- An Anonymous Story
It was autumn, at Nice. One morning when I went into her room
she was sitting on a low chair, bent together and huddled up,
with her legs crossed and her face hidden in her hands. She was
weeping bitterly, with sobs, and her long, unbrushed hair fell
on her knees. The impression of the exquisite marvellous sea
which I had only just seen and of which I wanted to tell her,
left me all at once, and my heart ached.
"What is it?" I asked; she took one hand from her face and
motioned me to go away. "What is it?" I repeated, and for the
first time during our acquaintance I kissed her hand.
"No, it's nothing, nothing," she said quickly. "Oh, it's
nothing, nothing. . . . Go away. . . . You see, I am not
I went out overwhelmed. The calm and serene mood in which I had
been for so long was poisoned by compassion. I had a passionate
longing to fall at her feet, to entreat her not to weep in
solitude, but to share her grief with me, and the monotonous
murmur of the sea already sounded a gloomy prophecy in my ears,
and I foresaw fresh tears, fresh troubles, and fresh losses in
the future. "What is she crying about? What is it?" I wondered,
recalling her face and her agonised look. I remembered she was
with child. She tried to conceal her condition from other
people, and also from herself. At home she went about in a loose
wrapper or in a blouse with extremely full folds over the bosom,
and when she went out anywhere she laced herself in so tightly
that on two occasions she fainted when we were out. She never
spoke to me of her condition, and when I hinted that it might be
as well to see a doctor, she flushed crimson and said not a
When I went to see her next time she was already dressed and had
her hair done.
"There, there," I said, seeing that she was ready to cry again.
"We had better go to the sea and have a talk."
"I can't talk. Forgive me, I am in the mood now when one wants
to be alone. And, if you please, Vladimir Ivanitch, another time
you want to come into my room, be so good as to give a knock at
That "be so good" had a peculiar, unfeminine sound. I went away.
My accursed Petersburg mood came back, and all my dreams were
crushed and crumpled up like leaves by the heat. I felt I was
alone again and there was no nearness between us. I was no more
to her than that cobweb to that palm-tree, which hangs on it by
chance and which will be torn off and carried away by the wind.
I walked about the square where the band was playing, went into
the Casino; there I looked at overdressed and heavily perfumed
women, and every one of them glanced at me as though she would
say: "You are alone; that's all right." Then I went out on the
terrace and looked for a long time at the sea. There was not one
sail on the horizon. On the left bank, in the lilac-coloured
mist, there were mountains, gardens, towers, and houses, the sun
was sparkling over it all, but it was all alien, indifferent, an