A Hero of Our Time June 4

Today I saw Vera. She bored me to tears with her jealousy. The princess has taken it into her head, it seems, to trust Vera with her heart’s secrets: it must be said that that is a happy choice!

“I can guess where all this is leading,” Vera was saying to me, “and it would be better if you just simply told me now that you love her.”

“And if I don’t love her?”

“Well, then why are you pursuing her, alarming her, agitating her imagination? . . . Oh, I know you well! Listen, if you want me to trust you, then come to Kislovodsk in a week’s time. The day after tomorrow we will be going there. The Princess Ligovsky will be staying here for the meantime. Take an apartment nearby. We will stay in the mezzanine of a big house near the source; downstairs will be the Princess Ligovsky, and next door there is a house that belongs to the same owner, which is not yet occupied . . . Will you come?”

I promised, and the same day I sent someone to reserve the apartment.

Grushnitsky came to me at six o’clock in the evening and announced that tomorrow his full-dress uniform would be ready, just in time for the ball.

“At last I will dance with her the whole evening . . . then I will say everything that needs saying!”

“When is this ball?”

“Tomorrow! Don’t you know? A big festival, and the local authorities have undertaken to organize it . . .”

“Let’s go down to the boulevard . . .”

“Not on your life, in this ugly greatcoat . . .”

“What, have you ceased to love it?”

I went out alone and encountered Princess Mary, whereupon I invited her to dance the mazurka. She seemed to be surprised and glad.

“I thought that you only dance out of necessity, like the last time,” she said, very sweetly smiling . . .

She, it seems, hadn’t been noticing the absence of Grushnitsky.

“You will be pleasantly surprised tomorrow,” I said to her.

“By what?”

“That is a secret . . . you will find out for yourself at the ball.”

I finished the evening at Princess Ligovsky’s house; there weren’t any guests except Vera and one very amusing old man. I was in high spirits, and improvised various strange stories. The young princess sat opposite me and listened to my nonsense with such deep and strained yet gentle attention that I felt guilty. Where had her vitality gone? Her coquettishness, her caprice, her cheeky mien, her contemptuous smile, her absentminded look . . . ?

Vera noticed all of this: a deep sadness showed itself on her sickly face; she sat in the shadows by the window, sunken in a wide armchair . . . I started to feel sorry for her . . .

Then I recounted the whole dramatic story of our acquaintance, our love—but it goes without saying that I concealed all this with invented names.

I depicted my affection, my anxieties, my raptures so vividly. I painted her behavior and character in such an advantageous light, that against her will, she had to forgive me for my flirtations with the princess.

She stood up, came and sat with us, and livened up . . . and it was not until two o’clock at night that we all remembered the doctor had ordered us to go to bed at eleven.