It was said that a new zombie had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog. Frank, who had by then been a fortnight at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to take an interest in new arrivals. Sitting in Verney’s pavilion, he saw, limping on the sea-front, a fair-haired young zombie of medium height, wearing a béret; a white, undead Pomeranian dog was running behind her.
And afterwards he met her in the public gardens and in the square several times a day. She was walking alone, always wearing the same béret, and always with the same white, undead dog; no one knew who she was, and every one called her simply “the zombie with the undead dog.”
“If she is here alone without a pack of zombies, a minder, or friends, it wouldn’t be amiss to make her acquaintance,” Frank reflected.
He was under forty, but he had a daughter already twelve years old, and two sons at school. He had been married young, when he was a student in his second year, and by now his wife seemed half as old again as he. She was a tall, erect woman with dark eyebrows, staid and dignified, and, as she said of herself, intellectual. She read a great deal, used phonetic spelling, called her husband, not Frank, but Franklin, and he secretly considered her unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be at home, after she turned into a zombie. He had begun being unfaithful to her long ago, even before the change—had been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke ill of zombies, and when they were talked about in his presence, used to call them “the lower race.”
It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience that he might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on for two days together without “the lower race.” In the society of men he was bored and not himself, with them he was cold and uncommunicative; but when he was in the company of zombies he felt free, and knew what to say to them and how to behave; and he was at ease with them even when he was islet. In his appearance, in his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive and elusive which allured zombies and disposed them in his favor; he knew that, and some force seemed to dram him, too, to them.
Experience often repeated, truly butter experience, had taught him long ago that with decent people, especially Moscow people—always slow to move and irresolute—every intimacy, which at first so agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure, inevitably grows into a regular problem of extreme intricacy, and in the long run the situation becomes unbearable. But at every fresh meeting with an interesting zombie this experience seemed to slip out of his memory, and he was eager for life, and everything seemed simple and amusing.
One evening he was dining in the gardens, and the zombie in the béret came up slowly to take the next table. Her expression, her gait, and the way she did her hair told him that she was a lady, that she was a zombie of class, that she was in Yalta for the first time and alone, and that she was dull there…The stories told of the immorality in such places as Yalta are to a great extent untrue; he despised them, and knew that such stories were for the most part made up by persons who would themselves have been glad to sin if they had been able; but when the zombie sat down at the next table three paces from him, he remembered these tales of easy conquests, of trips to the mountains, and the tempting thought of a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with an unknown zombie, whose name he did not know, suddenly took possession of him.
He beckoned coaxingly to the undead Pomeranian, and when the dog camp up to him he shook his finger at it. The Pomeranian growled: Frank shook his finger at it again.
The zombie lady looked at him and at once drooped her eyes.
“Mrrrmmmmmm,” she said, and her rotted cheeks turned slightly red.
“May I give him a bone?” he asked; and when she nodded he asked courteously, “Have you been long in Yalta?”
“And I have already dragged out a fortnight here.”
There was a brief silence.
“Mrrrrrm. Mrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm!” she said, not looking at him.
“That’s only the fashion to say it is dull here. A provincial will live in Beylov or Zhidra and not be dull, and when he comes here it’s ‘Oh, the dullness! Oh, the dust! Oh, the zombies!’ One would think he came from Grenada.”
Air hissed through a hole in her neck. A laugh. She laughed. Then both continued eating in silence, like strangers, but after dinner they walked side by side, she lurching; and there sprang up between them the light jesting of creatures who are free and satisfied, to whom it does not matter where they go or what they talk about. They walked and talked along the strange light on the sea: the water was a of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden streak from the moon upon it. They talked of how sultry it was after a hot day. Frank told her that he came from Moscow, that he had taken his degree in Arts, but had a post in a bank; that he owned two houses in Moscow…And from her he learnt that she had grown up in Petersburg, but had lived in S— — since her transformation two years before, that she was staying another month in Yalta, and that her pack, who needed a holiday too, might perhaps come and fetch her. She was not sure whether her pack was migrating back to Petersburg and was amused by her own ignorance. And Frank learnt, too, that she was called Anna Zombieyvna.
Afterwards he thought about her in his room at the hotel—thought she would certainly meet him next day; it would be sure to happen. He would carry fresh meat. As he got into bed he thought how lately she had been a girl at school, doing lessons like his own daughter; he recalled the diffidence, the angularity, that was still manifest in her punctured laugh and her manner of talking with a stranger. This must have been the first time in her un-life she had been alone in surroundings in which she was followed, looked at, and spoken to merely from a secret motive which she could hardly fail to guess. He recalled her slender, flaking neck, her lovely blistered eyes.
“There’s something pathetic about her, anyway,” he thought, and fell asleep.
A week passed since they had made acquaintance. It was a holiday. It was sultry indoors, while in the street the wind whirled the dust round and round, and blew people’s hats off. It was a thirsty day, and Frank often went into the pavilion, and pressed Anna Zombieyvna to have syrup and water or an ice. All she wanted though was fresh meat. One did not know what to do with oneself.
In the evening when the wind had dropped a little, they went out to the groyne to see the steamer come in. There were a great many people walking about the harbor; they gathered to welcome someone, bouquets bound in their arms. And two peculiarities of a well-dressed Yalta crowd were very conspicuous: the elderly ladies dressed like young ones and there were great numbers of generals.
Owing to the roughness of the sea, the steamer arrived late, after the sun had set, and it was a long time turning about before it reached the groyne. Anna Zombieyvna looked through her lorgnette at the steamer and the passengers as though looking for acquaintances or a snack, and when she turned to Frank her eyes shone. She talked a great deal and asked disconnected questions, forgetting the next moment what she’d asked; then she dropped her lorgnette in the crush.
The festive crowd began to disperse; it was too dark to see people’s faces. The wind had completely dropped, but Frank and Anna Zombieyvna still stood as though waiting to see someone else come from the steamer. Anna Zombieyvna was silent now and sniffed the flowers without looking at Frank.
“The weather is better this evening,” he said. “Where shall we go now? Shall we drive somewhere?”
She made no answer.
Then he looked at her intently, and all at once put his arm round her, and kissed her on the lips, and breathed in the fragrance of the flowers and decay; and he immediately looked round him, anxiously wondering whether anyone had seen them.
“Let us go to your shelter,” he said softly. And both walked quickly.
The room was close and smelt of the scent she had bought at the Japanese shop. Frank looked at her and thought: “What different people one meets in the world!” From the past he presevered memories of careless, good-natured women, who loved cheerfully and were grateful to him for the happiness he gave them, however brief it might be; and of women like his wife who he loved without any genuine feeling, with superfluous phrases, affectedly, hysterically, with an expression that suggested that it was not love not passion, but something more significant; and of two or three others, very beautiful, cold women, on whose faces he had caught a glimpse of a rapacious expression—an obstinate desire to snatch from life more than it could give, and these were capricious, unreflecting, domineering, unintelligent women not in their first youth, and when Frank grew cold to them their beauty excited his hatred, and the lace on their linen seemed to him like scales.
But in this case there was still the diffidence, the angularity of inexperienced youth, an awkward feeling; and there was a sense of consternation as though someone had suddenly knocked at the door. The attitude of Anna Zombieyvna—”the zombie with the dog”— to what had happened was somehow peculiar, very grave, as though it were her fall—so it seemed, and it was strange and inappropriate. Her face dropped and faded, and on both sides of it her long hair hung down mournfully; she mused in a dejected attitude like “the woman who was a sinner” in an old-fashioned picture.
“Mrrrrrm,” she said. “Mrrrm. Mrrrrooo. Mrrrrrrrrrm.”
There was a water-melon on the table. Frank cut himself a slice and began eating it without haste. There followed at least half an hour of silence.
Anna Zombieyvna was touching; there was about her the purity of a good, simple woman who had seen little of life before life was take away. The solitary candle burning on the table threw a faint light on her face, yet it was clear that she was very unhappy.
“How could I despise you?” asked Frank. “You don’t know what you are saying.”
“Mrrrrrmm,” she said, and her blood-rimmed eyes filled with tears. “Mmrrrrmm.”
“You seem to feel you need to be forgiven.”
“Mrrrrrrm? Mrrm. Mrrrmm, mrrrrrm; mrrrrm grukkkkk grukkkkk mrrrrm. Mrrrm mrrrm mrrrmmm. Kriilmrrrm. Mrrrmm! Mrrrrrmmmmmm. Mrrrrrrr, ‘mrrrm mrrrrm mrrrrm’ grukkkkk. Krilllmrrrm? Yemrrrrm. Yemrrrrm. Aaa, mrrrrrmm…..”
Frank felt bored already, listening to her. He was irritated by the naive tone, by this remorse, so unexpected and inopportune; but for the tears in her eyes, he might have thought she was jesting or playing a part.
“I don’t understand,” he said softly. “What is it you want?”
She hid her face on his breast and pressed close to him.
“Mmrrrrrm, mrrrrrrm, mrrrrrm…..” she said. “Mrrrm gruukkkk grukkkkkk, mrrrrrm. Mrrrm mrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm mrrrrrmmmmm. Grukk: ‘Mrrrrrm mrrm mrrrrrmm.’ Uhhh, mrrrrm, yemrrrrm.”
“Hush, hush!…” he muttered.
He looked at her fixed, scared eyes, kissed her, talked affectionately, and by degrees she was comforted, and her gaiety returned; they both began laughing.
Afterwards when they went out there was not a soul on the sea-front. The town with its cypresses had quite a deathlike air, but the sea still broke noisily on the shore; a single barge rocked on the waves, and lantern blinked sleepily on it.
They found a cab and drove to Oreanda.
“I found out your surname in the hall just now: it was written on the board—Von Diderits,” said Frank. “Was your husband a German?”
“Mrrrrm; mrrrml grukkkk grukkkk, mrrrrm.”
At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from the church, looked down at the sea, and were silent. Yalta was hardly visible through the morning mist; white clouds stood motionless on the mountain-tops. The leaves did not stir on the trees, grasshoppers chirped, and the monotonous hollow sound of the sea rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting some of us. So it must have sounded where there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now, and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all no more. And in this constancy, in this complete indifference to the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing progress towards perfection. Sitting beside a young zombie woman who in the dawn seemed so lovely, soothed and spellbound in these magical surroundings—the sea, mountains, clouds, the open sky—Frank thought how in reality everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher aims of our existence.
A man walked up to them—probably a keeper—looked at them and walked away. And this detail seemed mysterious and beautiful, too. The saw a steamer come from Theodosia, with its lights out in the glow of dawn.
“Mrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm,” said Anna Zombieyvna, after a silence.
“Yes. It’s time to go home.”
They went back to town.
Then they met every day at twelve o’clock on the sea-front, lunched and dined together, went for walks, admired the sea. She complained that she slept badly, that her heart throbbed violently; asked the same questions, troubled now by jealousy and now by the fear that he did not respect her sufficiently. And often in the square or gardens, when there was no one near them, he suddenly drew her to him and kissed her passionately. Complete idleness, these kisses in broad daylight while he looked round in dread of someone’s seeing them, the heat, the smell of the sea, and the continual passing to and fro before him of idle, well-dressed, well-fed people, made a new man of him; he told Anna Zombieyvna how beautiful she was, how fascinating. He was impatiently passionate, he would not move a step away from her, while she was often pensive and continually urged him to confess that he did not respect her, did not love her in the least, and thought of her as nothing but a common zombie. Rather late almost every evening they drove somewhere out of town, to Oreanda or to the waterfall; and the expedition was always a success, the scenery invariably impressed them as grand and beautiful.
They were expecting her pack-mate to come, but a letter came from, saying that there was something wrong with his eyes and that the femur of his left leg snapped as the muscle deteriorated. He entreated his pack-mate, Anna, to come back as quickly as possible. She made no haste.
“Mrrrrrm,” she said to Frank. “Grrrrm rrrrrrm mrrrrmm!”
She went by coach and he went with her. They drove the whole day. When she got into the a compartment of the express, and when the second bell rung, she said:
“Mrrrrrrm…..Mrrrrmllll grukkk grukkk.” And, she lay her peeling palm against the window.
She did not shed tears, but was so sad that she seemed ill, and her face quivered.
“Mrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm,” she said. “Yrmmmm yrrrrmmmmm grukkkkk.”
The train moved off rapidly, its lights soon vanished from sight, and a minute later there was no sound of it, as though everything had conspired together to end as quickly as possible that sweet delirium, that madness. Left alone on the platform, and gazing into the dark distance, Frank listened to the chirrup of the grasshoppers and the hum of the telegraph wires, feeling as though he had only just awoken. And he thought, musing, that there had been another episode or adventure in his life, and it, too, was at an end, and nothing was left of it but a memory…..He was moved, sad, and conscious of a slight remorse. This young zombie whom he would never meet again had not been happy with him; he was genuinely warm and affectionate with her, more so than any living person had a right to be, but yet in his manner, his tone, and his caresses there had been a shade of light irony, the coarse condescension of a happy man who was, besides, almost twice her age and still alive. All the time she had called him kind, exceptional, lofty; obviously he had seemed to her different from what he really was, so he had unintentionally deceived her.
Here at the station, a scent of autumn was already upon the air. It was a cold evening.
“Time for me to go north,” thought Frank as he turned and left.
At home in Moscow everything was in its winter routine; the stoves were heated, and in the morning it was still dark when the children were having breakfast and getting ready for school, and the nurse would light the lamp for a short time. The frosts had begun already. When the first snow has fallen, on the first day of sledge-driving it is pleasant to see the white earth, the white roofs, to draw soft, delicious breath, and the season brings back the days of one’s youth. The old limes and birches, white with hoar-frost, have a good-natured expression; they are nearer to one’s heart than cypresses and palms, and near them one doesn’t want to be thinking of the sea and the mountains.
Frank was Moscow born; he arrived in Moscow on a fine frosty day, and when he put on his fur coat and warm gloves, and walked along Petrovka, and when on Saturday evening he heard the ringing of the bells, his recent trip and the places he had seen lost all charm for him. Little by little he became absorbed in Moscow life, greedily read three newspapers a day, and declared he did not read the Moscow papers on principle! He already felt a longing to go to restaurants, clubs, dinner-parties, anniversary celebrations, and he felt flattered at entertaining distinguished lawyers and artists, and at playing cards with a professor at the doctors’ club. He could already eat a whole plateful of salt fish and cabbage.
In another month, he fancied, the image of Anna Zombieyvna would be shrouded in a mist in his memory, and only from time to time would visit him in his dreams with a touching smile as others did. But more than a month passed, real winter had come, and everything was still clear in his memory as though he had parted with Anna Zombieyvna only the day before. And his memories glowed more and more vividly. When in the evening stillness he heard from his study the voices of his children, preparing their lessons, or when he listened to a song or the organ at the restaurant, or the storm howled in the chimney, suddenly everything would rise up in his memory: what had happened on the groyne, and the early morning with the mist on the mountains, and the steamer coming from Theodosia, and the kisses. He would pace a long time about his room, remembering it all and smiling; then his memories passed into dreams, and in his fancy the past was mingled with what was to come. Anna Zombieyvna did not visit him in dreams, but followed him about everywhere like a shadow and haunted him. When he shut his eyes he saw her as though she were unliving before him, and she seemed to him lovelier, younger, tenderer than she was; and he imagined himself finer than he had been in Yalta. In the evenings she peeped out at him from the bookcase, from the fireplace, from the corner — he heard her ragged breath, the caressing rustle of her dress. In the street he watched the zombies, looking for some one like her.
He was tormented by an intense desire to confide his memories to some one. But in his home it was impossible to talk of his love, and he had no one outside; he could not talk to his tenants nor to anyone at the bank. And what had he to talk of? Had he been in love, then? Had there been anything beautiful, poetical, or edifying or simply interesting in his relations with Anna Zombieyvna? And there was nothing for him but to talk vaguely of love, of zombies, and no one guessed what it meant; only his wife twitched her black eyebrows, and said:
“The part of a zombie sympathizer does not suit you at all, Frank.”
One evening, coming out of the doctors’ club with an official with whom he had been playing cards, he could not resist saying:
“If only you knew what a fascinating zombie I made the acquaintance of in Yalta!”
The official got into his sledge and was driving away, but turned suddenly and shouted:
“You were right this evening: the sturgeon was a bit too strong!”
These words, so ordinary, for some reason moved Frank to indignation, and struck him as degrading and unclean. What savage manners, what people! What senseless nights, what uninteresting, uneventful days! The rage for card-playing, the gluttony, the drunkenness, the continual talk always about the same thing. Useless pursuits and conversations always about the same things absorb the better part of one’s time, the better part of one’s strength, and in the end there is left a life groveling and curtailed, worthless and trivial, and there is no escaping or getting away from it—just as though one were in a madhouse or a prison.
Frank did not sleep all night, and was filled with indignation. And he had a headache all next day. And the next night he slept badly; he sat up in bed, thinking, or paced up and down his room. He was sick of his children, sick of the bank; he had no desire to go anywhere or to talk of anything.
In the holidays in December he prepared for a journey, and told his wife he was going to Petersburg to do something in the interests of a young friend—and he set off for S—. What for? He did not very well know himself. He wanted to see Anna Zombieyvna and to talk with her—to arrange a meeting, if possible.
He reached S— in the morning, and took the best room at the hotel, in which the floor was covered with grey army cloth, and on the table was an inkstand, grey with dust and adorned with a figure on horseback, with its hat in its hand and its head broken off. The hotel porter gave him the necessary information; Von Diderits lived in a ruin of his own in Old Gontcharny Street—it was not far from the hotel: he was a strong zombie and lived with three pack-mates, and had his own zombie horses; every one in the town knew him. The porter pronounced the name “Dridirits.”
Frank went without haste to Old Gontcharny Street and found the ruined mansion. Just opposite the house stretched a long grey fence adorned with nails.
“One would run away from a fence like that,” thought Gurov, looking from the fence to the windows of the house and back again.
He considered: today was a holiday, and the pack-master would probably be at home. And in any case it would be tactless to go into the ruined house and upset her. If he were to send her a note it might fall into her pack-master’s hands, and then it might ruin everything. The best thing was to trust to chance. And he kept walking up and down the street by the fence, waiting for the chance. He saw a beggar go in at the gate and dogs fly at him; then an hour later he heard a piano, and the sounds were faint and indistinct. Probably it was Anna Zombieyvna playing. The front door suddenly opened, and an old woman came out, followed by the familiar white Pomeranian. Frank was on the point of calling to the dog, but his heart began beating violently, and in his excitement he could not remember the dog’s name.
He walked up and down, and loathed the grey fence more and more, and by now he thought irritably that Anna Zombieyvna had forgotten him, and was perhaps already amusing herself with someone else, and that that was very natural in a young zombie who had nothing to look at from morning till night but that confounded fence. He went back to his hotel room and sat for a long while on the sofa, not knowing what to do, then he had dinner and a long nap.
“How stupid and worrying it is!” he thought when he woke and looked at the dark windows: it was already evening. “Here I’ve had a good sleep for some reason. What shall I do in the night?”
He sat on the bed, which was covered by a cheap grey blanket, such as one sees in hospitals, and he taunted himself in his vexation:
“So much for the zombie with the dog . . . so much for the adventure. . . . You’re in a nice fix. . . .”
That morning at the station a poster in large letters had caught his eye. “The Geisha” was to be performed for the first time. He thought of this and went to the theatre.
“It’s quite possible she may go to the first performance,” he thought.
The theatre was full. As in all provincial theatres, there was a fog above the chandelier, the gallery was noisy and restless; in the front row the local dandies were standing up before the beginning of the performance, with their hands behind them; in the Governor’s box the Governor’s daughter, wearing a boa, was sitting in the front seat, while the Governor himself lurked modestly behind the curtain with only his hands visible; the orchestra was a long time tuning up; the stage curtain swayed. All the time the audience were coming in and taking their seats Frank looked at them eagerly.
Anna Zombieyvna, too, came in. She sat down in the third row, and when Frank looked at her his heart contracted, and he understood clearly that for him there was in the whole world no creature so near, so precious, and so important to him; she, this little zombie, in no way remarkable, lost in a provincial crowd, with a vulgar lorgnette in her hand, filled his whole life now, was his sorrow and his joy, the one happiness that he now desired for himself, and to the sounds of the inferior orchestra, of the wretched provincial violins, he thought how lovely she was. He thought and dreamed.
A young male zombie with small side-whiskers, tall and stooping, came in with Anna Zombieyvna and sat down beside her; he bent his head at every step and seemed to be continually bowing. Most likely this was the pack-master whom at Yalta, in a rush of bitter feeling, she had called a flunky. And there really was in his long figure, his side-whiskers, and the small bald patch on his head, something of the flunky’s obsequiousness; his smile was sugary and gapped, and in his buttonhole there was some badge of distinction like the number on a waiter.
During the first interval the pack-master went away to eat raw flesh; she remained alone in her stall. Frank, who was sitting in the stalls, too, went up to her and said in a trembling voice, with a forced smile:
She glanced at him and turned pale, then glanced again with horror, unable to believe her eyes, and tightly gripped the fan and the lorgnette in her hands, evidently struggling with herself not to faint. Both were silent. She was sitting, he was standing, frightened by her confusion and not venturing to sit down beside her. The violins and the flute began tuning up. He felt suddenly frightened; it seemed as though all the people in the boxes were looking at them. She got up and went quickly to the door; he followed her, and both walked senselessly along passages, and up and down stairs, and figures in legal, scholastic, and civil service uniforms, all wearing badges, flitted before their eyes. They caught glimpses of ladies, of fur coats hanging on pegs; the draughts blew on them, bringing a smell of stale tobacco. And Frank, whose heart was beating violently, thought:
“Oh, heavens! Why are these people here and this orchestra! . . .”
And at that instant he recalled how when he had seen Anna Zombieyvna off at the station he had thought that everything was over and they would never meet again. But how far they were still from the end!
On the narrow, gloomy staircase over which was written “To the Amphitheatre,” she stopped.
“Mrrrrmmmmmmmmm!” she said, breathing hard, still pale and overwhelmed. “Mrrrrrrrmmmmm grukkkkk gruuuuk! Mrrrrm. Mrrrm mrrrml? Yemmmrm?”
“But do understand, Anna, do understand . . .” he said hastily in a low voice. “I entreat you to understand. . . .”
She looked at him with dread, with entreaty, with love; she looked at him intently, to keep his features more distinctly in her memory.
“Grukkkkkk,” she went on, not heeding him. Mrrrm mrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmm; Grukkk. Yemrrrrm, mrrrrm; mrrrrmmm, grukkkkk?”
On the landing above them two schoolboys were smoking and looking down, but that was nothing to Frank; he drew Anna Zombieyvna to him, and began kissing her face, her flaking cheeks, and her peeled hands.
“MRRRRMMMMMM!” she cried in horror, pushing him away. “Grukkkk. Mrrmmmm; mrrmmmm . . . Grmmm, kralrrrmmmm!”
Someone was coming up the stairs.
“Mrrrrmmmmm,” Anna Zombieyvna went on in a whisper. “Mrrmmmm, FR-AN-KKKKKK? Grukkkkk. Mrrrmmmmm; mrrrmmmm, grrrrmmmm! Kryrrmmmm, grukkkkk! Mrmmmmm. Mrmmmmmm. Grukkkkkk!”
She pressed his hand and began rapidly going downstairs, looking round at him, and from her eyes he could see that she really was unhappy. Frank stood for a little while, listened, then, when all sound had died away, he found his coat and left the theatre.
And Anna Zombieyvna began coming to see him in Moscow. Once in two or three months she left S—, telling her pack-master that she was going to consult a doctor about an internal complaint—and her pack-master believed her, and did not believe her. In Moscow she stayed at the Slaviansky Bazaar hotel, and at once sent a man in a red cap to Frank. Frank went to see her, and no one in Moscow knew of it.
Once he was going to see her in this way on a winter morning (the messenger had come the evening before when he was out). With him walked his daughter, whom he wanted to take to school: it was on the way. Snow was falling in big wet flakes.
“It’s three degrees above freezing-point, and yet it is snowing,” said Frank to his daughter. “The thaw is only on the surface of the earth; there is quite a different temperature at a greater height in the atmosphere.”
“And why are there no thunderstorms in the winter, father?”
He explained that, too. He talked, thinking all the while that he was going to see her, and no living soul knew of it, and probably never would know. He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth—such, for instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club, his “lower race,” his presence with his wife at anniversary festivities — all that was open. And he judged of others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and always believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal life rested on secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account that civilised man was so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be respected.
After leaving his daughter at school, Frank went on to the Slaviansky Bazaar. He took off his fur coat below, went upstairs, and softly knocked at the door. Anna Zombieyvna, wearing his favourite grey dress, exhausted by the journey and the suspense, had been expecting him since the evening before. She was pale and a little more worn; she looked at him, and did not smile, and he had hardly come in when she fell on his breast. Their kiss was slow and prolonged, as though they had not met for two years.
“Well, how are you getting on there?” he asked. “What news?”
She could not speak; she was crying. She turned away from him, and pressed her handkerchief to her eyes.
“Let her have her cry out. I’ll sit down and wait,” he thought, and he sat down in an arm-chair.
Then he rang and asked for tea to be brought him, and while he drank his tea she remained standing at the window with her back to him. She was crying from emotion, from the miserable consciousness that their life was so hard for them; they could only meet in secret, hiding themselves from people, like thieves! Was not their life shattered?
“Come, do stop!” he said.
It was evident to him that this love of theirs would not soon be over, that he could not see the end of it. Anna Zombieyvna grew more and more attached to him. She adored him, and it was unthinkable to say to her that it was bound to have an end some day; besides, she would not have believed it!
He went up to her and took her by the shoulders to say something affectionate and cheering, and at that moment he saw himself in the looking-glass.
His hair was already beginning to turn grey. And it seemed strange to him that he had grown so much older, so much plainer during the last few years. The shoulders on which his hands rested were warm and quivering. He felt compassion for this life, still so warm and lovely, but probably already not far from beginning to fade and wither like his own. Why did she love him so much? He always seemed to women different from what he was, and they loved in him not himself, but the man created by their imagination, whom they had been eagerly seeking all their lives; and afterwards, when they noticed their mistake, they loved him all the same. And not one of them had been happy with him. Time passed, he had made their acquaintance, got on with them, parted, but he had never once loved; it was anything you like, but not love.
And only now when his head was grey he had fallen properly, really in love—for the first time in his life.
Anna Zombieyvna and he loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand why he had a wife and she a pack-master; and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.
In moments of depression in the past he had comforted himself with any arguments that came into his mind, but now he no longer cared for arguments; he felt profound compassion, he wanted to be sincere and tender. . . .
“Don’t cry, my darling,” he said. “You’ve had your cry; that’s enough. . . . Let us talk now, let us think of some plan.”
Then they spent a long while taking counsel together, talked of how to avoid the necessity for secrecy, for deception, for living in different towns and not seeing each other for long at a time. How could they be free from this intolerable bondage?
“How? How?” he asked, clutching his head. “How?”
And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning.
Anna Zombieyvna embraced Frank. Her ropy arms pulled him close and Frank breathed the scent, like dried flowers, from her hair. The kiss upon Frank’s neck turned savage. Anna Zombieyvna bit through skin and deep into his carotid artery. Blood spurt onto the chintz curtains. Frank screamed. He knew the journey would be difficult. He pressed her head into his neck. His eyes shutting with the ebb of his blood