Doubrovsky by Alexander Pushkin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Doubrovsky – Contents

< < < Chapter XI
Chapter XIII > > >


At nine o’clock in the morning, the guests who had passed the night at Pokrovskoe repaired one after the other to the sitting-room, where the tea-urn was already boiling, and before which sat Maria Kirilovna in a morning gown, and Kirila Petrovitch in a frieze coat and slippers, drinking his tea out of a large cup like a wash-hand basin.

The last to appear was Anton Pafnoutitch; he was so pale, and seemed so troubled, that everybody was struck by his appearance, and Kirila Petrovitch inquired after his health. Spitsin replied in an evasive manner, glaring with horror at the tutor, who sat there as if nothing had happened. A few minutes afterwards a servant entered and announced to Spitsin that his carriage was ready. Anton Pafnoutitch hastened to take his leave of the company, and then hurried out of the room and started off immediately. The guests and the host could not understand what had happened to him, and Kirila Petrovitch came to the conclusion that he was suffering from an attack of indigestion.

After tea and the farewell breakfast, the other guests began to take their leave, and soon Pokrovskoe became empty, and everything went on in the usual manner.

Several days passed, and nothing remarkable had happened. The life of the inhabitants of Pokrovskoe became very monotonous. Kirila Petrovitch went out hunting every day; while Maria Kirilovna devoted her time to reading, walking, and especially to musical exercises. She was beginning to understand her own heart, and acknowledged to herself with involuntary vexation that she was not indifferent to the good qualities of the young Frenchman. He, on his side, never overstepped the limits of respect and strict decorum, and thereby quieted her pride and her timid suspicions. With more and more confidence she gave herself up to the alluring habit of seeing him. She felt dull without Desforges, and in his presence she was constantly occupied with him, wishing to know his opinion of everything, and always agreeing with him. She was not yet in love with him perhaps; but at the first accidental obstacle or unexpected reverse of destiny, the flame of passion would burst forth within her heart.

One day, on entering the parlour, where the tutor awaited her, Maria Kirilovna observed with astonishment that he looked pale and troubled. She opened the piano and sang a few notes; but Doubrovsky, under the pretext of a headaches, apologized, interrupted the lesson, closed the music, and slipped a note into her hand. Maria Kirilovna, without pausing to reflect, took it, and repented almost at the same moment for having done so. But Doubrovsky was no longer in the room. Maria Kirilovna went to her room, unfolded the note, and read as follows:

“Be in the arbour near the brook this evening, at seven o’clock: it is necessary that I should speak to you.”

Her curiosity was strongly excited. She had long expected a declaration, desiring it and dreading it at one and the same time. It would have been agreeable to her to hear the confirmation of what she divined; but she felt that it would have been unbecoming to hear such a declaration from a man who, on account of his position, ought never to aspire to win her hand. She resolved to go to the meeting-place, but she hesitated about one thing: in what manner she ought to receive the tutor’s declaration—with aristocratic indignation, with friendly admonition, with good-humoured banter, or with silent sympathy. In the meantime she kept constantly looking at the clock. It grew-; dark: candles were brought in. Kirila Petrovitch sat down to play at “Boston”[1] with some of his neighbours who had come to pay him a visit. The clock struck a quarter to seven, and Maria Kirilovna walked quietly out on to the steps, looked round on every side, and then hastened into the garden.

The night was dark, the sky was covered with clouds, and it was impossible to see anything at a distance of two paces; but Maria Kirilovna went forward in the darkness along paths that were quite familiar to her, and in a few minutes she reached the arbour. There she paused in order to draw breath and to present herself before Desforges with an air of calm indifference. But Desforges already stood before her.

“I thank you,” he said in a low, sad voice, “for having granted my request. I should have been in despair if you had not complied with it.”

Maria Kirilovna answered him in the words she had prepared beforehand.

“I hope you will not cause me to repent of my condescension.”

He was silent, and seemed to be collecting himself.

“Circumstances demand—I am obliged to leave you,” he said at last. “It may be that you will soon hear—but before going away, I must have an explanation with you.”

Maria Kirilovna made no reply. In these words she saw the preface to the expected declaration.

“I am not what you suppose,” continued he, lowering his head: “I am not the Frenchman Desforges—I am Doubrovsky.”

Maria Kirilovna uttered a cry.

“Do not be alarmed, for God’s sake! You need not be afraid of my name. Yes, I am that unhappy person, whom your father, after depriving him of his last crust of bread, drove out of his paternal home and sent on to the highway to rob. But you need not be afraid, either on your own account or on his. All is over…. I have forgiven him; you have saved him. My first crime of blood was to have been accomplished upon him. I prowled round his house, determining where the fire should burst out, where I should enter his bedroom, and how I should cut him off from all means of escape; at that moment you passed by me like a heavenly vision, and my heart was subdued. I understood that the house, in which you dwelt, was sacred; that not a single person, connected with you by the ties of blood, could lie beneath my curse. I looked upon vengeance as madness, and dismissed the thought of it from my mind. Whole days I wandered around the gardens of Pokrovskoe, in the hope of seeing your white robe in the distance. In your incautious walks I followed you, stealing from bush to bush, happy in the thought that for you there was no danger, where I was secretly present. At last an opportunity presented itself…. I established myself in your house. Those three weeks were for me days of happiness; the recollection of them will be the joy of my sad life…. To-day I received news which renders it impossible for me to remain here any longer. I part from you to-day—at this very moment…. But before doing so, I felt that it was necessary that I should reveal myself to you, so that you might not curse me nor despise me. Think sometimes of Doubrovsky. Know that he was born for another fate, that his soul was capable of loving you, that never——”

Just then a loud whistle resounded, and Doubrovsky became silent. He seized her hand and pressed it to his burning lips. The whistle was repeated.

“Farewell,” said Doubrovsky: “they are calling me. A moment’s delay may destroy me.”

He moved away…. Maria Kirilovna stood motionless. Doubrovsky returned and once more took her by the hand.

“If misfortune should ever overtake you, and you are unable to obtain help or protection from anybody, will you promise to apply to me, to demand from me everything that may be necessary for your happiness? Will you promise not to reject my devotion?”

Maria Kirilovna wept silently. The whistle resounded for the third time.

“You will destroy me!” cried Doubrovsky: “but I will not leave you until you give me a reply. Do you promise me or not?”

“I promise!” murmured the poor girl.

Greatly agitated by her interview with Doubrovsky, Maria Kirilovna returned from the garden. As she approached the house, she perceived a great crowd of people in the courtyard; a troika was standing in front of the steps, the servants were running hither and thither, and the whole house was in a commotion. In the distance she heard the voice of Kirila Petrovitch, and she hastened to reach her room, fearing that her absence might be noticed. Kirila Petrovitch met her in the hall. The visitors were pressing round our old acquaintance the sheriff, and were overwhelming him with questions. The sheriff, in travelling dress, and armed from head to foot, answered them with a mysterious and anxious air.

“Where have you been, Masha?” asked Kirila Petrovitch. “Have you seen Monsieur Desforges?”

Masha could scarcely answer in the negative.

“Just imagine,” continued Kirila Petrovitch: “the sheriff has come to arrest him, and assures me that he is Doubrovsky.”

“He answers the description in every respect, Your Excellency,” said the sheriff respectfully.

“Oh! brother,” interrupted Kirila Petrovitch, “go to—you know where—with your descriptions. I will not surrender my Frenchman to you until I have investigated the matter myself. How can anyone believe the word of Anton Pafnoutitch, a coward and a clown? He must have dreamt that the tutor wanted to rob him. Why didn’t he tell me about it the next morning? He never said a word about the matter.

“The Frenchman threatened him, Your Excellency,” replied the sheriff, “and made him swear that he would preserve silence.”

“A pack of lies!” exclaimed Kirila Petrovitch: “I will have this mystery cleared up immediately. Where is the tutor?” he asked of a servant who entered at that moment.

“He cannot be found anywhere,” replied the servant.

“Then search for him!” cried Troekouroff, beginning to entertain doubts.

“Show me your vaunted description,” said he to the sheriff, who immediately handed him the paper.

“Hm! hm! twenty-three years old, etc., etc. That is so, but yet that does not prove anything. Well, what about the tutor?”

“He is not to be found,” was again the answer.

Kirila Petrovitch began to be uneasy; Maria Kirilovna was neither dead nor alive.

“You are pale, Masha,” remarked her father to her; “have they frightened you?”

“No, papa,” replied Masha; “I have a headache.”

“Go to your own room, Masha, and don’t be alarmed.”

Masha kissed his hand and retired hastily to her room. There she threw herself upon her bed and burst into a hysterical flood of tears. The maids hastened to her assistance, undressed her with difficulty, and with difficulty succeeded in calming her by means of cold water and all possible kinds of smelling salts. They put her to bed and she fell into a slumber.

In the meantime the Frenchman could not be found. Kirila Petrovitch paced up and down the room, loudly whistling his favourite military air. The visitors whispered among themselves; the sheriff looked foolish; the Frenchman was not to be found. Probably he had managed to escape through being warned beforehand. But by whom and how? That remained a mystery.

It was eleven o’clock, but nobody thought of sleep. At last Kirila Petrovitch said angrily to the sheriff:

“Well, do you wish to stop here till daylight? My house is not an inn. It is not by any cleverness on your part, brother, that Doubrovsky will be taken—if he really be Doubrovsky. Return home, and in future be a little quicker. And it is time for you to go home, too,” he continued, addressing his guests. “Order the horses to be got ready. I want to go to bed.”

In this ungracious manner did Troekouroff take leave of his guests.

[1]A card game that was very popular on the Continent at the beginning of the present century.

< < < Chapter XI
Chapter XIII > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Doubrovsky – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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