'I would break every bone in that Viktor's body now,' pursued Fustov, clenching his teeth, 'if I didn't recognise that I'm in fault. I see now what the whole trick was contrived for, with Susanna's marriage they would lose the pension.... Wretches!'
I took his hand.
'Alexander,' I asked him, 'have you been to her?'
'No; I came straight to you on arriving. I'll go to-morrow... early to-morrow. Things can't be left so. On no account!'
'But you... love her, Alexander?'
Fustov seemed offended.
'Of course I love her. I am very much attached to her.'
'She's a splendid, true-hearted girl!' I cried.
Fustov stamped impatiently.
'Well, what notion have you got in y our head? I was prepared to marry her—she's been baptized—I'm ready to marry her even now, I'd been thinking of it, though she's older than I am.'
At that instant I suddenly fancied that a pale woman's figure was seated in the window, leaning on her arms. The lights had burnt down; it was dark in the room. I shivered, looked more intently, and saw nothing, of course, in the window seat; but a strange feeling, a mixture of horror, anguish and pity, came over me.
'Alexander!' I began with sudden intensity, 'I beg you, I implore you, go at once to the Ratsches', don't put it off till to-morrow! An inner voice tells me that you really ought to see Susanna to-day!'
Fustov shrugged his shoulders.
'What are you talking about, really! It's eleven o'clock now, most likely they're all in bed.'
'No matter.... Do go, for goodness' sake! I have a presentiment.... Please do as I say! Go at once, take a sledge....'
'Come, what nonsense!' Fustov responded coolly; 'how could I go now? To-morrow morning I will be there, and everything will be cleared up.'
'But, Alexander, remember, she said that she was dying, that you would not find her... And if you had seen her face! Only think, imagine, to make up her mind to come to me... what it must have cost her....'
'She's a little high-flown,' observed Fustov, who had apparently regained his self-possession completely. 'All girls are like that... at first. I repeat, everything will be all right to-morrow. Meanwhile, good-bye. I'm tired, and you're sleepy too.'
He took his cap, and went out of the room.
'But you promise to come here at once, and tell me all about it?' I called after him.
'I promise.... Good-bye!'
I went to bed, but in my heart I was uneasy, and I felt vexed with my friend. I fell asleep late and dreamed that I was wandering with Susanna along underground, damp passages of some sort, and crawling along narrow, steep staircases, and continually going deeper and deeper down, though we were trying to get higher up out into the air. Some one was all the while incessantly calling us in monotonous, plaintive tones.