him so that I was afraid to take Terka to any place where they were
together, because her conduct was simply a bad example for such a young
girl. What is true, is true! Lord light her soul! Terka, too, had no
sympathy for her."

"Ah, Pani," said Pani Emilia, "I have always heard that she was an
angel."

And Bukatski, who had never seen Pani Krovitski in his life, turned to
Pani Kraslavski and said phlegmatically,--

"Madame, _je vous donne ma parole d'honneur_ that she was an archangel."

Pani Kraslavski was silent a moment, not knowing what to answer; then,
flushing up, she would have answered something sharp, were it not that
Bukatski, as a man of wealth, might in a given event be a good match
for Terka. Pan Stanislav enjoyed the same consideration in her eyes;
and for these two exclusively she kept up summer relations with the
Bigiels, whom she did not recognize when they met her by chance on the
street.

"With gentlemen," said she, "every presentable woman is an angel or an
archangel. I do not like this, even when they say it to me about Terka.
Pani Krovitski might be a good person, but she had no tact; that is the
whole question."

In this way conversation about Ploshovski dropped, the more since the
attention of Pani Kraslavski was turned exclusively to Pan Stanislav,
who was entertaining Panna Terka. He was entertaining her a little out
of anger at himself, a little out of anger at Marynia, and he tried to
convince himself that it was pleasant for him near her; he tried even
to find in her a charm, and discovered that her neck was too slender
and her eyes as it were quenched eyes, which grew lively and turned
inquiringly at him when there was no place for a question. He observed,
too, that she might be a quiet despot, for when the mother began to
talk too loudly, Panna Terka put her glasses to her eyes and looked
at her attentively; and under the influence of that look the mother
lowered her voice, or grew silent altogether. In general, Panna Terka
annoyed him immensely; and if he occupied himself more with her than he
ever had before, he did so from sheer desperation, to rouse at least a
shade of jealousy in Marynia. Even people of sound sense grasp at such
vain methods when the misery of their feelings presses them too keenly.
These methods produce usually results opposite to those intended, for
they increase the difficulty of subsequent approach and explanations;
besides, they merely strengthen the feeling cherished in the heart of
the person using them. Toward the end Pan Stanislav longed so much for
Marynia that he would have agreed to listen even to an unpleasant word
from her, if he could only approach her and speak; and still it seemed
to him more difficult now than an hour before. He drew a deep breath
when the visit was over, and the guests were preparing to go. Before
that, however, Litka approached her mother, and, putting her arms
around her neck, whispered. Pani Emilia nodded, and then approached Pan
Stanislav,--

"Pan Stanislav," said she, "if you do not think of spending the night
here, ride with us. Marynia and I will take Litka between us, and there
will be room enough."

"Very well. I cannot pass the night here; and I am very thankful,"
answered he; and, divining easily who the author of this plan was, he
turned to Litka and said,--

"Thou, my best little kitten, thou."

She, holding to her mother's dress, raised to him her eyes, half sad,
half delighted, asking quietly,--

"Is that good, Pan Stas?"

A few minutes later they started. After a fine day there came a night
still finer, a little cool, but all bright and silvery from the moon.
Pan Stanislav, for whom the day had passed grievously and in vain,
breathed now with full breast, and felt almost happy, having before
him two beings whom he loved very deeply, and one whom he loved beyond
everything on earth. By the light of the moon he saw her face, and it
seemed to him mild and peaceful. He thought that Marynia's feelings
must be like her face in that moment; that perhaps her dislike of him
was softening amid that general quiet.

Litka dropped into the depth of the seat, and appeared to be sleeping.
Pan Stanislav threw a shawl, taken from Pani Emilia, over her feet, and
they rode on a while in silence.

Pani Emilia began to speak of Ploshovski, the news of whose death had
impressed her deeply.

"There is hidden in all that some unusually sad drama," said Pan
Stanislav; "and Pani Kraslavski may be right in some small degree when
she insists that these two deaths are connected."

"There is in suicide," said Marynia, "this ghastly thing, that one
feels bound to condemn it; and while condemning there is an impression
that there should be no sympathy for the misfortune."

"Sympathy," answered Pan Stanislav, "should be had for those who have
feeling yet,--hence for the living."

The conversation ceased, and they went on again for some time in
silence. After a while Pan Stanislav pointed to the lights in the
windows of a house standing in the depth of a forest park, and said,--

"That is Pani Kraslavski's villa."

"I cannot forgive her for what she said of that unfortunate Pani
Krovitski," said Pani Emilia.

"That is simply a cruel woman," added Pan Stanislav; "but do you know
why? It is because of her daughter. She looks on the whole world as a
background which she would like to make as black as possible, so that
Panna Terka might be reflected on it the more brightly. Perhaps the
mother had designs sometime on Ploshovski; perhaps she considered Pani
Krovitski a hindrance,--hence her hatred."

"That is a nice young lady," said Marynia.

"There are persons for whom behind the world of social forms begins
another and far wider world; for her nothing begins there, or rather
everything ends. She is simply an automaton, in whom the heart beats
only when her mother winds it with a key. For that matter, there
are in society very many such young ladies; and even those who give
themselves out for something different are in reality just like her.
It is the eternal history of Galatea. Would you believe, ladies, that
a couple of years since an acquaintance of mine, a young doctor, fell
in love to distraction with that puppet, that quenched candle. Twice he
proposed, and twice he was rejected; for those ladies looked higher. He
joined the Holland service afterwards, and died there somewhere, with
the fever doubtless; for at first he wrote to me inquiring about his
automaton, and later on those letters ceased to come."

"Does she know of this?"

"She does; for as often as I see her, I speak of him. And what is
characteristic is this,--that the memory of him does not ruffle her
composure for an instant. She speaks of him as of any one else. If he
expected from her even a posthumous sorrow, he was deceived in that
also. I must show you, ladies, sometime, one of his letters. I strove
to explain to him her feeling; he answered me, 'I estimate her coolly,
but I cannot tear my soul from her.' He was a sceptic, a positive
man, a child of the age; but it seems that feeling makes sport of all
philosophies and tendencies. Everything passes; but feeling was, is,
and will be. Besides, he said to me once, 'I would rather be unhappy
with her than happy with another.' What is to be said in this case? The
man looked at things soundly, but could not tear his soul away,--and
that was the end of it."

This conversation ended also. They came out now on to a road planted
with chestnut-trees, the trunks of which seemed rosy in the light of
the carriage lamps.

"But if any one has misfortune, he must endure it," said Pan Stanislav,
following evidently the course of his own thoughts.

Meanwhile Pani Emilia bent over Litka,--

"Art sleeping, child?" inquired she.

"No, mamma," answered Litka.



CHAPTER XIV.


"I have never run after wealth," said Plavitski; "but if Providence in
its inscrutable decrees has directed that even a part of that great
fortune should come to our hands, I shall not cross its path. Of this
not much will come to me. Soon I shall need four planks and the silent
tear of my child, for whom I have lived; but here it is a question of
Marynia."

"I would turn your attention to this," said Mashko, coldly,--"that,
first of all, those expectations are very uncertain."

"But is it right not to take them into consideration?"

"Secondly, that Panna Ploshovski is living yet."

"But sawdust is dropping out of the old woman. She is as shrivelled as
a mushroom!"

"Thirdly, she may leave her property for public purposes."

"But is it not possible to dispute such a will?"

"Fourthly, your relationship is immensely distant. In the same way all
people in Poland are related to one another."

"She has no nearer relatives."

"But Polanyetski is your relative."

"No. God knows he is not! He is a relative of my first wife, not mine."

"And Bukatski?"

"Give me peace! Bukatski is a cousin of my brother-in-law's wife."

"Have you no other relatives?"

"The Gantovskis claim us, as you know. People say that which flatters
them. But there is no need of reckoning with the Gantovskis."

Mashko presented difficulties purposely, so as to show afterward a
small margin of hope, therefore he said,--

"With us people are very greedy for inheritances; and let any
inheritance be in sight, they fly together from all sides, as sparrows
fly to wheat. Everything in such cases depends on this: who claims
first, what he claims, and finally through whom he claims. Remember
that an energetic man, acquainted with affairs, may make something
out of nothing; while, on the other hand, a man without energy or
acquaintance with business, even if he has a good basis of action, may
effect nothing."

"I know this from experience. All my life I have had business up to
this." Here Plavitski drew his hand across his throat.

"Besides, you may become the plaything of advocates," added Mashko,
"and be exploited without limit."

"In such a case I could count on your personal friendship for us."

"And you would not be deceived," answered Mashko, with importance.
"Both for you and Panna Marynia I have friendship as profound as if you
belonged to my family."

"I thank you in the name of the orphan," answered Plavitski; and
emotion did not let him speak further.

Mashko put on dignity, and said, "But if you wish me to defend your
rights, both in this matter, which, as I said, may prove illusive, and
in other matters, then give me those rights." Here the young advocate
seized Plavitski's hand,--

"Respected sir," continued he, "you will divine that of which I wish to
speak; therefore hear me to the end patiently."

He lowered his voice; and although there was no one in the room, he
began to speak almost in a whisper. He spoke with force, with dignity,
and at the same time with great self-command, as befitted a man who
never forgot who he was nor what he offered. Plavitski closed his eyes
at moments; at moments he pressed Mashko's hand; finally, at the end of
the conference, he said,--

"Come to the drawing-room; I will send in Marynia. I know not what she
will say to you; in every case, let that come which God wills. I have
at all times known your value; now I esteem you still more--and here!"

The arms of Plavitski opened wide, and Mashko bent toward them,
repeating, not without emotion, but always with lofty dignity,--

"I thank, I thank--"

After a while he found himself in the drawing-room.

Marynia appeared with a face which had grown very pale; but she was
calm. Mashko pushed a chair toward her, seated himself in another, and
began,--

"I am here by the approval of your father. My words can tell you
nothing beyond what my silence has told already, and which you have
divined. But since the moment has come in which I should mention
my feelings explicitly, I do this then with all confidence in your
heart and character. I am a man who loves you, on whom you may lean;
therefore I put in your hands my life, and I beg you from the bottom of
my heart to consent to go with me."

Marynia was silent for a moment, as if seeking words, then she said,--

"I ought to answer you clearly and sincerely. This confession is for me
very difficult; but I do not wish such a man as you to deceive himself.
I have not loved you; I do not love you, and I will not be your wife,
even should it come to me never to be any one's."

Then a still more prolonged silence followed. The spots on Mashko's
face assumed a deeper hue, and his eyes cast cold steel gleams.

"This answer," said he, "is as decided as it is painful to me and
unexpected. But will you not give yourself a few days to consider,
instead of rejecting me decisively at this moment?"

"You have said that I divined your feelings; I had time then to make
my decision, and the answer which I gave you, I give after thorough
reflection."

Mashko's voice became dry and sharp now,--

"Do you think that by virtue of your bearing with me, I had not the
right to make such a proposal?"

And he was sure in that moment that Marynia would answer that he
understood her bearing incorrectly, that there was nothing in it
authorizing him to entertain any hope,--in one word, that she would
seek the crooked road taken usually by coquettes who are forced to
redeem their coquetry by lying; but she raised her eyes to him and
said,--

"My conduct with you has not been at times what it should have been; I
confess my fault, and with my whole soul I beg pardon for it."

Mashko was silent. A woman who evades rouses contempt; a woman who
recognizes her fault dashes the weapon from the hand of every opponent
in whose nature, or even in whose education, there lies the least spark
of knightly feeling. Besides this, there is one final method of moving
the heart of a woman in such a ease, and that is to overlook her fault
magnanimously. Mashko, though he saw before him a precipice, understood
this, and determined to lay everything on this last card. Every nerve
in him quivered from anger and offended self-love; but he mastered
himself, took his hat, and, approaching Marynia, raised her hand to his
lips.

"I knew that you loved Kremen," said he; "and I bought it for one
purpose only, to lay it at your feet. I see that I went by a mistaken
road, and I withdraw, though I do so with endless sorrow; I beg you to
remember that. Fault on your part there has not been, and is not. Your
peace is dearer to me than my own happiness; I beg you, therefore, as
an only favor, not to reproach yourself. And now farewell."

And he went out.

She sat there motionless a long time, with a pale face and a feeling
of oppression in her soul. She had not expected to find in him so many
noble feelings. Besides, the following thought came to her head, "That
one took Kremen from me to save his own; this one bought it to return
it to me." And never before had Pan Stanislav been so ruined in her
thoughts. At that moment she did not remember that Mashko had bought
Kremen, not from Pan Stanislav, but from her father; second, that he
had bought it profitably; third, that though he wished to return it,
he intended to take it again with her hand, thus freeing himself from
the payments which weighed on him; and finally, to take the matter as
it was in reality, neither Pan Stanislav nor any one else had taken
Kremen from her,--Plavitski had sold it because he was willing and
found a purchaser. But at that moment she looked on the matter in woman
fashion, and compared Mashko with Pan Stanislav, exalting the former
beyond measure, and condemning the latter beyond his deserts. Mashko's
action touched her so much that if she had not felt for him simply a
repulsion, she would have called him back. For a while it seemed to her
even that she ought to do so, but strength failed her.

She did not know either that Mashko went down the stairs with rage and
despair in his soul; in fact, a precipice had opened before him. All
his calculations had deceived him: the woman whom he loved really did
not want him, and rejected him; and though she had striven to spare him
in words, he felt humbled as never before. Whatever he had undertaken
in life hitherto, he had carried through always with a feeling of his
own power and reason, with an unshaken certainty of success. Marynia's
refusal had taken that certainty from him. For the first time he
doubted himself; for the first time he had a feeling that his star was
beginning to pale, and that perhaps an epoch of defeats was beginning
for him on all fields on which he had acted hitherto. That epoch had
begun even. Mashko had bought Kremen on conditions exceptionally
profitable, but it was too large an estate for his means. If Marynia
had not rejected him, he would have been able to manage; he would not
have needed to think of the life annuity for Plavitski, or the sum
which, according to agreement, came to Marynia for Magyerovka. At
present he had to pay Marynia, Pan Stanislav, and the debts on Kremen,
which must be paid as soon as possible, for, by reason of usurious
interest, they were increasing day by day, and threatening utter ruin.
For all this he had only credit, hitherto unshaken, it is true, but
strained like a chord; Mashko felt that, if that chord should ever
snap, he would be ruined beyond remedy.

Hence at moments, besides sorrow for Marynia, besides the pain which a
man feels after the loss of happiness, anger measureless, almost mad,
bore him away, and also an unbridled desire for revenge. Therefore,
when he was entering his residence, he muttered through his set teeth,--

"If thou do not become my wife, I'll not forgive thee for what thou
hast done to me; if thou become my wife, I'll not forgive thee either."

Meanwhile Plavitski entered the room in which Marynia was sitting, and
said,--

"Thou hast refused him, or he would have come to me before going."

"I have, papa."

"Without hope for the future?"

"Without hope. I respect him as no one in the world, but I gave him no
hope."

"What did he answer?"

"Everything that such a high-minded person could answer."

"A new misfortune. Who knows if thou hast not deprived me of a morsel
of bread in my old age? But I knew that no thought of this would come
to thee."

"I could not act otherwise; I could not."

"I have no wish to force thee; and I go to offer my sufferings there
where every tear of an old man is counted."

And he went to Lour's to look at men playing billiards. He would have
consented to Mashko; but at the root of the matter he did not count him
a very brilliant match, and, thinking that Marynia might do better, he
did not trouble himself too much over what had happened.

Half an hour later Marynia ran in to Pani Emilia's.

"One weight at least has fallen from my heart," began she. "I refused
Pan Mashko to-day decisively. I am sorry for him; he acted with me as
nobly and delicately as only such a man could act; and if I had for him
even a small spark of feeling, I would return to him to-day."

Here she repeated the whole conversation with Mashko. Even Pani Emilia
could not reproach him with anything; she could not refuse a certain
admiration, though she had blamed Mashko for a violent character, and
had not expected that, in such a grievous moment for himself, he would
be able to show such moderation and nobleness. But Marynia said,--

"My Emilka, I know thy friendship for Pan Stanislav, but judge these
two men by their acts, not their words, and compare them."

"Never shall I compare them," answered Pani Emilia, "comparison is
impossible in this case. For me, Pan Stanislav is a nature a hundred
times loftier than Mashko, but thou judgest him unjustly. Thou,
Marynia, hast no right to say, 'One took Kremen from me; the other
wished to give it back.' Such was not the case. Pan Stanislav did not
take it from thee at any time; but to-day, if he could, he would return
it with all his heart. Prepossesion is talking through thee."

"Not prepossession, but reality, which nothing can change."

Pani Emilia seated Marynia before her, and said, "By all means,
Marynia, prepossession, and I will tell thee why. Thou art not
indifferent to Pan Stanislav now."

Marynia quivered as if some one had touched a wound which was paining
her; and after a while she replied, with changed voice,--

"Pan Stanislav is not indifferent to me; thou art right. Everything
which in me could be sympathy for him has turned to dislike; and hear,
Emilka, what I will tell thee. If I had to choose between those two
men, I should choose Mashko without hesitation."

Pani Emilia dropped her head; after a while Marynia's arms were around
her neck.

"What suffering for me, that I cause thee such pain! but I must tell
truth. I know that in the end thou, too, wilt cease to love me, and I
shall be all alone in the world."

And really something like that had begun. The young women parted with
embraces and kisses; but still, when they found themselves far from
each other, both felt that something between them had snapped, and that
their mutual relations would not be so cordial as hitherto.

Pani Emilia hesitated for a number of days whether to repeat Marynia's
words to Pan Stanislav; but he begged her so urgently for the whole
truth that at last she thought it necessary, and that she would better
tell it. When all had been told, he said,--

"I thank you. If Panna Plavitski feels contempt for me, I must endure
it; I cannot, however, endure this,--that I should begin to despise
myself. As it is, I have gone too far. My dear lady, you know that
if I have done her a wrong, I have tried to correct it, and gain her
forgiveness. I do not feel bound to further duties. I shall have
grievous moments; I do not hide that from you. But I have not been an
imbecile, and am not; I shall be able to bring myself to this,--I shall
throw all my feelings for Panna Plavitski through the window, as I
would something not needed in my chamber, I promise that sacredly."

He went home filled with will and energy. It seemed to him that he
could take that feeling and break it as he might break a cane across
his knee. This impulse lasted a number of days. During that time he did
not show himself anywhere, except at his office, where he talked with
Bigiel of business exclusively. He worked from morning till evening and
did not permit himself even to think about Marynia in the daytime.

But he could not guard himself from sleepless nights. Then came to him
the clear feeling that Marynia might love him, that she would be the
best wife for him, that he would be happy with her as never with any
one else, and that he would love her as his highest good. The regret
born of these thoughts filled his whole existence, and did not leave
him any more, so that sorrow was consuming his life and his health,
as rust consumes iron. Pan Stanislav began to grow thin; he saw that
the destruction of a feeling gives one sure result,--the destruction
of happiness. Never had he seen such a void before him, and never had
he felt, with equal force, that nothing would fill it. He saw, too,
that it was possible to love a woman not as she is, but as she might
be; therefore his heart-sickness was beyond measure. But, having great
power over himself, he avoided Marynia. He knew always when she was to
be at Pani Emilia's, and then he confined himself at home.

It was only when Litka fell ill again that he began to visit Pani
Emilia daily, passing hours with the sick child, whom Marynia attended
also.



CHAPTER XV.


But poor Litka, after a new attack, which was more terrible than any
preceding it, could not recover. She spent days now lying on a long
chair in the drawing-room; for at her request the doctor and Pani
Emilia had agreed not to keep her in bed the whole time. She liked
also to have Pan Stanislav sitting near her; and she spoke to him
and her mother about everything that passed through her mind. With
Marynia she was silent usually; but at times she looked at her long,
and then raised her eyes to the ceiling, as if wishing to think out
a thought, and give herself an account of something. More than once
these meditations took place when she was left alone with her mother.
On a certain afternoon she woke as if from a dream, and turning to her
mother, said,--

"Mamma, sit near me here on the sofa."

Pani Emilia sat down; the child put her arms around her neck, and,
resting her head on her shoulder, began to speak in a caressing voice,
which was somewhat enfeebled.

"I wanted to ask mamma one thing, but I do not know how to ask it."

"What is thy wish, my dear child?"

Litka was silent a moment, collecting her thoughts; then she said,--

"If we love some one, mamma, what is it?"

"If we love some one, Litus?"

Pani Emilia repeated the question, not understanding well at first what
the little girl was asking, but she did not know how to inquire more
precisely.

"Then what is it, mamma?"

"It is this,--we wish that one to be well, just as I wish thee to be
well."

"And what more?"

"And we want that person to be happy, want it to be pleasant in the
world for that person, and are glad to suffer for that person when in
trouble."

"And what more?"

"To have that one always with us, as thou art with me; and we want that
one to love us, as thou lovest me."

"I understand now," said Litka, after a moment's thought; "and I think
myself that that is true,--that it is that way."

"How, kitten?"

"See, mamma, when I was in Reichenhall, mamma remembers? at Thumsee I
heard that Pan Stas loves Panna Marynia; and now I know that he must be
unhappy, though he never says so."

Pani Emilia, fearing emotion for Litka, said,--

"Does not this talk make thee tired, kitten?"

"Oh, no, not a bit, not a bit! I understand now: he wants her to love
him, and she does not love him; and he wants her to be near him always,
but she lives with her father, and she will not marry him."

"Marry him?"

"Marry him. And he is suffering from that, mamma; isn't it true?"

"True, my child."

"Yes, I know all that; and she would marry him if she loved him?"

"Certainly, kitten; he is such a kind man."

"Now I know."

The little girl closed her eyes, and Pani Emilia thought for a while
that she was sleeping; but after a time she began to inquire again,--

"And if he married Marynia, would he cease to love us?"

"No, Litus; he would love us always just the same."

"But would he love Marynia?"

"Marynia would be nearer to him than we. Why dost thou ask about this
so, thou kitten?"

"Is it wrong?"

"No, there is nothing wrong in it, nothing at all; only I am afraid
that thou wilt weary thyself."

"Oh, no! I am always thinking of Pan Stas anyhow. But mamma mustn't
tell Marynia about this."

With these words ended the conversation, after which Litka held silence
for a number of days, only she looked more persistently than before at
Marynia. Sometimes she took her hand and turned her eyes to the young
woman, as if wishing to ask something. Sometimes when Marynia and Pan
Stanislav were near by, she gazed now on her, now on him, and then
closed her lids. Often they came daily, sometimes a number of times
in the day, wishing to relieve Pani Emilia, who permitted no one to
take her place in the night at Litka's bedside; for a week she had
been without rest at night, sleeping only a little in the day, when
Litka herself begged her to do so. Still Pani Emilia was not conscious
of the whole danger which threatened the little girl; for the doctor,
not knowing what that crisis of the disease would be, whether a step
in advance merely, or the end, pacified the mother the more decisively
because Pan Stanislav begged him most urgently to do so.

She had a feeling, however, that Litka's condition was not favorable,
and, in spite of assurances from the doctor, her heart sank more than
once from alarm. But to Litka she showed always a smiling and joyous
face, just as did Pan Stanislav and Marynia; but the little girl had
learned already to observe everything, and Pani Emilia's most carefully
concealed alarm did not escape her.

Therefore on a certain morning, when there was no one in her room but
Pan Stanislav, who was occupied with inflating for her a great globe of
silk, which he had brought as a present, the little girl said,--

"Pan Stas, I see sometimes that mamma is very anxious because I am
sick."

He stopped inflating the globe, and answered,--

"Ai! she doesn't dream of it. What is working under thy hair? But it is
natural for her to be anxious; she would rather have thee well."

"Why are all other children well, and I alone always sick?"

"Nicely well! Weren't the Bigiel children sick, one after another, with
whooping-cough? For whole months the house was like a sheepfold. And
didn't Yozio have the measles? All children are eternally sick, and
that is the one pleasure with them."

"Pan Stas only talks that way, for children are sick and get well
again." Here she began to shake her head. "No; that is something
different. And now I must lie this way all the time, for if I get up my
heart beats right away; and the day before yesterday, when they began
to sing on the street, and mamma wasn't in the room, I went to the
window a little while, and saw a funeral. I thought, 'I, too, shall die
surely.'"

"Nonsense, Litus!" cried Pan Stanislav; and he began to inflate the
globe quickly to hide his emotion, and to show the child how little
her words meant. But she went on with her thought,--

"It is so stifling for me sometimes, and my heart beats so--mamma
told me to say then 'Under Thy protection,' and I say it always, for
I am terribly afraid to die! I know that it is nice in heaven, but
I shouldn't be with mamma, only alone in the graveyard; yes, in the
night."

Pan Stanislav laid down the globe suddenly, sat near the long chair,
and, taking Litka's hand, said,--

"My Litus, if thou love mamma, if thou love me, do not think of such
things. Nothing will happen to thee; but thy mother would suffer if she
knew what her little girl's head is filled with. Remember that thou art
hurting thyself in this way."

Litka joined her hands: "My Pan Stas, I ask only one thing, not more."

He bent his head down to her: "Well, ask, kitten, only something
sensible."

"Would Pan Stas be very sorry for me?"

"Ah! but see what a bad girl!"

"My Pan Stas, tell me."

"I? what an evil child, Litus! Know that I love thee, love thee
immensely. God preserve us! there is no one in the world that I should
be so sorry for. But be quiet at least for me, thou suffering fly! thou
dearest creature!"

"I will be quiet, kind Pan Stas."

And in the moment when Pani Emilia came, and he was preparing to go,
she asked,--

"And Pan Stas is not angry with me?"

"No, Litus," answered Pan Stanislav.

When he had gone to the antechamber he heard a light knocking at the
door; Pani Emilia had given orders to remove the bell. He opened it and
saw Marynia, who came ordinarily in the evening. When she had greeted
him, she asked,--

"How is Litka to-day?"

"As usual."

"Has the doctor been here?"

"Yes. He found nothing new. Let me help you!"

Saying this, he wished to take her cloak, but she was unwilling to
accept his services, and refused. Having his heart full of the previous
talk with Litka, he attacked her most unexpectedly,--

"What I offer you is simple politeness, nothing more; and even if it
were something more, you might leave your repugnance to me outside
this threshold, for inside is a sick child, whom not only I, but you,
profess to love. Your response lacks not merely kindness, but even
courtesy. I would take in the same way the cloak of any other woman,
and know that at present I am thinking of Litka, and of nothing else."

He spoke with great passionateness, so that, attacked suddenly, Marynia
was a little frightened; indeed, she lost her head somewhat, so that
obediently she let her cloak be taken from her, and not only did not
find in herself the force to be offended, but she felt that a man
sincerely and deeply affected by alarm and suffering might talk so,
therefore a man who was really full of feeling and was good at heart.
Perhaps, too, that unexpected energy of his spoke to her feminine
nature; it is enough that Pan Stanislav gained on her more in that
moment than at any time since their meeting at Kremen, and never till
then was she so strongly reminded of that active young man whom she had
conducted once through the garden. The impression, it is true, was a
mere passing one, which could not decide their mutual relations; but
she raised at once on him her eyes, somewhat astonished, but not angry,
and said,--

"I beg your pardon."

He had calmed himself, and was abashed now.

"No; I beg pardon of you. Just now Litka spoke of her death to me, and
I am so excited that I cannot control myself; pray understand this, and
forgive me."

Then he pressed her hand firmly, and went home.



CHAPTER XVI.


On the following day Marynia offered to stay at Pani Emilia's till
Litka should recover perfectly. Litka supported this offer, which Pani
Emilia, after a short opposition, was forced to accept. In fact, she
was dropping down from weariness; the health of the sick girl demanded
unceasing and exceptional watchfulness, for a new attack might come at
any instant. It was difficult to calculate or be sure that a servant,
even the most faithful, would not doze at the very moment in which
speedy assistance might save the child's life; hence the presence of
Marynia was a real aid to the anxious mother, and calmed her.

As to Plavitski, he preferred to eat at the restaurant, and made no
trouble. Marynia, moreover, went in every day to inquire about his
health and bring domestic accounts into order; then she returned to
Pani Emilia to sit half the night by the little girl.

In this way Pan Stanislav, who passed at Pani Emilia's all the time
free from occupation, and received, or rather dismissed with thanks,
those who came to inquire for Litka's health, saw Marynia daily. And
she in truth amazed him; Pani Emilia herself did not show more anxiety
for the child, and could not nurse her more carefully. In a week
Marynia's face had grown pale from watching and alarm; there were dark
lines beneath her eyes; but her strength and energy seemed to grow
hourly. There was in her also so much sweetness and kindness, something
so calm and delicate in the services which she rendered Litka, that
the child, despite the resentment which she cherished in her little
soul, began to be kind to her; and when she went for some hours to her
father, Litka looked for her with yearning.

Finally the little girl's health seemed to improve in the last hours.
The doctor permitted her to walk in the chamber and sit in an armchair,
which on sunny days was pushed to the door opening on the balcony, so
that she might look at the street and amuse herself with the movement
of people and carriages.

At such times Pan Stanislav, Pani Emilia, and Marynia stood near her
frequently; their conversation related to what was passing on the
street. Sometimes Litka was wearied, and, as it were, thoughtful;
at other times, however, her child nature got the upper hand, and
everything amused her,--hence the October sun, which covered the roofs,
the walls, and the panes of the shop windows with a pale gold; the
dresses of the passers-by; the calling of the hucksters. It seemed
that those strong elements of life, pulsating in the whirl of the
city, entered the child and enlivened her. At times wonderful thoughts
came to her head; and once, when before the balcony a heavy wagon was
pushing past which carried lemon-trees in tubs, and these, though tied
with chains, moved with the motion of the wagon, she said,--

"Their hearts do not palpitate." And then, raising her eyes to Pan
Stanislav, she asked,--

"Pan Stas, do trees live long?"

"Very long; some of them live a thousand years."

"Oh, I would like to be a tree. And which does mamma like best?"

"The birch."

"Then I would like to be a little birch; and mamma would be a big
birch, and we should grow together. And would Pan Stas like to be a
birch?"

"If I could grow somewhere not far from the little birch."

Litka looked at him shaking her head somewhat sadly, said,--

"Oh, no! I know all now; I know near what birch Pan Stas would like to
grow."

Marynia was confused, and dropped her eyes on her work; Pan Stanislav
began to stroke lightly with his palm the little blond head, and said,--

"My dear little kitten, my dear, my--my--"

Litka was silent; from under her long eyelids flowed two tears, and
rolled down her cheeks. After a while, however, she raised her sweet
face, radiant with a smile,--

"I love mamma very much," said she, "and I love Pan Stas, and I love
Marynia."



CHAPTER XVII.


Professor Vaskovski inquired every day about the health of the little
one; and though most frequently they did not receive him, he sent her
flowers. Pan Stanislav, meeting him somewhere at dinner, began thanking
him in Pani Emilia's name.

"Asters, only asters!" said Vaskovski. "How is she to-day?"

"To-day not ill, but, in general, not well; worse than in Reichenhall.
Fear for each coming day seizes one; and at the thought that the child
may be missing--"

Here Pan Stanislav stopped, for further words failed him; at last he
burst out,--

"What is the use in looking for mercy? There is nothing but logic,
which says that whoso has a sick heart must die. And may thunderbolts
split such existence!"

Now came Bukatski, who, when he had learned what the conversation was,
attacked the professor; even he, as he loved Litka, rebelled in his
soul at thought of that death which was threatening her.

"How is it possible to deceive oneself so many years, and proclaim
principles which turn into nothing in view of blind predestination?"

But the old man answered mildly: "How, beloved friends, estimate with
your own measure the wisdom of God and His mercy? A man under ground is
surrounded by darkness, but he has no right to deny that above him are
sky, sun, heat, and light."

"Here is consolation," interrupted Pan Stanislav; "a fly couldn't live
on such doctrines. And what is a mother to do, whose only and beloved
child is dying?"

But the blue eyes of the professor seemed to look beyond the world. For
a time he gazed straightforward persistently; then he said, like a man
who sees something, but is not sure that he sees it distinctly, "It
appears to me that this child has fixed herself too deeply in people's
hearts to pass away simply, and disappear without a trace. There
is something in this,--something was predestined to her; she must
accomplish something, and before that she will not die."

"Mysticism," said Bukatski.

But Pan Stanislav interrupted: "Oh, that it were so, mysticism or no
mysticism! Oh, that it were so! A man in misfortune grasps even at a
shadow of hope. It never found place in my head that she had to die."

But the professor added, "Who knows? she may survive all of us."

Polanyetski was in that phase of scepticism in which a man recognizes
certainty in nothing, but considers everything possible, especially
that everything which at the given time his heart yearns for; he
breathed therefore more easily, and received certain consolation.

"May God have mercy on her and Pani Emilia!" said he. "I would give
money for a hundred Masses if I knew they would help her."

"Give for one, if the intention be sincere."

"I will, I will! As to the sincerity of intention, I could not be more
sincere if the question involved my own life."

Vaskovski smiled and said, "Thou art on the good road, for thou knowest
how to love."

And all left relieved in some way. Bukatski, if he was thinking of
something opposed to what Vaskovski had said, did not dare mention it;
for when people in presence of real misfortune seek salvation in faith,
scepticism, even when thoroughly rooted, pulls its cap over its ears,
and is not only cowardly, but seems weak and small.

Bigiel, who came in at that moment, saw more cheerful faces, and said,--

"I see by you that the little one is not worse."

"No, no," said Pan Stanislav; "and the professor told us such wholesome
things that he might be applied to a wound."

"Praise be to God! My wife gave money for a Mass to-day, and went then
to Pani Emilia's. I will dine with you, for I have leave; and, since
Litka is better, I will tell you another glad news."

"What is it?"

"Awhile ago I met Mashko, who, by the way, will be here soon; and when
he comes, congratulate him, for he is going to marry."

"Whom?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"My neighbor's daughter."

"Panna Kraslavski?"

"Yes."

"I understand," said Bukatski; "he crushed those ladies into dust with
his grandeur, his birth, his property, and out of that dust he formed a
wife and a mother-in-law for himself."

"Tell me one thing," said the professor; "Mashko is a religious man--"

"As a conservative," interrupted Bukatski, "for appearance' sake."

"And those ladies, too," continued Vaskovski.

"From habit--"

"Why do they never think of a future life?"

"Mashko, why dost thou never think of a future life?" cried Bukatski,
turning to the advocate, who was coming in at that moment.

Mashko approached them and asked, "What dost thou say?"

"I will say Tu felix, Mashko, nube!" (Thou, Mashko, art fortunate in
marriage!)

Then all began to offer congratulations, which he received with full
weight of dignity; at the end he said,--

"My dear friends, I thank you from my whole heart; and, since ye all
know my betrothed, I have no doubt of the sincerity of your wishes."

"Do not permit thyself one," said Bukatski.

"But Kremen came to thee in season," interjected Pan Stanislav.

Indeed, Kremen had come to Mashko in season, for without it he might
not have been accepted. But for that very cause the remark was not
agreeable; hence he made a wry face, and answered,--

"Thou didst make that purchase easy; sometimes I am thankful to thee,
and sometimes I curse thee."

"Why so?"

"For thy dear Uncle Plavitski is the most annoying, the most
unendurable figure on earth, omitting thy cousin, who is a charming
young lady; but from morning till evening she rings changes on her
never to be sufficiently regretted Kremen, through all the seven notes,
adding at each one a tear. Thou art seldom at their house; but, believe
me, to be there is uncommonly wearisome."

Pan Stanislav looked into his eyes and answered, "Listen, Mashko:
against my uncle I have said everything that could hit him; but it
does not follow, therefore, that I am to listen patiently if another
attacks Plavitski, especially a man who has made profit by him. As to
Panna Marynia, she is sorry, I know, for Kremen; but this proves that
she is not an empty puppet, or a manikin, but a woman with a heart;
dost understand me?"

A moment of silence followed. Mashko understood perfectly whom Pan
Stanislav had in mind when he mentioned the empty doll and manikin;
hence the freckles on his face became brick-colored, and his lips began
to quiver. But he restrained himself. He was in no sense a coward;
but even the man who is most daring has usually some one with whom he
has no wish to quarrel, and for Mashko Polanyetski was such a one.
Therefore, shrugging his shoulders, he said,--

"Why art thou angry? If that is unpleasing to thee--"

But Pan Stanislav interrupted, "I am not angry; but I advise thee to
remember my words." And he looked him in the eyes again.

Mashko thought, "If thou wilt have an adventure anyhow, thou canst have
it."

"Thy words," said he, "I can remember; only do thou take counsel also
from me. Permit not thyself to speak in that tone to me, else I might
forget myself also, and call thee to reckoning."

"What the deuce--?" began Bukatski. "What is the matter with thee?"

But Pan Stanislav, in whom irritation against Mashko has been gathering
for a long time, would beyond doubt have pushed matters to extremes had
not Pani Emilia's servant rushed into the room at that moment.

"I beg," said he, with a panting voice; "the little lady is dying!"

Pan Stanislav grew pale, and, seizing his hat, sprang to the door. A
long, dull silence followed, which Mashko interrupted at last.

"I forgot," said he, "that everything should be forgiven him at
present."

Vaskovski, covering his eyes with his hands, began to pray. At length
he raised his head and said,--

"God alone has bridled death, and has power to restrain it."

A quarter of an hour later, Bigiel received a note from his wife with
the words, "The attack has passed."



CHAPTER XVIII.


Pan Stanislav hurried to Pani Emilia's, fearing that he would not find
Litka living; for the servant told him on the way that the little lady
was in convulsions, and dying. But when he arrived, Pani Emilia ran to
meet him, and from the depth of her breast threw out in one breath the
words, "Better! better!"

"Is the doctor here?"

"He is."

"But the little one?"

"Is sleeping."

On the face of Pani Emilia the remnants of fear were struggling with
hope and joy. Pan Stanislav noticed that her lips were almost white,
her eyes dry and red, her face in blotches; she was mortally wearied,
for she had not slept for twenty-four hours. But the doctor, a young
man, and energetic, looked on the danger as passed for the time.
Pani Emilia was strengthened by what he told her in presence of Pan
Stanislav, especially this: "We should not let it come to a second
attack, and we will not."

There was real consolation in these words, for evidently the doctor
considered that they were able to ward off another attack; still there
was a warning that another attack might be fatal. But Pani Emilia
grasped at every hope, as a man falling over a precipice grasps at the
branches of trees growing out on the edge of it.

"We will not; we will not!" repeated she, pressing the doctor's hand
feverishly.

Pan Stanislav looked into his eyes unobserved, wishing to read in them
whether he said this to pacify the mother, or on the basis of medical
conviction, and asked as a test,--

"You will not leave her to-day?"

"I do not see the least need of staying," answered he. "The child
is exhausted, and is like to sleep long and soundly. I will come
to-morrow, but to-day I can go with perfect safety." Then he turned to
Pani Emilia,--

"You must rest, too. All danger has passed; the patient should not see
on your face any suffering or alarm, for she might be disturbed, and
she is too weak to endure that."

"I could not fall asleep," said Pani Emilia.

The doctor turned his pale blue eyes to her, and, gazing into her face
with a certain intensity, said slowly,--

"In an hour you will lie down, and will fall asleep directly; you will
sleep unbrokenly for six or eight hours,--let us say eight. To-morrow
you will be strong and refreshed. And now good-night."

"But drops to the little one, if she wakes?" asked Pani Emilia.

"Another will give the drops; you will sleep. Good-night." And he took
farewell.

Pan Stanislav wished to follow him to inquire alone about Litka, but he
thought that a longer talk of that kind might alarm Pani Emilia; hence
he preferred to omit it, promising himself that in the morning he would
go to the doctor's house and talk there with him. After a while, when
he was alone with Pani Emilia, he said,--

"Do as the doctor directed; you need rest. I promise to go to Litka's
room now, and I will not leave her the whole night."

But Pani Emilia's thoughts were all with the little girl; so, instead
of an answer, she said to him directly,--

"Do you know, after the attack, she asked several times for you
before she fell asleep. And for Marynia too. She fell asleep with the
question, 'Where is Pan Stas?'"

"My poor beloved child, I should have come anyhow right after dinner. I
flew here barely alive. When did the attack begin?"

"In the forenoon. From the morning she was gloomy, as if foreboding
something. You know that in my presence she says always that she is
well; but she must have felt ill, for before the attack she sat near me
and begged me to hold her hand. Yesterday, I forgot to tell you that
she put such strange questions to me: 'Is it true,' inquired she, 'that
if a sick child asks for a thing it is never refused?' I answered that
it is not refused unless the child asks for something impossible. Some
idea was passing through her head evidently, for in the evening, when
Marynia ran in for a moment, she put like questions to us. She went to
sleep in good humor, but this morning early she complained of stifling.
It is lucky that I sent for the doctor before the attack, and that he
came promptly."

"It is the greatest luck that he went away with such certainty that
the attack would not be repeated. I am perfectly sure that that is his
conviction," answered Pan Stanislav.

Pani Emilia raised her eyes: "The Lord God is so merciful, so good,
that--"

In spite of all her efforts, she began to sob, for repressed alarm and
despair were changed to joy in her, and she found relief in tears.
In that noble and spiritualized nature, innate exaltation disturbed
calm thought; by reason of this, Pani Emilia never gave an account to
herself of the real state of affairs; now, for example, she had not
the least doubt that Litka's illness had ended once for all with this
recent attack, and that thenceforth a time of perfect health would
begin for the child.

Pan Stanislav had neither the wish nor the heart to show her a middle
road between delight and despair; his heart rose with great pity for
her, and there came to him one of those moments in which he felt
more clearly than usually how deeply, though disinterestedly, he was
attached to that enthusiastic and idealistic woman. If she had been his
sister, he would have embraced her and pressed her to his bosom; as it
was, he kissed her delicate, thin hands, and said,--

"Praise be to God; praise be to God! Let the dear lady think now of
herself, and I will go to the little one and not stir till she wakes."
And he went.

In Litka's chamber there was darkness, for the window-blinds were
closed, and the sun was going down. Only through the slats did some
reddish rays force their way; these lighted the chamber imperfectly and
vanished soon, for the sky began to grow cloudy. Litka was sleeping
soundly. Pan Stanislav, sitting near her, looked on her sleeping face,
and at the first moment his heart was oppressed painfully. She was
lying with her face toward the ceiling; her thin little hands were
placed on the coverlid; her eyes were closed, and under them was a
deep shadow from the lashes. Her pallor, which seemed waxen in that
reddish half-gloom, and her open mouth, finally, the deep sleep,--gave,
her face the seeming of such rest as the faces of the dead have. But
the movement of the ruffles on her nightdress showed that she was
living and breathing. Her respiration was even calm and very regular.
Pan Stanislav looked for a long time at that sick face, and felt
again, with full force, what he had felt often, when he thought of
himself,--namely, that nature had made him to be a father; that,
besides the woman of his choice, children might be the immense love of
his life, the chief object and reason of his existence. He understood
this, through the pity and love which he felt at that moment for Litka,
who, a stranger to him by birth, was as dear to him then as would have
been his own child.

"If she had been given to me," thought he; "if she lacked a mother,--I
would take her forever, and consider that I had something to live for."

And he felt also that were it possible to make a bargain with death,
he would have given himself without hesitation to redeem that little
"kitten," over whom death seemed then to be floating like a bird of
prey over a dove. Such tenderness seized him as he had not felt till
that hour; and that man, of a character rather quick and harsh, was
ready to kiss the hands and head of that child, with a tenderness of
which not even every woman's heart is capable.

Meanwhile it had grown dark. Soon Pani Emilia came in, shading with her
hand a blue night-lamp.

"She is sleeping?" asked she, in a low voice, placing the lamp on the
table beyond Litka's head.

"She is," answered Pan Stanislav, in an equally low voice.

Pani Emilia looked long at the sleeping child.

"See," whispered Pan Stanislav, "how regularly and calmly she breathes.
To-morrow she will be healthier and stronger."

"Yes," answered the mother, with a smile.

"Now it is your turn. Sleep, sleep! otherwise I shall begin to command
without pity."

Her eyes continued to smile at him thankfully. In the mild blue light
of the night-lamp she seemed like an apparition. She had a perfectly
angelic face; and Pan Stanislav thought in spite of himself that she
and Litka looked really like forms from beyond the earth, which by pure
chance had wandered into this world.

"Yes," answered she; "I will rest now. Marynia has come, and Professor
Vaskovski. Marynia wishes absolutely to remain."

"So much the better. She manages so well near the little girl.
Good-night."

"Good-night."

Pan Stanislav was alone again, and began to think of Marynia. At the
very intelligence that he would see her soon he could not think of
aught else; and now he put the question to himself: "In what lies
this wonderful secret of nature in virtue of which I, for example,
did not fall in love with Pani Emilia, decidedly more beautiful than
Marynia, likely better, sweeter, more capable of loving,--but with
that girl whom I know incomparably less, and, justly or unjustly,
honor less?" Still with every approach of his to Marynia there rose in
him immediately all those impulses which a man may feel at sight of
a chosen woman, while a real womanly form, like that of Pani Emilia,
made no other impression on him than if she had been a painting or a
carving. Why is this, and why, the more culture a man has, the more
his nerves become subtile, and his sensitiveness keener, the greater
difference does he make between woman and woman? Pan Stanislav had
no answer to this save the one which that doctor in love with Panna
Kraslavski had given him: "I estimate her coolly, but I cannot tear my
soul from her." That was rather the description of a phenomenon than an
answer, for which, moreover, he had not the time, since Marynia came in
at that moment.

They nodded in salutation; he raised a chair then, and put it down
softly at Litka's bed, letting Marynia know by a sign that she was to
sit there. She began to speak first, or rather, to whisper.

"Go to tea now. Professor Vaskovski is here."

"And Pani Emilia?"

"She could not sit up. She said that it was a wonder to her, but she
must sleep."

"I know why: the doctor hypnotized her, and he did well. The little
girl is indeed better."

Marynia gazed into his eyes; but he repeated,--

"She is really better--if the attack will not return, and there is hope
that it will not."

"Ah! praise be to God! But go now and drink tea."

He preferred, however, to whisper to her near by and confidentially, so
he said,--

"I will, I will; but later. Let us arrange meanwhile so that you may
rest. I have heard that your father is ill. Of course you have been
watching over him."

"Father is well now, and I wish to take Emilia's place absolutely. She
told me that the servants had not slept either all last night, for the
child's condition was alarming before the attack. It is needful now
that some one be on the watch always. I should wish, therefore, so to
arrange that we--that is, I, you, and Emilka--should follow in turn."

"Very well; but to-day I will remain. If not here, I shall be at call
in the next chamber. When did you hear of the attack?"

"I did not hear of it. I came as I do usually in the evening to learn
what was to be heard."

"Pani Emilia's servant hurried to me while I was dining. You can
imagine easily how I flew hither. I was not sure of finding her alive.
What wonder, since during dinner I talked almost all the time of Litka
with Bukatski and Vaskovski, till Mashko came with the announcement of
his marriage."

"Is Mashko going to marry?"

"Yes. The news has not gone around yet; but he announced it himself. He
marries Panna Kraslavski; you remember her?"

"She who was at the Bigiels that evening. She is a good match for
Mashko, Panna Kraslavski."

There was silence for a moment. Marynia, who, not loving Mashko, had
rejected his hand, but who more than once had reproached herself for
her conduct with regard to him, thinking that she had exposed him to
deception and suffering, could find only comfort in the news that the
young advocate had borne the blow so easily. Still the news astonished
her for the time, and also wounded her. Women, when they sympathize
with some one, wish first that some one to be really unhappy, and,
secondly, they wish to alleviate the misfortune themselves; when it
turns out that another is able to do that, they undergo a certain
disillusion. Marynia's self-love was wounded also doubly. She had
not thought that it would be so easy to forget her; hence she had to
confess that her idea of Mashko as an exceptional man had no basis.
He had been for her hitherto a kind of ace in the game against Pan
Stanislav; now he had ceased to be that. She felt, therefore, let
matters be as they might, somewhat conquered. This did not prevent her,
it is true, from informing Pan Stanislav, with a certain accent of
truth, that his news caused her sincere and deep joy, but at bottom she
felt in some sort offended by him because he had told her.

For a certain time Pan Stanislav had acted with her very reservedly,
and in nothing had he betrayed what was happening within him. He did
not feign to be too cool, for they had to meet; therefore, in meeting
her he maintained even a certain kindly freedom, but for this very
reason she judged that he had ceased to love her, and such is human
nature, that though the old offence was existing yet, and had even
increased in the soul of the young woman, though her first disillusion
had changed as it were into a spring, giving forth new bitterness
continually, still the thought that her repugnance was indifferent to
him irritated Marynia. Now it seemed to her that Pan Stanislav must
even triumph over her mistake as to Mashko; and at this, that in every
case she, who shortly before had the choice between Mashko and him,
has that choice no longer, and will fall, as it were, into a kind of
neglect somewhat humiliating.

But he was far from such thoughts. He was glad, it is true, that
Marynia should know that, by exalting Mashko above him, she had been
mistaken fundamentally; but he had not dreamed even of taking pleasure
in this or triumphing because of her isolation, for at every moment
and at that time more than any other he was ready to open his arms
to her, press her to his bosom, and love her. He was working, it is
true, continually and even with stubbornness to break in himself those
feelings; but he did this only because he saw no hope before him, and
considered it an offence against his dignity as a man to put all the
powers of his soul and heart into a feeling which was not returned.
To use his own expression, he wished to avoid surrender, and he did
avoid surrender, to the best of his power; but he understood perfectly
that such a struggle exhausts, and that even if it ends with victory
it brings a void, instead of happiness. Besides, he was far yet from
victory. After all his efforts he had arrived at this only,--that his
feeling was mingled with bitterness. Such a ferment dissolves love, it
is true, for the simple reason that it poisons it; and in time this
bitterness might have dissolved love in Pan Stanislav's heart. But
what an empty result! Sitting then near Marynia and looking at her
face and head, shone on by the light of the lamp, he said to himself,
"If only she wished!" That thought made him angry; but since he wanted
to be sincere with himself, he had to confess that if only she wished
he would bend to her feet with the greatest readiness. What an empty
result, then, and what a position without escape! For he felt that
the misunderstanding between them had increased so much that even if
Marynia desired a return of those moments passed in Kremen, self-love
and fear of self-contradiction would close her lips. Their relations
had become so entangled that they might fall in love more easily a
second time than come to an understanding.

After a short conversation there was silence between them, interrupted
only by the breathing of the sick child and the slight, but mournful,
sounds of the window-panes, on which fine rain was striking. Outside,
the night had grown wet; it was autumnal, bringing with it oppression,
gloom, pessimism, and discontent. Equally gloomy seemed that chamber,
in whose dark corners death appeared to be lurking. Hour followed hour
more slowly. All at once forebodings seized Pan Stanislav. He looked
at Litka on a sudden, and it seemed to him madness to suppose that
she could recover. Vain was watching! vain were hopes and illusions!
That child must die! she must all the more surely, the dearer she was.
Pani Emilia will follow her; and then there will be a desert really
hopeless. What a life! See, he, Polanyetski, has those two, the only
beings in the world who love him,--beings for whom he is something;
therefore it is clear that he must lose them. With them there would
be something in life to which he could adhere; without them there
will be only nothingness and a certain kind of future, blind, deaf,
unreasoning, with the face of an idiot.

The most energetic man needs some one to love him. Otherwise he feels
death within, and his energy turns against life. A moment like that had
come now to Pan Stanislav. "I do not know absolutely why I should not
fire into my forehead," thought he, "not from despair at losing them,
but because of the nothing without them. If life must be senseless,
there is no reason to permit this senselessness, unless through
curiosity to learn how far it can go." But this thought did not appear
in him as a plan; it was rather the effort of a man writhing at the
chain of misfortune, a burst of anger in a man seeking some one against
whom to turn. In Pan Stanislav this anger turned suddenly on Marynia.
He did not know himself why; but it seemed to him at once that all the
evil which had happened, had happened through her. She had brought into
their circle a dislike not there before, suffering not there before,
and had thrown, as it were, some stone into their smooth water; and
now the wave, which was spreading more and more widely, covered not
only him, but Pani Emilia and Litka. As a man governing himself by
judgment, not by nerves, he understood how vain were reproaches of this
sort; still he could not put down the remembrance that before Marynia
came it was better in every way, and so much better even, that he might
consider that as a happy period of his life. He loved then only Litka,
with that untroubled, fatherly feeling, which did not and could not
bring bitterness for a moment. Who knows, besides, if in time he might
not have been able to love Pani Emilia? She, it is true, had not for
him other feelings than those of friendship, but perhaps only because
he did not desire other feelings. High-minded women frequently refuse
themselves feelings which go beyond the boundary of friendship, so as
not to render difficult and involved the life of some one who might,
but does not wish to become dear. Meanwhile in the depth of the soul
lies a calm secret melancholy; they find sweetness and consolation in
the tenderness permitted by friendship.

Pan Stanislav, by becoming acquainted with Marynia, gave her at once
the best part of his feelings. Why? for what purpose? Only to give
himself suffering. Now, to complete the misfortune, that Litka, the
one ray of his life, had died, or might die any moment. Pan Stanislav
looked again at her, and said in his soul,--

"Remain even, thou dear child; thou knowst not how needful thou art to
me and to thy mother. God guard thee; what a life there will be without
thee!"

Suddenly he saw that the eyes of the child were looking at him. For a
while he thought himself mistaken, and did not dare to stir; but the
little maiden smiled, and finally she whispered,--

"Pan Stas."

"It is I, Litus. How dost thou feel?"

"Well; but where is mamma?"

"She will come right away. We had a great struggle to make her go to
bed to sleep, and we hardly persuaded her."

Litka turned her head, and, seeing Marynia, said,--

"Ah! is that Aunt Marynia?"

For some time she had called her aunt.

Marynia rose, and, taking the vial which stood on the shelf, poured
drop after drop into a spoon; then she gave them to Litka, who, when
she had finished drinking, pressed her lips to Marynia's forehead.

A moment of silence followed; then the child said, as if to herself,--

"There is no need of waking mamma."

"No; no one will wake her," answered Pan Stanislav. "All will be as
Litus wishes."

And he began to stroke her hand, which was lying on the coverlid. She
looked at him, repeating, as was her wont,--

"Pan Stas, Pan Stas!"

For a while it seemed that she would fall asleep; but evidently the
child was thinking of something with great effort, for her brows rose.
At last, opening widely her eyes, she looked now at Pan Stanislav, and
now at Marynia. In the room nothing was heard save the sound of rain on
the windows.

"What is the matter with the child?" asked Marynia.

But she, clasping her hands, whispered in a voice barely audible, "I
have a great, great prayer to Aunt Marynia, but--I am afraid to say it."

Marynia bent her mild face toward the little girl.

"Speak, my love; I will do everything for thee."

Then the little girl, seizing her hand, and pressing it to her lips,
whispered,--

"I want Aunt Marynia to love Pan Stas."

In the silence which followed after these words was to be heard only
the somewhat increased breathing of the little girl. At last the calm
voice of Marynia was heard,--

"Very well, my love."

A spasm of weeping seized Pan Stanislav suddenly by the throat;
everything, not excluding Marynia, vanished from his eyes before that
child, who, at such a moment, sick, powerless, and in the face of
death, thought only of him.

Litka asked further,--

"And will aunt marry Pan Stas?"

In the light of the blue lamp Marynia's face seemed very pale; her lips
quivered, but she answered without hesitation,--

"I will, Litus."

The little girl raised Marynia's hand to her lips a second time;
her head fell on the pillow, and she lay for a while with closed
lids; after some time, however, two tears flowed down her cheeks.
Then followed a longer silence; the rain was beating against the
window-panes. Pan Stanislav and Marynia were sitting motionless
without looking at each other; both felt, however, that their fates
had been decided that night, but they were as if dazed by what had
happened. In the chaos of thought and feelings neither of them knew
how to note or indicate what was passing within them. In that silence,
which was kept instinctively, lest perchance they might look each other
in the eyes, hour followed hour. The clock struck midnight, then one;
about two Pani Emilia slipped in like a shadow.

"Is she sleeping?" inquired she.

"No, mamma," answered Litka.

"Art thou well?"

"Well, mamma."

And when Pani Emilia sat near her bed, the little one embraced her
neck; and, nestling her yellow head at her breast, she said,--

"I know now, mamma, that when a sick child begs for anything, people
never refuse."

And she nestled up to her mother some time yet; then, drawing out each
word as sleepy children do, or very tired ones, she said,--

"Pan Stas will not be sad any more; and I will tell mamma why--"

But here her head became heavy on her mother's breast, and Pani Emilia
felt the cold sweat coming on the hands of the child, as well as on her
temples.

"Litus!" exclaimed she, with a suppressed, frightened voice.

And the child began,--

"I feel so strange, so weak--"

Her thoughts grew dim; and after a while she continued,--

"Oh, the sea is rolling--such a big sea!--and we are all sailing on it.
Mamma! mamma!"

And a new attack came, dreadful, pitiless. The little girl's body was
drawn in convulsions, and her eyesight turned toward the back of her
head. There was no chance of illusion this time; death was at hand, and
visible in the pale light of the lamp, in the dark corner of the room,
in the sound of the window-panes, stricken by the rain, and in the
noise of the wind, full of terrified voices and cries.

Pan Stanislav sprang up and ran for the doctor. In a quarter of an
hour both appeared before the closed doors of the room, uncertain
whether the child was living yet, and they disappeared through it
immediately,--first Pan Stanislav, then the doctor, who, from the
moment that they had pulled him out of bed, kept repeating one phrase,
"Is it fear or emotion?"

Some of the servants, with sleepy and anxious faces, were gathered at
the door, listening; and in the whole house followed a silence, long
continued, which weighed down like lead.

It was broken at last by Marynia, who was the first to come out of the
closed chamber, her face as pale as linen, and she said hurriedly,--

"Water for the lady! the little lady is living no longer."



CHAPTER XIX.


Autumn, in its last days, smiles on people at times with immense
sadness, but mildly, like a woman dying of decline. It was on such a
mild day that Litka's funeral took place. There is pain mingled with
a certain consolation in this,--that those left behind think of their
dead and feel the loss of them. Pan Stanislav, occupied with the
funeral, was penetrated by that calm and pensive day with still greater
sadness; but, transferring Litka's feelings to himself, he thought
that the child would have wished just such a day for her burial, and
he found in this thought a certain solace. Till that moment he had not
been able simply to measure his sorrow; such knowledge comes later,
and begins only when the loved one is left in the graveyard, and a man
returns by himself to his empty house. Besides, preparations for the
funeral had consumed Pan Stanislav's whole time. Life has surrounded
with artificial forms, and has complicated, such a simple act as death.
Pan Stanislav wished to show Litka that last service, which, moreover,
there was no one else to perform. All those springs of life through
which man thinks, resolves, and acts, were severed in Pani Emilia by
the death of her child. This time the wind seemed too keen for the
fleece of the lamb. Happily, however, excessive pain either destroys
itself, or benumbs the human heart. This happened with Pani Emilia. Pan
Stanislav noticed that the predominant expression of her face and eyes
was a measureless, rigid amazement. As in her eyes there were no tears,
so in her mouth there were no words,--merely a kind of whisper, at
once tragic and childish, showing that her thought did not take in the
misfortune, but hovered around the minutiæ accompanying it; she seized
at these, and attended to them with as much carefulness as if her child
were alive yet. In the room, now turned into a chamber of mourning,
Litka, reposing on a satin cushion amid flowers, could want nothing;
meanwhile the heart of the mother, grown childish from pain, turned
continually to this: what could be lacking to Litka? When they tried
to remove her from the body, she offered no resistance; she merely
lost the remnant of her consciousness, and began to groan, as if pained
beyond endurance.

Pan Stanislav and her husband's brother, Pan Hvastovski, who had come
just before the funeral, strove to lead her away at the moment Litka
was covered with the coffin-lid; but when Pani Emilia began to call the
little one by name, courage failed the two men.

The procession moved at last with numerous torches, and drew after
it a train of carriages, preceded by priests, chanting gloomily, and
surrounded by a crowd of the curious, who in modern cities feed their
eyes with the sorrow of others, as in ancient times they fed them in
the circus with the blood of people.

Pani Emilia, attended by her husband's brother, and having Marynia at
her side, walked also behind the caravan with dry and expressionless
face. Her eyes saw only one detail, and her mind was occupied with
that alone. It had happened that a lock of Litka's flaxen, immensely
abundant hair was outside the coffin. Pani Emilia did not take her eyes
from it the whole way, repeating again and again, "O God, O God! they
have nailed down the child's hair!"

In Pan Stanislav's sorrow, weariness, nervous disturbance, resulting
from sleeplessness, became a feeling of such unendurable oppression
that at moments he was seized by an invincible desire to turn back
when he had gone halfway,--return home, throw himself on a sofa, not
think of anything, not wish anything, not love any one, not feel
anything. At the same time this revulsion of self-love astounded him,
made him indignant at himself: he knew that he would not return; that
he would drain that cup to the bottom, that he would go to the end,
not only because it would happen so, but because sorrow for Litka, and
attachment to her, would be stronger than his selfishness. He felt,
too, at that moment, that all his other feelings were contracted and
withered, and that for the whole world he had in his heart merely
nothing, at least, at that moment. For that matter his thoughts and
feelings had fallen into perfect disorder, composed of external
impressions received very hastily, observations made, it was unknown
why, and mixed all together mechanically with a feeling of sorrow and
pain. At times he looked at the houses past which the procession was
moving, and he distinguished their colors. At times some shop sign
caught his eye; this he read, not knowing why he did so. Then again he
thought that the priests had ceased to sing, but would begin directly;
and he was waiting for that renewed continuance of sad voices, as
if in a kind of dread. At times he reasoned like a man who, waking
from sleep, wishes to give himself an account of reality: "Those are
houses," said he to himself; "those are signs; that is the odor of
pitch from the torches; and there on the bier lies Litka; and we are
going to the graveyard." And all at once there rose in him a wave of
sorrow for that sweet, beloved child, for that dear face which had
smiled so many times at him. He recalled her from remoter and from
recent days; remembered her in Reichenhall, where he carried her when
returning from Thumsee; and later at Bigiel's, in the country; and in
Pani Emilia's house, when she said that she wanted to be a birch-tree;
and finally, when, a few hours before her death, she entreated Marynia
to marry him. Pan Stanislav did not say directly to himself that Litka
loved him as a grown woman loves, and that, in betrothing him to
Marynia, she had performed an act of sacrifice, for the feelings of the
little girl were not known, and could not be defined with precision;
he felt perfectly, however, that there was something like that love in
her, and that the sacrifice took place, flowed, in fact, from that deep
and exceptional attachment which Litka had felt for him. Since the loss
of even those who are dearest is felt most of all through the personal
loss which we suffer, Pan Stanislav began to repeat to himself: "That
was the one soul that loved me truly; I have no one in the whole world
now." And, raising his eyes to the coffin, to that tress of blond hair
which was waving in the wind, he cried out in spirit to Litka with all
those tender expressions with which he had spoken to her while in life.
Finally, he felt that tears were choking him, because that was a call
without echo. There is something heart-rending in the indifference
of the dead. When the one who reflected every word and glance has
become indifferent, when the loving one is icy, the one who was near
in daily life, and next the heart, is full of solemnity, and far away,
it avails not to repeat to one's self: "Death, death!" In addition to
all pain connected with the loss, there is a harrowing deception, as
if an injustice to the heart had been wrought by that lifeless body,
which remains deaf to our pain and entreaty. Pan Stanislav had, in
this manner, at the bottom of his soul, a feeling that Litka, by
taking herself from him, and going to the region of death, had done an
injustice; and from being one who is near, she had become one remote;
from being a confidant, she had become formal, far away, lofty, sacred,
and also perfectly indifferent to the despair of her mother and the
deep loneliness of her nearest friend. There was much selfishness in
those feelings of Pan Stanislav; but were it not for that selfishness,
which, first of all, has its own loss and loneliness in mind, people,
especially those who believe in life beyond the grave and its
happiness, would feel no grief for the dead.

The procession passed out at last from the city to clearer and more
open spaces, and beyond the barrier advanced along the cemetery wall,
which was fronted with a garland of beggars, and with garlands of
immortelles and evergreens intended for grave mounds. The line of
priests in white surplices, the funeral procession with torches, the
hearse with the coffin, and the people walking behind it, halted
before the gate; there they removed Litka. Pan Stanislav, Bukatski,
Hvastovski, and Bigiel bore her to the grave of her father.

That silence, and the void which, after each funeral, is waiting for
people at home when they return from fresh graves, seemed this time to
begin even at the cemetery. The day was calm, pale, with here and there
the last yellowed leaves dropping from the trees without a rustle. The
funeral procession was belittled amid these wide, pale spaces, which,
studded with crosses, seemed endless,--as if, in truth, that cemetery
opened into infinity. The black, leafless trees with tops formed of
slender branches, as it were, vanishing in the light, gray and white
tombstones resembling apparitions, the withered leaves on the ground,
covering long and straight alleys,--all these produced at once a
genuine impression of Elysian fields of some sort, fields full of deep
rest, but full also of deep, dreamy melancholy, certain "cold and sad
places" of which the gloomy head of Cæsar dreamed, and to which now was
to come one more "animula vagula."

The coffin stopped at last above the open grave. The piercing "Requiem
æternam" was heard, and then "Anima ejus." Pan Stanislav, through the
chaos of his thoughts and impressions, and through the veil of his own
sorrow, saw, as in a dream, the stony face and glassy eyes of Pani
Emilia, the tears of Marynia, which irritated him at that moment, the
pale face of Bukatski, on whose features the expression was evident
that his philosophy of life, having no work to do at that graveyard,
had left him and Litka's coffin at the gate. When each threw a handful
of sand on the coffin-lid, he followed the example of others; when they
lowered the coffin on straps into the depth of the grave, and closed
the stone doors, something seized him anew by the throat, so that all
of which he had been thinking, and had learned hitherto, was changed
into one nothingness. He repeated in his soul the simple words: "Till
we meet, Litus!"--words which, when he recalled them afterwards, seemed
to have no relation to the torturing mental storm within him. This was
the end. The funeral procession began to decrease and melt away. After
a time Pan Stanislav was roused by the wind, which came from afar from
between the crosses. He saw now at the grave Pani Emilia with Marynia,
Pani Bigiel, Vaskovski, and Litka's uncle; he said to himself that he
would go out last, and waited, repeating in his soul, "Till we meet,
Litus!" He was thinking of death, and of this,--that he, too, would
come to this place of monuments, and that it is an ocean into which all
thoughts, feelings, and efforts are flowing. It seemed to him then as
if he and all who were there at the grave, or had returned home, were
on a ship sailing straight to the precipice. Of life beyond the grave
he had no thought at that moment.

Meanwhile the short autumn twilight came on; the crosses grew still
less distinct. The old professor and Pan Hvastovski conducted Pani
Emilia to the cemetery gate without resistance on her part. Pan
Stanislav repeated once more, "Till we meet, dear child!" and passed
out.

Beyond the gate he thought: "It is fortunate that the mother is
unconscious, for what a terrible thought to leave a child there alone.
The dead forsake us, but we too forsake them."

In fact, he saw from a distance the carriage in which Pani Emilia was
riding away, and it seemed to him that such an order of things in the
world has in it something revolting. Still when he had sat down alone
in his droshky, he felt a moment of selfish relief, flowing from the
feeling that a certain torturing and oppressive act had been ended,
after which would come rest. On returning to his own dwelling, it
appeared empty, without a ray of gladness, without consolation or
hope; but when at tea, he stretched himself on the sofa, an animal
delight in repose after labor took possession of him, with a feeling
of solace, and even as it were of satisfaction, that the funeral was
over and Litka was buried. He remembered then the opinion of a certain
thinker: "I know no criminals; I know only honest people, and they are
disgusting." Pan Stanislav seemed to himself repulsive at that moment.

In the evening he remembered that it was needful to inquire about Pani
Emilia, whom Marynia was to take for some weeks to her own house. While
going out, he saw a photograph of Litka on the table, and kissed it. A
quarter of an hour later he rang the bell at the Plavitskis'.

The servant told him that Plavitski had gone out, but that Professor
Vaskovski and Father Hylak were there beside Pani Emilia. Marynia
received him in the drawing-room; her hair was badly dressed, her eyes
red; she was almost ugly. But her former way of meeting him had changed
entirely, as if she had forgotten all offences in view of more unhappy
subjects.

"Emilia is with me," whispered she, "and is in a bad state; but it
seems that at least she understands what is said. Professor Vaskovski
is with her. He speaks with such feeling. Do you wish to see Emilia
absolutely?"

"No. I have come merely to inquire how she feels, and shall go away
directly."

"I do not know--she might like to see you. Wait a moment; I will go
and say that you are here. Litka loved you so; for that reason alone
perhaps it would be pleasant for Emilia to see you."

"Very well."

Marynia went to the next chamber; but evidently did not begin
conversation at once, for to Pan Stanislav there came from the
door, not her voice, but that of Vaskovski, full of accents of deep
conviction, and also, as it were, of effort, striving to break through
the armor of insensibility and suffering.

"It is as if your child had gone to another room after play," said
the old professor; "and as if she were to return at once. She will
not return, but you will go to her. My dear lady, look at death, not
from the side of this world, but from the side of God. The child
lives and is happy; for, being herself in eternity, she considers
this separation from you as lasting one twinkle of an eye. Litka is
living," continued he, with emphasis; "she is living and happy. She
sees that you are coming to her, and she stretches forth her hands to
you; she knows that in a moment you will come, for from God's point
of view life and pain are less than the twinkle of an eye,--and then
eternity with Litka. Think, dearest lady, with Litka in peace, in
joy,--without disease, without death. Worlds will pass away, and you
will be together."

"It would be well were that certain," thought Pan Stanislav, bitterly.
But after a while he thought, "If I felt that way, I should have some
cause to go in; otherwise not."

Still in spite of this thought he went in, not waiting even for
Marynia's return; for it seemed to him that if he had no cause, he had
a duty, and he was not free to be cowardly in presence of the suffering
of others. Selfishness is "cotton in the ears against human groans,"
and excuses itself in its own eyes by saying that nothing can be said
to great suffering to relieve it. Pan Stanislav understood that this
was the case, and was ashamed to withdraw comfortably instead of going
to meet the sorrow of a mother. When he entered, he saw Pani Emilia
sitting on the sofa; above the sofa was a lamp, and lower than the
lamp a palm, which cast a shadow on that unhappy head, as if gigantic
fingers were opened above it. Near Pani Emilia sat Vaskovski, who was
holding her hands and looking into her face. Pan Stanislav took those
hands from him, and, bending down, began to press them to his lips in
silence.

Pani Emilia blinked a while, like a person striving to rise out of
sleep; then she cried suddenly, with an unexpected outburst,--

"Remember how she--"

And she was borne away by a measureless weeping, during which her
hands were clasped, her lips could not catch breath, and her bosom
was bursting from sobs. At last strength failed her, and she fainted.
When she recovered, Marynia led her to her own chamber. Pan Stanislav
and Vaskovski went to the adjoining reception-room, where they were
detained by Plavitski, who had come in just that moment.

"Such a sad person in the house," said he,--"it spoils life terribly.
A little peace and freedom should be due to me; but what is to be
done, what is to be done? I must descend to the second place, and I am
ready."

At the end of half an hour Marynia came with the announcement that at
her request Pani Emilia had gone to bed, and was a little calmer. Pan
Stanislav and Vaskovski took leave, and went out.

They walked along in a dense fog, which rose from the earth after a
calm day, hiding the streets and forming parti-colored circles around
the lamps. Both were thinking of Litka, who was passing her first night
among the dead, and at a distance from her mother. To Pan Stanislav
this seemed simply terrible, not for Litka, but for Pani Emilia,
who had to think of it. He meditated also over the words spoken by
Vaskovski, and said at last,--

"I heard thy words. If they gave her solace, it is well; but if that
were true, we should make a feast now, and rejoice that Litka is dead."

"But whence dost thou know that we shall not be happy after death?"

"Wilt thou tell me whence thou hast the knowledge that we shall?"

"I do not know; I believe."

There was no answer to this; therefore Pan Stanislav said, as if to
himself, "Mercy, empyrean light, eternity, meeting; but what is there
in fact? The corpse of a child in the grave, and a mother who is
wailing from pain. Grant that death has produced thy faith at least;
yet it brings doubt, because thou art grieving for the child. I am
grieving still more; and this grief casts on me directly the question,
'Why did she die? Why such cruelty?' I know that this question is a
foolish one, and that milliards of people have put it to themselves;
but, if this knowledge is to be my solace, may thunderbolts split it!
I know, too, that I shall not find an answer, and for that very reason
I want to gnash my teeth and curse. I do not understand, and I rebel;
that is all. That is the whole result, which thou canst not recognize
as the one sought for."

Vaskovski answered also, as if speaking to himself, "Christ rose from
the dead, for He was God; but He rose as man, and He passed through
death. How can I, poor worm, do otherwise than magnify the Divine Will
and Wisdom in death?"

To this Pan Stanislav answered.--

"It is impossible to talk with thee!"

"It is slippery," answered Vaskovski; "give me thy arm." And, taking
Pan Stanislav by the arm, he leaned on him, and said, "My dear friend,
thou hast an honest and a loving heart; thou didst love that little
girl greatly, thou wert ready to do much for her. Do this one thing
now,--whether thou believest or not,--say for her, 'Eternal rest!' If
thou think that that will be no good to her, say to thyself, 'I can do
no more, but I will do that.'"

"Give me peace!" answered Pan Stanislav.

"That may not be needful to her, but thy remembrance of her will be
dear; she will be grateful, and will obtain the grace of God for thee."

Pan Stanislav remembered how Vaskovski, at news of Litka's last attack,
said that the life of the child could not be purposeless, and that
if she had to die she was predestined to do something before death;
and now he wished to attack Vaskovski on this point, when the thought
flashed on him that, before her death, Litka had united him with
Marynia; and it occurred to him that perhaps she had lived for this
very purpose. But at that moment he rebelled against the thought. Anger
at Marynia seized him; he was full of stubbornness, and almost contempt.

"I do not want Marynia at such a price!" thought he, gritting his
teeth; "I do not! I have suffered enough through her. I would give ten
such for one Litka."

Meanwhile Vaskovski, trotting near him, said,--

"Nothing is to be seen at a step's distance, and the stones are
slippery from fog. Without thee I should have fallen long ago."

Pan Stanislav recovered himself, and answered,--

"Whoso walks on the earth, professor, must look down, not up."

"Thou hast good legs, my dear friend."

"And eyes which see clearly, even in a fog like this which surrounds
us. And it is needful, for we all live in a fog, and deuce knows what
is beyond it. All that thou sayest makes on me such an impression
as the words of a man who would break dry twigs, throw them into a
torrent, and say, Flowers will come from these. Rottenness will come,
nothing more. From me, too, this torrent has torn away something from
which I am to think that a flower will rise? Folly! But here is thy
gate. Good-night!"

And they separated. Pan Stanislav returned to his own house barely
alive, he was so weary; and, when he had lain down in bed, he began
to torture himself with thoughts further continued, or rather with
visions. To begin with, before his eyes appeared the figure of Pani
Emilia, powerless from pain; she was sitting in Marynia's parlor,
under the palm-leaf, which was hanging over her head like an immense
ill-omened hand, with outspread, grasping fingers, and it cast a shadow
on her face. "I might philosophize over that till morning," muttered
he. "Everything out of which life is constructed is a hand like that,
from which a shadow falls,--nothing more. But if there were a little
mercy besides, the child would not have died; but with what Vaskovski
says, you couldn't keep life in a sparrow."

Here he remembered, however, that Vaskovski not only spoke of death,
but begged him also to say "eternal rest" for Litka. Pan Stanislav
began now to struggle with himself. His lips were closed through lack
of a deep faith that Litka might hear his "eternal rest," and that it
might be of good to her. He felt, besides, a kind of shame to speak
words which did not flow from the depth of his conviction, and felt
also the same kind of shame not to say the "eternal rest." "For,
finally, what do I know?" thought he. "Nothing. Around is fog and fog.
Likely nothing will come to her from that; but, let happen what may,
that is in truth the only thing that I can do now for my kitten,--for
that dear child,--who was mindful of me on the night that she died."

And he hesitated for a time yet; at last he knelt and said, "eternal
rest." It did not bring him, however, any solace, for it roused only
the more sorrow for Litka, and also anger at Vaskovski, because he
had pushed him into a position in which he had either to fall into
contradiction with himself or be, as it were, a traitor to Litka. He
felt, finally, that he had had enough of that kind of torment, and he
determined to go early in the morning to his office and occupy himself
with Bigiel on the first commercial affair that presented itself, if it
were only to tear away his thought from the painful, vicious circle in
which for some days he had been turning.

But in the morning Bigiel anticipated him, and came to his house;
maybe, too, with the intent to occupy him. Pan Stanislav threw himself
with a certain interest into the examination of current business; but
he and Bigiel were not long occupied, for an hour later Bukatski came
to say farewell to them.

"I am going to Italy to-day," said he, "and God knows when I shall
return. I wish to say to you both, Be in good health. The death of
that child touched me more than I thought it would."

"Art thou going far?"

"Oh, there would be much talk in the answer. With us, this is how it
happens: Be a Buddhist, or whatever may please thee, the kernel of the
question is this: one believes a little, trusts a little in some sort
of mercy, and thus lives. Meanwhile, what happens? Reality slaps us
daily in the face, and brings us into mental agony and anguish, into
moral straits. With us, one is always loving somebody, or is tormented
with somebody's misfortune; but I do not want this. It tortures me."

"How will the Italians help thee?"

"How will they help me? They will, for in Italy I have the sun, which
here I have not; I have art, which here I have not, and I feel for
it a weakness; I have chianti,[4] which does good to the catarrh of
my stomach; and finally, I have people for whom I care nothing and
nothing, and who may die for themselves in hundreds without causing me
any bitterness.

"I shall look at pictures, buy what I need, nurse my rheumatism, my
headache; and I shall be for myself a more or less elegant, a more or
less well nourished, a more or less healthy animal,--which, believe me,
is still the kind and condition of life most desired. Here I cannot be
that beast which, from my soul, I wish to be."

"Thou art right, Bukatski. We, as thou seest, are sitting with our
accounts, also somewhat for this,--to become more idiotic, and not
think of aught else. When we acquire such a fortune as thou hast, I
don't know how it is with Bigiel, but I will follow in thy steps."

"Then till we see each other again in time and space!" said Bukatski.

A while after his departure, Pan Stanislav said,--

"He is right. How happy I should be, for example, if I had not
become attached to that child and Pani Emilia! In this respect we
are incurable, and we spoil our lives voluntarily. He is right. In
this country one is always loving some person or something; it is an
inherited disease. Eternal romanticism, eternal sentimentalism,--and
eternally pins in the heart."

"Old Plavitski bows to thee," said Bigiel. "That man loves nobody but
himself."

"In reality, this is perhaps true; but he lacks the courage to tell
himself that that is permissible and necessary. Nay, what is more, he
is convinced that it is needful to act otherwise; and through this
he is in continual slavery. Here, though a man have a nature like
Plavitski's, he must feign even to himself that he loves some one or
something."

"But will you visit Pani Emilia to-day?" asked Bigiel.

"Of course! If I were to say, for example, 'I have the malaria,' I
should not cure myself by saying so."

And, in fact, not only was he at Pani Emilia's that day, but he was
there twice; for at his first visit he did not find the ladies at home.
To the question where his daughter was, Plavitski answered, with due
pathos and resignation, "I have no daughter now." Pan Stanislav, not
wishing to tell him fables, for which he felt a sudden desire, went
away, and returned only in the evening.

This time Marynia herself received him, and informed him that Pani
Emilia had slept for the first time since Litka's funeral. While saying
this, she left her hand a certain time in his. Pan Stanislav, in
spite of all the disorder in which his thoughts were, could not avoid
noticing this; and, when he looked at last with an inquiring glance
into her eyes, he discovered that the young lady's cheeks flushed
deeply. They sat down, and began to converse.

"We were at Povanzki," said Marynia, "and I promised Emilia to go there
with her every day."

"But is it well for her to remember the child so every day, and open
her wounds?"

"But are they healed?" answered Marynia, "or is it possible to say to
her, 'Do not go'? I thought myself that it would not be well, but grew
convinced of the contrary. At the graveyard she wept much, but was the
better for it. On the way home she remembered what Professor Vaskovski
had told her, and the thought is for her the only consolation,--the
only."

"Let her have even such a one," answered Pan Stanislav.

"You see, I did not dare to mention Litka at first, but she speaks of
her all the time. Do not fear to speak to her of the child, for it
gives her evident solace."

Here the young lady continued in a lower, and, as it were, an uncertain
voice, "She reproaches herself continually for having listened to the
assurances of the doctor the last night, and gone to sleep; she is
sorry for those last moments, which she might have passed with Litka,
and that thought tortures her. To-day, when we were returning from
the graveyard, she asked about the smallest details. She asked how
the child looked, how long she slept, whether she took medicine, what
she said, whether she spoke to us; then she implored me to remember
everything, and not omit a single word."

"And you did not omit anything?"

"No."

"How did she receive it?"

"She cried very, very much."

Both grew silent, and were silent rather long; then Marynia said,--

"I will go and see what is happening to her."

After a while she returned.

"She is sleeping," said the young lady. "Praise be to God!"

Indeed, Pan Stanislav did not see Pani Emilia that evening; she
had fallen into a kind of lethargic slumber. At parting, Marynia
pressed his hand again long and vigorously, and inquired almost with
submission,--

"You do not take it ill of me that I repeated to Pani Emilia Litka's
last wish?"

"At such moments," answered Pan Stanislav, "I cannot think of myself:
for me it is a question only of Pani Emilia; and if your words caused
her solace, I thank you for them."

"Till to-morrow, then?"

"Till to-morrow."

Pan Stanislav took farewell, and went out. While descending the steps,
he thought,--

"She considers herself my betrothed."

And he was not mistaken; Marynia looked on him as her betrothed. She
had never been indifferent to him; on the contrary, the greatness of
his offence had been for her the measure of that uncommon interest
which he had roused in her. And though, during Litka's illness
and funeral, he could discover in himself unfathomable stores of
selfishness, he seemed to her so good that she was simply unable to
compare him with any one. Litka's words did the rest. In real truth,
her heart desired love first of all; and now, since before Litka's
death she had made her a promise, since she had bound herself to love
and to marry, it seemed to her that even if she had not loved, it was
her duty to command herself, and that she was not free at present not
to love. Pan Stanislav had entered the sphere of her duty; she belonged
to those straightforward, womanly natures, not at all rare even now,
for whom life and duty mean one and the same thing, and who for this
reason bring good-will to the fulfilment of duty, and not only good,
but persistent will.

Such a will brings with it love, which lights like the sun, warms like
its heat, and cherishes like the blue, mild sky. In this way life does
not become a dry, thorny path, which pricks, but a flowery one, which
blooms and delights. This country maiden, straightforward in thought,
and at once simple and delicate in feelings, possessed that capacity
for life and happiness in the highest degree. So, when Pan Stanislav
had gone, she, in thinking about him, did not name him in her mind
otherwise than "Pan Stas," for he had indeed become her "Pan Stas."

Pan Stanislav, on his part, when lying down to sleep, repeated to
himself somewhat mechanically, "She considers herself my betrothed."

Litka's death, and the events of the last days, had pushed Marynia,
not only in his thoughts, but in his heart, to more remote, and even
very remote places. Now he began to think of her again, and at the
same time of his future. All at once he beheld, as it were, a cloud
of countless questions, to which, at that moment, at least, he had no
answer. But he felt fear in presence of them; he felt that he lacked
strength and willingness to undertake this labor. Again he began to
live with the former life; again to fall into that sentimental, vicious
circle; again to disquiet himself; again to make efforts, and struggle
over things which bring only bitterness,--to struggle with himself over
questions of feeling. Would it not be better to labor with Bigiel on
accounts,--make money,--so as to go sometime, like Bukatski, to Italy,
or some other place where there is sun, art, wine good for the stomach,
and, above all, people to whom one is indifferent, whose happiness
will not enliven the heart of a stranger, but in return whose death or
misfortune will not press a single tear from him.


FOOTNOTES:

  [4] An Italian wine.



CHAPTER XX.


During all the mental struggles through which Pan Stanislav had passed,
the interests of his commercial house were developed favorably. Thanks
to Bigiel's sound judgment, diligence, and care, current business was
transacted with a uniform thoroughness which removed every chance
of dissatisfaction or complaint from the patrons of the house. The
house gained reputation every day, extended its activity slowly and
regularly, and was growing rich. Pan Stanislav, on his part, labored,
not indeed with such mental peace as hitherto, but no less than Bigiel.
He passed the morning hours daily in the office; and the greater his
mental vexation, the deeper his misunderstanding with Marynia since
her coming to Warsaw, the more earnest was his labor. This labor,
often difficult, and at times requiring even much intense thought, but
unconnected with the question which pained him, and incapable of giving
any internal solace, became, at last, a kind of haven, in which he
hid from the storm. Pan Stanislav began to love it. "Here, at least,
I know what I am doing, and whither I am tending; here everything is
very clear. If I do not find happiness, I shall find at least that
enlargement of life, that freedom, which money gives; and all the
better for me if I succeed in stopping at that." Recent events had
merely confirmed him in those thoughts; in fact, nothing but suffering
had come to him from his feelings. That sowing had yielded a bitter
harvest, while the only successes which he had known, and which in
every case strengthen and defend one against misfortune, were given by
that mercantile house. Pan Stanislav thought with a certain surprise
that this was true; but it was not. He himself felt the narrowness of
that satisfaction which the house could give; but he said to himself at
the same time, "Since it cannot be otherwise, this must be accepted;
and it is safer to stop here, for it is better to be only a merchant,
who succeeds, than a dreamer, who fails in everything." Since Litka's
death, then, he resolved all the more to stifle in himself those
impulses to which reality did not answer, and which had brought him
nothing but regrets. Evidently Bigiel was pleased with a state of mind
in his partner which could bring only profit to the house.

Still Pan Stanislav could not grow wholly indifferent in a few weeks
to all that with which, on a time, his heart had been connected.
Hence he went sometimes to visit Litka, whose gravestone was covered
in the morning with white winter frost. Twice he met Pani Emilia and
Marynia in the cemetery. Once he attended them home to the city, and
Pani Emilia thanked him for remembering the little girl. Pan Stanislav
noticed that she did this with evident calmness; he understood the
cause of this calmness when, at parting, she said to him,--

"I keep always in mind now that for her separation from me is as short
as one twinkle of an eye; and you know not what comfort it is to me
that at least she is not yearning."

"Well, what I know not, I know not," said Pan Stanislav, in his soul.
Still the deep conviction of Pani Emilia's speech struck him. "If these
are illusions," thought he, "they are really life-giving, since they
are able to draw forth juices for life from the dungeon of the grave."

Marynia asserted, besides, in her first conversation with Pan
Stanislav, that Pani Emilia lived only through that thought, which
alone softened her grief. For whole days she mentioned nothing else,
and said, with such persistence, that from God's point of view death is
separation for one twinkle of an eye, that she began to alarm Marynia.

"She talks, too, of Litka," said Marynia, in conclusion, "as if the
child had not died, and as if she should see her to-morrow."

"That is happy," answered Pan Stanislav. "Vaskovski rendered tangible
service; such a nail in the head gives no pain."

"Still, she is right, for it is so."

"I will not contradict you."

Marynia was alarmed, it is true, by the persistence with which Pani
Emilia returned to one thought; but on the other hand she herself did
not look on death otherwise. Hence that tinge of scepticism, evident in
Pan Stanislav's words, touched her a little, and pained her; but, not
wishing to let this be evident, she changed the conversation.

"I gave directions to enlarge Litka's photograph," said she. "Yesterday
they brought me three copies; one I will give Emilia. I feared at first
that it would excite her too much, but now I see that I may give it;
nay, more, it will be very dear to her."

She rose then, and went to a bookcase on which were some photographs in
a wrapper; these she took, and, sitting at Pan Stanislav's side before
a small table, opened them.

"Emilia told me of a certain talk which you had with Litka a short time
before her death, when the child wished you three to be birches growing
near one another. Do you remember that talk?"

"I do. Litka wondered that trees live so long; she thought awhile what
kind of tree she would like to be, and the birch pleased her most."

"True; and you said that you would like to grow near by, therefore,
around these photographs I wish to paint birches on a passe-partout.
Here I have begun, you see, but I have no great success. I cannot paint
from memory."

Then she took one of the photographs, and showed Pan Stanislav
the birches painted in water-colors; but since she was a little
near-sighted, she bent over her work, so that her temple for one moment
was near Pan Stanislav's face. She was no longer that Marynia of whom
he had dreamed when returning evenings from Pani Emilia's, and who at
that time had filled his whole soul for him. That period had passed:
his thoughts had gone in another direction; but Marynia had not ceased
to be that type of woman which produced on his masculine nerves an
impression exceptionally vivid; and now, when her temple almost touched
his own, when, with one glance of the eye, he took in her face, her
cheeks slightly colored, and her form bent over the picture, he felt
the old attraction with its former intensity, and the quick blood sent
equally quick thoughts to his brain. "Were I to kiss her eyes and mouth
now," thought he, "I am curious to know what she would do;" and in a
twinkle the desire seized him to do so, even were he to offend Marynia
mortally. In return for long rejection, for so much fear and suffering,
he would like such a moment of recompense, and of revenge, perhaps,
with it. Meanwhile, Marynia, while examining the painting, continued,--

"This seems worse to-day than yesterday; unfortunately trees have no
leaves now, and I cannot find a model."

"The group is not bad at all," said Pan Stanislav; "but if these trees
are to represent Pani Emilia, Litka, and me, why have you painted four
birches?"

"The fourth represents me," said Marynia, with a certain timidity; "I,
too, have a wish sometimes to grow with you."

Pan Stanislav looked at her quickly; and she, wrapping the photographs
up again, said, as it were, hurriedly,--

"So many things are connected in my mind with the memory of that child.
During her last days I was with her and Emilia almost continually.
At present Emilia is one of the nearest persons on earth to me. I
belong to them as well as you do; I know not clearly how to explain
this. There were four of us, and now there are three, bound together
by Litka, for she bound us. When I think of her now, I think also of
Emilia and of you. This is why I decided to paint the four birches; and
you see there are three photographs,--one for Emilia, one for me, and
one for you."

"I thank you," said Pan Stanislav, extending his hand to her. Marynia
returned the pressure very cordially, and said,--

"For the sake of her memory, too, we should forget all our former
resentments."

"This has happened already," answered Pan Stanislav; "and as for me, I
wish that it had happened long before Litka's death."

"My fault began then; for this I beg forgiveness," and she extended her
hand to him.

Pan Stanislav hesitated awhile whether to raise it to his lips; but he
did not raise it, he only said,--

"Now there is agreement."

"And friendship?" asked Marynia.

"And friendship."

In her eyes a deep, quiet joy was reflected, which enlivened her whole
face with a mild radiance. There was in her at the moment so much
kindness and trustfulness that she reminded Pan Stanislav of that first
Marynia whom he had seen at Kremen when she was sitting on the garden
veranda in the rays of the setting sun. But since Litka's death he had
been in such a frame of mind that he considered remembrances like that
as unworthy of him; hence he rose and began to take leave.

"Will you not remain the whole evening?" asked Marynia.

"No, I must return."

"I will tell Emilia that you are going," said she, approaching the door
of the adjoining room.

"She is either thinking of Litka at present, or is praying; otherwise
she would have come of herself. Better not interrupt her; I will come
to-morrow in any case."

Marynia approached him, and, looking into his eyes, said with great
cordiality, "To-morrow and every day. Is it not true? Remember that you
are 'Pan Stas' for us now."

Since Litka's death Marynia had named him thus for the second time, so
in going home he thought, "Her relations to me are changed thoroughly.
She feels herself simply as belonging to me, for she bound herself to
that by the promise given the dying child; she is ready even to fall in
love with me, and will not permit herself not to love. With us there
are such women by the dozen." And all at once he fell into anger.

"I know those fish natures with cold hearts, but sentimental heads
filled with so-called principles,--everything for principle, everything
for duty, nothing spontaneous in the heart. I might sigh out my last
breath at her feet and gain nothing; but when _duty_ commands her to
love me, she will love even really."

Evidently Pan Stanislav in his wanderings abroad had grown used to
another kind of women, or at least he had read of them in books. But
since with all this he had a little sound judgment too, that judgment
began to speak thus to him,--

"Listen, Polanyetski," it said. "These are exceptional natures because
they are uncommonly reliable: on them one may build; on them a life
may be founded. Art thou mad? With thee it was a question of finding a
wife, not an ephemeral love affair."

But Pan Stanislav did not cease to resist, and he answered his
judgment, "If I am to be loved, I want to be loved for my own sake."

Judgment tried once more to explain that it was all one how love began;
since later on he could be loved only for his own sake, that in the
present case, after his recent efforts and vexations, it was almost
miraculous, almost providential, that something natural had intervened
in a way to break resistance immediately; but Pan Stanislav did not
cease from being furious. At last judgment was strengthened by that
attraction and pleasure which he found in Marynia, by virtue of which
he saw in her more charms than in any other woman; this attraction
spoke in its turn,--

"I do not know if thou love her, and I care not; but to-day, when her
arm and face approached thee, thou wert near jumping out of thy skin.
Why is it that such a shiver does not pass through thee when thou art
near another? Think what a difference in that."

But to everything Pan Stanislav answered: "A fish, a duty-bound fish."
And again the thought came to him, "Catch her, if thou prefer that
to any other kind. People marry; and for thee, it is time. What more
dost thou want, is it a kind of love which thou wouldst be the first
to laugh into ridicule? Thy love has died out. Suppose it has; but
the attraction remains, and the conviction, too, that this woman is
reliable and honest."

"True," thought he further, "but from love, whether stupid or wise,
comes choice, and have I that at present? No, for I hesitate, while
formerly I did not hesitate; second, I ought to decide which is
better,--Panna Plavitski, or debit and credit in the house of Bigiel
and Polanyetski. Money gives power and freedom; the best use is made of
freedom when a man carries no one in his heart or on his shoulders."
Thus meditating, he reached home, and lay down to sleep. During the
night he dreamed of birches on sand hills, calm blue eyes, and a
forehead shaded with dark hair, from which warmth was beating.



CHAPTER XXI.


Some mornings later, before Pan Stanislav had gone to his office,
Mashko appeared.

"I come to thee on two affairs," said he, "but I will begin with money,
so as to leave thee freedom of action; shall I, or not?"

"My dear friend, I attend to money questions in my office, so begin
with the other."

"The money matter is not a question of thy house, but a private one;
for this reason I prefer to speak of it privately. I am going to marry,
as thou knowest; I need money. I have to make payments as numerous as
the hairs on my head, and the wherewithal does not correspond. The term
is near to pay the first instalment of my debt to thee for the claim on
Kremen; canst thou extend the time another quarter?"

"I will be frank," replied Pan Stanislav; "I can, but I am unwilling to
do so."

"Well, I will be equally sincere, and ask what thou wilt do in case I
fail to pay."

"The like happens in the world," answered Pan Stanislav; "but this time
thou art looking on me as simpler than I am, for I know that thou wilt
pay."

"Whence is that certainty?"

"Thou art going to marry, and marry a fortune; how expose thyself to
the evil fame of bankruptcy? Thou wilt squeeze money from under the
earth, perhaps, but thou wilt pay."

"Even Solomon could not pour out of the empty."

"Because he did not take lessons from thee. My dear friend, no one is
listening to us, so I may say that all thy life thou hast been doing
nothing else."

"Then thou art sure that I will pay thee?"

"I am."

"Thou art right; I wanted of thee a favor to which I have no claim.
But even I feel wearied at last of all this,--to take something here
and thrust it in there; to live eternally in such a whirl passes human
power in the long run. I am sailing, as it were, into the harbor. In
two months I shall be on a new footing, but meanwhile I am using the
last of my steam; 'tis not in thy way to oblige me; the position is
difficult. There is a small forest in Kremen; I will cut that and pay,
since there is no other way."

"What forests are there in Kremen? Old Plavitski shaved off everything
that could be taken."

"There is a large oak grove behind the house, toward Nedzyalkov."

"True, there is."

"I know that thou and Bigiel take up such affairs. Buy that forest; it
will spare me the search for a purchaser, and he and thou can come out
of the business with profit."

"I will discuss it with Bigiel."

"Then thou wilt not refuse in advance?"

"No; if thou give it cheaply, I may even take the forest myself. But in
such matters I need to calculate the possible profits or losses; I want
also to know thy terms. Make thy own estimates. Send me thy list; how
many trees there are, and what kinds."

"I will send it in an hour."

"In that case I will give thee an answer in the evening."

"I advise thee beforehand of one thing,--thou wilt not have the right
to cut oak for two months."

"Why is that?"

"Because Kremen will lose greatly by losing that ornament; hence I
propose that it be resold to me after the marriage, of course at a good
profit to thee."

"We shall see."

"Besides, I have marl in Kremen; thou hast spoken to me of this.
Plavitski reckoned it at millions,--that, of course, is nonsense; but
in the hands of clever men it might be made a paying business. Think
that over, too, with Bigiel; I would take thee into partnership."

"Should the business seem good, we may take it; our house exists to
gain profit."

"Then we will talk of the marl later on; but now I return to the oak.
Let the general outline of our bargain be this,--that I, instead of the
first payment, give thee the oak grove, or a part of it, according to
estimate. I give it in some sense in pledge, and thou art obliged not
to cut trees before the close of the following quarter."

"I can do that; evidently there will be questions later on as to
removal of the oak, which we shall mention when writing the contract,
if, in general, we write one."

"Then there is at least one burden off my head," said Mashko, rubbing
his forehead with his hand. "Imagine that I have ten or fifteen
such every day, not counting conversations on business with Pani
Kraslavski, which are more wearying than all else, and then waiting on
my betrothed, who"--here Mashko interrupted himself for a moment, but
suddenly waved his hand, and added--"which also is not easy."

Pan Stanislav looked at him with amazement. On the lips of Mashko,
who, in every word, followed society observances so closely, this was
something unheard of. Mashko, however, spoke on,--

"But let that pass; thou knowest how near we were to quarrelling before
Litka's death. I had not in mind thy great love for that little maiden;
I forgot that thou wert disturbed and annoyed. I acted rudely; the
fault was on my side entirely, and I beg thy pardon."

"That is a forgotten affair," said Pan Stanislav.

"I revive it because I have a service to beg of thee. The affair is
of this kind: I have not friends, blood relatives; I haven't them, or
if I have, it is not worth while to exhibit them. Now, I must find
groomsmen, and, in truth, I do not know well where to look for them. I
have managed the business of various young lords, as thou knowest; but
to ask the first young fellow whom I meet, because he has a title, does
not beseem me, and I am unwilling to do so. With me it is a question of
having groomsmen who are people of position, and, I tell thee openly,
with prominent names. Those ladies, too, attach great importance to
this matter. Wilt thou be a groomsman for me?"

"In other circumstances I would not refuse; but I will tell thee how it
is. Look at me: I have no crape on my hat nor white tape on my coat,
therefore I am not in mourning; but I give thee my word that I am in
deeper mourning than if my own child were dead."

"That is true; I had not thought of that," said Mashko. "I beg thy
pardon."

These words impressed Pan Stanislav.

"But if this is very important; if, in truth, thou art unable to find
another,--let it be according to thy wish; but I say sincerely that for
me, after such a funeral, it will be difficult to assist at a wedding."

Pan Stanislav did not say, it is true, at such a wedding, but Mashko
divined his thought. "There is another circumstance, too," continued
he. "Thou must have heard of a certain poor little doctor, who fell in
love to the death with thy betrothed. She was free not to return his
love, no man will reproach her for that; but he, poor fellow, went his
way somewhere to the land where pepper grows, and the deuce took him.
Dost understand? I was in friendship with that doctor; he confided his
misfortune to me, and wept out his secret. Dost understand? In these
conditions to be groomsman for another--say thyself."

"And did that man really die of love for my betrothed?"

"But hast thou not heard of it?"

"Not only have I not heard, but I cannot believe my own ears."

"Knowest thou what, Mashko, marriage changes a man; but I see that
betrothal does also,--I do not recognize thee simply."

"Because, as I have said, I am so weary that breath fails me, and at
such times the mask falls."

"What dost thou mean by that?"

"I mean that there are two kinds of people,--one, of people who never
limit themselves by anything, and arrange their modes of action
according to every circumstance; the other, of people having a certain
system which they hold to with more or less sequence. I belong to the
second. I am accustomed to observe appearances, and, what is more,
accustomed so long that at last it has become a second nature to me.
But, for example, when travelling in time of great heat, a moment may
come on the man who is most _comme il faut_, when he will unbutton not
only his coat, but his shirt; such a moment has come on me, therefore I
unbutton."

"This means?--"

"It means that I am transfixed with astonishment that any man could
fall in love to the death with my betrothed, who is, as thou on a time
didst give me to understand, cold, formal, and as mechanical in words,
thoughts, and movements as if wound up with a key; that is perfectly
true, and I confirm it. I do not wish thee to hold me for a greater
wretch than I am; I do not love her, and my wife will be as formal
as my betrothed. I loved Panna Plavitski, who rejected me. Panna
Kraslavski I take for her property. Call this iniquity, if it suit thee
to do so; I will answer that such iniquity has been committed, or will
be committed, by thousands among those so-called honorable people, to
whom thou art ready to give thy hand. Moreover, life does not flow on
in delight for people thus married, but also not in tragedy; they limp,
but go forward. Later on they are aided by years spent together, which
bring a species of attachment, by children who are born to them; and
they get on in some fashion. Such are most marriages, for the majority
choose to walk on the earth, rather than scale summits. Sometimes
there are even worse marriages: when a woman wishes to fly, and a man
to creep, or _vice versa_, there is no chance for an understanding.
As to me, I have worked like an ox. Coming from a reduced family, I
wished to gain distinction, I confess. If I had consented to remain
an obscure attorney, and acquire merely money, perhaps I should have
unlocked and thrown open to my son the door to light; but I have no
love for my children before they come into the world, hence I wished
not only to have money myself, but to be somebody, to mean something,
to occupy a position, to have such weight as with us it is possible
to have, at least in society. From this it has happened that what the
advocate gained, the great lord expended; position obliges. This is
why I have not money. Struggling of this sort has wearied me. Opening
holes in one place to fill them in another,--for this reason I marry
Panna Kraslavski; who again marries me for the reason that, if I am
not really a great lord, amusing himself in the legal career, I am so
apparently. The match is even; there is no injustice to any one, and
neither has tricked the other, or, if it please thee, we have tricked
each other equally. Here is the whole truth for thee; now despise me if
thou wish."

"As God lives, I have never respected thee more," answered Pan
Stanislav; "for now I admire not thy sincerity merely, but also thy
courage."

"I accept the compliment because thou art candid; but in what dost thou
see courage?"

"In this,--that having so few illusions as to Panna Kraslavski, thou
art going to marry her."

"I marry her because I am more wise than foolish. I looked for money,
it is true; but thinkest thou that for money I would marry the first
woman I met who possessed it? By no means, my dear friend. I take Panna
Kraslavski, and I know what I am doing. She has her great qualities,
indispensable under the circumstances in which I take her, and in
which she marries me. She will be a cold, unagreeable wife, sour, and
even contemptuous, in so far as she does not fear me; but, on the
other hand, Panna Kraslavski, as well as her mother, has a religious
respect for appearances,--for what is fitting, or, speaking generally,
for what is polite. This is one point. Further, there is not even one
germ in her from which love intrigues could grow; and life with her,
be it disagreeable as it may, will never end in scandal. This is the
second. Third, she is pedantic in everything, as well in religion as
in fulfilment of all the duties which she may take on herself. This
is, indeed, a great quality. I shall not be happy with her, but I can
be at peace; and who knows if this is not the maximum possible to ask
of life, and I tell thee, my dear friend, that when a man takes a wife
he should think before all of future peace. In a mistress seek what
pleases thee,--wit, temperament, a poetical form of sensitiveness. But
with a wife one must live years; seek in her that on which one can
rely,--seek principles."

"I have never thought thee a fool," said Pan Stanislav; "but I see that
thou hast more wit than I suspected."

"Our women--take those, for example, of the money world--are formed
really on the French novel; and what comes of that is known to thee."

"More or less; but to-day thou art so eloquent that I listen to thy
description with pleasure."

"Well, a woman becomes her own God and her own measure of right."

"And for her husband?"

"A chameleon and a tragedy."

"This happens a little in the world of much money and no traditions;
there everything is appearance and toilet, beneath which sits not a
soul, but a more or less exquisite wild beast. And this wealthy and
elegant world, amusing itself, and permeated with artistic, literary,
and even religious dilettantism, wields the baton and directs the
orchestra."

"Not yet with us."

"Not yet altogether. For that matter, there are exceptions, even in the
society mentioned; all the more must there be outside it. Yes, there
are women of another kind among us,--for instance, Panna Plavitski. Oh,
what security, and withal what a charm of life, with a woman like her!
Unhappily, she is not for me."

"Mashko, I was ready to recognize in thee cleverness, but I did not
know thee to have enthusiasm."

"What's to be done? I was in love with her, but now I am going to marry
Panna Kraslavski."

Mashko pronounced the last words, as if in anger, then followed a
moment of silence.

"Then thou wilt not be my groomsman?"

"Give me time to consider."

"In three days I am going away."

"To what place?"

"To St. Petersburg. I have business there; I will stay about two weeks."

"I will give my answer on thy return."

"Very well; to-day I will send thee the estimate of my oak in three
sizes. To save the instalment!"

"And the conditions on which I will buy it."

Here Mashko took leave and went out. Pan Stanislav hastened to his
office. After a conversation with Bigiel, he decided, if the affair
should seem practicable and profitable, to buy the oak alone. He could
not account to himself why he felt a certain wonderful desire to be
connected with Kremen. After business hours he thought also of what
Mashko had said of Panna Plavitski. He felt that the man had told the
truth, and that, with a woman of this kind, life might be not only safe
and peaceful, but full of charm; he noticed, however, that in those
meditations he rendered justice rather to the type of which Marynia was
a specimen, than to Marynia in person. He observed also in himself a
thousand inconsistencies; he saw that he felt a certain repugnance, and
even anger, at the thought of loving any one or anything, or letting
his heart go into bonds and knots, usually fastened so firmly that they
were painful. At the very thought of this he was enraged, and repeated
in spirit, "I will not; I have had enough of this! It is an unwholesome
exuberance, which leads people only to errors and suffering." At the
same time he took it ill,--for example, that she did not love him
with a certain exuberant and absolute love, and opened her heart to
him only when duty commanded. Afterward, when he did not want love,
he was astonished that it began to pall on him so easily, and that he
desired Marynia far more when she was opposed, than now, when she was
altogether inclined to him.

"All leads to this at last," thought he: "that man himself does not
know what he wants, or what he must hold to; that is his position.
May a thunderbolt split it! Panna Plavitski has more good qualities
than she herself suspects. She is dutiful, just, calm, attractive; my
thoughts draw me toward her; and still I feel that Panna Plavitski
is not for me what she once was, and that the devils have taken
something that was in me. But what is it? As to the capacity for
loving," continued Pan Stanislav, in his monologue, "I have come to the
conclusion that loving is most frequently folly, and loving too much
folly at all times; hence I should now be content, but I am not."

After a while it came to his mind that this was merely a species of
weakness,--such, for example, as follows an operation in surgery, or
an illness that a man has passed through,--and that positive life will
fill out in time that void which he feels. For him positive life was
his mercantile house. When he went to dine, he found Vaskovski and two
servants, who winked at each other when they saw how the old man at
times held motionless an uplifted fork with a morsel of meat on it, and
fell to thinking of death, or talking to himself. Professor Vaskovski
had for some time been holding these monologues, and spoke to himself
on the street so distinctly that people looked around at him. His blue
eyes were turned on Pan Stanislav for a while vacantly; then he roused
himself, as if from sleep, and finished the thought which had risen in
his head. "She says that this will bring her near the child."

"Who says?" inquired Pan Stanislav.

"Pani Emilia."

"How will she be nearer?"

"She wants to become a Sister of Charity."

Pan Stanislav grew silent under the impression of that news. He was
able to meditate over that which passed through his head, to expel
feeling, to philosophize on the unwholesome excesses of the society in
which he lived; but in his soul he had two sacred images,--Litka and
Pani Emilia. Litka had become simply a cherished memory, but he loved
Pani Emilia with a living, brotherly, and most tender affection, which
he never touched in his meditations. So for a time he could not find
speech; then he looked sternly at Vaskovski, and said,--

"Professor, thou art persuading her to this. I do not enter into thy
mysticism and ideas from beneath a dark star, but know this,--that thou
wilt take her life on thy conscience; for she has not the strength to
be a Sister of Charity, and will die in a year."

"My dear friend," answered Vaskovski, "thou hast condemned me unjustly
without a hearing. Hast thou stopped to consider what the expression
'just man' means?"

"When it is a question of one dear to me, I jeer at expressions."

"She told me yesterday of this, most unexpectedly, and I asked, 'But,
my child, will you have the strength? That is arduous labor.' She
smiled at me, and said: 'Do not refuse me, for this is my refuge,
my happiness. Should it seem that I have not strength enough, they
will not receive me; but if they receive me, and my strength fails
afterward, I shall go sooner to Litka, and I am yearning so much for
her.' What had I to answer to such a choice, and such simplicity? What
art thou able to say, even thou, who art without belief? Wouldst thou
have courage to say: 'Perhaps Litka is not in existence; a life in
labor, in charity, in sacrifice, and death in Christ, may not lead to
Litka at all'? Invent another consolation; but what wilt thou invent?
Give her another hope, heal her with something else; but with what
wilt thou heal her? Besides, thou wilt see her thyself; speak to her
sincerely. Wilt thou have courage to dissuade her?"

"No," answered Pan Stanislav, briefly; and after a while he added,
"Only suffering on all sides."

"One thing might be possible," continued Vaskovski. "To choose instead
of Sisters of Charity, whose work is beyond her strength, some
contemplative order; there are those in whom the poor human atom is so
dissolved in God that it ceases to lead an individual existence, and
ceases to suffer."

Pan Stanislav waved his hand. "I do not understand these things," said
he, dryly, "and I do not look into them."

"I have here somewhere a little Italian book on the Ladies of
Nazareth," said Vaskovski, opening his coat. "Where did I put it? When
going out, I stuck it somewhere."

"What can the Ladies of Nazareth be to me?"

But Vaskovski, after unbuttoning his coat, unbuttoned his shirt in
searching; then he thought a while and said, "What am I looking for?
I know that little Italian book. In a couple of days I am going to
Rome for a long, very long time. Remember what I said, that Rome is
the antechamber to another world. It is time for me to go to God's
antechamber. I would persuade Emilia greatly to go to Rome, but she
will not leave her child; she will remain here as a Sister of Charity.
Maybe, however, the order of Nazareth would please her; it is as simple
and mild as was primitive Christianity. Not with the head, my dear, for
there they know better what to do, but with the heart, childlike but
loving."

"Button thy shirt, professor," said Pan Stanislav.

"Very good; I will button it. I have something at my heart, and I
would tell it thee; thou art as mobile as water, but thou hast a soul.
Seest thou, Christianity not only is not coming to an end, as some
philosophizing, giddy heads imagine, but it has only made half its way."

"Dear professor," said Pan Stanislav, mildly, "I will listen to
what thou hast to tell me willingly and patiently, but not to-day;
for to-day I am thinking only of Pani Emilia, and there is simply a
squeezing at my throat. This is a catastrophe."

"Not for her, since her life will be a success, and her death also."

Pan Stanislav began to mutter, "As God lives, not only every mightier
feeling, but simple friendship, ends in regret; never has any
attachment brought me a thing except suffering. Bukatski is right:
from general attachments there is nothing but suffering, from personal
attachments nothing but suffering; and now live, man, in the world so
surrounded."

The conversation broke off, or rather was turned into the monologue of
Professor Vaskovski, who began a discourse with himself about Rome and
Christianity. After dinner they went out on the street, which was full
of the sound of sleighbells and the gladsome winter movement. Though in
the morning of that day snow had fallen in sufficient abundance, toward
evening the weather had become fair, calm, and frosty.

"But, professor, button thy shirt."

"Very well; I will button it," answered Vaskovski; and he began to draw
the holes of his vest to the buttons of his frockcoat.

"Still I like that Vaskovski," said Pan Stanislav, to himself, when
on the way home. "If I were to grow attached to him for good, the
deuce would take him surely, for such is my fate. Fortunately I
am insensible enough to him so far." And thus he persuaded himself
untruly, for he had a sincere friendship for Vaskovski, and the man's
fate was not indifferent in the least to him. When he reached home,
Litka's face smiled at him from a large photograph as he entered; this
had been sent by Marynia during his absence, and moved Pan Stanislav
to the depth of his soul. He experienced, moreover, this species of
emotion whenever he remembered Litka on a sudden, or saw unexpectedly
one of her portraits. He thought then, that love for the child,
hidden away somewhere in the depth of his heart, rose suddenly with
its previous vividness and power, penetrating his whole being with
indescribable tenderness and sorrow. This revival of sorrow was even so
painful that he avoided it as a man avoids a real suffering usually.
This time, however, there was something sweet in his emotion. Litka
was smiling at him by the light of the lamp, as if she wished to say
"Pan Stas;" around her head on the white margin of the picture were
four green birches. Pan Stanislav stopped and looked for a long time;
at last he thought, "I know in what may be the happiness of life, in
children!" But he said to himself a few moments later, "I never shall
love my own as I loved that poor child." The servant entered now and
gave him a letter from Marynia, which came with the photograph. She
wrote as follows:--

     "My father asks me to pray you to spend the evening with us.
     Emilia has moved to her own house, and receives no visits to-day.
     I send you Litka's photograph, and beg you to come without fail. I
     wish to speak with you of Emilia. Papa has invited Pan Bigiel, who
     has promised to come; therefore you and I can talk quietly."

Pan Stanislav, after reading the letter, dressed, read a certain time,
then went to the Plavitskis'. Bigiel had been there a quarter of an
hour, and was playing piquet with Plavitski; Marynia was sitting at
some distance, by a small table, occupied in work of some kind. After
he had greeted all, Pan Stanislav sat near her,--

"I thank you most earnestly for the photograph," began he. "I saw it
unexpectedly, and Litka stood before my eyes in such form that I could
not control myself. Moments like that are the measure of sorrow, of
which a man cannot even give account to himself. I thank you most
earnestly, and for the four birches too. Touching Pani Emilia, I
know everything from Vaskovski. Is this merely a project, or a fixed
resolve?"

"Rather a fixed resolve," answered Marynia; "and what do you think?"

Marynia raised her eyes to him as if waiting for some counsel.

"She has not strength for it," said she, finally.

Pan Stanislav was silent a while; then he opened his arms helplessly,
and said,--

"I have talked about this with Vaskovski. I attacked him, since I
thought that the idea was his; but he swore to me that he had nothing
to do with it. He asked then what other consolation I could think out
for her, and I could give him no answer. What in life has remained to
her really?"

"What?" returned Marynia, in a low voice.

"Do I not understand, think you, whence that resolve came? She does
not wish to violate her religious principles in any way, but she wants
to die as soon as possible; she knows that those duties are beyond her
strength, and therefore she assumes them."

"True," answered Marynia; and she inclined her face so closely to her
work that Pan Stanislav saw only the parting of the dark hair on her
small head. Before her stood a box full of pearls, which she was sewing
on to various articles to be used in a lottery for benevolent purposes;
and tears, which were flowing from her eyes, began to drop on those
pearls.

"I see that you are weeping," said Pan Stanislav.

She raised tearful eyes to him, as if to say, "Before thee I shall not
hide tears," and answered, "I know that Emilia is doing well, but such
a pity--"

Pan Stanislav, partly from emotion, and partly because he knew not
himself what to answer, kissed her hand for the first time.

Pearls began then to drop more thickly from Marynia's eyes, so that
she had to rise and go out. Pan Stanislav approached the players, as
Plavitski was saying in a sour, outspoken tone, to his partner,--

"Rubicon after Rubicon. Ha! it is difficult. You represent new times,
and I old traditions. I must be beaten."

"What has that to do with piquet?" asked Bigiel, calmly.

Marynia returned soon, with the announcement that tea was ready;
her eyes were somewhat red, but her face was clear and calm. When,
a little later, Bigiel and Plavitski sat down at cards again, she
conversed with Pan Stanislav in that quiet, confiding tone which
people use who are very near to each other, and who have many mutual
relations. It is true that those mutual relations between them had been
created by the death of Litka and the misfortune of Pani Emilia,--hence
the conversation could not be gladsome; but in spite of that, Marynia's
eyes, if not her lips, smiled at Pan Stanislav, and were at once
thoughtful and clear.

Later in the evening, after his departure, Marynia did not name him in
her mind, when she thought of him, otherwise, than "Pan Stas."

Pan Stanislav, on his part, returned home feeling calmer by far than
he had since Litka's death. While pacing his chamber, he made frequent
halts before the little girl's photograph, and looked, too, at the four
birches painted by Marynia. He thought that the bond fastened between
him and Marynia by Litka was becoming closer each day, as if without
any one's will, and simply by some mysterious force of things. He
thought, too, that if he lacked the former original desire to make that
bond permanent, his courage would almost fail to cut it decisively,
especially so soon after Litka's death. Late in the night he sat down
to the lists sent by Mashko. At times, however, he made mistakes in the
reckoning, for he saw before him Marynia's head inclining forward, and
her tears falling on the box of pearls.

Next morning he bought the oak in Kremen, very profitably, for that
matter.



CHAPTER XXII.


Mashko returned in two weeks from St. Petersburg, well pleased with his
arrangements for credit, and bringing important news, which had come
to him, as he stated, in a way purely confidential,--news not known
yet to any man. The preceding harvest had been very poor throughout
the whole empire; here and there hunger had begun to appear. It was
easy to divine, therefore, that, before spring, supplies would be
gone in whole neighborhoods, and that the catastrophe of hunger might
become universal. In view of this, people of the inner circle began to
whisper about the chance of stopping the grain export; and this kind of
echo Mashko brought back, with the assurance that it came to his ears
through people extremely well versed in affairs. This news struck Pan
Stanislav so vividly that he shut himself in for some days, pencil in
hand; then he hurried to Bigiel with the proposition that the ready
money at command of the house, as well as its credit, should be turned
to prompt purchases of grain. Bigiel was afraid, but he began by being
afraid of every new enterprise. Pan Stanislav did not conceal from him
that this would be a large operation, on the success or failure of
which their fate might depend. Complete failure, however, was little
likely, and success might make them really rich at one sweep. It was to
be foreseen that, in view of the lack of grain, prices would rise in
every event. It was also to be foreseen that the law would limit the
possibility of making new contracts with foreign merchants, but would
respect contracts made before its promulgation; but even if it failed
in this regard, the rise of prices in the country itself was a thing
almost certain. Pan Stanislav had foreseen and calculated everything,
in so far as man could; and Bigiel, who, in spite of his caution, was a
person of judgment, was forced to confess that the chances of success
were really considerable, and that it would be a pity to miss the
opportunity.

In fact, after a number of new consultations, during which Bigiel's
opposition grew weaker and weaker, they decided on that which Pan
Stanislav wished; and after a certain time their chief agent,
Abdulski, went out with power to make contracts in the name of the
house, as well for grain on hand as for grain not threshed yet.

After Abdulski's departure, Bigiel went to Prussia. Pan Stanislav
remained alone at the head of the house, toiled from morning till
evening, and made scarcely a visit. But time did not drag, for he was
roused by hope of great profit and a future of fuller activity.

Pan Stanislav, in throwing himself into that speculation, and drawing
in Bigiel, did so, first of all, because he thought it good; but he
had another thought, too,--the mercantile house with all its affairs
was too narrow a field for his special training, abilities, and
energies, and Pan Stanislav felt this. Finally, what was the question
in affairs handled by the house? To buy cheap, sell dear, and put the
profit in a safe; that was its one object. Purchases direct, or through
another,--nothing more. Pan Stanislav felt confined in those limits. "I
should like to dig up something, or make something," said he to Bigiel,
in moments of dissatisfaction and distaste; "at the root of the matter
we are simply trying to direct to our own pockets some current from
that stream of money which is flowing in the business of men, but we
produce nothing."

And that was true. Pan Stanislav wished to advance to property, to
acquire capital, and then undertake some very large work, giving a
wider field for labor and creativeness.

The opportunity had come, as it seemed to him; hence he grasped with
both hands at it. "I will think of other things afterward," thought he.

By "other things," he meant his affairs of mind and heart,--that is,
his relations to religion, people, country, woman. He understood that
to be at rest in life one must explain these relations, and stand on
firm feet. There are men who all their lives do not know their position
with reference to these principles, and whom every wind turns toward
a new point. Pan Stanislav felt that a man should not live thus. In
his state of mind, as it then was, he saw that these questions might
be decided in a manner direct to dryness, as well as positive to
materialism, and in general negatively; but he understood that they
must be decided.

"I wish to know clearly whether I am bound to something or not,"
thought he.

Meanwhile he labored, and saw people little; he could not withdraw
from them altogether. He convinced himself, also, that questions most
intimately personal cannot be decided otherwise than internally,
otherwise than by one's own brain or heart, within the four walls
of the body; but that most frequently certain external influences,
certain people, near or distant, hasten the end of meditation, and the
decisions flowing from it. This happened at his farewell with Pani
Emilia, who was now shortening daily, and almost feverishly, the time
before her entrance on her novitiate with the Sisters of Charity.

Amid all his occupations, Pan Stanislav did not cease to visit her;
but a number of times he failed to find her at home. Once he met Pani
Bigiel at her house, and also Pani and Panna Kraslavski, whose presence
constrained him in a high degree. Afterward, when Marynia informed him
that Pani Emilia would begin her novitiate in a few days, he went to
take farewell of her.

He found her calm and almost joyous, but his heart was pained when he
looked at her. Her face was transparent in places, as if formed of
pearl; the blue veins appeared through the skin on her temples.

She was very beautiful, in a style almost unearthly, but Pan Stanislav
thought: "I will take the last leave of her, for she will not hold out
even a month; from one more attachment, one more grief and unhappiness."

She spoke to him of her decision as of a thing the most usual, to be
understood of itself,--the natural outcome of what had happened, the
natural refuge from a life deprived of every basis. Pan Stanislav
understood that for him to dissuade her would be purely conscienceless,
and an act devoid of sense.

"Will you remain in Warsaw?" asked he.

"I will, for I wish to be near Litka; and the mother superior promised
that I should be in the house first, and afterward, when I learn
something, in one of the hospitals. Unless unusual events come to pass,
while I am in the house I shall be free to visit Litka every Sunday."

Pan Stanislav set his teeth, and was silent; he looked only at the
delicate hands of Pani Emilia, thinking in his soul,--

"She wishes to nurse the sick with those hands."

But at the same time he divined that she wanted, beyond all, something
else. He felt that under her calmness and resignation there was immense
pain, strong as death, and calling for death with all the powers of
her heart and soul; but she wished death to come without her fault, not
through her sin, but her service,--her reward for that service was to
be her union with Litka.

And now, for the first time, Pan Stanislav understood the difference
between pain and pain, between sorrow and sorrow. He, too, loved Litka;
but in him, besides sorrow for her, and remembrance of her, there
was something else,--a certain interest in life, a certain curiosity
touching the future, certain desires, thoughts, tendencies. To Pani
Emilia there remained nothing,--it was as if she had died with Litka;
and if anything in the world occupied her yet, if she loved those who
were near her, it was only for Litka, through Litka, and in so far as
they were connected with Litka.

These visits and that farewell were oppressive to Pan Stanislav. He had
been deeply attached to Pani Emilia, but now he had the feeling that
the cord binding them had snapped once and forever, that their roads
parted at that moment, for he was going farther by the way of life;
she, however, wished her life to burn out as quickly as possible, and
had chosen labor,--blessed, it is true,--but beyond her strength, so as
to make death come more quickly.

This thought closed his lips. In the last moments, however, the
attachment which he had felt for her from of old overcame him; and he
spoke with genuine emotion while kissing her hand.

"Dear, very dear lady, may God guard and comfort you!"

Here words failed him; but she said, without dropping his hand,--

"Till I die, I shall not forget you, since you loved Litka so much. I
know, from Marynia, that Litka united you and her; and for that reason
I know that you will be happy, otherwise God would not have inspired
her. As often as I see you in life, I shall think that Litka made you
happy. Let her wish be accomplished at the earliest, and God bless you
both!"

Pan Stanislav said nothing; but, when returning home, he thought,--

"Litka's will! She does not even admit that Litka's will can remain
unaccomplished; and how was I to tell her that the other is not for me
now what she once was?"

Still Pan Stanislav felt with increasing distinctness that it was not
right to remain as he was any longer, and that those bonds connecting
him with Marynia ought soon to be tightened, or broken, so as to end
the strange condition, and the misunderstandings and sorrows which
might rise from it. He felt the need of doing this quickly, so as to
act with honor; and new alarm seized him, for it seemed that, no matter
how he acted, his action would not bring him happiness.

When he reached home, he found a letter from Mashko, which read as
follows,--

     "I have called on thee twice to-day. Some lunatic has insulted me
     before my subordinates on account of the oak which I sold thee.
     His name is Gantovski. I need to speak with thee, and shall come
     again before evening."

In fact, he ran in before the expiration of an hour, and asked, without
removing his overcoat,--

"Dost thou know that Gantovski?"

"I know him; he is a neighbor and relative of the Plavitskis. What has
happened, and how has it happened?"

Mashko removed his overcoat, and said,--

"I do not understand how news of the sale could get out, for I have not
spoken of it to any one; and it was important for me that it should not
become known."

"Our agent, Abdulski, went to Kremen to look at the oak. Gantovski must
have heard of the sale from him."

"Listen; this is the event. To-day Gantovski's card is brought into
my office; not knowing who he is, I receive the man. A rough fellow
enters, and asks if 't is true that I sold the oak, and if I wish to
depopulate a part of Kremen. Evidently I reply by asking how that may
concern him. He answers that I have bound myself to pay old Plavitski
a yearly annuity from Kremen; and that, if I ruin the place by a
plundering management, there will be nothing through which to compel
me. In answer, as thou canst understand, I advise him to take his cap,
button up closely, in view of the frost, and go to the place whence he
came. Hereupon he falls to making an uproar, calling me a cheat and a
swindler. At last he says that he lives in the Hotel Saxe, and goes
out. Hast thou the key to this? Canst thou tell me its meaning?"

"Of course. First, this Gantovski is of limited mind, by nature he is
rude; second, for whole years he has been in love with Panna Plavitski,
and has wished to be her knight."

"Thou knowest that I have rather cool blood; but, in truth, it seems at
times a dream. That a man should permit himself to insult me because I
sell my own property, simply passes human understanding."

"What dost thou think of doing? Old Plavitski will be the first to warm
Gantovski's ears, and force him to beg thy pardon."

Mashko's face took on such a cold and determined expression of wrath
that Pan Stanislav thought,--

"Well, 'the bear' has brewed beer of a kind that he did not expect; now
he must drink it."

"No one has ever offended me without being punished, and no one ever
will. This man not only has insulted me, but has done me a wrong beyond
estimation."

"He is a fool, simply irresponsible."

"A mad dog, too, is irresponsible, but people shoot him in the head. I
talk, as thou seest, coolly; listen, then, to what I say: a catastrophe
has come to me, from which I shall not rise."

"Thou art speaking coolly; but anger is stifling thee, and thou art
ready to exaggerate."

"Not in the least; be patient, and hear me to the end. The position
is this: If my marriage is stopped, or even put off, a few months,
the devils will take me, with my position, my credit, my Kremen, and
all that I have. I tell thee that I am travelling with the last of my
steam, and I must stop. Panna Kraslavski does not marry me for love,
but because she is twenty-nine years of age, and I seem to her, if not
the match she dreamed of, at least a satisfactory one. If it shall seem
that I am not what she thinks, she will break with me. If those ladies
should discover to-day that I sold the oak in Kremen from necessity,
I should receive a refusal to-morrow. Now think: the scandal was
public, for it was in presence of my subordinates. The matter will not
be kept secret. I might explain to those ladies the sale of the oak,
but yet I shall be an insulted man. If I do not challenge Gantovski,
they may break with me, as a fellow without honor; if I challenge
him,--remember that they are devotees, and, besides, women who keep up
appearances as no others that I know,--they will break with me then as
a man of adventures. If I shoot Gantovski, they will break with me as
a murderer; if he hits me, they will break with me as an imbecile, who
lets himself be insulted and beaten. In a hundred chances there are
ninety that they will act in this way. Is it clear to thee now why I
said that the devils will take me, my credit, my position, and Kremen
in addition?"

Pan Stanislav waved his hand with all the easy egotism to which a
man can bring himself in reference to another, who, at the bottom of
things, is of little account to him.

"Bah!" said he; "maybe I will buy Kremen of thee. But the position is
difficult. What dost thou think, then, of doing with Gantovski?"

To this Mashko answered: "So far I pay my debts. Thou dost not wish to
be my groomsman; wilt thou be my second?"

"That is not refused," answered Pan Stanislav.

"I thank thee. Gantovksi lives in the Hotel Saxe."

"I will be with him to-morrow."

Immediately after Mashko's departure, Pan Stanislav went to spend the
evening at Plavitski's; on the road he thought,--

"There are no jokes with Mashko, and the affair will not finish in
common fashion; but what is that to me? What are they all to me, or I
to them? Still, how devilishly alone a man is in the world!"

And all at once he felt that the only person on earth who cared for
him, and who thought of him, not as a thing, was Marynia.

And, in fact, when he came, he knew from the very pressure of her hand
that this was true. She said to him, in greeting, with her mild and
calm voice,--

"I had a presentiment that you would come. See, here is a cup waiting
for you."



CHAPTER XXIII.


When Pan Stanislav came to the Plavitskis' he found there Gantovski.
The young men greeted each other at once with evident coldness and
aversion. There was not in the whole world that day an unhappier man
than Gantovski. Old Plavitski bantered him as usual, and even more
than usual, being in excellent humor because of his relative, the old
lady from whom he expected a considerable inheritance. Gantovski's
presence was awkward for Marynia; and she strove in vain to hide this
annoyance by kindness and a cordial reception. At last Pan Stanislav
almost feigned not to see him. It was evident, too, that Gantovski had
not confessed anything before old Plavitski, and that he was trembling
lest Pan Stanislav might refer to his adventure with Mashko, or tell it
outright.

Pan Stanislav understood this at once, as well as the advantage over
"the bear" which was given him by his silence; wishing to use it in the
interest of Mashko, he was silent for a time, but could not forego the
pleasure of punishing Gantovski in another way. He occupied himself
the whole evening with Marynia, as he had not done since Litka's
death. This filled Marynia with evident delight. Leaving Gantovski to
her father, she walked with Pan Stanislav through the room and talked
confidentially; then they sat under the palm, where Pan Stanislav had
seen Pani Emilia after the funeral, and talked about her approaching
admission to the order of Sisters of Charity. To Gantovski it seemed
at times that only people who were betrothed could speak in that way;
and he felt then what must be felt by a soul not in purgatory, for in
purgatory a soul has hope yet before it, but what is felt by a soul
when entering the gate with the inscription "_Lasciate ogni speranza_"
(Leave every hope). Seeing them together in this way, he thought,
too, that perhaps Polanyetski had bought the oak with the land so as
to obtain for Marynia even a part of Kremen, and therefore with her
will and knowledge. And this being the case, the hair rose on his
head at the mere thought of how he had blundered in raising a scandal
with Mashko. Plavitski, on his part, hearing his half conscious,
but altogether inappropriate answers, amused himself still more at
the expense of the "rustic," who on the city pavement had lost what
remained of his wit. Plavitski considered himself now as the model of a
man of the "capital."

The moment came, however, when the young men were left alone, for
Marynia was occupied with tea in the next room, and Plavitski had gone
for cigars to his study; Pan Stanislav turned then to Gantovski,--

"Let us go together after tea," said he; "I wish to speak with you
touching your collision with Pan Mashko."

"Of course," answered Gantovski, gloomily, understanding that
Polanyetski was Mashko's second.

Meanwhile they had to remain for tea, and sit long enough after that,
for Plavitski did not like to go to bed early, and summoned Gantovski
to a game of chess. During the play, Marynia and Pan Stanislav sat
apart and conversed with animation, to the heartfelt torment of "the
bear."

"The arrival of Gantovski must be pleasing to you," said Pan Stanislav,
all at once, "for it brings Kremen to your mind."

Astonishment flashed over Marynia's face that he was the first to
mention Kremen. She had supposed that, in virtue of a tacit agreement,
he would cover that question with silence.

"I think no more now of Kremen," answered she, after a pause.

This statement was not true, for in her heart's depth she was sorry
for the place in which she had been reared,--the place of her labor
for years, and of her shattered hopes; but she thought herself forced
to speak thus by duty, and by the feeling for Pan Stanislav, which was
increasing continually.

"Kremen," added she, with a voice of some emotion, "was the cause of
our earliest quarrel; and I wish now for concord, concord forever."

While saying this, she looked into Pan Stanislav's eyes with a coquetry
full of sweetness, which a bad woman is able to put on at any time, but
an honest woman only when she is beginning to love.

"She is wonderfully kind," thought he. Straightway he added aloud,
"You might have a fabulous weapon against me, for you might lead me to
perdition with kindness."

"I do not wish to lead you to that," replied she.

And in sign that she did not, she began to shake her dark, shapely head
laughingly; and Pan Stanislav looked at her smiling face, and her mouth
a trifle too large, and said mentally,--

"Whether I love her, or love her not, no one attracts me as she does."

In fact, she had never occupied him and never pleased him more, even
when he felt no shade of doubt that he loved her, and when he was
struggling with that feeling. But at last he took farewell of her, for
it had grown late; and after a while he and Gantovski found themselves
on the street.

Pan Stanislav who never had been able to guard himself from
impulsiveness, stopped the unfortunate "bear," and asked almost
angrily,--

"Did you know that it was I who bought the oak at Kremen?"

"I did," answered Gantovski; "for your agent, that man who says that he
is descended from Tartars--I forget what his name is--was at my house
in Yalbrykov, and told me that it was you."

"Why, then, did you make the scandal with Pan Mashko, not with me?"

"Do not push me to the wall so," answered Gantovski, "for I do not like
it. I raised the scandal with him, not with you, because the Plavitskis
have nothing to do with you; but that man is obliged to pay them yearly
from Kremen the amount he has engaged to pay, and if he ruins Kremen,
he will have nothing to pay from. If you wished to know why I attacked
him, you know now."

Pan Stanislav had to confess in his soul that there was a certain
justice in Gantovski's answer; hence he began the conversation at once
from another side,--

"Pan Mashko has begged me to be his second, that's why I interfere in
this question. I shall call on you to-morrow as a second; but as a
private man, and a relative, though a distant one, of Pan Plavitski,
I can tell you to-day only this,--that you have rendered the poorest
service to Pan Plavitski, and if he and his daughter are left without a
morsel of bread, they will have you to thank for it. This is the truth!"

Gantovski's eyes became perfectly round.

"Without a morsel of bread? They will thank me for it?"

"That is the position," repeated Pan Stanislav. "But listen carefully.
Without reference to the result of the scandal, the circumstances are
such that it may have the most fatal results. I say this to you, on my
word: you have, perhaps, ruined Pan Plavitski, and taken from him and
his daughter the way, or rather the means, of living."

If Gantovski really did not like to be pressed to the wall, it was
time for him then to show his dislike; but Gantovski had lost his head
utterly, and stood in amazement, with open mouth, unable to find an
answer; and only after a time did he begin,--

"What? How? In what way? Be sure that it will not come to that, even if
I have to give them Yalbrykov."

"Pan Gantovski," interrupted Pan Stanislav, "it is a pity to lose
words. I have known your neighborhood from the time I was a little boy.
What is Yalbrykov, and what have you in Yalbrykov?"

It was true, Yalbrykov was a poor little village, with nine vlokas
of land; and, besides, Gantovski had, as is usual, inherited debts
higher than his ears; so his hands dropped at his sides. It occurred
to him, however, that perhaps matters did not stand as Pan Stanislav
represented them; and he grasped at this thought as at a plank of
salvation.

"I do not understand what you say," said he. "God is my witness that I
would choose my own ruin rather than injure the Plavitskis; and know
this, that I would be glad to twist the neck of Pan Mashko; but, if it
is necessary,--if it is a question of the Plavitskis,--then let the
devils take me first!

"Immediately after the scandal, I went to Pan Yamish, who is here at
the session, and told him all. He said that I had committed a folly,
and scolded me, it is true. If it were a question of my skin, it would
be nothing,--I would not move a finger; but, since it touches something
else, I will do what Pan Yamish tells me, even should a thunderbolt
split me next moment. Pan Yamish lives at the Hotel Saxe, and so do I."

They parted on this; and Gantovski went to his hotel, cursing Mashko,
himself, and Polanyetski. He felt that it must be as Polanyetski had
said,--that some incurable misfortune had happened,--and that he had
wrought grievous injustice against that same Panna Marynia for whom
he would have given his last drop of blood; he felt that if there had
been for him any hope, he had destroyed it completely. Plavitski would
close his door on him. Panna Marynia would marry Polanyetski, unless
he didn't want her. But who would not want her? And, at the same time,
Pan Gantovski saw clearly that among those who might ask her hand, he
was the last man she would marry. "What have I? Nothing," said he to
himself; "that measly Yalbrykov, nothing more,--neither good name nor
money. Every man knows something; I alone know nothing. Every one means
something; I alone mean nothing. That Polanyetski has learning and
money; but that I love her better,--the devils to me for that, and as
much to her, if I am such an idiot that through loving I harm instead
of helping her."

Pan Stanislav, on his way home, thought of Gantovski in the same way,
and in general had not for him even one spark of sympathy. At home he
found Mashko, who had been waiting an hour, and who said, as greeting,--

"Kresovski will be the other second."

Pan Stanislav made somewhat of a wry face, and answered,--

"I have seen Gantovski."

"And what?"

"He is a fool."

"He is that, first of all. Hast thou spoken to him in my name?"

"Not in thy name. As a relative of Pan Plavitski, I told him that he
had given Pan Plavitski the worst service in the world."

"You gave no explanations?"

"None. Hear me, Mashko: it is a question for thee of complete
satisfaction; it is no point for me that ye should shoot each other. In
virtue of what I have told Gantovski, he is ready to agree to all thy
conditions. Happily, he has committed himself to Yamish. Yamish is a
mild, prudent man, who understands also that Gantovski has acted like
an idiot, and will be glad to give him a lesson."

"Very well," said Mashko. "Give me a pen and piece of paper."

"Thou hast them at the desk."

Mashko sat down and wrote. When he had finished, he gave the written
sheet to Pan Stanislav, who read as follows:--

     "I testify this day that I attacked Pan Mashko while I was drunk,
     in a state of unconsciousness, and without giving myself account
     of what I was saying. To-day, having become sober, in presence of
     my seconds, the seconds of Pan Mashko, and the persons who were
     present at the scene, I acknowledge my act as rude and senseless,
     and turn with the greatest sorrow and contrition to the good sense
     and kindness of Pan Mashko, begging him for forgiveness, and
     acknowledging publicly that his conduct was and is in everything
     above the judgment of men like me."

"Gantovski is to declaim this, and then subscribe it," said Mashko.

"This is devilishly unmerciful; no one will agree to it," said Pan
Stanislav.

"Dost thou acknowledge that this fool has permitted to himself
something unheard of with reference to me?"

"I do."

"And remember what result this adventure may have for me?"

"It is impossible to know that."

"Well, I know; but I will tell thee only this much,--those ladies will
regret from their souls that they are bound to me, and will use every
pretext which will excuse them before society. That is certain; I am
ruined almost beyond rescue."

"The devil!"

"Thou canst understand now that what is troubling me must be ground out
on some one, and that Gantovski must pay me for the injustice in one
form or another."

"Neither have I any tenderness for him. Let it be so," said Pan
Stanislav, shrugging his shoulders.

"Kresovski will come for thee to-morrow morning at nine."

"Very well."

"Then, till we meet again. By the way, should you see Plavitski
to-morrow, tell him that his relative, Panna Ploshovski, from whom he
expected an inheritance, has died in Rome. Her will was here with her
manager, Podvoyni, and is to be opened to-morrow."

"Plavitski knows of that already, for she died five days ago."

Pan Stanislav was left alone. For a certain time he thought of his
money without being able to foresee a method by which he might
receive it from the bankrupt Mashko, and the thought disturbed him.
He remembered, however, that the debt could not be removed from the
mortgage on Kremen until it was paid in full; that in this last case
he would continue as he had been previously,--a creditor of Kremen.
Kremen, it is true, was not a much better debtor than Mashko, hence
this was no great consolation; but for the time he was forced to be
satisfied with it. Later on, something else also came to his head. He
remembered Litka, Pani Emilia, Marynia, and he was struck by this,--how
the world of women, a world of feelings purely, a world whose great
interest lies in living in the happiness of those near us, differs
from the world of men, a world full of rivalry, struggles, duels,
encounters, angers, torments, and efforts for acquiring property. He
recognized at that moment what he had not felt before,--that if there
be solace, repose, and happiness on earth, they are to be sought from
a loving woman. This feeling was directly opposed to his philosophy of
the last few days, hence it disturbed him. But, in comparing further
those two worlds, he could not withhold the acknowledgment that that
feminine and loving world has its foundation and reason of existence.

If Pan Stanislav had been more intimate with the Holy Scriptures,
beyond doubt the words, "Mary has chosen the better part," would have
occurred to him.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Kresovski was almost an hour late on the following morning. He was,
according to a noted description among us, one of the administrators
of fresh air in the city,--that is, one of the men who do nothing.
He had a name sufficiently famous, and had squandered rather a large
fortune. On these two foundations he lived, he went everywhere, and was
recognized universally as a man of good breeding. How the above titles
can provide a man everything is the secret of great cities; it is
enough that not only Kresovski's position was recognized and certain,
but he was considered a person to whom it was possible to apply with
safety in delicate questions. In courts of honor he was employed as an
arbiter; in duels, as a second. High financial circles were glad to
invite him to dinners, weddings, christenings, and solemnities of that
sort, since he had a patrician baldness, and a countenance extremely
Polish; hence he ornamented a table perfectly.

He was a man in the essence of things greatly disenchanted with
people, a little consumptive, and very satirical. He possessed,
however, a certain share of humor, which permitted him to see the
laughable side of things, especially of very small things; in this he
resembled Bukatski somewhat, and made sport of his own fault-finding.
He permitted others to make sport of it also, but within measure. When
the measure was passed, he straightened himself suddenly, and squeezed
people to excess; in view of this he was looked on as dangerous. It
was said of him that in a number of cases he had found courage where
many would have lacked it, and that, in general, he could "carry his
nose high." He did not respect any one nor anything, except his own
really very noble physiognomy; time, especially, he did not respect,
for he was late always and everywhere. Coming in to Pan Stanislav's on
this occasion, he began at once, after the greeting, to explain his
tardiness,--

"Have you not noticed," asked he, "that if a man is in a real hurry,
and very anxious to hasten, the things he needs most vanish purposely?
The servant seeks his hat,--it is gone; looks for his overshoes,--they
are not there; hunts for his pocket-book,--it is not to be had. I will
wager that this is so always."

"It happens thus," said Pan Stanislav.

"I have, in fact, invented a cure. When something has gone from me as
if it had fallen into water, I sit down, smile, and say aloud: 'I love
to lose a thing in this way, I do passionately;' my man looks for it,
becomes lively, stirs about, passes the time,--that is very wholesome
and agreeable. And what will you say? Right away the lost article is
found."

"A patent might be taken for such an invention," answered Pan
Stanislav; "but let us speak of Mashko's affair."

"We must go to Yamish. Mashko has sent me a paper which he has
written for Gantovski. He is unwilling to change a word; but it is an
impossible statement, too harsh,--it cannot be accepted. I understand
that a duel is waiting for us, nothing else; I see no other outcome."

"Gantovski has intrusted himself to Pan Yamish in everything, and he
will do all that Yamish commands. But Yamish, to begin with, is also
indignant at Gantovski; secondly, he is a sick man, mild, calm, so that
who knows that he may not accept such conditions."

"Pan Yamish is an old dotard," said Kresovski; "but let us go, for it
is late."

They went out. After a while the sleigh halted before the hotel. Pan
Yamish was waiting for them, but he received them in his dressing-gown,
for he was really in poor health. Kresovski, looking at his
intelligent, but careworn and swollen face, thought,--

"He is really ready to agree to everything."

"Sit down, gentlemen," said Pan Yamish; "I came only three days ago,
and though I do not feel well, I am glad, for perhaps the affair may
be settled. Believe me that I was the first to rub the ears of my
water-burner."

Here he shrugged his shoulders, and, turning to Pan Stanislav,
inquired,--

"What are the Plavitskis doing? I have not visited them yet, though I
long to see my golden Marynia."

"Panna Marynia is well," answered Pan Stanislav.

"But the old man?"

"A few days ago a distant relative of his died,--a very wealthy woman;
he is counting, therefore, on an inheritance. He told me so yesterday;
but I hear that she has left all her property for benevolent purposes.
The will is to be opened to-day or to-morrow."

"May God have inspired her to leave something to Marynia! But let us
come to our affair. I need not tell you, gentlemen, that it is our duty
to finish it amicably, if we can."

Kresovski bowed. Introductions like this, which he had heard in his
life God knows how often, annoyed him.

"We are profoundly convinced of this duty."

"So I had hoped," answered Yamish, benevolently. "I confess myself that
Pan Gantovski had not the least right to act as he did. I recognize
even as just that he should be punished for it; hence I shall persuade
him to all, even very considerable, concessions, fitted to assure
proper satisfaction to Pan Mashko."

Kresovski took from his pocket the folded paper, and gave it, with a
smile, to Pan Yamish, saying,--

"Pan Mashko demands nothing more than that Pan Gantovski should read
this little document, to begin with, in presence of his own and Pan
Mashko's seconds, as well as in presence of Pan Mashko's subordinates,
who were present at the scene, and then write under it his own
respected name."

Pan Yamish, finding his spectacles among his papers, put them on his
nose, and began to read. But as he read, his face grew red, then pale;
after that he began to pant. Pan Stanislav and Kresovski could scarcely
believe their eyes that that was the same Pan Yamish who a moment
before was ready for every concession.

"Gentlemen," said he, with a broken voice, "Pan Gantovski has acted
like a water-burner, like a thoughtless man; but Pan Gantovski is a
noble, and this is what I answer in his name to Pan Mashko."

When he said this, he tore the paper in four pieces, and threw them on
the floor.

The thing had not been foreseen. Kresovski began to meditate whether
Yamish had not offended his dignity of a second by this act, and in
one moment his face began to grow icy, and contract like that of an
angry dog; but Pan Stanislav, who loved Pan Yamish, was pleased at his
indignation.

"Pan Mashko is injured in such an unusual degree that he cannot ask
for less; but Pan Kresovski and I foresaw your answer, and it only
increases the respect which we have for you."

Pan Yamish sat down, and, being somewhat asthmatic, breathed rather
heavily for a time; then he grew quiet, and said,--

"I might offer you an apology on the part of Pan Gantovski, but in
other expressions altogether; I see, however, that we should be losing
time merely. Let us talk at once of satisfaction, weapon in hand. Pan
Vilkovski, Pan Gantovski's other second, will be here soon; and if you
can wait, we will fix the conditions immediately."

"That is called going straight to the object," said Kresovski, who
quite agreed with Pan Yamish.

"But from necessity,--and sad necessity," replied Yamish.

"I must be in my office at eleven," said Pan Stanislav, looking at his
watch; "but, if you permit, I will run in here about one o'clock, to
look over the conditions and sign them."

"That will do. We cannot draw up conditions that will rouse people's
laughter, that I understand and inform you; but I count on this,--that
you, gentlemen, will not make them too stringent."

"I have no thought, I assure you, of quarrelling to risk another man's
life." So saying, Pan Stanislav started for his office, where, in fact,
a number of affairs of considerable importance were awaiting him, and
which, in Bigiel's absence, he had to settle alone. In the afternoon
he signed the conditions of the duel, which were serious, but not too
stringent. He went then to dinner, for he hoped to find Mashko in the
restaurant. Mashko had gone to Pani Kraslavski's; and the first person
whom Pan Stanislav saw was Plavitski, dressed, as usual, with care,
shaven, buttoned, fresh-looking, but gloomy as night.

"What is my respected uncle doing here?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"When I have trouble, I do not dine at home usually, and this to avoid
afflicting Marynia," answered Plavitski. "I go somewhere; and as thou
seest, the wing of a chicken, a spoonful of preserve, is all that I
need. Take a seat with me, if thou hast no pleasanter company."

"What has happened?"

"Old traditions are perishing; that has happened."

"Bah! this is not a misfortune personal to uncle."

Plavitski glanced at him gloomily and solemnly. "To-day," said he, "a
will has been opened."

"Well, and what?"

"And what? People are saying now throughout Warsaw: 'She remembered her
most distant relatives!' Nicely did she remember them! Marynia has an
inheritance, has she? Knowest thou how much? Four hundred rubles a year
for life. And the woman was a millionnaire! An inheritance like that
may be left to a servant, not to a relative."

"But to uncle?"

"Nothing to me. She left fifteen thousand rubles to her manager, but
mentioned no syllable about me."

"What is to be done?"

"Old traditions are perishing. How many people gained estates formerly
through wills, and why was it? Because love and solidarity existed in
families."

"Even to-day I know people on whose heads thousands have fallen from
wills."

"True, there are such,--there are many of them; but I am not of the
number."

Plavitski rested his head on his hand, and from his mouth issued
something in the style of a monologue.

"Yes, always somewhere somebody leaves something to somebody." Here he
sighed, and after a while added, "But to me no one leaves anything,
anywhere, at any time."

Suddenly an idea equally cruel and empty occurred to Pan Stanislav on a
sudden to cheer up Plavitski; therefore he said,--

"Ai! she died in Rome; but the will here was written long ago, and
before that one there was another altogether different, as people tell
me. Who knows that in Rome a little codicil may not be found, and that
my dear uncle will not wake up a millionnaire some day?"

"That day will not come," answered Plavitski. Still the words had moved
him; he began to gaze at Polanyetski, to squirm as if the chair on
which he was sitting were a bed of torture, and said, at last, "And you
think that possible?"

"I see in it nothing impossible," answered Pan Stanislav, with real
roguish seriousness.

"If the wish of Providence."

"And that may be."

Plavitski looked around the hall; they were alone. He pushed back his
chair on a sudden, and, pointing to his shirt-bosom, said,--

"Come here, my boy!"

Pan Stanislav inclined his head, which Plavitski kissed twice, saying
at the same time, with emotion,--

"Thou host consoled me; thou hast strengthened me. Let it be as God
wills, but thou hast strengthened me. I confess to thee now that I
wrote to Panna Ploshovski only to remind her that we were living. I
asked her when the rent term of one of her estates would end; I had
not, as thou knowest, the intention to take that place, but the excuse
was a good one. May God reward thee for strengthening me! The present
will may have been made before my letter. She went to Rome later; on
the way she must have thought of my letter, and therefore of us; and,
to my thinking, that is possible. God reward thee!"

After a while his face cleared up completely; all at once he laid his
hand on Pan Stanislav's knee, and, clicking with his tongue, cried,--

"Knowest what, my boy? Perhaps in a happy hour thou hast spoken; and
might we not drink a small bottle of Mouton-Rothschild on account of
this codicil?"

"God knows that I cannot," said Pan Stanislav, who had begun to be a
little ashamed of what he had said to the old man. "I cannot, and I
will not."

"Thou must."

"'Pon my word, I cannot. I have my hands full of work, and I will not
befog my head for anything in the world."

"A stubborn goat,--a regular goat! Then I will drink half a bottle to
the happy hour."

So he ordered it, and asked,--

"What hast thou to do?"

"Various things. Immediately after dinner I must be with Professor
Vaskovski."

"What kind of a figure is that Vaskovski?"

"In fact," said Pan Stanislav, "an inheritance has fallen to him from
his brother, who was a miner,--an inheritance, and a considerable one.
But he gives all to the poor."

"He gives to the poor, but goes to a good restaurant. I like such
philanthropists. If I had anything to give the poor, I would deny
myself everything."

"He was ailing a long time, and the doctor ordered him to eat
plentifully. But even in that case he eats only what is cheap. He lives
in a poor chamber, and rears birds. Next door he has two large rooms;
and knowest, uncle, who passes the night in them? Children whom he
picks up on the street."

"It seemed to me right away that he had something here," said
Plavitski, tapping his forehead with his finger.

Pan Stanislav did not find Vaskovski at home; hence after an interview
with Mashko he dropped in to see Marynia about five in the afternoon.
His conscience was gnawing him for the nonsense he had spoken to
Plavitski. "The old man," said he to himself, "will drink costly wines
on account of that codicil; while to my thinking they are living beyond
their means already. The joke should not last too long."

He found Marynia with her hat on. She was going to the Bigiels', but
received him, and since he had not come for a long time, he remained.

"I congratulate you on the inheritance," said he.

"I am glad myself," replied she; "it is something sure, and in our
position that is important. For that matter, I should like to be as
rich as possible."

"Why so?"

"You remember what you said once, that you would like to have enough
to establish a manufactory, and not carry on a mercantile house. I
remember that; and since every one has personal wishes, I should like
to have much, much money."

Then, thinking that she might have said too much, and said it too
definitely, she began to straighten the fold of her dress, so as to
incline her head.

"I came, for another thing, to beg your pardon," said Pan Stanislav.
"To-day at dinner I told a pack of nonsense to Pan Plavitski, saying
that Panna Ploshovski had changed her will, perhaps, and left him a
whole estate. Beyond my expectation he took it seriously. I should not
wish to have him deceive himself; and if you will permit me, I will go
at once to him and explain the matter somehow."

"I have explained it to him already," said Marynia, smiling; "he
scolded me, and that greatly. You see how you have involved matters.
You have cause indeed to beg pardon."

"Therefore I beg."

And, seizing her hand, he began to cover it with kisses; and she left
it with him completely, repeating as if in sarcasm, but with emotion,--

"Ah, the wicked Pan Stas, the wicked Pan Stas!"

That day Pan Stanislav felt on his lips till he fell asleep the warmth
of Marynia's hand; and he thought neither of Mashko nor Gantovski, but
repeated to himself with great persistence,--

"It is time to decide this."



CHAPTER XXV.


Kresovski, with a doctor and a case containing pistols, entered one
carriage, Pan Stanislav with Mashko another, and the two moved toward
Bielany. The day was clear and frosty, full of rosy haze near the
ground. The wheels turned with a whining on the frozen snow; the horses
were steaming, and covered with frost; on the trees abundant snow was
resting.

"Frost that is frost," said Mashko. "Our fingers will freeze to the
triggers. And the delight of removing one's furs!"

"Then be reconciled; make no delay. My dear man, tell Kresovski to
begin the work straightway."

Here Mashko wiped his damp eye-glass, and added, "Before we reach the
place, the sun will be high, and there will be a great glitter from the
snow."

"Finish quickly, then," answered Pan Stanislav. "Since Kresovski is in
time, there will be no waiting for the others; they are used to early
rising."

"Dost know what makes me anxious at this moment?" asked Mashko. "This,
that there is in the world one factor with which no one reckons in
his plans and actions, and through which everything may be shattered,
involved, and ruined,--human stupidity. Imagine me with ten times the
mind that I have, and unoccupied with the interests of Pan Mashko.
Imagine me, for example, some great statesman, some Bismark or Cavour,
who needs to gain property to carry out his plans, and who calculates
every step, every word,--what then? A beast like this comes along,
stupid beyond human reckoning, and carries all away on his horns. That
is something fabulous! Whether this fellow will shoot me or not, is the
least account now; but the brute has spoiled my life-work."

"Who can calculate such a thing?" said Pan Stanislav. "It is as if a
roof were to fall on thy head."

"For that very reason rage seizes me."

"But as to his shooting thee, don't think of that."

Mashko recovered, wiped his glass again, and began,--

"My dear, I see that from the moment of our starting thou hast been
observing me a little, and now 'tis thy wish to add to my courage.
That is natural. On my part, I must calm thee; and on my word I give
assurance that I will not shame thee. I feel a little disquiet,--that
is simple; but knowest why? That which constitutes danger of life, the
firing at one, is nothing. Let weapons be given me and him; let us into
the woods. God knows that I should fire away at that idiot half a day,
and meet his shots half a day. I have had a duel already, and know what
it is. It is the comedy that disconcerts one, the preparations, the
seconds, the idea that men will look at thee, and the fear touching how
thou wilt appear, how thou wilt acquit thyself. It is simply a public
exhibition, and a question of self-love,--nothing more. For nervous
natures a genuine trial. But I am not over nervous. I understand,
also, that in this regard I am superior to my opponent, for I am more
accustomed to men. 'Tis true such an ass has less imagination, and is
not able to think; for example, how he would look as a corpse; how
he would begin to decay, and so on. Still I shall be able to command
myself better. Besides, I will tell thee another thing: Philosophy
is philosophy; but in matters like this the decisive elements are
temperament and passion. This duel will not bring me to anything,
will not save me in any regard; on the contrary, it may bring me to
trouble. But still I cannot deny it to myself, so much indignation has
collected in my soul, I so hate that idiot, and would like so to crush
and trample him,--that I cease to reason. Thou mayest be certain of one
thing,--that as soon as I see the face of the blockhead I shall forget
disquiet, forget the comedy, and see only him."

"I understand that well enough," said Pan Stanislav.

And the spots on Mashko's face increased and became blue from the
frost, wherewith he had a look as stubborn as it was ugly.

Meanwhile they arrived. Almost simultaneously squeaked the carriage
bringing Gantovski, with Yamish and Vilkovski. When they alighted,
these gentlemen saluted their opponents; then the seven, counting the
doctor, withdrew to the depth of the forest to a place selected on the
preceding day by Kresovski.

The drivers, looking at the seven overcoats outlined strangely on the
snow, began to mutter to themselves.

"Do you know what is going to happen?" asked one.

"Is it my first time?" answered the other.

"Let the world grow polite; let fools go to fight!"

Meanwhile the seven, clattering on in their heavy overshoes, and
blowing lines of white steam from their nostrils, went toward the other
end of the forest. On the way, Yamish, somewhat against the rules
binding in such cases, approached Pan Stanislav, and began,--

"I wished sincerely that my man should beg pardon of Pan Mashko, but
under the conditions it is not possible."

"I proposed to Mashko, too, to tone down that note, but he would not."

"Then there is no escape. All this is immensely foolish, but there is
no escape!"

Pan Stanislav did not answer, and they walked on in silence. Pan Yamish
began to speak again,--

"But I hear that Marynia Plavitski has received some inheritance?"

"She has, but a small one."

"And the old man?"

"He is angry that the whole property is not left to him."

Yamish tapped his forehead with his glove. "He has a little something
here, that Plavitski;" then, looking around, he said, "Somehow we are
going far."

"We shall be on the ground in a moment."

And they went on. The sun had risen above the undergrowth; from the
trees there fell bluish shadows on the snow; but more and more light
was coming into the forest every instant. The crows and daws, hidden
somewhere among the tree-tops, shook the snow, dry as down, and it fell
without noise to the ground, forming under the trees little pointed
piles. Everywhere there was immense silence and rest. Men alone were
disturbing it to shoot at each other.

They halted at last on the edge of the forest where it was clean. Then
Yamish's short discourse concerning the superiority of peace over
war was listened to by Mashko and Gantovski with ears hidden by fur
collars. When Kresovski loaded the pistols, each made his choice; and
the two, throwing their furs aside, stood opposite each other with the
barrels of their weapons turned upward.

Gantovski breathed hurriedly; his face was red, and his mustaches
were in icicles. From his whole posture and face it was clear that
the affair disconcerted him greatly; that through shame and force of
will he controlled himself; and that, had he followed the natural bent
of his feelings, he would have sprung at his opponent and smashed
him with the butt of his pistol, or even with his fist. Mashko, who
previously had feigned not to see his opponent, looked at him now with
a face full of hatred, stubbornness, and contempt. His cheeks were
all in spots. He mastered himself more, however, than Gantovski; and,
dressed in a long frock-coat, with a high hat on his head, with his
long side-whiskers, he seemed too stiff, too much like an actor playing
the rôle of a duelling gentleman.

"He will shoot 'the bear' like a dog," thought Pan Stanislav.

The words of command were heard, and two shots shook the forest
stillness. Mashko turned then to Kresovski, and said coolly,--

"I beg to load the pistols."

But at the same moment at his feet appeared a spot of blood on the snow.

"You are wounded," said the doctor, approaching quickly.

"Perhaps; load the pistols, I beg."

At that moment he staggered, for he was wounded really. The ball had
carried away the very point of his kneepan. The duel was interrupted;
but Gantovski remained some time yet on the spot with staring eyes,
astonished at what had happened.

After the first examination of the wound he approached, however, pushed
forward by Yamish, and said as awkwardly as sincerely,--

"Now I confess that I was not right in attacking you. I recall
everything that I said, and I beg your pardon. You are wounded, but
I did not wish to wound you." After a moment, when he was going away
with Yamish and Vilkovski, he was heard to say, "As I love God most
sincerely, it was a pure accident; I intended to fire over his head."

Mashko did not open his mouth that day. To the question of the doctor
if the wound caused much pain, he merely shook his head in sign that it
did not.

Bigiel, who had just returned from Prussia with his pockets full of
contracts, when he heard all that had happened, said to Pan Stanislav,--

"Mashko seems an intelligent man, but, as God lives, every one of us
has some whim in his head. He, for example, has credit; he has many
splendid business cases; he might have a considerable income, and make
a fortune. But no, he wants to force matters, strain his credit to
the utmost, buy estates, give himself out as a great proprietor, a
lord,--be God knows what, only not what he is. All this is wonderful,
and the more so that it is so common. More than once I think that life
in itself is not bad, but that all ruin it through want of mental
balance, and certain devilish whims,--through a kind of wasp, which
every one has behind his collar. I understand that a man wants to have
more than he has, and to mean more than he means; but why strive for
it in fantastic fashion? I am first to recognize energy and cleverness
in Mashko; but, taking everything into consideration, he has something
here, as God is true, he has."

Bigiel now tapped his forehead with his finger a number of times.

Meanwhile Mashko, with set teeth, was suffering, since his wound,
though not threatening life, was uncommonly painful. In the evening
he fainted twice in presence of Pan Stanislav. Afterward, weakness
supervened, during which that boldness of spirit which had upheld the
young advocate through the day gave way completely. When the doctor
departed, after dressing the wound, Mashko lay quietly for a time, and
then began,--

"But I am in luck!"

"Do not think of that," answered Pan Stanislav; "thou wilt get more
fever."

But Mashko continued, however, "Insulted, ruined, wounded,--all at one
blow."

"I repeat to thee that this is no time to think of that."

Mashko rested his elbow on the pillow, hissed from pain, and said,--

"Never mind; this is the last time that I shall converse with a decent
man. One week or two from now I shall be of those whom people avoid.
What do I care for this fever? There is something so unendurable
in ruin so complete, in a wreck of fate so utter, that the first
idiot, the first goose that comes along will say: 'I knew that long
ago; I foresaw that.' So it is: all of them foresee everything after
the event; and of him whom the thunderbolt has struck, they make in
addition a fool, or a madman."

Pan Stanislav recalled Bigiel's words at that moment. But Mashko, by
a marvellous coincidence, spoke on in such fashion as if wishing to
answer those words.

"And dost think that I did not give account to myself that I was going
too sharply; that I was hurrying with too much force; that I wanted
to be something greater than I was; that I carried my nose too high?
No one will render me that justice; but knowest thou that I said it
to myself? But I said to myself, too: 'It is needful to do this; this
is the one way to rise to distinction. Maybe things are wrong, maybe
life, in general, goes backward; but had it not been for that adventure
unforeseen, and of unfathomable stupidity, I should have succeeded just
because I was such as I was. If I had been a modest man, I should not
have got Panna Kraslavski. With us it is necessary always to pretend
something; and if the devils take me, it is not through my pride, but
that blockhead."

"But how the deuce art thou to know surely that thy marriage will fail?"

"My dear man, thou hast no knowledge of those women. They agreed
on Pan Mashko through lack of something better, for Pan Mashko had
good success. But if any shadow falls on my property, my position,
my station, they will throw me aside without mercy, and then roll
mountains on to me to shield themselves before the world of society.
What knowledge hast thou of them? Panna Kraslavski is not Panna
Plavitski."

A moment of silence followed, then Mashko spoke further, with a
weakening voice: "She could have rescued me. For her I should have
gone on another road,--a far quieter one. In such conditions Kremen
would have been saved; the debt on it would have fallen away, as well
as Plavitski's annuity. I should have waded out. Dost thou know that,
besides, I fell in love with her in student fashion? It came so,
unknown whence. But she chose rather to be angry with thee than love
me. Now I understand; there is no help for it."

Pan Stanislav, who did not relish this conversation, interrupted it,
and spoke with a shadow of impatience,--

"It astonishes me that a man of thy energy thinks everything lost,
while it is not. Panna Plavitski is a past on which thou hast made a
cross, by proposing to Panna Kraslavski. As to the present, thou wert
attacked, it is true; but thou hast fought, thou wert wounded, but in
such a way that in a week thou wilt be well; and finally, those ladies
have not announced that they break with thee. Till thou hast that,
black on white, thou hast no right to talk thus. Thou art sick, and
that is why thou art reading funeral services over thyself prematurely.
But I will tell thee another thing. It is for thee to let those ladies
know what has happened. Dost wish, I will go to them to-morrow, then
they will act as they please; but let them be informed by thy second,
not by city gossips."

Mashko thought a while, and said: "I wished to write in every case to
my betrothed; but if thou go, it will be better. I have no hope that
she will hold to me, but it is needful to do what is proper. I thank
thee. Thou wilt be able to present the affair from the best side,--only
not a word touching troubles of any kind. Thou must lessen the sale of
the oak to zero, to a politeness which I wished to show thee. I thank
thee sincerely. Say that Gantovski apologized."

"Hast thou some one to sit with thee?"

"My servant and his wife. The doctor will come again, and bring a
surgeon. This pains me devilishly, but I am not ill."

"Then, till we meet again."

"Be well. I thank thee--thou art--"

"Sleep soundly."

Pan Stanislav went out. Along the way he meditated on Mashko's course,
and meditated with a species of anger:

"He is not of the romantic school; still he is inclined to pretend
something of that sort. Panna Plavitski! he loved her--he would have
gone by another road--she might have saved him!--this is merely a
tribute to sentimentality, and, besides, in false coin, since a
month later he proposed to that puppet--for money's sake! Maybe I
am duller-witted; I do not understand this, and do not believe in
disappointments cured so easily. Had I loved one woman, and been
disappointed, I do not think that I should marry another in a month.
Devil take me if I should! He is right, however, that Marynia is of a
different kind from Kraslavski. There is no need whatever to discuss
that; she is different altogether! different altogether!"

And that thought was immensely agreeable to Pan Stanislav. When he
reached home, he found a letter from Bukatski, who was in Italy, and
a card from Marynia, full of anxiety and questions concerning the
duel. There was a request to send news early in the morning of what
had happened, especially to inform her if everything was really over,
and if no new encounter was threatened. Pan Stanislav, under the
influence of the idea that she was different from Panna Kraslavski,
answered cordially, more cordially even than he wished, and commanded
his servant to deliver the note at nine the next morning. Then he set
about reading Bukatski's letter, shrugging his shoulders from the very
beginning. Bukatski wrote as follows:--

     May Sakya Muni obtain for thee blessed Nirvana! Besides this, tell
     Kaplaner not to forward my three thousand rubles to Florence, but
     to keep them at my order. These days I have resolved to entertain
     the design of forming the plan of becoming a vegetarian. Dost note
     how decisive this is? If the thought does not annoy me, if this
     plan becomes a determination, and the determination is not beyond
     my power, I shall cease to be a flesh-eating animal; and life
     will cost me less money. That is the whole question. As to thee,
     I beg thee to be satisfied with everything, for life is not worth
     fatigue.

     I have discovered why the Slavs prefer synthesis to analysis.
     It is because they are idlers, and analysis is laborious. A man
     can synthesize while smoking a cigar after dinner. For that
     matter, they are right in being idlers. It is comfortably warm
     in Florence, especially on Lung-Arno. I walk along for myself
     and make a synthesis of the Florentine school. I have made the
     acquaintance here of an able artist in water-colors,--a Slav,
     too, who lives by art; but he proves that art is swinishness,
     which has grown up from a mercantile need of luxury, and from
     over-much money, which some pile up at the expense of others. In
     one word, art is, to his thinking, meanness and injustice. He
     fell upon me as upon a dog, and asserted that to be a Buddhist
     and to be occupied with art is the summit of inconsistency;
     but I attacked him still more savagely, and answered, that to
     consider consistency as something better than inconsistency was
     the height of miserable obscurantism, prejudices, and meanness.
     The man was astonished, and lost speech. I am persuading him to
     hang himself, but he doesn't want to. Tell me, art thou sure that
     the earth turns around the sun, or isn't this all a joke? For
     that matter, it is all one to me! In Warsaw I was sorry for that
     child who died, and here too I think of her frequently. How stupid
     that was! What is Pani Emilia doing? People have their rôle in
     the world fixed beforehand, and her rôle came to her with wings
     and suffering. Why was she good? She would have been happier
     otherwise. As to thee, O man, show me one kindness. I beg thee,
     by all things, marry not. Remember that if thou marry, if thou
     have a son, if thou toil to leave him property, thou wilt do so
     only for this that that son may be what I am, irreparably so.
     Farewell burning energy, farewell mercantile house, commission
     firm, O transitory form, vicious toil, effort for money, future
     father of a family, rearer of children and trouble. Embrace for me
     Vaskovski. He, too, is a man of synthesis. May Sakya Muni open thy
     eyes to know that it is warm in the sun and cool in the shade, and
     to lie down is better than to stand! Thy
                                                            BUKATSKI.

"Hash!" thought Pan Stanislav. "All this is artificial, all
self-deception through a kind of exaggeration. But if a man accustoms
himself to this, it will become in time a second nature to him, and,
meanwhile, the devils take his reason; his energy and soul decay like
a corpse. A man may throw himself headlong into such a hole as Mashko
has, or into such a one as Bukatski. In both cases he will go under the
ice. What the devil does it mean? Still there must be some healthy and
normal life; only it is needful to have a little common sense in the
head. But for a man like Bigiel, it is not bad in the world. He has a
wife whom he loves, children whom he loves; he works like an ox. At the
same time he has a great attachment for people, loves music and his
violoncello, on which he plays in the moonlight, with his face raised
toward the ceiling. It cannot be said that he is a materialist. No; in
him one thing agrees with another somehow, and he is happy."

Pan Stanislav began to walk through the room, and look from time to
time at Litka's face, smiling from between the birches. The need of
balancing accounts with his own self seized hold of him with increasing
force. Like a merchant, he set about examining his debit and credit,
which, for that matter, was not difficult. On the credit side of his
life, his feeling for Litka once occupied the chief place; she was
so dear to him in her time that if a year before it had been said,
"Take her as your own child," he would have taken her, and considered
that he had something to live for. But now this relation was only a
remembrance, and from the rubric of happiness it had passed over to
the rubric of misfortune. What was left? First of all, life itself;
second, that mental dilettantism, which in every case is a luxury;
further, the future, which rouses curiosity; further, the use of
material things; and finally, his commercial house. All this had its
value; but Pan Stanislav saw that there was a lack of object in it. As
to the commercial house, he was pleased with the successes which he
experienced, but not with the kind of work which the house demanded;
on the contrary, that kind of work was not enough for him,--it was too
narrow, too poor, and angered him. On the other hand, dilettantism,
books, the world of mind,--all had significance as an ornament of life,
but could not become its basis. "Bukatski," said Pan Stanislav to
himself, "has sunk in this up to his ears; he wished to live with it,
and has become weak, incompetent, barren. Flowers are good; but whoso
wishes to breathe the odor of them exclusively will poison himself."
In truth, Pan Stanislav did not need to be a great sage to see around
him a multitude of people who were out of joint, whose health of soul
mental dilettantism had undermined,--just as morphine undermines one's
health of body.

This dilettantism had wrought much harm to him, too, if only in
this,--that it had made him a skeptic. He had been saved from
grievous disease only by a sound organism, which felt the absolute
need of expending its superfluous energy. But what will come later?
Can he continue in that way? To this Pan Stanislav answered now
with a decisive No! Since the business of his house could not fill
out his life, and since it was simply perilous to fill it out with
dilettantism, it was necessary to fill it out with something else,--to
create new worlds, new duties, to open up new horizons; and to do this,
he had to do one thing,--to marry.

On a time when he said this to himself, he saw before him a certain
undefined form, uniting all the moral and physical requisites, but
without a body and without a name. Now it was a real figure; it had
calm blue eyes, dark hair, a mouth a trifle too large, and was called
Marynia Plavitski. Of any one else there could not be even mention;
and Pan Stanislav placed her before himself with such vividness that
the veins throbbed in his temples with more life. He was perfectly
conscious, however, that something was lacking then in his feeling for
Marynia,--namely, that around which the imagination lingers, which
dares not ask anything, but hopes everything; which fears, trembles,
kneels; which says to the loved woman, "At thy feet;" the love in which
desire is at the same time worship, homage,--a feeling which adds a
kind of mystic coloring to the relations of a man to a woman; which
makes of the man, not merely a lover, but a follower. That had gone.
Pan Stanislav, in thinking now of Marynia, thought soberly, almost
insolently. He felt that he could go and take her, and have her; and
if he did so, it would be for two reasons: first, because Marynia was
for him a woman more attractive than all others; and second, reason
commanded him to marry, and to marry her.

"She is wonderfully reliable," thought he; "there is nothing in her
fruitless or dried up. Egotism has not destroyed the heart in her; and
it is undoubted that such a one will not think merely of what belongs
to her. She is honesty incarnate, duty incarnate; and in life the only
need will be to prevent her from thinking too little of herself. If
reason commands me to marry, I should commit a folly, were I to look
for another."

Then he asked whether, if he abandoned Marynia, he would not act
dishonorably. Litka had united them. Something in his heart revolted
at the very thought of opposing the will and sacrifice of that child.
If he wished, however, to act against that will, should he have borne
himself as he had? No. In such an event he ought not to have shown
himself at the Plavitskis' since Litka's death, nor have seen Marynia,
nor kissed her hand, nor let himself be borne away by the current which
had borne him,--by the power of events, perhaps,--but borne him so far
that to-day he would disappoint Marynia, and fall in her eyes to the
wretched position of a man who knows not himself what he wishes. For he
would have to be blind not to see that Marynia considers herself his
betrothed; and that, if she were not disquieted by his silence so far,
it was simply because she ascribed it to the mourning which both had in
their hearts for Litka.

"Looking, then," said Pan Stanislav, "from the side of reason and
conservative instinct, from the side of sense and honor, I ought to
marry her. Therefore what? Therefore I should be an imbecile if I
hesitated, and did not consider the question as settled. It is settled."

Then he drew breath, and began to walk through the room. Under the lamp
lay Bukatski's letter. Pan Stanislav took it, and read from the place
where his eyes fell by chance.

     "I beg thee, by all things, marry not. Remember that if thou
     marry, if thou have a son, if thou toil to leave him property,
     thou wilt do so only for this: that that son may be what I am."

"Here is a nice quandary for thee," said Pan Stanislav, with a certain
stubbornness. "I will marry. I will marry Marynia Plavitski; dost hear?
I will gain property; and if I have a son, I will not make of him a
decadent; dost understand?"

And he was pleased with himself. A little later he looked at Litka,
and felt that a sudden emotion seized him. A current of sorrow for
her, and of feeling, rose with a new power in his heart. He began to
converse with the child, as in important moments of life people speak
usually with beloved dead,--

"Thou art pleased, kitten? Is it not true?" asked he. And she smiled at
him from among the birches painted by Marynia; she seemed to blink at
him, and to answer,--

"True, Pan Stas; true."

That evening, before going to bed, he took back from the servant the
note which was to be given to Marynia in the morning, and wrote another
still more affectionate, and in the following words,--

     DEAR LADY,--Gantovski made a scene with Mashko--rather an
     awkward one--from which a duel came. Mashko is slightly wounded.
     His opponent begged his pardon on the spot. There will be no
     further results, save this: that I am still more convinced of
     how kind you are, and thoughtful and excellent; and to-morrow,
     if you permit, I will come with thanks to kiss your beloved and
     dear hands. I will come in the afternoon; for, in the morning,
     after visiting my office, I must go to Pani Kraslavski's, and then
     say farewell to Professor Vaskovski, though, were it possible, I
     should prefer to begin the day not with them.

                                                          POLANYETSKI.


After writing these words, he looked at the clock, and, though it was
eleven already, he gave command to deliver the letter, not in the
morning, but straightway.

"Thou wilt go in through the kitchen," said he to the servant; "and, if
the young lady is asleep, thou wilt leave it."

When alone, he said the following words to the lady,--

"Thou art a very poor diviner, unless thou divine why I am coming
to-morrow!"



CHAPTER XXVI.


Pani Kraslavski received Pan Stanislav with great astonishment,
because of the early hour; but still she received him, thinking that
he had come for some uncommon reason. He, on his part, without long
introductions, told her what had happened, disguising at the same
time only what was necessary for shielding Mashko from suspicion of
bankruptcy or unfavorable business.

He noticed that the old lady, while he was talking, kept her green
eyes--made, as it were, of stone, and devoid of glitter--fixed on him,
and that no muscle of her face moved. Only when he had ended did she
say,--

"There is one thing in all this which I do not understand. Why did Pan
Mashko sell the oak? That is no small ornament to any residence."

"Those oaks stand far from the house," answered Pan Stanislav, "and
injure the land,--for nothing will grow in the shade of them; and Pan
Mashko is a practical man. Besides, to tell the truth, we are old
friends, and he did that through friendship for me. I am a merchant; I
needed the oak, and Pan Mashko let me have all he could spare."

"In such an event, I do not understand why that young man--"

"If you are acquainted with Pan Yamish," interrupted Pan Stanislav,
"he, because he lives near both Kremen and Yalbrykov, will explain to
you that that young man is not of perfect mind, and is known as such in
the whole neighborhood."

"In that case Pan Mashko was not obliged to fight a duel with him."

"In such matters," answered Pan Stanislav, with a shade of impatience,
"we have different ideas from ladies."

"You will permit me to say a couple of words to my daughter."

Pan Stanislav thought it time to rise and take farewell; but since he
had come, as it were, on a reconnaissance, and wished to take some
information to Mashko, he said,--

"If the ladies have any message to Pan Mashko, I am going to him
directly."

"In a moment," answered Pani Kraslavski.

Pan Stanislav remained alone and waited rather long, so long indeed
that he began to be impatient. At last both ladies appeared. Though
her hair had not been dressed with sufficient care, the young lady,
in a white chemisette and a sailor's tie, seemed to Pan Stanislav
quite beautiful, in spite of a slight inflammation of the eyes, and
a few pimples on her forehead, which were powdered. There was about
her a certain attractive languor, from which, having risen very late
apparently, she had not been able yet to rouse herself, and a certain
equally charming morning carelessness. For the rest, there was no
emotion on her bloodless face.

After salutations were exchanged with Pan Stanislav, she said, with a
cool, calm voice,--

"Be so kind as to tell Pan Mashko that I was greatly pained and
alarmed. Is the wound really slight?"

"Beyond a doubt."

"I have begged mamma to visit Pan Mashko; I will take her, and wait in
the carriage for news. Then I will go again for mamma, and so every day
till Pan Mashko has recovered. Mamma is so kind that she consents to
this."

Here a slight, barely evident blush passed over her pale face. To Pan
Stanislav, for whom her words were an utter surprise, and whom they
pierced with astonishment, she seemed then perfectly comely; and a
moment later, when going to Mashko, he said to himself,--

"Well, the women are better than they seem. But they are two decanters
of chilled water; still the daughter has some heart. Mashko did not
know her, and he will have an agreeable surprise. The old woman will go
to him, will see all those bishops and castellans with crooked noses
over which Bukatski amused himself so much; but she will believe in
Mashko's greatness."

Meditating in this way, he found himself in Mashko's house, and had to
wait, for he came at the moment of dressing the wound. But barely had
the doctor gone, when Mashko gave command to ask him to enter, and,
without even a greeting, inquired,--

"Well, hast thou been there?"

"How art thou; how hast thou slept?"

"Well. But never mind--hast thou been there?"

"I have. I will tell thee briefly. In a quarter of an hour Pani
Kraslavski will be here. The young lady told me to say that she would
bring her mother, and would wait to hear how thou art; and to tell thee
that she is greatly alarmed, that she is very unhappy, but thanks God
that there is nothing worse. Thou seest, Mashko! I add, besides, that
she is good-looking, and has attracted me. Now I am going, for I have
no time to wait."

"Have mercy; wait a moment. Wait, my dear; I have not a fever, and if
thou speak through fear--"

"Thou art annoying," said Pan Stanislav; "I give thee my word that
I tell the truth, and that thou hast spoken ill of thy betrothed
prematurely."

Mashko dropped his head on the pillow, and was silent for a time; then
he said, as if to himself,--

"I shall be ready to fall in love with her really."

"That is well. Be in health; I am going to take farewell of Vaskovski."

But instead of going to Vaskovski, he went to the Plavitskis', whom
he did not find at home, however. Plavitski was never at home, and of
Marynia they said that she had gone out an hour before. Usually when
a man is going to a woman who rouses vivid interest in him, and makes
up his mind on the way what to say to her, he has rather a stupid face
if he finds that she is not at home. Pan Stanislav felt this, and was
vexed. He went to a greenhouse, however, bought a multitude of flowers,
and had them sent to Marynia. When he thought of the delight with
which she would receive them, and with what a beating heart she would
wait for evening, he was so pleased that after dinner he dropped into
Vaskovski's in the very best humor.

"I have come to take farewell, Professor; when dost thou start on the
journey?"

"How art thou, my dear?" answered Vaskovski. "I had to delay for a
couple of days; for, as thou seest, I am wintering various small boys
here."

"Young Aryans, I suppose, who in hours of freedom draw purses out of
pockets?"

"No, they are good souls; but I cannot leave them without care. I must
seek out a successor who will live in my place."

"But who would roast himself here? How dost thou live in such heat?"

"Because I sit without a coat; and wilt thou permit me not to put it
on? It is a little warm here; but perspiration is wholesome, and these
little feathered creatures crave heat."

Pan Stanislav looked around. In the room there were at least a dozen
and a half of buntings, titmice, finches. Sparrows, accustomed
evidently to be fed, looked in in flocks through the window. The
professor kept in his room only birds purchased of dealers; sparrows
he did not admit, saying that if he did there would be no end to their
numbers, and that it would be unjust to receive some and reject others.
The chamber birds had cages fastened to the walls and the inner sash of
the window, but went into them only at night; during daylight they flew
through the chamber freely, filling it with twitter, and leaving traces
on books and manuscripts, with which all the corners and the tables
were filled.

Some of the birds which had become very tame sat on Vaskovski's head
even. On the floor husks of hemp-seed cracked under one's feet. Pan
Stanislav, who knew that chamber thoroughly, still shrugged his
shoulders, and said,--

"All this is very good, but that the professor lets them light and sing
on his head; that, God knows, is too much. Besides, it is stifling
here."

"That is the fault of Saint Francis of Assisi," answered Vaskovski,
"for I learned from him to love these little birds. I have even a pair
of doves, but they are home-stayers."

"Thou wilt see Bukatski, of course; I received a letter from him,--here
it is."

"May I read it?"

"I give it to thee for that very purpose."

Vaskovski read the letter, and said when he had finished, "I have
always liked this Bukatski; he is a good soul, but--he has a little
something here!" Vaskovski began, to tap his forehead with his fingers.

"This is beginning to amuse me," exclaimed Pan Stanislav. "Imagine to
thyself, Professor, for a certain number of days some one taps himself
on the forehead and says of some one of our acquaintance, 'He has
something here!' A charming society!"

"If it is a little so, it is a little so!" answered Vaskovski, with a
smile. "And knowest thou what this is? It is the usual Aryan trouble
of soul; and in us, as Slavs, there is more of that than in the west,
for we are the youngest Aryans, and therefore neither reason nor
heart have settled yet into a balance. We are the youngest Aryans: we
feel with more vividness; we take everything to heart more feverishly;
and we arrange ourselves to the practice of life with more passion. I
have seen much; I have noticed this for a long time. What wonderful
natures! Just look, for example, the German students can carouse,--that
doesn't hinder them from either working or fashioning themselves into
practical people; but let a Slav take this habit, and he is lost, he
will do himself to death! And so with everything. A German will become
a pessimist and write volumes on this,--that life is despair; but he
will drink beer meanwhile, rear children, make money, cultivate his
garden, and sleep under a feather tick. A Slav will hang himself,
or ruin himself with mad life, with excess, smother himself in a
swamp into which he will wade purposely. My dear, I remember men who
Byronized themselves to death. I have seen much; I have seen men who,
for example, took a fancy to peasants, and ended with drinking vodka
in peasant dramshops. There is no measure with us, and there cannot
be, for in us, to the excessive acceptance of every idea, are joined
frivolousness and knowest what vanity. O my God, how vain we are! how
we wish to push ourselves forward always, so that we may be admired
and gazed at! Take this Bukatski: he has sunk in scepticism up to his
ears in fact; in pessimism, Buddhism, decadency, and in what else
besides--do I know?--and in these too there is a chaos at present.
He has sunk so deeply that those miasmas are really poisoning him;
but dost thou think that with this he is not posing? What wonderful
natures! those who are most sincere, who have the most vivid feelings,
taking all things to heart most powerfully,--are at the same time
comedians. When a man thinks of this, he loves them, but he wants to
laugh and to weep."

Pan Stanislav recalled how during his first visit to Kremen he had told
Marynia of his Belgian times, when, living with some young Belgians,
occupying himself with pessimism, he noticed finally that he took all
these theories far more to heart than the Belgians, and that, through
this, these theories spoiled his life more. Hence he said now,--

"Professor, thy speech is truthful. I have seen such things too, and
the devils will take us all."

Vaskovski fixed his mystic eyes on the frosty window-panes, and said,--

"No; some one else will take us all. That hotness of blood, that
capacity for accepting an idea, are the great basis of the mission
which Christ has designed for the Slavs." Here Vaskovski pointed to a
manuscript stained by the birds, and said mysteriously,--

"I am going with that; that is the labor of my life. Dost wish I will
read from it?"

"As God lives, I haven't time; it is late already."

"True. It is growing dark. Then I will tell thee in brief words. Not
only do I think, but I believe most profoundly, that the Slavs have a
great mission."

Here Vaskovski halted, began to rub his forehead, and said,--

"What a wonderful number,--'three.' There is some mystery in it."

"Thou wert going to speak of a mission," said Pan Stanislav, disquieted.

"Never fear; the one has connection with the other. There are three
worlds in Europe: the Roman, the German, and the Slav. The first and
second accomplished what they had to do. The future is for that third."

"And what has that third to do?"

"Social conditions, justice, the relations of man to man, the life of
individuals, and that which is called private life, are founded on
Christian science, no matter what comes. The incoherence of men has
deformed this science, but still everything stands on it. Only the
first half of the problem is solved,--the first epoch. There are people
who think that Christianity is nearing its end. No; the second epoch
is about to begin. Christ is in the life of individuals, but not in
history. Dost understand? To bring Him into history, to found on Him
the relations of peoples, to create the love of our neighbor in the
historical sense,--that is the mission which the Slav world has to
accomplish. But the Slavs are deficient in knowledge yet; and the need
is to open their eyes to this mission."

Pan Stanislav was silent, for he had nothing to answer.

Vaskovski continued: "This is what I have been pondering over a
lifetime, and have explained in this work." Here he pointed to a
manuscript. "This is the labor of my life. Here _this_ mission is
outlined."

"On which meanwhile the buntings are--" thought Pan Stanislav. "And
surely it will be that way a long time." But aloud he said, "And it is
thy hope, Professor, that when such a work is printed--"

"No; I hope nothing. I have a little love, but I am a man too
insignificant, too weak in mind. This will vanish, as if some one had
thrown a stone into water; but there will be a circle. Let some chosen
one come later on; for I know that what is predestined will not fail.
He will not refuse the mission even if he wishes. There is no use in
bending men from their predestination, nor in changing them by force.
What is good in a different place may be bad in this, for God made
us for another use. The labor is vain. Vainly too wilt thou persuade
thyself that thy only wish is to gain money; thou, like others, must
follow the voice of predestination and nature."

"I am following it indeed, for I am going to marry; that is, if I be
accepted."

Vaskovski embraced him.

"I wish thee happiness! This is perfect! May God bless thee! I know
that the little maid indicated it to thee. But remember how I told
thee that she had something to do, and that she would not die till she
had done it. May God give her light, and a blessing to both of you!
Besides, Marynia is golden."

"And to thee, beloved Professor, a happy journey and a successful
mission!"

"And to thee, thy wish for thyself."

"What do I wish?" asked Pan Stanislav, joyfully. "Well, so, half a
dozen little missionaries."

"Ah rogue! thou wert always a rogue!" answered Vaskovski. "But fly off,
fly off; I will visit thee once more."

Pan Stanislav flew out, sat on a droshky, and gave command to take
him to the Plavitskis'. On the road he was arranging what to say to
Marynia; and he prepared a little speech, partly sentimental, and
partly sober, as befits a positive man who has found really that which
he was seeking, but who also is marrying through reason. Evidently
Marynia looked for him much later; for there was no light in the
chamber, though the last gleam of twilight was quenched. Pan Stanislav,
for a greeting, began to kiss both her hands, and, forgetting
completely his wise introduction, asked in a voice somewhat uncertain
and excited,--

"Have you received the flowers and the letter?"

"I have."

"And did you guess why I sent them?"

Marynia's heart beat with such force that she could not answer.

Pan Stanislav inquired further, with a still more broken voice,--

"Do you agree to Litka's wish,--do you want me?"

"I do," answered Marynia.

Then he, in the feeling that it was proper to thank her, sought words
in vain; but he pressed her hands more firmly to his lips, and, holding
them both, drew her gently nearer and nearer. Suddenly a flame seized
him; he put his arms around her, and began to seek her lips with his
own. But Marynia turned away her head so that he could kiss only the
hair on her temples. For a while only their hurried breathing was heard
in the darkness; at last Marynia wrested herself from his arms.

A few moments later the servant brought a light. Pan Stanislav,
recovering himself, was alarmed at his own boldness, and looked into
Marynia's eyes with disquiet. He was sure that he had offended her, and
was ready to beg her forgiveness. But he saw with wonder that there
were no traces of anger in her face. Her eyes were downcast, her cheeks
flushed, her hair disarranged somewhat; it was evident that she was
disturbed and, as it were, dazed, but withal only penetrated with the
perfect sweetness of that fear which comes to a woman who is loved,
and who, in passing over the new threshold, feels that she must yield
something there, but who passes over and yields because she wishes.
She loves, and she is obliged to yield in view of the rights which she
accords to the man.

But a vivid feeling of gratitude passed through Pan Stanislav at sight
of her. It seemed to him then that he loved her as he had loved of old,
before Litka's death. He felt also that in that moment he could not
be too delicate nor too magnanimous; hence, taking her hand again, he
raised it to his lips with great respect, and said,--

"I know that I am not worthy of you; there is no discussion on that
point. God knows that I shall always do for you what is in my power."

Marynia looked at him with moist eyes and said, "If only you are happy."

"Is it possible not to be happy with you? I saw that from the first
moment at Kremen. But afterward, you know, everything was spoiled. I
thought you would marry Mashko, and how I worried--"

"I was angry, and I beg forgiveness--my dear--Pan Stas."

"This very day the professor said, 'Marynia is gold,'" exclaimed Pan
Stanislav, with great ardor. "This is true! all say the same--not only
gold, but a treasure--a very precious one."

Her kindly eyes began to smile at him: "Maybe a heavy one."

"Let not your head ache over that. I have strength enough; I shall be
able to bear it. Now at least I have something to live for."

"And I," answered Marynia.

"Do you know that I have been here already to-day? I sent
chrysanthemums later. After yesterday's letter to you, I said to
myself, 'That is simply an angel, and I should lack, not only heart,
but common-sense to delay any longer.'"

"I was so alarmed about that duel, and so unhappy. But is it all over
now?"

"I give you my word, most thoroughly."

Marynia wanted to make further inquiries, but at that moment Plavitski
came. They heard him cough a little, put away his cane, and remove his
overcoat; he opened the door then, and, seeing them alone, said,--

"So you are sitting all by yourselves?"

But Marynia ran up to him, and placing her hands on his shoulders, and
putting forth her forehead for a kiss, said,--

"As betrothed, papa."

Plavitski stepped back a little and inquired, "What dost thou say?"

"I say," answered she, looking quietly into his eyes, "that Pan
Stanislav wishes to take me, and that I am very happy."

Pan Stanislav approached, embraced Plavitski heartily, and said, "I do
with uncle's consent and permission."

But Plavitski exclaimed, "Oh, my child!" and, advancing with tottering
step to a sofa, he sat on it heavily. "Wait a moment," said he, with
emotion. "It will pass--do not mind me--my children! If that is needed,
I bless you with my whole heart."

And he blessed them; wherewith still greater emotion mastered him,
for, after all, he loved Marynia really. The voice stuck in his throat
repeatedly; and the two young people heard only such broken expressions
as, for example, "Some corner near you--for the old man, who worked all
his life--an only child--an orphan."

They pacified him together, and pacified him so well that half an hour
later Plavitski struck Pan Stanislav on the shoulder suddenly, and
said,--

"Oh robber! Thou wert thinking of Marynia, and I was thinking thee a
little--" He finished the rest in Pan Stanislav's ear, who grew red
with indignation, and answered,--

"How could uncle suppose such a thing? If any one else had dared to say
that?"

"Well, well, well!" answered Plavitski, smiling; "there is no smoke
without fire."

That evening Marynia, taking farewell of Pan Stanislav, asked,--

"You will not refuse me one thing?"

"Nothing that you command."

"I have said long to myself that if a moment like the present should
come, we would go to Litka together."

"Ah, my dear lady," answered Pan Stanislav; and she continued,--

"I know not what people will say; but what do we care for the
world--what indeed?"

"Nothing. I am thankful to you from my heart and soul for the
thought--My dear lady--my Marynia!"

"I believe that she looks at us and prays for us."

"Then she is our little patroness."

"Good-night."

"Good-night."

"Till to-morrow."

"Till to-morrow," said he, kissing her hands,--"till after to-morrow,
daily;" and here he added in a low voice, "Until our marriage."

"Yes," answered Marynia.

Pan Stanislav went out. In his head and in his heart he felt a great
whirl of feelings, thoughts, impressions, above which towered one
great feeling,--that something unheard of in its decisiveness had
happened; that his fate had been settled; that the time of reckoning,
of wavering and changing, had passed; that he must begin a new life.
And that feeling was not unpleasant to him,--nay, it verged on a kind
of delight, especially when he remembered how he had kissed Marynia's
hair and temples. That which was lacking in his feelings shrank and
vanished almost utterly in this remembrance; and it seemed to Pan
Stanislav that he had found everything requisite to perfect happiness.
"I shall never grow sated with this," thought he; and it seemed to him
simply impossible that he should. He remembered then the goodness of
Marynia, and how reliable she was; how on such a heart and character
he might build; how in living with her nothing could ever threaten
him; how she would not trample on any quality of his, nor make it of
no avail; how she would receive as gold that which in him was gold;
how she would live for him, not for herself. And, meditating in this
way, he asked what better could he find? and he wondered indeed at his
recent hesitation. Still he felt that what was coming was a change so
gigantic, so immensely decisive, that somewhere at the bottom, in the
deepest corner of his soul, there was roused a kind of alarm before
this unknown happiness. But he did not hesitate. "I am neither a coward
nor an imbecile," thought he. "It is necessary to go ahead, and I will
go."

Returning home, he looked at Litka; and immediately there opened before
him, as it were, a new, clear horizon. He thought that he might have
children, have such a bright dear head as this--and with Marynia. At
the very thought his heart began to beat with greater life, and to the
impulse of thoughts was joined such a solace of life as he had not
known previously. He felt almost perfectly happy. Looking by chance at
Bukatski's letter, which he took from his pocket before undressing, he
laughed so heartily that the servant looked in with astonishment. Pan
Stanislav wished to tell him that he was going to marry. He fell asleep
only toward morning, but rose sprightly and fresh; after dressing, he
flew to his office to announce the news to Bigiel at the earliest.

Bigiel embraced him, then, with his usual deliberation, proceeded to
consider the affair, and said finally,--

"Reasoning the matter over, this is the wisest thing that thou hast
done in life;" then, pointing to a box of papers, he added, "Those
contracts ought to be profitable, but thine is still better."

"Isn't it?" exclaimed Pan Stanislav, boastfully.

"I will fly to tell my wife," said Bigiel, "for I cannot contain
myself; but go thou home, and go for good. I will take thy place till
the wedding, and during the honeymoon."

"Very well; I will hurry to see Mashko, and then Marynia and I will go
to Litka."

"That is due from you both to her."

Pan Stanislav bought more flowers on the way, added a note to them
that he would come soon, and dropped in to see Mashko. Mashko was
notably better, under the care of Pani Kraslavski, and was looking for
her arrival every moment. When he had heard the news, he pressed Pan
Stanislav's hand with emotion, and said,--

"I will tell thee only one thing,--I do not know whether she will be
happy with thee, but certainly thou wilt be happy with her."

"Because women are better than men," answered Pan Stanislav. "After
what has happened to thee, I hope that thou art of this opinion."

"I confess that to this moment I cannot recover from astonishment. They
are both better, and more mysterious. Imagine to thyself--" Here Mashko
halted, as if hesitating whether to continue.

"What?" inquired Pan Stanislav.

"Well, thou art a discreet man, and hast given me, besides, such proofs
of friendship that there may not be secrets between us. Imagine, then,
that yesterday, after thy departure, I received an anonymous letter.
Here, as thou art aware, the noble custom of writing such letters
prevails. In the letter were tidings that Papa Kraslavski exists, is
alive, and in good health."

"Which, again, may be gossip."

"But also may not be. He lives, probably, in America. I received the
letter while Pani Kraslavski was here. I said nothing; but after a
time, when she had examined those portraits, and began to inquire of my
more distant family relations, I asked her, in turn, how long she had
been a widow. She answered,--

"'My daughter and I have been alone in the world nine years; and those
are sad events, of which I do not wish to speak to-day.'

"Observe that she did not say directly when her husband died."

"And what dost thou think?"

"I think that if papa is alive, he must be that kind of figure of which
people do not speak, and that in truth those may be 'sad events.'"

"The secret would have come out long ago."

"Those ladies lived abroad some years. Who knows? That, however, will
not change my plans in any way. If Pan Kraslavski is living in America,
and does not return, he must have reasons; it is as if he were not in
the world, then. In fact, I am gaining the hope now that my marriage
will come to pass, for I understand that when people have something to
hide, they exact less."

"Pardon my curiosity," said Pan Stanislav, taking his hat; "but with me
it is a question of my money, and now touching the Kraslavskis. Dost
thou know surely that these ladies have money?"

"It seems that they have much; still, I am playing against a card
somewhat hidden. It is likely that they have much ready money. The
mother told me repeatedly that her daughter would not need to look to
her husband's property. I saw their safe; they keep a big house. I know
nearly all the money-lenders--Jews and non-Jews--in Warsaw, and I know
surely that these ladies are not in debt a copper to any one; as thou
knowest thyself, they have a nice villa not far from the Bigiels. They
do not live on their capital, for they are too prudent."

"Thou hast no positive figures, however?"

"I tried to get them, but in roundabout fashion. Not being too certain
of my connection with the ladies, I could not insist overmuch. It was
given me to understand that there would be two hundred thousand rubles,
and perhaps more."

Pan Stanislav took leave, and on the way to the Plavitskis' thought,
"All this is a kind of mystery, a kind of darkness, a kind of risk. I
prefer Marynia."

Half an hour later he was driving with Marynia to the cemetery, to
Litka. The day was warm, as in spring, but gray; the city seemed sullen
and dirty. In the cemetery the melting snow had slipped in patches to
the ground from the graves, and covered the yellow, half-decayed grass.
From the arms of crosses and leafless tree-branches large drops were
falling, which, borne from time to time by gusts of warm wind, struck
the faces of Pan Stanislav and Marynia. These gusts pulled Marynia's
dress, so that she had to hold it. They stopped at last before Litka's
grave.

And here all was wet, sloppy, gloomy, half-stripped of the melting
snow. The thought that that child, once so cared for, so loved, and so
petted, was lying in that damp dungeon darkness, could hardly find a
place in Pan Stanislav's head.

"All this may be natural," thought he; "but it is not possible to
be reconciled with death." And, in truth, whenever he visited Litka,
he returned from the cemetery in a kind of irrepressible rebellion,
with a species of passionate protest in his soul. These thoughts began
to rend him in that moment also. It seemed to him simply terrible to
love Litka, and to reconcile his love with the knowledge that a few
steps lower down she is lying there, black and decaying. "I ought not
to come," said he to himself, "for I grow mad, lose my head here, and
lose every basis of life." But, above all, he suffered, for, if it is
impossible not to think of death, it is equally impossible to explain
it; hence everything touching it, which comes to the head, is, in so
far as a man does not stretch forth his hand toward simple faith, at
once despairing and shallow, trivial and common. "For me there is a
greater question here than that of existence itself, but I am only able
to answer with a commonplace. A perfectly vicious circle!"

And it was true; for if he considered, for example, that at the
first thought of death everything becomes smoke, and he felt that
unfortunately it does, he felt at the same time that thousands of
people had come to that thought before he had, and that no one had
found in it either solace or even such satisfaction as the discovery
of a truth gives. Everything that he could say to himself was at once
terrifying and petty. It was easy for him to understand that the whole
life of man, general history, all philosophies, are at bottom merely
a struggle with incessant death,--a struggle despairing, a struggle
utterly senseless, and at the same time infinitely foolish and devoid
of object, for it is lost in advance. But such reasoning could not
bring him any comfort, since it was merely the confirmation of a new
vicious circle.

For if the one object of all human efforts is life, and the only result
death, the nonsense passes measure, and simply could not be accepted,
were it not for that loathsome and pitiless reality, which turns beings
beloved and living into rotten matter.

Pan Stanislav, during every visit to the cemetery, poisoned himself
with such thoughts. To-day, while going, he thought that the presence
of Marynia would liberate him from them; meanwhile, rather the opposite
happened. Litka's death, which had broken in him trust in the sense
and moral object of life, undermined in him also that first, former
love for Marynia, which was so naïve and free of doubt; now, when with
Marynia, he was standing at Litka's grave, when that death, which had
begun to be only a memory, had become again a thing almost tangible,
its poisoning effect was increasing anew. Again it seemed to him that
all life, consequently love, too, is merely an error, and the processes
of life utterly useless and vain. If above life there is neither reason
nor mercy, why toil, why love and marry? Is it to have children, become
attached to them with every drop of one's blood, and then look on
helplessly, while that blind, stupid, insulting, brutal force chokes
them, as a wolf chokes a lamb, and come to their graves, and think that
they are mouldering in damp and darkness? See, Litka is down there.

A day wonderfully gloomy only strengthened the bitterness of these
feelings. At times, during his previous visits, the cemetery had seemed
to Pan Stanislav a kind of great void in which life was dissolving, but
in which every misfortune, too, was dissolving,--something enormously
dreamy, soothing. To-day there was no rest in it. Pieces of snow fell
from the trees and gravestones; ravens pushed about among the wet trees
with their croaking. Sudden and strong blasts of wind hurled drops of
moisture from the branches, and, driving them about, produced a certain
desperate struggle around the stone crosses, which stood firm and
indifferent.

Just then Marynia ceased praying, and said, with that slightly
suppressed voice with which people speak in cemeteries,--

"Now her soul must be near us."

Pan Stanislav made no answer; but he thought first that he and Marynia
were beings as if from two distinct worlds, and then that if there were
even a particle of truth in what she said, all his mental struggles
would be less important than that melting snow. "In such case," said
he to himself, "there is dying and there are cemeteries, but there is
simply no death."

Marynia began to place on the grave immortelles, which she had
bought at the gate, and he to think hurriedly, rather by the aid of
his impressions than his ideas, "In my world there is no answer to
anything; there are only vicious circles, which lead to the precipice."

And this struck him,--that if such ideas of death as Marynia had,
did not come from faith, or if they had been unknown altogether, and
if all at once some philosopher had formulated them as a hypothesis,
the hypothesis would be recognized as the most genial of the genial,
because it explains everything, gives an answer to questions, gives
light, not only to life, but to death, which is darkness. Mankind would
kneel with admiration before such a philosopher and such a scientific
theory.

On the other hand, he felt that still something of Litka was there with
them. She herself was falling into dust, but something had survived
her; there remained, as it were, currents of her thought, of her will,
of her feeling. This,--that she had brought him to Marynia; that
they were betrothed; that they were then standing at her grave; that
they were to be united; that their lives would go on together; that
they would have children, who in their turn would live and love and
increase,--what was that, if not such a current, which, coming forth
from that child, might go on and on through eternity, renewing itself
in an endless chain of phenomena? How then understand that from a
mortal being should issue an immortal and ceaseless energy? Marynia, in
the simplicity of her faith, had found an answer; Pan Stanislav had not.

And still Marynia was right. Litka was with them. Through Pan
Stanislav's head there flew at that moment a certain hypothesis, dim,
and not fixed in close thought yet,--a hypothesis, that, perhaps, all
which man thinks during life, all that he wishes, all that he loves,
is a hundred times more intangible, a hundred times more subtile, than
ether, from which rises an astral existence, conscious of itself,
either eternal or successively born into beings more and more perfect,
more subtile, on to infinity. And it seemed to him that atoms of
thought and feeling might collect into a separate individuality,
specially because they came forth from one brain or one heart; that
they are related,--hence tend to one another with the same mysterious
principle by which physical elements combine to form physical
individualities.

At present he had not time to meditate over this, but it seemed to him
that he had caught something, that in the veil before his eyes, he saw,
as it were, an opening that might turn out to be a deception; but at
the moment, when he felt that still Litka was with them, he thought
that her presence could be understood only in that manner.

Just then some funeral came, for, in the tower, which stood in the
middle of the cemetery, the bell began to sound. Pan Stanislav gave
Marynia his arm, and they went towards the gate. On the way Marynia,
thinking evidently more about Litka, said,--

"Now I am certain that we shall be happy."

And she leaned more on Pan Stanislav's arm, for the gusts of wind had
become so violent that it was difficult for her to resist them. One
of these carried her veil around his neck. Reality began to call to
him. He pressed the arm of the living woman to his side, and felt that
loving, if it cannot ward away death, can at least harmonize life.

When they were seated in the carriage, he took Marynia's hand, and did
not let it go during the whole way. At moments solace returned to him
almost perfectly, for he thought that that maiden, true and kind to
the core of her nature, would be able to make good what was lacking in
his feeling, and revivify in him that which was palsied. "My wife! my
wife!" repeated he, in mind, looking at her; and her honest, clear eyes
answered, "Thine."

When they arrived at the house, Plavitski had not returned from his
walk before dinner; they were all by themselves then. Pan Stanislav sat
down by her side, and under the influence of those thoughts which had
passed through his head on the way, he said,--

"You declared that Litka was with us; that is true. I have always
returned from the cemetery as if cut down; but it is well that we were
there."

"It is; for we went as if for a blessing," said Marynia.

"I have that same impression; and, besides, it seems to me as if we
were united already, or, at least, were nearer than before."

"True; and this will be both a sad and a pleasant remembrance."

He took her hand again, and said,--

"If you believe that we shall be happy, why defer happiness? My kind,
my best, I, too, trust that it will be well with us; let us not defer
the day. We have to begin a new life; let us begin it promptly."

"Make the decision. I am yours with all my soul."

Then he drew her toward him, as he had the day before, and began to
seek her lips with his lips; and she, whether under the influence of
the thought that his rights were greater on that day, or under the
influence of awakening thoughts, did not turn her head away any more,
but, half closing her eyes, she herself gave him her lips, as if they
had been thirsty a long time.



CHAPTER XXVII.


For Pan Stanislav began now the period of ante-nuptial cares and
preparations. He had, it is true, a dwelling furnished for more than a
year,--that is, from a period before he knew Marynia. At that time he
made no denial when Bukatski laughed at the lodgings, seeing in them a
proof of how anxious his friend was to marry. "Yes," said he; "I have
property enough to permit this. I think, too, that I am doing something
toward it, and that my plans are growing real."

Bukatski said this was prevision worthy of praise, and wondered that
a man of such foresight did not engage also a nurse and a midwife. At
times conversation of this kind ended in a quarrel, for Pan Stanislav
could not let any one deny him sound judgment in worldly matters.
Bukatski affirmed that it was bird romance, worthy of a bunting, to
start with building a poetic nest. One friend contended that there
could be no wiser method than to build a cage, if you want a bird;
the other retorted that if the bird were not found yet, and the chase
was uncertain, the cage was a joke on one's appetite. It ended with
allusions to the slim legs of Bukatski, which, for him, made the chase
after birds of all kinds impossible, even though they were wingless.
Bukatski, on such occasions, fell into excellent humor.

Now, however, when the cage was ready, and the bird not only caught,
but willing, there remained so much to be done that Pan Stanislav was
seized more than once by surprise that an act so simple by nature as
marriage, should be so complex in civilized societies. It seemed to
him that if no one has the right to look into the moral side of the
connection, since it is the outcome of genuine free-will, the formal
side should be looked at still less.

But he thought so because he was not a law-giver, and was an impulsive
man made impatient by the need of getting "papers." Once he had
resolved on marriage, he ceased to think or to analyze, and hastened,
as a man of action, to execute.

He was even filled more than once with pride, on comparing himself
with such a man, for instance, as Ploshovski, whose history had been
circling from mouth to mouth in society, before people had begun to
learn it from his diary. "But I am of different metal," thought Pan
Stanislav, with a certain satisfaction. At moments, again, when he
recalled Ploshovski's figure, his noble, delicate, and also firmly
defined profile, his refinement, subtlety, and mental suppleness, his
rare gift of winning people, especially women, it occurred to him that
he, Polanyetski, is a less refined type, less noble, and, in general, a
man cut from ruder materials. But to this he answered that evidently,
in the face of conditions in life and the resistance required by it,
too much refinement is simply fatal to mind as well as body. In himself
he saw also far more ability for living. "Finally," said he, "I can be
of some service, while he would have been good only on social shelves
with curiosities. I am able to win bread; he was able only to make
pellets out of bread when baked. I know how, and I know well how, to
color cotton; he only knew how to color women's cheeks. But what a
difference between us with reference to women! That man over-analyzed
his life and the life of the woman whom he loved; he destroyed her and
himself by not being able to escape from the doubt whether he loved
her sufficiently. I, too, have doubts whether my love is perfect; but
I take my little woman, and should be an imbecile, not a man, to fear
the future, and fail to squeeze from it in simple fashion what good and
happiness it will let me squeeze."

Here Pan Stanislav, though he had forsworn analysis, began to analyze,
not himself, it is true, but Marynia. He permitted this, however, only
because he foresaw certainly favorable conclusions; he understood that,
in calculating the future of two people, good-will on one side is not
sufficient, and becomes nothing, if good-will fails on the other.
But he was convinced that in taking Marynia he was not taking a dead
heart. Marynia had brought to the world not only an honest nature, but
from years of childhood she had been in contact with work and with
conditions in which she was forced to forget herself, so as to think
of others. Besides, there was above her the memory of a mother, a kind
of endless blessing from beyond the grave,--a mother whose calmness,
candor, and uprightness, whose life, full of trials, were remembered
to the present with the utmost respect, throughout the whole region
of Kremen. Pan Stanislav knew this, and was persuaded that, building
on the heart and character of Marynia, he was building on a foundation
well-nigh immovable. More than once he recalled the words of a woman,
an acquaintance and friend of his mother's, who, when some one asked
her whether she was more anxious about the future of her sons than her
daughters, answered, "I think only of my sons; for my daughters, in the
worst case, can be only unhappy."

So it is! School and the world rear sons, and both may make them
scoundrels; daughters, in whom the home ingrafts honorableness, can, in
the worst case, be only unhappy. Pan Stanislav understood that this was
true with regard to Marynia. So that if he analyzed her, his analysis
was rather the examination of a jeweller and his admiration for his
gems, than a scientific method intended to reach results unknown and
unexpected.

Still he quarrelled once with Marynia very seriously, because of
a letter from Vaskovski, which Pan Stanislav received from Rome a
few weeks after the professor's departure, and which he read in its
integrity to Marynia. This letter was as follows:--

     MY DEAR,--I am lodging at Via Tritone, Pension Française.
     Visit my Warsaw lodgings; see if Snopchinski looks after my little
     boys properly, and if the birds of Saint Francis have seeds and
     water in plenty. When spring comes, it will be needful to open the
     windows and cages; whichever bird wishes to stay, let it stay,
     and whichever one wishes to go, let it fly. The boys of the genus
     _homo sapiens_ should have good food, since I left money therefor,
     and besides little moralizing, but much love. Snopchinski is a
     worthy man, but a hypochondriac. He says this comes from snows.
     When he is attacked by what he calls "chandra," he looks for whole
     weeks on his boots, and is silent; but one must talk with little
     boys, to give them confidence. This is all that touches Warsaw.

     I am printing here in French, in the typography of the journal
     "L'Italie," that work of mine which I discussed with thee. They
     laugh at my French a little, and at me, but I am used to that.
     Bukatski came here. He is a good, beloved fellow! he has grown
     strange to the last degree, and says that he drags his feet after
     him, though I have not noticed it. He loves both Marynia and thee,
     and indeed every one, though he denies it. But when he begins to
     talk, one's ears wither. May the Lord God bless thee, dear boy,
     and thy honest Marynia! I should like to be at thy wedding, but
     I know not whether I shall finish my work before Easter; listen,
     therefore, now to what I tell thee, and know that I write this
     letter to that end. Do not think that the old man is talking just
     to talk. Thou knowest, besides, that I have been a teacher; that
     the inheritance from my brother freed me from that occupation;
     that I have had experience and have seen things. If ye have
     children, do not torture them with knowledge; let them grow up
     as God wills. I might stop here; but thou art fond of figures,
     hence I will give thee figures. A little child has as many hours
     of labor as a grown man in office, with this difference, that
     the man talks during office hours with his colleagues, or smokes
     cigarettes; the child must strain its attention continually,
     or lose the clew of lessons, and cease to understand what is
     said to it. The man goes home when his work is done; the child
     must prepare for the following day, which takes four hours from
     a capable child, from one less capable six. Add to this, that
     poorer pupils give lessons frequently, the rich take them, which,
     added, gives twelve hours. Twelve hours' labor for a child! Dost
     understand that, my dear? Canst thou realize what sickly natures
     must grow up in such conditions,--natures out of joint, inclined
     to the wildest manias, crooked, wilful? Dost thou understand how
     we are filling cemeteries with our children, and why the most
     monstrous ideas find supporters? Ah, at present they are limiting
     the hours of labor in factories even for grown people, but
     touching children at school philanthropy is silent. Oh, but that
     is a field! that is a service to be rendered; that is a coming
     glory and sainthood. Do not torture thy children with learning,
     I beg thee--and I beg Marynia; promise me both of you. I do not
     speak just to speak, as Bukatski says sometimes, but I speak from
     the heart; and this is the greatest reform for which future ages
     are waiting, the greatest after the introduction of Christ into
     history. Something wonderful happened to me in Perugia a few days
     since, but of that I will tell thee sometime, and now I embrace
     both of you.

Marynia listened to this letter, looking at the tips of her shoes,
like that Snopchinski of whom the Professor wrote. But Pan Stanislav
laughed, and said,--

"Have you ever heard anything like this? It is long before our
marriage; but he is lamenting over our children, and takes the field on
their behalf. This is somewhat the history of my nest."

After a while he added, "To tell the truth, the fault is mine; for
I made him various promises." And, inclining so that he could see
Marynia's eyes, he asked, "But what do you say to this letter?"

Pan Stanislav, inquiring thus, had chanced on that unhappy moment when
a man is not himself, and acts not in accordance with his own nature.
He was rather a harsh person generally, but not brutal, and at times
was even capable of delicate acts, really womanlike. But now, in his
look and in the question directed to a young lady so mimosa-like as
Marynia, there was something simply brutal. She knew as well as others
that after marriage come children; but this seemed to her something
indefinite, not to be mentioned, or if mentioned, mentioned in
allusions as delicate as lace, or in a moment of emotion, with beating
heart, with loving lips at the ear, with solemnity,--as touching what
is most sacred in a mutual future. Hence Pan Stanislav's careless tone
outraged and pained her. She thought, "Why does he not understand
this?" and she in turn acted not in accordance with her nature; for,
as happens frequently with timid persons in moments of bitterness and
confusion, they exhibit greater anger than they feel.

"You should not treat me in this way!" cried she, indignantly. "You
should not speak to me in this way!"

Pan Stanislav laughed again with feigned gayety.

"Why are you angry?" inquired he.

"You do not act with me as is proper."

"I do not understand the question."

"So much the worse."

The smile vanished from his lips; his face grew dark, and he spoke
quickly, like a man who has ceased to reckon with his words.

"Perhaps I am stupid; but I know what is right and what is not. In this
way life becomes impossible. Whoever makes great things out of nothing
must not blame others. But, since my presence is disagreeable, I go!"

And, seizing his hat, he bowed, and went out. Marynia did not try to
detain him. For a while offence and anger stifled in her all other
sensations; then there remained to her only an impression, as if from
the blow of a club. Her thoughts scattered like a flock of birds. Above
them towered only one dim idea: "All is over! he will not return!"
Thus fell the structure which had begun to unite in such beautiful
lines. Emptiness, nothingness, a torturing, because objectless life,
and a chilled heart,--that is what remained to her. And happiness had
been so near! But that which had taken place so suddenly was something
so strange that she could not explain immediately. She went to the
writing-desk, and began mechanically to arrange papers in it, with
a certain objectless haste, as if there could be any reason at that
moment for arranging them. Then she looked at Litka's photograph, and
sat down quickly with her hands on her eyes and temples. After a time
it occurred to her that Litka's will must be stronger than the will
of them both, and a ray of hope shone in on her suddenly. She began to
walk in the room, and to think on what had passed; she recalled Pan
Stanislav, not only as he had been just then, but earlier,--two, three
days, a week before. Her regret became greater than her feeling of
offence, and it increased with her affection for Pan Stanislav. After
a time she said in her soul that she was not free to forget herself;
that it was her duty to accept and love Pan Stanislav as he was, and
not strive to fix him to her ideas. "That is, he is a living man, not
a puppet," repeated she, a number of times. And a growing feeling of
fault seized her, and after that compunction. A heart submissive by
nature, and greatly capable of loving, struggled against sound sense,
which she possessed undoubtedly, and which now told her in vain that
reason was not on Pan Stanislav's side, and that, moreover, she had
said nothing which needed pardon. She said to herself, "If he has a
good heart, even to a small extent, he will return;" but she was seized
also with fear in view of the self-love of men in general, and of Pan
Stanislav in particular,--she was too intelligent not to note that
he cared greatly to pass for an unbending person. But considerations
of that kind, which an unfriendly heart would have turned to his
disadvantage, had made her tender only on his behalf.

Half an hour later she was convinced to the depth of her soul that
the fault lay only on her side; that "she had tormented him so much
already" that she ought to yield now,--that is, to be the first to
extend a hand in conciliation. That meant in her mind to write a few
peace-making words. He had suffered so much from that affair of Kremen
that this was due to him. And she was ready even to weep over his fate.
She hoped, withal, that he, the bad, ugly man, would estimate what it
cost her to write to him, and would come that same evening.

It had seemed to her that nothing was easier than to write a few
cordial phrases, which go directly from one heart to another. But how
difficult! A letter has no eyes, which fill with tears; no face, which
smiles both sadly and sweetly; no voice, which trembles; no hands to
stretch forth. You may read and understand a letter as you like; it is
merely black letters on paper as impassive as death.

Marynia had just torn the third sheet, when the face of Pan Plavitski,
as wrinkled as a roast apple, and with mustaches freshly dyed, showed
itself at the door partly open.

"Is Polanyetski not here?" inquired he.

"He is not, papa."

"But will he come this evening?"

"I do not know," answered she, with a sigh.

"If he comes, my child, tell him that I will return not later than an
hour from now; and that I wish to speak with him."

"And I too wish to speak with him," thought Marynia.

And when she had torn the third sheet she took the fourth and was
thinking whether to turn the whole quarrel into a jest, or simply to
beg his pardon. The jest might not please him; in the pardon there was
something warmer, but how difficult it was! If he had not fled, it
would have sufficed to extend her hand; but he flew out as if shot from
a sling, the irritable man, though so much loved.

And, raising her eyes, she began to work intently with her dark head,
when on a sudden the bell sounded in the entrance. Marynia's heart was
beating like a hammer; and through her head flew these questions, like
lightning,--

"Is it he? Is it not he?"

The door opened; it was he.

He came in with the look of a wolf, his head down, his face gloomy.
Evidently he was very uncertain how she would receive him; but she
sprang up, her heart beating like a bird's heart; her eyes radiant,
happy, touched greatly by his return; and, running to him, she laid her
hands on his shoulders.

"But how good! how nice! And do you know, I wanted to write to you."

Pan Stanislav, pressing her hands to his lips, was silent for some
time; at last he said,--

"You ought to give the order to throw me downstairs." In a rapture of
thankfulness he drew her up to him, kissed her lips, eyes, temples, and
hair, which became unbound in the pressure. In such moments it seemed
to him always that he would find everything that goes to make great and
perfect love. At last he released her and continued,--

"You are too good. Though that is better, it subdues me. I came to
beg your forgiveness, nothing more. I regained my senses at once. I
reproached myself for my last words, and I cannot tell you how sorry
I was. I walked along the street, thinking to see you in the window,
perhaps, and note from your face whether I might come in. After that I
could not restrain myself, and returned."

"I beg pardon; it was my fault. You see the torn paper; I wrote and
wrote."

He devoured with his eyes her hair, which she had arranged hastily.
With blushing face, from which joy was beaming, with eyes laughing from
happiness, she seemed to him more beautiful than ever, and desired as
never before.

Marynia noticed, too, that he was looking at her hair; and confusion
struggled with pure womanly coquetry. She had fastened it awkwardly
by design, so that the tresses were falling more and more on her
shoulders; while she said,--

"Do not look, or I'll go to my room."

"But that is my wealth," said Pan Stanislav; "and in my life I have
never seen anything like it."

He stretched his hands to her again, but she evaded.

"Not permitted, not permitted," said she; "as it is; I am ashamed. I
ought to have left you."

Her hair, however, came gradually to order; then both sat down and
conversed quietly, though looking into each other's eyes.

"And you wished really to write?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"You see the torn paper."

"I say that, in truth, you are too good."

She raised her eyes, and, looking at the shelf above the bureau, said,--

"Because the fault was mine. Yes; only mine."

And, judging that she could not be too magnanimous, she added after a
moment, blushing to her ears and dropping her eyes,--

"For, after all, the professor is correct in what he writes about
learning."

Pan Stanislav wanted to kneel down and kiss her feet. Her charm and
goodness not only disarmed him, but conquered him thoroughly.

"That I am annihilated is true," cried he, as if finishing some
unexpressed thought with words. "You conquer me utterly."

She began to shake her head joyously. "Ei! I don't know; I am such a
coward."

"You a coward? I will tell you an anecdote: In Belgium I knew two
young ladies named Wauters, who had a pet cat, a mild creature, mild
enough, it would seem, to be put to a wound. Afterward one of the young
ladies received a tame hare as a gift. What do you think? The cat was
so afraid that from terror he jumped on to every shelf and stove. One
day the ladies went to walk; all at once they remembered that the cat
was alone with the hare. 'But will not Matou hurt the hare?' 'Matou?
Matou is so terrified that he is ready to go out of his skin!' And
they walked on quietly. They came home an hour later. And guess what
had happened? They found only the ears of the hare. That is precisely
the relation of young ladies to us. They are afraid seemingly; but
afterward nothing is left of us but ears."

And Pan Stanislav began to laugh, and Marynia with him; after a while
he added,--

"I know that of me only ears will be left."

He did not tell the truth, however; for he felt that it would be
otherwise. Marynia too, after thinking a while, said,--

"No; I have not such a character."

"That is better too; for I will tell you sincerely what conclusions
I have drawn from my life observations: the greater egotism always
conquers the less."

"Or the greater love yields to the less," answered Marynia.

"That comes out the same. As to me, I confess that I should like to
hold some Herod, see, this way, in my hand" (here Pan Stanislav opened
his fingers and then closed them into a fist); "but with such a dove
as you, it is quite different. With you I think we shall have to fight
to restrain you from too much self-abnegation, too much personal
sacrifice. Such is your nature, and I know whom I take. For that matter
all say so, and even Mashko, who is no Solomon, said: 'She may be
unhappy with thee; thou with her, never.' And he is right. But I am
curious to know how Mashko will be for his wife. He has a firm hand."

"But is he loved much?"

"Not so much as awhile ago, when a certain young lady coquetted with
him."

"Yes; for he wasn't so wicked as a certain 'Pan Stas.'"

"That will be a wonderful marriage. She is not ill-looking, though she
is pale, and has red eyes. But Mashko marries for property. He admits
that she doesn't love him; and when that adventure with Gantovski
took place (he is brave, too), he was certain that those ladies would
choose the opportunity to break with him. Meanwhile it turned out
just the opposite; and imagine, Mashko is now alarmed again, because
everything moves as if on oil. It seems to him suspicious. There are
certain strange things there; there exists also, as it seems, a Pan
Kraslavski--God knows what there is not. The whole affair is stupid.
There will be no happiness in it,--at least, not such as I picture to
myself."

"And what do you picture to yourself?"

"Happiness in this,--to marry a reliable woman, like you, and see the
future clearly."

"But I think it is in this,--to be loved; but that is not enough yet."

"What more?"

"To be worthy of that love, and to--"

Here Marynia was unable for a time to find words, but at last she
said,--

"And to believe in a husband, and work with him."



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Pan Stanislav was not mistaken. Everything went so favorably for
Mashko, Pani and Panna Kraslavski acted so admirably, that he was more
and more alarmed. At moments he laughed at this; and since he had had
no secret from Pan Stanislav for some time, he said one day, with
complete cynicism,--

"My dear, those are simply angels; but my hair stands on end, for
something is hidden in this."

"Better thank the Lord God."

"They are too ideal; they are faultless; they are even without vanity.
Yesterday, for example, I gave them to understand that I am an advocate
only because to my thinking sons of the best families should undertake
something in these times, be something. Guess what they answered?
That that is as good a position as any other; that every employment
is worthy in their eyes, provided it is work; and that only poor
and empty natures could be ashamed of work. They shot out so many
packages of commonplace that I wanted to answer with a sentence from
copy-books, such as 'Honor is a steep cliff,' or something of that
sort. Polanyetski, I tell thee there is something concealed there. I
thought that it was papa, but it is not papa. I have news of him: he
lives in Bordeaux; he calls himself De Langlais; and he has his own
domestic hearth, not so much legally, as numerously, surrounded, which
he maintains with a pension received from Pani Kraslavski."

"What harm is that to thee?"

"None whatever."

"If it is that way, they are unhappy women,--that is all."

"True; but if their income answers to the misfortune? Remember that
I have burdens. Besides, seest thou, if they are such women as they
pretend, and if, also, they are rich, I am ready to fall in love
really, and that would be stupid; if it appears that they have nothing,
or little, I am ready, also, to fall in love, and that would be still
more stupid. She has charms for me."

"No; that would be the one wise thing in every case. But think of
thyself, Mashko, a little of me and the Plavitskis. It is known to thee
that I have not the habit of being mild in those matters, and the dates
of payment are approaching."

"I'll fire up the boiler once more with credit. For that matter, thou
and they have a mortgage on Kremen. In a couple of days there will be
a betrothal party at Pani Kraslavski's, after which I hope to learn
something reliable."

Here Mashko began a monologue,--

"But that a positive man, such as I am, should go into a forest in this
way, passes belief. On the other hand, there is not a man, even among
those who know best how every one stands, who would let himself doubt
of Pani Kraslavski's property. And they are so noble!"

"Thy fears are probably baseless," interrupted Pan Stanislav, with
certain impatience. "But thou, my dear fellow, art not positive in any
sense, for thou hast been always pretending, and art pretending still,
instead of looking to that which gives thee bread."

A few days later the betrothal party took place in fact. Marynia was
there; for Pani Kraslavski, who liked Plavitski, whose relatives were
known to her, did not avoid association with him as she did with the
Bigiels. Mashko brought such of his acquaintances as had well-known
names. They had monocles on their eyes, and their hair parted in
the middle; for the greater part very young, and mainly not very
quick-witted. Among them were the five brothers Vyj, who were called
Mizio, Kizio, Bizio, Brelochek, and Tatus. They were nicknamed the five
sleeping brothers, since they felt the impulses of life in their legs
exclusively, and were active only in the carnival, but became perfectly
torpid, at least in a mental sense, during Lent. Bukatski loved them,
and amused himself with them. Baron Kot was there, who, because he had
heard something from some one of a certain ancient Kot of Dembna, added
always, when he was presented, "of Dembna," and who always answered
everything that was said to him with: "_Quelle drôle d'histoire!_"
Mashko was on the footing of _thou_ with all these, though he treated
them with a certain species of disregard, as well as Kopovski,--a young
man with a splendid ideal head, and also splendid eyes without thought.
Pan Stanislav and Kresovski represented the category of Mashko's more
clever friends. Pani Kraslavski had invited a number of ladies with
daughters, among whom the five brothers circled carelessly and coolly,
and whose maiden hearts fluttered at the approach of Kopovski, caring
less for his mental resemblance to Hamlet, resting on this,--that if
not he, his brain might be put into "a nutshell." A number of dignified
bald heads completed the company.

Panna Kraslavski was dressed in white; in spite of her red eyes, she
looked alluring. There was in her, indeed, a certain womanly charm,
resting on a wonderful, almost dreamy repose. She recalled somewhat the
figures of Perugini. At times she grew bright, like an alabaster lamp,
in which a flame flashes up on a sudden; after a while she paled again,
but paled not without charm. Dressed in a thin white robe, she seemed
more shapely than usual. Pan Stanislav, looking at her, thought that
she might have a heart which was dry enough, and a dry enough head,
but she could be a genteel wife, especially for Mashko, who valued
social gentility above everything else. Their manner toward each other
seemed like a cool and pale day, in which the sun does not burn, but
in which also a storm is not threatening. They were sitting at the end
of the drawing-room, not too near, but also not too far, from the rest
of the company; they occupied themselves with each other no more and
no less than was proper. In his conversation with her as much feeling
was evident as was required, but, above all, the wish to appear a
"correct" betrothed; she paid him on her part in the same coin. They
smiled at each other in a friendly way. He, as the future leader and
head of the house, spoke more than she; sometimes they looked into each
other's eyes,--in a word, they formed the most correct and exemplary
couple of betrothed people that could be imagined, in the society
sense of the term. "I should not have held out," said Pan Stanislav to
himself. Suddenly he remembered that while she was sitting there in
conventional repose, white, smiling, the poor little doctor, who could
not "tear his soul from her," was in equal repose somewhere between
the tropics turning to dust, under the ground, forgotten, as if he had
never existed; and anger bore him away. Not only did he feel contempt
for the heart of Mashko's betrothed, but that repose of hers seemed
now bad taste to him,--a species of spiritual deadness, which once had
been fashionable, and which, since they saw in it something demonic,
the poets had struck with their thunderbolts, and which, in time, had
grown vulgar, and dropped to be moral nonentity and folly. "First of
all, she is a goose, and, moreover, a goose with no heart," thought
Pan Stanislav. At that moment Mashko's alarm at the noble conduct of
those ladies grew clear to him to such a degree that Mashko rose in his
esteem as a man of acuteness.

Then he fell to comparing his own betrothed with Panna Kraslavski,
and said to himself with great satisfaction, "Marynia is a different
species altogether." He felt that he was resting mentally while looking
at her. In so much as the other seemed, as it were, an artificial
plant, reared, not in broad fresh currents of air, but under glass,
in that much did there issue from this one life and warmth, and still
the comparison came out to the advantage of Marynia, even in respect
to society. Pan Stanislav did not overlook altogether "distinction,"
so-called, understanding that, if not always, it frequently answers to
a certain mental finish, especially in women. Looking now at one, now
at the other, he came to the conviction that that finish which Panna
Kraslavski had was something acquired and enslaving, with Marynia
it was innate. In the one it was a garment thrown on outside; in
the other, the soul,--a kind of natural trait in a species ennobled
through long ages of culture. Taking from Bukatski's views as many
as he needed,--that is, as many as were to the point,--Pan Stanislav
remembered that he had said frequently that women, without reference
to their origin, are divided into patricians, who have culture,
principles, and spiritual needs, which have entered the blood, and
parvenues, who dress in them, as in mantillas, to go visiting. At
present, while looking at the noble profile of Marynia, Pan Stanislav
thought, with the vanity of a little townsman who is marrying a
princess, that he was taking a patrician in the high sense of the word;
and, besides, a very beautiful patrician.

Frequently women need only some field, and a little luck, to bloom
forth. Marynia, who seemed almost ugly to Pan Stanislav when he was
returning from the burial of Litka, astonished him now, at times, with
her beauty. Near her Panna Kraslavski seemed like a faded robe near a
new one; and if the fortune of Panna Plavitski had been on a level with
her looks, she would have passed, beyond doubt, for a beauty. As it
was, the five brothers, putting their glasses on their equine noses,
looked at her with a certain admiration; and Baron Kot, of Dembna,
declared confidentially that her betrothal was real luck, for had it
not taken place, who knows but he might have rushed in.

Pan Stanislav could note also that evening one trait of his own
character which he had not suspected,--jealousy. Since he was convinced
that Marynia was a perfectly reliable woman, who might be trusted
blindly, that jealousy was simply illogical. In his time he had been
jealous of Mashko, and that could be understood; but now he could
not explain why Kopovski, for example, with his head of an archangel
and his brains of a bird, could annoy him, just because he sat next
to Marynia, and doubtless was asking her more or less pertinent
questions, to which she was answering more or less agreeably. At first
he reproached himself. "Still, it would be difficult to ask her not to
speak to him!" Afterward he found that Marynia turned to Kopovski too
frequently, and answered too agreeably. At supper, while sitting next
her, he was silent and irritated; and when she asked the reason, he
answered most inappropriately,--

"I have no wish to spoil the impression which Pan Kopovski produced on
you."

But she was pleased that he was jealous; contracting the corners of her
mouth to suppress laughter, and looking at him sedately, she answered,--

"Do you find, too, that there is something uncommon in Pan Kopovski?"

"Of course, of course! When he walks the streets even, it seems that he
is carrying his head into fresh air, lest the moths might devour it."

The corners of Marynia's mouth bore the test, but her eyes laughed
evidently; at last, unable to endure, she said, in a low voice,--

"Outrageously jealous!"

"I? Not the least!"

"Well, I will give you an extract from our conversation. You know that
yesterday there was a case of catalepsy during the concert; to-day
they were talking of that near us; then, among other things, I asked
Pan Kopovski if he had seen the cataleptic person. Do you know what he
answered? 'Each of us may have different convictions.' Well, now, isn't
he uncommon?"

Pan Stanislav was pacified, and began to laugh.

"But I tell you that he simply doesn't understand what is said to him,
and answers anything."

They passed the rest of the evening with each other in good agreement.
At the time of parting, when the Plavitskis, having a carriage with
seats for only two persons, were unable to take Pan Stanislav, Marynia
turned to him and inquired,--

"Will the cross, whimsical man come to-morrow to dine with us?"

"He will, for he loves," answered Pan Stanislav, covering her feet with
the robe.

She whispered into his ear, as it were great news, "And I too."

And although he at the moment of speaking was perfectly sincere, she
spoke more truth. Mashko conducted Pan Stanislav home. On the road they
talked of the reception. Mashko said that before the arrival of guests
he had tried to speak to Pani Kraslavski of business, but had not
succeeded.

"There was a moment," said he, "when I thought to put the question
plainly, dressing it of course in the most delicate form. But I was
afraid. Finally, why have I doubts of the dower of my betrothed? Only
because those ladies treat me with more consideration than I expected.
As a humor, that is very good; but I fear to push matters too far, for
suppose that my fears turn out vain, suppose they have money really,
and are incensed because my curiosity is too selfish. It is necessary
to count with this also, for I may be wrecked at the harbor."

"Well, then," answered Pan Stanislav, "admit this, and for that matter
it is likely that they have; but if it should turn out that they
have not, what then? Hast a plan ready? Wilt thou break with Panna
Kraslavski, or wilt thou marry her?"

"I will not break with her in any case, for I should not gain by it. If
my marriage does not take place, I shall be a bankrupt. But if it does,
I will state my financial position precisely, and suppose that Panna
Kraslavski will break with me."

"But if she does not, and has no money?"

"I shall love her, and come to terms with my creditors. I shall cease
to 'pretend,' as thy phrase is, and try to win bread for us both; I am
not a bad advocate, as thou knowest."

"That is fairly good," answered Pan Stanislav, "but that does not
pacify me touching the Plavitskis and myself."

"Thou and they are in a better position than others, for ye have a lien
on Kremen. In a given case thou wilt take everything in thy firm grasp,
and squeeze out something. It is worse for those who have trusted my
word; and I tell thee to thy eyes that I am concerned more for them. I
had, and I have great credit even now. That is my tender point. But if
they give me time, I will come out somehow. If I had a little happiness
at home, and a motive there for labor--"

They came now to Pan Stanislav's house, so Mashko did not finish his
thought. At the moment of parting, however, he said suddenly,--

"Listen to me. In thy eyes I am somewhat crooked; I am much less so
than seems to thee. I have _pretended_, as thou sayst, it is true! I
had to wriggle out, like an eel, and in those wrigglings I slipped
sometimes from the beaten road. But I am tired, and tell thee plainly
that I wish a little happiness, for I have not had it. Therefore I
wanted to marry thy betrothed, though she is without property. As to
Panna Kraslavski, dost thou know that there are moments when I should
prefer that she had nothing, but, to make up, that she would not drop
me when she knows that I too have nothing. I say this sincerely--and
now good-night."

"Well," said Pan Stanislav to himself, "this is something new in
Mashko." And he entered the gate. Standing at the door, he was
astonished to hear the piano in his apartments. The servant said that
Bigiel had been waiting two hours for him.

Pan Stanislav was alarmed, but thought that if something unfavorable
had caused his presence, he would not play on the piano. In fact, it
turned out that Bigiel was in haste merely to get Pan Stanislav's
signature for an affair which had to be finished early next morning.

"Thou mightest have left the paper, and gone to bed," said Pan
Stanislav.

"I slept awhile on thy sofa, then sat at the piano. Once I played on
the piano as well as on the violin, but now my fingers are clumsy. Thy
Marynia plays probably; such music in the house is a nice thing."

Pan Stanislav laughed with a sincere, well-wishing laugh.

"My Marynia? My Marynia possesses the evangelical talent: her left hand
does not know what her right hand is doing. Poor dear woman! She has no
pretensions; and she plays only when I beg her to do so."

"Thou art as it were laughing at her," said Bigiel; "but only those who
are in love laugh in that way."

"Because I am in love most completely. At least it seems so now to me;
and in general I must say that it seems so to me oftener and oftener.
Wilt thou have tea?"

"Yes. Thou hast come from Pani Kraslavski's?"

"I have."

"How is Mashko? Will he struggle to shore?"

"I parted with him a moment ago. He came with me to the gate. He says
things at times that I should not expect from him."

Pan Stanislav, glad to have some one to talk with, and feeling the need
of intimate converse, began to tell what he had heard from Mashko; and
how much he was astonished at finding a man of romantic nature under
the skin of a person of his kind.

"Mashko is not a bad man," said Bigiel. "He is only on the road to
various evasions; and the cause of that is his vanity and respect for
appearances. But, on the other hand, that respect for appearances saves
him from final fall. As to the man of romance, which thou hast found in
him--"

Here Bigiel cut off the end of a cigar, lighted it with great
deliberation, wrinkling his brows at the same time, and, sitting down
comfortably, continued,--

"Bukatski would have given on that subject ten ironical paradoxes about
our society. Now something stuck in my head that he told me, when he
attacked us because always we love some one or something. It seems to
him that this is foolish and purposeless; but I see in this a great
trait. It is necessary to become something in the world; and what have
we? Money we have not; intellect, so-so; the gift of making our way
in a position, not greatly; management, little. We have in truth this
yet--that almost involuntarily, through some general disposition, we
love something or somebody; and if we do not love, we feel the need
of love. Thou knowest that I am a man of deliberation and a merchant,
hence I speak soberly. I call attention to this because of Bukatski.
Mashko, for instance, in some other country, would be a rogue from
under a dark star; and I know many such. But here even beneath the
trickster thou canst scratch to the man; and that is simple, for, in
the last instance, while a man has some spark in his breast yet, he is
not a beast utterly; and with us he has the spark, precisely for this
reason, that he loves something."

"Thou bringest Vaskovski to my mind. What thou art saying is not far
from his views concerning the mission of the youngest of the Aryans."

"What is Vaskovski to me? I say what I think. I know one thing: take
that from us, and we should fly apart, like a barrel without hoops."

"Well, listen to what I will tell thee. This is a thing decided in my
mind rather long since. To love, or not to love some one, is a personal
question; but I understand that it is needful to love something in
life. I too have meditated over this. After the death of that child,
I felt that the devil had taken certain sides of me; sometimes I feel
that yet. Not to-day; but there are times--how can I tell thee?--times
of ebb, exhaustion, doubts. And if, in spite of this, I marry, it is
because I understand that it is necessary to have a living and strong
foundation under a more general love."

"For that, and not for that," answered Bigiel the inexorable in
judgment, "for thou are marrying not at all from purely mental reasons.
Thou art taking a comely and honest young woman, to whom thou art
attracted; and do not persuade thyself that it is otherwise, or thou
wilt begin to pretend. My dear friend, every man has these doubts
before marrying. I, as thou seest, am no philosopher; but ten times
a day I asked myself before marriage, if I loved my future wife well
enough, if I loved her as was necessary, had I not too little soul in
the matter, and too many doubts? God knows what! Afterward I married a
good woman, and it was well for us. It will be well for you too, if ye
take things simply; but that endless searching in the mind and looking
for certain secrets of the heart is folly, God knows."

"Maybe it is folly. I too have no great love for lying on my back and
analyzing from morn in till night; but I cannot help seeing facts."

"What facts?"

"Such facts, for example, as this, that my feeling is not what it was
at first. I think that it will be; I acknowledge that it is going to
that. I marry in spite of these observations, as if they did not exist;
but I make them."

"Thou art free to do so."

"And see what I think besides: still it is necessary that the windows
of a house should look out on the sun; otherwise it will be cold in the
dwelling."

"Thou hast said well," answered Bigiel.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Meanwhile winter began to break; the end of Lent was approaching, and
with it the time of marriage for Pan Stanislav, as well as Mashko.
Bukatski, invited as a groomsman to the former, wrote to him among
other things as follows,--

     "To thrust forth the all-creative energy from its universal
     condition,--that is, from a condition of perfect repose,--and
     force it by means of marriages concluded on earth to incarnate
     itself in more or less squalling particulars which require cradles
     and which amuse themselves by holding the great toe in the mouth,
     is a crime. Still I will come, because stoves are better with you
     than in this place."

In fact, he came a week before the holidays, and brought as a gift to
Pan Stanislav a sheet of parchment ornamented splendidly with something
in the style of a grave hour-glass, on which was the inscription,
"Stanislav Polanyetski, after a long and grievous bachelorhood."

Pan Stanislav, whom the parchment pleased, took it next day about noon
to Marynia. He forgot, however, that it was Sunday, and felt, as it
were, disappointed, at finding Marynia with her hat on.

"Are you going out?" inquired he.

"Yes. To church. To-day is Sunday."

"Ah, Sunday! True. But I thought that we should sit here together. It
would be so agreeable."

She raised her calm blue eyes to him, and said with simplicity, "But
the service of God?"

Pan Stanislav received these words at once as he would have received
any other, not foreseeing that, in the spiritual process which he was
to pass through later on, they would play a certain rôle by reason of
their directness, and said as if repeating mechanically,--

"You say the service of God. Very well! I have time; let us go
together."

Marynia received this offer with great satisfaction.

"I am the happier," said she, on the way, "the more I love God."

"That, too, is the mark of a good nature; some persons think of God
only as a terror."

And in the church that came again to his mind of which he had thought
during his first visit to Kremen, when he was at the church in Vantory,
with old Plavitski: "Destruction takes all philosophies and systems,
one after another; but Mass is celebrated as of old." It seemed to
him that in that there was something which passed comprehension. He
who, because of Litka, had come in contact with death in a manner most
painful, returned to those dark problems whenever he happened to be in
a cemetery, or a church at Mass, or in any circumstances whatever in
which something took place which had no connection with the current
business of life, but was shrouded in that future beyond the grave. He
was struck by this thought,--how much is done in this life for that
future; and how, in spite of all philosophizing and doubt, people live
as if that future were entirely beyond question; how much of petty
personal egotisms are sacrificed for it; how many philanthropic deeds
are performed; how asylums, hospitals, retreats, churches are built,
and all on an account payable beyond the grave only.

He was struck still more by another thought,--that to be reconciled
with life really, it is necessary to be reconciled with death
first; and that without faith in something beyond the grave this
reconciliation is simply impossible. But if you have faith the question
drops away, as if it had never existed. "Let the devils take mourning;
let us rejoice;" for if this is true, what more can be desired? Is
there before one merely the view of some new existence, in the poorest
case, wonderfully curious,--even that certainty amounts to peace and
quiet. Pan Stanislav had an example of that, then, in Marynia. Because
she was somewhat short-sighted, she held her head bent over the book;
but when at moments she raised it, he saw a face so calm, so full of
something like that repose which a flower has, and so serene, that
it was simply angelic. "That is a happy woman, and she will be happy
always," said he to himself. "And, besides, she has sense, for if, on
the opposite side, there were at least certainty, there would be also
that satisfaction which truth gives; but to torture one's self for the
sake of various marks of interrogation is pure folly."

On the way home, Pan Stanislav, thinking continually of this expression
of Marynia's, said,--

"In the church you looked like some profile of Fra Angelico; you had a
face which was indeed happy."

"For I am happy at present. And do you know why? Because I am
better than I was. I felt at one time offended in heart, and I was
dissatisfied; I had no hope before me, and all these put together
formed such suffering that it was terrible. It is said that misfortune
ennobles chosen souls, but I am not a chosen soul. For that matter,
misfortune may ennoble, but suffering, offence, ill-will, destroy. They
are like poison."

"Did you hate me much then?"

Marynia looked at him and answered, "I hated you so much that for whole
days I thought of you only."

"Mashko has wit; he described this once thus to me: 'She would rather
hate you than love me.'"

"Oi! that I would rather, is true."

Thus conversing, they reached the house. Pan Stanislav had time then to
unroll his parchment hour-glass and show it to Marynia; but the idea
did not please her. She looked on marriage not only from the point
of view of the heart, but of religion. "With such things there is no
jesting," said she; and after a while she confessed to Pan Stanislav
that she was offended with Bukatski.

After dinner Bukatski came. During those few months of his stay in
Italy he had become still thinner, which was a proof against the
efficacy of "chianti" for catarrh of the stomach. His nose, with its
thinness, reminded one of a knife-edge; his humorous face, smiling with
irony, had become, as it were, porcelain, and was no larger than the
fist of a grown man. He was related both to Pan Stanislav and Marynia;
hence he said what he pleased in their presence. From the threshold
almost, he declared to them that, in view of the increasing number of
mental deviations in the world at present, he could only regret, but
did not wonder, that they were affianced. He had come, it is true, in
the hope that he would be able to save them, but he saw now that he was
late, and that nothing was left but resignation. Marynia was indignant
on hearing this; but Pan Stanislav, who loved him, said,--

"Preserve thy conceit for the wedding speech, for thou must make one;
and now tell us how our professor is."

"He has grown disturbed in mind seriously," replied Bukatski.

"Do not jest in that way," said Marynia.

"And so much without cause," added Pan Stanislav.

But Bukatski continued, with equal seriousness: "Professor Vaskovski
is disturbed in mind, and here are my proofs for you: First, he
walks through Rome without a cap, or rather, he walked, for he is in
Perugia at present; second, he attacked a refined young English lady,
and proved to her that the English are Christians in private life
only,--that the relations of England to Ireland are not Christian;
third, he is printing a pamphlet, in which he shows that the mission of
reviving and renewing history with the spirit of Christ is committed to
the youngest of the Aryans. Confess that these are proofs."

"We knew these ways before his departure; if nothing more threatens the
professor, we hope to see him in good health."

"He does not think of returning."

Pan Stanislav took out his note-book, wrote some words with a pencil,
and, giving them to Marynia, said,--

"Read, and tell me if that is good."

"If thou write in my presence, I withdraw," said Bukatski.

"No, no! this is no secret."

Marynia became as red as a cherry from delight, and, as if not wishing
to believe her eyes, asked,--

"Is that true? It is not."

"That depends on you," answered Pan Stanislav.

"Ah, Pan Stas! I did not even dream of that. I must tell papa. I must."

And she ran out of the room.

"If I were a poet, I would hang myself," said Bukatski.

"Why?"

"For if a couple of words, jotted down by the hand of a partner in the
house of Bigiel and Company, can produce more impression than the most
beautiful sonnet, it is better, to be a miller boy than a poet."

But Marynia, in the rapture of her joy, forgot the notebook, so Pan
Stanislav showed it to Bukatski, saying, "Read."

Bukatski read:--

     "After the wedding Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples. Is that well?"

"Then it's a journey to Italy?"

"Yes. Imagine, she has not been abroad in her life; and Italy has
always seemed to her an enchanted land, which she has not even dreamed
of seeing. That is an immense delight for her; and what the deuce
wonder is there, if I think out a little pleasure for her?"

"Love and Italy! O God, how many times Thou hast looked on that! All
that love is as old as the world."

"Not true! Fall in love, and see if thou'lt find something new in it."

"My beloved friend, the question is not in this, that I do not love
yet, but in this,--that I love no longer. Years ago I dug that sphinx
out of the sand, and it is no longer a riddle to me."

"Bukatski, get married."

"I cannot. My sight is too faint, and my stomach too weak."

"What hindrance in that?"

"Oh, seest thou, a woman is like a sheet of paper. An angel writes on
one side, a devil on the other; the paper is cut through, the words
blend, and such a hash is made that I can neither read nor digest it."

"To live all thy life on conceits!"

"I shall die, as well as thou, who art marrying. It seems to us that we
think of death, but it thinks more of us."

At that moment Marynia came in with her father, who embraced Pan
Stanislav, and said,--

"Marynia tells me that 't is thy wish to go to Italy after the wedding."

"If my future lady will consent."

"Thy future lady will not only consent," answered Marynia, "but she has
lost her head from delight, and wants to jump through the room, as if
she were ten years of age."

To which Plavitski answered, "If the cross of a solitary old man can be
of use in your distant journey, I will bless you."

And he raised his eyes and his hand toward heaven, to the unspeakable
delight of Bukatski; but Marynia drew down the raised hand, and,
kissing it, said with laughter,--

"There will be time for that, papa; we are going away only after the
wedding."

"And, speaking plainly," added Bukatski, "then there will be a buying
of tickets, and giving baggage to be weighed, and starting,--nothing
more."

To this Plavitski turned to the cynic, and said, with a certain
unction,--

"Have you come to this,--that you look on the blessing of a lonely old
man and a father as superfluous?"

Bukatski, instead of an answer, embraced Plavitski, kissed him near the
waistcoat, and said,--

"But would the 'lonely old man' not play piquet, so as to let those two
mad heads talk themselves out?"

"But with a rubicon?" asked Plavitski.

"With anything you like." Then he turned to the young couple: "Hire me
as a guide to Italy."

"I do not think of it," answered Pan Stanislav. "I have been in Belgium
and France, no farther. Italy I know not; but I want to see what will
interest us, not what may interest thee. I have seen men such as thou
art, and I know that through over-refinement they go so far that they
love not art, but their own knowledge of it."

Here Pan Stanislav continued the talk with Marynia.

"Yes, they go so far that they lose the feeling of great, simple art,
and seek something to occupy their sated taste, and exhibit their
critical knowledge. They do not see trees; they search simply for
knots. The greatest things which we are going to admire do not concern
them, but some of the smallest things, of which no one has heard; they
dig names out of obscurity, occupy themselves in one way or another,
persuade themselves and others that things inferior and of less use
surpass in interest the better and more perfect. Under his guidance we
might not see whole churches, but we might see various things which
would have to be looked at through cracks. I call all this surfeit,
abuse, over-refinement, and we are simply people."

Marynia looked at him with pride, as if she would say, "Oh, that is
what is called speaking!" Her pride increased when Bukatski said,--

"Thou art quite right."

But she was indignant when he added,--

"And if thou wert not right, I could not win before the tribunal."

"I beg pardon," said Marynia; "I am not blinded in any way."

"But I am not an art critic at all."

"On the contrary, you are."

"If I am, then, I declare that knowledge embraces a greater number of
details, but does not prevent a love of great art; and believe not Pan
Stanislav, but me."

"No; I prefer to believe him."

"That was to be foreseen."

Marynia looked now at one, now at the other, with a somewhat anxious
face. Meanwhile Plavitski came with cards. The betrothed walked through
the rooms hand in hand; Bukatski began to be wearied, and grew more and
more so. Toward the end of the evening the humor which animated him
died out; his small face became still smaller, his nose sharper, and
he looked like a dried leaf. When he went out with Pan Stanislav, the
latter inquired,--

"Somehow thou wert not so vivacious?"

"I am like a machine: while I have fuel within, I move; but in the
evening, when the morning supply is exhausted, I stop."

Pan Stanislav looked at him carefully. "What is thy fuel?"

"There are various kinds of coal. Come to me: I will give thee a cup of
good coffee; that will enliven us."

"Listen! this is a delicate question, but some one told me that thou
hast been taking morphine this long time."

"For a very short time," answered Bukatski; "if thou could only know
what horizons it opens."

"And it kills--Fear God!"

"And kills! Tell me sincerely, has this ever occurred to thee, that it
is possible to have a yearning for death?"

"No; I understand just the opposite."

"But I will give thee neither morphine nor opium," said Bukatski, at
length; "only good coffee and a bottle of honest Bordeaux. That will be
an innocent orgy."

After some time they arrived at Bukatski's. It was the dwelling of a
man of real wealth, seemingly, somewhat uninhabited, but full of small
things connected with art and pictures and drawings. Lamps were burning
in a number of rooms, for Bukatski could not endure darkness, even in
time of sleep.

The "Bordeaux" was found promptly, and under the machine for coffee a
blue flame was soon burning. Bukatski stretched himself on the sofa,
and said, all at once,--

"Perhaps thou wilt not admit, since thou seest me such a filigree, that
I have no fear of death."

"This one thing I have at times admitted, that thou art jesting and
jesting, deceiving thyself and others, while really the joke is not in
thee, and this is all artificial."

"The folly of people amuses me somewhat."

"But if thou think thyself wise, why arrange life so vainly?" Here Pan
Stanislav looked around on bric-à-brac, on pictures, and added, "In all
this surrounding thou art still living vainly."

"Vainly enough."

"Thou art of those who _pretend_. What a disease in this society! Thou
art posing, and that is the whole question."

"Sometimes. But, for that matter, it becomes natural."

Under the influence of "Bordeaux" Bukatski grew animated gradually, and
became more talkative, though cheerfulness did not return to him.

"Seest thou," said he, "one thing,--I do not pretend. All which I
myself could tell, or which another could tell me, I have thought out,
and said long since to my soul. I lead the most stupid and the vainest
life possible. Around me is immense nothingness, which I fear, and
which I fence out with this lumber which thou seest in this room; I do
this so as to fear less. Not to fear death is another thing, for after
death there are neither feelings nor thoughts. I shall become, then,
a part also of nothingness; but to feel it, while one is alive, to
know of it, to give account to one's self of it, as God lives, there
can be nothing more abject. Moreover, the condition of my health is
really bad, and takes from me every energy. I have no fuel in myself,
therefore I add it. There is less in this of posing and pretending than
thou wilt admit. When I have given myself fuel, I take life in its
humorous aspect; I follow the example of the sick man, who lies on the
side on which he lies with most comfort. For me there is most comfort
thus. That the position is artificial, I admit; every other, however,
would be more painful. And see, the subject is exhausted."

"If thou would undertake some work."

"Give me peace. To begin with, I know a multitude of things, but I
don't understand anything; second, I am sick; third, tell a paralytic
to walk a good deal when he cannot use his legs. The subject is
exhausted! Drink that wine there, and let us talk about thee. That is a
good lady, Panna Plavitski; and thou art doing well to marry her. What
I said to thee there in the daytime does not count. She is a good lady,
and loves thee."

Here Bukatski, enlivened and roused evidently by the wine, began to
speak hurriedly.

"What I say in the daytime does not count. Now it is night; let us
drink wine, and a moment of more sincerity comes. Dost wish more wine,
or coffee? I like this odor; one should mix Mocha and Ceylon in equal
parts. Now comes a time of more sincerity! Knowest thou what I think
at bottom? I have no clear idea of what happiness fame may give, for I
do not possess it; and since the Ephesian temple is fired, there is no
opening to fame before me. I admit, however, so, to myself, that the
amount of it might be eaten by a mouse, not merely on an empty stomach,
but after a good meal in a pantry. But I know what property is for I
have a little of it; I know what travelling is, for I have wandered;
I know what freedom is, for I am free; I know what women are--oi,
devil take it!--too well, and I know what books are. Besides, in this
chamber, I have a few pictures, a few drawings, a little porcelain. Now
listen to what I will say to thee: All this is nothing; all is vanity,
folly, dust, in comparison with one heart which loves. This is the
result of my observations; only I have come to it at the end, while
normal men reach it at the beginning."

Here he began to stir the coffee feverishly with a spoon; and Pan
Stanislav, who was very lively, sprang up and said,--

"And thou, O beast! what didst thou say some months since,--that thou
wert going to Italy because there no one loved thee, and thou didst
love no one? Dost remember? Thou'lt deny, perhaps."

"But what did I say this afternoon to thy betrothed? That thou and she
had gone mad; and now I say that thou art doing well. Dost wish logic
of me? To talk and to say something are two different things. But now I
am more sincere, for I have drunk half a bottle of wine."

Pan Stanislav began to walk through the room and repeat: "But, as God
lives, it is fabulous! See what the root of the matter is, and what
they all say when cornered."

"To love is good, but there is something still better,--that is, to
be loved. There is nothing above that! As to me, I would give for it
all these; but it is not worth while to talk of me. Life is a comedy
badly written, and without talent: even that which pains terribly is
sometimes like a poor melodrama; but in life, if there be anything
good, it is to be loved. Imagine to thyself, I have not known that, and
thou hast found it without seeking."

"Do not say so, for thou knowest not how it came to me."

"I know; Vaskovski told me. That, however, is all one. The question is
this,--thou hast known how to value it."

"Well, what dost thou wish? I understand that I am loved a little;
hence I marry, and that is the end of the matter."

Thereupon Bukatski put his hand on Pan Stanislav's shoulder.

"No, Polanyetski; I am a fool in respect to myself, but not a bad
observer of what is passing around me. That is not the end, but the
beginning. Most men say, as thou hast, 'I marry,--that is the end;' and
most men deceive themselves."

"That philosophy I do not understand."

"But thou seest what the question is? It is not enough to take a woman;
a man should give himself to her also, and should feel that he does so.
Dost understand?"

"Not greatly."

"Well, thou art feigning simplicity. She should not only feel herself
owned, but an owner. A soul for a soul! otherwise a life may be lost.
Marriages are good or bad. Mashko's will be bad for twenty reasons, and
among others for this, of which I wish to speak."

"He is of another opinion. But, as God lives, it is a pity that thou
art not married, since thou hast such a sound understanding of how
married life should be."

"If to understand and to act according to that understanding were the
same, there would not be the various, very various events, from which
the bones ache in all of us. For that matter, imagine me marrying."

Here Bukatski began to laugh with his thin little voice. Joyfulness
returned to him on a sudden, and with it the vision of things on the
comic side.

"Thou wilt be ridiculous; but what should I be? Something to split
one's sides at. What a moment that is! Thou wilt see in two weeks. For
instance, how thou wilt dress for church. Here, love, beating of the
heart, solemn thoughts, a new epoch in life; there, the gardener, with
flowers, a dress-coat, lost studs, the tying of a cravat, the drawing
on of patent-leather boots,--all at one time, one chaos, one confusion.
Deliver me, angels of paradise! I have compassion on thee, my dear
friend; and do thou, I beg, not take seriously what I say. There is a
new moon now, and I have a mania for uttering commonplace sentiment at
the new moon. All folly!--the new moon, nothing more! I have grown as
soft-hearted as a ewe who has lost her first lamb; and may the cough
split me, if I haven't uttered commonplace!"

But Pan Stanislav attacked him: "I have seen many vain things; but
knowest thou what seems to me vainest in thee and those like thee? Thou
and they, who absolve yourselves from everything, recognize nothing
above you, and fear like fire every honest truth, for the one reason
that some one might sometime declare it. How bad this is words cannot
tell. As to thee, my dear friend, thou wert sincerer a while since than
now. Again, thou'rt a poodle, dancing on two legs; but I tell thee that
ten like thee could not show me that I have not won a great prize in
the lottery."

He took farewell of Bukatski with a certain anger; on the road home,
however, he grew pacified and repeated continually: "See where the
truth is; see what Mashko, and even Bukatski, says, when ready to be
sincere; but I have won simply a great prize, and I will not waste what
I have won."

When he entered his lodgings and saw Litka's photograph, he exclaimed,
"My dearest kitten!" Up to the moment of sleeping he thought of Marynia
with pleasure, and with the calmness of a man who feels that some great
problem of life has been settled decisively, and settled well. For, in
spite of Bukatski's words, he was convinced that, since he was going to
marry, all would be decided and ended by that one act.



CHAPTER XXX.


The "catastrophe," as Bukatski called it, came at last. Pan Stanislav
learned by experience that if in life there are many days in which a
man cannot seize his own thoughts, to such belong above all the day
of his marriage. At times a number of these thoughts circled in his
brain at one moment, and were so indefinite, that, speaking accurately,
they were rather unconscious impressions than thoughts. He felt
that a new epoch in life was beginning, that he was assuming great
obligations which he ought to fulfil conscientiously and seriously;
and at the same time, but exactly at the same time, he wondered that
the carriage wasn't coming yet, and expressed his astonishment in the
form of a threat: "If those scoundrels are late, I'll break their
necks for them." At moments a solemn, and, as it were, noble fear of
that future for which he had assumed responsibility was mastering
him; he felt within him a certain elevation, and in this feeling of
elevation he began to lather his beard, and he thought whether on such
an exceptional day it would not be exceptionally worth while to bring
in a barber to his somewhat dishevelled hair. Marynia at the same time
was at the basis of all his impressions. He saw her, as if present.
He thought: "At this moment, she too is dressing, she is standing in
her chamber in front of the mirror, she is talking to her maid, her
soul is flying toward me, and her heart beats unquietly." That instant
tenderness seized him and he said to himself, "But have no fear, honest
soul, for, as God lives, I will not wrong thee;" and he saw himself in
the future, kind, considerate, so that he began to look with a certain
emotion at the patent-leather boots standing near the armchair, on
which his wedding-suit was lying. He repeated from time to time too,
"If to marry, then marry!" He said to himself that he was stupid to
hesitate, for another such Marynia there was not on earth; he felt
that he loved her, and thought at the same time that the weather was
not bad, but that perhaps rain might fall; that it might be cold in
the Church of the Visitation; that in an hour he would be kneeling
by Marynia, that a white necktie is safer knotted than pinned; that
marriage is indeed the most important ceremony in life; that there is
in it something sacred, and that one must not lose one's head anyhow,
for in an hour it will be over; to-morrow they will depart, and then
the normal quiet life of husband and wife will begin.

These thoughts, however, flew away at moments like a flock of sparrows,
into which some one has fired from behind a hedge suddenly, and it grew
empty in Pan Stanislav's head. Then phrases of this kind came to his
lips mechanically: "The eighth of April--to-morrow will be Wednesday!
to-morrow will be Wednesday! my watch! to-morrow will be Wednesday!"
Later he roused himself, repeated, "One must be an idiot!" and the
scattered birds flew back again in a whole flock to his head, and began
to whirl around in it.

Meanwhile Abdulski, the agent of the house of Polanyetski, Bigiel, and
Company came in. He was to be the second groomsman, with Bukatski as
first. Being a Tartar by origin and a man of dark complexion, though
good-looking, he seemed so handsome in the dress-coat and white cravat
that Pan Stanislav expressed the hope that surely he would marry soon.
Abdulski answered,--

"The soul would to paradise;" then he commenced a pantomime, intended
to represent the counting of money, and began to speak of the Bigiels.
All their children wanted to be at the marriage. The Bigiels decided
to take only the two elder ones; from this arose disagreements and
difference of opinion, expressed on Pani Bigiel's side by means of
slaps. Pan Stanislav, who was a great children's man, was exceedingly
indignant at this, and said,--

"I'll play a trick on the Bigiels. Have they gone already?"

"They were just going."

"That is well; I will run in there on the way to Plavitski's, take all
the children, and pour them out before Pani Bigiel and my affianced."

Abdulski expressed the conviction that Pan Stanislav would not do so;
but he merely confirmed him thereby in his plan all the more. In fact,
when he entered the carriage, they drove for the children directly. The
governess, knowing Pan Stanislav's relations with the family, dared
not oppose him; and half an hour later, Pan Stanislav, to the great
consternation of Pani Bigiel, entered Plavitski's lodgings at the head
of a whole flock of little Bigiels, in their every-day clothing, with
collars awry, hair disarranged for the greater part, and faces half
happy, half frightened, and, hurrying up to Marynia, he said, kissing
her hands already enclosed in white gloves,--

"They wanted to wrong the children. Say that I did well."

This proof of his kind heart entertained and pleased Marynia; hence
she was glad from her whole soul to see the children, and even glad
of this,--that the assembled guests considered her future husband an
original,--and glad because Pani Bigiel, straightening the crooked
collars hurriedly, said in her worry,--

"What's to be done with such a madman?"

Somewhat of this opinion too was old Plavitski. But Pan Stanislav and
Marynia were occupied for the moment with each other so exclusively
that everything else vanished from their eyes. The hearts of both
beat a little unquietly. He looked at her with a certain admiration.
All in white, from her slippers to her gloves, with a green wreath on
her head, and a long veil, she seemed to him other than usual. There
was in her something uncommonly solemn, as in the dead Litka. Pan
Stanislav did not make, it is true, that comparison; but he felt that
this white Marynia, if not more remote from him, made him hesitate more
than she of yesterday, arrayed in her ordinary costume. Withal she
seemed less comely than usual, for the wedding wreath is becoming to
women only exceptionally, and, besides, disquiet and emotion reddened
her face; which, with the white robe, seemed still redder than it
was in reality. But a wonderful thing! Just this circumstance moved
Pan Stanislav. In his heart, rather kind by its nature, there rose a
certain feeling resembling compassion or tenderness. He understood
that Marynia's heart must be panting then like a captive bird, and he
began to calm her; to speak to her with such good and kind words that
he was astonished himself where he could find them in such numbers,
and how they came to him so easily. But they came to him easily just
because of Marynia. It was to be seen that she gave herself to him
with a panting of the heart, but also with confidence; that she gave
him her heart, her soul, and her whole being, her whole life, and that
not only for good, but for every moment of her life--and to the end
of it. In this regard no shadow rose in Pan Stanislav's mind, and
that certainty made him better at that moment, more sensitive and
eloquent, than he was ordinarily. At last they held each the other's
hand and looked into each other's eyes, not only with love, but with
the greatest friendship and confidence. Both felt the double reality.
Yet a few moments, and that future will begin. But now the thoughts
of both began to grow clear; and that internal disquiet, from which
they had not been free, yielded more and more and turned into a solemn
concentration of thought, as the religious ceremony drew near. Pan
Stanislav's thoughts did not fly apart like sparrows; there remained
to him only a certain astonishment, as it were, that he with all his
scepticism had such a feeling even of the religious significance of the
act which was about to be accomplished. At heart he was not a sceptic.
In his soul there was hidden even a certain yearning for religious
sensations; and if he had not returned to them it was only through a
loss of habit and through spiritual negligence. Scepticism, at most,
had shaken the surface of his thoughts, just as wind roughens the
surface of water; the depths of which are still calm. He had lost, too,
familiarity with forms; but to regain it was a work for the future and
Marynia. Meanwhile this ceremony to which he must yield seemed to him
so important, so full of solemnity and sacredness, that he was ready to
proceed to it with bowed head.

But first he had another ceremony, which, equally solemn in itself,
was disagreeable enough to Pan Stanislav; namely, to kneel before Pan
Plavitski, whom he considered a fool, receive his blessing and hear
an exhortation, which, as was known, Plavitski would not omit. Pan
Stanislav had said in his mind, however, "Since I am to marry, I must
pass through all which precedes it, and with a good face; little do I
care what expression that monkey, Bukatski, will have at such moments."
Therefore he knelt with all readiness at Marynia's side before her
father, and listened to his blessing with an exhortation, which, by the
way, was not long. Plavitski himself was moved really; his voice and
his hands trembled; he was barely able to pronounce something in the
nature of an adjuration to Pan Stanislav, not to prevent Marynia from
coming even occasionally to pray at his grave before it was grown over
completely with grass.

Finally, the solemnity of the moment affected Yozio Bigiel. Seeing Pan
Plavitski's tears, seeing Marynia and Pan Stanislav on their knees
(kneeling at Bigiel's house was not only a punishment, but frequently
the beginning of more vigorous instruction), Yozio gave expression
to his sympathy and fear by closing his eyes, opening his mouth, and
breaking into as piercing a wail as he could utter. When the rest of
the little Bigiels followed his example in great part, and all began
to move, for the time to pass to the church had arrived, the grave of
Pan Plavitski grown over with grass could not call forth an impression
sufficiently elegiac.

Sitting in the carriage between Abdulski and Bukatski, Pan Stanislav
hardly answered their questions in half words; he took no part in
the conversation, but kept up a monologue with himself. He thought
that in a couple of minutes that would come to pass of which he had
been dreaming whole months; and which till the death of Litka he had
desired with the greatest earnestness of his life. Here for the last
time he was roused by a feeling of the difference between that past
which not long since had vanished, and the present moment; but there
was a difference. Formerly he strove and desired; to-day he only wished
and consented. That thought pierced him like a shudder, for it shot
through his head that perhaps there was lacking in his own personality
that basis on which one may build. But he was a man able to keep
his alarms in close bonds, and to scatter them to the four winds at
a given moment. He said to himself, therefore: "First, there is no
time to think of this; and second, reality does not answer always to
imaginings; this is a simple thing." Then what Bukatski had said pushed
again into his memory: "It is not enough to take, a man must give;" but
he thought this a fabric of such fine threads that it had no existence
whatever, and that life should be taken more simply, that there is
no obligation to come to terms with preconceived theories. Here he
repeated what he had said to himself frequently, "I marry, and that is
the end." Then reality embraced him, or rather the present moment; he
had nothing in his head but Marynia, the church, and the ceremony.

She on the way meanwhile implored God in silence to help her to make
her husband happy; for herself she begged also a little happiness,
being certain, moreover, that her dead mother would obtain that for her.

Then they went arm in arm between the lines of invited and curious
people, seeing somewhat as through a mist lights gleaming in the
distance on the altar, and at the sides faces known and unknown.
Both saw more distinctly the face of Pani Emilia, who wore the white
veil of a Sister of Charity, her eyes at once smiling and filled with
tears. Litka came to the minds of both; and it occurred to them that it
was precisely she who was conducting them to the altar. After a while
they knelt down; before them was the priest, higher up the gleaming of
the candles, the glitter of gold, and the holy face of the principal
image. The ceremony commenced. They repeated after the priest the usual
phrases of the marriage vow; and Pan Stanislav, holding Marynia's hand,
was seized suddenly by emotion such as he had not expected, and such as
he had not felt since his mother had brought him to first communion. He
felt that that was not a mere every-day legal act, in virtue of which
a man receives the right to a woman; but in that binding of hands,
in that vow, there is present a certain mysterious power from beyond
this world,--that it is simply God before whom the soul inclines and
the heart trembles. The ears of both were struck then in the midst of
silence by the solemn words, "_Quod Deus junxit, homo non disjungat_;"
but Pan Stanislav felt that that Marynia whom he had taken becomes his
body and blood, and a part of his soul, and that for her too he must
be the same. That moment a chorus of voices in the choir burst out
with "_Veni Creator_," and a few moments after the Polanyetskis went
forth from the church. On the way out, the arms of Pani Emilia embraced
Marynia once again: "May God bless you!" and when they drove to the
wedding reception, she went to the cemetery to tell Litka the news,
that Pan Stas was married that day to Marynia.



CHAPTER XXXI.


Two weeks later, in Venice, the doorkeeper of the Hotel Bauer gave Pan
Stanislav a letter with the postmark of Warsaw. It was at the moment
when he and his wife were entering a gondola to go to the church of
Santa Maria della Salute, where on that day, the anniversary of her
death, a Mass was to be offered for the soul of Marynia's mother. Pan
Stanislav, who expected nothing important from Warsaw, put the letter
in his pocket, and asked his wife,--

"But is it not a little too early for Mass?"

"It is; a whole half hour."

"Then perhaps it would please thee to go first to the Rialto?"

Marynia was always ready to go. Never having been abroad before, she
simply lived in continual rapture, and it seemed to her that all which
surrounded her was a dream. More than once, in the excess of her
delight, she threw herself on her husband's neck, as if he had built
Venice, as if she ought to thank him alone for its beauty. More than
once she repeated,--

"I look and I see, but cannot believe that this is real."

So they went to the Rialto. There was little movement yet, because of
the early hour; the water was as if sleeping, the day calm, clear, but
not very bright,--one of those days in which the Grand Canal with all
its beauty has the repose of a cemetery; the palaces seem deserted
and forgotten, and in their motionless reflection in the water is
that peculiar deep sadness of dead things. One looks at them then in
silence, and as if in fear, lest by words the general repose may be
broken.

Thus did Marynia look. But Pan Stanislav, less sensitive, remembered
that he had a letter in his pocket, hence he drew it forth, and began
to read. After a time he exclaimed,--

"Ah! Mashko is married; their wedding was three days after ours."

But Marynia, as if roused from a dream, inquired, while blinking, "What
dost thou say?"

"I say, dreaming head, that Mashko's wedding is over."

She rested her head on his shoulder, and, looking into his eyes,
inquired,--

"What is Mashko to me? I have my Stas."

Pan Stanislav smiled like a man who kindly permits himself to be loved,
but does not wonder that he is loved; then he kissed his wife on the
forehead, with a certain distraction, for the letter had begun to
occupy him, and read on. All at once he sprang up, as if something had
pricked him, and cried,--

"Oh, that is a real catastrophe!"

"What has happened?"

"Panna Kraslavski has a life annuity of nine thousand rubles, which her
uncle left her; beyond that, not a copper."

"But that is a good deal."

"A good deal? Hear what Mashko writes:--

     "'In view of this, my bankruptcy is an accomplished fact, and the
     declaration of my insolvency a question of time.'

"They deceived each other; dost understand? He counted on her property,
and she on his."

"At least they have something to live on."

"They have something to live on; but Mashko has nothing with which
to pay his debts, and that concerns us a little,--me, thee, and thy
father. All may be lost."

Here Marynia was alarmed in earnest. "My Stas," said she, "perhaps thy
presence is needed there; let us return, then. What a blow this will be
to papa!"

"I will write Bigiel immediately to take my place, and save what is
possible. Do not take this business to heart too much, my child. I have
enough to buy a bit of bread for us both, and for thy father."

Marynia put her arms around his neck. "Thou, my good--With such a man
one may be at rest."

"Besides, something will be saved. If Mashko finds credit, he will
pay us; he may find a purchaser, too, for Kremen. He writes me to ask
Bukatski to buy Kremen, and to persuade him to do so. Bukatski is going
to Rome this evening, and I have invited him to lunch. I will ask him.
He has a considerable fortune, and would have something to do. I am
curious to know how Mashko's life will develop. He writes at the end of
the letter:

     "'I discovered the condition of affairs to my wife; she bore
     herself passively, but her mother is wild with indignation.' #/

"Finally he adds that at last he has fallen in love with his wife, and
that if they should separate, it would be the greatest unhappiness in
life for him. That lyric tale gives me little concern; but I am curious
as to how all this will end."

"She will not desert him," said Marynia.

"I do not know; I thought myself once that she would not, but I like to
contradict. Wilt thou bet?"

"No; for I do not wish to win. Thou ugly man, thou hast no knowledge of
women."

"On the contrary, I know them; and I know them because all are not like
this little one who is sailing now in a gondola."

"In a gondola in Venice, with her Stas," answered Marynia.

They were now at the church. When they went from Mass to the hotel,
they found Bukatski, dressed for the road, in a cross-barred gray
suit,--which, on his frail body, seemed too large,--in yellow shoes and
a fantastic cravat, tied as fancifully as carelessly.

"I am going to-day," said he, after he had greeted Marynia. "Do you
command me to prepare a dwelling in Florence for you? I can engage some
palace."

"Then you will halt on the road to Rome?"

"Yes. First, to give notice in the gallery of your coming, and to put
a sofa on the stairs for you; second, I halt for black coffee, which
is bad throughout Italy in general, but in Florence, at Giacosa's, Via
Tornabuoni, it is exceptionally excellent. That, however, is the one
thing of value in Florence."

"What pleasure is there for you in always saying something different
from what you think?"

"But I am thinking seriously of engaging nice lodgings on Lung-Arno for
you."

"We shall stop at Verona."

"For Romeo and Juliet? Of course; of course! Go now; later you would
shrug your shoulders if you thought of them. In a month it would be too
late for you to go, perhaps."

Marynia started up at him like a cat; then, turning to her husband,
said,--

"Stas, don't let this gentleman annoy me so!"

"Well," answered Pan Stanislav, "I will cut his head off, but after
lunch."

Bukatski began to declaim:--

                        "It is not yet near day:
        It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
      That pierc'd the fearful hollow of thine ear."

Then, turning to Marynia, he inquired, "Has Pan Stanislav written a
sonnet for you?"

"No."

"Oh, that is a bad sign. You have a balcony on the street; has it never
come once to his head to stand under your balcony with a guitar?"

"No."

"Oh, very bad!"

"But there is no place to stand here, for there is water."

"He might go in a gondola. With us it is different, you see; but here
in Italy the air is such that if a man is in love really, he either
writes sonnets, or stands under a balcony with a guitar. It is a thing
perfectly certain, resulting from the geographical position, the
currents of the sea, the chemical make-up of the air and the water:
if a man does not write sonnets, or stand out of doors with a guitar,
surely he is not in love. I can bring you very famous books on this
subject."

"It seems that I shall be driven to cut his head off before lunch,"
said Pan Stanislav.

The execution, however, did not come, for the reason that it was just
time for lunch. They sat down at a separate table, but in the same hall
was a general one, which for Marynia, whom everything interested, was a
source of pleasure, too, for she saw _real_ English people. This made
on her such an impression as if she had gone to some land of exotics;
for since Kremen is Kremen, not one of its inhabitants had undertaken a
similar journey. For Bukatski, and even Pan Stanislav, her delight was
a source of endless jokes, but also of genuine pleasure. The first said
that she reminded him of his youth; the second called his wife a "field
daisy," and said that one was not sorry to show the world to a woman
like her. Bukatski noticed, however, that the "field daisy" had much
feeling for art and much honesty. Many things were known to her from
books or pictures; not knowing others, she acknowledged this openly,
but in her expressions there was nothing artificial or affected. When a
thing touched her heart, her delight had no bounds, so that her eyes
became moist. At one time Bukatski jested with her unmercifully; at
another he persuaded her that all the connoisseurs, so called, have a
nail in the head, and that she, as a sensitive and refined nature, and
so far unspoiled, was for him of the greatest importance in questions
of art; she would be still more important if she were ten years of age.

At lunch they did not talk of art, because Pan Stanislav remembered his
news from Warsaw, and said,--

"I had a letter from Mashko."

"And I, too," answered Bukatski.

"And thou? They must be hurried there; Mashko must be pressed in real
earnest. Is the question known to thee?"

"He persuades me, or rather, he implores me, to buy--dost thou know
what?"

Bukatski avoided Kremen, knowing well what trouble it had caused, and
was silent through delicacy toward Marynia.

But Pan Stanislav, understanding his intention, said,--

"Oh, my God! Once we avoided that name as a sore spot, but now, before
my wife, it is something different. It is hard to be tied up a whole
lifetime."

Bukatski looked at him quickly; Marynia blushed a little, and said,--

"Stas is perfectly right. Besides, I know that it is a question of
Kremen."

"Yes, it is of Kremen."

"Well, and what?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"I should not buy it even because of this,--that the lady might have
the impression that people are tossing it about like a ball."

"If I do not think at all of Kremen?" said Marynia, blushing still
more. She looked at her husband; and he nodded in sign of praise and
satisfaction.

"That is a proof," answered he, "that thou art a child of good
judgment."

"At the same time," continued Marynia, "if Pan Mashko does not hold
out, Kremen will either be divided, or go into usurers' hands, and that
to me would be disagreeable."

"Ah, ha!" said Bukatski, "but if you do not think at all of Kremen?"

Marynia looked again at her husband, and this time with alarm; he began
to laugh, however.

"Marynia is caught," said he.

Then he turned to Bukatski. "Evidently Mashko looks on thee as the one
plank of salvation."

"But I am not a plank; look at me! I am a straw, rather. The man who
wishes to save himself by such a straw will drown. Mashko has said
himself more than once to me, 'Thou hast blunted nerves.' Perhaps I
have; but I need strong impressions for that very reason. If I were
to help Mashko, he would work himself free, stand on his feet, give
himself out as a lord still further; his wife would personate a great
lady, they would be terribly _comme il faut_, and I should have the
stupid comedy, which I have seen already, and which I have yawned at.
If, on the other hand, I do not help him, he will be ruined, he will
perish, something interesting will happen, unexpected events will come
to pass, something tragic may result, which will occupy me more. Now,
think, both of you, I must pay for a wretched comedy, and dearly; the
tragedy I can have for nothing. How is a man to hesitate in this case?"

"Fi! how can you say such things?" exclaimed Marynia.

"Not only can I say them, but I shall write them to Mashko; besides, he
has deceived me in the most unworthy manner."

"In what?"

"In what? In this, that I thought: 'Oh, that is a regular snob! that
is material for a dark personage; that is a man really without heart
or scruples!' Meanwhile, what comes out? That at bottom of his soul he
has a certain honesty; that he wants to pay his creditors; that he is
sorry for that puppet with red eyes; that he loves her; that for him
separation from her would be a terrible catastrophe. He writes this to
me himself most shamelessly. I give my word that in our society one can
count on nothing. I will settle abroad, for I cannot endure this."

Now Marynia was angry in earnest.

"If you say such things, I shall beg to break relations with you."

But Pan Stanislav shrugged his shoulders, and added: "In fact, thy talk
is ever on some conceit to amuse thyself and others, and never wilt
thou think with judgment and in human fashion. Dost understand, I do
not persuade thee to buy Kremen, and all the more because I might have
a certain interest to do so; but there would be some occupation for
thee there, something to do."

Here Bukatski began to laugh, and said after a while,--

"I told thee once that I like, above all, to do what pleases me, and
that it pleases me most to do nothing; hence it is that doing nothing
I do what pleases me most. If thou art wise, prove that I have uttered
nonsense. Take the second case: Suppose me a buckwheat sower; that,
however, simply passes imagination. I, for whom rain or fine weather is
merely the question of choosing a cane or an umbrella, would have, in
my old age, to stand on one leg, like a stork, and look to see whether
it pleases the sun to shine, or the clouds to drop rain. I should have
to tremble as to whether my wheat is likely to grow, or my rape-seed
shed, or rot fall on the potatoes; whether I shall be able to stake my
peas, or furnish his Worship of Dogweevil as many bushels as I have
promised; whether my plough-horses have the glanders, and my sheep the
foot-rot. I should, in my old age, come to this,--that from blunting of
faculties I would interject after every three words: 'Pan Benefactor,'
or 'What is it that I wanted to say?' _Voyons! pas si bête!_ I, a free
man, should become a _glebæ adscriptus_, a 'Neighbor,' a 'Brother
Lata,' a 'Pan Matsyei,' a 'Lechit.'"[5]

Here, roused a little by the wine, he began to quote in an undertone
the words of Slaz in "Lilla Weneda":--

      "Am I a Lechit? What does this mean? Are boorishness,
      Drunkenness, gluttony, gazing from my eyes
      With the seven deadly sins, a passion for uproar,
      Pickled cucumbers, and escutcheons?"

"Argue with him," said Pan Stanislav, "especially when at the root of
the matter he is partly right."

But Marynia, who as soon as Bukatski had begun to speak of work in the
country, grew somewhat thoughtful, shook thoughtfulness now from her
forehead, and said,--

"When papa was not well,--and never in Kremen has he been so well as
recently,--I saved him a little in management, and later that work
became for me a habit. Though God knows there was no lack of troubles,
it gave me a pleasure that I cannot describe. But I did not understand
the cause of this till Pan Yamish explained it. 'That,' said he, 'is
the real work on which the world stands, and every other is either the
continuation of it, or something artificial.' Later I understood even
things which he did not explain. More than once, when I went out to
the fields in spring, and saw that all things were growing, I felt that
my heart, too, was growing with them. And now I know why that is: In
all other relations that a man holds there may be deceit, but the land
is truth. It is impossible to deceive the land; it either gives, or
gives not, but it does not deceive. Therefore land is loved, as truth;
and because one loves it, it teaches one to love. And the dew falls not
only on grain, and on meadows, but on the soul, as it were; and a man
becomes better, for he has to deal with truth, and he loves,--that is,
he is nearer God. Therefore I loved my Kremen so much."

Here Marynia became frightened at her own speech, and at this, what
would "Stas" think; at the same time reminiscences had roused her. All
this was reflected in her eyes as the dawn, and on her young face; and
she was herself like the dawn.

Bukatski looked at her as he would at some unknown newly discovered
master-piece of the Venetian school; then he closed his eyes, and
hid half of his small face in his enormous fantastic cravat, and
whispered,--

"_Délicieuse!_"

Then, thrusting forth his chin from his cravat, he said,--

"You are perfectly right."

But the logical woman would not let herself be set aside by a
compliment.

"If I am right, you are not."

"That is another matter. You are right because it becomes you; a woman
in that case is always right."

"Stas!" said Marynia, turning to her husband. But there was so much
charm in the woman at that moment, that he also looked on her with
delight, his eyes smiled, his nostrils moved with a quick motion; for a
moment he covered her hand with his, and said,--

"Oh, child, child!"

Then he inclined to her, and whispered,--

"If we were not in this hall, I would kiss those dear eyes and that
mouth."

And, speaking thus, Pan Stanislav made a great mistake, for at that
moment it was not enough to feel the physical charm of Marynia, to be
roused at the color of her face, her eyes, or her mouth, but it was
necessary to feel the soul in her; to what an extent he did not feel it
was shown by his fondling words, "O child, child!" She was for him at
that moment only a charming child-woman, and he thought of nothing else.

Just then coffee was brought. To end the conversation, Pan Stanislav
said,--

"So Mashko has come out a lover, and that after marriage."

Bukatski swallowed a cup of boiling coffee, and answered, "In this is
the stupidity, that Mashko is the man, not in this,--that the love
was after marriage. I have not said anything sensible. If I have, I
beg pardon most earnestly, and promise not to do so a second time. I
have burned my tongue evidently with the hot coffee! I drink it so hot
because they tell me that it is good for headache; and my head aches,
aches."

Here Bukatski placed his palm on his neck and the back of his head, and
blinked, remaining motionless for a few seconds.

"I am talking and talking," said he, then, "but my head aches. I should
have gone to my lodgings, but Svirski, the artist, is to come to me
here. We are going to Florence together; he is a famous painter in
water-colors, really famous. No one has brought greater force out of
water-colors. But see, he is just coming!"

In fact, Svirski, as if summoned by a spell, appeared in the hall, and
began to look around for Bukatski. Espying him at last, he approached
the table.

He was a robust, short man, with hair as black as if he were an
Italian. He had an ordinary face, but a wise, deep glance, and also
mild. While walking, he swayed a little because of his wide hips.

Bukatski presented him to Marynia in the following words,--

"I present to you Pan Svirski, a painter, of the genus genius, who
not only received his talent, but had the most happy idea of not
burying it, which he might have done as well, and with equal benefit
to mankind, as any other man. But he preferred to fill the world with
water-colors and with fame."

Svirski smiled, showing two rows of teeth, wonderfully small, but white
as ivory, and said,--

"I wish that were true."

"And I will tell you why he did not bury his talent," continued
Bukatski; "his reasons were so parochial that it would be a shame for
any decent artist to avow them. He loves Pognembin, which is somewhere
in Poznan, or thereabouts, and he loves it because he was born there.
If he had been born in Guadeloupe he would have loved Guadeloupe, and
love for Guadeloupe would have saved him in life also. This man makes
me indignant; and will the lady tell me if I am not right?"

To this Marynia answered, raising her blue eyes to Svirski, "Pan
Bukatski is not so bad as he seems, for he has said everything that is
good of you."

"I shall die with my qualities known," whispered Bukatski.

Svirski was looking meanwhile at Marynia, as only an artist can permit
himself to look at a woman, and not offend. Interest was evident in his
eyes, and at last he muttered,--

"To see such a head all at once, here in Venice, is a genuine surprise."

"What?" asked Bukatski.

"I say, that the lady is of a wonderfully well-defined type. Oh, this,
for example" (here he drew a line with his thumb along his nose, mouth,
and chin). "And also what purity of outline!"

"Well, isn't it true?" asked Pan Stanislav, with excitement. "I have
always thought the same."

"I will lay a wager that thou hast never thought of it," retorted
Bukatski.

But Pan Stanislav was glad and proud of that interest which Marynia
roused in the famous artist; hence he said,--

"If it would give you any pleasure to paint her portrait, it would give
me much more to have it."

"From the soul of my heart," answered Svirski, with simplicity; "but
I am going to Rome to-day. There I have begun the portrait of Pani
Osnovski."

"And we shall be in Rome no later than ten days from now."

"Then we are agreed."

Marynia returned thanks, blushing to her ears. But Bukatski began to
take farewell, and drew Svirski after him. When they had gone out, he
said,--

"We have time yet. Come to Floriani's for a glass of cognac."

Bukatski did not know how to drink, and didn't like spirits; but since
he had begun to take morphine, he drank more than he could endure,
because some one had told him that one neutralized the other.

"What a delightful couple those Polanyetskis are!" said Svirski.

"They are not long married."

"It is evident that he loves her immensely. When I praised her, his
eyes were smiling, and he rose as if on yeast."

"She loves him a hundred times more."

"What knowledge hast thou in such matters?"

Bukatski did not answer; he only raised his pointed nose, and said, as
if to himself,--

"Oh, marriage and love have disgusted me; for it is always profit on
one side, and sacrifice on the other. Polanyetski is a good man, but
what of that? She has just as much sense, just as much character,
but she loves more; therefore life will fix itself for them in this
way,--he will be the sun, he will be gracious enough to shine, to warm,
will consider her as his property, as a planet made to circle around
him. All this is indicated to-day. She has entered his sphere. There
is in him a certain self-confidence which angers me. He will have her
with an income, but she will have him alone without an income. He will
permit himself to love, considering his love as virtue, kindness, and
favor; she will love, considering her love as a happiness and a duty.
Look, if you please, at him, the divine, the resplendent! I want to go
back and tell them this, in the hope that they will be less happy."

Meanwhile the two men had taken seats in front of Floriani's, and
soon cognac was brought to them. Svirski thought some time over the
Polanyetskis, and then inquired,--

"But if the position is pleasant for her?"

"I know that she has short sight; she might be pleased quite as well to
wear glasses."

"Go to the deuce! glasses on a face like hers--"

"This makes thee indignant; but the other makes me--"

"Yes, for thou hast a kind of coffee-mill in thy head, which grinds,
and grinds everything till it grinds it into fine dust. What dost thou
want of love in general?"

"I, of love? I want nothing of love! Let the devil take him who wants
anything of love! I have sharp pains in my shoulder-blades from it. But
if I were other than I am, if I had to describe what love ought to be,
if I wanted anything of it, then I should wish--"

"What? hop! jump over!"

"That it were composed in equal parts of desire and reverence."

Then he drank a glass of cognac, and added after a while,--

"It seems to me that I have said something which may be wise, if it is
not foolish. But it is all one to me."

"No! it is not foolish."

"As God lives, it is all one to me."


FOOTNOTES:

  [5] Polish noble.



CHAPTER XXXII.


After a stay of one week in Florence, Pan Stanislav received his
first letter from Bigiel concerning the business of the house, and
news so favorable that it almost surpassed his expectations. The law
prohibiting export of grain because of the famine was proclaimed.
But the firm had enormous supplies bought and exported previously;
and because prices, especially at the first moment, had risen
excessively abroad, Bigiel and Polanyetski began to do perfect
business. Speculation, planned and carried through on a great scale,
turned out so profitable that from well-to-do people, which they were
before, they had become almost rich. For that matter Pan Stanislav
had been sure of his business from the beginning, and entertained no
fears; the news, however, pleased him both with reference to profit
and his own self-love. Success intoxicates a man and strengthens his
self-confidence. So, in talking with Marynia, he was not able to
refrain from giving her to understand that he had an uncommon head,
unquestionably higher than all those around him, like a tree the
loftiest in the forest; that he is a man who always reaches the place
at which he has aimed,--in a word, a kind of phoenix in that society,
abounding in men who know not how to help themselves. In the whole
world he could not have found a listener more willing and ready to
accept everything with the deepest faith.

"Thou art a woman," said he, not without a shade of loftiness;
"therefore why tell thee the affair from the beginning, and enter into
details. To thee, as a woman, I can explain all best if I say thus:
I was not in a condition yesterday to buy the medallion with a black
pearl which I showed thee at Godoni's; to-day I am, and will buy it."

Marynia thanked him, and begged that he would not do so; but he
insisted, and said that nothing would restrain him, that that was
resolved on, and Marynia must consider herself the owner of the great
black pearl, which, on such a white neck as hers, would be beautiful.
Then he fell to kissing that neck; and when finally he had satisfied
himself, but still felt the need of a listener of some sort, he began
to walk in the room, smiling at his wife and at his own thoughts,
saying,--

"I do not mention those who do nothing: Bukatski, for instance, who is
known to be good for nothing, nor asses like Kopovski, who is known to
have a cat's head; but take even men who do something,--men of mind
seemingly. Never would Bigiel seize a chance on the wing: he would set
to thinking over it, and to putting it off; to-day he would decide, and
to-morrow be afraid, and the time would be gone. What is the point in
question? First, to have a head, and second, to sit down and calculate.
And if one decides to act, then act. It is needful, too, to be cool,
and not pose. Mashko is no fool, one might think; but see what he has
worked out! I have not gone his way, and shall not follow him."

Thus speaking, he continued to walk and to shake his thick, dark hair;
and Marynia, who, in every case, would have listened to his words with
faith, received them now as an infallible principle, all the more that
they rested on tangible success.

He stopped before her at last, and said,--

"Knowest what I think? that coolness is judgment. It is possible to
have an intelligent head, to take in knowledge as a sponge absorbs
liquid, and still not to have sound, sober judgment. Bukatski is for me
a proof of this. Do not think me vain; but if I, for instance, knew as
much about art as he does, I should have a sounder judgment concerning
it. He has read so much, and caught up so many opinions, that at
last he has none of his own. Surely, from the materials which he has
collected, I should have squeezed out something of my own."

"Oh, that is sure," said Marynia, with perfect confidence.

Pan Stanislav might have been right in a certain view. He was not a
dull man by any means, and it may be that his intelligence was firmer
and more compact than Bukatski's; but it was less flexible and less
comprehensive. This did not occur to him. He did not think, also, that
in that moment, under the influence of boastfulness, he was saying
things before Marynia which the fear of ridicule and criticism would
have restrained him from saying before strangers, sceptical persons.
But he did not restrain himself before Marynia; he judged that if he
could permit himself such little boastfulness before any one, it was
before his wife. Besides, as he himself said, "He had taken her, and
all was over." Moreover, she was his own.

In general, he had not felt so happy and satisfied at any time in
life as then. He had experienced material success, and considered the
future as guaranteed; he had married a woman, young, charming, and
clever, for whom he had become a dogma,--and the position could not
be otherwise, since her lips were not dry for whole days from his
kisses,--and whose healthy and honest heart was filled with gratitude
for his love. What could be lacking to him? What more could he wish? He
was satisfied with himself, for he ascribed in great part to his own
cleverness and merit, his success in so arranging life that everything
promised, peace and prosperity. He saw that life was bitter for other
men, but pleasant for him, and he interpreted the difference to his own
advantage. He had thought once that a man wishing peace had to regulate
his connection with himself, with mankind, with God. The first two he
looked on as regulated. He had a wife, a calling, and a future; hence
he had given and secured to himself all that he could give and secure.
As to society, he permitted himself sometimes to criticise it, but he
felt that in the bottom of his soul he loved it really; that even if
he wished, he could not do otherwise; that if in a given case it were
necessary to go into water or fire for society, he would go,--hence he
considered everything settled on that side too. His relation with God
remained. He felt that should that become clear and certain, he might
consider all life's problems settled, and say to himself definitely, "I
know why I have lived, what I wanted, and why I must die." While not a
man of science, he had touched enough on science to know the vanity of
seeking in philosophy so-called explanations or answers which are to
be sought rather in intuition, and, above all, in feeling, in so far
as the one and the other of these are simple,--otherwise they lead to
extravagance. At the same time, since he was not devoid of imagination,
he saw before him, as it were, the image of an honest, well-balanced
man, a good husband, a good father, who labors and prays, who on Sunday
takes his children to church, and lives a life wonderfully wholesome
from a moral point of view. That picture smiled at him; and in life
so much is done for pictures. He thought that a society which had a
great number of such citizens would be stronger and healthier than
a society which below was composed of boors, and above of sages,
dilettanti, decadents, and all those forbidden figures with sprained
intellects. One time, soon after his acquaintance with Marynia, he had
promised himself and Bigiel that on finishing with his own person, and
with people, he would set about this third relation seriously. Now the
time had come, or at least was approaching. Pan Stanislav understood
that this work needed more repose than is found on a bridal trip, and
among the impressions of a new life and a new country, and that hurry
of hotels and galleries in which he lived with Marynia. But, in spite
of these conditions, in the rare moments when he was with his own
thoughts, he turned at once to that problem, which for him was at that
time the main one. He was subject meanwhile to various influences,
which, small in themselves, exercised a certain action, even because
he refrained purposely from opposing them. Of these was the influence
of Marynia. Pan Stanislav was not conscious of it, and would not have
owned to its existence; still the continual presence of that calm soul,
sincerely and simply pious, extremely conscientious in relation to
God, gave him an idea of the rest and peace to be found in religion.
When he attended his wife to church, he remembered the words which
she said to him in Warsaw, "Of course; it is the service of God." And
he was drawn into it, for at first he went to church with her always
not to let her go alone, and later because it gave him also a certain
internal pleasure,--such, for example, as the examination of phenomena
gives a scientist specially interested in them. In this way, in spite
of unfavorable conditions, in spite of journeys, and a line of thought
interrupted by impressions of every sort, he advanced on the new road
continually. His thoughts had at times great energy and decisiveness
in this direction. "I feel God," said he to himself. "I felt Him at
Litka's grave; I felt Him, though I did not acknowledge it, in the
words of Vaskovski about death; I felt Him at marriage; I felt Him at
home, in the plains, and in this country, in the mountains above the
snow; and I only ask yet how I am to glorify Him, to honor and love
Him? Is it as pleases me personally, or as my wife does, and as my
mother taught me?"

In Rome, however, he ceased at first to think of these things; so
many external impressions were gathered at once in his mind that there
was no room for reflection. Moreover, he and Marynia came home in the
evening so tired that he remembered almost with terror the words of
Bukatski, who, at times, when serving them as cicerone for his own
satisfaction, said, "Ye have not seen the thousandth part of what is
worth seeing; but that is all one, for in general it is not worth while
to come here, just as it is not worth while to stay at home."

Bukatski was then in a fit of contradiction, overturning in one
statement what he had seemed to affirm in the preceding one.

Professor Vaskovski came, too, from Perugia to greet them, which
pleased Marynia so much that she met him as she would her nearest
relative. But, after satisfying her first outbursts of delight, she
observed in the professor's eyes, as it were, a kind of melancholy.

"What is the matter?" inquired she. "Do you not feel well in Italy?"

"My child," answered he, "it is pleasant in Perugia, and pleasant in
Rome--oh, how pleasant! Know this, that here, while walking on the
streets, one is treading on the dust of the world. This, as I repeat
always, is the antechamber to another life--but--"

"But what?"

"But people--you see, that is, not from a bad heart, for here, as well
as everywhere, there are more good than bad people; but sometimes I am
sad, for here, as well as at home, they look on me as a little mad."

Bukatski, who was listening to the conversation, said,--

"Then the professor has more cause for sadness here than at home."

"Yes," answered Vaskovski; "I have so many friends there, like you, who
love me--but here, no--and therefore I am homesick."

Then he turned to Pan Stanislav: "The journals here have printed an
account of my essay. Some scoff altogether. God be with them! Some
agree that a new epoch would begin through the introduction of Christ
and His spirit into history. One writer confessed that individuals
treat one another in a Christian spirit, but that nations lead a pagan
life yet. He even called the thought a great one; but he and all
others, when I affirm this to be a mission which God has predestined to
us, and other youngest of the Aryans, seize their sides from laughter.
And this pains me. They give it to be understood also that I have a
little here--"

And poor Vaskovski tapped his forehead with his finger. After a while,
however, he raised his head and said,--

"A man sows the seed in sadness and often in doubt; but the seed falls
on the field, and God grant that it spring up!"

Then he began to inquire about Pani Emilia; at last he turned to them
his eyes, which were as if wakened from sleep, and asked naïvely,--

"But it is pleasant for you to be with each other?"

Marynia, instead of answering, sprang to her husband, and, nestling her
head up to his shoulder, said,--

"Oh, see, Professor, this is how we are together,--so!"

And Pan Stanislav stroked her dark head with his hand.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


A week later Pan Stanislav took his wife to Svirski's on Via Margutta.
Svirski they saw almost daily. They had grown accustomed to the artist
and liked him; now he was to paint Marynia's portrait. At the studio
they found the Osnovskis, with whom acquaintance was made the more
easily since the ladies had met some years before at a party, and Pan
Stanislav had been presented on a time to Pani Osnovski, at Ostend;
he needed merely to remember her now. Pan Stanislav, it is true, did
not recollect whether at that epoch, when, after looking at every
young and presentable woman, he asked himself, "Is it this one?" he
had asked this touching the present Pani Osnovski; he might have done
so, however, for she had the reputation then of being a comely, though
rather flighty young person. Now she was a woman of six or seven and
twenty, very tall, a fresh, though dark brunette, with cherry lips,
dishevelled forelock, and somewhat oblique violet eyes, which gave her
face a resemblance to Chinese faces, and at the same time a certain
expression of malice and wit. She had a strange way of bearing herself,
which consisted in thrusting back her shoulders and pushing forward her
body; in consequence of this, Bukatski said of her that she carried her
bust _en offrande_.

Almost immediately she told Marynia that, as they were sitting in the
same studio, they ought to consider each other as colleagues; and told
Pan Stanislav that she remembered him, from the ball at Ostend, as a
good dancer and _causeur_, and therefore that she would not delay in
taking advantage of that knowledge now. To both she said that it was
very agreeable to her, that she was delighted with Rome, that she was
reading "Cosmopolis," that she was in love with the Villa Doria, with
the view from the Pincian, that she hoped to see the catacombs in
company with them, and that she knew the works of Rossi, in Allard's
translations. Then, pressing Svirski's hand, and smiling coquettishly
at Pan Stanislav, she went out, declaring that she gave way to one
worthier than herself, and left the impression of a whirlwind, a
Chinese woman, and a flower. Pan Osnovski, a very young man, with a
light blond face without significance, but kindly, followed her, and
hardly had he been able to put in a word.

Svirski drew a deep breath.

"Oh, she is a storm!" said he; "I have a thousand difficulties in
keeping her at rest two minutes."

"But what an interesting face!" said Marynia. "Is it permitted to look
at the portrait?"

"It lacks little of being finished; you may look at it."

Marynia and Pan Stanislav approached the portrait, and could express
admiration without excess of politeness. That head, painted in
water-colors, had the strength and warmth of an oil painting, and at
the same time the whole spiritual essence of Pani Osnovski was in
it. Svirski listened to the praises calmly; it was clear that he was
pleased with his work. He covered the picture, and carried it to a
dark corner of the studio, seated Marynia in an armchair already in
position, and began to study her.

His persistent gaze confused her somewhat,--her cheeks began to flush;
but he smiled with pleasure, muttering,--

"Yes; this is another type,--earth and heaven!"

At moments he closed one eye, which confused Marynia still more; at
moments he approached the cardboard, and again drew back, and again
studied her; and again he said, as if to himself,--

"In the other case, one had to bring out the devil, but here
womanliness."

"As you have seen that immediately, I feel sure of a masterpiece," said
Pan Stanislav.

All at once Svirski stopped looking at the paper and at Marynia, and,
turning to Pan Stanislav, smiled joyously, showing his sound teeth.

"Yes, womanliness! and her own womanliness, that is the main
characteristic of the face."

"And seize it, as you seized the devil in the other one."

"Stas!" exclaimed Marynia.

"It is not I who invented that, but Pan Svirski."

"If you wish, we will say imp, not devil,--a comely imp, but a
dangerous one. While painting, I observe various things. That is a
curious type,--Pani Osnovski."

"Why?"

"Have you observed her husband?"

"Somehow I was so occupied with her that I had no time."

"There it is: she hides him in such a degree that he is hardly visible;
and, what is worse, she herself does not see him. At the same time
he is one of the most worthy men in the world, uncommonly well-bred,
considerate to others in an unheard-of degree, very rich, and not at
all stupid. Moreover, he loves her to distraction."

Here Svirski began to paint, and repeated, as if in forgetfulness,--

"Lo-ves her to dis-trac-tion. Be pleased to arrange your hair a little
about the ear. If your husband is a talker, he will be in despair, for
Bukatski declares that when I begin work my lips never close, and that
I let no one have a word. She, do you see, may be thus far as pure
as a tear, but she is a coquette. She has an icy heart with a fiery
head. A dangerous species,--oh, dangerous! She devours books by whole
dozens,--naturally French books. She learns psychology in them, learns
of feminine temperaments, of the enigma of woman, seeks enigmas in
herself, which do not exist at all in her, discovers aspirations of
which yesterday she knew nothing. She is depraving herself mentally;
this mental depravation she considers wisdom, and makes no account of
her husband."

"But you are a terrible man," remarked Marynia.

"My wife will hide to-morrow from fear, when the hour for sitting
comes," said Pan Stanislav.

"Let her not hide; hers is a different type. Osnovski is not at all
dull; but people, and especially, with your permission, women, are so
unwise, that if a man's cleverness does not hit them on the head, if a
man lacks confidence in himself, if he does not scratch like a cat and
cut like a knife, they do not value him. As God lives, I have seen this
in life a hundred times."

After a while he closed one eye again, gazed at Marynia, and
continued,--

"In general, how foolish human society is! More than once have I put to
myself this question: Why is honesty of character, heart, and such a
thing as kindness, less valued than what is called mind? Why, in social
life, are two categories pre-eminent, wise and foolish? It is not the
custom, for example, to say, virtuous and unvirtuous; to such a degree
is it not the custom, that the very expressions would seem ridiculous."

"Because," said Pan Stanislav, "mind is the lantern with which virtue
and kindness and heart must light the way for themselves, otherwise
they might break their noses, or, what is worse, break the noses of
other people."

Marynia did not utter, it is true, a single word; but in her face it
was possible to read distinctly, "How wise this Stas is--terribly wise!"

"Wise Stas" added meanwhile,--

"I am not speaking of Osnovski now, for I do not know him."

"Osnovski," said Svirski, "loves his wife as his wife, as his child,
and as his happiness; but she has her head turned, God knows with what,
and does not repay him in kind. Women interest me, as an unmarried
man, immensely; more than once have I talked whole days about women,
especially with Bukatski, when they interested him more than they do
now. Bukatski divides women into plebeian souls, by which he means poor
and low spirits, and into patrician souls,--that is, natures ennobled,
full of the higher aspirations, and resting on principles, not phrases.
There is a certain justice in this, but I prefer my division, which is
simply into grateful and ungrateful hearts."

Here he withdrew from the sketch for a moment, half closed his eyes,
then, taking a small mirror, placed it toward the picture, and began to
look at the reflection.

"You ask what I mean by grateful and ungrateful hearts," said he,
turning to Marynia, though she had not asked about anything. "A
grateful heart is one which feels when it is loved, and is moved by
love; and in return for the loving, loves more and more, yields itself
more and more, prizes the loving, and honors it. The ungrateful heart
gets all it can from the love given; and the more certain it feels of
this love, the less it esteems it, the more it disregards and tramples
it. It is enough to love a woman with an ungrateful heart, to make her
cease loving. The fisherman is not concerned for the fish in the net;
therefore Pani Osnovski does not care for Pan Osnovski. In the essence
of the argument this is the rudest form of egotism in existence,--it
is simply African; and therefore God guard Osnovski, and may the Evil
One take her, with her Chinese eyes of violet color, and her frizzled
forelock! To paint such a woman is pleasant, but to marry--we are not
such fools. Will you believe it, I am in so much dread of an ungrateful
heart that I have not married so far, though my fortieth year has
sounded distinctly?"

"But it is so easy to recognize such a heart," said Marynia.

"May the Evil One take what is bad!" answered Svirski. "Not so easy,
especially when a man has lost sense and reason."

Bending his athletic form, he looked at the sketch some time, and
said,--

"Well, enough for to-day. As it is, I have talked so continuously
that flies must have dropped from the walls. To-morrow, if you hear
too much, just clap your hands. I do not talk so with Pani Osnovski,
because she herself likes to talk. But how many titles of books have
I heard? Enough of this! I wanted to say something more, but have
forgotten. Ah! this is it,--you have a grateful heart."

Pan Stanislav laughed, and invited Svirski to dinner, promising him the
society of Bukatski and Vaskovski.

"With great delight," answered Svirski; "I am as much alone here as a
wild beast. As the weather is clear and the moon full, we will go later
to see the Colosseum by moonlight."

The dinner took place, however, without Bukatski's mental hobbies, for
he felt out of health, and wrote that he could not come. But Svirski
and Vaskovski suited each other excellently, and became friends right
away. Only while he was working did Svirski let no one have a word;
in general, he liked to hear others, knew how to listen, and, though
the professor and his views seemed to him comical sometimes, so much
sincerity and kindness was evident in the old man that it would have
been difficult for him not to win people. His mystic face and the
expression of his eyes struck the artist. He sketched him a little
in his mind; and, while listening to his talk about the Aryans, he
thought how that head would look if all that was in it were brought out
distinctly.

Toward the end of the dinner the professor asked Marynia if she would
like to see the Pope. He said that in three days a Belgian pilgrimage
was to arrive, and that she might join it. Svirski, who knew all Rome
and all the monsignores, guaranteed to effect this with ease. When he
heard this, the professor looked at him, and inquired,--

"Then you are almost a Roman?"

"Of sixteen years' standing."

"Is it possible!"

Here the professor was somewhat confused, fearing lest he had committed
some indiscretion, but still wishing to know what to think of a man so
sympathetic, he overcame his timidity, and inquired,--

"But of the Quirinal, or the Vatican?"

"From Pognembin," answered Svirski, frowning slightly.

The end of the dinner interrupted further explanations and converse.
Marynia could scarcely sit still at the thought that she would see the
Capitol, the Forum, and the Colosseum by moonlight. In fact, somewhat
later they were driving toward the ruins along the Corso, which was
lighted by electricity.

The night was calm and warm. Around the Forum and Colosseum the
place was completely deserted; as, for that matter, it is in the day
sometimes. Near the church of Santa Maria Liberatrice some person in an
open window was playing on a flute, and one could hear every note in
the stillness. On the front of the Forum a deep shadow fell from the
height of the Capitol and its edifices; but farther on it was flooded
with clear, greenish light, as was also the Colosseum, which seemed
silver. When the carriage halted at the arches of the gigantic circus,
Pan Stanislav, Svirski, and Vaskovski entered the interior, and pushed
toward the centre of the arena, avoiding the fragments of columns,
friezes, piles of bricks, stones, and bases of columns standing here
and there, and fragments piled up near the arches. Under the influence
of silence and loneliness, words did not rise to their lips. Through
the arched entrances came to the interior sheaves of moonlight, which
seemed to rest quietly on the floor of the arena, on the opposite
walls, on the indentations, on openings in the walls, on breaks, on the
silvered mosses and ivy, covering the ruin here and there. Other parts
of the building, sunk in impenetrable darkness, produced the impression
of black and mysterious gulleys. From the low-placed cunicula came the
stern breath of desolation. Reality was lost amidst that labyrinth and
confusion of walls, arches, bright spots, bright stripes, and deep
shadows. The colossal ruin seemed to lose its real existence, and
to become a dream vision, or rather, a kind of wonderful impression
composed of silence, night, the moon, sadness, and the remembrance of a
past, mighty, but full of blood and suffering.

Svirski began to speak first, and in a subdued voice,--

"What pain, what tears, were here! what a measureless tragedy! Let
people say what they please, there is something beyond human in
Christianity; and that thought cannot be avoided."

Here he turned to Marynia, and continued,--

"Imagine that might: a whole world, millions of people, iron laws,
power unequalled before or since, an organization such as has never
been elsewhere, greatness, glory, hundreds of legions, a gigantic city,
possessing the world,--and that Palatine hill over there, possessing
the city; it would seem that no earthly power could overturn it.
Meanwhile two Jews come,--Peter and Paul, not with arms, but a word;
and see, here is a ruin, on the Palatine a ruin, in the Forum a ruin,
and above the city crosses, crosses, crosses and crosses."

Again there was silence; but from the direction of Santa Maria
Liberatrice the sound of the flute came continually.

After a while Vaskovski said, pointing to the arena,--

"There was a cross here, too, but they have borne it away."

Pan Stanislav was thinking, however, of Svirski's words; for him
they had a more vital interest than they could have for a man who
had finished the spiritual struggle with himself. At last he said,
following his own course of thought,--

"Yes, there is something beyond human in this; some truth shines into
the eyes here, like that moon."

They were going slowly toward the entrance, when a carriage rattled
outside. Then in the dark passage leading to the centre of the circus,
steps were heard; two tall, figures issued from the shade into the
light. One of these, dressed in gray stuff, which gleamed like steel in
the moonlight, approached a number of steps to distinguish the visitors
better, and said all at once,--

"Good-evening! The night is so beautiful that we, too, came to the
Colosseum. What a night!"

Pan Stanislav recognized the voice of Pani Osnovski.

Giving her hand, she spoke with a voice as soft as the sound of that
flute which came from the direction of the church,--

"I shall begin to believe in presentiments, for really something told
me that here I should find acquaintances. How beautiful the night is!"



CHAPTER XXXIV.


On returning to the hotel, Pan Stanislav and Marynia were surprised
somewhat to find the Osnovskis' cards; and their astonishment rose
from this, that, being newly married, it was their duty to make the
first visit. For this unusual politeness it was needful to answer with
equal politeness, hence they returned the visit on the following day.
Bukatski, who saw them before they made it, though he was very unwell,
and could barely drag his feet along, brought himself still to one of
his usual witticisms, and said to Pan Stanislav, when they were alone
for a moment,--

"She will play the coquette; but if thou suppose that she will fall in
love with thee, thou art mistaken. She is a little like a razor,--she
needs a strap to sharpen herself; in the best event, thou wilt be a
strap for her."

"First, I do not wish to be her strap," answered Pan Stanislav; "and
second, it is too early."

"Too early? That means that thou art reserving the future for thyself."

"No; it means that I am thinking of something else, and also that I
love my Marynia more and more. And when that ends, too early will be
too late, and that Pani Osnovski might dent, but not sharpen herself,
on me."

And Pan Stanislav, in saying this, was sincere: he had his thoughts
occupied really with something else; he was too honorable to betray his
wife at any time, but even if not, it was too early to begin.

He was so greatly sure of his strength that he felt a certain readiness
to expose himself to trial. In other words, it would have given the man
a kind of pleasure if Pani Osnovski had dented herself on him.

After lunch he went with Marynia to sit to Svirski; the sitting,
however, was short, since the artist was judge in some exhibition, and
had to hasten to a meeting. They returned home, and Pan Osnovski came
to them a quarter of an hour later.

Pan Stanislav, after his conversation with Svirski, had a kind of
compassion for Osnovski, but also a sort of small opinion. Marynia,
however, felt for him a living sympathy; she was won by what she had
heard of his kindness and delicacy, as well as his attachment to his
wife. It seemed to her now that all these qualities were as if written
on his face,--a face by no means ugly, though it had pimples here and
there.

After the greeting, Osnovski began to speak with the confident freedom
of a man accustomed to good society:

"I come at the instance of my wife with a proposal. Praise to God,
visiting ceremonies are ended between us, though abroad it is not worth
while to reckon too precisely in this matter. The affair is this: We
are going to St. Paul's to-day, and then to the Three Fountains. That
is outside the city; there is an interesting cloister in the place, and
a beautiful view. It would be very agreeable to us if you would consent
to make the trip in our company."

Marynia was always ready for every trip, especially in company, and
with pleasant conversation; in view of this she looked at her husband,
waiting for what he would say. Pan Stanislav saw that she wished to
go, and, besides, he thought in his soul, "If the other wants to dent
herself, let her do it." And he answered,--

"I would consent willingly, but this depends on my superior power."

His "superior power" was not sure yet whether the obedient subordinate
meant that really; but, seeing on his face a smile and good-humor, she
made bold to say at last,--

"With much thankfulness; but shall we not cause trouble?"

"Not trouble, but pleasure," answered Osnovski. "In that event the
matter is ended. We'll be here in a quarter of an hour."

In fact, they set out a quarter of an hour later. Pani Osnovski's
Chinese eyes were full of satisfaction and repose. Wearing an
iris-colored robe, in which she might pass for the eighth wonder of the
world, she looked really like a rusalka.[6] And before they had reached
St. Paul's, Pan Stanislav did not know how Pani Osnovski, who had not
spoken on this subject to him, had been able somehow to say to him,
or at least to give him to understand, more or less as follows: "Thy
wife is a pleasant little woman from the country; of my husband nothing
need be said. We two only are able to understand each other and share
impressions."

But he resolved to torment her. When they arrived at St. Paul's, which
Pani Osnovski did not mention otherwise than as "San Poolo fuori le
Mura,"[7] her husband wished to stop the carriage, but she said,--

"We will stop when returning, for we shall know then how much time is
left for this place; but now we'll go straight to the Three Fountains."

Turning to Pan Stanislav, she continued, "There are in this famous
place various things, about which I should like to ask you."

"Then you will do badly, for I know nothing at all of these matters."

It appeared soon, on passing various monuments, that of the whole party
Pan Osnovski knew most. The poor man had been studying the guide-books
from morning till evening, so that he might be a guide for his wife,
and also to please her with his knowledge. But she cared nothing for
explanations which her husband could give, precisely because they came
from him. The insolent self-assurance with which Pan Stanislav had
confessed that he had no idea of antiquities was more to her taste.

Beyond St. Paul's opened out a view on the Campagna with its aqueducts,
which seemed to run toward the city in haste, and on the Alban hills,
veiled, as they were, with the blue haze of distance,--a view at once
calm and bright. Pani Osnovski gazed for some time with a dreamy look,
and then inquired,--

"Have you been in Albani or Nemi?"

"No," answered Pan Stanislav; "sitting to Svirski breaks the day so for
us that we cannot make long excursions till the portrait is finished."

"We have been there; but when you are going, take me with you, take
me with you! Is it agreed? Will you permit?" added she, turning to
Marynia. "I shall be a fifth wheel to some extent, but never mind.
Besides, I shall sit quietly, very quietly, in a corner of the
carriage, and not give out one mru mru! Is it agreed?"

"Oi! little one, little one," said Pan Osnovski.

But she continued, "My husband will not believe that I am in love with
Nemi; but I am. When I was there, it seemed to me that Christianity had
not reached the place yet; that in the night certain priests come out
and celebrate pagan rites on the lake. Silence and mystery! there you
have Nemi. Will you believe that when I was there the wish came to me
to be a hermit, and it has not left me to this moment? I would build a
cell on the bank of the lake for myself, and wear a robe long and gray,
like the habit of Saint Francis of Assisi, and go barefoot. What would
I give to be a hermit! I see myself at the lake--"

"Anetka,[8] but what would become of me?" inquired Osnovski, half in
jest, half in earnest.

"Oh, thou wouldst console thyself," said she, curtly.

"Thou wouldst be a hermitess," thought Pan Stanislav, "if on the other
side of the lake there were a couple of dozen dandies gazing through
glasses to see what the hermitess was doing, and how she looked."

He was too well-bred to tell her this directly; but he told her
something similar, and which could be understood.

"Naturally," said she, laughing; "I should live by alms, and should
have to see people sometimes; if you came to Nemi, I should come to you
too and repeat in a very low voice, 'Un soldo! un soldo!'"

Saying this, she stretched her small hands to him, and shook them,
repeating humbly,--

"Un soldo per la povera! un soldo!"

And she looked into his eyes.

Pan Osnovski spoke meanwhile to Marynia.

"This is called Three Fountains," said he, "for there are three springs
here. Saint Paul's head was cut off at this place; and there is a
tradition that the head jumped three times, and that on those places
springs burst forth. The place belongs now to the Trappists. Formerly
people could not pass a night here, there was such fever; now there
is less, for they have planted a whole forest of eucalyptuses on the
hills. Oh, we can see it already."

But Pani Osnovski, bending back somewhat, half closed her eyes for a
moment, and said to Pan Stanislav,--

"This Roman air intoxicates me. I am as if beside myself. At home
I cannot force from life more than it gives me; but here I am
demoralized, I feel that something is wanting to me. Do I know what?
Here one feels something, divines something, yearns for something.
Maybe that is bad. Maybe it is not right for me to say this. But I say
always what passes through my mind. At home, when a child, they called
me Little Sincerity. I shall beg my husband to take me hence. It may be
better to live in my own narrow shell, like a nut, or a snail."

"It may be pleasant in shells for nuts or snails," answered Pan
Stanislav, with gravity, "but not for birds, and besides birds of
paradise, of which there is a tradition that they have no legs and can
never rest, but must fly and fly."

"What a beautiful tradition!" exclaimed Pani Osnovski. And, raising
her hands, she began to move them, imitating the motion of wings, and
repeating,--

"This way, forever through the air."

The comparison flattered her, though she was astonished that Pan
Stanislav had uttered it with a serious voice, but with an inattentive
and, as it were, ironical face. He began to interest her, for he seemed
very intelligent, and more difficult to master than she had expected.

Meanwhile they arrived at Three Fountains. They visited the garden,
the church, and the chapel, in the basement of which three springs
were flowing. Pan Osnovski explained, in his kind, somewhat monotonous
voice, what he had read previously. Marynia listened with interest; but
Pan Stanislav thought,--

"Still to live three hundred and sixty-five days in a year with him,
must be a little tiresome."

That justified Pani Osnovski in his eyes for the moment; she, taking
upon herself now the new role of bird of paradise, did not rest for
a moment, not merely on the ground, but on any subject. First she
drank eucalyptus liquor, which the cloister prepared as a means
against fever; then she declared decisively that if she were a man she
would be a Trappist. Later, however, she remembered that her sailing
career would be agreeable "ever between sea and sky, as if living
in endlessness;" at last the wish to become a great, a very great
writer, gained the day against everything else,--a writer describing
the minutest movements of the soul, half-conscious feelings, desires
incompletely defined, all forms, all colors, all shades. The party
learned also, as a secret, that she was writing her memoirs, which
"that honest Yozio" considers a masterpiece; but she knows that that is
nothing, she has not the least pretensions, and she ridicules Yozio and
the memoirs.

"Yozio" looks at her with loving eyes, and with great affection on his
pimpled face, and says with a protest,--

"As to the memoirs, I beg pardon greatly."

They drove away about sundown. There were long shadows from the trees;
the sun was large and red. The distant aqueducts and the Alban hills
were gleaming in rose-color. They were halfway when the "Angelus" was
sounded in the tower of St. Paul's, and immediately after were heard a
second, a third, a tenth. Each church gave the signal to the succeeding
one; and such a mighty chorus was formed as if the whole air were
ringing, as if the "Angelus" had been sounded not merely by the city,
but the whole region, the plains, and the mountains.

Pan Stanislav looked on Marynia's face, lighted by the golden gleams.
There was great calm in it and attention. It was evident that she
was repeating the "Angelus" now, as she had repeated it in Kremen,
when it was sounded in Vantory. Always and everywhere the same. Pan
Stanislav remembered again the "service of God." It seemed to him more
simple and pacifying than ever. But now, while approaching the city,
he understood the permanence, the vitality, the immensity, of those
beliefs. "All this," thought he, "has endured thus for a thousand and a
half of years; and the strength and certainty of this city is only in
those towers, those bells, that permanence of the cross, which endures
and endures." Again Svirski's words came to him: "Here a ruin, on
the Palatine a ruin, in the Forum a ruin, but over the city crosses,
crosses, crosses and crosses." It seemed to him beyond a doubt that in
that very permanence there is something superhuman. Meanwhile the bells
sounded, and the heavens above the city were covered with twilight.
Under the impression produced by the praying Marynia, and the bells,
and that vesper feeling, which seemed to hover over the city and the
whole land, the following thought began to take form in Pan Stanislav,
who had much mental directness: "What an idiot and vain fool should I
be, in view of the needs of faith and that feeling of God, were I to
seek some special forms of love and reverence of my own, instead of
accepting those which Marynia calls 'service of God,' and which still
must be the best, since the world has lived nearly two thousand years
in them!" Then the reasoning side of this thought struck him as a
practical man, and he continued to himself, almost joyously: "On one
side the traditions of a thousand years, the life of God knows how many
generations and how many societies, for which there was and is delight
in those forms, the authority for God knows how many persons who
consider them as the only forms; on the other side, who? I, a partner
in the commission house of Bigiel and Polanyetski; and I had the
pretension to think out something better into which the Lord God would
fit Himself more conveniently. For this it is needful at least to be a
fool! I, besides, am a man sincere with myself; and I could not endure
it if from time to time the thought came to me,--I am a fool. But my
mother believed in this, and my wife believes; and I have never seen
greater peace in any one than in them."

Here he looked at Marynia once and a second time; she had finished
evidently her "Angelus," for she smiled at him in answer, and
inquired,--

"Why so silent?"

"We are all silent," he answered.

And so it was, but for various reasons. While Pan Stanislav was
occupied with his thoughts, Pani Osnovski attacked him a number of
times with her eyes and her words. He answered her words with something
disconnected, and did not notice her glances in any way. He simply
offended her: she might have forgiven him, she might have been pleased
even, if to her statement that she wished to be a nun, he had answered
with impudence concealed in polished words; but he wounded her mortally
when he ceased to notice her, and in punishment she ceased also to
notice him.

But as a person of good breeding she became all the politer to Marynia.
She inquired touching her plans on the following day; and, learning
that they were to be at the Vatican, she announced that she and her
husband had tickets of admission, and would use the opportunity also.

"You know the dress?" inquired she. "A black robe, and black lace on
the head. One looks a little old in them, but no matter."

"I know; Pan Svirski forewarned me," answered Marynia.

"Pan Svirski always talks of you to me when I am sitting to him. He has
great regard for you."

"And I for him."

During this conversation they arrived at the hotel. Pan Stanislav
received such a slight and cool pressure of the hand from the fair lady
that, though his head was occupied with something else, he noticed it.

"Is that a new method," thought he, "or have I said something that
displeased her?"

"What dost thou think of Pani Osnovski?" asked he of Marynia in the
evening.

"I think that Pan Svirski may be right in some measure."

And Pan Stanislav answered: "She is writing at this moment 'memoirs,'
which 'Yozio' considers a masterpiece."

FOOTNOTES:

  [6] River-maiden among the Slavs.

  [7] Thus printed to show her style of Italian.

  [8] A diminutive of Aneta.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Next morning when Marynia came out to her husband he hardly knew her.
Dressed in black, and with a black lace veil on her head, she seemed
taller, more slender, darker, and older. But he was pleased by a
certain solemnity in her which recalled the ceremony of their marriage.
Half an hour later they started. On the road Marynia confessed to fear,
and a beating of the heart. He pacified her playfully, though he, too,
was moved somewhat; and when, after a short drive, they entered the
gigantic half-circle in front of St. Peter's, he felt also that his
pulse was not beating as every day, and, besides, he had a strange
feeling of being smaller than usual. Near the steps, where stood a
number of Swiss guards, arrayed in the splendid uniform invented by
Michael Angelo, they found Svirski, who led them up with a throng of
people, mostly Belgians. Marynia, who was somewhat dazed, did not
know herself when she entered a very spacious hall, in which the
throng was still denser, excepting on a space in the centre, where the
Swiss guards were posted in lines, and kept a broad passage open. The
crowd, among which the French and Flemish languages were to be heard,
whispered in low voices, and turned their heads and eyes toward a
passage, in which, from time to time, appeared, through the adjoining
hall, forms in remarkable costumes, which reminded Pan Stanislav of
galleries in Antwerp or Brussels. It seemed to him that the Middle Ages
were rising from the dead: now it was some knight of those ages, in a
helmet, different indeed from helmets on the ancient portraits, but
with steel on his breast; now a herald in a short red dalmatica, and
with a red cap on his head; at times through the open door appeared
purple cardinals, or violet bishops, ostrich feathers, lace on black
velvet, and heads immensely venerable, white hair and faces, as if
from a sarcophagus. But it was evident that the glances of the throng
were falling on those peculiar dresses and colors and faces, as if, in
passing, that their eyes were waiting for something beyond, something
higher, some other heart; it was clear that in people's minds attention
was fixed as was feeling in their souls, in waiting for a moment which
comes once in a lifetime, and is memorable ever after. Pan Stanislav,
holding Marynia by the hand, so as not to lose her in the throng, felt
that hand tremble from emotion; as to him, in the midst of those silent
crowds and beating hearts, before that historical dignity of former
ages rising from the dead, as it were, in the midst of that attention
and expectation, he felt a second time the wonderful impression of
becoming smaller and smaller, till he was the smallest that he had ever
been in life.

At that moment a low and rather panting voice whispered near them,--

"I have been looking for you, and found you with difficulty. The
ceremony will begin at once, it seems."

But it was not to begin at once. The monsignor acquaintance greeted
Svirski meanwhile, and, speaking a few words to him, conducted the
whole party politely to the adjoining hall, which was fitted in crimson
damask. Pan Stanislav saw with astonishment that this hall, too, was
full of people, with the exception of one end, which was reserved by
a guard of honor, and in which was an armchair on an elevation, and
before it a number of prelates and bishops conversing confidentially.
Here expectation and attention were more expressly visible. It was
evident that people were holding their breath; and all faces had a
solemn, mysterious expression. The azure clearness of the day, mingled
with the purple reflections of the tapestry, filled that hall with a
kind of unusual light, in which the rays of the sun, breaking in here
and there through the window-panes, appeared very ruddy and of a deeper
red.

They waited some time yet; at last, in the first hall a murmur was
heard, then a muttering, then a shout, and, finally, in the open side
door appeared a white figure borne by the noble guard. Marynia's hand
pressed Pan Stanislav's nervously; he returned the pressure; and swift
impressions, merged in one general feeling of the exceptional and
solemn import of the moment, flashed through their minds, as during the
ceremony of their marriage.

One of the cardinals began to speak, but Pan Stanislav neither heard
nor understood what he said. His eyes, his thoughts, his whole soul,
were with the figure clothed in white. Nothing in it escaped his
attention,--its unparalleled emaciation, its frailness, its thinness,
and its face as pale, and at the same time as transparent, as faces of
the dead are. There was in it something which had no physical strength,
or in every case it seemed to him simply half body, half apparition,
as it were, a light shining through alabaster; a spirit, fixed in some
transparent matter; an intermediate link between two worlds; a link
human yet, though already preterhuman, earthly so far, but also above
earthly things. And through a marvellous antithesis the matter in it
seemed to be something apparitional, and the spirit something material.

Afterward, when people began to approach it for a blessing; when Pan
Stanislav saw his Marynia at its feet; when he felt that to those
knees, already half empyrean, one might still incline as to those of a
father,--an emotion surpassing everything seized him; his eyes were as
if mist-covered; never in life had he felt himself such a small grain
of sand, but at the same time he felt himself a grain of sand in which
the grateful heart of a little child was throbbing.

After they had gone out, all were silent. Marynia had eyes as if roused
from sleep; Vaskovski's hands were trembling. Bukatski dragged himself
in to lunch; but, being ill, he could not excite conversation in any
one. Svirski, strange to say, talked little while Marynia was sitting,
and returned continually to the same subject; from time to time he
repeated,--

"Yes, yes; whoever has not seen that can have no conception of it. That
will remain."

In the evening Pan Stanislav and Marynia went to see the sunset from
Trinità dei Monti. The day ended very beautifully. The whole city was
buried in a kind of hazy golden gleam; under their feet, far down
in the valley, on the Piazza di Spagna, darkness was beginning, but
a darkness yet lighted, in the mild tones of which irises and white
lilies were visible among the flowers set out on both sides of the
Via Condotti. In the whole picture there was great and undisturbed
repose,--a kind of soothing announcement of night and sleep. Then the
Piazza di Spagna began to sink more and more in the shade, but the
Trinità was shining continually in purple.

Pan Stanislav and Marynia felt this calmness reflected in themselves;
they descended the giant stairs then with a wonderful feeling of peace
in their souls. All the impressions of the day settled down in them
in lines as great and calm as those twilight belts, which were still
shining above them.

"Knowest thou," said Pan Stanislav, "what I remember yet from
childhood's years? That with us at home they always said the evening
rosary together." And he looked with an inquiring glance into Marynia's
eyes.

"Oh, my Stas!" said she, with a voice trembling from emotion, "I did
not dare to mention this--my best."

"'Service of God,'--dost thou remember?"

But she had said that formerly with such simplicity, and as a thing so
self-evident, that she remembered nothing whatever about it.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


But Pan Stanislav was in permanent disfavor with Pani Osnovski. Meeting
him at Svirski's, between one sitting and another, she spoke to him
only in so far as good breeding and politeness demanded. He saw this
perfectly, and asked himself sometimes, "What does that woman want of
me?" but troubled himself little. He would have troubled himself still
less if "that woman," instead of being eight and twenty, had been eight
and fifty years of age; if she had been without those violet eyes and
those cherry lips. And such is human nature that, in spite of the fact
that he wanted nothing of her, and expected nothing, he could not
refrain from thinking what might happen should he strive really for her
favor, and how far would she be capable of going.

They had another trip of four to the catacombs of St. Calixtus, for
Pan Stanislav wished to repay politeness with politeness,--that is, a
carriage with a carriage. But this trip did not bring reconciliation;
they only conversed so far as not to call attention to themselves.
At last this began to anger Pan Stanislav. In fact, Pani Osnovski's
bearing developed a special relation between them, unpleasant in a way,
but known only to them, hence something between them exclusively,--a
kind of secret, to which no one else was admitted. Pan Stanislav
considered that all this would end with the work on her portrait;
but though the face had been finished some time, there remained many
little details, for which the presence of the charming model was
indispensable. Even for the simple reason that Svirski did not wish
to lose time, it happened that when Pan Stanislav and his wife came,
the Osnovskis were in the studio. Sometimes they stopped a little for
greeting and a short talk touching yesterday's impressions; sometimes
Osnovski was sent by his wife on an errand, or for some news. In that
event he went out first, leaving the carriage for her before the studio.

And it happened once that when Marynia had taken her place for a
sitting, Pani Osnovski had not gone yet; after a while, learning that
Marynia had been at the theatre the evening before, she, while putting
on her hat and gloves before the mirror, inquired about singers and the
opera, then, turning to Pan Stanislav, she said,--

"And now, I pray you, conduct me to the carriage."

She threw on her wrap, and began to look for the ribbons sewn behind
to the lining, so as to fasten it around her waist, but she stopped
suddenly at the entrance,--

"I cannot find the ribbons because I have my gloves on; take pity on
me."

Pan Stanislav had to look for the ribbons, but in doing so he was
forced to put his arm almost around her; after a moment the brewing of
desire poured about him, all the more since she bent toward him, and
the warmth of her face and body struck him.

"But why are you angry with me?" inquired she, in an undertone; "that
is bad. I am in such need of friendly souls. What have I done to you?"

He found the ribbons, recovered himself, and with that somewhat
coarse satisfaction of a rude man, who desires to use his triumph,
and to signify that he has not yielded, answered simply, with an
impertinence,--

"You have done nothing to me, and you can do nothing."

But she repulsed the impoliteness, as if it were a ball at tennis.

"Because sometimes I notice persons so little that I hardly see them."

They went in silence to the carriage.

"But is it that way?" thought Pan Stanislav, returning to the studio;
"a man might advance there as far as he pleased;" and a quiver passed
through him. "As far as he pleased," repeated he.

Herewith he was not conscious that he had made such a mistake as is
made daily by dozens of men who are lovers of hunting in other men's
grounds. Pani Osnovski was a coquette: she had a dry heart, and her
thought was dishonorable already; but she was hundreds of miles yet
from complete physical fall.

Meanwhile Pan Stanislav returned to the studio feeling that he had made
an immense sacrifice for Marynia, and with a certain regret in his
heart, first, because she would not know what had happened, and second,
if she should know, she would consider his action as perfectly simple.
This feeling angered him; and when he looked at her, at her clear eyes,
her calm face, and her fair, honest beauty, a comparison of those two
women urged itself into his mind in spite of him, and in his soul he
said,--

"Ah, Marynia! such as she would rather sink through the earth; of her
it is possible to be certain."

And--singular thing--there was in this an undoubted recognition, but
there was also a shade of regret, and as it were, of irritation, that
that was a woman so greatly his own that he did not feel bound to a
continual admiration of her worthiness.

And for the rest of the sitting he turned his thought to Pani Osnovski.
He supposed that in future she would simply cease to give her hand to
him, and it turned out that he was mistaken again. On the contrary,
wishing to show that she attached no importance to him or to his words,
she was more polite to him than hitherto. Pan Osnovski, however, had an
offended look, and became more and more icy every day toward him. This
was caused, undoubtedly, by conversations with "Anetka."

A few days later, however, impressions of another sort effaced that
adventure from Pan Stanislav's mind. Bukatski had long been ill; he
complained more and more of a pain in the back of his head, and a
strange feeling of separating from his own muscles. His humor revived
still at moments, but it shot up and went out like fireworks. He came
to the _table d'hôte_ more rarely. At last Pan Stanislav received his
card one morning; on it these words were written with a very uncertain
hand,--

     MY DEAR,--After to-night it seems that I am about to get
     on horseback. If thou wish to see my departure, come, especially
     in lack of anything better to do.

Pan Stanislav hid the card from Marynia, but went straightway. He found
Bukatski in bed, and a doctor with him, whom Bukatski sent away that
moment.

"Thou hast frightened me terribly," said Pan Stanislav. "What ails
thee?"

"Nothing great,--a little paralysis of the lower part of the body."

"Have the fear of God!"

"Thou speakest wisely, if there were time for it; but now I have no
power in my left arm, in my left leg, and I cannot rise. Thus did I
wake this morning. I thought that I had lost speech, too, and began to
declaim to myself, 'Per me si va;' but, as thou seest, I have not lost
speech. My tongue remained, and now I am trying to find calmness of
thought."

"But art thou sure that it is paralysis? It may be a temporary
numbness."

"What is life?--Ah, only a moment," Bukatski began to declaim; "I
cannot move, and that is the end, or, if thou prefer, the beginning."

"That would be a terrible thing, but I do not believe it; any one may
be benumbed for a time."

"There are moments in life which are somewhat bitter, as the carp said
when the cook was scraping his scales off with a knife. I confess that
at first terror took hold of me. Hast thou ever felt the hair rising
on thy head? It is not to be reckoned altogether among feelings of
delight. But I have recovered my balance, and now, at the end of three
hours, it seems to me that I have lived ten years with my paralysis. It
is a question of habit! as the mushroom said when in the frying-pan.
I am chatting much, for I haven't much time. Dost thou know, my dear
friend, that I shall die in a couple of days?"

"Indeed, thou art chatting! Paralyzed people live thirty years."

"Even forty," answered Bukatski. "Paralysis in that case is a luxury
which some may permit themselves, but not men like me. For a strong
man, who has a good neck, good shoulders, good breast, and proper
legs, it may be even a species of rest, a kind of vacation after a
frolicsome youth, and an opportunity for meditation; but for me! Dost
remember how thou wert laughing at my legs? Well, I tell thee that they
were elephantine at that time if compared with what they are to-day.
It is not true that every man is a clod; I am only a line,--I am not
joking,--and, moreover, a line vanishing _in infinity_."

Pan Stanislav began to shrug his shoulders, to contradict, and to quote
known examples; but Bukatski resisted.

"Stop! I feel and know that in a couple of days paralysis of the brain
will set in. I have been expecting this a whole year, but told no one,
and for a year have been reading books on medicine. A second attack
will come, and that will be final."

Here he was silent, but after a time continued,--

"And, believe me, I do not like this. Think of it: I am as much alone
as a finger cut off from its hand; I have no one. Here, and even
in Warsaw, only people who are paid would take care of me. Life is
terribly wretched when a man is without power of movement, and without
a living soul who is related. When I lose speech, as I have lost power
of motion, any woman in attendance, or any man, may strike me on the
face as much as she or he pleases. But thou must know one thing. I
feared paralysis at the first moment; but in my weak body there is a
brave spirit. Remember what I said to thee,--that I fear not death; and
I do not fear it."

Here there gleamed in Bukatski's eyes a certain pale reflection of
daring and energy, hidden somewhere in the bottom of that disjointed
and softened soul.

But Pan Stanislav, who had a good heart, put his hand on the palm
already paralyzed, and said, with great feeling,--

"My Adzia! But do not suppose that we will leave thee thus, desert thee
as thou art; and do not say that thou hast no one. Thou hast me, and
besides me, my wife, and Svirski, Vaskovski, and the Bigiels. For us
thou art not a stranger. I will take thee to Warsaw, I will put thee in
the hospital, and we will care for thee, and no attendant will strike
thee on the face,--first, because I should break the bones of such a
person; secondly, we have Sisters of Charity, and among them is Pani
Emilia."

Bukatski was silent, and grew pale a little; he was more moved than he
wished to show. A shadow passed over his eyes.

"Thou art a good fellow," said he, after a prolonged silence. "Thou
knowest not what a miracle thou hast worked, for thou hast brought it
about that I wish something yet. Yes; I should like wonderfully to go
to Warsaw, to be among you all. I should be immensely pleased there."

"Here thou must go at once to some hospital, and be under constant
care. Svirski must know where the best one is. Yield thyself to me,
wilt thou? Let me arrange for thee."

"Do what may please thee," answered Bukatski, whom consolation began to
enter now, in view of the new plans and the energy of his friend.

Pan Stanislav wrote to Svirski and to Vaskovski, and sent out
messengers immediately. Half an hour later both appeared, Svirski with
a famous local physician. Before mid-day Bukatski found himself in a
hospital, in a well-lighted and cheerful chamber.

"What a pleasant and warm tone!" said he, looking at the golden color,
and the walls and ceiling. "This is nice." Then, turning to Pan
Stanislav, he said, "Come to me in the evening, but go now to thy wife."

Pan Stanislav took farewell of him, and went out. When he reached
home he told Marynia the whole story cautiously, for he did not wish
to frighten her with sudden news, giving the idea that he was in a
dangerous condition. Marynia begged him to take her to Bukatski, if not
in the evening, in the morning early, which he promised to do. They
went immediately after lunch, for that day there was no sitting in the
studio.

But before they arrived, Vaskovski was there, and he did not leave
Bukatski for a moment. When the patient had settled himself well in the
new bed, the old man told him how once he had thought himself dying,
but after confession and receiving the sacraments, he grew better, as
if by a miracle.

"A well-known method, dear professor," said Bukatski, with a smile; "I
divine what thy object is."

The professor was as confused as if caught in some evil deed, and
crossed his hands.

"I will lay a wager that it would help thee," said he.

Bukatski answered with a gleam of his former humor, "Very well. In a
couple of days I shall convince myself, on the other side of the river,
how much it will help me."

The arrival of Marynia pleased him, all the more that it was
unexpected. He said that he had not thought to see any woman on this
side of the river, and, moreover, one of his own. Therewith he began to
scold them all a little, but with evident emotion.

"What sentimentalists they are!" said he. "It is simply a judgment to
be occupied with such a skeleton grandfather as I am. Ye will never
have reason. What is this for? What good in it? See, even before
death, I am forced to be grateful; and I am sincerely, very sincerely
grateful."

But Marynia did not let him talk about death; on the contrary, she
said with great firmness that he must go to Warsaw, and be among his
friends. She spoke of this as a thing the execution of which was not
subject to the least doubt, and she succeeded gradually in convincing
Bukatski of it. She told him how to prepare, and at last he listened
to her eagerly. His thoughts passed into a certain condition of
yielding, in which they let themselves be led. He felt like a child,
and, besides, a poor child.

That same day Osnovski visited him, and also showed as much interest
and feeling as if he had been his own brother. Bukatski had out and
out not expected all this, and had not counted on anything similar.
Therefore, when later in the evening Pan Stanislav came a second time,
and no others were present, he said to him,--

"I tell thee sincerely that never have I felt with such clearness that
I made life a stupid farce, that I have wasted it like a dog." And soon
after he added, "And if I had found a real pleasure in that method by
which I was living; but I had not even that satisfaction. How stupid
is our epoch! A man makes two of himself; all that is best in him he
hides away, shuts in somewhere in corners, and becomes a kind of ape.
He rather persuades himself of the uselessness of life than feels it.
How wonderful this is! One thing consoles me,--that in truth death is
the only thing real in life, though, on the other hand, this again is
not a reason why, before it comes, we should say of it as a fool says
of wine, that it is vinegar."

"My dear friend," answered Pan Stanislav, "thou hast always tortured
thyself with this endless winding of thought around some bobbin. Do not
do that at present."

"Thou art right. But I am unable not to think that while I was walking
around and was well in a fashion, I jeered at life; and now--I tell
thee as a secret--I want to live longer."

"Thou wilt live longer."

"Give use peace. Thy wife was persuading me of that, but now again
I do not believe it. And it is painful to me,--I have thrown myself
away. But hear why I wanted to speak with thee. I know not whether any
account is waiting for me; I say sincerely that I know not, but still I
feel a kind of strange alarm, as if I were afraid. And I will tell thee
something: during life I did nothing for my fellows, and I was able! I
was able! In presence of this thought fear seizes me; I give thee my
word! That is an unworthy thing. I did nothing; I ate bread without
paying for it, and now--death. If there are any whips beyond, and if
they are waiting for me, it is to punish that; and listen, Stas, it is
painful to me."

Here, although he spoke with the careless tone usual to him, his face
expressed real dread, his lips grew pale somewhat, and on his forehead
drops of sweat appeared.

"But stop!" said Pan Stanislav; "see what comes to his head. Thou art
injuring thyself."

But Bukatski spoke on: "Listen! wait! I have property which is rather
considerable; let even that do something for me. I will leave thee a
part of it, and do thou use the remainder for something useful. Thou
art practical, so is Bigiel. Think of something, thou and he, for I do
not believe that I shall have time. Wilt thou do this?"

"That, and thy every wish."

"I thank thee. How wonderful are fears and reproaches of this kind!
And still I cannot escape a feeling of guilt. The conditions are such
that I am not right! One should do something honorable even just before
death. But it is no joke,--death. If that were something visible, but
it is so dark. And one must decay, corrupt, and rot _in the dark_. Art
thou a believer?"

"Yes."

"But I, neither yes nor no. I amused myself with Nirvana, as with other
things. Dost thou know, were it not for the feeling of guilt, I should
be more at rest? I had no idea that this would pain me so; I have the
impression that I am a bee which has robbed its hive, and that is a low
thing. But at least my property will remain after me. This is true,
is it not? I have spent a little, but very little, on pictures, which
will remain, too; isn't this true? But now, how I should like to live
longer, even a year, even long enough not to die here!"

He meditated a while, and then said,--

"I understand one thing now: life may be bad, for a man may order it
foolishly; but existence is good."

Pan Stanislav went away late in the night. Through the following
week the health of the patient was wavering. The doctors were unable
to foresee anything; they judged, however, that a journey was not
dangerous in any case. Svirski and Vaskovski volunteered to go to
Warsaw with the sick man, who was yearning for home more and more, and
who mentioned Pani Emilia, the Sister of Charity, almost daily. But on
the eve of the day on which he was to go he lost speech suddenly. Pan
Stanislav's heart was bleeding when he looked at his eyes, in which at
moments a terrible alarm was depicted, and at moments a kind of great,
silent prayer. He tried to write, but could not. In the evening came
paralysis of the brain, and he died.

They buried him in the Campo Santo temporarily. Pan Stanislav thought
that his looks uttered a prayer to be carried to his own country, and
Svirski confirmed that thought.

Thus vanished that bubble which gleamed sometimes with the colors of
the rainbow, but was as empty and evanescent as any bubble.

Pan Stanislav was sincerely afflicted by his death, and meditated
afterward for whole hours on that strange life. He did not share these
thoughts with Marynia, for somehow it had not become a custom with him
yet to confide to her anything that took place in his mind. Finally, as
happens often with people who are thinking of the dead, he drew from
these thoughts various conclusions to his own advantage.

"Bukatski," said he to himself, "was never able to come to harmony with
his own mind: he lacked the understanding of life; he could not fix his
position in that forest, and he travelled always according to the fancy
of the moment. But if he had felt contented with that system, if he had
squeezed something out of life, I should own that he had sense. But it
was unpleasant for him. It is really a foolish thing to persuade one's
self, before death comes, that wine is vinegar. But I look at matters
more clearly, and, besides, I have been far more sincere with myself.
Happen what may, I am almost perfectly in order with God and with life."

There was truth in this, but there was also illusion. Pan Stanislav
was not in order with his own wife. He judged that if he gave her
protection, bread, good treatment, and put kisses on her lips from
time to time, he was discharging all possible duties assumed with
regard to her. Meanwhile their relations began to be more definitely
of this sort,--that he only deigned to love and receive love. In
the course of his observations of life this strange phenomenon had
struck him more than once,--that when, for example, a man well-known
for honor does some noble deed, people wave their hands as if with a
certain indifference, saying, "Oh, that is Pan X----; from him this is
perfectly natural!" When, however, some rogue chanced to do something
honorable, these same people said with great recognition, "But there is
something in the man." A hundred times Pan Stanislav observed that a
copper from a miser made more impression than a ducat from a generous
giver. He did not notice, however, that with Marynia he followed the
same method of judgment and recognition. She gave him all her being,
all her soul. "Ah, Marynia! that is natural!" and he waved his hand
too. Had her love not been so generous, had it come to him with supreme
difficulty, with the conviction that it was a treasure, and given as
such, with the conviction that she was a divinity demanding a bowed
head and honor, Pan Stanislav would have received it with a bowed head,
and would have rendered the honor. Such is the general human heart; and
only the choicest natures, woven from rays, have power to rise above
this level. Marynia had given Pan Stanislav her love as his right.
She considered his love as happiness, and he gave it as happiness; he
felt himself the idol on the altar. One ray of his fell on the heart
of the woman and illumined it: the divinity kept the rest of the rays
for itself; taking all, it gave only a part. In his love there was not
that fear which flows from honor, and there was not that which in every
fondling says to the woman beloved, "at thy feet."

But they did not understand this yet, either of them.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


"I do not ask if thou art happy," said Bigiel to Pan Stanislav after
his return to Warsaw; "with such a person as thy wife it is not
possible to be unhappy."

"True," answered Pan Stanislav; "Marynia is such an honest little woman
that it would be hard to find a better." Then, turning to Pani Bigiel,
he said,--

"We are both happy, and it cannot be otherwise. You remember, dear
lady, our former conversations about love and marriage? You remember
how I feared to meet a woman who would try to hide the world from her
husband with herself, to occupy all his thoughts, all his feelings, to
be the single object of his life? You remember how I proved to you and
Pani Emilia that love for a woman could not and should not in any case
be for a man everything; that beyond it there are other questions in
the world?"

"Yes; but I remember also how I told you that domestic occupations do
not hinder me in any way from loving my children; for I know in some
fashion, as it seems to me, that these things are not like boxes, for
example, of which, when you have put a certain number on a table, there
is no room for others."

"My wife is right now," said Bigiel. "I have noticed that people often
deceive themselves when they transfer feelings or ideas into material
conditions. When it is a question of feelings or ideas, space is not to
be considered."

"Oh, stop! Thou art conquered to the country," said Pan Stanislav,
humorously.

"But if the position is pleasant for me?" said Bigiel, promptly.
"Moreover, thou, too, wilt be conquered."

"I?"

"Yes; with honesty, kindness, and heart."

"That is something different. It is possible to be conquered, and not
be a slipper. Do not hinder me in praising Marynia; I have succeeded in
a way that could not be improved, and specially for this reason,--that
she is satisfied with the feeling which I have for her, and has no
wish to be my exclusive idol. For this I love her. God has guarded me
from a wife demanding devotion of the whole soul, whole mind, whole
existence; and I thank Him sincerely, since I could not endure such a
woman. I understand more easily that all may be given of free will, and
when not demanded."

"Believe me, Pan Stanislav," answered Pani Bigiel, "that in this regard
we are all equally demanding; but at first we take frequently that part
for the whole which they give us, and then--"

"And then what?" interrupted Pan Stanislav, rather jokingly.

"Then those who have real honesty in their hearts attain to something
which for you is a word without meaning, but for us is often life's
basis."

"What kind of talisman is that?"

"Resignation."

Pan Stanislav laughed, and added, "The late Bukatski used to say that
women put on resignation frequently, as they do a hat, because it
becomes them. A resignation hat, a veil of light melancholy,--are they
ugly?"

"No, not ugly. Say what you please; they may be a dress, but in such a
dress it is easier to reach heaven than in another."

"Then my Marynia is condemned to hell, for she will never wear that
dress, I think. But you will see her in a moment, for she promised to
come here after office hours. She is late, the loiterer; she ought to
be here now."

"Her father is detaining her, I suppose. But you will stay to dine with
us, will you not?"

"We will stay to dine. Agreed."

"And some one else has promised us to-day, so the society will only be
increased. I will go now to tell them to prepare places for you."

Pani Bigiel went out; but Pan Stanislav asked Bigiel,--

"Whom hast thou at dinner?"

"Zavilovski, the future letter-writer of our house."

"Who is he?"

"That poet already famous."

"From Parnassus to the desk? How is that?"

"I do not remember, now, who said that society keeps its geniuses on
diet. People say that this man is immensely capable, but he cannot earn
bread with verses. Our Tsiskovski went to the insurance company; his
place was left vacant, and Zavilovski applied. I had some scruples,
but he told me that for him this place was a question of bread, and
the chance of working. Besides, he pleased me, for he told me at
once that he writes in three languages, but speaks well in none of
them; and second, that he has not the least conception of mercantile
correspondence."

"Oh, that is nonsense," answered Pan Stanislav; "he will learn in a
week. But will he keep the place long, and will not the correspondence
be neglected? Business with a poet!"

"If he is not right, we will part. But when he applied, I chose to
give the place to him. In three days he is to begin. Meanwhile, I have
advanced a month's salary; he needed it."

"Was he destitute?"

"It seems so. There is an old Zavilovski,--that one who has a daughter,
a very wealthy man. I asked our Zavilovski if that was a relative of
his; he said not, but blushed, so I think that the old man is his
relative. But how it is with us? A balance in nothing. Some deny
relationship because they are poor; others, because they are rich.
All through some fancy, and because of that rascally pride. But he'll
please thee; he pleased my wife."

"Who pleased thy wife?" asked Pani Bigiel, coming in.

"Zavilovski."

"For I read his beautiful verses entitled, 'On the Threshold.' At the
same time he looks as if he were hiding something from people."

"He is hiding poverty, or rather, poverty was hiding him."

"No; he looks as if he had passed through some severe disappointment."

"Thou wert able to see in him a romance, and to tell me that he had
suffered much. Thou wert offended when I put forth the hypothesis
that it might be from worms in childhood, or scald-head. That was not
poetical enough for her."

Pan Stanislav looked at his watch, and was a little impatient.

"Marynia is not coming," said he; "what a loiterer!"

But the "loiterer" came at that moment, or rather, drove up. The
greeting was not effusive, for she had seen the Bigiels at the railway.
Pan Stanislav told his wife that they would stay to dine, to which she
agreed willingly, and fell to greeting the children, who rushed into
the room in a swarm.

Now came Zavilovski, whom Bigiel presented to Pan Stanislav and
Marynia. He was a man still young,--about seven or eight and twenty.
Pan Stanislav, looking at him, considered that in every case his mien
was not that of a man who had suffered much; he was merely ill at
ease in a society with which he was more than half unacquainted. He
had a nervous face, and a chin projecting prominently, like Wagner's,
gladsome gray eyes, and a very delicate forehead, whiter than the rest
of his face; on his forehead large veins formed the letter _Y_. He was,
besides, rather tall and somewhat awkward.

"I have heard," said Pan Stanislav to him, "that in three days you will
be our associate."

"Yes, Pan Principal," answered the young man; "or rather, I shall serve
in the office."

"But give peace to the 'principal,'" said Pan Stanislav, laughing.
"With us it is not the custom to use the words 'grace,' or 'principal'
unless perchance such a title would please my wife by giving her
importance in her own eyes. But listen, Pani Principal_ess_," said he,
turning to Marynia, "would it please thee to be called principal_ess_?
It would be a new amusement."

Zavilovski was confused; but he laughed too, when Marynia answered,--

"No; for it seems to me that a principal_ess_ ought to wear an enormous
cap like this" (here she showed with her hands how big), "and I cannot
endure caps."

It grew pleasanter for Zavilovski in the joyous kindness of those
people; but he was confused again when Marynia said,--

"You are an old acquaintance of mine. I have read nothing of late, for
we have just returned home; has anything appeared while we were gone?"

"No, Pani," answered he; "I occupy myself with that as Pan Bigiel does
with music,--in free moments, and for my own amusement."

"I do not believe this," said Marynia.

And she was right not to believe, for it was not true at all.
Zavilovksi's reply was lacking also in candor, for he wished to let it
be known that he desired beyond all to pass as the correspondent of
a commercial house, and to be considered an employee, not a poet. He
gave a title to Bigiel and Pan Stanislav, not through any feeling of
inferiority, but to show that when he had undertaken office work he
considered it as good as any other, that he accommodated himself to
his position, and would do so in the future. There was in this also
something else. Zavilovski, though young, had observed how ridiculous
people are, who, when they have written one or two little poems, pose
as seers, and insist on being considered such. His great self-esteem
trembled before the fear of the ridiculous; hence he fell into the
opposite extreme, and was almost ashamed of his poetry. Recently, when
suffering great want, this feeling became almost a deformity, and the
least reference by any one to the fact that he was a poet brought him
to suppressed anger.

But meanwhile he felt that he was illogical, since for him the simplest
thing would have been not to write and publish poems; but he could not
refrain. His head was not surrounded with an aureole yet, but a few
gleams had touched it; these illuminated his forehead at one moment,
and then died, in proportion as he created, or neglected. After each
new poem the gleam began again to quiver; and Zavilovski, as capable
as he was ambitious, valued in his heart those reflections of glory
more than aught else on earth. But he wanted people to talk of him
only among themselves, and not to his eyes. When he felt that they
were beginning to forget him, he suffered secretly. There was in him,
as it were, a dualism of self-love, which wanted glory, and at the
same time rejected it through a certain shyness and pride, lest some
one might say that too much had been given. And many contradictions
besides inhered in him, as a man young and impressionable, who takes
in and feels exceptionally, and who, amidst his feelings, is not able
frequently to distinguish his own personal _I_. For this reason it is
that artists in general seem often unnatural.

Now came dinner, during which conversation turned on Italy, and people
whom the Polanyetskis had met there. Pan Stanislav spoke of Bukatski
and his last moments, and also of the dead man's will, by which he
became the heir to a fairly large sum of money. By far the greater
part was to be used for public objects, and touching this he had to
confer with Bigiel. They loved Bukatski, and remembered him with
sympathy. Pani Bigiel had even tears in her eyes when Marynia stated
that before death he had confessed; and that he died like a Christian.
But this sympathy was of the kind that one might eat dinner with; and
if Bukatski had, in truth, sighed sometimes for Nirvana, he had what
he wanted at present, since he had become for people, even those near
him, and who loved him, a memory as slight as it was unenduring. A week
longer, a month, or a year, and his name would be a sound without an
echo. He had not earned, in fact, the deep love of any one, and had not
received it; his life flowed away from him in such fashion that after
even a child like Litka, there remained not only a hundred times more
sorrow, but also love and memorable traces. His life roused at first
the curiosity of Zavilovski, who had not known him; but when he had
heard all that Pan Stanislav narrated, he said, after thinking a while,
"An additional copy." Bukatski, who joked at everything, would have
been pained by such an epitaph.

Marynia, wishing to give a more cheerful turn to conversation, began to
tell of the excursions they had made in Rome and the environs, either
alone, with Svirski, or the Osnovskis. Bigiel, who was a classmate of
Osnovski, and who from time to time saw him yet, said,--

"He has one love,--his wife; and one hatred,--his corpulence, or
rather, his inclination to it. As to other things, he is the best man
on earth."

"But he seems quite slender," said Marynia.

"Two years ago he was almost fat; but since he began to use a bicycle,
fence, follow the Banting system, drink Karlsbad in summer, and go
in winter to Italy or Egypt to perspire, he has made himself slender
again. But I have not said truly that he has a hatred for corpulence;
it is his wife who has, and he does this through regard for her. He
dances whole nights, too, at balls, for the same reason."

"He is a _sclavus saltans_," said Pan Stanislav. "Svirski has told us
of this already."

"I understand that it is possible to love a wife," said Bigiel; "it is
possible to consider her, according to the saying, as the apple of the
eye. Very well! But, as I love God, I have heard that he writes verses
to his wife; that he opens books with his eyes closed, marks a verse
with his finger, and divines to himself from what he reads whether he
is loved. If it comes out badly, he falls into melancholy. He is in
love like a student,--counts all her glances, strives to divine what
this or that word is to mean, kisses not only her feet and hands, but
when he thinks that no one is looking, he kisses her gloves. God knows
what it is like! and that for whole years."

"How much in love!" said Marynia.

"Would it be to thy liking were I such?" asked Pan Stanislav.

She thought a while, and answered, "No; for in that case thou wouldst
be another man."

"Oh, that is a Machiavelli," said Bigiel. "It would be worth while to
write down such an answer, for that is at once a praise, and somewhat
of a criticism,--a testimony that as it is, is best, and that it
would be possible to wish for something still better. Manage this for
thyself, man."

"I take it for praise," said Pan Stanislav, "though you" (here he
turned to Pani Bigiel), "will say surely that it is resignation."

"The outside is love," answered Pani Bigiel, laughing; "resignation may
come in time, as lining, if cold comes."

Zavilovski looked on Marynia with curiosity; she seemed to him comely,
sympathetic, and her answer arrested his attention. He thought,
however, that only a woman could speak so who was greatly in love, and
one for whom there was never enough of feeling. He began to look at Pan
Stanislav with a certain jealousy; and because he was a great hermit,
the words of the song came at once to his head, "My neighbor has a
darling wife."

Meanwhile, since he had been silent a whole hour, or had spoken a
couple of words merely, it seemed to him that he ought to engage in
the conversation somehow. But timidity restrained him, and, besides, a
toothache, which, when the sharpest pain had passed, was felt yet at
moments acutely enough. This pain had taken all his courage; but he
rallied finally, and asked,--

"But Pani Osnovski?"

"Pani Osnovski," said Pan Stanislav, "has a husband who loves for two;
therefore she has no need to fatigue herself, so Svirski, at least,
insists. She has Chinese eyes; she is Aneta by name; has filling in
her upper teeth, which is visible when she laughs much, therefore she
prefers to smile; in general, she is like a turtle-dove,--she turns in
a circle, and cries, 'Sugar! sugar!'"

"That is a malicious man," said Marynia. "She is beautiful, lively,
witty; and Pan Svirski cannot know how much she loves her husband,
for surely he hasn't mentioned the matter to her. All these are simply
suppositions."

Pan Stanislav thought two things: first, that they were not
suppositions; and second, that he had a wife who was as naïve as she
was honest.

But Zavilovski said,--

"I am curious to know what would happen were she as much in love with
him as he is with her."

"It would be the greatest double egotism that the world has ever
witnessed," said Pan Stanislav. "They would be so occupied with each
other that they would see no other thing or person on earth."

Zavilovski smiled, and said, "Light does not prevent heat; it produces
it."

"Taking matters strictly, that is rather a poetical than a physical
comparison," said Pan Stanislav.

But Zavilovski's answer pleased the two ladies, so both supported him
ardently; and when Bigiel joined them, Pan Stanislav was outvoted.

After that they talked of Mashko and his wife. Bigiel said that Mashko
had taken up an immense case against Panna Ploshovski's million-ruble
will, in which a number of rather distant heirs appeared. Pan Plavitski
had written of this to Marynia while she was in Italy; but, considering
the whole affair such an illusion as were aforetime the millions
resting on the marl of Kremen, she barely mentioned it to her husband,
who waved his hand on the whole question at once. Now, as Mashko had
taken up the affair, it seemed more important. Bigiel supposed that
there must be some informality in the will, and declared that if Mashko
won, he might stand on his feet right away, for he had stipulated
an immense fee for himself. The whole affair roused Pan Stanislav's
curiosity greatly.

"But Mashko has the elasticity of a cat," said he; "he always falls on
his feet."

"And this time thou shouldst pray that he may not break his back,"
answered Bigiel; "for it is a question of no small amount, both for
thee and thy father-in-law. Ploshov alone with all its farms is valued
at seven hundred thousand rubles; and, besides, there is much ready
money."

"That would be wonderful, such unexpected gain!" said Pan Stanislav.

But Marynia heard with pain that her father had indeed appeared among
the other heirs in the suit against the will. "Stas" was for her a rich
man, and she had blind faith that he could make millions if he wished;
her father had an income, and, besides, she had given him the life
annuity from Magyerovka; hence poverty threatened no one. It would have
been pleasant indeed for her to be able to buy Kremen, and take "Stas"
there in summer, but not for money got in this way.

"I am only pained by this," said she, with great animation. "That money
was bequeathed so honestly. It is not right to change the will of the
dead; it is not right to take bread from the poor, or schools. Panna
Ploshovski's brother's son shot himself; it may have been for her a
question of saving his soul, of gaining God's mercy. This breaking of
the will is not right. People should think and feel differently."

She grew even flushed somewhat.

"How determined she is!" said Pan Stanislav.

But she pushed forward her somewhat too wide mouth, and called out with
the expression of a pouting child,--

"But say that I am right, Stas; say that I am right. 'T is thy duty to
say so."

"Without doubt," answered Pan Stanislav; "but Mashko may win the case."

"I wish him to lose it."

"How determined she is!" repeated Pan Stanislav.

"And how honest, what a noble nature!" thought Zavilovski, framing in
his plastic mind conceptions of goodness and nobility in the form of a
woman with dark hair, blue eyes, a lithe form, and mouth a trifle too
wide.

After dinner Bigiel and Pan Stanislav went for a cigar and black
coffee to the office, where they had to hold meanwhile the first
consultation concerning the objects for which Bukatski's property had
been bequeathed. Zavilovski, as a non-smoker, remained with the ladies
in the drawing-roam. Then Marynia, who, as lady principal_ess_, felt
it her duty to give courage to the future employee of the "house,"
approached him, and said,--

"I, as well as Pani Bigiel, wish that we should all consider one
another as members of one great family; therefore I hope that you will
count us too as your good acquaintances."

"With the greatest readiness, if you permit me," answered Zavilovski.
"As it is, I would have testified my respect."

"I made the acquaintance of all the gentlemen in the office only at my
wedding. We went abroad immediately after; but now it will come to a
nearer acquaintance. My husband told me that he should like to have us
meet one week at Pan Bigiel's, and the next week at our house. This is
a very good plan, but I make one condition."

"What is that?" asked Pani Bigiel.

"Not to speak of any mercantile matter at those meetings. There will
be a little music, for I hope that Pan Bigiel will attend to that;
sometimes we'll read something, like 'On the Threshold.'"

"Not in my presence," said Zavilovski, with a forced smile.

"Why not?" inquired she, looking at him with her usual simplicity.
"We have spoken of you more than once in presence of people really
friendly, and thought of you before it came to an acquaintance; and why
should we not all the more now?"

Zavilovski felt wonderfully disarmed. It seemed to him that he had
fallen among exceptional persons, or at least that Pani Polanyetski
was an exceptional woman. The fear, which burned him like fire, that
he might appear ridiculous with his poetry, his over-long neck, and
his pointed elbows, began to decrease. He felt in a manner free in
her presence. He felt that she said nothing for the mere purpose
of talking, or for social reasons, but only that which flowed from
her kindness and sensitiveness. At the same time her face and form
delighted him, as they had delighted Svirski in Venice. And since he
was accustomed to seek forms for all his impressions, he began to seek
them for her too; and he felt that they ought to be not only sincere,
but exquisite, charming, and complete, just as her own beauty was
exquisite and complete. He recognized that he had a theme, and the
artist within him was roused.

She began now to ask with great friendliness about his family
relations; fortunately the appearance of Bigiel and Pan Stanislav in
the drawing-room freed him from more positive answers, which would have
been disagreeable. His father had been a noted gambler and roisterer on
a time, and for a number of years had been suffering in an institution
for the insane.

Music was to interrupt that dangerous conversation. Pan Stanislav had
finished the discussion with Bigiel, who said,--

"That seems to me a perfect project, but it is necessary to think the
matter over yet."

Then, leaning on his violin, he began to meditate really, and said at
last,--

"A wonderful thing! When I play, it is as if there were nothing else in
my head, but that is not true. A certain part of my brain is occupied
with other things; and it is exactly then that the best thoughts come
to me."

Saying this, he sat down, took the violoncello between his knees,
closed his eyes, and began the "Spring Song."

Zavilovski went home that day enchanted with the people and their
simplicity, with the "Spring Song," and especially with Pani
Polanyetski.

She did not even suspect that in time she might enrich poetry with a
new thrill.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


The Mashkos visited the Polanyetskis in a week after their return.
She, in a gray robe, trimmed with marabout feathers of the same color,
looked better than ever before. Inflammation of the eyes, from which
she had suffered formerly, had disappeared. Her face had its usual
indifferent, almost dreamy mildness, but at present this only enhanced
her artistic expression. The former Panna Kraslavski was about five
years older than Marynia; and before marriage the lady looked still
older, but now it seemed as if she had grown young. Her slender form,
really very graceful, was outlined in a closely fitting dress as firmly
as a child's form. It was strange that Pan Stanislav, who did not like
the lady, found in her something attractive, and whenever he looked
at her said to himself, "But there is something in her." Even her
monotonous and somewhat childlike voice had a certain charm for him.
At present he said to himself plainly that she looked exceptionally
charming, and had improved more than Marynia.

Mashko, on his part, had unfolded like a sunflower. Distinction was
just beaming from him; and at her side self-confidence and pride were
softened by affability. It seemed impossible that he could visit all
his lands within one day,--in a word, he _pretended_ more than ever.
But he did not pretend love for his wife, since it was evident from
every look of his that he felt it really. In truth, it would have
been difficult to find a woman who could answer better to his idea
of refinement, good taste, and the elegance of high society. Her
indifference, her, as it were, frozen manner with people, he considered
as something simply unapproachable. She never lost this "distinction"
at any time, even when she was alone with him. And he, as a genuine
parvenu who had won a princess, loved her precisely because she seemed
a princess, and because he possessed her.

Marynia inquired where they had passed the honeymoon. Pani Mashko
answered on "my husband's estate," in such a tone as if that "husband's
estate" had been entailed during twenty generations; wherewith she
added that they were not going abroad till next year, when her husband
would finish certain affairs. Meanwhile they would go again to her
"husband's estate" for the summer months.

"Do you like the country?" inquired Marynia.

"Mamma likes the country," answered Pani Mashko.

"And does Kremen please your mamma?"

"Yes. But the windows in the house are like those in a conservatory. So
many panes!"

"That is somewhat needed," said Marynia; "for when one of those panes
is broken, any glazier of the place can put in a new one, but for large
panes it would be necessary to send to Warsaw."

"My husband says that he will build a new house."

Marynia sighs in secret, and the conversation is changed. Now they
talk of mutual acquaintances. It appears that Pani Mashko had taken
lessons in dancing once, together with "Anetka" Osnovski and her young
relative, Lineta Castelli; that they are well acquainted; that Lineta
is more beautiful than Anetka, and, besides, paints, and has a whole
album of her own poems. Pani Mashko has heard that Anetka has returned
already and that Lineta is to live in the same villa till June together
with her aunt Bronich, "and that will be very pleasant, for they are so
nice."

Pan Stanislav and Mashko make their way to the adjoining room, and talk
over Panna Ploshovski's will.

"I can inform thee that I have sailed out very nearly," said Mashko.
"I was almost over the precipice; but that action put me on my feet,
by this alone, that I began it. For years there has not been such a
one. The question is one of millions. Ploshovski himself was richer
than his aunt; and before he shot himself, he willed his property to
Pani Krovitski's mother, and when she didn't accept it, the whole
fortune went to old Panna Ploshovski. Thou wilt understand now how much
property the woman must have left."

"Bigiel mentioned something like seven hundred thousand rubles."

"Tell thy Bigiel, since he has such love for giving figures, that it
is more than twice that amount. Well, in justice it should be said
that I have strength to save myself, and that it is easier to throw me
into water than to drown me. But I will tell thee something personal.
Knowest thou whom I have to thank for this? Thy father-in-law. Once he
mentioned the affair to me, but I waved my hand at it. Afterward I fell
into the troubles of which I wrote thee. I had a knife at my throat.
Well, three weeks since I chanced to meet Pan Plavitski, who mentioned
among other persons Panna Ploshovski, and invented against her all
that he could utter. Suddenly I slap my forehead. What have I to lose?
Nothing. I ask Vyshynski, clerk of the court, to bring the will to me.
I find informalities,--small ones, but they are there. In a week I have
power of attorney from the heirs, and begin an action. And what shall I
say? At a mere report of the fee which I am to get in case of success,
confidence returns to people, patience returns to my creditors, credit
returns to me, and I am firm. Dost remember? there was a moment when I
was lowering my tone, when through my head were passing village ideas
of living by an ant-like industry, of limiting my style of living.
Folly! That is difficult, my dear. Thou hast reproached me because I
pretend; but with us pretence is needful. To-day I must give myself out
as a man who is as sure of his property as he is of victory."

"Tell me sincerely, is this a good case?"

"How a good case?"

"Simply will it not be needful to pull the matter too much by the ears
against justice?"

"Thou must know that in every case there is something to be said in
its favor, and the honor of an advocate consists just in saying this
something. In the present case the special questions are, who are to
inherit, and is the will so drawn as to stand in law; and it was not I
who made the law."

"Then thou hast hopes of gaining?"

"When it is a question of breaking a will, there are chances almost
always, because generally the attack is conducted with a hundred
times more energy than is the defence. Who will defend against me?
Institutions; that is, bodies unwieldy by nature, of small self-help,
whose representatives have no personal interest in the defence. They
will find an advocate; well! but what will they give him, what can they
give him? As much as is allowed by law; now that advocate will have
more chances of profit in case I win, for that may depend on a personal
bargain between him and me. In general, I tell thee that in legal
actions, as in life, the side wins which has the greater wish to win."

"But public opinion will grind thee into bran, if thou break such
wills. My wife is interested a little, thou seest."

"How a little?" interrupted Mashko. "I shall be a genuine benefactor to
both of you."

"Well, my wife is indignant, and opposed to the whole action."

"Thy wife is an exception."

"Not altogether; it is not to my taste either."

"What's this? Have they made thee a sentimentalist also?"

"My dear friend, we have known each other a long time; use that
language with some other man."

"Well, I will talk of opinions only. To begin with, I tell thee that a
certain unpopularity for a man genuinely _comme il faut_ rather helps
than harms him; second, it is necessary to understand those matters.
People would grind me into bran, as thou hast said, should I lose the
case; but if I win, I shall be considered a strong head--and I shall
win."

After a while he continued, "And from an economical point of view, what
is the question? The money will remain in the country; and, as God
lives, I do not know that it will be put to worse use. By aid of it a
number of sickly children might be reared to imbecility and help dwarf
the race, or a number of seamstresses might get sewing-machines, or a
number of tens of old men and women live a couple of years longer; not
much good could come to the country of that. Those are objects quite
unproductive. We should study political economy some time. Finally, I
will say in brief, that I had the knife at my throat. My first duty is
to secure life to myself, my wife, and my coming family. If thou art
ever in such a position as I was, thou'lt understand me. I chose to
sail out rather than drown; and such a right every man has. My wife, as
I wrote thee, has a considerable income, but almost no property, or, at
least, not much; besides, from that income she allows something to her
father. I have increased the allowance, for he threatened to come here,
and I didn't want that."

"So thou art sure, then, that Pan Kraslavski exists? Thou hast
mentioned him, I remember."

"I have; and for that very reason I make no secret of the matter now.
Besides, I know that people talk to the prejudice of my father-in-law
and my wife, that they relate God knows what; hence I prefer to tell
thee, as a friend, how things are. Pan Kraslavski lives in Bordeaux.
He was an agent in selling sardines, and was earning good money, but
he lost the position, for he took to drinking, and drinks absinthe;
besides, he has created an illegal family. Those ladies send him three
thousand francs yearly; but that sum does not suffice him, and, between
remittance and remittance, need pinches the man. Because of this he
drinks more, and torments those poor women with letters, threatening to
publish in newspapers how they maltreat him; and they treat him better
than he deserves. He wrote to me, too, immediately after my marriage,
begging me to increase his allowance a thousand francs. Of course he
informs me that those women have 'eaten him up;' that he hasn't had
a copper's worth of happiness in life; that their selfishness has
gnawed him, and warns me against them." Here Mashko laughed. "But
the beast has a nobleman's courage. Once, from want, he was going to
sell handbills in the corridor of the theatre; but the authorities
ordered him to don a kind of helmet, and he could not endure that. He
wrote to me as follows: 'All would have gone well, sir, but for the
helmet; when they gave me that, I could not.' He preferred death by
hunger to wearing the helmet! My father-in-law pleases me! I was in
Bordeaux on a time, but forget what manner of helmets are worn by the
venders of handbills; but I should like to see such a helmet. Thou wilt
understand, of course, that I preferred to add the thousand francs,
if I could keep him far away, with his helmet and his absinthe. This
is what pains me, however: people say that even here he was a sort of
tipstaff, or notary; and that is a low fiction, for it is enough to
open the first book on heraldry to see who the Kraslavskis were. Here
connections are known; and the Kraslavskis are in no lack of them. The
man fell; but the family was and is famous. Those ladies have dozens of
relatives who are not so and so; and if I tell this whole story, I do
so because I wish thee to know what the truth is."

But the truth touching the Kraslavskis concerned Pan Stanislav little;
so he returned to the ladies, and all the more readily that Zavilovski
had just come. Pan Stanislav had invited the young man to after-dinner
tea, so as to show him photographs brought from Italy. In fact, piles
of them were laid out on the table; but Zavilovski was holding in his
hand the frame containing the photograph of Litka's head, and was so
enchanted that immediately after they made him acquainted with Mashko,
he looked again at the portrait, and continued to speak of it.

"I should have thought it the idea of an artist rather than a portrait
of a living child. What a wonderful head! What an expression! Is this
your sister?"

"No," answered Marynia; "that is a child no longer living."

In the eyes of Zavilovski, as a poet, that tragic shadow increased his
sympathy and admiration for that truly angelic face. He looked at the
photograph for some time in silence, now holding it away from his eyes,
and now drawing it nearer.

"I asked if it was your sister," said he, "because there is something
in the features, in the eyes rather; indeed, there is something."

Zavilovski seemed to speak sincerely; but Pan Stanislav had such a
respect for the dead child, a respect almost religious, that, in spite
of his recognition of Marynia's beauty, the comparison seemed to him
a kind of profanation. Hence, taking the photograph from Zavilovski's
hands, he put it back on the table, and began to speak with a certain
harsh animation,--

"Not the least; not the least! There is not one trait in common. How is
it possible to compare them! Not one trait in common."

This animation touched Marynia somewhat.

"I am of that opinion, too," said she.

But her opinion was not enough for him.

"Did you know Litka?" asked he, turning to Pani Mashko.

"I did."

"True; you saw her at the Bigiels'."

"I did."

"Well, there wasn't a trace of likeness, was there?"

"No."

Zavilovski, who adored Marynia, looked at Pan Stanislav with a certain
astonishment; then he glanced at the tall form of Pani Mashko, outlined
through the gray robe, and thought,--

"How elegant she is!"

After a while the Mashkos rose to take farewell. Mashko, when kissing
Marynia's hand at parting, said,--

"Perhaps I shall go to St. Petersburg soon; at that time remember my
wife a little."

During tea Marynia reminded Zavilovski of his promise to bring at his
first visit, and read to her, the variant of "On the Threshold;" he had
grown so attached to the Polanyetskis already that he gave not only the
variant, but another poem, which he had written earlier. It was evident
that he was amazed himself at his own self-confidence and readiness; so
that when he had finished reading, and heard the praises, which were
really sincere, he said,--

"I declare truly that with you, after the third meeting, it seems
as though we were acquainted from of old. So true is this that I am
astonished."

Pan Stanislav remembered that once he had said something similar to
Marynia in Kremen; but he received this now as if it included him also.

But Zavilovski had her only in mind; she simply delighted him with her
straightforward kindness, and her face.

"That beast is really capable," said Pan Stanislav, when Zavilovski had
gone. "Hast thou noticed that he is changed a little in the face?"

"He has cut his hair," answered Marynia.

"Ah, ha! and his chin sticks out a trifle more."

Thus speaking, Pan Stanislav rose and began to put away the photographs
on the shelves above the table; finally, he took Litka's portrait, and
said,--

"I will take this to my study."

"But thou hast that one there with the birches, colored."

"True; but I do not want this here so much in view. Every one makes
remarks, and sometimes that angers me. Wilt thou permit?"

"Very well, my Stas," answered Marynia.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


Bigiel persuaded Pan Stanislav emphatically not to extend the house,
and not to throw himself too hurriedly into undertakings of various
sorts. "We have created," said he, "an honorable mercantile firm of a
kind rare in this country; hence we are useful." He maintained that
from gratitude alone they ought to continue a business through which
they had almost doubled their property. At the same time he expressed
the conviction that they would show more sense if at this juncture
specially they managed matters with care and solidly, and that their
first bold speculation, though it had been fortunate, should not only
not entice them to others, but should be the last.

Pan Stanislav agreed that it was necessary to show moderation,
especially in success; but he complained that he could not find a
career in the house, and that he wanted to produce something. He had
common-sense enough not to think yet of a factory on his own capital.
"I do not wish to carry on a small one," said he, "since a large one
producing _en gros_ attracts me, and I have not capital for it; one
with shares, I should be working not for myself, but for others." He
understood, too, that it was not easy to find shareholders among the
local elements, and he did not want strangers; he knew, moreover, that
he could not rouse confidence in them, and that his name alone would
be a hindrance. Bigiel, for whom it was a question of the "house," was
sincerely pleased with this sobriety of view.

In Pan Stanislav was roused still another desire, which is as old as
man,--the desire of possession. After the lucky grain speculation and
the will of Bukatski, he was quite wealthy; but with all his real
sobriety, he had a certain strange feeling that that wealth, consisting
even of the most reliable securities shut up in fire-proof safes, was
just paper, and would remain so till he owned something real, of which
he could say, "This is mine." That strange desire was seizing him with
growing force. For him it was not a question of anything great, but
of some corner of his own, where he might feel at home. He tried to
philosophize over this, and to explain to Bigiel that such a desire
of ownership must be some inborn passion which might be repressed,
but which, in riper age, would appear with new strength. Bigiel
acknowledged that that might be true, and said,--

"That is proper. Thou art married, hence hast the wish to have thy own
hearth, not a hired one; and since thou hast the means, then make such
a hearth for thyself."

Pan Stanislav had been thinking for some time of building a large house
in the city,--a house which would satisfy his desire of ownership,
and also bring income. But one day he noted a bad side in this
practical project,--namely, it had no charm. It is necessary to love
that something of which he said, "It is mine;" and how love a brick
building, in which any one may live who will hire lodgings. At first he
was ashamed of this thought, for it seemed sentimental; but afterward
he said to himself, "No; since I have means, it is not only not
sentimental to use them in a way which will assure satisfaction, but a
proof of judgment." He was more attracted by the thought of a smaller
house in the city, or outside the city,--one in which only he and his
wife would live. But he wanted with it even a piece of land on which
something would grow; he felt, for example, that the sight of trees
growing in his garden or before his house, on his land, would cause him
great pleasure; he was astonished himself that this was so, but it was.
At last he came to the conviction that it would be more agreeable to
have some little place near the city, something in the style of that
summer house which Bigiel owned, but with a piece of land, a piece of
forest, some acres of garden, finally, with grounds, and with a stork's
nest somewhere on an old linden-tree.

"Since I have means to get it, I prefer it to be thus, not
otherwise,--that is, to be beautiful, not ugly," said he.

And he began to consider the affair on every side. He understood that
since it was a question of a nest in which he was to live out his
life, he ought to select with care; hence he did not hurry. Meanwhile
meditation over this occupied all his hours free from counting-house
toil, and caused him real pleasure. Various people learned soon that
Pan Stanislav was seeking to buy with ready money; hence propositions
came from various sides, often strange, but at times attractive.
On occasions he had to drive to villas in the city, or outside it.
Frequently, after his return from the counting-house, or after dinner,
Pan Stanislav shut himself in with plans, with papers, and came out
only in the evening. In those days Marynia had much leisure. She noted
at last that something occupied him unusually, and tried to learn what
it was by questioning; but he answered,--

"My child, when there is a result, I will tell thee; but while I know
nothing, it would be difficult to talk about nothing. That is so
opposed to my nature."

She learned at last what the question was from Pani Bigiel, who had
learned it from her husband, to whose nature it was not repugnant to
speak with his wife about all undertakings and plans for the future.
For Marynia it would have been also immensely agreeable to speak with
her husband of everything, and especially of the chance of a nest.
Her eyes laughed at the very thought of that; but since "Stas's"
disposition stood in the way, she preferred through delicacy not to
inquire.

He had no ill-will in this, but simply it did not occur to him to
initiate her into any affair in which there was a question of money. It
might have been otherwise had she brought him a considerable dower, or
had he been forced to manage her property. In such affairs he was very
scrupulous. But since he was managing only his own, he did not feel
now any more than in his past unmarried years any need of confessing,
especially while nothing was determined. With Bigiel alone did he talk,
because he was accustomed to talk with him of business.

With his wife he spoke of things which, according to him, "pertained to
her;" hence, among other things, of the acquaintances which they should
make. Toward the end of his single life he had been scarcely anywhere;
but he felt that at present he could not act thus. They returned,
therefore, visits to the Mashkos; and on a certain evening they began
to consider whether they ought to visit the Osnovskis, who had returned
from abroad, and would remain in Warsaw till the middle of June.
Marynia said that they ought, because they should see them at Pani
Mashko's; and she wished to make a visit, for she liked Pan Osnovski,
who had moved her sympathy. Pan Stanislav seemed less willing, and
the decision was according to his wish at first; but some days later
the Osnovskis met Marynia and greeted her so cordially, Pani Osnovski
repeated so often, "We Roman women," and both put such emphasis on the
hope of seeing and meeting her, that it was not possible to avoid the
visit.

When the visit was made, politeness was shown first of all to Marynia.
The husband vied with his wife in this regard. Like well-bred people,
they were faultlessly polite to Pan Stanislav, but colder. He
understood that Marynia played the first, and he only the second rôle,
and that irritated him a little. Pan Osnovski, for that matter, had no
need to make an effort in being polite to Marynia; for, feeling that
she had for him earnest sympathy, he repaid her with interest, though,
in general, to act thus was not his habit.

He seemed to her more in love with his wife than ever. It was
evident that his heart beat with more life when he was looking at
her. When speaking to her, he seemed to offer his expressions with a
certain fear, as it were, lest he might offend her with something.
Pan Stanislav looked on with a kind of pity; but the sight was also
touching. In his struggle with corpulence, however, Pan Osnovski had
gained such a crushing victory that his clothing seemed too large for
him. The pimples on his blond face had vanished, and, in general, he
was more presentable than he had been.

But the lady had, as ever, her incomparable, sloping violet eyes,
and thoughts, which, like birds of paradise, were playing in the air
continually.

The Polanyetskis made new acquaintances at the Osnovskis,--namely,
Pani Bronich and her sister's daughter, Panna Castelli; these ladies
had arrived for the "summer carnival" in Warsaw, and were living in
the same villa, which the late Pan Bronich had sold to the Osnovskis,
with the reservation of one pavilion for his wife. Pani Bronich was a
widow after Pan Bronich, whom she mentioned as the last relative of the
Princes Ostrogski, and as the last descendant of Rurik. She was known
in the city also under the title of "Sweetness;" for this name she was
indebted to the fact that, when talking, especially to persons whom she
needed, she became so pleasing that it seemed as if she were speaking
through a lump of sugar held in her mouth. Marvels were told of her
lies. Panna Castelli was the daughter of Pani Bronich's sister, who, in
her day, to the great offence of her family and of society, married an
Italian, a music-teacher, and died in labor, leaving a daughter. When,
a year later, Pan Castelli was drowned at Venice, in the Lido, Pani
Bronich took her niece, and reared her.

Panna Lineta was a beauty, with very regular features, blue eyes,
golden hair, and a complexion too fair, for it was almost like
porcelain. Her eyelids were rather heavy; this gave her a dreamy look,
but that dreaminess might seem also concentration. It might be supposed
that she was a person who led an immensely developed inner life, and
hence bore herself indifferently toward all that surrounded her. If
any man had not come on that idea unaided, he might be sure that Pani
Bronich would help him. Pani Osnovski, who had passed through the
grades of enchantment over her cousin, said of Lineta's eyes, "They are
as deep as lakes." The only question was what is at the bottom; and it
was precisely this secret which gave her charm to the young lady.

The Osnovskis came with the intention of remaining in Warsaw; but Pani
Aneta had not seen Rome in vain. "Art, and art!" said she to Pani
Marynia; "I wish to know of nothing else." Her professed plan was to
open an "Athenian" salon; but her secret one was to become the Beatrice
of some Dante, the Laura of some Petrarch, or, at least, something in
the nature of Vittoria Colonna for some Michael Angelo.

"We have a nice garden with the villa," said she. "The evenings will
be beautiful, and we shall pass them in such Roman and Florentine
conversations. You know" (here she raised her hands to the height
of her shoulders, and began to move them), "the gray hour, a little
twilight, a little moonlight, a few lamps, a few shadows from the
trees; we shall sit and talk in an undertone about everything,--life,
feelings, art. In truth, that is worth more than gossip! My Yozio,
perhaps thou wilt be annoyed; but be not angry, do this for my sake,
and, believe me, it will be very nice."

"But, my Anetka, can I be annoyed by what pleases thee?"

"Especially now, while Lineta is with us; she is an artist in every
drop of her blood."

Here she turned to Lineta. "What fine thread is that head spinning now?
What dost thou say of such Roman evenings?"

Lineta smiled dreamily; and the widow of "Rurik's last descendant"
began to speak, with an expression of indescribable sweetness, to Pan
Stanislav,--

"You do not know that Victor Hugo blessed her when she was yet a little
girl."

"Then did you ladies know Victor Hugo?" asked Marynia.

"We? no! I would not know him for anything in the world; but once, when
we were going through Passy, he stood on a balcony, and I know not
whether through something prophetic, or through inspiration, the moment
he set eyes on Lineta, he raised his hand and blessed her."

"Aunt!" said Panna Castelli.

"When it is true, my child; and what is true, is true! I called at
once to her, 'See, see! he is raising his hand!' and Pan Tsardyn, the
consul, who was sitting on the front seat, saw also that he raised his
hand, and gave a blessing. I tell this freely, for perhaps the Lord God
forgave him his sins, of which he had many, because of this blessing.
He was of such perverse mind; and still, when he saw Lineta, he blessed
her."

There was in the tale this much truth,--those ladies, while going
through Passy, really saw Victor Hugo on a balcony. As to the blessing
which they said he gave Lineta, malicious tongues in Warsaw declared
that he raised his hand because he was yawning at the moment.

Meanwhile Pani Aneta continued,--

"We'll make for ourselves here a little Italy; and should the attempt
fail, next winter we'll escape to the great one. It has entered my head
already to open a house in Rome. Meantime Yozio has bought a number of
nice copies of statues and paintings. That was so worthy on his part,
for he doesn't care much about them; he did this only for me. There
are very good things among them; for Yozio had the wit not to trust
himself, and begged the aid of Pan Svirski. It is a pity that they
are not here; it is a pity, too, that Pan Bukatski died, as it were,
through perversity, for he would have been useful. At times he was very
nice; he had a certain subtlety, snake-like, and that in conversation,
gives life. But" (here she turned to Marynia) "do you know that you
have conquered Pan Svirski utterly? After you had left Rome, he talked
of no one else, and he has begun a Madonna with your features. You'll
become a Fornarina! Evidently you have luck with artists; and when my
Florentine evenings begin, Lineta and I must be careful,--if not, we
shall go to the corner."

But Pani Bronich, casting hostile glances at Marynia, said,--

"If it is a question of faces which make an impression on artists, I'll
tell the company what happened once in Nice."

"Aunt!" interrupted Panna Castelli.

"But if it is true, my child; and what's true, is true! A year ago--no!
two years ago--Oh, how time flies!--"

But Pani Aneta, who had heard more than once, surely, what had happened
at Nice, began to inquire of Marynia,--

"But have you many acquaintances in the world of artists?"

"My husband has," answered Marynia, "I have not; but we know Pan
Zavilovski."

Pani Aneta fell into real enthusiasm at this news. It was her dream
to know Zavilovski, and let "Yozio" say if it was not her dream. Not
long before, she and Lineta had read his verses entitled "Ex imo;"
and Lineta, who, at times, knows how to describe an impression with
one word, as no one else can, said,--what is it that she said so
characteristic?

"That there was in that something bronze-like," added Pani Bronich.

"Yes, something bronze-like; I imagined to myself also Pan Zavilovski
as something cast. How does he look in reality?"

"He is short, fat, fifty years old," said Pan Stanislav, "and has no
hair on his head."

At this the faces of Pani Aneta and Lineta took on such an expression
of disenchantment that Marynia laughed, and said,--

"Do not believe him, ladies; he is malicious, and likes to torment. Pan
Zavilovski is young, somewhat shy, a little like Wagner."

"That means that he has a chin like Punch," added Pan Stanislav.

But Pani Aneta paid no heed to Pan Stanislav's words, and obtained from
Marynia a promise to make her acquainted with Pan Zavilovski, and soon,
"very soon, for summer is at the girdle!"

"We will try to make it pleasant for him among us, and that he
shouldn't be shy; though, if he is a little shy, that is no harm, for
he ought to be, and, like an eagle in a cage, withdraw when people
approach him. But we will come to an understanding with Lineta; she,
too, is wrapped up in herself, and is as mysterious as a sphinx."

"It seems to me that every uncommon soul--" began Aunt Sweetness.

But the Polanyetskis rose to go. In the entrance they met the wonderful
Kopovski, whose shoes the servants were dusting, and who was arranging
meanwhile the hair on his statuesque head, which was as solid as
marble. When outside, Pan Stanislav remarked,--

"He, too, will be useful for their 'Florentine' evenings; he, too, is a
sphinx."

"If he were to stand in a niche," said Marynia. "But what beautiful
women they are!"

"It is a wonderful thing," answered Pan Stanislav, "though Pani
Osnovski is good-looking, I, for example, prefer Pani Mashko as a
beauty. As to Castelli, she is, in truth, beautiful, though too tall.
Hast thou noticed how they speak of her all the time, but she not a
word?"

"She has a very intelligent opinion," answered Marynia, "but is,
perhaps, a little timid, like poor Zavilovski."

"It is necessary to think of arranging for that acquaintance."

But an accident disturbed these plans of making the acquaintance.
Marynia, on the day following this visit, slipped on the stone stairs,
and struck her knee against the step with such violence that she had to
lie in bed several days. Pan Stanislav, on returning from the office,
learned what had happened. Alarmed at first, then pacified by the
doctor, he upbraided his wife rather sharply.

"Thou shouldst remember that it may be a question not of thee alone,"
said he.

She suffered severely from the fall and from these words, which seemed
to her too unsparing; for she considered that with him it should above
all be a question of her, especially as other fears were baseless so
far. Aside from this, he showed great attention; neither on the next
nor the following day did he go to the counting-house, but remained
to take care of her. In the forenoon he read to her; after lunch, he
worked in the adjoining room with open doors, so that she might call
him at any moment. Affected by this care, she thanked him very warmly;
in return he kissed her, and said,--

"My child, it is a simple duty. Thou seest that even strangers inquire
about thee daily."

In fact, strangers did inquire daily. Zavilovski inquired in the
counting-house, "How does the lady feel?" Pani Bigiel came in the
forenoon, and Bigiel in the evening; without going to the chamber of
the sick woman, he played on the piano in the next room to entertain
her. The Mashkos and Pani Bronich left cards twice. Pani Osnovski,
leaving her husband in the carriage below, broke into Marynia a little
by violence, and sat with her about two hours, talking, with her usual
gift of jumping from subject to subject, of Rome, of her intended
evenings, of Svirski, of her husband, of Lineta, and of Zavilovski, who
didn't let her sleep. Toward the end of the visit, she declared that
they ought to say _thou_ to each other, and that she invited Marynia
to give aid in one plan: "that is, not a plan, but a conspiracy;" or,
rather, in a certain thing which had so struck into her head that it
was burning, and burning to such a degree that her whole head was on
fire.

"That Zavilovski has so stuck in my mind that Yozio has begun to be
jealous of him; but in the end of the affair, Yozio, poor fellow,
doesn't know himself what to think. I am sure that he and Lineta are
created for each other,--not Yozio and Lineta, but Zavilovski and
Lineta. That poetry, that poetry! And don't laugh, Marynia; don't think
me moonstruck. Thou dost not know Lineta. She needs some uncommon man.
She wouldn't marry Kopovski for anything, though Kopovski looks like an
archangel. Such a face as Kopovski has, I have never seen in life. In
Italy, perhaps, in some picture, and even then not. Knowest thou what
Lineta says of him?--'C'est un imbécile.' But still she looks at him.
Think how beautiful that would be, if they should become acquainted,
and love, and take each other,--that is, not Kopovski and Lineta,
but Zavilovski and Lineta. That would be a couple! Lineta, with her
aspirations, whom can she find? Where is there a man for her? What we
have seen, that we have seen. I imagine how they would live. It is so
wearisome in the world that when it is possible to have such a plan, it
is worth while to work for it. Moreover, I know that that will succeed
without difficulty, for Aunt Bronich is wringing her hands,--where can
she find a husband for Lineta? I am afraid that I have worn thee out,
and surely I have tormented thee; but it is so nice to talk, especially
when one is making some plan."

In fact, Marynia felt, as it were, a turning of the head after Pani
Aneta had gone. Still when Pan Stanislav came in, she told him of the
plans prepared against Zavilovski, and, laughing a little at the
eagerness of Pani Aneta, said at last,--

"She must have a good heart, and she pleases me; but what an
enthusiast! What is there that doesn't rush through her head?"

"She is impetuous, but no enthusiast," answered Pan Stanislav; "and see
what the difference is,--enthusiasm comes almost always from the warmth
of a good heart, while impetuousness frequently agrees with a dry
heart, and often comes even from this, that the head is hot, and the
heart is asleep."

"Thou hast no liking for Pani Aneta," said Marynia.

Pan Stanislav did not indeed like her; but this time, instead of
confirming or contradicting, he looked at his wife with a certain
curiosity, and that moment her beauty struck him,--her hair flowing
in disorder on the pillow, and her small face coming out of the dark
waves, just like a flower. Her eyes seemed bluer than usual; through
her open mouth was to be seen the row of small white teeth. Pan
Stanislav approached her, and said in an undertone,--

"How beautiful thou art to-day!"

And, bending over her, with changed face, he fell to kissing her eyes
and mouth.

But every kiss moved her, and each movement caused pain. It was
disagreeable, besides, that he had noticed her beauty as if by
accident; his expression of face was distasteful to her, and his
inattention; therefore she turned away her head.

"Stas, do not kiss me so roughly; thou knowest that I am suffering."

Then he stood erect, and said with suppressed anger,--

"True; I beg pardon."

And he went to his room to examine the plan of a certain summer house
with a garden, which had been sent to him that morning.



CHAPTER XL.


But Marynia's illness was not lasting, and a week later she and her
husband were able to visit the Bigiels, who had moved to their summer
residence; for the weather, notwithstanding the early season, was fine,
and in the city summer heats were almost beginning. Zavilovski, who had
grown accustomed to them, went also, taking an immense kite, which he
was to fly in company with Pan Stanislav and the children. The Bigiels,
too, liked Zavilovski, since he was simple, and, except his shyness,
a pleasant man, on occasions even childlike. Pani Bigiel maintained,
moreover, that he had a peculiar head; which was in so far true, that
he had a scar on his eyelid, and that his prominent chin gave him an
expression of energy which was contradicted utterly by his upper face,
which was delicate, almost feminine. At first Pani Bigiel sought in him
an original; but he mastered everything, and therefore himself, too
quickly. He was simply a great enthusiast of unequal temper, because he
was timid; and he was not without hidden pride.

At dinner they mentioned the Osnovskis to him, and the projected
Athenian-Roman-Florentine evenings, Panna Castelli, and the curiosity
which he had roused in the ladies. When he heard this, he said,--

"Oh, it is well to know that; I shall not go there now for anything in
the world."

"You will make their acquaintance first at our house," said Marynia.

"I shall escape from the entrance," said he, clasping his hands.

"Why?" asked Pan Stanislav. "It is needful to have the courage not only
of one's convictions, but of one's verses."

"Evidently," said Pani Bigiel. "What is there to be ashamed of? I
should look people in the eyes boldly and say: I write; yes, I write."

"I write; yes, I write," repeated Zavilovski, raising his head and
laughing.

But Marynia continued: "You will make their acquaintance at our house;
then you will leave your card with them, and after that we will visit
them some evening."

"I cannot hide my head in snow," said he, "because there is none; but
I'll find some place of hiding."

"But if I entreat you greatly?"

"Then I will go," answered Zavilovski, after a while, blushing
slightly; and he looked at her.

Her face, somewhat pale after protracted lying in bed, had become more
delicate, and looked like the face of a maiden of sixteen. She seemed
so wonderful to the young man that he could refuse her nothing.

In the evening, Pan Stanislav was to take him back to the city; but
before that Marynia said to him,--

"Now you must be constrained, for you have not seen Panna Lineta
Castelli; but as soon as you have seen her, you will fall in love."

"I, Pani?" cried Zavilovski, putting his hand on his breast; "I, with
Panna Castelli?"

And there was so much sincerity in his question that he was confused
again; but this time Marynia herself was confused somewhat.

Meantime Pan Stanislav has finished his conversation with Bigiel about
the dangers of investing capital in land, and they drive away. Marynia
remembers how once she returned with her father, Pani Emilia, Litka,
and Pan Stanislav from the Bigiels, in a moonlight night such as this;
how "Pan Stanislav" was in love with her then; how unhappy he was; how
severe she was with him; and her heart begins to beat with pity for
that "Pan Stanislav," who suffered so much on a time. She wants to
nestle up to him and implore pardon for those evil moments of the past;
and but for the presence of Zavilovski, she would do so.

But that old-time Pan Stanislav is sitting there calm and
self-confident at her side, and smoking his cigar. Moreover, she is
his; he has taken her and has her; all is over.

"Of what art thou thinking, Stas?" inquired she.

"Of the business of which I was talking with Bigiel."

And, shaking the ashes from his cigar, he replaced it in his mouth, and
drew so vigorously that a ruddy gleam lighted his mustache and a part
of his face.

Zavilovski, looking at Marynia's face, thought in his young soul that
if she were his wife he would not smoke a cigar, nor think of business
of which he had been talking with Bigiel, but might kneel before her
and adore her on his knees.

And gradually, under the influence of the night and that sweet womanly
face, which he glorified, exaltation possessed him. After a time he
began to declaim, at first in silence, as if to himself, then more
audibly, his verses entitled, "Snows on the Mountains." There was in
that poem, as it were, an immense yearning for something unapproachable
and immaculate. Zavilovski himself did not know when they arrived in
the city, and when lamps began to gleam on both sides of the street. At
Pan Stanislav's house Marynia said,--

"To-morrow, then, to a five o'clock."

"Yes," answered he, kissing her hand.

Marynia was sunk somewhat in revery under the influence of the ride,
the night, and maybe the verses. But from the time of their stay
in Rome, she and her husband had repeated the rosary together. And
after these prayers a great tenderness possessed her suddenly,--as it
were, an influx of feeling, hidden for a time by other impressions.
Approaching him, she put her arms around his neck, and whispered,--

"My Stas, but we feel so pleasant together, do we not?"

He drew her toward him, and answered with a certain careless
boastfulness,--

"But do I complain?"

And it did not occur to him that there was in her question something
like a shade of doubt and sorrow, which she did not like to admit to
her soul, and desired him to calm and convince her.

Next morning in the office Zavilovski gave Pan Stanislav a cutting from
some paper of "Snows on the Mountains;" he read it during dinner, but
with the sound of forks the verses seemed less beautiful than amid the
night stillness and in moonlight.

"Zavilovski told me," said Pan Stanislav, "that a volume would be
issued soon; but he has promised to collect first everything printed in
various journals, and bring it to thee."

"No," said Marynia; "he should keep them for Lineta."

"Ah, they are to meet to-morrow for the first time. Ye wish absolutely
to make an epoch in Zavilovski's life?"

"We do," answered Marynia, with decisiveness. "Aneta astonished me at
first; but why not?"

Indeed, the meeting took place. The Osnovskis, Pani Bronich, and Panna
Castelli came very punctually at five; Zavilovski had come still
earlier, to avoid entering a room in presence of a whole society. But
as it was he was not only frightened, but more awkward than usual,
and never had his legs seemed so long to him. There was, however, a
certain distinction even in his awkwardness; and Pani Aneta was able to
see that. The first scenes of the human comedy began, in which those
ladies, as well-bred persons, guarding against every rudeness and
staring at Zavilovski, did not, however, do anything else; he, feigning
not to see this, was not thinking of anything else than how they were
looking at him and judging him. This caused him great constraint, which
he strove to hide by artificial freedom; he had so much self-love,
however, that he was interested in having the judgment favorable. But
the ladies were so attuned previously that the decision could not be
unfavorable; and even had Zavilovski turned out flat and dull it would
have been taken for wisdom and poetic originality: More indifferent was
the bearing of Lineta, who was somewhat astonished that for the moment,
not she was the sun, and Zavilovski the moon, but the contrary. The
first impression which he made on her was: "What comparison with that
stupid Kopovski!"

And the incomparable, wonderful face of that "stupid" stood before
her eyes as if living; therefore her lids became dreamier still, and
the expression of her face called to mind a sphinx in porcelain more
than ever. She is irritated, however, that Zavilovski turns almost no
attention to her form of a Juno, nor to that something "mysterious and
poetic," which, as Pani Bronich insists, fetters one from the first
glance. She begins to observe him gradually; and, having, besides
her poetic inclination, the sense of social observation developed
powerfully, she sees that he has much expression indeed, but that his
coat fits badly, that he dresses, of course, at a poor tailor's, and
that the pin in his cravat is mauvais genre simply. Meanwhile he casts
occasional glances at Marynia, as the one near and friendly soul, and
converses with Pani Aneta, who considers it as the highest tact not
to mention poetry on first acquaintance, and, knowing that Zavilovski
had passed the early years of his childhood in the country, begins to
chatter about her inclinations for rural life. Her husband prefers
the city always, having his friends and pleasures in the city, but as
to her!--"Oh, I am sincere, and I confess at once that I cannot endure
land management and accounts; for this I have been scolded more than
once. Besides, I am a trifle lazy; therefore I should like work in
which I could be lazy. What should I like, then?"

Here she spreads out her extended fingers so as to count more easily
the occupations which would suit her taste:

"First, I should like to herd geese!"

Zavilovski laughs; she seems to him natural, and, besides, the picture
of Pani Osnovski herding geese amuses him.

Her violet eyes begin to laugh also; and she falls into the tone of a
free and joyous maiden, who talks of everything which runs through her
head.

"And you would like that?" inquires she of Zavilovski.

"Passionately."

"Ah, you see! What else? I should like to be a fisherman. The morning
dawn must be reflected beautifully in the water. Then the damp nets
before the cottage, with films of water between the meshes of the net.
If not a fisherman, I should like to be at least a heron, and meditate
in the water on one leg, or a lapwing in the fields. But no! the
lapwing is a sad kind of bird, as if in mourning."

Here she turned to Panna Castelli,--

"Lineta, what wouldst thou like to be in the country?"

Panna Lineta raised her lids, and answered after a while,--

"A spider-web."

The imagination of Zavilovski as a poet was touched by this answer.
Suddenly a great yellow sweep of stubble stood before his eyes, with
silver threads floating in the calm blue and in the sun.

"Ah, what a pretty picture!" said he.

He looked more carefully at Lineta; and she smiled, as if in
thankfulness that he had felt the beauty of the image.

But at that moment the Bigiels came. Pani Bronich took Zavilovski into
her sphere of influence, and so hemmed him in with her chair that he
had no chance to escape. It was easy to divine the subject of their
dialogue, for Zavilovski raised his eyes from time to time to Lineta,
as if to convince himself that he was looking at that about which he
was hearing. At last, though the conversation was conducted in subdued
tones, those present heard these words, spoken as if through sugar,--

"Do you know that Napoleon--that is, I wanted to say Victor
Hugo--blessed her?"

In general, Zavilovski had heard so many uncommon things that he might
look at Lineta with a certain curiosity. She had been, according to
those narratives, the most marvellous child in the world, always very
gentle, and not strong. At ten years she had been very ill; sea air was
prescribed, and those ladies dwelt a long time on Stromboli.

"The child looked at the volcano, at the sea, and clapped her little
hands, repeating, 'Beautiful, beautiful!' We went there by chance,
wandered in on a hired yacht, without object; it was difficult to stay
long, for that is an empty island. There was no proper place to live
in, and not much to eat; but she, as if with foreknowledge that she
would regain her health there, would not leave for anything. In fact,
in a month, and if not in a month, in two, she began to be herself, and
see what a reed she is."

In fact, Lineta, though shapely and not too large, in stature was
somewhat taller than Pani Aneta. Zavilovski looked at her with growing
interest. Before the guests separated, when he was freed at last from
imprisonment, he approached her, and said,--

"I have never seen a volcano, and I have no idea what impression it may
make."

"I know only Vesuvius," answered she; "but when I saw it there was no
eruption."

"But Stromboli?"

"I do not know it."

"Then I have heard incorrectly, for--your aunt--"

"Yes," answered Lineta, "I don't remember; I was small, I suppose."

And on her face displeasure and confusion were reflected.

Before she took leave, Pani Aneta, without destroying her rôle of
charming prattler, invited Zavilovski for some evening, "without
ceremony and without a dress-coat, for such a spring might be
considered summer, and in summer freedom is the most agreeable. That
such a man as you does not like new acquaintances, I know, but for that
there is a simple remedy: consider us old acquaintances. We are alone
most generally. Lineta reads something, or tells what passes through
her head; and such various things pass through her head that it is
worth while to hear her, especially for a person who beyond others is
in a position to feel and understand her."

Panna Lineta pressed his hand at parting with unusual heartiness, as
if confirming the fact that they could and should understand each
other. Zavilovski, unused to society, was a little dazed by the words,
the rustle of the robes, the eyes of those ladies, and by the odor
of iris which they left behind. He felt besides some weariness, for
that conversation, though free and apparently natural, lacked the
repose which was always found in the words of Pani Polanyetski and
Pani Bigiel. For a time there remained with him the impression of a
disordered dream.

The Bigiels were to stay to dinner. Pan Stanislav therefore kept
Zavilovski. They began to talk of the ladies.

"Well, and Panna Castelli?" asked Marynia.

"They have much imagination," answered Zavilovski, after a moment's
hesitation. "Have you noticed how easy it is for them to speak in
images?"

"But really, what an interesting young lady Lineta is!"

Lineta had not made a great impression on Pan Stanislav; besides, he
was hungry and in a hurry for dinner, so he said somewhat impatiently,--

"What do you see in her? Interesting until she becomes an every-day
subject."

"No; Lineta will not become an every-day person," said Marynia. "Only
those ordinary, simple beings become every-day subjects who know how to
do nothing but love."

To Zavilovski, who looked at her that moment, it seemed that he
detected a shade of sadness. Perhaps, too, she was weak, for her face
had lily tones.

"Are you wearied?" inquired he.

"A little," answered she, smiling.

His young, impressionable heart beat with great sympathy for her. "She
is in truth a lily," thought he; and in comparison with her sweet charm
Pani Osnovski stood before him as a chattering nut-cracker, and Panna
Castelli as the inanimate head of a statue. At first, after sight of
Marynia, he was dreaming of a woman like her; this evening he began to
dream, not of one like her, but of her. And since he was quickly aware
of everything that happened in him, he noticed that she was beginning
to be a "field flower," but a beloved one.

Pan Stanislav, meeting him next day in the counting-room, asked,--

"Well, did the dreamy queen come to you in a vision?"

"No," answered Zavilovski, blushing.

Pan Stanislav, seeing that blush, laughed, and said,--

"Ha! it's difficult! Every one must pass that; I, too, have passed it."



CHAPTER XLI.


Marynia did not complain even to herself of her husband. So far there
had not been the least misunderstanding between them. But she was
forced to confess that genuine, very great happiness, and especially
very great love, such as she had imagined when Pan Stanislav was her
betrothed, she had imagined as different. Of this each day convinced
her: her hopes had been of one kind; reality proved to be of another.
Marynia's honest nature did not rebel against this reality; but a
shade of sadness came over her, and the feeling that that shade might
in time be the basis of her life. With a soul full of good-will, she
tried to explain to herself at the beginning that those were her own
fancies. What was lacking to her, and in what could Pan Stanislav have
disappointed her? He had never caused her pain purposely; as often as
it occurred to him that a given thing might please her, he tried to
obtain it; he was liberal, careful of her health; at times he covered
her face and hands with kisses,--in a word, he was rather kind than
ill-natured. Still there was something lacking. It was difficult for
Marynia to describe this in one word, or in many; but her mind was too
clear not to understand what her heart felt every day more distinctly,
every day with more sadness. Something was wanting! After a great and
solemn holiday of love, a series of common days had set in, and she
regretted the holiday; she would have it last all her life; she saw
now, with sorrow, that to her husband this common life seemed precisely
what was normal and wished for. It was not bad, such as it was; but
it was not that high happiness which "such a man" should be able to
feel, create, and impart. But there was a question of other things
also. She felt, for example, that she was more his than he was hers;
and that though she gave him her whole soul, he returned to her only
that part of his which he had designed in advance for home use. It
is true that she said to herself, "He is a man; besides me he has a
whole world of work and thought." But she had hoped once that he would
take her by the hand and lead her into that world,--that in the house,
at least, he would share it with her; at present she could not even
flatter herself that he would do so. And the reality was worse than
she had imagined. Pan Stanislav, as he expressed himself, took her,
and had her; and when their mutual feeling became at the same time a
simple mutual obligation, he judged that it was not needful otherwise
to care for her, or otherwise to be occupied with her than with any
duty of every-day life. It did not come to his head simply that to
such a fire it was not enough to bring common fuel, such as is put in
a chimney, but that there was need to sprinkle on it frankincense and
myrrh, such as is sprinkled before an altar. If a man were to tell him
something like this, he would shrug his shoulders, and look on him as
a sentimentalist. Hence there was in him the carefulness of a husband,
perhaps, but not the anxiety of a lover,--concern, watching, or awe of
that kind which, in the lower circles of earthly feelings, corresponds
to fear of God in religion. On a time when, after the sale of Kremen,
Marynia was indifferent to him, he felt and passed through all this;
but now, and even beginning with Litka's death, when he received the
assurance that she was his property, he thought no more of her than was
necessary to think of property. His feeling, resting pre-eminently on
her physical charm, possessed what it wanted, and was at rest; while
time could only vulgarize, cool, and dull it.

Even now, though still vivid, it lacks the alert and careful tenderness
which existed, for example, in his feeling for Litka. And Marynia
noticed this. Why was it so? To this she could not answer; but still
she saw clearly that she was for this man, to whom she wished to be
everything, something more common and less esteemed than the dead Litka.

It did not occur to her, and she could not imagine by any means, that
the only reason was this,--that that child was not his, while she had
given him soul and body. She judged that the more she gave, the more
she ought to receive and have. But time brought her in this regard many
disappointments. She could not but notice, too, that all are under a
certain charm of hers; that all value her, praise her; that Svirski,
Bigiel, Zavilovski, and even Pan Osnovski, look on her, not only with
admiration, but with enthusiasm almost; while "Stas" regards her
distinguishing traits less than any man. It had not occurred to her
for a moment that he could be incapable of seeing in her and valuing
that which others saw and valued so easily. What was the cause, then,
of this? These questions tormented her night and day now. She saw that
Pan Stanislav feigned to have in all cases a character somewhat colder
and more serious than he had in reality, but to her this did not seem
a sufficient answer. Unfortunately only one answer remained: "He does
not love me as he might, and therefore does not value me as others do."
There was in this as much truth as disappointment and sadness.

The instinct of a woman, which, in these cases, never deceives her,
warned Marynia that she had made an uncommon impression on Zavilovski;
that that impression increased with every meeting. And this thought did
not make her indignant; she did not burst out with the angry question,
"How dare he?" since, for that matter, he had not dared anything,--on
the contrary, it gave her a certain comfort, certain confidence in
her own charm, which at moments she had begun to lose, but withal it
roused the greater sorrow that such honor, such enthusiasm, should
be shown her by some stranger, and not by "Stas." As to Zavilovski,
she felt nothing for him save a great sympathy and good-will; hence
her thoughts remained pure. She was incapable of amusing herself
through vanity by the suffering of another; and for that reason, not
wishing him to go too far, she associated herself willingly with the
plan of Pani Aneta of bringing him into more intimate relations with
Panna Castelli, though that plan seemed to her as abrupt as it was
unintelligible. Moreover, her heart and mind were occupied thoroughly
with the questions: Why does that kind, wise, beloved "Stas" not go to
the heights with her? why does he not value her as he might? why does
he only love her, but is not in love with her? why does he consider
her love as something belonging to him, but not as something precious?
whence is this, and where lies the cause of it?

Every common, selfish nature would have found all the fault in him;
Marynia found it in herself. It is true that she made the discovery
through foreign aid; but she was always so eager to remove from "Stas"
every responsibility, and take it on herself, that though it caused
fear, this discovery brought her delight almost.

Once, on an afternoon, she was sitting by herself, with her hands on
her knees, lost in thoughts and questions to which she could find no
answer, when the door opened, and in it appeared the white head-dress
and dark robe of a Sister of Charity.

"Emilka!" cried Marynia, with delight.

"Yes; it is I," said the Sister. "This is a free day for me, and I
wished to visit thee. Where is Pan Stanislav?"

"Stas is at the Mashkos, but he will return soon. Ah, how glad he will
be! Sit down and rest."

Pani Emilia sat down and began to talk. "I should run in oftener," said
she, "but I have no time. Since this is a free day, I was at Litka's.
If you could see how green the place is, and what birds are there!"

"We were there a few days ago. All is blooming; and such rest! What a
pity that Stas is not at home!"

"True; besides, he has a number of Litka's letters. I should like to
ask him to lend them to me. Next week I'll run in again and return
them."

Pani Emilia spoke calmly of Litka now. Maybe it was because there
remained of herself only the shadow of a living person, which was soon
to be blown away; but for the time there was in it undisturbed calm.
Her mind was not absorbed so exclusively now by misfortune, and that
previous indifference to everything not Litka had passed. Having become
a Sister of Charity, she appeared again among people, and had learned
to feel everything which made their fortune or misfortune, their joy or
their sorrow, or even pleasure or suffering.

"But how nice it is in this house! After our naked walls, everything
here seems so rich to me. Pan Stanislav was very indolent at one time:
he visited the Bigiels and us, never wished to be elsewhere; but now I
suppose he bestirs himself, and you receive many people?"

"No," answered Marynia; "we visit only the Mashkos, Pani Bronich, and
the Osnovskis."

"But wait! I know Pani Osnovski; I knew her before she was married.
I knew the Broniches, too, and their niece; but she had not grown up
then. Pan Bronich died two years ago. Thou seest how I know every one."

Marynia began to laugh. "Really, more people than I do. I made the
acquaintance of the Osnovskis in Rome only."

"But I lived so many years in Warsaw, and everything came to my ears. I
was in the house apparently, but the world occupied me. So frivolous
was I in those days! For that matter, thy present Pan Stas knew Pani
Osnovski."

"He told me so."

"They met at public balls. At that time she was to marry Pan Kopovski.
There were tears and despair, for her father opposed it. But she
succeeded well, did she not? Pan Osnovski was always a very good man."

"And to her he is the very best. But I did not know that she was to
marry Kopovski; and that astonishes me, she is so intelligent."

"Praise to God, she is happy, if she would think so! Happiness is a
rare thing, and should be used well. I have learned now to look at
the world quite impartially, as only those can who expect nothing for
themselves from it; and knowest thou what comes more than once to my
head? That happiness is like eyes,--any little mote, and at once tears
will follow."

Marynia laughed a little sadly, and said,--

"Oi! that's a great truth."

A moment of silence ensued; then Pani Emilia, looking attentively at
Marynia, laid her transparent hand on her hand mildly, and asked,--

"But thou, Marynia, art happy, art thou not?"

Such a desire to weep seized Marynia on a sudden that she resisted it
only with the utmost effort; that lasted, however, one twinkle. Her
whole honest soul trembled suddenly at the thought that her tears or
sorrow would be a kind of complaint against her husband; therefore she
mastered her emotion by strength of will, and said,--

"If only Stas is happy!" And she raised her eyes, now perfectly calm,
to Pani Emilia, who said,--

"Litka will obtain that for thee. I inquired only because thou wert in
appearance somehow gloomy, as I entered. But I know best how he loved
thee, and how unhappy he was when thou wert angry with him because of
Kremen."

Marynia's face was bright with a smile. So pleasant to her was every
word of his former love that she was ready to listen to that kind of
narrative, even if it went on forever.

Pani Emilia continued, while touching her hand: "But thou, ugly child,
wert so cruel as neither to value nor regard his true attachment, and
I was angry at times with thee. At times I feared for the honest Pan
Stanislav; I was afraid that he would grow sick of life, lose his
mind, or become misanthropic. For seest thou when one wrinkle is made
in the depth of the heart, it may not be smoothed for a lifetime."

Marynia raised her head, and began to blink as if some light had struck
her eyes suddenly.

"Emilka, Emilka!" cried she, "how wise thy discourse is!"

Pani Emilia was called now "Sister Aniela;" but Marynia always gave her
her old name.

"What! wise? I am just talking of old times. But Litka will implore for
thee happiness, which God will grant, for thou and Stas deserve it,
both of you."

And she made ready to go. Marynia tried to detain her till "Stas" came,
but in vain, for work was awaiting her in the institution. She chatted,
however, at the door, fifteen minutes longer, in the manner of women;
at last she went away, promising to visit them again the coming week.

Marynia returned to her armchair at the window, and, resting her head
on her hand, fell to meditating on Pani Emilia's words; after a while
she said, in an undertone,--

"The fault is mine."

It seemed to her that she had the key to the enigma,--she had not known
how to respect a power so true and so mighty as love is. And now, in
her terrified heart, that love seemed a kind of offended divinity which
punishes. In the old time Pan Stanislav had been on his knees in her
presence. As often as they met, he had looked into her eyes, watching
for forgiveness from her heart, and from those memories, pleasant,
departed, but dear, which connected them. If at that time she had
brought herself to straightforwardness, to magnanimity; if she had
extended her hands to him, as her secret feeling commanded,--he would
have been grateful all his life, he would have honored her, he would
have honored and loved with the greater tenderness, the more he felt
his own fault and her goodness. But she had preferred to swaddle and
nurse her feeling of offence, and coquet at the same time with Mashko.
When it was necessary to forget, she would not forget; when it was
necessary to forgive, she would not forgive. She preferred to suffer
herself, provided he suffered also. She had given her hand to Pan
Stanislav when she could not do otherwise, when not to give it would
have been simply dishonorable and stupid stubbornness. That stifled
love, it is true, rose up in its whole irrepressible might then,
and she loved, heart and soul, but too late. Love had been injured;
something had broken, something had perished. In his heart there had
come an ill-omened wrinkle like that of which Pani Emilia had spoken;
and now she, Marynia, was harvesting only what she had sown with her
own hand.

He is not guilty of anything in this case, and if any one has spoiled
another's life, it is not he who has spoiled her life; it is she who
has spoiled his.

Such a terror possessed her at this thought, and such sorrow, that
for a moment she looked at the future with perfect amazement. And she
wished to weep, too, and weep like a little child. If Pani Emilia had
not gone, she would have done so on her shoulder. She was so penetrated
with the weight of her own offences that if at that moment some one
had come and tried to free her of this weight, if this one had said
to her, "Thou art as guilty as a dove," she would have considered the
speech dishonest. The most terrible point in her mental conflict was
this,--that at the first moment the loss seemed irreparable, and that
in the future it might be only worse and worse, because "Stas" would
love her less and less, and would have the right to love her less and
less,--in one word, she saw no consolation before her.

Logic said this to her: "To-day it is good in comparison with what it
may be to-morrow; after to-morrow, a month, or a year. And here it is a
question of a lifetime!"

And she began to exert her poor tortured head to discover, if not a
road, at least some path, by which it would be possible to issue from
those snares of unhappiness. At last, after a long effort, after God
knows how many swallowed tears, it seems to her that she sees a light,
and that that light, in proportion as she looks at it, increases.

There is, however, something mightier than the logic of misfortune,
mightier than committed offences, mightier than an offended divinity,
which knows nothing but vengeance,--and this is the mercy of God.

She has offended; therefore she ought to correct herself. It is
needful, then, to love "Stas," so that he may find all which has
perished in his heart; it is needful to have patience, and not only not
to complain of her present lot, but to thank God and "Stas" that it is
such as it is. If greater griefs and difficulties should come, it is
necessary to hide them in her heart in silence, and endure long, very
long, even whole years, till the mercy of God comes.

The path began to change then into a highway. "I shall not go astray,"
said Marynia to herself. She wanted to weep from great joy then; but
she judged that she could not permit that. Besides, "Stas" might return
at any moment, and he must find her with dry eyes.

In fact, he returned soon. Marynia wished at the first moment to throw
herself on his neck, but she felt such guilt in reference to him that
some sudden timidity stopped her; and he, kissing her on the forehead,
inquired,--

"Was any one here?"

"Emilia was, but she could not stay longer. She will come next week."

He was irritated at this.

"But, my God! thou knowest that it is such a pleasure for me to see
her; why not let me know? Why didst thou not think of me, knowing where
I was?"

She, like a child explaining itself, spoke with a voice in which tears
were trembling, but in which there was at the same time a certain
trust,--

"No, Stas, on the contrary, as I love, I was thinking all the time of
thee."



CHAPTER XLII.


"But you see I was there," said Zavilovski, joyously, at the Bigiels'.
"They looked on me somewhat as they might on a panther, or a wolf,
but I turned out a very tame creature; I tore no one, killed no one,
answered with more or less presence of mind. No; I have long since
considered that it is easier to live with people than it seems, and
only in the first moments have I a wish always to run away. But those
ladies are indeed very free."

"I beg you not to put us off, but tell exactly how it was," said Pani
Bigiel.

"How it was? Well, first, I entered the inclosure of the villa, and
did not know what to do further, or where the Osnovskis lived, or
Pani Bronich; whether to pay them a visit at once, or whether it was
necessary to visit both separately."

"Separately," said Pan Stanislav; "Pani Bronich has separate
apartments, though they have one drawing-room, which they use in
common."

"Well, I found all in that drawing-room; and Pani Osnovski first
brought me out of trouble, for she said that she would share me with
Pani Bronich, and that I should make two visits at one time. I found
Pani Mashko there and Pan Kopovski; and he is such a man, so beautiful
that he ought to have on his head one of those velvet-crowned caps
which jewellers wear. Who is Kopovski?"

"An idiot!" answered Pan Stanislav. "In that is contained his name, his
manner of life, his occupation, and personal marks. Another description
of the man would not be needed even in a passport."

"Now I understand," said Zavilovski; "and certain words which I heard
have become clear for me. That gentleman was sitting, and the young
ladies were painting him. Pani Osnovski, his full face in oil; Panna
Castelli, his profile in water-colors. Both had print skirts over their
dresses, and both were beautiful. Evidently Pani Osnovski is just
beginning to paint, but Panna Castelli has had much practice."

"Of what did they talk?"

Zavilovski turned to Marynia. "First, those ladies asked about your
health; I told them that you looked better and better."

He did not say, however, that on that occasion he had blushed like a
student, and that at present he consoled himself only with the thought
that all had been so occupied in painting that they did not notice him,
in which he was mistaken. He was confused now a little, and, wishing to
hide this, continued,--

"Later we spoke of painting, of course, and portraits. I observed that
Panna Castelli took something from the head of Kopovski; she answered
me,--

"'It is not I, but nature.'

"She is a witty young lady; she said this in a perfectly audible voice.
I began to laugh, all the others too, and with us Kopovski himself. He
must have an accommodating character. He declared later on that if he
looked worse to-day than usual, it was because he had not slept enough,
and that he was in a hurry for the embraces of Orpheus."

"Orpheus?"

"That's what he said. Pan Osnovski corrected him without ceremony;
but he did not agree to the correction, saying Orpheus at least ten
times, and that he remembered well. Those ladies amused themselves a
little with him, but he is such a fine-looking fellow that they are
glad to paint him. But what an artist Panna Castelli is! When she went
to showing me various plain surfaces with the brush, and lines on the
portraits of Pan Kopovski, which she had begun, she touched colors,
'What a line, that is! and what tones these are!' I must do her the
justice to say that she looked at the time like one of the Muses. She
told me that it pleases her beyond everything to paint portraits, and
that she meditates on a face to begin with, as on a model, and that she
dreams of those heads in which there is anything uncommon."

"Oh, ho! and you will appear to her in a dream first, and then sit for
her, I am sure," said Marynia. "And that will be well."

Zavilovski added with a voice somewhat uncertain,--

"She told me, it is true, that that is a tribute which she likes and
extorts from good acquaintances; she did not turn to me, however,
directly, with this request. Had it not been for Pani Bronich, there
would have been no talk of it."

"Pani Bronich saved the Muse the trouble," said Pan Stanislav.

"But that will be well," said Marynia.

"Why?" inquired Zavilovski; and he looked at her with a glance at once
submissive and alarmed. The idea that she might push him to another
woman purposely, because she divined what was passing in his heart,
attracted him, and at the same time filled him with fear.

"Because," answered Marynia, "I, indeed, am almost unacquainted with
Panna Lineta, and judge only from my first impressions and from what I
hear of her; but it seems to me that hers is an uncommon nature, and
that there is something deep in her heart. It is well, then, that you
should become acquainted."

"I also judge from first impressions," answered Zavilovski, quieted;
"and it is true that Pani Castelli seems to me less shallow than
Pani Osnovski. In general, those are beautiful and pleasant ladies;
but--maybe I cannot define it, because I am not acquainted enough with
society--but, coming away from them, I had a feeling as if I had been
travelling on the railway with exceedingly charming foreign ladies,
who amused themselves by conversing very wittily--but nothing more.
Something foreign is felt in them. Pani Osnovski, for example, is
exactly like an orchid,--a flower very peculiar and beautiful, but a
kind of foreign flower. Panna Castelli is also that way, and in her
there is nothing homelike. With them there is no feeling that one grew
up on the same field, under the same rain and same sunshine."

"What intuition this poet has!" said Pan Stanislav.

Zavilovski became so animated that on his delicate forehead the veins
in the form of the letter Y became outlined more distinctly. He felt
that his blame of those ladies was also praise for Marynia, and that
made him eloquent.

"Besides," continued he, "there exists a certain instinct which divines
the real good wishes of people; it is not divined in that house. They
are pleasant, agreeable, but their society has the appearance of form
only; therefore I think that an earnest man, who becomes attached to
people easily, might experience there many deceptions. It is a bitter
and humiliating thing to mistake social tares for wheat. As to me, that
is just why I fear people; for though Pan Stanislav says that I have
intuition, I know well that at the root of the matter I am simple. And
such things pain me tremendously. Simply my nerves cannot endure them.
I remember that when still a child I noticed how people acted toward
me in one way before my parents, and in another when my parents were
absent; that was one of the great vexations of my childhood. It seemed
to me contemptible, and pained me, as if I myself had done something
contemptible."

"Because you have an honest nature," said Pani Bigiel.

He stretched forth his long arms, with which he gesticulated, when,
forgetting his timidity, he spoke freely, and said,--

"O sincerity! in art and in life, that is the one thing!"

But Marynia began, in defence of those ladies: "People, and especially
men, are frequently unjust, and take their own judgments, or even
suppositions, for reality. As to Pani Osnovski and Lineta, how is
it possible to suspect them of insincerity? They are joyful, kind,
cordial, and whence should that come if not from good hearts?" Then,
turning to Zavilovski, she began at him, partly in earnest, partly in
jest, "You have not such an honest nature as Pani Bigiel says, for
those ladies praise you, and you criticise them--"

But Pan Stanislav interrupted her with his usual vivacity: "Oh, thou
art an innocent, and measurest all things with thy own measure. Wilt
thou understand this, that petty cordiality and kindness may flow also
from selfishness, which likes to be cosey and comfortable.

"If you," said he, turning to Zavilovski, "pay such homage to
sincerity, it is sitting before you! You have here a real type of it."

"I know that! I know that!" said Zavilovski, with warmth.

"But is it thy wish to have me otherwise?" inquired Marynia, laughing.

He laughed also, and answered: "No, I would not. But, by the way,
what a happiness it is that thou are not too small, and hast no need
of heels; for shouldst thou wear them, chronic inflammation of the
conscience would strike thee for deceiving people."

Marynia, seeing that Zavilovski's eyes were turned toward her feet, hid
them under the table involuntarily, and, changing the subject, said,--

"But your volume is coming out these days, I think?"

"It would have been published already, but I added one poem; that
causes delay."

"And may we know what the poem is called?"

"Lilia" (Lily).

"Is it not Lilia-Lineta?"

"No; it is not Lilia-Lineta."

Marynia's face grew serious. For her, it was easy to divine from the
answer that the poem was to her and about her; hence she felt a sudden
vexation, because she alone and one other, Zavilovski, knew this,
and that there had arisen between them, for this cause, a sort of
secret known to them only. This seemed to her not in accord with that
honesty of hers mentioned a moment earlier, and a kind of sin against
"Stas." For the first time, she saw the mental trouble into which a
woman may fall, even though she be most in love with her husband and
most innocent, if only the not indifferent look of another man fall
on her. It seemed to her impossible, in any case, to lead her husband
into the secret of her supposition. For the first time, she was seized
by a certain anger at Zavilovski, who felt this straightway with
his nerves of an artist, just as the barometer reflects a change of
atmosphere; and, being a man without experience, he took the matter
tragically. He imagined that Marynia would close her doors on him,
would hate him, that he would not be able to see her; and the world
appeared in mourning colors all at once to him. In his artistic nature
there existed a real mixture of selfishness and fantasy with genuine
tenderness, well-nigh feminine, which demanded love and warmth. Having
become acquainted with Marynia, he cleaved to her with the selfishness
of a sybarite, to whom such a feeling is precious, and who thinks
of nothing else; next, his fancy raised her to poetic heights, and
enhanced her charm a hundredfold, made her a being almost beyond the
earth; and, finally, his native sensitiveness, to which loneliness
and the want of a near heart caused actual pain, was so moved by the
goodness with which he was received, that from all this was produced
something having every appearance of love. A physical basis was lacking
to this feeling, however. Besides his capacity for impulses, as ideal
as the soul itself is, Zavilovski, like most artists, had the thoughts
of a satyr. Those thoughts were sleeping at that time. He arrayed
Marynia in so many glories and so much sacredness that he did not
desire her; and if, against every likelihood, she were to cast herself
on his neck unexpectedly, she would cease to be for him æsthetically
that which she was, and which he wished her to be in future,--that
is, a stainless being. All the more, therefore, did he judge that he
could permit himself such a feeling, and all the more was he grieved
now to part with that intoxication which had lulled his thought in
such a beautiful manner, and filled the void of his life. It had been
so pleasant for him, on returning home, to have a womanly figure at
whose feet he had placed his soul,--to have one of whom to dream, and
to whom he might write verses. Now he understands that if she discovers
definitely what is taking place in him, if he does not succeed in
hiding this better than hitherto, their relations cannot endure, and
the former void, more painful than ever, will surround him a second
time. He began then to think how he was to escape this, and how, not
only not to lose anything of what he had enjoyed so far, but to see
Marynia still oftener. In his quick imagination, there was no lack of
methods. When he had made a hasty review, he found and chose one which,
as it seemed to him, led directly to his object.

"I will fall in love, as it were, with Panna Castelli," said he to
himself, "and will confess to Pani Polanyetski my torments. That not
only will not separate us, but will bring us nearer. I will make her my
patroness."

And straightway he begins to arrange the thing as if he were arranging
objects. He imagines that he is in love with that "dreamy queen;" that
he is unhappy, and that he will confess his secret to Marynia, who will
listen to him willingly, with eyes moist from pity, and, like a real
sister, will place her hand on his head. This play of fancy seemed to
him so actual, and his sensitiveness was so great, that he composed
expressions with which he would confess to Marynia; he found simple and
touching ones, and he did this with such occupation that he himself was
moved sincerely.

Marynia, returning home with her husband, thought of that poem entitled
"Lilia," which had delayed the issue of the book. Like a real woman,
she was somewhat curious about it, and feared it a little. She feared
too in general the difficulty which the future might bring in the
relation with Zavilovski. And under the influence of these fears she
said,--

"Knowest thou of what I am thinking? That Lineta would be a great prize
for Zavilovski."

"Tell me," answered Pan Stanislav, "what shot this Zavilovski and that
girl into thy head."

"I, my Stas, am not a matchmaker, I say only that it would not be bad.
Aneta Osnovski is rather a hot head, it is true; but she is so lively,
such a fire spark."

"Abrupt, not lively; but believe me that she is not so simple as she
seems, and that she has her own little personal plan in everything.
Sometimes I think that Panna Lineta concerns her as much as she does
me, and that at the root of all this something else is hidden."

"What could it be?"

"I don't know, and I don't know, perhaps, because I don't care much. In
general, I have no faith in those women."

Their conversation was interrupted by Mashko, who was just driving in
by the road before their house; and, seeing them, he hastened to greet
Marynia, and said then to Pan Stanislav,--

"It is well that we have met, for to-morrow I am going away for a
couple of days, and to-day is my time for payment, so I bring thee the
money."

"I have just been at your father's," said he, turning to Marynia. "Pan
Plavitski seems in perfect health; but he told me that he yearns for
the country and land management, therefore he is thinking whether to
buy some little place near the city, or not. I told him that if we win
the will case he can stay at Ploshov."

Marynia did not like this conversation, in which there was evident,
moreover, a slight irony; hence she did not wish to continue it. After
a while Pan Stanislav took Mashko to his study,--

"Then is all going well?" asked he.

"Here is the instalment due on my debt," answered Mashko; "be so kind
as to give a receipt."

Pan Stanislav sat down at his desk, and wrote a receipt.

"But now there is another affair," continued Mashko: "I sold some oak
in Kremen once, on condition that I might redeem it, returning the
price and a stipulated interest. Here is the price and the interest. I
trust that thou hast nothing to add; I can only thank thee for a real
service rendered, and shouldst thou ever need something of me, I beg
thee,--without any ceremony, I beg thee to come to me, service for
service. As is known to thee, I like to be grateful."

"This monkey is beginning to patronize me," thought Pan Stanislav. And
if he had not been in his own house, he might have uttered the silent
remark aloud; but he restrained himself and said,--

"I have nothing to add; such was the contract. Besides, I have never
considered that as business."

"All the more do I esteem it," answered Mashko, kindly.

"Well, what is to be heard in general?" inquired Pan Stanislav. "Thou
art moving with all sails, I see. How is it with the will?"

"On behalf of the benevolent institutions a young little advocate is
appearing named Sledz (herring). A nice name, isn't it? If I should
call a cat by that name, she would miau for three days. But I'll
pepper that herring and eat him. As to the lawsuit? It stands this
way, that at the end of it I shall be able to withdraw from law in all
likelihood, which, moreover, is not an occupation befitting me--and I
will settle in Kremen permanently."

"With ready money in thy pocket?"

"With ready money in my pocket, and in plenty. I have enough of law. Of
course, whoso came from the country is drawn to it. That is inherited
with the blood. But enough of this matter, for the present. To-morrow,
as I told thee, I am going away; and I recommend my wife to thee,
all the more that Pani Kraslavski has gone just now to an oculist
in Vienna. I am going besides to the Osnovskis' to ask them too to
remember her."

"Of course we shall think of her," said Pan Stanislav. Then the
conversation with Marynia occurred to him, and he asked,--

"Thy acquaintance with the Osnovskis is of long standing?"

"Rather long, though my wife knows them better. He is a very rich man;
he had one sister who died, and a miserly uncle, after whom he received
a great fortune. As to her, what shall I say to thee? she read when
still unmarried all that came to her hand; she had pretensions to wit,
to art,--in a word, to everything to which one may pretend,--and in her
way fell in love with Kopovski: here she is for thee _in toto_."

"And Pani Bronich and Panna Castelli?"

"Panna Castelli pleases women rather than men; moreover, I know nothing
of her, except that it is said that this same Kopovski tried for her,
or is trying now, but Pani Bronich--"

Here Mashko began to laugh. "Pani Bronich the Khedive conducted in
person over the pyramid of Cheops; the late Alphonso of Spain said
every day to her in Cannes, 'Bon jour, Madame la Comtesse.' In the year
56, Musset wrote verses in her album, and Moltke sat with her on a
trunk in Karlsbad,--in one word, she has been at every coronation. Now,
since Panna Castelli has grown up, or rather luxuriated up to five feet
and some inches, Aunt 'Sweetness' makes those imaginary journeys, not
on her own account, but her niece's, in which for some time past Pani
Osnovski helps her so zealously that it is difficult to understand what
her object is. This is all, unless it is thy wish to know something of
the late Pan Bronich, who died six years ago, it is unknown of what
disease, for Pani Bronich finds a new one every day for him, adding,
besides, that he was the last of the descendants of Rurik, not stating,
however, that the second last descendant--that is, his father--was
manager for the Rdultovskis, and made his property out of them. Well,
I have finished,--'Vanity fair!' Be well, keep well, and in case of
need count on me. If I were sure that such a need would come quickly, I
would make thee promise to turn to no one but me. Till we meet!"

When he had said this, Mashko pressed his friend's hand with
indescribable kindness; and when he had gone, Pan Stanislav, shrugging
his shoulders, said,--

"Such a clever man apparently, and doesn't see the very same vanity in
himself that he is laughing at in others! How different he was such a
little while ago! He had almost ceased to pretend; but when trouble
passed, the devil gained the upper hand."

Here he remembered what Vaskovski had said once about vanity and
playing a comedy; then he thought,--

"And still such people have success in this country."



CHAPTER XLIII.


Pani Osnovski forgot her "Florentine-Roman" evenings so thoroughly
that she was astonished when her husband reminded her once of them.
Such evenings are not even in her head now; she has other occupations,
which she calls "taming the eagle." If any one does not see that the
_eagle_ and Lineta are created for each other, then, with permission
of my husband and lord, he has very short sight; but there is no help
for that. In general, men fail to understand many things, for they
lack perception. Zavilovski may be an exception in this regard; but if
Marynia Polanyetski would tell him, through friendship, to dress with
more care and let his beard grow, it would be perfect! "Castelka"[9] is
so thoroughly æsthetic that the least thing offends her, though on the
other hand he carries her away,--nay, more, he hypnotizes her simply.
And with her nature that is not wonderful.

Pan Osnovski listened to this chattering, and, dissolving from ecstasy,
watched the opportunity to seize his wife's hands, and cover them, and
her arms to the elbow, with kisses; once, however, he put the perfectly
natural question, which Pan Stanislav too had put to Marynia,--

"Tell me what concern thou hast in this?"

But Pani Aneta said coquettishly,--

"_La reine s'amuse!_ It is not a trick to write books. If there be
only a little talent, that's enough; but to bring into life that which
is described in books is a far greater trick, and, besides, what
amusement!"

And after a while she added,--

"I may have some personal object; and if I have, let Yozio guess it."

"I'll tell it in thy ear," answered Osnovski.

She put out her ear with a cunning mien, blinking her violet eyes with
curiosity. But Osnovski only brought his lips to her ear to kiss it;
for the whole secret he repeated simply,--

"_La reine s'amuse!_"

And there was truth in this. Pani Aneta might have her own personal
object in bringing Zavilovski near "Castelka;" but in its own way that
development of a romance in life and the rôle of a little Providence
occupied and amused her immensely.

With these providential intentions she ran in often to Marynia, to
learn something of the "eagle," and returned in good spirits usually.
Zavilovski, wishing to lull Marynia's suspicions, spoke more and more
of Lineta; his diplomacy turned out so effectual that once, when Pani
Aneta inquired of Marynia directly if Zavilovski were not in love with
her, she answered, laughing,--

"We must confess that he is in love, my Anetka, but not with me, nor
with thee. The apple is adjudged to Lineta, and nothing is left to us
but to cry or be comforted."

On the other hand, feelings and thoughts were talked into and
attributed continually to Lineta which self-love itself would not let
her deny. From morning till evening she heard that this "eagle" of
wide wings was in love with her; that he was at her feet; and that
such a chosen one, such an exceptional being, as she was, could not be
indifferent to this. It flattered her also too much to make it possible
for her to be indifferent. While painting Kopovski, she admired always,
it is true, the "splendid plain surfaces" on his face, and liked him
because he offered her a field for various _successes_, which were
repeated later as proofs of her wit and cleverness; she liked him for
various reasons. Zavilovski, too, was not an ill-looking man, though he
did not wear a beard, and did not dress with due care. Besides, so much
was said of his wings, and of this,--that a soul such as hers should
understand him. All said this, not Pani Aneta only. Pani Bronich,
who, on a time, did not understand how any one could avoid falling
in love with herself, transferred later on to her niece this happy
self-confidence, and accepted the views of Pani Aneta, ornamenting at
the same time the canvas of reality with flowers from her own mind. At
last Pan Osnovski, too, joined the chorus. Out of love for his wife,
he loved "Castelka" and Pani Bronich, and was ready to love whatever
had remote or near relation to "Anetka," hence he took the matter
seriously. Zavilovski was for him sympathetic; the information which he
collected touching him was favorable. In general, he learned only that
he was misanthropic, ambitious, and pursued stubbornly whatever he
aimed at; besides, he was secretive, and greatly gifted. Since all this
pleased the ladies, Osnovski began to think with perfect seriousness
"if that were not well." Zavilovski justified so far the serious view
of affairs,--he had begun for some time to visit more frequently the
"common drawing-room," and to speak oftener with Lineta. The first, it
is true, he did always at the cordial invitation of Pani Aneta, but
the other flowed from his will. Pani Aneta noticed, also, that his
glance rested more and more on the golden hair and the dreamy lids
of "Castelka," and his eyes followed her when she passed through the
drawing-room. Indeed, he began to survey her more carefully, a little
through diplomacy, a little through curiosity.

The affair became much more important when the first volume of his
poetry was issued. The poems had won attention already and were much
spoken of; but the effect was weakened through this,--that they had
appeared at considerable intervals, and unconnected. Now the book
struck people's eyes; it was brilliant, strong, sincere. The language
had freshness and metallic weight, but still bent obediently, and
assumed the most subtile forms. The impression increased. Soon the
murmur of praise changed to a roar filled with admiration. With the
exaggeration usual in such cases, the work was exalted above its
value, and in the young poet people began to foresee the coming heir
of great glory and authority; his name passed from newspaper offices
to publicity. People spoke of him everywhere, were occupied with him,
sought him; curiosity became the greater that he was little known
personally. The old rich Zavilovski, Panna Helena's father, who said
that the two greatest plagues existing were perhaps the gout and poor
relatives, repeated now to every one who asked him, "_Mais oui, mais
oui,--c'est mon cousin_;" and such testimony had also its social weight
for many persons, and, among others, weight of first order for Pani
Bronich. Pani Aneta and Lineta ceased even to suffer because of the pin
of "poor taste" in Zavilovski's necktie, for now everything about him
might pass as original. She was pained yet that his name was Ignatsi.
They would have preferred another more in keeping with his fame and
his poetry; but when Osnovski, who from Metz had brought home a little
Latin, explained to them that it meant "fiery," they answered that if
that were true, it was another thing; and they were reconciled with
Ignatsi.

Sincere and great joy reigned at Bigiel's, at Pan Stanislav's, and in
the counting-house, because the book had won such fame; they were not
envious in the counting-house. The old cashier, the agent, and the
second book-keeper were proud of their colleague, as if his glory had
brightened the counting-house also. The cashier even said, "But we
have shown the world what our style is!" Bigiel was thinking for two
days whether in view of all this Zavilovski should remain in a modest
position in the house of Polanyetski and Bigiel; but Zavilovski, when
questioned by him, answered,--

"This is very good of you, kind sir. Because people are talking a
little about me, you want to take my morsel of bread from me, and my
pleasant associates. I found no publishers; and had it not been for
your book-keeper, I could not have published the volume."

To such an argument there was no answer, and Zavilovski remained in
the counting-house. But he was a more frequent guest both at Bigiel's
and at Pan Stanislav's. At the Osnovskis' he had not shown himself for
a whole week after the volume was published, just as if something had
happened. But Pani Bigiel and Marynia persuaded him to go; he had a
secret desire, too,--hence one evening he went.

But he found the company just going to the theatre. They wished to
remain at home absolutely, but he would not consent; and to the evident
delight of Pani Osnovski and Lineta, it ended in this,--that he went
with them. "Let Yozio buy a ticket for a chair if he wishes." And Yozio
took a ticket for a chair. During the play Zavilovski sat in the front
of the box with Lineta, for Pani Aneta had insisted that Pani Bronich
and she would play "mother" for them. "You two can say what you please;
and if any one comes, I will so stun him that he'll not have power to
trouble you." The eyes of people were turned frequently to that box
when it was known who were sitting there, and Lineta felt that a kind
of halo surrounded her; she felt that people not only were looking at
him, but at the same time inquiring, "Whose is that head with golden
hair and dreamy lids, to whom he is inclining and speaking?" She, on
her part, looking at him sometimes, said to herself, "Were it not
for the too prominent chin, he would be perfectly good-looking; his
profile is very delicate, and a beard might cover his chin." Pani Aneta
carried out her promise nobly; and when Kopovski appeared, she occupied
him so much that he could barely greet Lineta, and say to Zavilovski,--

"Ah, you write verses!"

After this happy discovery he succeeded in adding, but rather as a
monologue, "I should like verses immensely; but, a wonderful thing, the
moment I read them I think of something else right away."

Lineta, turning her face, cast a long glance at him; and it is unknown
which was stronger in this glance, the maliciousness of the woman, or
the sudden admiration of the artist, for that head without brains,
which, issuing from the depth of the box, seemed, on the red background
of the wall, like some masterly thought of an artist.

After the theatre, Pani Aneta would not let Zavilovski go home; and all
went to drink tea. Hardly had they reached the house, when Pani Bronich
began to make reproaches.

"You are an evil man; and if anything happens to Lineta, it will be on
your conscience. The child doesn't eat, doesn't sleep; she only reads
you, and reads."

Pani Aneta added immediately,--

"True! I, too, have cause of complaint: she seized your book, and will
not give it to any one for an instant; and when we are angry, do you
know what she answers? 'This is mine! this is mine!'"

And Lineta, though she had not the book in her hands at that moment,
pressed them to her bosom, as if to defend something, and said in a
low, soft voice,--

"For it is mine, mine!"

Zavilovski looked at her and felt that something had, as it were,
thrilled in him. But on returning home late he passed by Pan
Stanislav's windows, in which light was still shining. After the
theatre and conversation at the Osnovskis' he felt a certain turning
of the head. Now the sight of those windows brought him to himself;
he felt suddenly such a pleasant impression as one experiences on
thinking of something very good and very dear. His immense, pure homage
for Marynia arose in him with its former power: he was possessed by
that kind of mild exaltation in which the desires fall asleep, and a
man becomes almost entirely a spirit; and he returned home, muttering
passages from the poem "Lilia," the most full of exaltation of any
which he had written in his life yet.

There was light at Pan Stanislav's because something had happened,
which seemed to Marynia that mercy of God expected and hoped for.

In the evening, after tea, she was sitting breaking her head, as usual,
over daily accounts, when she put the pencil down on a sudden. After a
while she grew pale, but her face became clear; and she said, with a
voice slightly changed,--

"Stas!"

Her voice surprised him somewhat; therefore he approached her, and
asked,--

"What is the matter? Thou art a little pale."

"Come nearer; I'll tell thee something."

And, taking his head with her hands, she whispered into his ear, and he
listened; then, kissing her on the forehead, he said,--

"Only be not excited, lest thou hurt thyself."

But in his words emotion was evident. He walked through the room,
looked at her a while, kissed her again on the forehead; at last he
said,--

"Usually people wish a son first, but remember that it be a daughter.
We'll call her Litka."

Neither of them could sleep that night for a long time, and that was
why Zavilovski saw light in the windows.


FOOTNOTES:

  [9] Familiar for Castelli.



CHAPTER XLIV.


In a week, when probability had become certainty, Pan Stanislav gave
the news to the Bigiels. Pani Bigiel flew the same day to Marynia, who
fell to weeping with gladness on her honest shoulders.

"It seems to me," said she, "that Stas will love me more now."

"How more?"

"I wished to say still more," answered Marynia. "Seest thou, for that
matter, I have never enough."

"He would have to settle with me if there were not enough."

The tears dried on Marynia's sweet face, and only a smile remained.
After a time she clasped her hands, as if in prayer, and said,--

"Oh, my God, if it is only a daughter! for Stas wants a daughter."

"And what wouldst thou like?"

"I--but don't tell Stas--I should like a son; but let it be a daughter."

Then she grew thoughtful, and asked,--

"But there is no help, is there?"

"There is not," answered Pani Bigiel, laughing; "for that they have not
found yet any remedy."

Bigiel, on his part, gave the news to every one whom he met; and in the
counting-house he said, in Pan Stanislav's presence, with a certain
unction in his voice,--

"Well, gentlemen, it seems that the house will be increased by one
member."

The employees turned inquiring glances on him; he added,--

"Thanks to Pan and Pani Polanyetski."

Then all hurried to Pan Stanislav with good wishes, excepting
Zavilovski, who, bending over his desk, began to look diligently at
columns of figures; and only after a while, when he felt that his
conduct might arrest attention, did he turn with a changed face to
Pan Stanislav, and, pressing his hand, repeat, "I congratulate, I
congratulate!"

It seemed to him then that he was ridiculous, that something had fallen
on his head; that he felt empty, boundlessly stupid; and that the whole
world was fabulously trivial. The worst, however, was the feeling
of his own ridiculousness; for the affair was so natural and easily
foreseen that even such a man as Kopovski might foresee it. At the same
time, he, an intelligent man, writing poetry, pervaded with enthusiasm,
grasping everything which happened around, slipped into such an
illusion that it seemed to him then as if a thunderbolt had struck him.
What overpowering ridiculousness! But he had made the acquaintance of
Marynia as Pani Polanyetski, and imagined to himself unconsciously that
she had always been, and would be, Pani Polanyetski in the future as
she was in the present, and simply it had not occurred to him that any
change might supervene. And behold, observing lily tones once on her
face, he called her Lily, and wrote lily verses to her. And now that
lost sense, which to vexation adds something of ridicule, whispered
in his ear, "Ah, a pretty lily!" And Zavilovski felt more and more
crushed, more and more ridiculous; he wrote verses, but Pan Stanislav
did not write any. In that apposition there was a gnawing bitterness,
and something idiotic; he took deep draughts from that cup, so as not
to lose one drop in the drinking. If his feelings had been betrayed; if
he had made them known to Marynia; if she had repulsed him with utter
contempt, and Pan Stanislav had thrown him downstairs,--there would
have been something in that like a drama. But such an ending,--"such
flatness!" He had a nature feeling everything ten times more keenly
than common men; hence the position seemed to him simply unendurable,
and those office hours, which he had to sit out yet, a torture. His
feeling for Marynia had not sunk in his heart deeply; but it occupied
his imagination altogether. Reality now struck its palm on his head
without mercy; the blow seemed to him not only painful and heavy, but
also given sneeringly. The desperate thought came to his head to seize
his cap, go out, and never come back again. Fortunately, the usual hour
for ending work came at last, and all began to separate.

Zavilovski, while passing through the corridor, where, at a hat-rack, a
mirror was fixed, saw his projecting chin and tall form in it, and said
to himself, "Thus looks an idiot." He did not go to dine that day with
the second book-keeper, as usual; he would have been even glad to flee
from his own person. Meanwhile he shut himself in at home, and with
the exaggeration of a genuine artist, heightened to impossible limits
his misfortune and ridiculous position. After some days he grew calm,
however; he felt only a strange void in his heart,--precisely as if it
were a dwelling vacated by some one. He did not show himself at Pan
Stanislav's for a fortnight; but at the end of that time he saw Marynia
at the Bigiels', and was astonished.

She seemed to him almost ugly. That was by no means his prejudice,
for, though it was difficult to notice a change in her form, still
she had changed greatly. Her lips were swollen; there were pimples
on her forehead; and she had lost freshness of color. She was calm,
however, but somewhat melancholy, as if some disappointment had met
her. Zavilovski, who, in truth, had a good heart, was moved greatly by
her ugliness. Before, it seemed to him that he would disregard her; now
that seemed to him stupid.

But her face only had changed, not her kindness or good-will. Nay,
feeling safe now from superfluous enthusiasms on his part, she showed
him more cordiality than ever. She asked with great interest about
Lineta; and when she found that a subject on which he, too, spoke
willingly, she began to laugh with her former laughter, full of
indescribable sweetness, and said almost joyously,--

"Well, well! People wonder there why you have not visited them for so
long a time; and do you know what Aneta and Pani Bronich told me? They
told me--"

But here she stopped, and after a while said,--

"No; I cannot tell this aloud. Let us walk in the garden a little."

And she rose, but not with sufficient care, so that, stumbling at the
first step, she almost fell.

"Be careful!" cried Pan Stanislav, impatiently.

She looked at him with submission, almost with fear.

"Stas," said she, blushing, "as I love thee, that was inadvertent."

"But do not frighten her so," said Pani Bigiel, quickly.

It was so evident that Pan Stanislav cared more at that moment for the
coming child than Marynia, that even Zavilovski understood it.

As to Marynia, this was known to her long before that day; she had
passed through a whole mental battle with herself just because of
it. Of that battle she had not spoken to any one; and it was the more
difficult, the more the state of her health advised against excitement,
unquiet, and an inclination to gloomy brooding. She had passed through
grievous hours before she said to herself, "It must be as it is."

Pan Stanislav would have been simply astonished had any one told him
that he did not love, and especially that he did not value, his wife as
duty demanded. He loved her in his own way, and judged at once that, if
ever, it was then that the child should be for both a question beyond
every other. Vivacious and impulsive by nature, he pushed this care at
moments too far, but he did not account this to himself as a fault;
he did not even stop to think of what might take place in the soul of
Marynia. It seemed to him that among other duties of hers one of the
first was the duty of giving him children; that it was a simple thing,
therefore, that she should accomplish this. Hence he was thankful to
her, and imagined that, being careful of a child, he was by that very
act careful of her, and careful in a degree that few husbands are.
If he had considered it proper to call himself to account touching
his treatment of her, he would have considered it a thing perfectly
natural also that her charm, purely feminine, attracted him now less
than it had hitherto. With each day she became uglier, and offended his
æsthetic sense sometimes; he fancied that, concealing this from her,
and trying to show her sympathy, he was as delicate as a man could well
be to a woman.

She, on her part, had the impression that the hope on which she had
counted most had deceived her; she felt that she had descended to the
second place, that she would descend more and more. And in spite of all
her affection for her husband, in spite of the treasures of tenderness
which were collecting in her for the future child, rebellion and regret
seized her soul at the first moment. But this did not last long; she
battled with these feelings also, and conquered. She said to herself
that here it was no one's fault; life is such that this issues from the
natural condition of things, which, again, is a result of God's will.
Then she began to accuse herself of selfishness, and crush herself
with the weight of this thought: Has she a right to think of herself,
not of "Stas," and not of her future child? What can she bring against
"Stas"? What is there wonderful in this, that he, who had loved even a
strange child so much, has his soul occupied now, above all, with his
own; that his heart beats first for it? Is there not an offence against
God in this,--that she permits herself to bring forward first of all
rights of her own, happiness of her own, she, who has offended so much?
Who is she, and what right has she to an exceptional fate? And she was
ready to beat her breast. The rebellion passed; there remained only
somewhere in the very depths of her heart a little regret that life
is so strange, and that every new feeling, instead of strengthening a
previous one, pushes it into the depths. But when that sorrow went from
her heart to her eyes, under the form of tears, or began to quiver on
her lips, she did not let it have such an escape.

"I shall be calm in a moment," thought she, in her soul. "Such it is,
such it will be, and such is right; for such is life, and such is God's
will, with which we must be reconciled." And at last she was reconciled.

By degrees she found repose even, not giving an account to herself that
the basis of this was resignation and sadness. It was sadness, however,
which smiled. Being young, it was almost bitter at times to her, when
all at once, in the eyes of her husband, or of even some stranger, she
read clearly, "Oh, how ugly thou hast grown!" But because Pani Bigiel
had said that "afterward" she would be more beautiful than ever, she
said in her soul to them, "Wait!"--and that was her solace.

She answered also something similar to Zavilovski. She was at once
glad, and not glad, of the impression she had made on him; for if on
the one hand her self-love had suffered a little, on the other she felt
perfectly safe, and could speak with him freely. She wished to speak,
and speak with full seriousness, for a few days before, Pani Aneta had
told her directly that "The Column" was in love to the ears, and that
Zavilovski had every chance with her.

This forging the iron while hot disquieted her somewhat; she could not
understand why it was so, even taking into consideration the innate
impetuosity of Pani Aneta. For Zavilovski, who had become somehow the
Benjamin of both houses, she, as well as the Bigiels and Pan Stanislav,
had great friendship; and, besides, she was grateful to him, for, be
things as they might, he had appreciated her. He had known her truly,
hence she would help him with gladness in that which seemed to her
a great opportunity; but she thought also, "Suppose it should be bad
for him." She feared responsibility a little, and her own previous
diplomacy. Now, therefore, she wishes to learn first what he thinks
really, and then give him to understand how things are, and finally
advise him to examine and weigh with due care in the given case.

"They are wondering there, because you have not called for a long
time," said she, when they had gone to the garden.

"What did Pani Osnovski say?" inquired Zavilovski.

"I will tell you only one thing, though I am not sure that I ought to
repeat it. Pani Aneta told me--that--but no! First, I must learn why
you have not called there this long time."

"I was not well, and I had a disappointment. I made no visits; I could
not! You have stopped talking."

"Yes, for I wished to know if you were not angry at those ladies for
some cause. Pani Aneta told me that Lineta supposed you were, and that
she saw tears in her eyes a number of times, for that reason."

Zavilovski blushed; on his young and impressionable face real
tenderness was reflected.

"Ah, my God!" answered he; "I angry, and at a lady like Panna Lineta?
Could she offend any one?"

"I repeat what was said to me, though Pani Aneta is so impulsive that
I dare not guarantee all she says to be accurate. I know that she is
not lying; but, as you understand, very impulsive people see things
sometimes as if through a magnifying-glass. Satisfy yourself. Lineta
seems to me agreeable, very uncommon, and very kind--but judge for
yourself; you have such power of observation."

"That she is kind and uncommon is undoubted. You remember how I said
that they produced the impression of foreign women; that is not true
altogether. Pani Osnovski may, but not Panna Lineta."

"You must look yourself, and look again," said Marynia. "You understand
that I persuade you to nothing. I should have a little fear, even of
Stas, who does not like those ladies. But I say sincerely that when I
heard of Lineta's tears, my heart was touched. The poor girl!"

"I cannot even tell you how the very thought of that stirs me," replied
Zavilovski.

Further conversation was interrupted by the coming of Pan Stanislav,
who said,--

"Well? always matchmakers! But these women are incurable. Knowest thou,
Marynia, what I will tell thee? I should be most happy wert thou to
refrain from such matters."

Marynia began to explain; but he turned to Zavilovski, and said,--

"I enter into nothing in this case, and know only this,--that I have
not the least faith in those ladies."

Zavilovski went home full of dreams. All the strings of his imagination
had been stirred and sounded, so that the wished-for sleep fled from
him. He did not light a lamp, so that nothing might prevent him from
playing on those quivering strings; he sat in the moonlight and mused,
or rather, created. He was not in love yet; but a great tenderness
had possessed him at thought of Lineta, and he arranged images as if
he loved already. He saw her as distinctly as though she were before
him; he saw her dreamy eyes, and her golden head, bending, like a cut
flower, till it reached his breast. And now it seems to him that he is
placing his fingers on her temples, and that he is feeling the satin
touch of her hair, and, bending her head back a little, he looks to
see if the fondling has not dried her tears; and her eyes laugh at
him, like the sky still wet from rain, but sunny. Imagination moves
his senses. He thinks that he is confessing his love to her; that he
presses her to his bosom, and feels her heart beating; that he kneels
with his head on her knees, from which comes warmth through the silk
garment to his face. And he began in reality to shiver. Hitherto she
had been for him an image; now he feels her for the first time as a
woman. There is not in him even one thought which is not on her; and he
so forgets himself in her that he loses consciousness of where he is,
and what is happening within him.

Some kind of hoarse singing on the street roused him; then he lighted a
lamp, and began to think more soberly. A kind of alarm seized him now,
because one thing seemed undoubted,--if he did not cease to visit Pani
Bronich and the Osnovskis altogether, he would fall in love with that
maiden past memory.

"I must choose, then," said he to himself.

And next day he went to see her, for he had begun to yearn; and that
same night he tried to write a poem with the title of "Spider-web."

He dared not go to Pani Bronich herself, so he waited till the hour
when he could find all at tea, in the common drawing-room. Pani
Aneta received him with uncommon cordiality, and outbursts of joyous
laughter; but he, after greeting her, began to look at Lineta's face,
and his heart beat with more force when he saw in her a great and deep
joy.

"Do you know what?" cried Pani Aneta, with her usual vivacity. "Our
'Poplar' likes beards so much that I thought this of you: 'he is
letting his beard grow, and does not show himself.'"

"No, no!" said the "Poplar," "stay as you were when I made your
acquaintance."

But Pan Osnovski put his arm around Zavilovski, and said, in that
pleasant tone of a man of good breeding, who knows how to bring people
at once to more intimate and cordial relations,--

"Did Pan Ignas hide himself from us? Well, I have means to compel him.
Let Lineta begin his portrait, then he must come to us daily."

Pani Aneta clapped her hands.

"How clever that Yozio is, wonderfully clever!"

His face was radiant because he had said a thing pleasing to his wife,
and he repeated,--

"Of course, my Anetka, of course."

"I have promised already to paint it," said Lineta, with a soft voice,
"but I was afraid to be urgent."

"Whenever you command," answered Pan Ignas.

"The days are so long now that about four, after Pan Kopovski; for that
matter, I shall finish soon with that insufferable Kopovski."

"Do you know what she said about Pan Kopovski?" began Pani Aneta.

But Lineta would not permit her to say this for anything; she was
prevented, moreover, by Pan Plavitski, who came in at that moment, and
broke up the conversation. Pan Plavitski, on making the acquaintance of
Pani Aneta at Marynia's, lost his head for her, and acknowledged this
openly; on her part, she coquetted with him unsparingly, to the great
delight of herself and of others.

"Let papa sit near me here," said she; "we will be happy side by side,
won't we?"

"As in heaven! as in heaven!" replied Plavitski, stroking his knees
with his palms time after time, and thrusting out the tip of his tongue
from enjoyment.

Zavilovski drew up to Lineta and said,--

"I am so happy to be able to come every day. But shall I not occupy
your time, really?"

"Of course you will occupy it," answered she, looking him in the eyes;
"but you will occupy it as no one else can. I was really too timid to
urge, because I am afraid of you."

Then he looked into the depth of her eyes, and answered with emphasis,--

"Be not afraid."

Lineta dropped her eyelids, and a moment of rather awkward suspense
followed; then the lady inquired, in a voice somewhat lowered,--

"Why did you not come for such a long time?"

He had it on his tongue to say, "I was afraid," but he had not the
daring to push matters that far; hence he answered,--

"I was writing."

"A poem?"

"Yes, called 'Spider-web;' I will bring it to-morrow. You remember that
when I made your acquaintance, you said that you would like to be a
spider-web. I remembered that; and since then I see continually such a
snowy thread sporting in the air."

"It sports, but not with its own power," answered Lineta, "and cannot
soar unless--"

"What? Why do you not finish?"

"Unless it winds around the wing of a Soarer."

When she had said this, she rose quickly and went to help Osnovski, who
was opening the window.

Zavilovski remained alone with mist in his eyes. It seemed to him
that he heard the throbbing of his temples. The honeyed voice of Pani
Bronich first brought him to his senses,--

"A couple of days ago old Pan Zavilovski told me that you and he
are related; but that you are not willing to visit him, and that he
cannot visit you, since he has the gout. Why not visit him? He is a
man of such distinction, and so pleasant. Go to him; it is even a
disappointment to him that you do not go. Go to visit him."

"Very well; I can go," answered Zavilovski, who was ready that moment
to agree to anything.

"How kind and good you must be! You will see your cousin, Panna Helena.
But don't fall in love with her, for she too is very distinguished."

"No, there is no danger," said Zavilovski, laughing.

"They say besides that she was in love with Ploshovski, who shot
himself, and that she wears eternal mourning in her heart for him. But
when will you go?"

"To-morrow, or the day after. When you like."

"You see, they are going away. The summer is at our girdles! Where will
you be in the summer?"

"I do not know. And you?"

Lineta, who during this time had returned and sat down not far away,
stopped her conversation with Kopovski, and, hearing Pan Ignas's
question, replied,--

"We have no plan yet."

"We were going to Scheveningen," said Pani Bronich, "but it is
difficult with Lineta." And after a while she added in a lower voice:
"She is always so surrounded by people; she has such success in society
that you would not believe it. Though why should you not? It is enough
to look at her. My late husband foretold this when she was twelve years
of age. 'Look,' said he, 'what trouble there will be when she grows
up.' And there is trouble, there is! My husband foresaw many things.
But have I told you that he was the last of the Rur--Ah, yes! I have
told you. We had no children of our own, for the first one didn't come
to birth, and my husband was fourteen years older than I; later on he
was to me more,--a father."

"How can that concern me?" thought Pan Ignas. But Pani Bronich
continued,--

"My late husband always grieved over this, that he had no son. That is,
there was a son, but he came halfway too early" (here tears quivered
in the voice of Pani Bronich). "We kept him some time in spirits. And,
if you will believe it, when there was fair weather he rose, and when
there was rain he sank down. Ah, what a gloomy remembrance! How much
my husband suffered because he was to die,--the last of the Rur--.
But a truce to this; 't is enough that at last he was as attached to
Lineta as to a relative,--and surely she was his nearest relative,--and
what remains after us will be hers. Maybe for that reason people
surround her so. Though--no! I do not wonder at them. If you knew
what a torment that is to her, and to me. Two years ago, in Nice, a
Portuguese, Count Jao Colimaçao, a relative of the Alcantaras, so lost
his head as to rouse people's laughter. Or that Greek of last year, in
Ostend!--the son of a banker, from Marseilles, a millionnaire. What was
his name? Lineta, what was the name of that Greek millionnaire, that
one who, thou knowest?"

"Aunt!" said Lineta, with evident displeasure.

But the aunt was in full career already, like a train with full steam.

"Ah, ha! I recollect," said she,--"Kanafaropulos, Secretary of the
French Embassy in Brussels."

Lineta rose and went to Pani Aneta, who was talking at the principal
table with Plavitski. The aunt, following her with her eyes, said,--

"The child is angry. She hates tremendously to have any one speak of
her successes; but I cannot resist. Do you understand me? See how tall
she is! How splendidly she has grown! Anetka calls her sometimes the
column, and sometimes the poplar; and really, she is a poplar. What
wonder that people's eyes gaze at her! I haven't mentioned yet Pan
Ufinski. That's our great friend. My late husband loved him immensely.
But you must have heard of Pan Ufinski? That man who cuts silhouettes
out of paper. The whole world knows him. I don't know at how many
courts he has cut silhouettes; the last time he cut out the Prince of
Wales. There was also a Hungarian."

Osnovski, who sat near by amusing himself with a pencil at his
watch-chain, now drawing it out, now pushing it back, grew impatient at
last, and said,--

"A couple of more such, dear aunt, and there would be a masquerade
ball."

"Precisely, precisely!" answered Pani Bronich. "If I mention them,
it is because Lineta doesn't wish to hear of any one. She is such a
chauviniste! You have no idea what a chauviniste that child is."

"God give her health!" said Pan Ignas.

Then he rose to take farewell. At parting, he held for some time the
hand of Lineta, who answered also with an equally prolonged pressure.

"Till to-morrow," said he, looking into her eyes.

"Till to-morrow--after Pan Kopovski. And do not forget 'Spider-web.'"

"No, I will not forget--ever," answered Zavilovski, with a voice
somewhat moved.

He went out with Plavitski; but they had scarcely found themselves
on the street, when the old man, tapped him lightly on the arm, and
stopping, said,--

"Young man, do you know that I shall soon be a grandfather?"

"I know."

"Yes, yes!" repeated Plavitski with a smile of delight, "and in
addition to that, I will tell you only this much: there is nothing to
surpass young married women!"

And, laughing, he began to clap Pan Ignas time after time on the
shoulder; then he put the ends of his fingers to his lips, took
farewell, and walked off.

But his voice, slightly quivering, came to Pan Ignas from a distance,--

"There is nothing to surpass young married women." Noise on the street
drowned the rest.



CHAPTER XLV.


From that time Pan Ignas went every day to Aunt Bronich's. He found
Kopovski there frequently, for toward the end something had been
spoiled in the portrait of "Antinoüs." Lineta said that she had not
been able to bring everything out of that face yet; that the expression
in the picture was not perhaps what it should be,--in a word, she
needed time for reflection. With Pan Ignas her work went more easily.

"With such a head as Pan Kopovski's," said she once, "it is enough to
change the least line, it is enough to have the light wrong, to ruin
everything. While with Pan Zavilovski one must seize first of all the
character."

On hearing this, both were satisfied. Kopovski declared even that it
was not his fault; that God had created him so. Pani Bronich said later
on that Lineta had said apropos of that: "God created him; the Son of
God redeemed him; but the Holy Ghost forgot to illuminate him." That
witticism on poor Kopovski was repeated throughout Warsaw.

Pan Ignas liked him well enough. After a few meetings he seemed to
him so unfathomably stupid that it did not occur to him that any one
could be jealous of the man. On the contrary, it was always pleasant
to look at him. Those ladies too liked him, though they permitted
themselves to jest with him; and sometimes he served them simply as a
ball, which they tossed from hand to hand. Kopovski's stupidity was not
gloomy, however, nor suspicious. He possessed a uniform temper and a
smile really wonderful; of this last he was aware, perhaps, hence he
preferred to smile rather than frown. He was well-bred, accustomed to
society, and dressed excellently; in this regard he might have served
as a model to Pan Ignas.

From time to time he put astonishing questions, which filled the young
ladies with merriment. Once, hearing Pani Bronich talk of poetic
inspirations, he asked Pan Ignas, "If anything was taken for it or
not," and at the first moment confused him, for Pan Ignas did not know
what to answer.

Another time Pani Aneta said to him,--

"Have you ever written poetry? Make some rhyme, then."

Kopovski asked time till next day; but next day he had forgotten the
request, or could not make the verses. The ladies were too well-bred to
remind him of his promise. It was always so agreeable to look at him
that they did not wish to cause him unpleasantness.

Meanwhile spring ended, and the races began. Pan Ignas was invited for
the whole time of their continuance to the carriage of the Osnovskis.
They gave him a place opposite Lineta; and he admired her with all his
soul. In bright dresses, in bright hats, with laughter in her dreamy
eyes, with her calm face flushing somewhat under the breath of fresh
breezes, she seemed to him spring and paradise. Returning home, he had
his eyes full of her, his mind and his heart full. In that world in
which they lived, in the society of those young men, who came up to the
carriage to entertain the ladies, he was not at home, but the sight of
Lineta recompensed him for everything. Under the influence of sunny
days, fair weather, broad summer breezes, and that youthful maiden,
who began to be dear to him, he lived, as it were, in a continuous
intoxication; he felt youth and power in himself. In his face there was
at times something truly eagle-like. At moments it seemed to him that
he was a ringing bell, sounding and sounding, heralding the delight of
life, the delight of love, the delight of happiness,--a great jubilee
of loving.

He wrote much, and more easily than ever before; there was besides in
his verses that which recalled the fresh odor of newly ploughed fields,
the vigor of young leaves, the sound of wings of birds flying on to
fallow land to the immense breadth of plains and meadows. He felt his
own power, and ceased to be timid about poetry even before strangers,
for he understood that there was something about him, something within
him, and that he had something to lay at the feet of a loved one.

Pan Stanislav, who, in spite of his mercantile life, had an
irrestrainable passion for horses, and never neglected the races, saw
Pan Ignas every day with the Osnovskis and Panna Castelli, and gazing
at the latter as at a rainbow; when he teased him in the counting-house
for being in love, the young poet answered,--

"It is not I, but my eyes. The Osnovskis will go soon, those ladies
too; and all will disappear like a dream."

But he did not speak truth, for he did not believe that all could
disappear like a dream. On the contrary, he felt that for him a new
life had begun, which with the departure of Panna Lineta might be
broken.

"And where are Pani Bronich and Panna Castelli going?" continued Pan
Stanislav.

"For the rest of June and during July they will remain with the
Osnovskis, and then go, as they say, to Scheveningen; but this is not
certain yet."

"Osnovski's Prytulov is fifteen miles from Warsaw," said Pan Stanislav.

For some days Pan Ignas had been asking himself, with heart beating,
whether they would invite him or not; but when they invited him, and
besides very cordially, he did not promise to go, and with all his
expressions of gratitude held back, excusing himself with the plea of
occupation and lack of time. Lineta, who was sitting apart, heard him,
and raised her golden brows. When he was going, she approached him and
asked,--

"Why will you not come to Prytulov?"

He, seeing that no one could hear them, said, looking into her eyes,--

"I am afraid."

She began to laugh, and inquired, repeating Kopovski's words,--

"Is it necessary to take anything for that?"

"It is," answered he, with a voice somewhat trembling; "I need to take
the word, come, from you!"

She hesitated a moment; perhaps she did not dare to tell him directly
in that form which he required, but she blushed suddenly and
whispered;--

"Come."

Then she fled, as if ashamed of those colors on her face, which, in
spite of the darkness, were increasingly evident.

On the way home it seemed to Pan Ignas that a shower of stars was
raining down on him.

The departure of the Osnovskis was to take place in ten days only.
Up to that time, the painting of portraits was to continue its usual
course, and to go on in the same fashion till the last day, for Lineta
did not wish to lose time. Pani Aneta persuaded her to paint Pan Ignas
exclusively, since Kopovski would need only as many sittings as could
be arranged in Prytulov just before their departure for Scheveningen.
For Pan Ignas those sittings had become the first need of his life, as
it were; and if by chance there was any interruption, he looked on that
day as lost. Pani Bronich was present at the sittings most frequently.
But he divined in her a friendly soul; and at last the manner in which
she spoke of Lineta began to please him. They both just composed hymns
in honor of Lineta, whom in confidential conversation Pani Bronich
called "Nitechka."[10] This name pleased Pan Ignas the more clearly he
felt how that "Nitechka" (thread) was winding around his heart.

Frequently, however, it seemed to him that Pani Bronich was narrating
improbable things. It was easy to believe that Lineta was and could be
Svirski's most capable pupil; that Svirski might have called her "La
Perla;" that he might have fallen in love with her, as Pani Bronich
gave one to understand. But that Svirski, known in all Europe, and
rewarded with gold medals at all the exhibitions, could declare with
tears, while looking at some sketch of hers, that saving technique, he
ought rather to take lessons of her, of this even Pan Ignas permitted
himself to doubt. And somewhere, in some corner of his soul, in which
there was hidden yet a small dose of sobriety, he wondered that Panna
"Nitechka" did not contradict directly, but limited herself to her
words usual on such occasions: "Aunt! thou knowest that I do not wish
you to repeat such things."

But at last he lost even those final gleams of sobriety, and began to
have feelings of tenderness even over the late Bronich, and almost fell
in love with Pani Bronich, for this alone,--that he could talk with her
from morning till night of Lineta.

In consequence of this repeated insistence of Pani Bronich, he visited
also, at this time, old Pan Zavilovski, that Croesus, at whose house
he had never been before. The old noble, with milk-white mustaches, a
ruddy complexion, and gray hair closely trimmed, received him with his
foot in an armchair, and with that peculiar great-lord familiarity of a
man accustomed to this,--that people count more with him than he with
them.

"I beg pardon for not standing," said he, "but the gout is no joke. Ha,
what is to be done! An inheritance! It seems that this will be attached
to the name for the ages of ages. But hast thou not a twist in thy
thumb sometimes?"

"No," answered Pan Ignas, who was a little astonished, as well at the
manner of reception as that the old noble said _thou_ to him from the
first moment.

"Wait; old age will come."

Then, calling his daughter, he presented Pan Ignas to her, and began to
speak of the family, explaining to the young man how they were related.
At last he said,--

"Well, I have not written verses, for I am too dull; but I must tell
thee that thou hast written them for me, and that I was not ashamed,
though I read my name under the verses."

But the visit was not to end successfully. Panna Zavilovski, a person
of thirty years, good-looking, but, as it were, untimely faded and
gloomy, wishing to take some part in the conversation, began to inquire
of her "cousin" whom he knew, and where he visited. To every name
mentioned, the old noble appended, in one or two words, his opinion.
At mention of Pan Stanislav, he said, "Good blood!" at Bigiel's, he
inquired, "How?" and when the name was repeated, he said, "_Connais
pas_;" Pani Aneta he outlined with the phrase, "Crested lark!" at
mention of Pani Bronich he muttered, "Babbler;" at last, when the young
man named, with a certain confusion, Panna Castelli, the noble, whose
leg twitched evidently at that moment, twisted his face terribly, and
exclaimed, "Ei! a Venetian _half-devil_!"

At this, it grew dark in the eyes of Pan Ignas, who, notwithstanding
his shyness, was impulsive; his lower jaw came forward more than ever,
and, rising, he measured with a glance the old man from his aching foot
to his crown, and said,--

"You have a way of giving sharp judgments, which does not suit me;
therefore it is pleasant to take farewell."

And, bowing, he took his hat and departed.

Old Pan Zavilovski, who permitted himself everything, and to whom
everything was forgiven, looked at his daughter some time with
amazement, and only after long silence exclaimed,--

"What! has he gone mad?"

The young man did not tell Pani Bronich what had happened. He said
merely that he had made a visit, and that father and daughter alike
did not please him. She learned everything, however, from the old
man himself, who, for that matter, did not call Lineta anything but
"Venetian half-devil," even to her eyes.

"But to make the matter perfect, you have sent me a full devil," said
he; "it is well that he did not break my head."

Still in his voice one might note a species of satisfaction that it was
a _Zavilovski_ who had shown himself so resolute; but Pani Bronich did
not note it. She took the affair somewhat to heart, and, to the great
astonishment of the "full-devil," said to him,--

"He is wild about Lineta, and with him this is a sort of term of
tenderness; besides, one should forgive a man much who has such
a position, and in this age. It must be that you haven't read
Krashevski's novel, 'Venetian Half-Devil.' This is a title in which
there is a certain poetry ever since that author used it. When the old
man grows good-natured, write him a couple of words, will you not? Such
relations should be kept up."

"Pani," answered Pan Ignas, "I would not write to him for anything in
the world."

"Even if some one besides me should ask?"

"That is--again, I am not a stone."

Lineta laughed when she heard these words. In secret she was pleased
that Pan Ignas, at one word touching her which to him seemed offensive,
sprang up as if he had heard a blasphemy. So that during the sitting,
when for a while they were alone, she said,--

"It is wonderful how little I believe in the sincerity of people. So
difficult is it for me to believe that any one, except aunt, should
wish me well really."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I cannot explain it to myself."

"But, for example, the Osnovskis? Pani Aneta?"

"Pani Aneta?" repeated Lineta.

And she began to paint diligently, as if she had forgotten the question.

"But I?" asked Pan Ignas, in a lower voice.

"You--yes. You, I am sure, would not let any one speak ill of me. I
feel that you are sincerely well-wishing, though I know not why, for in
general I am of so little worth."

"You of little worth!" cried Pan Ignas, springing up. "Remember that,
in truth, I will let no one speak ill of you, not even you yourself."

Lineta laughed and said,--

"Very well; but sit down, for I cannot paint."

He sat down; but he looked at her with a gaze so full of love and
enchantment that it began to confuse her.

"What a disobedient model!" said she; "turn your head to the right a
little, and do not look at me."

"I cannot! I cannot!" answered Pan Ignas.

"And I, in truth, cannot paint, for the head was begun in another
position. Wait!"

Then she approached him, and, taking his temples with her fingers,
turned his head toward the right slightly. His heart began to beat like
a hammer; everything went around in his eyes; and, holding the hand of
Lineta, he pressed her warm palm to his lips, and made no answer,--he
only pressed it more firmly.

"Talk with aunt," said she, hurriedly. "We are going to-morrow."

They could not say more, for that moment Osnovski, Kopovski, and Pani
Aneta, who had been sitting in the drawing-room adjoining, came into
the studio.

Pani Aneta, seeing Lineta's blushing cheeks, looked quickly at Pan
Ignas, and asked,--

"How is it going with you to-day?"

"Where is aunt?" inquired Lineta.

"She went out to make visits."

"Long since?"

"A few minutes ago. How has it gone with you?"

"Well; but enough for to-day."

Lineta put down her brush, and after a moment went to wash her hands.
Pan Ignas remained there, answering, with more or less presence
of mind, questions put to him; but he wanted to go. He feared the
conversation with Pani Bronich, and, with the habit of cowards, he
wished to defer it till the morrow; he wanted, besides, to remain a
while with his own thoughts, to arrange them, to estimate better the
significance of what had happened. For at that moment he had in his
head merely a certain chaos of indefinite thoughts; he understood that
something unparalleled had happened,--something from which a new epoch
in life would begin. At the very thought of this, a quiver of happiness
passed through him, but also a quiver of fear, for he felt that now it
was too late to withdraw; through love, through confession, through
declaration to the lady and to her family, he must advance to the
altar. He desired this with his whole soul; but he was so accustomed
to consider everything that was happiness as a poetic imagining, as
something belonging exclusively to the world of thought, art, and
dreams, that he almost lacked daring to believe that Lineta could
become his wife really. Meanwhile he had barely endurance to sit out
the time; and when Lineta returned, he rose to take leave.

She gave him her hand, cooled by fresh water, and said,--

"Will you not wait for aunt?"

"I must go; and to-morrow I will take farewell of you and Pani Bronich."

"Then till our next meeting!"

This farewell seemed to Pan Ignas, after what had happened, so
inappropriate and cold that despair seized him; but he had not the
daring to part before people otherwise, all the more that Pani Aneta
was looking at him with uncommon attention.

"Wait! I have something to do in the city; we'll go together," said
Osnovski, as he was going out.

And they went together; but barely were they outside the gate of the
villa, when Pan Osnovski stopped, and put his hand on the poet's arm.

"Pan Ignas, have you not quarrelled a little with Lineta?"

Pan Ignas looked at him with great eyes.

"I? with Panna Lineta?"

"Yes, for you parted somehow coldly. I thought you were as far, at
least, as hand-kissing."

Pan Ignas's eyes grew still larger; Osnovski laughed, and said,--

"Well, I'll tell you the truth. My wife, as a woman who is curious,
looked at you, and said that something had happened. My Pan Ignas, you
have in me a great friend, who, besides, knows what it is to love. I
can say to you only one thing,--God grant you to be as happy as I am!"

When he had said this, he began to shake his guest's hand; and Pan
Ignas, though confused to the highest degree, was barely able to
refrain from falling on his neck.

"Have you really some work to-day? Why did you go?"

"I will tell you sincerely. I wanted to collect my thoughts, and,
besides, fear of Pani Bronich seized me."

"Then you do not know aunt? Her head, too, is warm with the question.
Come with me a bit of the road, and then go back without ceremony.
On the way you will collect your thoughts; by that time Pani Bronich
will be at home, and you will tell her your little story, at which she
will weep. Nothing else threatens you. Remember, too, that if you are
fortunate you are to thank mainly my Aneta, for, as God lives, she
has filled Castelka's head, as your own sister might. She has such an
impetuous head, and at the same time such an honest heart. Equally good
women there may be, but a better there is not on earth. It seemed to us
a little that that fool Kopovski was inclined to Castelka, and Aneta
was tremendously angry. They like Kopovski; but to let her marry such a
man--that would be too much."

Thus talking, he took Pan Ignas by the hand, and after a moment,
continued, "We are to be relatives soon; let us drop ceremony and
say _thou_ to each other. I must tell thee further: I have no doubt
Castelka loves thee with her whole heart, for she is a true woman
also. Besides, they have turned her head with thee greatly; but she
is so young yet that I tell thee to throw fuel on the fire--throw it!
Dost understand? What is begun should become rooted; this can happen
easily, for hers is really an uncommon nature. Do not think that I
wish to forewarn or to frighten thee. No; it is a question only of
making things permanent. That she loves thee is not subject to doubt.
If thy eyes had but seen her when she was carrying thy book around,
or what happened when she and thou were returning from the theatre. A
stupid thought came to my head then. I spoke of having heard that old
Zavilovski wished to make thy acquaintance because he had planned to
marry thee to his daughter, so that his property might not leave the
name; and imagine to thyself, that poor girl, when she heard this,
became as pale as paper, so that I was frightened, and took back my
words in all haste. What is thy answer to this?"

Pan Ignas wanted to laugh and to weep; but he merely pressed to his
side, and pressed with all his force, Osnovski's hand, which he held
under his arm, and said, after a while,--

"I am not worthy of her, no."

"Well, and after that 'no' perhaps thou wilt say, 'No, I do not love
her properly.'"

"That may be true," answered Pan Ignas, raising his eyes.

"Well, go back now, and tell thy little story to Aunt Bronich. Do not
fear being too pathetic; she likes that. Till we meet again, Ignas! I
shall be back myself in an hour or so, and we shall have a betrothal
evening."

They pressed each other's hands, and Osnovski said, with a feeling
which was quite brotherly,--

"I repeat once more: God grant thee to find in Castelka such a wife as
my Anetka!"

On the way back Pan Ignas thought that Osnovski was an angel, Pani
Osnovski another, Pani Bronich a third, and Lineta, soaring above them
all on the wings of an archangel, something divine and sacred. He
understood at that moment that a heart might love to pain. In his soul
he was kneeling at her knees, bowing to the earth at her feet; he loved
her, deified her, and to all these feelings, which were playing in him
one great hymn, as it were, to greet the dawn, was joined a feeling of
such tenderness, as if that magnified woman was also a little child,
alone, and wonderfully loved, but a little thing, needing care. He
recalled Osnovski's story of how she had grown pale when they told
her that there was a plan to marry him to another; and in his soul he
repeated, "Ah, but thou art mine, thou art mine!" He grew tender beyond
measure, and gratitude so filled his heart that it seemed to him that
he could not repay her in a lifetime for that one moment of paleness.
He felt happier than ever before; and at moments the immensity of this
happiness almost frightened him. Hitherto he had been a theoretical
pessimist, but now reality gave the lie to those passing theories with
such power that it was hard for him to believe that he could have
deceived himself to such a degree.

Meanwhile he was returning to the villa, inhaling along the way the
odor of blooming jasmines, and having some species of dim feeling that
that intoxicating odor was nothing external, but simply a part and
component of his happiness. "What people! what a house! what a family!"
said he to himself; "only among them could my White One be reared!"
Then he looked on the sun, setting in calmness; he looked at the golden
curtains of evening, bordered with purple; and that calmness began
to possess him. In those immense lights he felt boundless love and
kindness, which look on the world, cherish, and bless it. He did not
pray in words, it is true; but everything was singing one thanksgiving
prayer in his soul.

At the gate of the villa he recovered as if from a dream; he saw an old
serving-man of the Osnovskis, who was looking at the passing carriages.

"Good-evening, Stanislav," said he; "but has not Pani Bronich returned?"

"I am just looking, but I do not see her."

"Are the ladies in the drawing-room yet?"

"They are; and Pan Kopovski, too."

"But who will open for me?"

"The door is open. I've come out only this minute."

Pan Ignas went up; but, finding no one in the common drawing-room, he
went to the studio. There, too, he found no one; but in the adjoining
smaller chamber certain low voices reached him through the portière
dividing that room from the studio. Thinking to find there both ladies
and Kopovski, he drew aside the portière slightly, and, looking in, was
stupefied.

Lineta was not in the room; but Kopovski was kneeling before Pani
Osnovski, who, holding her hands thrust into his abundant hair, was
bending his head back, inclining her face at the same time, as if to
place a kiss on his forehead.

"Anetka, if thou love me--" said Kopovski, with a voice stifled from
passion.

"I love--but no! I don't want that," answered Pani Osnovski, pushing
him away somewhat.

Pan Ignas dropped the portière with an involuntary movement; for a
moment he stood before it as if his feet had grown leaden. Finally,
without giving himself a clear account of what he was doing, he passed
through the studio, where the sound of his steps was deadened on the
thick carpet, as it had been when he entered; he passed the main
drawing-room, the entrance, the front steps, and came to himself at the
gate of the villa.

"Is the serene lord going out?" inquired the old serving-man.

"Yes," answered Pan Ignas.

He walked away as quickly as if escaping from something. After a time,
however, he stopped, and said aloud to himself,--

"Why have I not gone mad?"

And suddenly madness seemed to him possible, for he felt that he was
losing the thread of his thoughts; that he could not give himself an
account of anything; that he understood nothing, believed nothing.
Something began to tear in him, fall away. How was it? That house
which a moment before he thought to be some kind of blessed retreat of
exceptional souls, conceals the usual falsehood, the usual wickedness,
the usual vileness of life,--a wretched and shameful comedy. And his
Lineta, his White One, is breathing such an atmosphere, living in
such an environment, existing with such beings! Here Osnovski's words
occurred to him: "God grant thee to find in Castelka such a wife as I
have in my Anetka!" "I thank thee," thought Pan Ignas, and he began
to laugh, in spite of himself. Neither evil nor vileness were to him
a novelty: he had seen them, and he knew that they existed; but for
the first time life showed them to him with such a merciless irony, as
that through which Pan Osnovski,--a man who had shown him the heart
of a brother; a man honest, just, kind as few people in the world
are--turned out to be also a fool, a kind of exalted idiot, exalted
through his faith and his feeling; an idiot through a woman. And for
the first time, too, he saw clearly what a bad and contemptible woman
may make of a man, without any fault of his. On a sudden new, dreadful
horizons of life opened before him,--whole regions, the existence of
which he had not suspected; he had understood before that an evil
woman, like a vampire, may suck the life out of a man, and kill him,
and that seemed to him demonic, but he had not imagined that she could
make a fool of him also. He could not master that thought. But still,
Osnovski was ridiculous when he wished him to be as happy with his
future wife as he with Anetka; there was no help for this case either.
One should not so love as to grow blind to that degree.

Here his thoughts passed to Lineta. At the first moment he had a
feeling that from that vileness in the house of the Osnovskis, and
from that doubt which was born in his heart, a certain shadow fell on
her also. After a while he began, however, to cast out that feeling as
though it were profanation, treason against innocence, treason against
a being as pure as she was beloved, and defiling in thought her and
her angelic plumage. Indignation at himself seized him. "Does such a
dove even think evil?" asked he, in his soul. And his love rose still
more at the thought that "such a super-pure child" must come in contact
with such depravity. He would take her with the utmost haste possible
from Pani Osnovski's, guard her from that woman's influence, seize
her in his arms, and bear her from that house, in which her innocent
eyes might be opened on evil and depravity. A certain demon whispered
at moments to his ear, it is true, that Osnovski, too, believes as
he does, and that he would give his own blood in pledge for his
wife's honesty; he too would count every doubt a profanation of her
sacredness. But Pan Ignas drove away those whisperings with dread. "It
is enough to look into her eyes," said he; and at the mere thought of
those eyes, he was ready to beat his own breast, as if lie had sinned
most grievously. He was also angry at himself because he had come out,
because he had not waited for Pani Bronich, and had not strengthened
himself with the sight of Lineta. He remembered now how he had pressed
her hand to his lips; how she, changing from emotion, said to him,
"Speak with aunt." How much angelic simplicity and purity there was in
those words! what honesty of a soul, which, loving, wishes to be free
to love before the whole world! Pan Ignas, when he thought of this, was
seized by a desire to return; but he felt that he was too much excited,
and that he could not explain his former presence if the servant should
mention it.

Then again the picture rose before his eyes of Kopovski kneeling to
Pani Osnovski; and he fell to inquiring of himself what he was to do in
view of this, and how he was to act. Warn Osnovski? he rejected this
thought at once with indignation. Shut himself in with Pani Osnovski,
and give her a sermon, eye to eye? She would show him the door. After
a time it came to his head to threaten Kopovski, and force from him a
promise to cease visiting the Osnovskis. But soon he saw that that,
too, was useless. Kopovski, if he had even a small share of courage,
would give him the lie, challenge him; in such a case he would have
to be silent, and people would think that the scandal rose because of
Panna Castelli. Pan Ignas was sorry for Osnovski; he had conceived for
the man a true friendship, and, on the other hand, he was too young to
be reconciled at once with the thought that evil and human crookedness
were to continue unpunished. Ah! but if at that juncture he could have
counselled with some one,--for instance, with Pan Stanislav or Marynia.
But that could not be. And after long thought he resolved to bury all
in himself, and be silent.

At the same time, from the passionate prayer of Kopovski and the answer
of Pani Aneta, he inferred that the evil might not have passed yet into
complete fall. He did not know women; but he had read no little about
them. He knew that there exists some for whom the form of evil has more
charm than the substance; that there are women devoid of moral sense,
but also of passion, who have just as much desire for a prohibited
adventure as they have repugnance to complete fall,--in a word, those
who are incapable of loving anybody, who deceive their lovers as well
as their husbands. He recalled the words of a certain Frenchman: "If
Eve had been Polish, she would have plucked the apple, but not eaten
it." A similar type seemed to him Pani Aneta; vice might be in her as
superficial as virtue, and in such case the forbidden relation might
annoy her very soon, especially with a man like Kopovski.

Here, however, Pan Ignas lost the basis of reasoning and the key to the
soul of Pani Aneta. He would have understood relations with any other
man more readily than with Kopovski,--that archangel with the brains of
an idiot. "A poodle understands more of what is said to him," thought
Pan Ignas; "and a woman with such aspirations to reason, to science,
to art, to the understanding of every thought and feeling, could lower
herself for such a head!" He could not explain this to himself, even
with what he had read about women.

And still reality said more definitely than all books that it was so.
Suddenly Pan Ignas remembered what Osnovski had said to him about their
fear lest that fool might have plans against Castelka, that the mention
of this had angered Pani Aneta immensely, and that she filled Lineta's
head with feeling for another. So then, for Pani Aneta the question
consisted in this, that Kopovski should not pay court to Lineta. She
wanted to save him for herself. Here Pan Ignas shivered all at once,
for the thought struck him, that if that were true, Kopovski must have
had some chance of success; and again a shadow pursued the bright
form of Lineta. If that were true, she would fall in his eyes to the
level of Pani Aneta. After a time he felt bitterness in his mouth and
fire in his brain. Anger sprang upon him, like a tempest; he could
not forgive her this, and the very suspicion would have poisoned him.
Halting again on the street, he felt that he must throttle that thought
in himself, or go mad from it.

In fact, he put it down so effectively that he recognized himself
as the lowest fool for this alone,--that the thought could come to
him. That Lineta was incapable of loving Kopovski was shown best by
this,--that she had fallen in love with him, Pan Ignas; and the fears
and suspicions of Pani Aneta flowed only from the self-love of a
vain woman, who was afraid that another might be recognized as more
attractive and beautiful than she was. Pan Ignas had the feeling of
having pushed from his breast a stone, which had oppressed him. He
began then in spirit to implore on his knees pardon of the unspotted
one; and thenceforth his thoughts touching her were full of love,
homage, and contrition.

Now he made the remark to himself that evil, though committed by
another, bears evil; how many foul thoughts had passed through his mind
only because he had seen a fool at the feet of a giddy head! He noted
that consideration down in his memory.

When near his lodgings he met Pan Stanislav with Pani Mashko on his
arm; and that day had so poisoned him that a sudden suspicion flashed
through his mind. But Pan Stanislav recognized him in the light of the
moon and a lamp, and had no desire to hide evidently, for he stopped
him.

"Good-evening," said he. "Why home so early to-day?"

"I was at Pani Bronich's, and I am just strolling about, for the
evening is beautiful."

"Then step in to us. As soon as I conduct this lady home, I will
return. My wife has not seen you this long time."

"I will go," said Pan Ignas.

And a desire to see Pani Marynia had seized him really. So many
thoughts and feelings had rushed through him that he was weary; and he
knew that the calm and kind face of Marynia would act on him soothingly.

Soon he rang the bell at Pan Stanislav's. When he had entered, he
explained, after the greeting, that he came at the request of her
husband, to which she answered,--

"Of course! I am very glad. My husband at this moment is escorting
home Pani Mashko, who visited me, but he will return to tea. The
Bigiels will be here surely, and perhaps my father will come, if he has
not gone to the theatre."

Then she indicated a place at the table to him, and, straightening
the lamp shade, began on the work with which she was occupied
previously,--making little rosettes of narrow red and blue ribbons, of
which there was a pile lying before her.

"What are you making?" asked Pan Ignas.

"Rosettes. They are sewed to various costumes."

After a while she added,--

"But this is far more interesting,--what are you doing? Do you know
that all Warsaw is marrying you to Lineta Castelli? They have seen you
both in the theatre, at the races; they see you at the promenades;
and it is impossible to persuade them that the affair is not decided
already."

"Since I have spoken with you so openly, I will tell you now that it is
almost decided."

Marynia raised to him eyes enlivened with a smile and with curiosity.

"Is that true? Ah, that is a perfect piece of news! May God give you
such happiness as we wish you!"

Then she stretched her hand to him, and afterward inquired with roused
curiosity,--

"Have you spoken with Lineta?"

Pan Ignas told her how it was, and acknowledged his conversation with
Lineta and with Osnovski; then, letting himself be borne away in the
narrative, he confessed everything that had happened to him--how, from
the beginning, he had observed, criticised, and struggled with himself;
how he had not dared to hope; how he had tried to drive that feeling
from his head, or rather, from his heart, and how he could not resist
it. He assured her that he had promised himself a number of times to
cut short the acquaintance and the visits, but strength failed him each
time; each time he saw with amazement that the whole world, the whole
object of his life, was there; that without her, without Lineta, he
would not know what to do with his life--and he went back to her.

Pan Ignas had not observed himself less truthfully, but he criticised
and struggled less than he said. He spoke sincerely, however. He added
at the end that he knew with certainty that he loved, not his own
feelings involved in Lineta, but Lineta herself, for herself, and that
she was the dearest person on earth to him.

"Think," said he, "others have families, mothers, sisters, brothers; I,
except my unfortunate father, have no one, and therefore my love for
the whole world is centred in her."

"True," said Marynia; "that had to come."

"This seems a dream to me," continued he; "it cannot find place in my
head that she will be my wife really. At times it seems to me that this
cannot happen; that something will intervene; that all will be lost."

In fact, this feeling was strengthened in him by exaltation, to which
he was more inclined than other men, and at last he began to tremble
nervously; then he covered his eyes with his hands, and said,--

"You see I must shield my eyes to imagine this properly. Such
happiness! such fabulous happiness! What does a man seek in life,
and in marriage? Just that, and in its own course that exceeds his
strength. I do not know whether I am so weak or what? but I say
sincerely that at times breath fails me."

Marynia placed her rosette on the table, and, putting her hands on it,
looked at him for a while, then said,--

"You are a poet, and are carried away too much; you should look more
calmly. Listen to what I will tell you. I have a little book from my
mother, in which, while she was sick and without hope of recovery,
she wrote for me what she thought was good. About marriage she wrote
down something which later I have not heard from any one, and have not
read in any book,--that is, that one should not marry to be happy, but
to accomplish those duties which God imposes at marriage; and that
happiness is only an addition, a gift of God. You see how simple this
is; and still it is true that not only have I not heard it since, but I
have not seen any woman or any man about to marry who thought more of
duty than of happiness. Remember this, and repeat it to Lineta,--will
you?"

Pan Ignas looked at her with astonishment.

"Do you know this is so simple that really it will never come to any
one's mind?"

She laughed a little sadly, and, taking her rosette, began again to
sew. After a while she repeated,--

"Tell that to Lineta."

And she sewed on, drawing out with quick movement her somewhat thin
hand, together with the needle.

"You will understand that if one has such a principle in the heart, one
has perpetual peace, more joyous, or sadder, as God grants, but still
deep. But without that there is only a kind of feverish happiness,
and deceptions always at hand, even if only for this reason,--that
happiness may be different from what we imagine it." And she sewed on.

He looked at her inclined head, at her moving hand, at her work; he
heard her voice; and it seemed to him that that peace of which she had
spoken was floating above her, was filling the whole atmosphere, was
suspended above the table, was burning mildly in the lamp, and finally,
was entering him.

He was so occupied with himself, with his love, that it did not even
occur to him that her heart could be sad. Meanwhile he was penetrated,
as it were, by a double astonishment: first, that these truths which
she had told him were such an _a_, _b_, _c_, that they ought to lie on
the very surface of every thought; and second, that in spite of this,
his own thought had not worked them out of itself, or, at least, had
not looked at them. "What is that," thought he, "our wisdom, bookish in
comparison with that simple wisdom of an honest woman's heart?" Then,
recalling Pani Aneta, and looking at Marynia, he began this monologue
in his soul, "That woman and this woman!" And suddenly there came to
him immense solace; all his disturbed thoughts settled down to their
level. He felt that he was resting while looking at that noble woman.
"In Lineta," said he to himself, "there is the same calmness, the same
simplicity, and the same honesty."

Now Pan Stanislav came, a little later the Bigiels, after which the
violoncello was brought. At tea Pan Stanislav spoke of Mashko. Mashko
conducted the suit against the will with all energy, and it advanced,
though there were difficulties at every step. The advocate on the side
of the benevolent institutions--that young Sledz (herring), whom Mashko
promised to sprinkle with pepper, cover with oil, and swallow--turned
out not to be so easily eaten as had seemed. Pan Stanislav heard that
he was a man cool, resolute, and at the same time a skilled lawyer.

"What is amusing, withal," said he, "is, that Mashko, as Mashko,
considers himself a kind of patrician, who is fighting with a
plebeian, and says this will be a test of whose blood is thicker. It is
a pity that Bukatski is not living; this would give him amusement."

"But is Mashko in St. Petersburg all this time?" asked Bigiel.

"He returns to-day; for that reason she could not stay for the
evening," answered Pan Stanislav; after a while he added, "I had in my
time a prejudice against her; but I have convinced myself that she is
not a bad woman, and, besides, is poor."

"How poor? Mashko hasn't lost the case yet," said Pani Bigiel.

"But he is always from home. Pani Mashko's mother is in an optical
hospital in Vienna, and will lose her eyes, perhaps. Pani Mashko is
alone whole days, like a hermitess. I say that I had a prejudice
against her, but now I am sorry for her."

"It is true," said Marynia, "that since marriage she has become far
more sympathetic."

"Yes," answered Pan Stanislav; "and besides she has lost no charm. Red
eyes injured her formerly; but now the redness has vanished, and she is
as maiden-like as ever."

"But it is unknown whether Mashko is equally pleased with that,"
remarked Bigiel.

Marynia was anxious to tell those present the news about Pan Ignas;
but since he was not betrothed yet officially, she did not know that
it might be mentioned. When, however, after tea, Pani Bigiel began
to inquire of him how the matter stood, he himself said that it was
as good as finished, and Marynia put in her word announcing that the
matter stood in this form,--that they might congratulate Pan Ignas.
All began then to press his hand with that true friendship which they
had for him, and genuine gladness possessed all. Bigiel, from delight,
kissed Pani Bigiel; Pan Stanislav commanded to bring glasses and a
bottle of champagne, to drink the health of the "most splendid couple"
in Warsaw; Pani Bigiel began to joke with Pan Ignas, predicting what
the housekeeping of a poet and an artist would be. He laughed; but was
really moved by this, that his dreams were beginning to be real.

A little later, Pan Stanislav punched him, and said,--

"The happiness of God, but I will give you one advice: what you have
in poetry, put into _business_, into work; be a realist in life, and
remember that marriage is no romance."

But he did not finish, for Marynia put her hand suddenly over his
mouth, and said, laughing, "Silence, thou wise head!"

And then to Pan Ignas, "Don't listen to this grave pate: make no
theories beforehand for yourself; only love."

"True, Pani, true," answered Pan Ignas.

"In that case, buy a harp for yourself," added Pan Stanislav, jeeringly.

At mention of the harp, Bigiel seized his violoncello, saying that they
ought to end such an evening with music. Marynia sat at the piano, and
they began one of Handel's serenades. Pan Ignas had the impression that
the soul was going out of him. He took those mild tones into himself,
and was flying amid the night, lulling Lineta to sleep with them. Late
in the evening, he came out, as if strengthened with the sight of those
worthy people.


FOOTNOTES:

  [10] "Nitechka" (little thread) is the diminutive of "Nitka," itself a
       diminutive of "Nits," which means thread.



CHAPTER XLVI.


Marynia had such peace "as God gave," but really deep. A great aid to
finding it was that voice from beyond the grave,--the little book,
yellowed by years, in which she read "that a woman should not marry
to be happy, but to fulfil the duties which God imposes on her then."
Marynia, who looked frequently into this little book, had read more
than once those lines before that; but real meaning they had taken on
for her only of late, in that spiritual process through which she had
passed after her return from Italy. It ended in this way, that she was
not only reconciled with fate, but at present she did not admit even
the thought that she was unhappy. She repeated to herself that it was a
happiness different, it is true, from what she had imagined, but none
the less real. It is certain that, if God had given her the power of
arranging people's hearts, she would have wished "Stas" to show her,
not more honor, but more of that tenderness of which he was capable,
and which he had shown in her time to Litka; that his feeling for
her might be less sober, and have in it a certain kernel of poetry
which her own love had. But, on the other hand, she cherished always
somewhere, in some little corner of her heart,--first, the hope that
that might come to pass; and, second, she thought in her soul that,
even if it did not, then, as matters stood, she ought to thank God for
having given her a brave and honest man, whom she could not only love,
but esteem. More than once she stopped to compare him with others, and
could not find any one to sustain the comparison. Bigiel was worthy,
but he had not that dash; Osnovski, with all his goodness, lacked
practical knowledge of life and work; Mashko was a person a hundred
times lower in everything; Pan Ignas seemed to her rather a genial
child than a man,--in a word, from every comparison "Stas" came out
always victorious, and the one result was that she felt for him an
increasing trust as to vital questions, and loved him more and more. At
the same time, while denying herself, subjecting to him her own _I_,
bringing in sacrifice her imaginings and her selfishness, she had the
feeling that she was developing more and more in a spiritual sense,
that she was perfecting herself, that she was becoming better, that she
was not descending to any level, but rising to some height, whence the
soul would be nearer to God; and all at once she saw that in such a
feeling lies the whole world of happiness. Pan Stanislav at that time
was away from home often, therefore she was alone frequently; and, more
than once, she reasoned with the great simplicity of an honest woman:
"People should strive to be better and better; but if I am not worse
than I was, it is well. Were it otherwise, maybe I should be spoiled."
She did not come, however, to the thought that there was more wisdom
in this than in all the ideas and talks of Pani Osnovski. It seemed to
her natural, too, that she had less charm at that time for "Stas" than
formerly. Looking into her mirror, she said to herself: "Well, the eyes
do not change, but what a figure! what a face! If I were Stas, I would
run out of the house!" And she thought an untruth, for she would not
have run out; but it seemed to her that in this way she was increasing
"Stas's" merit. She got comfort, too, from Pani Bigiel, who said that
afterward she would be fairer than ever, "just like some young girl."
And, at times, joy and thankfulness rose in her heart, because all is
so wisely arranged; and if, at first, one is a little uglier and must
suffer a little, not only does all return, but, as a reward, there
is a beloved "bobo" which attaches one to life, and creates a new
bond between wife and husband. In this way, she had times, not only
of peace, but simply of joyfulness, and sometimes she said to Pani
Bigiel,--

"Dost thou know what I think?--it is possible to be happy always, only
we must fear God."

"What has one to do with the other?" asked Pani Bigiel, who from her
husband had gained a love of clear thinking.

"This," answered Marynia,--"that we should rest with what He gives us,
and not importune Him, because He hasn't given that which seems to us
better."

Then she added joyously, "We mustn't tease for happiness." And both
began to laugh.

Frequently, too, in the tenderness almost exaggerated which Pan
Stanislav showed his wife, it was clearly evident that he was thinking
chiefly of the child; but Marynia did not take that ill of him now. In
truth, she never had; but at present she was willing to count it a
merit in him, for she thought it the duty of both to care above all for
the child, as for their future mutual love. Yielding up daily in this
way something of her own care for self, she gained more and more peace,
more and more calmness; these feelings were reflected in her eyes,
which were more beautiful than ever. Her main anxiety now was that it
should be a daughter. She was ready even in this to yield to the will
of God, but she feared "Stas" a little; and one day she asked him in
jest,--

"Stas, and thou wilt not kill me if it is a son?"

"No," answered he, laughing and kissing her hand; "but I should prefer
a daughter."

"But I have heard from Pani Bigiel that men always prefer sons."

"But I am such a man that I prefer a daughter."

Not always, however, were her thoughts so joyous. At times it came to
her head that she might die, for she knew that death happens in such
cases; and she prayed earnestly that it should not happen, for first
she feared it, second, she would be sorry to go away, even to heaven,
when she had such a prospect of loving, and finally she imagined to
herself that "Stas" would mourn for her immensely. And at that thought
she grew as tender over him as if he had been at that moment a man more
deserving of pity than all other unfortunates living. Never had she
spoken to him of this, though it seemed to her that sometimes he had
feared it.

But she deceived herself thoroughly. The doctor, who came to Marynia
weekly, assured both her and her husband after each visit that all was
and would be most regular; hence Pan Stanislav had no fear for his
wife's future. The cause of his alarm was something quite different,
which happily for herself Marynia had not suspected, and which Pan
Stanislav himself had not dared even to name in his own mind. For some
time something had begun to go wrong in his life calculations, of which
he had been so proud, and which had given him such internal security.
A little while before he had considered that his theories of life were
like a house built of firm timbers, resting on solid foundations. In
his soul he was proud of that house, and in secret exalted himself
above those who had not the skill to build anything like it. Speaking
briefly, he thought himself a better life architect than others. He
judged that the labor was finished from foundation to summit, only go
in, live, and rest there. He forgot that a human soul, like a bird when
it has soared to a given height, not only is not free to rest, but
must work its wings hard to support itself, otherwise the very first
temptation will bring it to the earth again.

The worse and vainer the temptation, the more was he enraged at himself
because he gave way to it. A mean desire, a low object,--he had not
even anything to explain to himself; and still the walls of his
house had begun to crack. Pan Stanislav was a religious man now, and
that from conviction; he was too sincere with himself to enter into
a compromise with his own principles, and say to himself that such
things happen even to the firmest of believers. No! He was by nature
a man rather unsparing, and logic said to him "either, or;" hence he
felt that speaking thus it spoke justly. Hitherto he had not given
way to temptation; but still he was angry because he was tempted, for
temptation brought him to doubt his own character. Considering himself
as better than others, he stood suddenly in face of the question, was
he not worse than others, for not only had temptation attacked him, but
he felt that in a given case he might yield to it.

More than once, while looking at Pani Osnovski, he repeated to himself
the opinion of Confucius: "An ordinary woman has as much reason as
a hen; an extraordinary woman as much as two hens." In view of Pani
Mashko, it occurred to him that there are women with reference to whom
this Chinese truth, which makes one indignant, is flattery. Had it been
at least possible to say of Pani Mashko that she was honestly stupid,
it would become a certain individual trait of hers; but she was not.
A few, or a few tens of formulas had made of her a polite nonentity.
Just as two or three hundred phrases make up the whole language of
the inhabitants of New Guinea, and satisfy all their wants, so those
formulas satisfied Pani Mashko as to social relations, thoughts, and
life. For that matter, she was as completely passive within that shade
of automatic dignity which narrowness of mind produces, and a blind
faith that if proper formalities are observed, there can be no error.
Pan Stanislav knew her as such, and as such ridiculed her more than
once while she was unmarried. He called her a puppet, a manikin; he
felt enraged at her because of that doctor who had perished for her
in some place where pepper grows; he disregarded her and did not like
her. But even then, as often as he saw her, whether at the Bigiels',
or when on Mashko's business he went to Pani Kraslavski, he always
returned under the physical impression which she made on him, of
which he gave himself an account. That quenched face, that passive,
vegetable calm of expression, that coldness of bearing, that frequent
reddening of the eyes, that slender form, had in them something which
affected him unusually. He explained that to himself then by some law
of natural selection; and when he had outlined the thing technically,
he stopped there, for the impression which Marynia had made on him was
still greater, hence he had followed it. At present, however, Marynia
was his, and he had grown used to her beauty, which, moreover, had
disappeared for a period. It so happened that because of Mashko's
frequent journeys, he saw Pani Mashko almost daily, in consequence
of which former impressions not only revived, but, in the conditions
in which Pan Stanislav found himself with reference to Marynia, they
revived with unexpected vigor. And it happened finally that he who
would not consent to be in leading strings for the ten times more
beautiful and charming Pani Osnovski; he, who had resisted her Roman
fantasies; he, who had looked on himself as a man of principles,
stronger in character and firmer in mind than most people,--saw now
that if Pani Mashko wished to push that edifice with her foot, all its
bindings might be loosened, and the ceiling tumble on his head. Of a
certainty, he would not cease to love his wife, for he was sincerely
and profoundly attached to her; but he felt that he might be in a
condition to betray her,--and then not only her, but himself, his
principles, his conceptions of what an honest and a moral man should
be. With a certain terror as well as anger, he found in himself not
merely the human beast, but a weak beast. He was alarmed by this, he
rebelled against this weakness; but still he could not overcome it.
It was a simple thing in view of this, not to see Pani Mashko, or to
see her as seldom as possible; meanwhile he was finding reasons to
see her the oftenest possible. At first he wanted to lull himself
with these reasons; but, in view of his innate consistency, that was
impossible, and it ended with this, that he merely invented them.
Straightway, he deceived with them his wife, and whomever he wished.
When in company with Pani Mashko, he could not refrain from looking
at her, from embracing with his glance her face and whole person. A
sickly curiosity seized him as to how she would bear herself in case
he appeared before her with what was happening within him. What would
she say then? And he took pleasure in spite of himself in supposing
that she would bear herself with perfect passiveness. He despised her
beforehand for this; but she became the more desired by him thereby. In
himself he discovered whole mountains of depravity, which he referred
to long stay in foreign countries; and, having considered himself up
to that time a fresh and healthy nature, he began to grow alarmed. Had
he not been deceived in himself, and was not that wonderful impression
produced on him by a being so little attractive the appearance of some
neurosis consuming him without his knowledge? It had not occurred to
him that there might exist even such conditions in which the soul of a
man simply despises a woman, but the human beast longs for her.

In her, instinct had taken the place of mental keenness; besides, she
was not so naïve as not to know what his glance meant as it slipped
over her form, or what his eyes said when talking, especially when they
were alone, and he looked into her face with a certain persistence.
At first she felt a kind of satisfaction for her self-love, which it
is difficult for even an honest woman to resist when she sees the
impression produced by her; when she feels herself distinguished,
desired beyond others,--in a word, victorious. Besides, she was ready
not to recognize and not to see the danger, just as a partridge does
not wish to see it, when it hides its head in the snow, on feeling the
hawk circling above it. For Pani Mashko appearances were this snow;
and Pan Stanislav felt that. He knew also from his experience as a
single man that there are women for whom it is a question above all of
preserving certain, frequently even strange, appearances. He remembered
some who burst out in indignation when he said to them in Polish that
which they heard in French with a smile; he had met even those who were
unapproachably firm at home and in the city, and so free in summer
residences, at watering, or bathing places, and others who endured an
attempt, but could not endure words, and others for whom the decisive
thing was light or darkness. In all places where virtue did not come
from the soul, and from principles ingrafted like vaccination into the
blood, resistance or fall depended on accident or surroundings, or
external, frequently favoring circumstances, personal ideas of polite
appearances. He judged that it might be thus with Pani Mashko; and
if hitherto he had not entered the road of testing and trying, it was
simply because he was battling with himself, because he did not wish
to give way, and, despising her in the bottom of his soul, he wished
to escape the position of despising himself. Attachment to Marynia
restrained him too, and sympathy, as it were, mingled with respect for
her condition and gratitude to her, and the hope of fatherhood, which
moved him, and a remembrance of the shortness of the time which they
had lived together, and honesty, and a religious feeling. These were
chains, as it were, at which the human beast was still tugging.

They did not hold, however, with equal strength always. Once, and,
namely, that evening on which Pan Ignas had met them, he had almost
betrayed himself. At the thought that Mashko was returning and that
Pani Mashko was hastening home, therefore, a low, purely physical
jealousy seized him; and he said with a certain anger, repressed, but
visible,--

"True! I understand your haste! Ulysses is coming, and Penelope must be
at home, but--"

Here he felt a desire to curse.

"But what?" inquired Pani Mashko.

Pan Stanislav answered without any hesitation,--

"Just to-day I wished to detain you longer."

"It is not proper," answered she briefly, with a voice as thin as
though strained through a sieve.

And in that, "It is not proper," was her whole soul.

He returned, cursing earnestly her and himself. When he reached home he
found in the clear, peaceful room Marynia and Pan Ignas, she proving to
the poet that when they marry, people should not look for some imagined
happiness, but the duties which God imposes at that time.



CHAPTER XLVII.


"What is Pani Osnovski to me, and what are all her affairs to me?" said
Pan Ignas to himself next morning on the way to Pani Bronich's: "I am
not going to marry her, but _my own one_. Why did I so tear and torment
myself yesterday?"

And when he had said this "to his lofty soul," he began to think only
of what he would say to Pani Bronich; for in spite of Osnovski's
assurances, in spite of every hope that that conversation would be
merely a certain form for observance, in spite of his confidence in
Lineta's heart and the kindness of Pani Bronich, the "lofty soul" was
in fear.

He found aunt and niece together; and, emboldened by yesterday, he
pressed to his lips the hand of the young lady, who said, blushing
slightly,--

"But I will run away."

"Nitechka, stop!" said Pani Bronich.

"No," answered she; "I fear this gentleman, and I fear aunt."

Thus speaking, she began to rub her golden head, like a petted kitten,
against the shoulder of Pani Bronich, saying,--

"Do not wrong him aunt; do not wrong him."

And looking at him, she ran away really. Pan Ignas, from emotion and
excess of love, was as pale as linen; Pani Bronich had tears on her
lids. And, seeing that his throat was so pressed that it would have
been easier for him to cry than to talk, she said,--

"I know why you have come. I have noticed this long time what was
passing between you, my children."

Pan Ignas seized her hands, and began to press them to his lips one
after the other; she on her part continued,--

"Oh, I myself have felt too much in life not to know real feelings; I
will say more: it is my specialty. Women live only by the heart, and
they know how to divine hearts. I know that you love Nitechka truly;
and I am certain that if she did not love you, or if I should refuse
her to you, you would not survive. Is it not true?"

Here she gazed at him with an inquiring glance, and he said with
effort,--

"Beyond doubt! I know not what would happen to me."

"I guessed that at once," answered she, with radiant face. "Ah, my dear
friend, a look is enough for me; but I shall not be an evil spirit as
your genius. No, I shall not, I cannot be that. Whom shall I find for
Nitechka? Where a man worthy of her? Who would have in him all that she
loves and esteems chiefly? I cannot give her to Kopovski, and I will
not. You perhaps do not know Nitechka as I do; but I cannot and will
not give her."

In spite of all his emotion, that energy with which Pani Bronich
refused "Nitechka's" hand to Kopovski astonished Pan Ignas, just as if
he had declared for Kopovski, not for himself; and the aunt continued,
moved, but evidently enjoying her own words and delighted with the
position,--

"No! there can be no talk of Kopovski. You alone can make Nitechka
happy. You alone can give her what she needs. I knew yesterday that
you would talk with me to-day. I did not close an eye the whole
night. Do not wonder at that. Here it is a question of Nitechka, and
I was hesitating yet; therefore fear seized me in view of to-day's
conversation, for I knew in advance that I would not resist you,
that you would bear me away with your feeling and your eloquence, as
yesterday you bore away Nitechka."

Pan Ignas, who neither yesterday nor to-day was able to buzz out one
word, could not explain somehow to himself in what specially lay the
power of his eloquence, or when he had time to exhibit it; but Pani
Bronich did not permit him to hesitate longer on this question.

"And do you know what I did? This is what I do always in life's most
serious moments. Speaking yesterday with Nitechka, I went early this
morning to the grave of my husband. He is lying here in Warsaw--I
know not whether I have told you that he was the last descendant of
Rurik--Ah, yes, I have! Oh, dear friend, what a refuge for me that
grave is; and how many good inspirations I have brought from it!
Whether it was a question of the education of Nitechka, or of some
journey, or of investing capital which my husband left me, or of a loan
which some one of my relatives or acquaintances wished to make, I went
there directly at all times. And will you believe me? More than once
a mortgage is offered: it seems a good one; the business is perfect;
more than once my heart even commands me to give or to lend,--but my
husband, there in the depth of his eternal rest, answers: 'Do not
give,' and I give not. And never has evil resulted. Oh, my dear, you
who feel and understand everything, you will understand how to-day I
prayed, how I asked with all the powers of my soul, 'Give Nitechka, or
not give Nitechka?'"

Here she seized Pan Ignas's temples with her hands, and said through
her tears,--

"But my Teodor answered, 'Give;' therefore I give her to thee, and my
blessing besides."

Tears quenched indeed further conversation in Pani Bronich. Pan Ignas
knelt before her; "Nitechka," who came in, as if at a fixed moment,
dropped on her knees at his side; Pani Bronich stretched her hands and
said sobbing,--

"She is thine, thine! I give her to thee; I and Teodor give her."

Then the three rose. Aunt Bronich covered her eyes with her
handkerchief, and remained some time without motion; gradually,
however, she slipped away the handkerchief, looking from one side at
the two young people. Suddenly she laughed, and, threatening with her
finger, said,--

"Oi! I know what you would like now,--you would like to be alone.
Surely you have something to say to each other. Is it not true?"

And she went out. Pan Ignas took Lineta's hands that moment, and looked
into her eyes with intoxication.

They sat down; and she, leaving her hands in his, rested her temple on
his shoulder. It was like a song without words. Pan Ignas inclined his
head toward her bright face. Lineta closed her eyes; but he was too
young and too timid, he respected too much and he loved, hence he did
not venture yet to touch her lips with his. He only kissed her golden
hair, and even that caused the room in which they were sitting to spin
with him; the world began to whirl round. Then all vanished from his
eyes; he lost memory of where he was, and what was happening; he heard
only the beating of his own heart; he felt the odor of the silken hair,
which brushed his lips, and it seemed to him that in that was the
universe.

But that was only a dream from which he had to wake. After a certain
time the aunt began to open the door gently, as if wishing to lose
the least possible of the romance, in which, with Teodor's aid, she
was playing the rôle of guardian spirit; in the adjoining chamber
were heard the voices of the Osnovskis; and a moment later Lineta
found herself in the arms of her aunt, from which she passed into the
embraces of Pani Aneta. Osnovski, pressing Ignas's hands with all his
power, said,--

"But what a joy in the house, what a joy! for we have all fallen in
love with thee,--I, and aunt, and Anetka, not to speak of this little
one."

Then he turned to his wife and said,--

"Knowest, Anetka, what I wished Ignas, even yesterday? that they should
be to each other as we are." And, seizing her hands, he began to kiss
them with vehemence.

Pan Ignas, though he knew not in general what was happening to him,
found still presence of mind enough to look into the face of Pani
Aneta; but she answered joyously, withdrawing her hands from her
husband,--

"No, they will be happier; for Castelka is not such a giddy thing as I,
and Pan Ignas will not kiss her hands so stubbornly before people. But,
Yozio, let me go!"

"Let him only love her as I thee, my treasure, my child," answered the
radiant Yozio.

Pan Ignas stayed at Pani Bronich's till evening, and did not go to the
counting-house. After lunch he drove out in the carriage with the aunt
and Lineta, for Pani Bronich wanted absolutely to show them to society.
But their drive in the Alley was not a success altogether, because of a
sudden hard shower, which scattered the carriages. On their return, Pan
Osnovski, good as he ever was, made a new proposition which delighted
Pan Ignas.

"Prytulov will not escape us," said he. "We live here as if we were
half in the country; and since we have remained till the end of June,
we may stay a couple of days longer. Let that loving couple exchange
rings before our departure, and at the same time let it be free to
Aneta and me to give them a betrothal party. Is it well, aunt? I see
that they have nothing against it, and surely it will be agreeable
for Ignas to have at the betrothal his friends the Polanyetskis and
the Bigiels. It is true that we do not visit the latter, but that is
nothing! We will visit them to-morrow, and the affair will be settled.
Is it well, Ignas; is it well, aunt?"

Ignas was evidently in the seventh heaven; as to aunt, she didn't know
indeed what Teodor's opinion would be in this matter, and she began to
hesitate. But she might inquire of Teodor yet; and then she remembered
that he had answered, "Give," with such a great voice from his place of
eternal rest that it was impossible to doubt his good wishes,--hence
she agreed at last to everything.

After dinner Kopovski, the almost daily guest, came; and it turned out
that he was the only being in the villa to whom news of the feelings
and betrothal of the young couple did not cause delight. For a time his
face expressed indescribable astonishment; at last he said,--

"I never should have guessed that Panna Lineta would marry Pan Ignas."

Osnovski pushed Pan Ignas with his elbow, blinked, and whispered, with
a very cunning mien,--

"Hast noticed? I told thee yesterday that he was making up to Castelka."

Pan Ignas left the villa of the Osnovskis late in the evening. When
he reached home he did not betake himself to verses, however, though
it seemed to him then that he was a kind of harp, the strings of
which played of themselves, but to the counting-house, to unfinished
correspondence and accounts.

At the counting-house all were so pleased with this that when the
Bigiels returned the visit of the Osnovskis, and at the same time made
the first visit to Pani Bronich, Bigiel said,--

"The worth of Pan Zavilovski's poetry is known to you ladies, but
perhaps you do not know how conscientious a man he is. I say this
because that is a rare quality among us. Since he remained all day with
you here, and could not be at the counting-house, he asked to have it
opened by the guard in the night; he took home the books and papers in
his charge, and did what pertained to him. It is pleasant to think that
one has to do with such a man, for such a man may be trusted."

Here, however, the honorable partner of the house of Bigiel and
Polanyetski was astonished that such high praise from his lips made so
little impression, and that Pani Bronich, instead of showing gladness,
replied,--

"Ah, we hope that in future Pan Zavilovski will be able to give himself
to labor more in accordance with his powers and position."

In general, the impression which both sides brought away from their
acquaintance showed that somehow they were not at home with each
other. Lineta pleased the Bigiels, it is true; but he, in going away,
whispered to his wife, "How comfortably they live for themselves in
this place!" He had a feeling that the spirit of that whole villa was
a sort of unbroken holiday, or idling; but he was not able at once to
express that idea, for he had not the gift of ready utterance.

But Pani Bronich, after their departure, said to "Nitechka,"--

"Of course, of course! They must be excellent people--true, perfect
people! I am certain--yes, certain--"

And somehow she did not finish her thought; but "Nitechka" must have
understood her, however, for she said,--

"But they are no relatives of his."

A few days later the relatives, too, made themselves heard. Pan Ignas,
who, in spite of the wishes of Pani Bigiel, had not gone yet with
excuses to old Zavilovski, received the following letter from him,--

     PAN WILDCAT!--Thou hast scratched me undeservedly, for I
     had no wish to offend thee; and if I say always what I think, it
     is permitted me because I am old. They must have told thee, too,
     that I never name, even to her eyes, thy young lady otherwise than
     Venetian half-devil. But how was I to know that thou wert in love
     and about to marry? I heard of this only yesterday, and only now
     do I understand why thou didst spring out of my sight; but since I
     prefer water-burners to dullards, and since through this devil of
     a gout I cannot go myself to thee to congratulate, do thou come to
     the old man, who is more thy well-wisher than seems to thee.

After this letter Pan Ignas went that same day, and was received
cordially, though with scolding, but so kindly that this time the old
truth-teller pleased him, and he felt in him really a relative.

"May God and the Most Holy Lady bless thee!" said the old man. "I know
thee little; but I have heard such things of thee that I should be glad
to hear the like touching all Zavilovskis."

And he pressed his hand; then, turning to his daughter, he said,--

"He's a genial rascal, isn't he?"

And at parting he inquired,--

"But 'Teodor,' didn't he trouble thee too much? Hei?"

Pan Ignas, who, as an artist, possessed in a high degree the sense
of the ridiculous, and to whom in his soul that Teodor, too, seemed
comical, laughed and answered,--

"No. On the contrary, he was on my side."

The old man began to shake his head.

"That is a devil of an accommodating Teodor! Be on the lookout for him;
he is a rogue."

Pani Bronich had so much genuine respect for the property and social
position of old Zavilovski that she visited him next day, and began
almost to thank him for his cordial reception of his relative; but the
old man grew angry unexpectedly.

"Do you think that I am some empty talker?" asked he. "You have heard
from me that poor relatives are a plague; and you think that I take it
ill of them that they are poor. No, you do not know me! But, know this,
when a noble loses everything, and is poor, he becomes almost always a
sort of shabby fellow. Such is our character, or rather, its weakness.
But this Ignas, as I hear from every side, is a man of honor, though
poor; and therefore I love him."

"And I love him," answered Pani Bronich. "But you will be at the
betrothal?"

"_C'est décidé._ Even though I had to be carried."

Pani Bronich returned radiant, and at lunch could not restrain herself
from expressing suppositions which her active fancy had begun to create.

"Pan Zavilovski," said she, "is a man of millions, and greatly attached
to the name. I should not be astonished at all were he to make our
Ignas his heir, if not of the chief, of a considerable part of his
property, or if he were to entail some of his estates in Poznan on him.
I should not be surprised at all."

No one contradicted her, for events like that in the world had been
seen; therefore after lunch, Pani Bronich, embracing Nitechka,
whispered in her ear,--

"Oi, thou, thou, future heiress!"

But in the evening she said to Pan Ignas,--

"Be not astonished if I so mix up in everything, but I am your mamma.
So mamma is immensely curious to know what kind of ring you are
preparing for Nitechka? It will be something beautiful, of course.
There will be so many people at the betrothal. And, besides, you have
no idea what a fastidious girl! She is so æsthetic even in trifles; and
she has her own taste, but what a taste! ho, ho!"

"I should like," answered Pan Ignas, "the stones to be of colors
denoting faith, hope, and love, for in her is my faith, my hope, and my
love."

"A very pretty idea! have you said this to Nitechka? Do you know what?
Let there be a pearl in the middle, as a sign that she is a pearl.
Symbols are in fashion now. Have I told you that Pan Svirski, when he
gave her lessons, called her 'La Perla'? Ah, yes, I did. You do not
know Pan Svirski? He, too--Yozio Osnovski told me that he would come
to-morrow. Well, then, a sapphire, a ruby, an emerald, and in the
middle a pearl? Oh, yes! Pan Svirski, too--Will you be at the funeral?"

"Whose funeral?"

"Pan Bukatski's. Yozio Osnovski told me that Pan Svirski brought home
his body."

"I did not know him; I have never seen him in my life."

"That is better; Nitechka would prefer that you had not known him. God
in His mercy forgive him in spite of this,--that for me he was never a
sympathetic person, and Nitechka could not endure him. But the little
one will be glad of the ring; and when she is glad, I am glad."

The "Little One" was glad not only of the ring, but of life in general.
The rôle of an affianced assumed for her increasing charm. Beautiful
nights came, very clear, during which she and Pan Ignas sat together on
the balcony. Nestling up to each other, they looked at the quivering
of light on the leaves, or lost their gaze in the silver dust of the
Milky Way, and the swarms of stars. From the acacia, growing under the
balcony, there rose a strong and intoxicating odor, as from a great
censer. Their powers seemed to go to sleep in them; their souls, lulled
by silence, turned into clear light, were scattered in some way amidst
the depth of night, and were melted into unity with the soft moonlight;
and so the two, sitting hand in hand, half in oblivion, half in sleep,
lost well-nigh the feeling of separate existence and life, preserving
a mere semi-consciousness of some sort of general bliss and general
"exaltation of hearts."

Pan Ignas, when he woke and returned to real life, understood that
moments like those, in which hearts melt in that pantheism of love,
and beat with the same pulsation with which everything quivers that
loves, unites, and harmonizes in the universe, form the highest
happiness which love has the power to give, and so immeasurable
that were they to continue they would of necessity destroy man's
individuality. But, having the soul of an idealist, he thought that
when death comes and frees the human monad from matter, those moments
change into eternity; and in that way he imagined heaven, in which
nothing is swallowed up, but everything simply united and attuned in
universal harmony.

Lineta, it is true, could not move with his flight; but she felt a
certain turning of the head, as it were, a kind of intoxication from
his flight, and she felt herself happy also. A woman even incapable
of loving a man is still fond of her love, or, at least, of herself,
and her rôle in it; and, therefore, most frequently she crosses the
threshold of betrothal with delight, feeling at the same time gratitude
to the man who opens before her a new horizon of life. Besides, they
had talked love into Lineta so mightily that at last she believed in it.

And once, when Pan Ignas asked her if she was sure of herself and her
heart, she gave him both hands, as if with effusion, and said,--

"Oh, truly; now I know that I love."

He pressed her slender fingers to his lips, to his forehead, and his
eyes, as something sacred; but he was disquieted by her words, and
asked,--

"Why 'now' for the first time, Nitechka? Or has there been a moment in
which thou hast thought that thou couldst not love me?"

Lineta raised her blue eyes and thought a moment; after a while, in the
corners of her mouth and in the dimples of her cheeks, a smile began to
gather.

"No," said she; "but I am a great coward, so I was afraid. I understand
that to love you is another thing from loving the first comer." And
suddenly she began to laugh. "Oh, to love Pan Kopovski would be as
simple as _bon jour_; but you--maybe I cannot express it well, but more
than once it seemed to me that that is like going up on some mountain
or some tower. When once at the top, a whole world is visible; but
before that one must go and go, and toil, and I am so lazy."

Pan Ignas, who was tall and bony, straightened himself, and said,--

"When my dear, lazy one is tired, I'll take her in my arms, like a
child, and carry her even to the highest."

"And I will shrink up and make myself the smallest," answered Lineta,
closing her arms, and entering into the rôle of a little child.

Pan Ignas knelt before her, and began to kiss the hem of her dress.

But there were little clouds, too, on that sky; the betrothed were
not the cause, however. It seemed to the young man at times that his
feelings were too much observed, and that Pani Bronich and Pani Aneta
examined too closely whether he loves, and how he loves. He explained
this, it is true, by the curiosity of women, and, in general, by the
attention which love excites in them; but he would have preferred more
freedom, and would have preferred that they would not help him to love.
His feelings he considered as sacred, and for him it was painful to
make an exhibition of them for uninvited eyes; at the same time every
movement and word of his was scrutinized. He supposed also that there
must be female sessions, in which Pani Bronich and Pani Aneta gave
their "approbatur;" and that thought angered him, for he judged that
neither was in a situation to understand his feelings.

It angered him also that Kopovski was invited to Prytulov, and that
he went there in company with all; but in this case it was for him a
question only of Osnovski, whom he loved sincerely. The pretext for
the invitation was the portrait not finished yet by Lineta. Pan Ignas
understood now clearly that everything took place at the word of Pani
Aneta, who knew exactly how to suggest her own wishes to people as
their own. At times even it came to his head to ask Lineta to abandon
the portrait; but he knew that he would trouble her, as an artist, with
that request, and, besides, he feared lest people might suspect him of
being jealous of a fop, like "Koposio."[11]


FOOTNOTES:

  [11] Nickname for Kopovski.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


Svirski had come indeed from Italy with Bukatski's body; and he went
at once on the following day to Pan Stanislav's. He met only Marynia,
however, for her husband had gone outside the city to look at some
residence which had been offered for sale. The artist found Marynia so
changed that he recognized her with difficulty; but since he had liked
her greatly in Rome, he was all the more moved at sight of her now. At
times, besides, she seemed to him so touching and so beautiful in her
way, with the aureole of future maternity, and besides she had brought
to him so many artistic comparisons, with so many "types of various
Italian schools," that, following his habit, he began to confess his
enthusiasm audibly. She laughed at his originality; but still it gave
her comfort in her trouble, and she was glad that he came,--first,
because she felt a sincere sympathy with that robust and wholesome
nature; and second, she was certain that he would be enthusiastic
about her in presence of "Stas," and thus raise her in the eyes of her
husband.

He sat rather long, wishing to await the return of Pan Stanislav; he,
however, returned only late in the evening. Meanwhile there was a visit
from Pan Ignas, who, needing some one now before whom to pour out his
overflowing happiness, visited her rather often. For a while he and
Svirski looked at each other with a certain caution, as happens usually
with men of distinction, who fear each other's large pretensions, but
who come together the more readily when each sees that the other is
simple. So did it happen with these men. Marynia, too, helped to break
the ice by presenting Pan Ignas as the betrothed of Panna Castelli, who
was known to Svirski.

"Indeed," said Svirski, "I know her perfectly; she is my pupil!"

Then, pressing the hand of Pan Ignas, he said,--

"Your betrothed has Titian hair; she is a little tall, but you are
tall, too. Such a pose of head as she has one might look for with a
candle. You must have noticed that there is something swan-like in her
movements; I have even called her 'The Swan.'"

Pan Ignas laughed as sincerely and joyously as a man does when people
praise that which he loves most in life, and said with a shade of
boastfulness,--

"'La Perla,' do you remember?"

Svirski looked at him with a certain surprise.

"There is such a picture by Raphael in Madrid, in the Museum del
Prado," answered he. "Why do you mention 'La Perla'?"

"It seems to me that I heard of it from those ladies," said Pan Ignas,
beaten from the track somewhat.

"It may be, for I have a copy of my own making in my studio Via
Margutta."

Pan Ignas said in spirit that there was need to be more guarded in
repeating words from Pani Bronich; and after a time he rose to depart,
for he was going to his betrothed for the evening. Svirski soon
followed, leaving with Marynia the address of his Warsaw studio, and
begging that Pan Stanislav would meet him in the matter of the funeral
as soon as possible.

In fact, Pan Stanislav went to him next morning. Svirski's studio was a
kind of glass hall, attached, like the nest of a swallow, to the roof
of one in a number of many storied houses, and visitors had to reach
him by separate stairs winding like those in a tower. But the artist
had perfect freedom there, and did not close his door evidently, for
Pan Stanislav, in ascending, heard a dull sound of iron, and a bass
voice singing,--

          "Spring blows on the world warmly;
          Hawthorns and cresses are blooming.
          I am singing and not sobbing,
          For I have ceased to love thee too!
                              Hu-ha-hu!"

"Well," thought Pan Stanislav, stopping to catch breath, "he has a
bass, a real, a true bass; but what is he making such a noise with?"

When he had passed the rest of the steps, however, and then the narrow
corridor, he understood the reason, for he saw through the open doors
Svirski, dressed to his waist in a single knitted shirt, through which
was seen his Herculean torso; and in his hands were dumb-bells.

"Oh, how are you?" he called out, putting down the dumb-bells in
presence of his guest. "I beg pardon that I am not dressed, but I was
working a little with the dumb-bells. Yesterday I was at your house,
but found only Pani Polanyetski. Well, I brought our poor Bukatski. Is
the little house ready for him?"

Pan Stanislav pressed his hand. "The grave is ready these two weeks,
and the cross is set up. We greet you cordially in Warsaw. My wife told
me that the body is in Povanzki already."

"It is now in the crypt of the church. To-morrow we'll put it away."

"Well, to-day I will speak to the priest and notify acquaintances. What
is Professor Vaskovski doing?"

"He was to write you. The heat drove him out of Rome; and do you know
where he went? Among the youngest of the Aryans. He said that the
journey would occupy two months. He wishes to convince himself as to
how far they are ready for his historical mission; he has gone through
Ancona to Fiume, and then farther and farther."

"The poor professor! I fear that new disillusions are waiting for him."

"That may be. People laugh at him. I do not know how far the youngest
of the Aryans are fitted to carry out his idea; but the idea itself, as
God lives, is so uncommon, so Christian, and honest, that the man had
to be a Vaskovski to come to it. Permit me to dress. The heat here is
almost as in Italy, and it is better to exercise in a single shirt."

"But best not to exercise at all in such heat."

Here Pan Stanislav looked at Svirski's arms and said,--

"But you might show those for money."

"Well; not bad biceps! But look at these deltoids. That is my vanity.
Bukatski insisted that any one might say that I paint like an idiot;
but that it was not permitted any one to say that I could not raise a
hundred kilograms with one hand, or that I couldn't hit ten flies with
ten shots."

"And such a man will not leave his biceps nor his deltoids to
posterity."

"Ha! what's to be done? I fear an ungrateful heart; as I love God, I
fear it so much. Find me a woman like Pani Polanyetski, and I will not
hesitate a day. But what should I wish you,--a son or a daughter?"

"A daughter, a daughter! Let there be sons; but the first must be a
daughter!"

"And when do you expect her?"

"In December, it would seem."

"God grant happily! The lady, however, is healthy, so there is no fear."

"She has changed greatly, has she not?"

"She is different from what she was, but God grant the most beautiful
to look so. What an expression! A pure Botticelli. I give my word! Do
you remember that portrait of his in the Villa Borghese? Madonna col
Bambino e angeli. There is one head of an angel, a little inclined,
dressed in a lily, just like the lady, the very same expression.
Yesterday that struck me so much that I was moved by it."

Then he went behind the screen to put on his shirt, and from behind the
screen he said,--

"You ask why I don't marry. Do you know why? I remember sometimes that
Bukatski said the same thing. I have a sharp tongue and strong biceps,
but a soft heart; so stupid is it that if I had such a wife as you
have, and she were in that condition, as God lives, I shouldn't know
whether to walk on my knees before her, or to beat the floor with my
forehead, or to put her on a table, in a corner somewhere, and adore
her with upraised hands."

"Ai!" said Pan Stanislav, laughing, "that only seems so before
marriage; but afterward habituation itself destroys excess of feeling."

"I don't know. Maybe I'm so stupid--"

"Do you know what? When my Marynia is free, she must find for thee just
such a wife as she herself is."

"Agreed!" thundered Svirski, from behind the screen. "Verbum! I give
myself into her hands; and when she says 'marry,' I will marry with
closed eyes."

And appearing, still without a coat, he began to repeat, "Agreed,
agreed! without joking. If the lady wishes."

"Women always like that," answered Pan Stanislav. "Have you seen, for
instance, what that Pani Osnovski did to marry our Pan Ignas to Panna
Castelli? And Marynia helped her as much as I permitted; she kept her
ears open. For women that is play."

"I made the acquaintance of that Pan Ignas at your house yesterday. He
is an immensely nice fellow; simply a genial head. It is enough to look
at him. What a profile, and what a woman-like forehead! and with that
insolent jaw! His shanks are too long, and his knees must be badly cut,
but his head is splendid."

"He is the Benjamin of our counting-house. Indeed, we love him
surpassingly; his is an honest nature."

"Ah! he is your employee? But I thought he was of those rich
Zavilovskis; I have seen abroad often enough a certain old original, a
rich man."

"That is a relative of his," said Pan Stanislav; "but our Zavilovski
hasn't a smashed copper."

"Well," said Svirski, beginning to laugh, "old Zavilovski with his
daughter, the only heiress of millions, a splendid figure! In Florence
and Rome half a dozen ruined Italian princes were dangling around this
young lady; but the old man declared that he wouldn't give his daughter
to a foreigner, 'for,' said he, 'they are a race of jesters.' Imagine
to yourself, he considers us the first race on earth, and among us,
of course, the Zavilovskis; and once he showed that in this way: 'Let
them say what they like,' said he; 'I have travelled enough through the
world, and how many Germans, Italians, Englishmen, and Frenchmen have
cleaned boots for me? but I,' said he, 'have never cleaned boots for
any man, and I will not.'"

"Good!" answered Pan Stanislav, laughing; "he thinks boot-cleaning not
a question of position in the world, but of nationality."

"Yes, it seems to him that the Lord God created other 'nations'
exclusively so that a nobleman from Kutno may have some one to clean
his boots whenever he chooses to go abroad. But doesn't he turn up his
nose at the marriage of the young man? for I know that he thinks the
Broniches of small account."

"Maybe he turns up his nose; but he has become acquainted with our Pan
Ignas not long since. They had not met before, for ours is a proud
soul, and would not seek the old man first."

"I like him for that. I hope he has chosen well, for--"

"What! do you know Panna Castelli? What kind of a person is she?"

"I know Panna Castelli; but, you see, I am no judge of young ladies.
Ba! if I knew them, I would not have waited for the fortieth year
as a single man. They are all good, and all please me; but since I
have seen, as married women, a few of those who pleased me, I do not
believe in any. And that makes me angry; for if I had no wish to
marry--well, I should say, leave the matter! but I have the wish. What
can I know? I know that each woman has a corset; but what sort of a
heart is inside it? The deuce knows! I was in love with Panna Castelli;
but for that matter I was in love with all whom I met. With her,
perhaps, even more than with others."

"And how is it that a wife did not come to your head?"

"Ah, the devil didn't come to my head! But at that time I hadn't
the money that I have to-day, nor the reputation. I was working for
something then; and believe me that no people are so shy of workers as
the children of workers. I was afraid that Pan Bronich or Pani Bronich
might object, and I was not sure of the lady; therefore I left them in
peace."

"Pan Ignas has no money."

"But he has reputation, and, besides, there is old Zavilovski; and a
connection like that is no joke. Who among us has not heard of the old
man? Besides, as to me, to tell the truth, I disliked the Broniches to
the degree that at last I turned from them."

"You knew the late Pan Bronich, then? Be not astonished that I ask, for
with me it is a question of our Pan Ignas."

"Whom have I not known? I knew also Pani Bronich's sister,--Pani
Castelli. For that matter I have been twenty-four years in Italy, and
am about forty,--that is said for roundness. In fact, I am forty-five.
I knew Pan Castelli, too, who was a good enough man; I knew all. What
shall I say to you? Pani Castelli was an enthusiast, and distinguished
by wearing short hair; she was always unwashed, and had neuralgia in
the face. As to Pani Bronich, you know her."

"But who was Pan Bronich?"

"'Teodor'? Pan Bronich was a double fool,--first, because he was a
fool; and second, because he didn't know himself as one. But I am
silent, for '_de mortuis nil nisi bonum_.' He was as fat as she is
thin; he weighed more than a hundred and fifty kilograms, perhaps, and
had fish eyes. In general, they were people vain beyond everything.
But why expatiate? When a man lives a while in the world, and sees
many people, and talks with them, as I do while painting, he convinces
himself that there is really a high society, which rests on tradition,
and besides that a _canaille_, which, having a little money, apes great
society. The late Bronich and his present widow always seemed to me of
that race; therefore I chose to keep them at a distance. If Bukatski
were alive, he would let out his tongue now at their expense. He knew
that I was in love with Panna Castelli; and how he ridiculed me, may
the Lord not remember it against him! And who knows whether he did not
speak justly? for what Panna Lineta is will be shown later."

"It concerns me most of all to learn something of her."

"They are good, all good; but I am afraid of them and their
goodness,--unless your wife would go security for some of them."

At this point the conversation stopped, and they began to talk of
Bukatski, or rather, of his burial of the day following, for which Pan
Stanislav had made previously all preparations.

On the way from Svirski's he spoke to the priest again, and then
informed acquaintances of the hour on the morrow.

The church ceremony of burial had taken place at Rome in its own
time, so Pan Stanislav, as a man of religious feeling, invited a few
priests to join their prayers to the prayers of laymen; he did this
also through attachment and gratitude to Bukatski, who had left him a
considerable part of his property.

Besides the Polanyetskis came the Mashkos, the Osnovskis, the Bigiels,
Svirski, Pan Plavitski, and Pani Emilia, who wished at the same time
to visit Litka. The day was a genuine summer one, sunny and warm; the
cemetery had a different seeming altogether from what it had during Pan
Stanislav's former visits. The great healthy trees formed a kind of
thick, dense curtain composed of dark and bright leaves, covering with
a deep green shade the white and gray monuments. In places the cemetery
seemed simply a forest full of gloom and coolness. On certain graves
was quivering a shining network of sunbeams, which had filtered in
through the leaves of acacias, poplars, hornbeams, birch, and lindens;
some crosses, nestling in a thick growth, seemed as if dreaming in cool
air above the graves. In the branches and among the leaves were swarms
of small birds, calling out from every side with an unceasing twitter,
which was mild, and, as it were, low purposely, so as not to rouse the
sleepers.

Svirski, Mashko, Polanyetski, and Osnovski took on their shoulders
the narrow coffin containing the remains of Bukatski, and bore it to
the tomb. The priests, in white surplices now gleaming in the sun,
now in the shade, walked in front of the coffin; behind it the young
women, dressed in black; and all the company went slowly through the
shady alleys, silently, calmly, without sobs or tears, which usually
accompany a coffin. They moved only with dignity and sadness, which
were on their faces as the shadow of the trees on the graves. There
was, however, in all this a certain poetry filled with melancholy; and
the impressionable soul of Bukatski would have felt the charm of that
mourning picture.

In this way they arrived at the tomb, which had the form of a
sarcophagus, and was entirely above ground, for Bukatski during life
told Svirski that he did not wish to lie in a cellar. The coffin was
pushed in easily through the iron door; the women raised their eyes
then; their lips muttered prayers; and after a time Bukatski was left
to the solitude of the cemetery, the rustling trees, the twitter of
birds, and the mercy of God.

Pani Emilia and Pan Stanislav went then to Litka; while the rest of the
company waited in the carriages before the church, for thus Pani Aneta
had wished.

Pan Stanislav had a chance to convince himself, at Litka's grave,
how in his soul that child once so beloved had gone into the blue
distance and become a shade. Formerly when he visited her grave he
rebelled against death, and with all the passion of fresh sorrow was
unreconciled to it. To-day it seemed to him well-nigh natural that she
was lying in the shadow of those trees, in that cemetery; he had the
feeling almost that it must end thus. She had ceased all but completely
to be for him a real being, and had become merely a sweet inhabitant
of his memory, a sigh, a ray, simply one of that kind of reminiscences
which is left by music.

And he would have grown indignant at himself, perhaps, were it not
that he saw Pani Emilia rise after her finished prayer with a serene
face, with an expression of great tenderness in her eyes, but without
tears. He noticed, however, that she looked as sick people look, that
she rose from her knees with difficulty, and that in walking she leaned
on a stick. In fact, she was at the beginning of a sore disease of the
loins, which later on confined her for years to the bed, and only left
her at the coffin.

Before the cemetery gate the Osnovskis were waiting for them; Pani
Aneta invited them to a betrothal party on the morrow, and then those
"who were kind" to Prytulov.

Svirski sat with Pani Emilia in Pan Stanislav's carriage, and for some
time was collecting his impressions in silence; but at last he said,--

"How wonderful this is! To-day at a funeral, to-morrow at a betrothal;
what death reaps, love sows,--and that is life!"



CHAPTER XLIX.


Pan Ignas wished the betrothal to be not in the evening before people,
but earlier; and his wish was gratified all the more, since Lineta, who
wished to show herself to people as already betrothed, supported him
before Aunt Bronich. They felt freer thus; and when people began to
assemble they appeared as a young couple. The light of happiness shone
from Lineta. She found a charm in that rôle of betrothed; and the rôle
added charm to her. In her slender form there was something winged. Her
eyelids did not fall to-day sleepily over her eyes; those eyes were
full of light, her lips of smiles, her face was in blushes. She was so
beautiful that Svirski, seeing her, could not refrain from quiet sighs
for the lost paradise, and found calmness for his soul only when he
remembered his favorite song,--

          "I am singing and not sobbing,
          For I have ceased to love thee too!
                                          Hu-ha-hu!"

For that matter her beauty struck every one that day. Old Zavilovski,
who had himself brought in his chair to the drawing-room, held her
hands and gazed at her for a time; then, looking around at his
daughter, he said,--

"Well, such a Venetian half-devil can turn the head, she can, and
especially the head of a poet, for in the heads of those gentlemen is
fiu, fiu! as people say."

Then he turned to the young man and asked,--

"Well, wilt thou break my neck to-day because I said Venetian
half-devil to thee?"

Pan Ignas laughed, and, bending his head, kissed the old man's
shoulder. "No; I could not break any one's neck to-day."

"Well," said the old man, evidently rejoiced at those marks of honor,
"may God and the Most Holy Lady bless you both! I say the Most Holy
Lady, for her protection is the basis."

When he had said this, he began to search behind in the chair, and,
drawing forth a large jewel-case, said to Lineta,--

"This is from the family of the Zavilovskis; God grant thee to wear it
long!"

Lineta, taking the box, bent her charming figure to kiss him on the
shoulder; he embraced her neck, and said to the bridegroom,--

"But thou might come."

And he kissed both on the forehead, and said, with greater emotion than
he wished to show,--

"Now love and revere each other, like honest people."

Lineta opened the case, in which on a sapphire-colored satin cushion
gleamed a splendid _rivière_ of diamonds. The old man said once more
with emphasis, "From the family of the Zavilovskis," wishing evidently
to show that the young lady who married a Zavilovski, even without
property, was not doing badly. But no one heard him, for the heads of
the ladies--of Lineta, Pani Aneta, Pani Mashko, Pani Bronich and even
Marynia--bent over the flashing stones; and breath was stopped in their
mouths for a time, till at last a murmur of admiration and praise broke
the silence.

"It is not a question of diamonds!" cried Pani Bronich, casting herself
almost into the arms of old Zavilovski, "but as the gift, so the heart."

"Do not mention it Pani; do not mention it!" said the old man, warding
her off.

Now the society broke into pairs or small groups; the betrothed
were so occupied with each other that the whole world vanished from
before them. Osnovski and Svirski went up to Marynia and Pani Bigiel.
Kopovski undertook to entertain the lady of the house; Pan Stanislav
was occupied with Pani Mashko. As to Mashko himself, he was anxious
evidently to make a nearer acquaintance with the Croesus, for he
so fenced him off with his armchair that no one could approach him,
and began then to talk of remote times and the present, which, as he
divined easily, had become a favorite theme for the old man.

But he was too keen-witted to be of Zavilovski's opinion in all things.
Moreover, the old man did not attack recent times always; nay, he
admired them in part. He acknowledged that in many regards they were
moving toward the better; still he could not take them in. But Mashko
explained to him that everything must change on earth; hence nobles, as
well as other strata of society.

"I, respected sir," said he, "hold to the land through a certain
inherited instinct,--through that something which attracts to land the
man who came from it; but, while managing my own property, I am an
advocate, and I am one on principle. We should have our own people in
that department; if we do not, we shall be at the mercy of men coming
from other spheres, and often directly opposed to us. And I must render
our landholders this justice, that for the greater part they understand
this well, and choose to confide their business to me rather than to
others. Some think it even a duty."

"The bar has been filled from our ranks at all times," answered Pan
Zavilovski; "but will the noble succeed in other branches? As God
lives, I cannot tell. I hear, and hear that we ought to undertake
everything; but people forget that to undertake and to succeed are
quite different. Show me the man who has succeeded."

"Here he is, respected sir, Pan Polanyetski: he in a commission house
has made quite a large property; and what he has is in ready cash, so
that he could put it all on the table to-morrow. He will not deny that
my counsels have been of profit to him frequently; but what he has
made, he has made through commerce, mainly in grain."

"Indeed, indeed!" said the old noble, gazing at Pan Stanislav, and
staring from wonder, "has he really made property? Is it possible? Is
he of the real Polanyetskis? That's a good family."

"And that stalwart man with brown hair?"

"Is Svirski the artist."

"I know him, for I saw him abroad; and the Svirskis did not make fires
as an occupation."

"But he can only paint money, for he hasn't made any."

"He hasn't!" said Mashko, in a confidential tone. "Not one big estate
in Podolia will give as much income as aquarelles give him."

"What is that?"

"Pictures in water-colors."

"Is it possible? not even oil paintings! And he too--? Ha! then,
perhaps, my relative will make something at verses. Let him write; let
him write. I will not take it ill of him. Pan Zygmund was a noble, and
he wrote, and not for display. Pan Adam was a noble also; but he is
famous,--more famous than that brawler who has worked with democracy--
What's his name? Never mind! You say that times are changing. Hm, are
they? Let them change for themselves, if only with God's help, for the
better."

"The main thing," said Mashko, "is not to shut up a man's power in his
head, nor capital in chests; whoever does that, simply sins against
society."

"Well, but with permission! How do you understand this,--Am I not free
to close with a key what belongs to me; must I leave my chests open to
a robber?"

Mashko smiled with a shade of loftiness, and, putting his hand on the
arm of the chair, said,--

"That is not the question, respected sir." And then he began to explain
the principles of political economy to Pan Zavilovski; the old noble
listened, nodding his head, and repeating from time to time,--

"Indeed! that is something new! but I managed without it."

Pani Bronich followed the betrothed with eyes full of emotion, and at
the same time told Plavitski (who on his part was following Pani Aneta
with eyes not less full of emotion) about the years of her youth, her
life with Teodor, and the misfortune which met them because of the
untimely arrival in the world of their only descendant, and Plavitski
listened with distraction; but, moved at last by her own narrative, she
said with a somewhat quivering voice,--

"So all my love, hope, and faith are in Lineta. You will understand
this, for you too have a daughter. And as to Lolo, just think what a
blessing that child would have been had he lived, since even dead he
rendered us so much service--"

"Immensely touching, immensely touching!" interrupted Plavitski.

"Oh, it is true," continued Pani Bronich. "How often in harvest time
did my husband run with the cry, 'Lolo monte!' and send out all his
laboring men to the field. With others, wheat sprouted in the shocks,
with us, never. Oh, true! And the loss was the greater in this, that
that was our last hope. My husband was a man in years, and I can say
that for me he was the best of protectors; but after this misfortune,
only a protector."

"Here I cease to understand him," said Plavitski. "Ha, ha! I fail
altogether to understand him."

And, opening his mouth, he looked roguishly at Pani Bronich; she
slapped him lightly with her fan, and said,--

"These men are detestable; for them there is nothing sacred."

"Who is that, a real Perugino,--that pale lady, with whom your husband
is talking?" asked Svirski now of Marynia.

"An acquaintance of ours, Pani Mashko. Have you not been presented to
her?"

"Yes; I became acquainted with her yesterday at the funeral, but forget
her name. I know that she is the wife of that gentleman who is talking
with old Pan Zavilovski. A pure Vannuci! The same quietism, and a
little yellowish; but she has very beautiful lines in her form."

And looking a little longer he added,--

"A quenched face, but uncommon lines in the whole figure. As it were
slender; look at the outline of her arms and shoulders."

But Marynia was not looking at the outlines of the arms and shoulders
of Pani Mashko, but at her husband; and on her face alarm was reflected
on a sudden. Pan Stanislav was just inclining toward Pani Mashko and
telling her something which Marynia could not hear, for they were
sitting at a distance; but it seemed to her that at times he gazed
into that quenched face and those pale eyes with the same kind of look
with which during their journey after marriage he had gazed at her
sometimes. Ah, she knew that look! And her heart began now to beat,
as if feeling some great danger. But immediately she said to herself,
"That cannot be! That would be unworthy of Stas." Still she could not
refrain from looking at them. Pan Stanislav was telling something very
vivaciously, which Pani Mashko listened to with her usual indifference.
Marynia thought again: "Something only seemed to me! He is speaking
vivaciously as usual, but nothing more." The remnant of her doubt was
destroyed by Svirski, who, either because he noticed her alarm and
inquiring glance, or because he did not notice the expression on Pan
Stanislav's face, said,--

"With all this she says nothing. Your husband must keep up the
conversation, and he looks at once weary and angry."

Marynia's face grew radiant in one instant. "Oh, you are right! Stas is
annoyed a little, surely; and the moment he is annoyed he is angry."

And she fell into perfect good-humor. She would have been glad to give
a _rivière_ of diamonds, like that which Pan Zavilovski had brought
to Lineta, to make "Stas" approach at that moment, to say something
herself to him, and hear a kind word from him. In fact, a few minutes
later her wish was accomplished, for Osnovski approached Pani Mashko;
Pan Stanislav rose, and, saying a word or two on the way to Pani Aneta,
who was talking to Kopovski, sat down at last by his wife.

"Dost wish to tell me something?" he inquired.

"How wonderful it is, Stas, for I called to thee that moment, but only
in mind; still thou hast felt and art here with me."

"See what a husband I am," answered he, with a smile. "But the reason
is really very simple: I noticed thee looking at me; I was afraid that
something might have happened, and I came."

"I was looking, for I wanted something."

"And I came, for I wanted something. How dost thou feel? Tell the
truth! Perhaps thou hast a wish to go home?"

"No, Stas, as I love thee, I am perfectly comfortable. I was talking
with Pan Svirski of Pani Mashko, and was entertained well."

"I guessed that you were gossiping about her. This artist says himself
that he has an evil tongue."

"On the contrary," answered Svirski, "I was only admiring her form. The
turn for my tongue may come later."

"Oh, that is true," said Pan Stanislav; "Pani Osnovski says that she
has indeed a bad figure, and that is proof that she has a good one.
But, Marynia, I will tell thee something of Pani Osnovski." Here
he bent toward his wife, and whispered, "Knowest what I heard from
Kopovski's lips when I was coming to thee?"

"What was it? Something amusing?"

"Just as one thinks: I heard him say thou to Pani Aneta."

"Stas!"

"As I love thee, he did. He said to her, 'Thou art always so.'"

"Maybe he was quoting some other person's words."

"I don't know. Maybe he was; maybe he wasn't. Besides, they may have
been in love sometime."

"Fi! Be ashamed."

"Say that to them--or rather to Pani Aneta."

Marynia, who knew perfectly well that unfaithfulness exists, but
looking on it rather as some French literary theory,--she had not
even imagined that one might meet such a thing at every step and in
practice,--began to look now at Pani Aneta with wonder, and at the same
time with the immense curiosity with which honest women look at those
who have had boldness to leave the high-road for by-paths. She had too
truthful a nature, however, to believe in evil immediately, and she
did not; and somehow it would not find a place in her head that really
there could be anything between those two, if only because of the
unheard-of stupidity of Kopovski. She noticed, however, that they were
talking with unusual vivacity.

But they, sitting somewhat apart between a great porcelain vase and the
piano, had not only been talking, but arguing for a quarter of an hour.

"I fear that he has heard something," said Pani Aneta, with a certain
alarm, after Pan Stanislav had passed. "Thou art never careful."

"Yes, it is always my fault! But who is forever repeating, 'Be
careful'?"

In this regard both were truly worthy of each other, since he could
foresee nothing because of his dulness, and she was foolhardy to
recklessness. Two persons knew their secret now; others might divine
it. One needed all the infatuation of Osnovski not to infer anything.
But it was on that that she reckoned.

Meanwhile Kopovski looked at Pan Stanislav and said,--

"He has heard nothing."

Then he returned to the conversation which they had begun; but now he
spoke in lower tones and in French,--

"Didst thou love me, thou wouldst be different; but since thou dost not
love, what harm could that be to thee?"

Then he turned on her his wonderful eyes without mind, while she
answered impatiently,--

"Whether I love, or love not, Castelka never! Dost understand? Never!
I would prefer any other to her, though, if thou wert in love with me
really, thou wouldst not think of marriage."

"I would not think of it, if thou wert different."

"Be patient."

"Yes! till death? If I married Castelka, we should then be near really."

"Never! I repeat to thee."

"Well, but why?"

"Thou wouldst not understand it. Besides, Castelka is betrothed; it is
too bad to lose time in discussing this."

"Thou thyself hast commanded me to pay court to her, and now art
casting reproaches. At first I thought of nothing; but afterward she
pleased me,--I do not deny this. She pleases all; and, besides, she is
a good match."

Pani Aneta began to pull at the end of her handkerchief.

"And thou hast the boldness to say to my eyes that she pleased thee,"
said she at last. "Is it I, or she?"

"Thou, but thee I cannot marry; her I could, for I saw well that I
pleased her."

"If thou wert better acquainted with women, thou wouldst be glad that
I did not let it go to marriage. Thou dost not know her. She is just
like a stick, and, besides, is malicious in character. Dost thou not
understand that I told thee to pay court to her out of regard to
people, and to Yozio? Otherwise, how explain thy daily visits?"

"I could understand, wert thou other than thou art."

"Do not oppose me. I have fixed all, as thou seest, to keep thy
portrait from being finished, and give thee a chance to visit Prytulov.
Steftsia Ratkovski, a distant relative of Yozio's, will be there soon.
Dost understand? Thou must pretend that she pleases thee; and I will
talk what I like into Yozio. In this way thou wilt be able to stop
at Prytulov. I have written to Panna Ratkovski already. She is not a
beauty, but agreeable."

"Always pretence, and nothing for it."

"Suppose I should say to thee: Don't come."

"Anetka!"

"Then be patient. I cannot be angry long with thee. But now go thy way.
Amuse Pani Mashko."

And a moment later Pani Aneta was alone. Her eyes followed Kopovski
a while with the remnant of her anger, but also with a certain
tenderness. In the white cravat, with his dark tint of face, he was so
killingly beautiful that she could not gaze at him sufficiently. Lineta
was now the betrothed of another; still the thought seemed unendurable
that that daily rival of hers might possess him, if not as husband, as
lover. Pani Aneta, in telling Kopovski that she would yield him to any
other rather than to Castelka, told the pure truth. That was for her a
question, at once of an immense weakness for that dull Endymion, and a
question of self-love. Her nerves simply could not agree to it. Certain
inclinations of the senses, which she herself looked on as lofty, and
rising from a Grecian nature, but which at the root of the matter were
common, took the place in her of morality and conscience. By virtue of
these inclinations, she fell under the irresistible charm of Kopovski;
but having not only a heated head, but a temperament of fishy coldness,
she preferred, as Pan Ignas divined intuitively, the play with evil to
evil itself. Holding, in her way, to the principle, "If not I, then
no one!" she was ready to push matters to the utmost to prevent the
marriage of Kopovski to Lineta, the more since she saw that Lineta, in
spite of all her "words" about Kopovski, in spite of the irony with
which she had mentioned him and her jests about the man, was also under
the charm of his exceptional beauty; that all those jests were simply
self-provocation, under which was concealed an attraction; and that, in
general, the source of her pleasure and Lineta's was the same. But she
did not observe that, for this reason, she at the bottom of her soul
had contempt for Lineta.

She knew that Lineta, through very vanity, would not oppose her
persuasion, and the homages of a man with a famous name. In this way,
she had retained Kopovski, and, besides, had produced for herself a
splendid spectacle, on which women, who are more eager for impressions
than feelings, look always with greediness. Besides, if that famous Pan
Ignas, when his wife becomes an every-day object, should look somewhere
for a Beatrice, he might find her. Little is denied men who have power
to hand down, to the memory of mankind and the homage of ages, the name
of a loved one. These plans for the future Pani Aneta had not outlined
hitherto expressly; but she had, as it were, a misty feeling that her
triumph would in that case be perfect.

Moreover, she had triumphed even now, for all had gone as she wished.
Still Kopovski made her angry. She had considered him as almost her
property. Meanwhile, she saw that, so far as he was able to understand
anything, he understood this, that the head does not ache from
abundance, and that Aneta might not hinder Lineta. That roused her so
keenly that at moments she was thinking how to torment him in return.
Meanwhile, she was glad that Lineta paraded herself as being in love
really, soul and heart, with Pan Ignas, which for Kopovski was at once
both a riddle and a torture.

These thoughts flew through her head like lightning, and flew all of
them in the short time that she was alone. At last she was interrupted
by the serving of supper. Osnovski, who desired that his wife should
be surrounded by such homage from every one as he himself gave, and to
whom it seemed that what he had said to Pan Ignas about his married
life was very appropriate, had the unhappy thought to repeat at the
first toast the wish that Pan Ignas might be as happy with Lineta as he
with his wife. Hereupon, the eyes of Pan Ignas and Pan Stanislav turned
involuntarily to Pani Osnovski, who looked quickly at Pan Stanislav,
and doubts on both sides disappeared in one instant; that is, she
gained the perfect certainty that Pan Stanislav had heard them, and he,
that Kopovski had not quoted the words of another, but had said _thou_
in direct speech to the lady. Pani Aneta had guessed even that Pan
Stanislav must have spoken of that to Marynia, for she had seen how,
after he had passed, both had talked and looked a certain time at her
with great curiosity. The thought filled her with anger and a desire of
revenge, so that she listened without attention to the further toasts,
which were given by her husband, by Pan Ignas, by Plavitski, and at
last by Pan Bigiel.

But, after supper, it came to her head all at once to arrange
a dancing-party; and "Yozio," obedient as ever to each beck of
hers, and, besides, excited after feasting, supported the thought
enthusiastically. Marynia could not dance, but besides her there were
five youthful ladies,--Lineta, Pani Osnovski, Pani Bigiel, Pani Mashko,
and Panna Zavilovski. The last declared, it is true, that she did not
dance; but, since people said that she neither danced, talked, ate, nor
drank, her refusal did not stop the readiness of others. Osnovski, who
was in splendid feeling, declared that Ignas should take Lineta in his
arms, for surely he had not dared to do so thus far.

It turned out, however, that Pan Ignas could not avail himself of Pan
Osnovski's friendly wishes, for he had never danced in his life, and
had not the least knowledge of dancing, which not only astonished Pani
Bronich and Lineta, but offended them somewhat. Kopovski, on the other
hand, possessed this art in a high degree; hence he began the dance
with Lineta, as the heroine of the evening. They were a splendid pair,
and eyes followed them involuntarily. Pan Ignas was forced to see her
golden head incline toward Kopovski's shoulder, to see their bosoms
near each other, to see both whirling to the time of Bigiel's waltz,
joined in the harmony of movement, blending, as it were, into one tune
and one unity. Even from looking at all this, he grew angry, for he
understood that there was a thing which he did not know, which would
connect Lineta with others and disconnect her with him. Besides, people
about him mentioned the beauty of the dancing couple; and Svirski,
sitting near him, said,--

"What a beautiful man! If there were male houris, as there are female,
he might be a houri in a Mussulman paradise for women."

They waltzed long; and there was in the tones of the music, as in
their movements, something, as it were, intoxicating, a kind of dizzy
faintness, which incensed Pan Ignas still more, for he recalled Byron's
verses on waltzing,--verses as cynical as they are truthful. At last,
he said to himself, with complete impatience: "When will that ass let
her go?" He feared, too, that Kopovski might tire her too much.

The "ass" let her go at last at the other end of the hall, and
straightway took Pani Aneta. But Lineta ran up to her betrothed, and,
sitting down at his side, said,--

"He dances well, but he likes to exhibit his skill, for he has nothing
else. He kept me too long. I have lost breath a little, and my heart is
beating. If you could put your hand there and feel how it beats--but it
is not proper to do so. How wonderful, too, for it is your property."

"My property!" said Pan Ignas, holding out his hand to her. "Do not say
'your' to me to-day, Lineta."

"Thy property," she whispered, and she did not ward off his hand, she
only let it drop down a little on her robe, so that people might not
notice it.

"I was jealous of him," said Pan Ignas, pressing her fingers
passionately.

"Dost wish I will dance no more to-day? I like to dance, but I prefer
to be near thee."

"My worshipped one!"

"I am a stupid society girl, but I want to be worthy of thee. As thou
seest, I love music greatly,--even waltzes and polkas. Somehow they
act on me wonderfully. How well this Pan Bigiel plays! But I know that
there are things higher than waltzes. Hold my handkerchief, and drop my
hand for a moment. It is thy hand, but I must arrange my hair. It is
time to dance; to dance is not wrong, is it? But if thou wish, I will
not dance, for I am an obedient creature. I will learn to read in thy
eyes, and afterward shall be like water, which reflects both clouds and
clear weather. So pleasant is it for me near thee! See how perfectly
those people dance!"

Words failed Pan Ignas; only in one way could he have shown what he
felt,--by kneeling before her. But she pointed out Pan Stanislav, who
was dancing with Pani Mashko, and admired them heartily.

"Really he dances better than Pan Kopovski," said she, with gleaming
eyes; "and she, how graceful! Oh, I should like to dance even once with
him--if thou permit."

Pan Ignas, in whom Pan Stanislav did not rouse the least jealousy,
said,--

"My treasure, as often as may please thee. I will send him at once to
thee."

"Oh, how perfectly he dances! how perfectly! And this waltz, it is like
some delightful shiver. They are sailing, not dancing."

Of this opinion, too, was Marynia, who, following the couple with her
eyes, experienced a still greater feeling of bitterness than Pan Ignas
a little while earlier; for it seemed a number of times to her that Pan
Stanislav had looked again on Pani Mashko with that expression with
which he had looked when Svirski supposed that either he was annoyed,
or was angry. But now such a supposition was impossible. At moments
both dancers passed near her; and then she saw distinctly how his arm
embraced firmly Pani Mashko's waist, how his breath swept around her
neck, how his nostrils were dilated, how his glances slipped over her
naked bosom. That might be invisible for others, but not for Marynia,
who could read in his face as in a book. And all at once the light of
the lamps became dark in her eyes; she understood that it was one thing
not to be happy, and another to be unhappy. This lasted briefly,--as
briefly as one tact of the waltz, or one instant in which a heart that
is straitened ceases to beat; but it sufficed for the feeling that
life in the future might be embroiled, and present love changed into
a bitter and contemptuous sorrow. And that feeling filled her with
terror. Before her was drawn aside, as it were, a curtain, behind which
appeared unexpectedly all the sham of life, all the wretchedness and
meanness of human nature. Nothing had happened yet, absolutely nothing;
but a vision came to Marynia, in which she saw that there might be a
time when her confidence in her husband would vanish like smoke.

She tried, however, to ward away doubts; she wished to talk into
herself that he was under the influence of the dance, not of his
partner; she preferred not to believe her eyes. Shame seized her for
that "Stas" of whom she had been so proud up to that time; and she
struggled with all her strength against that feeling, understanding
that it was a question of enormous importance, and that from that
little thing, and from that fault of his, hitherto almost nothing,
might flow results which would act on their whole future.

At that moment was heard near her the jesting voice of Pani Aneta.

"Ah, Marynia, nature has created, as it were, purposely, thy husband
and Pani Mashko to waltz with each other. What a pair!"

"Yes," answered Marynia, with an effort.

And Pani Aneta twittered on: "Perfectly fitted for each other. It is
true that in thy place I should be a little jealous; but thou, art
thou jealous? No? I am outspoken, and confess freely that I should be;
at least, it was so with me once. I know, for that matter, that Yozio
loves me; but these men, even while loving, have their little fancies.
Their heads do not ache the least on that score; and that our hearts
ache, they do not see, or do not wish to see. The best of them are not
different. Yozio? true! he is a model husband; and dost thou think that
I do not know him? Now, when I have grown used to him, laughter seizes
me often, for they are all so awkward! I know the minute that Yozio is
beginning to be giddy; and knowest thou what my sign is?"

Marynia was looking continually at her husband, who had ceased now to
dance with Pani Mashko, and had taken Lineta. She felt great relief all
at once, for it seemed to her that "Stas," while dancing with Lineta,
had the same expression of face. Her suspicions began to fade; and she
thought at once that she had judged him unjustly, that she herself was
not good. She had never seen him dancing before; and the thought came
to her head that perhaps he danced that way always.

Then Pani Aneta repeated, "Dost know how I discover when Yozio is
beginning to play pranks?"

"How?" inquired Marynia, with more liveliness.

"I will teach thee the method. Here it is: the moment he has an unclean
conscience, he puts suspicion on others, and shares these suspicions
with me, so as to turn attention from himself. Dear Yozio! that is
their method. How they lie, even the best of them!"

When she had said this, she went away, with the conviction that on the
society chessboard she had made a very clever move; and it was clever.
In Marynia's head a kind of chaos now rose; she knew not what to think
at last of all this. Great physical weariness seized her also. "I am
not well," said she to herself; "I am excited, and God knows what
may seem to me." And the feeling of weariness increased in her every
moment. That whole evening seemed a fever dream. Pan Stanislav had
mentioned Pani Aneta as a faith-breaking woman; Pani Aneta had said the
same of all husbands. Pan Stanislav had been looking with dishonest
eyes on Pani Mashko, and Pani Aneta had said _thou_ to Kopovski. To
this was added the dancing couples, the monotonous tact of the waltz,
the heads of the lovers, and finally, a storm, which was heard out of
doors. What a mixture of impressions! what a phantasmagoria! "I am not
well," repeated Marynia in her mind. But she felt also that peace was
leaving her, and that this was the unhappy evening of her life. She
wished greatly to go home, but, as if to spite her, there was a pouring
rain. "Let us go home! let us go home!" If "Stas" should say some good
and cordial word besides. Let him only not speak of Pani Aneta or Pani
Mashko; let him speak of something that related to him and her, and was
dear to them.

"Oh, how tired I am!"

At that moment Pan Stanislav came to her; and at sight of her poor,
pale face, he felt a sudden sympathy, to which his heart, kind in
itself, yielded easily.

"My poor dear," said he, "it is time for thee to go to bed; only let
the rain pass a little. Thou art not afraid of thunder?"

"No; sit near me."

"The summer shower will pass soon. How sleepy thou art!"

"Perhaps I ought not to have come, Stas. I have great need of rest."

He had a conscience which was not too clear, and was angry at himself.
But it had not come to his mind that what she was saying of rest might
relate to him and his attempts and conduct with Pani Mashko; but he
felt all at once that if she had suspected, her peace would be ruined
forever through his fault, and since he was not a spoiled man, fear and
compunction possessed him.

"To the deuce with all dances!" said he. "I will stay at home, and take
care of that which belongs to me."

And he said this so sincerely that a shadow of doubt could not pass
through her head, for she knew him perfectly. Hence a feeling of
immense relief came upon her.

"When thou art with me," said she, "I feel less tired right away. A
moment ago I felt ill somehow. Aneta sat near me; but what can I care
for her? When out of health, one needs a person who is near, who is
one's own, and reliable. Perhaps thou wilt scold me for what I say,
since it is strange to say such things at a party, among strangers,
and so long after marriage. I understand myself that it is somewhat
strange; but I need thee really, for I love thee much."

"And I love thee, dear being," answered Pan Stanislav, who felt then
that love for her could alone be honest and peaceful.

Meanwhile the rain decreased; but there was lightning yet, so that
the windows of the villa were bright blue every moment. Bigiel, who,
after the dancing, had played a prelude of Chopin's, was talking now
with Lineta and Pan Ignas about music, and, defending his idea firmly,
said,--

"That Bukatski invented various kinds and types of women; and I have my
musical criterion. There are women who love music with their souls, and
there are others who love it with their skin,--these last I fear."

A quarter of an hour later the short summer storm had passed by, and
the sky had cleared perfectly; the guests began to prepare for home.
But Zavilovski remained longer than others, so that he might be the
last to say good-night to Lineta.

Out of fear for Marynia, Pan Stanislav gave command to drive the
carriage at a walk. The picture of her husband dancing with Pani
Mashko was moving in her tortured, head continually. Pani Aneta's
words, "Oh, how they lie! even the best of them," were sounding in her
ears. But Pan Stanislav supported her meanwhile with his arm, and
held her resting against him during the whole way; hence her disquiet
disappeared gradually. She wished from her soul to put some kind of
question to him, from which he might suspect her fears and pacify her.
But after a while she thought: "If he did not love me, he would not
show anxiety; he could be cruel more readily than pretend. I will not
ask him to-day about anything." Pan Stanislav, on his part, evidently
under the influence of the thought which moved in his head, and
under the impression that she alone might be his right love and true
happiness, bent down and kissed her face lightly.

"I will not ask him about anything to-morrow either," thought Marynia,
resting her head on his shoulder. And after a while she thought again,
"I will never tell him anything." And fatigue, both physical and
mental, began to overpower her, so that before they reached home her
eyes were closed, and she had fallen asleep on his arm.

Pani Bronich was sitting, meanwhile, in the drawing-room, looking
toward the glass door of the balcony, to which the betrothed had
gone out for a moment to breathe the air freshened by rain, and say
good-night to each other without witnesses. After the storm the night
had become very clear, giving out the odor of wet leaves; it was full
of stars, which were as if they had bathed in the rain, and were
smiling through tears. The two young people stood some time in silence,
and then began to say that they loved each other with all their souls;
and at last Pan Ignas stretched forth his hand, on which a ring was
glittering, and said,--

"My greatly beloved! I look at this ring, and cannot look at it
sufficiently. To this moment it has seemed to me that all this is a
dream, and only now do I dare to think that thou wilt be mine really."

Then Lineta placed the palm of her hand on his, so that the two rings
were side by side; and she said, with a voice of dreamy exaltation,--

"Yes; the former Lineta is no longer in existence, only thy betrothed.
Now we must belong with our whole lives to each other; and it is a
marvel to me that there should be such power in these little rings, as
if something holy were in them."

Pan Ignas's heart was overflowing with happiness, calm, and sweetness.

"Yes," said he; "for in the ring is the soul, which yields itself,
and in return receives another. In such a golden promise is ingrafted
everything which in a man says, 'I wish, I love, and promise.'"

Lineta repeated like a faint echo, "I wish, I love, and promise."

Next he embraced her and held her long at his breast, and then began to
take farewell. But, borne away by the might of love and the impulse of
his soul, he made of that farewell a sort of religious act of adoration
and honor. So he gave good-night to those blessed hands which had given
him so much happiness, and good-night to that heart which loved him,
and good-night to the lips which had confessed love, and good-night to
the clear eyes through which mutuality gazed forth at the poet; and at
last the soul went out of him, and changed itself, as it were, into a
shining circle, around that head which was dearest in the world and
worshipped.

"Good-night!"

After a while Pani Bronich and Lineta were alone in the drawing-room.

"Art wearied, child?" inquired Pani Bronich, looking at Lineta's face,
which was as if roused from sleep.

And Lineta answered,--

"Ah, aunt, I am returning from the stars, and that's such a long
journey."



CHAPTER L.


Pan Ignas could say to himself that sometimes a lucky star shines even
for poets. It is true that since the day of his betrothal to Lineta it
had occurred to him frequently that there would be need now to think of
means to furnish a house, and meet the expenses, as well of a marriage
as a wedding; but, being first of all in love, and not having in
general a clear understanding of such matters, he represented all this
to himself only as some kind of new difficulty to be overcome. He had
conquered so many of these in his life that, trusting in his power, he
thought that he would conquer this too; but he had not thought over the
means so far.

Others, however, were thinking for him. Old Zavilovski, in whom, with
all his esteem for geniuses, nothing could shake the belief that every
poet must have "fiu, fiu" in his head, invited Pan Stanislav to a
personal consultation, and said,--

"I will say openly that this youngster has pleased me, though his
father was, with permission, a great roisterer; nothing for him but
cards and women and horses. He came to grief in his time. But the son
is not like the father; he has brought to the name not discredit, but
honor. Well, others have not accustomed me much to this; but the Lord
God grant that I shall not forget the man. I should like, however, to
do something for him at once; for though a distant relative, he is a
relative, and the name is the same,--that is the main thing."

"We have been thinking of this," said Pan Stanislav, "but the thing is
difficult. If aid be spoken of, he is so sensitive that one may make
the impatient fellow angry."

"Indeed! How stubborn he is!" said Zavilovski, with evident pleasure.

"True! He has kept books and written letters for our house a short
time. But we have conceived a real liking for him; therefore my partner
and I have offered him credit ourselves. 'Take a few thousand rubles,'
said we, 'for expenses and furnishing a house, and return them to us in
the course of three years from thy salary.' He would not: he said that
he had trust in his betrothed; she would accommodate herself to him,
he felt sure, and he did not want the money. Osnovski, too, wanted to
offer aid but we stopped him, knowing that it was useless. Your project
will be difficult."

"Maybe, then, he has something?"

"He has, and he hasn't. We have just learned that some thousands
of rubles came to him from his mother; but with the interest he
supports his father in an insane asylum, and considers the capital as
inviolable. That he takes nothing from it, is certain, for before he
began with us, he suffered such poverty that he was simply dying of
hunger, and he didn't touch a copper. Such is his character. And you
will understand why we esteem him. He is writing something, it seems,
and thinks that he will meet the expense of first housekeeping with it.
Maybe he will; his name means much at present."

"Pears on willows!" said Pan Zavilovski. "You tell me that his name
means much--does it? But that's pears on willows!"

"Not necessarily; only it will not come quickly."

"Well, he was ceremonious with you because you were strangers, but I am
a relative."

"We are strangers, but older acquaintances than you, and we know him
better."

Zavilovski, unaccustomed to contradiction, began to move his white
mustaches, and pant from displeasure. For the first time in his life
he had to trouble himself about the question, would the man to whom he
wished to give money be pleased to accept it? This astonished, pleased,
and angered him all at once; he recalled, then, something which he did
not mention to Pan Stanislav, and this was it,--how many times had he
paid notes for the father of the young man?--and what notes! But see,
the apple has fallen so far from the tree that now there is a new and
unexpected trouble.

"Well," said he, after a while, "may the merciful God grant the young
generation to change; for now, O devil, do not go even near them!"

Here his face grew bright all at once with an immense honest pleasure.
The inexhaustible optimism, lying at the bottom of his soul, when
it found a real cause to justify itself, filled his heart with glad
visions.

"Bite him now, lord devil," said he, "for the beast is as if of
stone!--a capable rascal! resolute in work, and character; that is what
it is,--character."

Here he stared, and, shaking his head, fixed his lips as a sign of
wonder, as if to whistle, and after a moment, added,--

"Indeed! and that in a noble! As God lives, I didn't expect it."

But talking in this way he deceived himself, for all his life he had
expected everything.

"It seems, then," said Pan Stanislav, "that there is no help but this,
Panna Castelli must accommodate herself to him."

But the old noble made a wry face all at once. "That is talk! tfu!
Will she accommodate, or will she not? the deuce knows her! She is
young; and as she is young, maybe she is ready for everything; but
who will give assurance, and for how long? Besides, there is her
aunt and that accommodating dead man; when he shouts from under the
ground, go and talk with him. As God is true, I esteem people who have
acquired property; but when any one has crept out of a cottage, and
not a mansion, and pretends that he lived always in palaces, he wants
palaces. And so it was with old Bronich. Neither of them was lacking
in vanity; the young woman was reared in such a school,--nothing but
comfort and abundance. Ignas does not know them in that respect--and
you do not. Such a woman as this" (here he pointed to his daughter)
"would go to a garret even, once she had given her word; but that other
one, she may not go easily."

"I do not know them," said Pan Stanislav, "though I have heard various
reports; but through good-will for Ignas, I should like to know
definitely what to think of them."

"What to think of them! I have known them a long time, and I, too, do
not know much. Well, judging from what Bronich herself says, the women
are saints, the most worthy. And pious! Ha! they should be canonized
while living! But you see it is this way,--there are women among us who
bear God and the commands of faith in their hearts, and there are such,
too, who make of our Catholic religion, Catholic amusement; and such
talk the loudest, and grow up where no one sowed them. That's what the
case is."

"Ah, how truly you have spoken!" said Pan Stanislav.

"Well, is it not true?" inquired Zavilovski. "I have seen various
things in life; but let us return to the question. Have you any method
to make this wild cat accept aid, or not?"

"It is necessary to think of something; but at this moment nothing
occurs to me."

Thereupon Panna Helena Zavilovski, who, occupied with embroidery
on canvas, was silent up to that moment as if not hearing the
conversation, raised her steel cold eyes suddenly, and said,--

"There is a very simple method."

The old noble looked at her.

"See, she has found it! What is this simple method?"

"Let papa deposit sufficient capital for Pan Ignas's father."

"It would be better for thee not to give that advice; I have done
enough in my life for Pan Ignas's father, though I had no wish to see
him, and prefer now to do something for Pan Ignas himself."

"I know; but if his father has an income assured till his death, Pan
Ignas will be able to command that which he has from his mother."

"As God is dear to me, that is true!" said Pan Zavilovski, with
astonishment. "See! we have both been breaking our heads for nothing,
and she has discovered it. True, as God is dear to me!"

"You are perfectly right," said Pan Stanislav, looking at her with
curiosity.

But she had inclined to the embroidery her face, which was without
expression of interest, and, as it were, faded before its time.

The news of such a turn of affairs pleased Marynia and Pani Bigiel
greatly, and gave at the same time occasion to speak of Panna Helena.
Formerly she was considered a cold young lady, who placed form above
everything; but it was said that later a way was broken through that
coldness to her heart by great feeling, which, turning into a tragedy,
turned also that society young lady into a strange woman, separated
from people, confined to herself, jealous of her suffering. Some
exalted her great benevolence; but if she was really benevolent, she
did her good work so secretly that no one knew anything definite. It
was difficult, also, for any one to approach her, for her indifference
was greatly like pride. Men declared that in her manner there was
something simply contemptuous, just as if she could not forgive them
for living.

Pan Ignas had been in Prytulov, and returned only the week following
the old man's talk with Pan Stanislav,--that is, when the noble had
deposited in the name of his father twice the amount of capital which
had served so far to pay his expenses at the asylum. When he learned of
this, Pan Ignas rushed off to thank the old man, and to save himself
from accepting it; but Zavilovski, feeling firm ground under his feet,
grumbled him out of his position.

"But what hast thou to say?" asked he. "I have done nothing for thee;
I have given thee nothing. Thou hast no right to receive or not to
receive; and that it pleased me to go to the aid of a sick relative is
a kind of act permitted to every man."

In fact, there was nothing to answer; hence the matter ended in
embraces and emotion, in which these two men, strangers a short time
before, felt that they were real relatives.

Even Panna Helena herself showed "Pan Ignas" good-will. As to old
Zavilovski, he, grieving in secret over this, that he had no son, took
to loving the young man heartily. A week later, Pani Bronich, who had
visited Warsaw on some little business, went to Yasmen to learn what
was to be heard about the gout, and to speak of the young couple. When
she repeated a number of times, to the greater praise of "Nitechka,"
that she was marrying a man without property, the old noble grew
impatient, and cried,--

"What do you say to me? God knows who makes the better match, even with
regard to property, omitting mention of other things."

And Pani Bronich, who moreover endured all from the old truth-teller,
endured smoothly even the mention of "other things." Nay, a half an
hour later, she spread the wings of her imagination sufficiently.
Visiting the Polanyetskis on the way, she told them that Pan Zavilovski
had given her a formal promise to make an entail for "that dear,
dear Ignas," with an irrepressible motherly feeling that at times he
took the place of Lolo in her heart. Finally, she expressed the firm
conviction that Teodor would have loved him no less than she, and that
thereby sorrow for Lolo would have been less painful to both of them.

Pan Ignas did not know that he had taken the place of Lolo in Pani
Bronich's heart, nor did he know of the entail discovered for him,
but he noticed that his relations with people had begun already to
change. The news of that entail must have spread through the city with
lightning-like swiftness, for his acquaintances greeted him in some
fashion differently; and even his colleagues of the bureau, honest
people, began to be less familiar. When he returned from Prytulov, he
had to visit all persons who had been present at the betrothal party at
the Osnovskis'; and the quickness with which the visit was returned by
such a man as Mashko, for example, testified also to the change in his
relations. In the first period of their acquaintance, Mashko treated
him somewhat condescendingly. Now he had not ceased, it is true, to be
patronizing, but there was so much kindness and friendly confidence
in his manner, such a feeling for poetry even. No! Mashko had nothing
against poetry; he would have preferred, perhaps, if Pan Ignas's verses
were more in the spirit of safely thinking people; but in general he
was reconciled to the existence of poetry, and even praised it. His
favorable inclination both to poetry and the poet were evident from
his look, his smile, and the frequent repetition, "but of course,--of
course,--but very!" Pan Ignas, who was in many regards naïve, but at
the same exceptionally intelligent, still understood that in all this
there was some pretence, hence he thought: "Why does this, as it were,
thinking man pose in such style that it is evident?"

And that same day he raised this question in a talk with the
Polanyetskis; at their house it was that he had made Mashko's
acquaintance.

"Were I to pose," said he, "I should try so to pose that people could
not recognize it."

"Those who pose," answered Pan Stanislav, "count on this, that, though
people notice the posing, still, through slothfulness or a lack of
civic courage, they will agree to that which the pose is intended to
express. Moreover, the thing is difficult. Have you noticed that women
who use rouge lose gradually the sense of measure? It is the same with
posing. The most intelligent lose this sense of measure."

"True," answered Pan Ignas, "as it is true also that one can reproach
people with everything."

"As to Mashko," continued Pan Stanislav, "he knows, besides, that you
are marrying a lady who passes for wealthy; he knows that you are a
favorite with Pan Zavilovski, and perhaps he would like to approach him
through your favor. Mashko must think of the future; for they tell me
that the action to break the will, on which his fate depends, is not
very favorable."

Such was the case really. The young advocate who had appeared in
defence of the will had shown much energy, adroitness, and persistence.

Here ceased their conversation about Mashko, for Pani Marynia had begun
to inquire about Prytulov and its inhabitants,--a subject which for Pan
Ignas was inexhaustible. In his expressive narrative, the residence
at Prytulov appeared, with its lindens along the road, then its shady
garden, ponds, reeds, alders, and on the horizon a belt of pine-wood.
Kremen, which had faded in Marynia's memory, stood before her now as if
present; and, in that momentary revival of homesickness, she thought
that sometime she would beg "Stas" to take her even to Vantory, to
that little church in which she was baptized, and where her mother was
buried. Maybe Pan Stanislav remembered Kremen at that moment, for,
waving his hand, he said,--

"It is always the same in the country. I remember Bukatski's statement,
that he loved the country passionately, but on condition 'that there
should be a perfect cook in the house, a big library, beautiful and
intelligent women, and no obligation to stay longer than two days in a
twelvemonth.' And I understand him."

"But still," said Marynia, "it is thy wish to have a piece of land of
thy own near the city."

"To live in our own place in summer, and not with the Bigiels, as we
must this year."

"But in me," said Pan Ignas, "certain field instincts revive the moment
I am in the country. For that matter, my betrothed does not like the
city, and that is enough for me."

"Does Lineta dislike the city really?" inquired Marynia, with interest.

"Yes, for she is a born artist. I gaze on nature too, and feel it but
she shows me things which I should not notice myself. A couple of days
ago, we all went into the forest, where she showed me ferns in the sun,
for instance. They are so delicate! She taught me also that the trunks
of pine-trees, especially in the evening light, have a violet tone.
She opens my eyes to colors which I have not seen hitherto, and, like a
kind of enchantress going through the forest, discloses new worlds to
me."

Pan Stanislav thought that all this might be a proof of artistic
sense, but also it might be an expression of the fashion, and of that
universal love for painting color which people talk into themselves,
and in which any young lady at present may be occupied, not from love
of art, but for show. He had not occupied himself with painting; but he
noticed that, for society geese, it had become of late a merchandise,
exhibited willingly in Vanity Fair, or, in other words, a means to show
artistic culture and an artistic soul.

But he kept these thoughts to himself; and Pan Ignas talked on,--

"Besides, she loves village children immensely. She says that they are
such perfect models, and less vulgarized than the little Italians. When
there is good weather, we are all day in the fresh air, and we have
become sunburnt, both of us. I am learning to play tennis, and make
great progress. It is very easy, but goes hard at first. Osnovski plays
passionately, so as not to grow fat. It is difficult to tell what a
kind and high-minded person that man is."

Pan Stanislav, who during his stay in Belgium had played tennis no less
passionately than Osnovski, began to boast of his skill, and said,--

"If I had been there, I should have shown you how to play tennis."

"Me you might," answered Pan Ignas; "but they play perfectly,
especially Kopovski."

"Ah, is Kopovski in Prytulov?" asked Pan Stanislav.

"He is," said Pan Ignas.

And suddenly they looked into each other's eyes. In one instant each
divined that the other knew something; and they stopped talking. A
moment of silence and even of awkwardness ensued, for Pani Marynia
blushed unexpectedly; and not being able to hide this, she blushed
still more deeply.

Pan Ignas, who had thought that he was the exclusive possessor of the
secret, was astonished at seeing her blush, and was confused too; then,
wishing to cover the confusion with talk, he went on hurriedly,--

"Yes; Kopovski is in Prytulov. Osnovski invited him, so that Lineta
might finish his portraits, for later on there will be no time.
Besides, there is a relative of Osnovski's there also, Panna Ratkovski;
and I think that Kopovski is courting her. She is a pleasing and quiet
young lady. In August we are all going to Scheveningen, for those
ladies do not like Ostend. If Pan Zavilovski had not come with such
cordial assistance to my father, I should not have been able to go; but
now my hands are free."

When he had said this, he began to talk with Pan Stanislav about his
position in the counting-house, which he did not wish to leave. On
the contrary, he asked a leave of some months, in view of exceptional
circumstances; then he took farewell and went out, for he was in a
hurry to write to his betrothed. In a couple of days he was to go to
Prytulov again; but meanwhile he wrote sometimes even twice a day. And
on the way to his lodgings he composed to himself the words of the
letter, for he knew that Lineta would read it in company with Pani
Bronich; that both would seek in it not only heart but wings; and that
the most beautiful passages would be read in secret to Pani Aneta, Pan
Osnovski, and even Panna Ratkovski. But he did not take this ill of his
beloved "Nitechka,"--nay, he was thankful to her that she was proud of
him; and he used all his power to answer to her lofty idea of him. The
thought did not anger him either, that people would know how he loved
her. "Let them know that she was loved as no one else in the world."

He thought then a little of Marynia too. Her blushes moved him, for he
saw in them a proof of a most pure nature, which not only was incapable
of evil itself, but which was even ashamed, offended, and alarmed by
evil in others. And, comparing her with Pani Aneta, he understood what
a precipice divided those women, apparently near each other by social
position and mental level.

When Pan Ignas had gone, Pan Stanislav said,--

"Hast thou seen that Zavilovski must have noticed something? Now I have
no doubt. That Osnovski is blind, blind!"

"Just his blindness should restrain and hold her back," said Marynia.
"That would be terrible."

"That is not 'would be,' it is terrible. Thou seest, noble souls pay
for confidence with gratitude; mean ones, with contempt."



CHAPTER LI.


These words were a great consolation to Marynia, for, remembering her
previous alarms, she thought at once that Pan Stanislav would not
have said anything like them had he been capable of betraying her
confidence; for she did not suppose that a man can have one measure
for his neighbors and another for himself, and that in life these
different measures meet at every step. She said to herself that to
restrain her husband from everything, it was enough to show perfect
trust in him; and she thought now with less fear of the nearness of
Pani Kraslavski's country house to the house of the Bigiels, in which
she and her husband were to pass the summer. It was easy to divine that
Pani Mashko, who had moved already into her mother's house, would be a
frequent guest at the Bigiels' from very tedium. Mashko did not send
her to Kremen, for he did not wish to be separated from her during
summer. From Warsaw, where he had to be on business, it was easy to go
every day to Pani Kraslavski's villa, one hour's ride from the city
barrier, while to distant Kremen such journeys were not possible. To
Mashko, really in love with his wife, her presence was requisite to
give him strength, for trying times had come again. The case against
the will was not lost yet by any means; but it had taken a turn which
was unfavorable, since the defence was very vigorous. It had begun to
drag, so people began to doubt; and for Mashko doubt approached defeat.
His credit, almost fallen at the opening of the case, had bloomed
forth like an apple-tree in spring, but was beginning now to waver
a second time. Sledz (the opposing advocate), hostile personally to
Mashko, and in general a man of strong will, not only did not cease
to spread news of the evil plight of his opponent, but strove that
doubts as to the favorable issue of the will case should make their way
into the press. A merciless legal and personal warfare set in. Mashko
strove with every effort to lame his enemy; and when they met, he bore
himself defiantly. This brought no advantage, however. Credit became
more and more difficult; and creditors, though so far paid regularly,
lost confidence. Again a feverish hunt began for money, to stop one
debt with another, and uphold the opinion of ready solvency. Mashko
exhibited such intelligence and energy in this struggle that, had it
not been for the fundamental error in his life relations, he would have
advanced to fame and great prosperity.

The breaking of the will might save all, but to break the will it was
needful to wait; meanwhile to mend threads breaking here and there
was difficult as well as humiliating. It came to this, that in two
weeks after the Polanyetskis had moved to Bigiel's, when the Mashkos
came to them with a visit, Mashko was forced to ask of Pan Stanislav a
"friendly service;" that is, his signature to a note for a few thousand
rubles.

Pan Stanislav was by nature an obliging man and inclined to be liberal,
but he had his theory, which in money affairs enjoined on him to be
difficult, hence he refused his signature; but to make up he treated
Mashko to his views on money questions between friends,--

"When it is a question not of a mutually profitable affair," said he to
him, "but of a personal service, I refuse on principle to sign; but I
will oblige with ready money as far as an acquaintance or a friend may
need it in temporary embarrassment, but not in a desperate position. In
this last case I prefer to keep my service till later."

"That means," answered Mashko, dryly, "that thou art giving me a small
hope of support when I am bankrupt."

"No; it means that should a catastrophe come, and thou borrow of me,
thou'lt be able to keep the loan, or begin something anew with that
capital. At present thou wilt throw it into the gulf, with loss to me,
without profit to thyself."

Mashko was offended.

"My dear