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"Two days later I started for the assembly, having bid farewell to my
wife in an excellent and tranquil state of mind. In the district there
was always much to be done. It was a world and a life apart. During two
days I spent ten hours at the sessions. The evening of the second day,
on returning to my district lodgings, I found a letter from my wife,
telling me of the children, of their uncle, of the servants, and, among
other things, as if it were perfectly natural, that Troukhatchevsky had
been at the house, and had brought her the promised scores. He had also
proposed that they play again, but she had refused.
"For my part, I did not remember at all that he had promised any score.
It had seemed to me on Sunday evening that he took a definite leave,
and for this reason the news gave me a disagreeable surprise. I read the
letter again. There was something tender and timid about it. It produced
an extremely painful impression upon me. My heart swelled, and the mad
beast of jealousy began to roar in his lair, and seemed to want to leap
upon his prey. But I was afraid of this beast, and I imposed silence
"What an abominable sentiment is jealousy! 'What could be more natural
than what she has written?' said I to myself. I went to bed, thinking
myself tranquil again. I thought of the business that remained to be
done, and I went to sleep without thinking of her.
"During these assemblies of the Zemstvo I always slept badly in my
strange quarters. That night I went to sleep directly, but, as sometimes
happens, a sort of sudden shock awoke me. I thought immediately of her,
of my physical love for her, of Troukhatchevsky, and that between them
everything had happened. And a feeling of rage compressed my heart, and
I tried to quiet myself.
"'How stupid!' said I to myself; 'there is no reason, none at all. And
why humiliate ourselves, herself and myself, and especially myself,
by supposing such horrors? This mercenary violinist, known as a bad
man,--shall I think of him in connection with a respectable woman, the
mother of a family, MY wife? How silly!' But on the other hand, I said
to myself: 'Why should it not happen?'
"Why? Was it not the same simple and intelligible feeling in the name
of which I married, in the name of which I was living with her, the only
thing I wanted of her, and that which, consequently, others desired,
this musician among the rest? He was not married, was in good health
(I remember how his teeth ground the gristle of the cutlets, and how
eagerly he emptied the glass of wine with his red lips), was careful
of his person, well fed, and not only without principles, but evidently
with the principle that one should take advantage of the pleasure that
offers itself. There was a bond between them, music,--the most refined
form of sensual voluptuousness. What was there to restrain them?
Nothing. Everything, on the contrary, attracted them. And she, she had
been and had remained a mystery. I did not know her. I knew her only
as an animal, and an animal nothing can or should restrain. And now
I remember their faces on Sunday evening, when, after the 'Kreutzer
Sonata,' they played a passionate piece, written I know not by whom, but
a piece passionate to the point of obscenity.
"'How could I have gone away?' said I to myself, as I recalled their
faces. 'Was it not clear that between them everything was done that
evening? Was it not clear that between them not only there were no more
obstacles, but that both--especially she--felt a certain shame after
what had happened at the piano? How weakly, pitiably, happily she
smiled, as she wiped the perspiration from her reddened face! They
already avoided each other's eyes, and only at the supper, when she
poured some water for him, did they look at each other and smile
"Now I remember with fright that look and that scarcely perceptible
smile. 'Yes, everything has happened,' a voice said to me, and directly
another said the opposite. 'Are you mad? It is impossible!' said the
"It was too painful to me to remain thus stretched in the darkness.
I struck a match, and the little yellow-papered room frightened me. I
lighted a cigarette, and, as always happens, when one turns in a circle
of inextricable contradiction, I began to smoke. I smoked cigarette
after cigarette to dull my senses, that I might not see my
contradictions. All night I did not sleep, and at five o'clock, when it
was not yet light, I decided that I could stand this strain no longer,
and that I would leave directly. There was a train at eight o'clock. I
awakened the keeper who was acting as my servant, and sent him to look
for horses. To the assembly of Zemstvo I sent a message that I was
called back to Moscow by pressing business, and that I begged them to
substitute for me a member of the Committee. At eight o'clock I got into
a tarantass and started off."
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