A Hero of Our Time June 15

Yesterday a conjurer called Applebaum arrived here. A long poster appeared on the doors of the restaurant, notifying the most venerable public of the fact that the above-mentioned conjurer, acrobat, chemist, and optician would have the honor of giving a magnificent performance on today’s date at eight o’ clock in the evening, in the noble assembly rooms (otherwise known as the restaurant). Tickets for two rubles and fifty kopecks.

Everyone intends to watch the amazing conjurer. Even the Princess Ligovsky, despite her daughter’s malaise, has taken a ticket for herself.

Today, after dinner, I walked past Vera’s window. She was sitting on the balcony alone. A note fell at my feet:

Today, after nine in the evening, come to me and take the grand staircase. My husband has left for Pyatigorsk, and he will not return until tomorrow morning. My men and housemaids will not be at home. I have given them all tickets, and the Princess’s staff has gone too. I will expect you, come without fail.

“Aha!” I thought. “Finally things are turning out my way.” At eight o’clock I went to see the conjurer. The audience had gathered just before nine. The performance began. In the seats of the back row I recognized the lackeys and housemaids employed by Vera and the Princess Ligovsky. They were all here, every single one. Grushnitsky was sitting in the first row with a lorgnette. The conjurer addressed him every time he needed a handkerchief, a pocket-watch, a ring, and the rest.

Grushnitsky hasn’t bowed to me for a while now, and the last two times he has looked at me rather impertinently. He will be reminded of this when it comes to settling our score.

Before ten, I stood up and left.

It was as dark as pitch in the courtyard. Heavy, cold clouds had settled on the pinnacles of the surrounding mountains. Only now and then, the dying wind sounded in the tops of the poplars, surrounding the restaurant. People were crowded around its windows. I went down the hill and hastened my steps as I turned into the gate. Suddenly it seemed that someone was following me. I stopped and looked around. In the darkness I couldn’t make out anything. However, out of carefulness, I walked around the house, as though I was having a stroll. Walking past the Princess Mary’s window, I heard steps behind me again. A person, wrapped up in a greatcoat, ran past me. This alarmed me. However, I stole onto the veranda and hurriedly ran up the dark staircase. The door opened. A small hand grasped my hand . . .

“No one saw you?” said Vera in a whisper, pressing herself to me.

“No one!”

“Now do you believe that I love you? Oh, I hesitated for a long time, I was tormented . . . but you can do with me what you like.”

Her heart pounded; her hands were as cold as ice. The reproaches, the jealousies, the complaints began. She was demanding of me that I confess everything to her, saying that she would endure my betrayal with submissiveness, because all she wanted was my happiness. I didn’t completely believe this, but I reassured her with my vows, promises, and so on.

“So, you are not marrying Mary? You don’t love her? But she thinks . . . You know, she is madly in love with you, the poor thing!”

Around two o’clock after midnight I opened the window, and tying together two shawls and holding onto the column, I descended from the top balcony to the lower one. Princess Mary’s lights were still lit. The curtain wasn’t totally drawn, and I was able to cast a curious peek into the interior of the room. Mary was sitting on her bed, her hands crossed in her lap. Her thick hair was gathered up under a night bonnet stitched with lace. A big crimson kerchief covered her little white shoulders. Her little feet were hidden in colorful Persian slippers. She was sitting motionless, her head lowered onto her breast. There was an open book in front of her on the table, but her eyes were motionless, full of indescribable sadness, and it seemed that they had been running over one and the same page for the hundredth time, since her thoughts were far away . . .

At that moment, someone moved behind a bush. I leapt from the balcony onto the turf. An invisible hand grabbed me by the shoulder.

“Aha!” said a rough voice. “You’ve been caught! Visiting princesses at night, indeed!”

“Hold him tighter!” said another voice, jumping out from behind a corner.

This was Grushnitsky and the dragoon captain.

I hit the latter on the head with my fist, knocked him from his feet, and fled into the bushes. I was familiar with all the paths of the garden that covered the slope opposite our houses.

“Thieves! Help!” they cried. A rifle shot rang out. A smoking wad fell almost at my feet.

A minute later I was already in my room, undressed and lying down. My lackey had barely closed the door and locked it when Grushnitsky and the captain started knocking.

“Pechorin! Are you sleeping? Are you there?” yelled the captain.

“Get up—there are thieves about . . . Circassians!”

“I have a cold,” I replied, “and I am afraid to make it worse.”

They left. It was a mistake to respond to them: they would have looked for me in the garden for another hour. In the meantime a terrible alarm was raised. A Cossack came galloping from the fortress. Everyone stirred. They started to search for Circassians in every bush—and, it goes without saying, they didn’t find anything. But I imagine many remained firm in the conviction that had the garrison demonstrated more courage and haste, then at least two dozen of the predators would have been stopped in their tracks.