A Hero of Our Time June 7

At eleven o’clock in the morning—the hour when Princess Ligovsky is usually steaming in the Yermolovsky baths—I walked past her house. Princess Mary was sitting at the window, lost in thought. When she saw me she leapt up.

I went into the entrance hall; there was no one there, and I took advantage of the liberal local mores and forced my way into the drawing room without being announced.

A dull pallor spread over the princess’s sweet face. She stood by the piano, with one hand on the spine of an armchair: this hand trembled slightly.

I quietly walked up to her and said:

“Are you angry with me?”

She raised a languid and deep gaze to me and shook her head. Her lips wanted to utter something and couldn’t. Her eyes filled with tears. She sank into the armchair and covered her face with her hands.

“What is wrong with you?” I said, taking her hand.

“You don’t respect me! Oh! Leave me in peace!”

I took a few steps. She straightened up in the chair, her eyes sparkling . . .

I stopped, having taken hold of the doorknob, and said:

“Forgive me, princess! I have behaved like a madman . . . it won’t happen again. I will take measures . . . If only you knew what has been happening in my soul until now! You will never know, and all the better for you. Farewell.”

As I left, it seemed to me that I heard her crying.

I wandered around the foothills of Mount Mashuk until evening. I became terribly tired, and, arriving at home, I threw myself on my bed in total exhaustion.

Werner came to visit me.

“Is it true,” he asked me, “that you are marrying the Princess Mary?”


“The whole town is saying it; all my patients are busy with this important news—these patients are quite a people—they know everything!”

“Grushnitsky is behind this trick!” I thought.

“In order to prove to you the falsity of these rumors, doctor, I will announce to you in confidence that tomorrow I am leaving for Kislovodsk . . .”

“And the Princess Ligovsky, too?”

“No, she is staying here yet another week.”

“So you are not marrying?”

“Doctor, doctor! Look at me: surely I don’t resemble a person who is betrothed or anything of the like?”

“I didn’t say that . . . but you know, there are occasions . . .” he added, smiling cunningly, “in which a noble person is obliged to marry, and there are mamas who, at least, won’t stand in the way of such occasions . . . And so, as your friend, I advise you to be more careful! Here, at the spa, the air is very dangerous. How many excellent young men have I seen, who deserve the best of success, and leave here to get married straight away . . . Even, believe me, some want to marry me! There was one mama in particular who was departing with her very pale daughter. I had the misfortune of telling her that the color would return to her daughter’s face when she married. Then she, with tears of gratitude, offered me her daughter’s hand and all her means too—fifty souls,15 it seems. But I replied that I wasn’t up to it . . .”

Werner left in the full certainty that he had cautioned me. From his words, I noted that various nasty rumors regarding the princess and myself had spread in the town: Grushnitsky will receive his comeuppance!