My Life -
My sister, too, was leading a life of her own which she
carefully hid from me. She was often whispering with Masha. When
I went up to her she seemed to shrink into herself, and there
was a guilty, imploring look in her eyes; evidently there was
something going on in her heart of which she was afraid or
ashamed. So as to avoid meeting me in the garden, or being left
alone with me, she always kept close to Masha, and I rarely had
an opportunity of talking to her except at dinner.
One evening I was walking quietly through the garden on my way
back from the building. It was beginning to get dark. Without
noticing me, or hearing my step, my sister was walking near a
spreading old apple-tree, absolutely noiselessly as though she
were a phantom. She was dressed in black, and was walking
rapidly backwards and forwards on the same track, looking at the
ground. An apple fell from the tree; she started at the sound,
stood still and pressed her hands to her temples. At that moment
I went up to her.
In a rush of tender affection which suddenly flooded my heart,
with tears in my eyes, suddenly remembering my mother and our
childhood, I put my arm round her shoulders and kissed her.
"What is the matter?" I asked her. "You are unhappy; I have seen
it for a long time. Tell me what's wrong?"
"I am frightened," she said, trembling.
"What is it?" I insisted. "For God's sake, be open!"
"I will, I will be open; I will tell you the whole truth. To
hide it from you is so hard, so agonizing. Misail, I love . . ."
she went on in a whisper, "I love him . . . I love him. . . . I
am happy, but why am I so frightened?"
There was the sound of footsteps; between the trees appeared Dr.
Blagovo in his silk shirt with his high top boots. Evidently
they had arranged to meet near the apple-tree. Seeing him, she
rushed impulsively towards him with a cry of pain as though he
were being taken from her.
She clung to him and looked greedily into his face, and only
then I noticed how pale and thin she had become of late. It was
particularly noticeable from her lace collar which I had known
for so long, and which now hung more loosely than ever before
about her thin, long neck. The doctor was disconcerted, but at
once recovered himself, and, stroking her hair, said:
"There, there. . . . Why so nervous? You see, I'm here."
We were silent, looking with embarrassment at each other, then
we walked on, the three of us together, and I heard the doctor
say to me:
"Civilized life has not yet begun among us. Old men console
themselves by making out that if there is nothing now, there was
something in the forties or the sixties; that's the old: you and
I are young; our brains have not yet been touched by marasmus
senilis; we cannot comfort ourselves with such illusions. The
beginning of Russia was in 862, but the beginning of civilized
Russia has not come yet."
But I did not grasp the meaning of these reflections. It was
somehow strange, I could not believe it, that my sister was in
love, that she was walking and holding the arm of a stranger and
looking tenderly at him. My sister, this nervous, frightened,
crushed, fettered creature, loved a man who was married and had
children! I felt sorry for something, but what exactly I don't
know; the presence of the doctor was for some reason distasteful
to me now, and I could not imagine what would come of this love