An Unhappy Girl

by Ivan S. Turgenev

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I found my friend sitting in a corner of his room with downcast head and arms folded across his breast. He had sunk into a state of numbness, and he gazed around him with the slow, bewildered look of a man who has slept very heavily and has only just been wake d. I told him all about my visit to Ratsch's, repeated the veteran's remarks and those of his wife, described the impression they had made on me and informed him of my conviction that the unhappy girl had taken her own life.... Fustov listened to me with no change of expression, and looked about him with the same bewildered air.

'Did you see her?' he asked me at last.


'In the coffin?'

Fustov seemed to doubt whether Susanna were really dead.

'In the coffin.'

Fustov's face twitched and he dropped his eyes and softly rubbed his hands.

'Are you cold?' I asked him.

'Yes, old man, I'm cold,' he answered hesitatingly, and he shook his head stupidly.

I began to explain my reasons for thinking that Susanna had poisoned herself or perhaps had been poisoned, and that the matter could not be left so....

Fustov stared at me.

'Why, what is there to be done?' he said, slowly opening his eyes wide and slowly closing them. 'Why, it'll be worse... if it's known about. They won't bury her. We must let things... alone.'

This idea, simple as it was, had never entered my head. My friend's practical sense had not deserted him.

'When is... her funeral?' he went on.


'Are you going?'


'To the house or straight to the church?'

'To the house and to the church too; and from there to the cemetery.'

'But I shan't go... I can't, I can't!' whispered Fustov and began crying. It was at these same words that he had broken into sobs in the morning. I have noticed that it is often so with weeping; as though to certain words, for the most of no great meaning,—but just to these words and to no others—it is given to open the fount of tears in a man, to break him down, and to excite in him the feeling of pity for others and himself... I remember a peasant woman was once describing before me the sudden death of her daughter, and she fairly dissolved and could not go on with her tale as soon as she uttered the phrase, 'I said to her, Fekla. And she says, "Mother, where have you put the salt... the salt... sa-alt?"' The word 'salt' overpowered her.

But again, as in the morning, I was but little moved by Fustov's tears. I could not conceive how it was he did not ask me if Susanna had not left something for him. Altogether their love for one another was a riddle to me; and a riddle it remained to me.

After weeping for ten minutes Fustov got up, lay down on the sofa, turned his face to the wall, and remained motionless. I waited a little, but seeing that he did not stir, and made no answer to my questions, I made up my mind to leave him. I am perhaps doing him injustice, but I almost believe he was asleep. Though indeed that would be no proof that he did not feel sorrow... only his nature was so constituted as to be unable to support painful emotions for long... His nature was too awfully well-balanced!

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