FROM THE LARGE BALLROOM of Skvoreshniki (the room in which the last interview with Varvara Petrovna and Stepan Trofimovitch had taken place) the fire could be plainly seen. At daybreak, soon after five in the morning, Liza was standing at the farthest window on the right looking intently at the fading glow. She was alone in the room. She was wearing the dress she had worn the day before at the matinée—a very smart light green dress covered with lace, but crushed and put on carelessly and with haste. Suddenly noticing that some of the hooks were undone in front she flushed, hurriedly set it right, snatched up from a chair the red shawl she had flung down when she came in the day before, and put it round her neck. Some locks of her luxuriant hair had come loose and showed below the shawl on her right shoulder. Her face looked weary and careworn, but her eyes glowed under her frowning brows. She went up to the window again and pressed her burning forehead against the cold pane. The door opened and Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch came in.
“I’ve sent a messenger on horseback,” he said. “In ten minutes we shall hear all about it, meantime the servants say that part of the riverside quarter has been burnt down, on the right side of the bridge near the quay. It’s been burning since eleven o’clock; now the fire is going down.”
He did not go near the window, but stood three steps behind her; she did not turn towards him.
“It ought to have been light an hour ago by the calendar, and it’s still almost night,” she said irritably.
“‘Calendars always tell lies,’” he observed with a polite smile, but, a little ashamed; he made haste to add: “It’s dull to live by the calendar, Liza.”
And he relapsed into silence, vexed at the ineptitude of the second sentence. Liza gave a wry smile.
“You are in such a melancholy mood that you cannot even find words to speak to me. But you need not trouble, there’s a point in what you said. I always live by the calendar. Every step I take is regulated by the calendar. Does that surprise you?”
She turned quickly from the window and sat down in a low chair.
“You sit down, too, please. We haven’t long to be together and I want to say anything I like.… Why shouldn’t you, too, say anything you like?”
Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch sat beside her and softly, almost timidly took her hand.
“What’s the meaning of this tone, Liza? Where has it suddenly sprung from? What do you mean by ‘we haven’t long to be together’? That’s the second mysterious phrase since you waked, half an hour ago.”
“You are beginning to reckon up my mysterious phrases!” she laughed. “Do you remember I told you I was a dead woman when I came in yesterday? That you thought fit to forget. To forget or not to notice.”
“I don’t remember, Liza. Why dead? You must live.”
“And is that all? You’ve quite lost your flow of words. I’ve lived my hour and that’s enough. Do you remember Christopher Ivanovitch?”
“No I don’t,” he answered, frowning.
“Christopher Ivanovitch at Lausanne? He bored you dreadfully. He always used to open the door and say, ‘I’ve come for one minute,’ and then stay the whole day. I don’t want to be like Christopher Ivanovitch and stay the whole day.”
A look of pain came into his face.
“Liza, it grieves me, this unnatural language. This affectation must hurt you, too. What’s it for? What’s the object of it?”
His eyes glowed.
“Liza,” he cried, “I swear I love you now more than yesterday when you came to me!”
“What a strange declaration! Why bring in yesterday and to-day and these comparisons?”
“You won’t leave me,” he went on, almost with despair; “we will go away together, to-day, won’t we? Won’t we?”
“Aie, don’t squeeze my hand so painfully! Where could we go together to-day? To ‘rise again’ somewhere? No, we’ve made experiments enough … and it’s too slow for me; and I am not fit for it; it’s too exalted for me. If we are to go, let it be to Moscow, to pay visits and entertain—that’s my ideal you know; even in Switzerland I didn’t disguise from you what I was like. As we can’t go to Moscow and pay visits since you are married, it’s no use talking of that.”
“Liza! What happened yesterday!”
“What happened is over!”
“That’s impossible! That’s cruel!”
“What if it is cruel? You must bear it if it is cruel.”
“You are avenging yourself on me for yesterday’s caprice,” he muttered with an angry smile. Liza flushed.
“What a mean thought!”
“Why then did you bestow on me … so great a happiness? Have I the right to know?”
“No, you must manage without rights; don’t aggravate the meanness of your supposition by stupidity. You are not lucky to-day. By the way, you surely can’t be afraid of public opinion and that you will be blamed for this ‘great happiness’? If that’s it, for God’s sake don’t alarm yourself. It’s not your doing at all and you are not responsible to anyone. When I opened your door yesterday, you didn’t even know who was coming in. It was simply my caprice, as you expressed it just now, and nothing more! You can look every one in the face boldly and triumphantly!”
“Your words, that laugh, have been making me feel cold with horror for the last hour. That ‘happiness’ of which you speak frantically is worth … everything to me. How can I lose you now? I swear I loved you less yesterday. Why are you taking everything from me to-day? Do you know what it has cost me, this new hope? I’ve paid for it with life.”
“Your own life or another’s?”
He got up quickly.
“What does that mean?” he brought out, looking at her steadily.
“Have you paid for it with your life or with mine? is what I mean. Or have you lost all power of understanding?” cried Liza, flushing. “Why did you start up so suddenly? Why do you stare at me with such a look? You frighten me. What is it you are afraid of all the time? I noticed some time ago that you were afraid and you are now, this very minute … Good heavens, how pale you are!”
“If you know anything, Liza, I swear I don’t … and I wasn’t talking of that just now when I said that I had paid for it with life.…”
“I don’t understand you,” she brought out, faltering apprehensively.
At last a slow brooding smile came on to his lips. He slowly sat down, put his elbows on his knees, and covered his face with his hands.
“A bad dream and delirium.… We were talking of two different things.”
“I don’t know what you were talking about.… Do you mean to say you did not know yesterday that I should leave you to-day, did you know or not? Don’t tell a lie, did you or not?”
“I did,” he said softly.
“Well then, what would you have? You knew and yet you accepted ‘that moment’ for yourself. Aren’t we quits?”
“Tell me the whole truth,” he cried in intense distress. “When you opened my door yesterday, did you know yourself that it was only for one hour?”
She looked at him with hatred.
“Really, the most sensible person can ask most amazing questions. And why are you so uneasy? Can it be vanity that a woman should leave you first instead of your leaving her? Do you know, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, since I’ve been with you I’ve discovered that you are very generous to me, and it’s just that I can’t endure from you.”
He got up from his seat and took a few steps about the room.
“Very well, perhaps it was bound to end so.… But how can it all have happened?”
“That’s a question to worry about! Especially as you know the answer yourself perfectly well, and understand it better than anyone on earth, and were counting on it yourself. I am a young lady, my heart has been trained on the opera, that’s how it all began, that’s the solution.”
“There is nothing in it to fret your vanity. It is all the absolute truth. It began with a fine moment which was too much for me to bear. The day before yesterday, when I ‘insulted’ you before every one and you answered me so chivalrously, I went home and guessed at once that you were running away from me because you were married, and not from contempt for me which, as a fashionable young lady, I dreaded more than anything. I understood that it was for my sake, for me, mad as I was, that you ran away. You see how I appreciate your generosity. Then Pyotr Stepanovitch skipped up to me and explained it all to me at once. He revealed to me that you were dominated by a ‘great idea,’ before which he and I were as nothing, but yet that I was a stumbling-block in your path. He brought himself in, he insisted that we three should work together, and said the most fantastic things about a boat and about maple-wood oars out of some Russian song. I complimented him and told him he was a poet, which he swallowed as the real thing. And as apart from him I had known long before that I had not the strength to do anything for long, I made up my mind on the spot. Well, that’s all and quite enough, and please let us have no more explanations. We might quarrel. Don’t be afraid of anyone, I take it all on myself. I am horrid and capricious, I was fascinated by that operatic boat, I am a young lady … but you know I did think that you were dreadfully in love with me. Don’t despise the poor fool, and don’t laugh at the tear that dropped just now. I am awfully given to crying with self-pity. Come, that’s enough, that’s enough. I am no good for anything and you are no good for anything; it’s as bad for both of us, so let’s comfort ourselves with that. Anyway, it eases our vanity.”
“Dream and delirium,” cried Stavrogin, wringing his hands, and pacing about the room. “Liza, poor child, what have you done to yourself?”
“I’ve burnt myself in a candle, nothing more. Surely you are not crying, too? You should show less feeling and better breeding.…”
“Why, why did you come to me?”
“Don’t you understand what a ludicrous position you put yourself in in the eyes of the world by asking such questions?”
“Why have you ruined yourself, so grotesquely and so stupidly, and what’s to be done now?”
“And this is Stavrogin, ‘the vampire Stavrogin,’ as you are called by a lady here who is in love with you! Listen! I have told you already, I’ve put all my life into one hour and I am at peace. Do the same with yours … though you’ve no need to: you have plenty of ‘hours’ and ‘moments’ of all sorts before you.”
“As many as you; I give you my solemn word, not one hour more than you!”
He was still walking up and down and did not see the rapid penetrating glance she turned upon him, in which there seemed a dawning hope. But the light died away at the same moment.
“If you knew what it costs me that I can’t be sincere at this moment, Liza, if I could only tell you …”
“Tell me? You want to tell me something, to me? God save me from your secrets!” she broke in almost in terror. He stopped and waited uneasily.
“I ought to confess that ever since those days in Switzerland I have had a strong feeling that you have something awful, loathsome, some bloodshed on your conscience … and yet something that would make you look very ridiculous. Beware of telling me, if it’s true: I shall laugh you to scorn. I shall laugh at you for the rest of your life.… Aie, you are turning pale again? I won’t, I won’t, I’ll go at once.” She jumped up from her chair with a movement of disgust and contempt.
“Torture me, punish me, vent your spite on me,” he cried in despair. “You have the full right. I knew I did not love you and yet I ruined you! Yes, I accepted the moment for my own; I had a hope … I’ve had it a long time … my last hope.… I could not resist the radiance that flooded my heart when you came in to me yesterday, of yourself, alone, of your own accord. I suddenly believed.… Perhaps I have faith in it still.”
“I will repay such noble frankness by being as frank. I don’t want to be a Sister of Mercy for you. Perhaps I really may become a nurse unless I happen appropriately to die to-day; but if I do I won’t be your nurse, though, of course, you need one as much as any crippled creature. I always fancied that you would take me to some place where there was a huge wicked spider, big as a man, and we should spend our lives looking at it and being afraid of it. That’s how our love would spend itself. Appeal to Dashenka; she will go with you anywhere you like.”
“Can’t you help thinking of her even now?”
“Poor little spaniel! Give her my greetings. Does she know that even in Switzerland you had fixed on her for your old age? What prudence! What foresight! Aie, who’s that?”
At the farther end of the room a door opened a crack; a head was thrust in and vanished again hurriedly.
“Is that you, Alexey Yegorytch?” asked Stavrogin.
“No, it’s only I.” Pyotr Stepanovitch thrust himself half in again. “How do you do, Lizaveta Nikolaevna? Good morning, anyway. I guessed I should find you both in this room. I have come for one moment literally, Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch. I was anxious to have a couple of words with you at all costs … absolutely necessary … only a few words!”
Stavrogin moved towards him but turned back to Liza at the third step.
“If you hear anything directly, Liza, let me tell you I am to blame for it!”
She started and looked at him in dismay; but he hurriedly went out.
The room from which Pyotr Stepanovitch had peeped in was a large oval vestibule. Alexey Yegorytch had been sitting there before Pyotr Stepanovitch came in, but the latter sent him away. Stavrogin closed the door after him and stood expectant. Pyotr Stepanovitch looked rapidly and searchingly at him.
“If you know already,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch hurriedly, his eyes looking as though they would dive into Stavrogin’s soul, “then, of course, we are none of us to blame, above all not you, for it’s such a concatenation … such a coincidence of events … in brief, you can’t be legally implicated and I’ve rushed here to tell you so beforehand.”
“Have they been burnt? murdered?”
“Murdered but not burnt, that’s the trouble, but I give you my word of honour that it’s not been my fault, however much you may suspect me, eh? Do you want the whole truth: you see the idea really did cross my mind—you hinted it yourself, not seriously, but teasing me (for, of course, you would not hint it seriously), but I couldn’t bring myself to it, and wouldn’t bring myself to it for anything, not for a hundred roubles—and what was there to be gained by it, I mean for me, for me.…” (He was in desperate haste and his talk was like the clacking of a rattle.) “But what a coincidence of circumstances: I gave that drunken fool Lebyadkin two hundred and thirty roubles of my own money (do you hear, my own money, there wasn’t a rouble of yours and, what’s more, you know it yourself) the day before yesterday, in the evening—do you hear, not yesterday after the matinée, but the day before yesterday, make a note of it: it’s a very important coincidence for I did not know for certain at that time whether Lizaveta Nikolaevna would come to you or not; I gave my own money simply because you distinguished yourself by taking it into your head to betray your secret to every one. Well, I won’t go into that … that’s your affair … your chivalry, but I must own I was amazed, it was a knock-down blow. And forasmuch as I was exceeding weary of these tragic stories—and let me tell you, I talk seriously though I do use Biblical language—as it was all upsetting my plans in fact, I made up my mind at any cost, and without your knowledge, to pack the Lebyadkins off to Petersburg, especially as he was set on going himself. I made one mistake: I gave the money in your name;—was it a mistake or not? Perhaps it wasn’t a mistake, eh? Listen now, listen how it has all turned out.…”
In the heat of his talk he went close up to Stavrogin and took hold of the revers of his coat (really, it may have been on purpose). With a violent movement Stavrogin struck him on the arm.
“Come, what is it … give over … you’ll break my arm … what matters is the way things have turned out,” he rattled on, not in the least surprised at the blow. “I forked out the money in the evening on condition that his sister and he should set off early next morning; I trusted that rascal Liputin with the job of getting them into the train and seeing them off. But that beast Liputin wanted to play his schoolboy pranks on the public—perhaps you heard? At the matinée? Listen, listen: they both got drunk, made up verses of which half are Liputin’s; he rigged Lebyadkin out in a dress-coat, assuring me meanwhile that he had packed him off that morning, but he kept him shut somewhere in a back room, till he thrust him on the platform at the matinée. But Lebyadkin got drunk quickly and unexpectedly. Then came the scandalous scene you know of, and then they got him home more dead than alive, and Liputin filched away the two hundred roubles, leaving him only small change. But it appears unluckily that already that morning Lebyadkin had taken that two hundred roubles out of his pocket, boasted of it and shown it in undesirable quarters. And as that was just what Fedka was expecting, and as he had heard something at Kirillov’s (do you remember, your hint?) he made up his mind to take advantage of it. That’s the whole truth. I am glad, anyway, that Fedka did not find the money, the rascal was reckoning on a thousand, you know! He was in a hurry and seems to have been frightened by the fire himself.… Would you believe it, that fire came as a thunderbolt for me. Devil only knows what to make of it! It is taking things into their own hands.… You see, as I expect so much of you I will hide nothing from you: I’ve long been hatching this idea of a fire because it suits the national and popular taste; but I was keeping it for a critical moment, for that precious time when we should all rise up and … And they suddenly took it into their heads to do it, on their own initiative, without orders, now at the very moment when we ought to be lying low and keeping quiet! Such presumption!… The fact is, I’ve not got to the bottom of it yet, they talk about two Shpigulin men, but if there are any of our fellows in it, if any one of them has had a hand in it—so much the worse for him! You see what comes of letting people get ever so little out of hand! No, this democratic rabble, with its quintets, is a poor foundation; what we want is one magnificent, despotic will, like an idol, resting on something fundamental and external.… Then the quintets will cringe into obedience and be obsequiously ready on occasion. But, anyway, though, they are all crying out now that Stavrogin wanted his wife to be burnt and that that’s what caused the fire in the town, but …”
“Why, are they all saying that?”
“Well, not yet, and I must confess I have heard nothing of the sort, but what one can do with people, especially when they’ve been burnt out! Vox populi vox Dei. A stupid rumour is soon set going. But you really have nothing to be afraid of. From the legal point of view you are all right, and with your conscience also. For you didn’t want it done, did you? There’s no clue, nothing but the coincidence.… The only thing is Fedka may remember what you said that night at Kirillov’s (and what made you say it?) but that proves nothing and we shall stop Fedka’s mouth. I shall stop it to-day.…”
“And weren’t the bodies burnt at all?”
“Not a bit; that ruffian could not manage anything properly. But I am glad, anyway, that you are so calm … for though you are not in any way to blame, even in thought, but all the same.… And you must admit that all this settles your difficulties capitally: you are suddenly free and a widower and can marry a charming girl this minute with a lot of money, who is already yours, into the bargain. See what can be done by crude, simple coincidence—eh?”
“Are you threatening me, you fool?”
“Come, leave off, leave off! Here you are, calling me a fool, and what a tone to use! You ought to be glad, yet you … I rushed here on purpose to let you know in good time.… Besides, how could I threaten you? As if I cared for what I could get by threats! I want you to help from goodwill and not from fear. You are the light and the sun.… It’s I who am terribly afraid of you, not you of me! I am not Mavriky Nikolaevitch.… And only fancy, as I flew here in a racing droshky I saw Mavriky Nikolaevitch by the fence at the farthest corner of your garden … in his greatcoat, drenched through, he must have been sitting there all night! Queer goings on! How mad people can be!”
“Mavriky Nikolaevitch? Is that true?”
“Yes, yes. He is sitting by the garden fence. About three hundred paces from here, I think. I made haste to pass him, but he saw me. Didn’t you know? In that case I am glad I didn’t forget to tell you. A man like that is more dangerous than anyone if he happens to have a revolver about him, and then the night, the sleet, or natural irritability—for after all he is in a nice position, ha ha! What do you think? Why is he sitting there?”
“He is waiting for Lizaveta Nikolaevna, of course.”
“Well! Why should she go out to him? And … in such rain too … what a fool!”
“She is just going out to him!”
“Eh! That’s a piece of news! So then … But listen, her position is completely changed now. What does she want with Mavriky now? You are free, a widower, and can marry her to-morrow. She doesn’t know yet—leave it to me and I’ll arrange it all for you. Where is she? We must relieve her mind too.”
“Relieve her mind?”
“Rather! Let’s go.”
“And do you suppose she won’t guess what those dead bodies mean?” said Stavrogin, screwing up his eyes in a peculiar way.
“Of course she won’t,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch with all the confidence of a perfect simpleton, “for legally … Ech, what a man you are! What if she did guess? Women are so clever at shutting their eyes to such things, you don’t understand women! Apart from it’s being altogether to her interest to marry you now, because there’s no denying she’s disgraced herself; apart from that, I talked to her of ‘the boat’ and I saw that one could affect her by it, so that shows you what the girl is made of. Don’t be uneasy, she will step over those dead bodies without turning a hair—especially as you are not to blame for them; not in the least, are you? She will only keep them in reserve to use them against you when you’ve been married two or three years. Every woman saves up something of the sort out of her husband’s past when she gets married, but by that time … what may not happen in a year? Ha ha!”
“If you’ve come in a racing droshky, take her to Mavriky Nikolaevitch now. She said just now that she could not endure me and would leave me, and she certainly will not accept my carriage.”
“What! Can she really be leaving? How can this have come about?” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, staring stupidly at him.
“She’s guessed somehow during this night that I don’t love her … which she knew all along, indeed.”
“But don’t you love her?” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, with an expression of extreme surprise. “If so, why did you keep her when she came to you yesterday, instead of telling her plainly like an honourable man that you didn’t care for her? That was horribly shabby on your part; and how mean you make me look in her eyes!”
Stavrogin suddenly laughed.
“I am laughing at my monkey,” he explained at once.
“Ah! You saw that I was putting it on!” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, laughing too, with great enjoyment. “I did it to amuse you! Only fancy, as soon as you came out to me I guessed from your face that you’d been ‘unlucky.’ A complete fiasco, perhaps. Eh? There! I’ll bet anything,” he cried, almost gasping with delight, “that you’ve been sitting side by side in the drawing-room all night wasting your precious time discussing something lofty and elevated.… There, forgive me, forgive me; it’s not my business. I felt sure yesterday that it would all end in foolishness. I brought her to you simply to amuse you, and to show you that you wouldn’t have a dull time with me. I shall be of use to you a hundred times in that way. I always like pleasing people. If you don’t want her now, which was what I was reckoning on when I came, then …”
“So you brought her simply for my amusement?”
“Why, what else?”
“Not to make me kill my wife?”
“Come. You’ve not killed her? What a tragic fellow you are!
“It’s just the same; you killed her.”
“I didn’t kill her! I tell you I had no hand in it.… You are beginning to make me uneasy, though.…”
“Go on. You said, ‘if you don’t want her now, then … ‘”
“Then, leave it to me, of course. I can quite easily marry her off to Mavriky Nikolaevitch, though I didn’t make him sit down by the fence. Don’t take that notion into your head. I am afraid of him, now. You talk about my droshky, but I simply dashed by.… What if he has a revolver? It’s a good thing I brought mine. Here it is.” He brought a revolver out of his pocket, showed it, and hid it again at once. “I took it as I was coming such a long way.… But I’ll arrange all that for you in a twinkling: her little heart is aching at this moment for Mavriky; it should be, anyway.… And, do you know, I am really rather sorry for her? If I take her to Mavriky she will begin about you directly; she will praise you to him and abuse him to his face. You know the heart of woman! There you are, laughing again! I am awfully glad that you are so cheerful now. Come, let’s go. I’ll begin with Mavriky right away, and about them … those who’ve been murdered … hadn’t we better keep quiet now? She’ll hear later on, anyway.”
“What will she hear? Who’s been murdered? What were you saying about Mavriky Nikolaevitch?” said Liza, suddenly opening the door.
“Ah! You’ve been listening?”
“What were you saying just now about Mavriky Nikolaevitch? Has he been murdered?”
“Ah! Then you didn’t hear? Don’t distress yourself, Mavriky Nikolaevitch is alive and well, and you can satisfy yourself of it in an instant, for he is here by the wayside, by the garden fence … and I believe he’s been sitting there all night. He is drenched through in his greatcoat! He saw me as I drove past.”
“That’s not true. You said ‘murdered.’ … Who’s been murdered?” she insisted with agonising mistrust.
“The only people who have been murdered are my wife, her brother Lebyadkin, and their servant,” Stavrogin brought out firmly.
Liza trembled and turned terribly pale.
“A strange brutal outrage, Lizaveta Nikolaevna. A simple case of robbery,” Pyotr Stepanovitch rattled off at once “Simply robbery, under cover of the fire. The crime was committed by Fedka the convict, and it was all that fool Lebyadkin’s fault for showing every one his money.… I rushed here with the news … it fell on me like a thunderbolt. Stavrogin could hardly stand when I told him. We were deliberating here whether to tell you at once or not?”
“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, is he telling the truth?” Liza articulated faintly.
“No; it’s false.”
“False?” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, starting. “What do you mean by that?”
“Heavens! I shall go mad!” cried Liza.
“Do you understand, anyway, that he is mad now!” Pyotr Stepanovitch cried at the top of his voice. “After all, his wife has just been murdered. You see how white he is.… Why, he has been with you the whole night. He hasn’t left your side a minute. How can you suspect him?”
“Nikolay Vsyevolodovitch, tell me, as before God, are you guilty or not, and I swear I’ll believe your word as though it were God’s, and I’ll follow you to the end of the earth. Yes, I will. I’ll follow you like a dog.”
“Why are you tormenting her, you fantastic creature?” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch in exasperation. “Lizaveta Nikolaevna, upon my oath, you can crush me into powder, but he is not guilty. On the contrary, it has crushed him, and he is raving, you see that. He is not to blame in any way, not in any way, not even in thought!… It’s all the work of robbers who will probably be found within a week and flogged.… It’s all the work of Fedka the convict, and some Shpigulin men, all the town is agog with it. That’s why I say so too.”
“Is that right? Is that right?” Liza waited trembling for her final sentence.
“I did not kill them, and I was against it, but I knew they were going to be killed and I did not stop the murderers. Leave me, Liza,” Stavrogin brought out, and he walked into the drawing-room.
Liza hid her face in her hands and walked out of the house. Pyotr Stepanovitch was rushing after her, but at once hurried back and went into the drawing-room.
“So that’s your line? That’s your line? So there’s nothing you are afraid of?” He flew at Stavrogin in an absolute fury, muttering incoherently, scarcely able to find words and foaming at the mouth.
Stavrogin stood in the middle of the room and did not answer a word. He clutched a lock of his hair in his left hand and smiled helplessly. Pyotr Stepanovitch pulled him violently by the sleeve.
“Is it all over with you? So that’s the line you are taking? You’ll inform against all of us, and go to a monastery yourself, or to the devil.… But I’ll do for you, though you are not afraid of me!”
“Ah! That’s you chattering!” said Stavrogin, noticing him at last. “Run,” he said, coming to himself suddenly, “run after her, order the carriage, don’t leave her.… Run, run! Take her home so that no one may know … and that she mayn’t go there … to the bodies … to the bodies.… Force her to get into the carriage … Alexey Yegorytch! Alexey Yegorytch!”
“Stay, don’t shout! By now she is in Mavriky’s arms.… Mavriky won’t put her into your carriage.… Stay! There’s something more important than the carriage!”
He seized his revolver again. Stavrogin looked at him gravely.
“Very well, kill me,” he said softly, almost conciliatorily.
“Foo. Damn it! What a maze of false sentiment a man can get into!” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, shaking with rage. “Yes, really, you ought to be killed! She ought simply to spit at you! Fine sort of ‘magic boat,’ you are; you are a broken-down, leaky old hulk!… You ought to pull yourself together if only from spite! Ech! Why, what difference would it make to you since you ask for a bullet through your brains yourself?”
Stavrogin smiled strangely.
“If you were not such a buffoon I might perhaps have said yes now.… If you had only a grain of sense …”
“I am a buffoon, but I don’t want you, my better half, to be one! Do you understand me?”
Stavrogin did understand, though perhaps no one else did. Shatov, for instance, was astonished when Stavrogin told him that Pyotr Stepanovitch had enthusiasm.
“Go to the devil now, and to-morrow perhaps I may wring something out of myself. Come to-morrow.”
“How can I tell?… Go to hell. Go to hell.” And he walked out of the room.
“Perhaps, after all, it may be for the best,” Pyotr Stepanovitch muttered to himself as he hid the revolver.
He rushed off to overtake Lizaveta Nikolaevna. She had not got far away, only a few steps, from the house. She had been detained by Alexey Yegorytch, who was following a step behind her, in a tail coat, and without a hat; his head was bowed respectfully. He was persistently entreating her to wait for a carriage; the old man was alarmed and almost in tears.
“Go along. Your master is asking for tea, and there’s no one to give it to him,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch, pushing him away. He took Liza’s arm.
She did not pull her arm away, but she seemed hardly to know what she was doing; she was still dazed.
“To begin with, you are going the wrong way,” babbled Pyotr Stepanovitch. “We ought to go this way, and not by the garden, and, secondly, walking is impossible in any case. It’s over two miles, and you are not properly dressed. If you would wait a second, I came in a droshky; the horse is in the yard. I’ll get it instantly, put you in, and get you home so that no one sees you.”
“How kind you are,” said Liza graciously.
“Oh, not at all. Any humane man in my position would do the same.…”
Liza looked at him, and was surprised.
“Good heavens! Why I thought it was that old man here still.”
“Listen. I am awfully glad that you take it like this, because it’s all such a frightfully stupid convention, and since it’s come to that, hadn’t I better tell the old man to get the carriage at once. It’s only a matter of ten minutes and we’ll turn back and wait in the porch, eh?”
“I want first … where are those murdered people?”
“Ah! What next? That was what I was afraid of.… No, we’d better leave those wretched creatures alone; it’s no use your looking at them.”
“I know where they are. I know that house.”
“Well? What if you do know it? Come; it’s raining, and there’s a fog. (A nice job this sacred duty I’ve taken upon myself.) Listen, Lizaveta Nikolaevna! It’s one of two alternatives. Either you come with me in the droshky—in that case wait here, and don’t take another step, for if we go another twenty steps we must be seen by Mavriky Nikolaevitch.”
“Mavriky Nikolaevitch! Where? Where?”
“Well, if you want to go with him, I’ll take you a little farther, if you like, and show you where he sits, but I don’t care to go up to him just now. No, thank you.”
“He is waiting for me. Good God!” she suddenly stopped, and a flush of colour flooded her face.
“Oh! Come now. If he is an unconventional man! You know, Lizaveta Nikolaevna, it’s none of my business. I am a complete outsider, and you know that yourself. But, still, I wish you well.… If your ‘fairy boat’ has failed you, if it has turned out to be nothing more than a rotten old hulk, only fit to be chopped up …”
“Ah! That’s fine, that’s lovely,” cried Liza.
“Lovely, and yet your tears are falling. You must have spirit. You must be as good as a man in every way. In our age, when woman.… Foo, hang it,” Pyotr Stepanovitch was on the point of spitting. “And the chief point is that there is nothing to regret. It may all turn out for the best. Mavriky Nikolaevitch is a man.… In fact, he is a man of feeling though not talkative, but that’s a good thing, too, as long as he has no conventional notions, of course.…”
“Lovely, lovely!” Liza laughed hysterically.
“Well, hang it all … Lizaveta Nikolaevna,” said Pyotr Stepanovitch suddenly piqued. “I am simply here on your account.… It’s nothing to me.… I helped you yesterday when you wanted it yourself. To-day … well, you can see Mavriky Nikolaevitch from here; there he’s sitting; he doesn’t see us. I say, Lizaveta Nikolaevna, have you ever read ‘Polenka Saxe’?”
“It’s the name of a novel, ‘Polenka Saxe.’ I read it when I was a student.… In it a very wealthy official of some sort, Saxe, arrested his wife at a summer villa for infidelity.… But, hang it; it’s no consequence! You’ll see, Mavriky Nikolaevitch will make you an offer before you get home. He doesn’t see us yet.”
“Ach! Don’t let him see us!” Liza cried suddenly, like a mad creature. “Come away, come away! To the woods, to the fields!”
And she ran back.
“Lizaveta Nikolaevna, this is such cowardice,” cried Pyotr Stepanovitch, running after her. “And why don’t you want him to see you? On the contrary, you must look him straight in the face, with pride.… If it’s some feeling about that … some maidenly … that’s such a prejudice, so out of date … But where are you going? Where are you going? Ech! she is running! Better go back to Stavrogin’s and take my droshky.… Where are you going? That’s the way to the fields! There! She’s fallen down!…”
He stopped. Liza was flying along like a bird, not conscious where she was going, and Pyotr Stepanovitch was already fifty paces behind her. She stumbled over a mound of earth and fell down. At the same moment there was the sound of a terrible shout from behind. It came from Mavriky Nikolaevitch, who had seen her flight and her fall, and was running to her across the field. In a flash Pyotr Stepanovitch had retired into Stavrogin’s gateway to make haste and get into his droshky.
Mavriky Nikolaevitch was already standing in terrible alarm by Liza, who had risen to her feet; he was bending over her and holding her hands in both of his. All the incredible surroundings of this meeting overwhelmed him, and tears were rolling down his cheeks. He saw the woman for whom he had such reverent devotion running madly across the fields, at such an hour, in such weather, with nothing over her dress, the gay dress she wore the day before now crumpled and muddy from her fall.… He could not utter a word; he took off his greatcoat, and with trembling hands put it round her shoulders. Suddenly he uttered a cry, feeling that she had pressed her lips to his hand.
“Liza,” he cried, “I am no good for anything, but don’t drive me away from you!”
“Oh, no! Let us make haste away from here. Don’t leave me!” and, seizing his hand, she drew him after her. “Mavriky Nikolaevitch,” she suddenly dropped her voice timidly, “I kept a bold face there all the time, but now I am afraid of death. I shall die soon, very soon, but I am afraid, I am afraid to die.…” she whispered, pressing his hand tight.
“Oh, if there were someone,” he looked round in despair. “Some passer-by! You will get your feet wet, you … will lose your reason!”
“It’s all right; it’s all right,” she tried to reassure him. “That’s right. I am not so frightened with you. Hold my hand, lead me.… Where are we going now? Home? No! I want first to see the people who have been murdered. His wife has been murdered they say, and he says he killed her himself. But that’s not true, is it? I want to see for myself those three who’ve been killed … on my account … it’s because of them his love for me has grown cold since last night.… I shall see and find out everything. Make haste, make haste, I know the house … there’s a fire there.… Mavriky Nikolaevitch, my dear one, don’t forgive me in my shame! Why forgive me? Why are you crying? Give me a blow and kill me here in the field, like a dog!”
“No one is your judge now,” Mavriky Nikolaevitch pronounced firmly. “God forgive you. I least of all can be your judge.”
But it would be strange to describe their conversation. And meanwhile they walked hand in hand quickly, hurrying as though they were crazy. They were going straight towards the fire. Mavriky Nikolaevitch still had hopes of meeting a cart at least, but no one came that way. A mist of fine, drizzling rain enveloped the whole country, swallowing up every ray of light, every gleam of colour, and transforming everything into one smoky, leaden, indistinguishable mass. It had long been daylight, yet it seemed as though it were still night. And suddenly in this cold foggy mist there appeared coming towards them a strange and absurd figure. Picturing it now I think I should not have believed my eyes if I had been in Lizaveta Nikolaevna’s place, yet she uttered a cry of joy, and recognised the approaching figure at once. It was Stepan Trofimovitch. How he had gone off, how the insane, impracticable idea of his flight came to be carried out, of that later. I will only mention that he was in a fever that morning, yet even illness did not prevent his starting. He was walking resolutely on the damp ground. It was evident that he had planned the enterprise to the best of his ability, alone with his inexperience and lack of practical sense. He wore “travelling dress,” that is, a greatcoat with a wide patent-leather belt, fastened with a buckle and a pair of new high boots pulled over his trousers. Probably he had for some time past pictured a traveller as looking like this, and the belt and the high boots with the shining tops like a hussar’s, in which he could hardly walk, had been ready some time before. A broad-brimmed hat, a knitted scarf, twisted close round his neck, a stick in his right hand, and an exceedingly small but extremely tightly packed bag in his left, completed his get-up. He had, besides, in the same right hand, an open umbrella. These three objects—the umbrella, the stick, and the bag—had been very awkward to carry for the first mile, and had begun to be heavy by the second.
“Can it really be you?” cried Liza, looking at him with distressed wonder, after her first rush of instinctive gladness.
“Lise,” cried Stepan Trofimovitch, rushing to her almost in delirium too. “Chère, chère.… Can you be out, too … in such a fog? You see the glow of fire. Vous êtes malheureuse, n’est-ce pas? I see, I see. Don’t tell me, but don’t question me either. Nous sommes tous malheureux mais il faut les pardonner tous. Pardonnons, Lise, and let us be free forever. To be quit of the world and be completely free. Il faut pardonner, pardonner, et pardonner!”
“But why are you kneeling down?”
“Because, taking leave of the world, I want to take leave of all my past in your person!” He wept and raised both her hands to his tear-stained eyes. “I kneel to all that was beautiful in my life. I kiss and give thanks! Now I’ve torn myself in half; left behind a mad visionary who dreamed of soaring to the sky. Vingt-deux ans, here. A shattered, frozen old man. A tutor chez ce marchand, s’il existe pourtant ce marchand.… But how drenched you are, Lise!” he cried, jumping on to his feet, feeling that his knees too were soaked by the wet earth. “And how is it possible … you are in such a dress … and on foot, and in these fields?… You are crying! Vous êtes malheureuse. Bah, I did hear something.… But where have you come from now?” He asked hurried questions with an uneasy air, looking in extreme bewilderment at Mavriky Nikolaevitch. “Mais savez-vous l’heure qu’il est?”
“Stepan Trofimovitch, have you heard anything about the people who’ve been murdered?… Is it true? Is it true?”
“These people! I saw the glow of their work all night. They were bound to end in this.…” His eyes flashed again. “I am fleeing away from madness, from a delirious dream. I am fleeing away to seek for Russia. Existe-t-elle, la Russie? Bah! C’est vous, cher capitaine! I’ve never doubted that I should meet you somewhere on some high adventure.… But take my umbrella, and—why must you be on foot? For God’s sake, do at least take my umbrella, for I shall hire a carriage somewhere in any case. I am on foot because Stasie (I mean, Nastasya) would have shouted for the benefit of the whole street if she’d found out I was going away. So I slipped away as far as possible incognito. I don’t know; in the Voice they write of there being brigands everywhere, but I thought surely I shouldn’t meet a brigand the moment I came out on the road. Chère Lise, I thought you said something of someone’s being murdered. Oh, mon Dieu! You are ill!”
“Come along, come along!” cried Liza, almost in hysterics, drawing Mavriky Nikolaevitch after her again. “Wait a minute, Stepan Trofimovitch!” she came back suddenly to him. “Stay, poor darling, let me sign you with the cross. Perhaps, it would be better to put you under control, but I’d rather make the sign of the cross over you. You, too, pray for ‘poor’ Liza—just a little, don’t bother too much about it. Mavriky Nikolaevitch, give that baby back his umbrella. You must give it him. That’s right.… Come, let us go, let us go!”
They reached the fatal house at the very moment when the huge crowd, which had gathered round it, had already heard a good deal of Stavrogin, and of how much it was to his interest to murder his wife. Yet, I repeat, the immense majority went on listening without moving or uttering a word. The only people who were excited were bawling drunkards and excitable individuals of the same sort as the gesticulatory cabinet-maker. Every one knew the latter as a man really of mild disposition, but he was liable on occasion to get excited and to fly off at a tangent if anything struck him in a certain way. I did not see Liza and Mavriky Nikolaevitch arrive. Petrified with amazement, I first noticed Liza some distance away in the crowd, and I did not at once catch sight of Mavriky Nikolaevitch. I fancy there was a moment when he fell two or three steps behind her or was pressed back by the crush. Liza, forcing her way through the crowd, seeing and noticing nothing round her, like one in a delirium, like a patient escaped from a hospital, attracted attention only too quickly, of course. There arose a hubbub of loud talking and at last sudden shouts. Some one bawled out, “It’s Stavrogin’s woman!” And on the other side, “It’s not enough to murder them, she wants to look at them!” All at once I saw an arm raised above her head from behind and suddenly brought down upon it. Liza fell to the ground. We heard a fearful scream from Mavriky Nikolaevitch as he dashed to her assistance and struck with all his strength the man who stood between him and Liza. But at that instant the same cabinetmaker seized him with both arms from behind. For some minutes nothing could be distinguished in the scrimmage that followed. I believe Liza got up but was knocked down by another blow. Suddenly the crowd parted and a small space was left empty round Liza’s prostrate figure, and Mavriky Nikolaevitch, frantic with grief and covered with blood, was standing over her, screaming, weeping, and wringing his hands. I don’t remember exactly what followed after; I only remember that they began to carry Liza away. I ran after her. She was still alive and perhaps still conscious. The cabinet-maker and three other men in the crowd were seized. These three still deny having taken any part in the dastardly deed, stubbornly maintaining that they have been arrested by mistake. Perhaps it’s the truth. Though the evidence against the cabinet-maker is clear, he is so irrational that he is still unable to explain what happened coherently. I too, as a spectator, though at some distance, had to give evidence at the inquest. I declared that it had all happened entirely accidentally through the action of men perhaps moved by ill-feeling, yet scarcely conscious of what they were doing—drunk and irresponsible. I am of that opinion to this day.